Showing posts with label Tips for Writers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips for Writers. Show all posts

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Review of 3 Free Useful Services for the Self-Publishing Maniac

3 free self-publishing tools

As many of you already know, I've been on a self-publishing journey for several years. 

I have to say that I understand what it means to truly love what you do! I find all I want to do is create activity books.

Self-publishing is an endless learning curve. I spend a ton of time listening to "Guru" training on YouTube and investigating products and services to make the process easier.

If you're a self-publisher, I thought I'd share some must-have tools. 

1. ISBN Barcode Generator

If you are using your own ISBN numbers (the number that goes on the back of your book, on the pricing barcode), you'll need to generate a barcode to put on the back of your book. 

My favorite free service is Bookow - here is the link to Bookow

The service is free, but they do offer an opportunity to make a donation if you so choose.

There are many other free barcode generator services online, but Bookow is my favorite.

2. KDP Cover Calculator:

If you're self-publishing books through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), Amazon's self-publishing service, you'll want to keep the KDP Cover Calculator page saved for easy access.

To ensure the cover's margins are correctly allocated, you'll want to create a template you can save and bring over to the design platform you're using to make your cover. 

You'll need to know how many pages your book is, so don't bother creating your cover until you do! 

KDP Cover Calculator is easy - simply fill in the blanks and download the cover template.

Here's the link to KDP Cover Calculator.

3. Canva for Professional Cover and Interior Designs:

Canva offers a free version; however, I've recently switched to the paid version. 

The free version works perfectly fine, and if you're just starting your self-publishing journey, go with the free version to start. That's what I did. 

There's a learning curve with Canva; however, it's worth it! In 2019 I published my first book and had no idea how to create my own cover from scratch. Eventually, I was able to use KDP's cover creator and import my own front page. 

For a while now, I've been able to fully design my own covers with my own ISBN numbers and barcodes. I was baffled and intimidated about all of this a few years ago! After much practice and reading, it is much less daunting today. 

Once you get the swing of it, you'll be able to create some gorgeous covers using Canva.

This lady on YouTube has an excellent beginner tutorial on Canva.

You can check out Canva.com here




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, September 4, 2022

How to Get an ISBN Number for Self-Published Books and What is an Imprint?

 

How to get an ISBN Number for Self-Published Books and What is an Imprint

Over the past couple of years, I've been sharing my self-publishing journey.

Although I've published 16 activity books to date, built a website to promote them, and created a social media following, I'm not an expert! I wanted to stipulate that upfront. 

This article addresses some of the questions I had about ISBN Numbers and Imprints and what I've learned firsthand.

After checking out this article, you should google this topic; there are so many incredibly qualified professionals on this subject. 

During my many hours of research, this is one of my favorite articles on the topic of Imprints - worth the read.

My Own Googled Questions About ISBNs and Imprints:

1. What is An ISBN - For the purposes of this article, I include it for You

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It's the little hard-to-read 13-digit unique number inside the Barcode on the back of a book. It identifies the book nationally and internationally. I won't get into much more about ISBNs for this article. There's more to understand, but we'll leave it here.

2. Every Book (Other than Low Content Books) Needs/is Assigned an ISBN Number on Amazon (and other Self-Publishing Platforms) - However, you can put your own ISBN on low-content books

If you've ever self-published on Amazon, you'll understand what I'm talking about. 

During the Amazon KDP book upload process, you'll be asked whether you want to provide your own ISBN and associated Barcode or if you would like Amazon to provide one for free. 

I started self-publishing in 2019, and due to a lack of knowledge, I opted for Amazon's free ISBN.

As a side note, eBooks don't need ISBNs, although I assigned my own to every ebook from the beginning. I did that because I knew I wouldn't have to worry about how in the heck to get a barcode and put it on the darn book! 

Barcode uploads and where to get them, along with the ISBN numbers, had me in a pickle when just starting out! 

So I took the easy way out in those early days. 

That was smart for me because I wasn't sure how long I would be committed to this self-publishing journey. Today, in 2022, I'm fully committed, so it was time to learn much more!

3. Where to Get an ISBN Number?

Canada:
Canadians are very lucky; ISBNs are free through the Government of Canada (ISBN Canada, also known as Library and Archives Canada). Sign up here, create an account, get your numbers, follow the instructions, and best of all, the customer service is fantastic! 

USA:

For those in the United States, you can get them through a company called Bowker. Unfortunately, they're not free, not even close to free. As of this date, one ISBN can cost approximately $125 and ten ISBNs are $295. You can view their pricing page here.

4. Where to Create a Barcode to Upload Onto Your Book When You're Providing Your ISBN?

The Barcode is pretty easy to create. This is the website I use to create my barcodes

5. Use Amazon's Template Generator to Figure Out Where the Barcode Goes When Creating Covers

Here is a link to Amazon's template generator. It creates a template you can put over the top of your book cover, so you know the margins and where the Barcode goes. 

*TIP* If you're using Canva to create book covers, drag the template over the properly measured custom design and increase the transparency so you can see through the template.

6. What is an Imprint? This confused me the most!

Amazon asks for the 'Imprint' information when you're providing your own ISBN.

I will not attempt to give you an in-depth explanation of  Imprints because, honestly, I could never do it justice! 

Provided below is a summary and a link to an excellent article from Ingram Spark about Imprints:

According this Ingram Spark Article: "The Imprint Page is the page that appears on the back of the Title Page. It contains everything we need to know about who wrote the book, who the publisher is, how we can contact them, where the book was printed, what the ISBN is"

7. Choosing An Imprint Name

There are so many things to consider when choosing your imprint name. Yikes. That's a whole other topic.

Famous publishing companies have multiple Imprint names. For example, Penguin House has nearly 275 independently published imprints. 

From what I've read so far, an Imprint doesn't have to be a legally named identifier. However, for goodness sake, don't pick a name that could be a copyright violation against another company!

With ISBN Canada, where I register my ISBN numbers, there are alternate identities (besides my own name) that I can list that relate to my book(s). 

Since I built a website called StumpedRiddles.com and feature all my activity books there, I added "Stumped Riddles" to my ISBN Canada profile as an identifier attached to my name. I use Stumped Riddles as my Imprint name.

You can get creative with your Imprint identifier that goes inside your book.

Here's the Imprint I created that will go at the bottom of my book's copyright page.

If you're in the USA and using Bowker to get your ISBNs, I'm sorry I can't help you with whether you can list alternate identities for the purpose of Imprints associated with the ISBN. 

8. Did You Know You Can Search for Any ISBN Online?

There's a website called ISBN Search that allows you to enter the ISBN for any book to help you find it. 

Ok, that's enough for today; self-publishing is a constant learning curve!

Additional Self-Publishing Articles:

  1. Basic Tips for the Newbie Self-Publisher
  2. Matte or Glossy Book Covers
  3. Confessions of a Newbie Self-Publisher
  4. 5 Helpful Self-Publishing Tools
  5. 3 Tips for a Newbie Self-Publisher
  6. How to Get Started on Your First eBook
  7. 5 Handy FREE Tools for Self-Publishing
  8. Newbie TikTok for Business 

Barbara's Author Page on Amazon 




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, August 28, 2022

Self Publishing 100 Activity Books - A Huge Personal Goal

Self Publishing 100 Activity Books

Most of you who know me know that I have a goal of publishing 100 activity books.

Although this goal is ingrained in my being, I had no idea how to achieve that milestone.

My Newest Activity Book, Easy Sudoku for Adults, Helped Me Breakthrough Being Stuck - Let me Share How

Since 2019, I've published 14 activity books and 1 poetry book for a total of 15 books. That figure includes the newest book "Easy Sudoku for Adults." I've been stuck, and it is absolutely part of the process.

"The How Breakthrough"

I'm not one to wallow in problems. Without a doubt, finding solutions is part of who I am. In the case of finding a way to publish 100 activity books, I've had to think and think and think!

There are numerous 'how-to' videos on self-publishing; I've watched many of them. The guidance is out there; however, finding what works for you and how to implement suggestions is hard.

Most importantly, many how-to's include an automation process that isn't personal. 

Automating is essential, but not at the expense of your product's quality or personalization. Having said that, I've found an efficient way to automate WITH personalization.

So, in summary, work as hard as you can to automate and duplicate, but still, keep your books personal to you. In other words, don't just upload auto-generated activities or content, but do find a way to generate them so you can personalize them!

Never Compromise Quality

  • Finding programs that generate your puzzles (or whatever your project is) can help. However, they are not the answer to speed! 
  • To achieve volume, you need speed, but not at the expense of quality.
  • You still have to find a way to personalize your book. Make them a reflection of you!
  • Check the negative reviews on the competition of other books in your genre. Use those negative reviews as tips for your newly created book.
  • When creating a book, always think about fulfilling a need or solving a problem. 
  • Think about the consumer.
  • Take pride in your creations; after all, your name is attached to them.
  • Oh, that's another thing; I only use my given name, which keeps me honoring my own personal level of integrity.
  • Don't take negative reviews to heart. You will get them; they do hurt. But use those to improve your books! 
  • With Amazon self-publishing, I aim to stay within a three to five-star review rating on each book. So far, so good. 
  • I'm all over negative reviews! I read them, and if the complaint is legitimate, I modify my book based on that review ONLY if it makes sense!
  • Don't be afraid to completely revamp a book if you believe it will help your overall reviews to be positive. I re-did the layout of all 7 of my riddle books for both paperback and ebook versions! That project re-do took me three months!
Automating Includes Developing a Functioning, Duplicatable System
  • Find and use a word processing systems that allow for easy duplication for the next book in a series.
  • Develop consistent templates that can be used, reused, and modified.
For Those Who Don't Have Expensive Word Processing or Other Graphics Programs, Here's What I Use
  • I don't have the paid version of Microsoft Word, so I downloaded "Liberty Office" for free. I use those for my Riddle Books.
  • I use the free version of Canva for my Wordsearch and Sudoko books and probably all other activity books I have yet to create.
  • I create my own book title pages using the free version of Adobe, Adobe-Spark.
  • I use the free version of "Gimp" to change the DPI on my book covers to printable quality.
Create a Website That Will House All of Your Books
  • I plan to expand to other self-publishing companies. I'm only publishing on Amazon's KDP, but my long-term plan is to expand to other self-publishing services. I'm in the middle of learning more about that process. My brain hurts, lol. With your own website, you can direct all your marketing to your website so that when you do expand to other self-publishing companies, you can simply add those options directly to your website. 
  • I rarely ever direct link to Amazon when marketing my books. I don't like having links out there that could potentially change! For that reason, I link to my website.
  • Decide upon a navigation system on your website that makes sense with the books you are creating. I have created a menu on my website that features; Riddles, Answers, Wordsearch Books, and Sudoku Books. I can expand that as I make more books. 
  • When you're creating your site, give thought to your planned growth.
My Final Tip for Today:

You HAVE TO LOVE what you're doing. If you don't, doing the work necessary to achieve any goals is challenging.

I've been stuck along the way, and it's very frustrating. So frustrating that I questioned myself about my goals. But I've long since realized that my goals are real and attainable. 

The biggest tips I can offer anyone taking on a project/passion like this are:
  1. Don't quit.
  2. Keep going.
  3. Take breaks.
  4. Develop duplicatable systems.
  5. Be willing to learn from your own mistakes.
  6. Be ready to make changes.
  7. Take breaks when you're fed up.
  8. Celebrate every book you publish.
  9. Don't let that look of doubt on the face of others affect you in any way.
  10. Monitor the sales activity for the books in your genre.
  11. Keyword research every book you create.
  12. Make sure your goal is what you want.
  13. Visualize where you want to be in a year.
  14. And as my friend Margaret said to me once, "Trust Yourself." I have carried that piece of advice with me for years. Thank you, my friend.
Introducing My 15th Activity Book - Easy Sudoku for Adults




Additional Self-Publishing Articles:

  1. Basic Tips for the Newbie Self-Publisher
  2. Matte or Glossy Book Covers
  3. Confessions of a Newbie Self-Publisher
  4. 5 Helpful Self-Publishing Tools
  5. 3 Tips for a Newbie Self-Publisher
  6. How to Get Started on Your First eBook
  7. 5 Handy FREE Tools for Self-Publishing





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, August 21, 2022

Newbie TikTok for Business Tips - Check it Out

Newbie TikTok for Business
A Review of Newbie TikTok for Business Tips

In my last post, I talked about how I was just starting out with my plunge into the world of TikTok

Today's post will expand a bit further on some of the additional things I've learned.

The Previous Post Focused on How You Can Upload Photos to TikTok, Versus Creating Videos

Many who stay away from TikTok for Business do so because they don't want to put themselves on video. 

Most of us small businesses can't afford to hire companies to create videos, so we believe TikTok is not a viable business tool.

I was like most everyone: I thought TikTok only worked for video creations. Having said that, uniquely interesting, useful, and even funny video creation is the best way to market for business on TikTok.

However, because I write Riddle Books featuring my own written riddles, I found myself potentially being an exception to that rule. 

Using TikTok to feature my riddles is an excellent marketing tool. 

I upload my created graphics for each riddle, then enhance their interest with special fun characters and music.

Do you have interesting images you could enhance and promote on TikTok?

You can enhance your photos with:

  • Text to Speech
  • Voice Over (if you want to use your voice)
  • Special Elements (funny icons etc)
  • Text
  • Background Music

Did You Know There Are Places Online to Get Royalty Free Video?

I hadn't really thought about it before ... that I could access royalty-free video just like we access royalty-free photos.

The two places I've used so far for photos and videos are Pixabay.com and Pexels.com. Be sure to check the commercial license use for each image and video.

When you select a video for TikTok, use a vertical video.

Newbie Ways to Use TikTok for Your Small Business - Ask Yourself These Questions:

1. Do you have premade, attractive graphics that people would find interesting to look at? 

If the answer is yes, consider TikTok. Enhance that photo with special elements and background music.

Here's an example of one of mine on TikTok.

2. Do you have text that you've incorporated on your photo?

If the answer is yes or no, consider TikTok. With TikTok, you can add text to your photos, so there's no need to make photos with text if you prefer not to.

Here's one of my riddles on TikTok with a plain photo background, text entered from TikTok, with text-to-read activated, directly on TikTok:

3. Would adding text to a stock video be appealing for your product or brand?

If the answer is yes, consider TikTok. I'm currently experimenting with this by putting riddle text typed onto the background of stock videos. It's working artistically so far.

Here's an example of one of my riddles on TikTok using a stock video.

4. Are you able to make short videos from your cell phone?

If the answer is yes, consider TikTok.

These videos don't have to be fancy.

Just panning my backyard, I was able to put a short background video together. 

I uploaded that short backyard video to TikTok, and commenced the creative journey. You can view that riddle here.

Here's an Example of One of My Riddle Graphics Used on TikTok:

Check out how I enhanced this for TikTok




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, August 7, 2022

My Plunge Into the TikTok World for Marketing, Business and Fun!

Stumped Riddles TikTok

I reluctantly took the plunge into the TikTok marketing world.

Out of pure stubbornness, I vowed to avoid that particular social media platform. However, I had a come-to-reality moment, encouraged by my son, that my riddle business would be served well by that platform.

In quite a short time, my son has nearly 27,000 followers and over 263,000 likes, all with approximately 40 personal video uploads. That's not easy to do and quite impressive!

His TikTok handle is @charles.mackenzie if you want to take a peek. Just an added note, in all fairness to us mere humans, my son has a knack for being in front of the camera. However, as I detail below, you don't have to be on camera to benefit from TikTok.

I'm A Newbie TikTok User for Business - The Basics

Since I'm a newbie, I can't give you any big secret tips, but I can provide those of you with a business, some of the things I've learned so far as it relates to my own riddle business:

  • Go to the APP Store on your cell phone, and download the Tiktok App
  • Yes, you can log in to your TikTok account on your laptop; however, I found all the creative features more accessible via my cell phone.
  • When you download the App, you're on the service, not registered yet to use it. You can scroll through the videos and have fun. Oh yeah, it's a bit addictive.
  • Create your account to set yourself up to use TikTok for business. I won't go through the steps; simply follow the instructions and prompts.
  • I converted my account to a Business Account. There's no charge for that. Here are TikTok's instructions on how to do it; it's easy.
  • In your profile, you tell TikTok your interests so that videos that align with your taste are displayed on the front "For You" page. In my case, I selected media/entertainment, inspirational (or something like that), home decor, and a few other topic areas.
The "For You Page" on TikTok

What I've learned about the "For You Page" is that every user who opens the App is immediately connected to their For You Page to watch and start scrolling videos. 

You can like, comment, save, share, or scroll past videos. This differs from other platforms in that you go directly into the content. Content is presented to you; it's not something you choose (except via the interests you indicated in your initial profile sign-up).

I've learned that the "For You" page is a powerful marketing tool. Everyone wants their videos to land on everyone else's "For You" page. 

In fact, you'll notice that some people use the hashtag #foryoupage or #fyp to try and encourage the TikTok algorithm to place their video on other people's "For You Pages." I have no idea if that works or not.

I discovered via the Analytics area that many of my own videos were put on other people's "For You Pages" before I started using or even knew about the For You Page hashtags.

The Bottom Bar Appearance When Logged In to TikTok
  • HOME: (that's where you get to all the fun and sometimes hilarious videos to scroll through -um, be careful, it's so addictive!)
  • FRIENDS: (that's where you can quickly access the videos of your friends that you've connected with)
  • + Plus Sign: (That's your prompt to start the upload process of videos or images - yes, you can upload images)
  • INBOX: (That's where you get notified that you have responses to your videos or new followers)
  • PROFILE: (That's your personal profile that features your content, and your logo/image and blurb about you)
I Avoided TikTok Because I Had No Interest Or Desire to Put Myself on Any Videos!

You don't have to put yourself on camera or even make videos.

You can upload a static photo/graphic and enhance that page with fun sticker elements and commercial-free music provided by TikTok.

For my business, static Riddle Graphic photos are perfect for this! 

I've already created nearly 1000 photo riddles for my website and books, so uploading them to TikTok with music and some fun sticker elements is a perfect marketing fit.

The TikTok Voice-Over Feature

If you decide to type text on static photos, you can ask the TikTok AI Voice-Over feature to read the text! You don't have to use your own voice! It's easy to use. 

How Am I Doing So Far? 

I started using TikTok on August 2, 2022, and today, as I'm typing, it is August 6, 2022

In 4 Days:
  • I've uploaded 11 riddles
  • I've had 5,441 video views (mainly on the "For You" pages)
  • I've had 29 profile views
  • I've had 43 Likes
  • I've had 17 Comments
  • I've had 13 Shares
  • I've had 5 Follows
I'm delighted with the potential TikTok offers for my Riddle business. Perhaps it's something that could work for you as well?

The Biggest Problem:

Other people's videos can consume your time - especially the funny ones. Seriously, some are hilarious!



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Five Handy Free Tools For Self Publishing

 

5 Free Self-Publishing Tools

As some of you already know, I self-publish riddle books, word search books, sayings, and poetry. If you're so inclined, here's my author page on Amazon.

My entire self-publishing process was self-taught, so let me stress that I'm not a "guru."

I've learned the self-publishing process and shared various articles over the past several years. Today's article is a brief list of a few of my favorite tools for writing books.

Handy Tools I Use for Self-Publishing - I Learn in Compartments (Like Compartmentalizing Thoughts and Tasks) 

First, let me stress I'm not an expert on every aspect of the tools I use. The best way for me to work is on a need-to-know basis. 

If I tried to learn a program or tool from top to bottom, I'd never have time to write or publish.

I use these tools in the limited scope for the task needed to complete. When needing to learn more about the tool, I then educate myself further. I learn in compartments, that's what I like to call it.

1. Canva - A Free Online Web Publishing Tool

Canva.com is an online web publishing tool. Over the past two years, I've come across numerous articles and videos mentioning Canva. In 2021, after reviewing and comparing, I decided to give Canva a try. I use this program to create word search books. Of course, it doesn't make the puzzles; rather, I use it as a glorified word processor. Canva does umpteen additional things, and I hope to expand my knowledge of Canva as I continue along my self-publishing journey.

Note that there is an upgrade to a paid version for Canva; however, I'm still using the free version only.

There are numerous free Canva tutorials on YouTube; here's one that's quite extensive for beginners.


2. Finding Related Words - Free Online Service

Along with using the free online service, Thesaurus.com, I recently discovered another handy free site called relatedwords.org. The broad range of word suggestions provided by relatedwords.org is excellent, especially when creating activity books. Using both Thesaurus.com and Relatedwords.org provides even more word replacement choices.

3. Adobe Express - Free Online Service

I've been using Adobe Express to create book covers, banners, website graphics, and more for years. I'm quite familiar with it, and for that reason alone, I haven't taken the plunge to learn another program to create graphics.

Case in point, Canva.com (mentioned above) has an excellent graphic-creating aspect to it, and I've yet to take the plunge and try that website for graphic creations.

There is an upgrade for a paid Adobe Spark version; however, personally, I haven't found the need to upgrade.

If you'd like to understand some of the fundamental differences and similarities between Spark versus Canva, here's a short video from YouTube that sums up some of the key features.

4. LibreOffice - A Free Online Word Processing Download

For writing my riddle books, I use Libre Office Writer. I don't own the paid version of Microsoft Word, and I needed a word processing program to write my riddle books. 

As mentioned above, I use Canva to write my word search books; however, having Libreoffice for my other books is handy, and I'm more familiar with it simply because I've been using it longer.

Be aware there is a learning process with Libreoffice, and I did have to have my mouth washed out with soap a few times while educating myself.

5. GIMP - A Free Open Source Editing Software Program

I use GIMP for one specific purpose; to convert my graphics to the minimum requirement of 300dpi that Amazon Publishing requires for photos in books and/or book covers.

After researching what DPI is and how to convert photos to the correct DPI for uploads to KDP Publishing and pulling all my hair out in the process, I found GIMP to work best for my needs.

Here's a quick tutorial directly from GIMP's tutorial section on how to change the DPI using this program.

Apparently, Canva will also convert images to 300dpi, but I haven't used that feature yet. 

Additional Self-Publishing Articles:

Basic Tips for the Newbie Self-Publisher

Matte or Glossy Book Covers

Confessions of a Newbie Self-Publisher

5 Helpful Self-Publishing Tools

3 Tips for a Newbie Self-Publisher

How to Get Started on Your First eBook




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, May 23, 2021

What I've Learned on My Self-Publishing Journey So Far

 


I'm not a self-publishing guru, just someone who decided to jump in with both feet and give it a try.

In October of 2019, I self-published my first book on Amazon. The book features a collection of 50 years of my personal poetry.

After that, I went on a tear and self-published seven more books in approximately twelve months; two are sayings for cards, and the other six are personally written riddle books. I'm currently writing my seventh riddle book. When I look back, I still can't believe I accomplished all that in such a short time. I get tired thinking about it!

My self-publishing journey involved teaching myself every step along the way. It wasn't easy. 

A Quick Summary Review of What I've Learned About Self-Publishing Non-Fiction Books So Far:


1. Pick a Niche

After writing a poetry book and two books about "What to Write in Cards," I decided that I needed a niche topic. Since I have this crazy ability to write riddles, I decided riddle books would be my niche. However, if you're a fiction author, you can write a series or individual books. 

2. Why I Wanted a Niche Topic for my Books

Of course, you can write on any topic and self-publish on multiple topics. That's perfectly fine. However, I wanted to select one area to build a website and social media platform to tie into that topic. For fiction writers, an author website is all you'd need, no matter the variety of topics you write about.

3. Pick a Name for Your Niche Topic That Can Tie Into Your Social Sites, Books, and Website

I chose #Stumped Riddles, which I use in some form or another on all social media sites. I found it best to tie everything together.

Check out the links:

StumpedRiddles.com

Facebook.com/stumpedriddles

Twitter - @stumpedriddles

Instagram.com/riddlechallenge

4. Set Up Your Amazon Author Page

Here's the link where you can set up your Amazon Author page. You can take a look at my completed Amazon Author page here.

5. Market and Advertise Your Books

Unless you already have a huge fan base or following, you'll need to advertise. I use KDP Advertising and Facebook Advertising at the moment.

6. Set Advertising Goals

Do you want to build traffic to your website or simply sell books? I send my advertising links to my website, and from there, customers can link over to the associated amazon page. I choose not to link directly to Amazon as my goal is to build authority and traffic to my own site.

7. Converse With People On Your Social Media Posts

I post individual riddles on my website and all my social media links. The riddle answers link back to my site. When people take a guess at the answer, I always respond to each person who posts. When the volume becomes too much, I plan to get a helping hand in that area. 

8. Check the Negative Reviews on Other Books Similar to Yours

I read multiple negative reviews on books like mine. Those comments give me ideas on what to avoid and add to my books to make them better. 

9. Don't Be Afraid to Change the Design of Your Book

Based on input from others, or sales volume, don't get stuck with a design that turns out to be ineffective. I redesigned my books at least three times before settling on the final layout and content structure. I'm currently revamping all of the riddle eBooks. 

10. Your Book's Cover Design is Key

Pretty much all the gurus stress one particular point over and over ... 'Hire a professional to design your book cover." Of course, I didn't listen, lol.  However, I did re-do my covers multiple times and do have a knack for creating graphics. If cover design is not your thing, consider paying a professional to do it.

11. Watch Self-Publishing Tutorials on YouTube

There are many self-publishing gurus (actual gurus) who create useful instructive videos. I've probably watched 35 videos or more. You'll pick up little tidbits here and there from each one of them. 

Additional Self-Publishing Articles:

Basic Tips for the Newbie Self-Publisher

Matte or Glossy Book Covers

Confessions of a Newbie Self-Publisher

5 Helpful Self-Publishing Tools

3 Tips for a Newbie Self-Publisher

How to Get Started on Your First eBook





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Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Handy Pinterest Tool That Predicts Future Trends

Review of a Pinterest Tool That Predicts Future Trends

Most of us don't choose what to write about based on what is popular. However, there are specific exceptions. For example, if you have a Home Decor website (as I do), you may want to feature trending products or ideas that are projected to be the current year's rage.

I have to admit, I rarely approach selecting a funky home decor item to write about based upon its popularity. However, I also don't just select items willy-nilly either.

When I'm featuring a product on Funkthishouse.com, it's because:

  1. It's different, funky, and something everyday decorators would not consider.
  2. It's a home decor item loaded with color, design, and style.
  3. It's a product that a select group of home decor junkies tends towards.
  4. It's a creative item or idea that can be added to existing decor.
  5. It's through the roof expensive! For the shock value alone.
  6. It's through the basement inexpensive! Shock value savings.
  7. It's bright, cheerful, and, most of the time, not a neutral color.
  8. It's popular, but only for its originality.
  9. It's a common item, with uncommon prints and designs.
  10. It's bizarre but very cool.
However, there's a particular Pinterest Tool that I do use once in a while to see what future trends for the year will be. After all, who better than Pinterest to be able to compile shopping trends and data?

Pinterest Business - Pinterest Predicts

Have you ever taken a look at this part of Pinterest?


It's interesting to read their stats on a projected year-over-year increase in trends.

When you're over there, you'll notice that the categories are broken down for you: Fashion, Beauty, Travel, Food, Home, Parenting, Well-Being, and more! You'll be able to see each category clearly.

What Information Are You Provided on Each Category?

Click the category you're interested in, and you'll see some easy-to-read information on the popular trend(s) for it. 

You'll be provided with a previous year versus current-year estimation of the global increase in stats/searches/interest items within that category. You'll see easy-to-read and understand percentages broken down by category for items/products/interests.

Since my niche for Funkthishouse is funky home decor, obviously, I had to check out the "Home" category. The projected popular item for 2021 is "Vibey Lights." 

Pinterest points out that Gen Zs (born in the late 1990s to early 2000s) are very much into mood lighting for their rooms. As soon as I read that, I thought, yep, bang on! I have a Gen Z'er in my house, and he's been into LED ambient lighting for several years now. His room features LED lights; behind his piano, behind the bed headboard, and behind his desk; it's lovely.

You can view a collection of vibey-mood lighting here. Most of the products featured at that link are popular LED strip lights.

My son recently purchased these 'vibey' LED strip lights. I highly recommend them. They went up easy, and so far, work perfectly. Oh, and they're not expensive!

Have You Used Pinterest Trends - Another Handy Tool

Pinterest Trends (trends.pinterest.com) gives a breakdown of the top weekly trends by country. You can search by item or category - whatever you want.

I use Pinterest Trends to find popular pins. I like to share a variety of pins, and of course, that includes popular pins. 

Go take a peek at both tools; they're a bit addictive!






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Sunday, January 24, 2021

His Gift Was Knowing - A Short Story



I've had the privilege of reading and reviewing many short stories by friends of mine. Being a writer of poetry and riddle books, I've never tackled a fictional short story online. As a young girl, I wrote many. However, as an adult, nope, never fictional.

Fiction wasn't my thing. Maybe it's this whole getting-older-stuff that gets us stepping out of our comfort zone? That's exactly what propelled me to write and publish my first poetry book in 2019, and since then, six riddle books. For some unknown reason, I had and still have a sense of urgency.

I blame time for my bravery to try new things. Time is knocking on my door, and my sense of it passing by too quickly is front and center these days.

So today's review is about jumping in and doing that one thing you've been hesitant to do. For me, it's writing a fictional story. So judge away, lol.


His Gift Was Knowing - A Short Story by Barbara Tremblay Cipak

His Gift Was Knowing - A Short Story About Love and Light

She stood at the bottom of that radiant sun-soaked hill sobbing from a pain that she didn't fully understand. 

This kind of suffering was beyond anything Kathleen had ever experienced.

It hurt more than when her father unexpectedly died in his sleep from an unknown heart condition when she was only eighteen; and even more than her mother's difficult passing from dementia three months ago.  

At the top of that hill, Kathleen could see Jeffrey, dressed in a lovely black suit. Her heart could feel his soul as if he were still that precious two-year-old rusty haired boy she rocked to sleep every night for years. She wondered how he grew up so quickly into the dapper twenty-year-old she was looking at today.

Kathleen could see Jeffrey comforting his sister. Holly's strong independent nature couldn't console her on this day. At eighteen, Holly needed her brother's shoulder. Kathleen was grateful that her children were there for each other.

Then it hit her. 

Kathleen suddenly realized why she was feeling this indescribable pain. Her children were grieving, and she could feel every part of their anguish. The tears she cried were a combination of all her love, as well as theirs.

Kathleen remembered how it happened, how she died. 

Two weeks ago, life took a turn that led her to the road she was on today.
_________

It was a bright, beautiful Tuesday. With spring in full bloom, she remembered feeling like anything was possible. As she headed downstairs that morning, she had an unexpected moment of knowing that everything would be ok. It was so profound that it stopped her on the steps. She paused to inhale the gift and felt fortunate to be in tune with something that always felt personal to her, something cosmic.

While sitting in her kitchen, waiting for nothing, Kathleen was enjoying a fresh cup of morning coffee. Life had always been a struggle, but Kathleen managed to find rays of sunshine. She called them 'her moments of bliss.' 

Being a single mom, she tried hard to maintain an uplifting attitude. She couldn't afford to slip into hopelessness. She often said, 'my children save my life every day.' To her, that was the greatest gift, and being a good mother was the least she could do for what they gave to her; hope.

Doing everything and expecting nothing had been Kathleen's motto. "Just do," she used to say; the rest will take care of itself.

While sipping that coffee, her phone rang. It was a number she didn't recognize and almost didn't answer. But being a believer in chance, she thought maybe today good luck would shine upon them and send the money they desperately needed for Holly's medication. 

Holly suffered from a rare auto-immune disease and required expensive anti-inflammatories to keep her frequent seizures under control.  

She answered that unexpected call.

"Hello, Kathleen speaking." 
"Hi, is this Kathleen Summers?" 
"Yes, it is."
"Hello, this is the office of Brander and Dorval. We handled your father's Last Will & Testament."

Kathleen was confused. Her father didn't own anything; he didn't have anything. How could there possibly be a Will, and why would someone be contacting her thirty-seven years after his death about a Will!

"What?" Kathleen said sharply

"Yes, there is a Will, and Mr. Brander needs to speak to you about it. Could you come in today, how's 1:00 pm?"

Although nearly speechless from shock, Kathleen agreed. 

Kathleen could hear both her kids shuffling upstairs as they readied themselves for their day. Jefferey loved animals and worked to save money to go to school to become a Veterinarian. His determination alone woke him daily for his job. Never late, always dependable. That was Jeffrey.

Holly never let her health stand in her way. She was about to finish her last semester of High School. Her curiosity about her auto-immune disease led her to want to study within that field. Maybe a doctor, perhaps a researcher; she hadn't figured that out yet.

Kathleen was proud of their determined spirit. It hadn't been easy for them; lack of money was always the mountain they had to climb, but her kids never let that stop them from dreaming. 

Kathleen headed upstairs to ready herself for her unexpected appointment and let the kids know she would be out for the afternoon. She didn't tell them about the strange call since she wasn't sure it was real.

Hugging both kids as they left for the day, Kathleen reminded them she wouldn't be working from home this afternoon, and not to worry, she had an errand to run. "Love you both," she shouted. "Love you back mom, bye, have a great day!"

The Law Office was grand. This company had been in business practically forever. As she walked into the ornate building, she wondered how on earth her father could afford this caliber of a lawyer. "Nah," she said to herself, "This has to be a mistake."

A lovely, tall, dark-haired lady led her into Mr. Brander's office.

Mr. Brander proceeded to introduce himself and encouraged her to take a seat. 

Kathleen exclaimed, "this is a mistake; you must have the wrong Kathleen Summers."

"I'll get right to it, Ms. Summers." He pulled out a large brown envelope. Inside the envelope were instructions given to the law firm.

Mr. Brander pulled out a photo and asked Kathleen, "Is this your father?"

Almost fainting, Kathleen nervously answered in question format, "Yes?"

"Ms. Summers, your father left you an inheritance, not to be opened until this day."

Mr. Brander proceeded, "In these instructions, we're asked to give you this black notebook along with this key."

Mr. Brander informed her that the key was to a safety deposit box at a bank not too far from here and that he would have to accompany her to access the box. However, she would have to read what was in the black notebook first, as those were her father's instructions. 

"It's private, only for you." Mr. Brander led her to a boardroom where she could quietly process the unexpected gift that was left to her thirty-seven years ago. 

Kathleen opened the cover.

"To my darling Kathleen and her children."

She gasped out loud, "how was that possible!"  She hadn't had children when her dad had died. 

She turned that first page and began to read.
__________

My Dearest Kathleen:

You have the same gift I do. From the moment you were born, I knew within you was the gift of knowing. You always seem to understand that in the end, everything would be ok. 

From as far back as I can remember, maybe back to when I was two or three, I could see significant events coming next. Everyone else calls it psychic; I call it life. I don't know why or how I have this gift, but it is a part of me. 

I'm writing this letter because, in less than a week, I'll be gone. I know I'm destined to die in my sleep. Rest assured, it will be from natural causes. You'll later find out I had a heart condition. I've seen several doctors about it, but all tests showed nothing substantial. However, I know I won't live. It's the same knowingness you carry about life.

You'll have two kids, and I know one of them will have a medical condition. I can't tell you any of this now, at eighteen. You wouldn't understand or believe me. But mostly, you don't need to know about this blessing and burden at such a young age. So I decided to handle things this way.

My grandchildren needed to be taken care of, so I started early in life making sure they would be alright. You'll eventually understand why this is so important and why I did things this way.

Go with the lawyer to open that safety deposit box. Please pass all its contents along to your children. I promise you; it will eventually make sense.

Love you more than you could  know - until we meet again,

Dad
_________

Kathleen felt both grateful and fearful, but a part of her was angry. 

"Why would dad leave something for children I didn't have and never think to leave things to me?" She wasn't jealous about the gift for her kids; she was baffled. 

Mr. Brander opened the boardroom door and asked her if she was ready to go to the bank. On the drive there, Mr. Brander informed her that her father and his father had been good friends and that it was his father who initially worked on her dad's Will. "Before my dad died, he filled me in on your dad's wishes and the Will our firm was holding for you," I promised him I would take care of it when the time came.

Inside the little room, and in her father's lawyer's presence, Kathleen opened the safety deposit box.

There were two large brown envelopes.

Printed on one envelope was "Open this one first," and on the other, "Open this one last."

Kathleen opened the first envelope to find another letter from her father.
_________

Dearest Kathleen; 

To help your children, my grandchildren achieve their purpose in life, I've taken steps to ensure they would have the resources they needed to achieve their goals and complete their contribution.

You'll find in the next envelope that I've invested $20,000 in a safe stock portfolio held by this bank. By the time you open this letter, it should be worth between 140,000 and 200,000 dollars. The bank can help you with those details.

Please ensure your children get all the documents and my letters.
__________

Kathleen felt more than loved. She began to get that cosmic sense she was accustomed to, that there's still more to this story. It both scared her and comforted her.

Mr. Brander handed her all the documents, including the little black notebook with her dad's initial letter, and they hugged and parted ways for the day. They planned to meet at the bank in the coming days to establish the value of the inheritance her father left to her children.

Kathleen arrived home at about 5:00 pm. Both Jeffrey and Holly were preparing dinner. "Hi, mom," they cheerfully blurted. "Where were you?"

"Well, you aren't going to believe my day; you both better sit down." Kathleen then proceeded to tell them the entire day's events.

The kids were beyond shocked. Like their mom, they were a bit confused about why their grandfather would wait all these years to give them this inheritance and why it would go to them. 

Later that night, as they were all preparing for bed, Kathleen hugged both of her kids, told them she loved them, and said, "Let's sleep on it tonight; maybe things would be clearer in the morning."

Kathleen died in her sleep that night.
__________

She understood the purpose of her father's Will now. As she stood at the bottom of that hill watching her kids at the top, she knew they were visiting her grave. She noticed something tucked under Jeffrey's arm; it was that little black notebook.

Suddenly Kathleen's tears stopped, and beside her stood both her father and her mother. Her first words were, "Mom, you knew all this time." "I did, dear, I always trusted your father's gift of knowing. We both planned this for you.

The three of them walked towards the children at the top of the hill. As they stood beside them, they heard Holly speaking. "Thank you, mom, for all you did for us. Grandpa's $20,000 investment is worth over $300,000 today. That's enough for Jeffrey and me to go to school. I'm going to be a Doctor, mom, and Jeffrey is going to be a Veterinarian. We promise to make you proud.

Kathleen, with joyful tears, had no doubt they would.

Kathleen's father let her in on the biggest secret of all. "Do you know why we did this?" Kathleen answered, "Yes, to help the kids achieve their dreams." 

Her dad said, "That was one reason, but not the main reason. Holly will be part of a global discovery on how to help those who suffer from auto-immune diseases. It will be the breakthrough of her time. She's going to help a lot of people. And Jeffrey won't just be Veterinarian; he's going to be a major contributor to one of the largest animal rescue facilities in the country."

"And you knew this when you were little, dad?" "Yes, I did," he replied.

"How?" she asked. "I don't know, we all have a gift; we just have to open our minds to see it and believe it.

As Jeffrey and Holly walked away, Kathleen asked her mother and father, "where are we going now?"

"Home Kathleen, we're going home."

__________

I had originally written this story to enter a contest but then decided against it. So there you have it, one more step outside of that familiar comfort zone.

Have you ever stepped outside of your comfort zone?





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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Why I Love Grammarly Premium and Why It's Worth the Investment

Why I Love Grammarly Premium

Last year I decided to tackle several bucket-list items. One of those items was writing and publishing a poetry book, which led to self-publishing a full series of originally written riddle books. Yes, I know, it's crazy that I can write riddles - but, yah, it turns out I can. Weirdest skill ever.

At any rate, this article isn't specifically about my books. You'll find several articles I've already written on that topic posted below. Instead, this article is about one of my favorite paid premium tools, Grammarly. 

By the way, Grammarly doesn't have a referral program, so everything I'm typing here has nothing to do with receiving a commission from them - This is just a straight review of what I love about it.

Grammarly Premium - Your Own Writing Assistant

I originally used the free version, but after writing several books, I decided the Grammarly premium features were worth it. Grammarly's ability to capture wordiness and make alternate suggestions is one of the most useful writing tools. It gives you a better-worded sentence to choose from. It's my favorite feature. 

Here's a brief video explaining Grammarly's artificial intelligence: Viewing Via Mobile? Here's the Link.



When your brain is tired, Grammarly Premium is like having a personal assistant. Grammarly installs on your browsers and shows up on everything you're typing online, even Facebook posts. In fact, as I'm typing this right now, there's a "G" at the bottom of this post tallying up better writing suggestions.

Grammarly Has a Tone Detector

This is a fantastic feature. When writing, the mood we think we're conveying may not actually be conveyed on the screen. Grammarly's mood detector lets you know how your writing is coming across; confident, joyous, formal, friendly, optimistic, and so on. This video provides a brief outline of the tone detector: Viewing via mobile? Here's the link.



Install Grammarly on Your Phone, Microsoft Office, and All Your Browsers and Other Devices

You can also open Grammarly and post passages, paragraphs, and so on directly into the program. That's very handy indeed: When I'm writing a riddle book, I always copy each riddle into Grammarly (opened on a second screen) to double-check for typos or other errors. Since I use Libre-Office to write my riddle books, I haven't installed Grammarly directly into it yet. However, I'm sure that's coming. 

You CAN download Grammarly directly into Microsoft Office. Also, if you prepare documents using Google Documents, Grammarly automatically works there as well. Essentially it provides you with the ability to correct anywhere on any document on your device. Are you viewing via mobile? Here's the link.



If you haven't used Grammarly yet, give the free version a try, then upgrade if you feel it's something that would serve you well. In terms of pricing, as of this date, the annual fee for Grammarly Premium is $139.95. Here's a link to Grammarly Premium outlining the service and features.

If you're thinking about self-publishing your own books, here are additional articles I've written on the subject to date.

Introducing My Latest Self-Published Riddle Book - Volume 6 Released November 24, 2020

By the way, I ended this article by checking Grammarly's tone detector; it said the post sounds 'friendly'. :)





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Sunday, November 8, 2020

Basic Tips I Learned on My Self-Publishing Journey

Self-Publishing Tips for Newbies

Let me start by saying that I'm NOT a self-publishing guru. I'm just a work-from-home-self-taught woman who decided to jump in and tackle some of those dreams left dying on the table.

I've written quite a bit here on ReviewThisReviews about self-publishing books. You'll find a list of the links below.

To date, I've self-published eight books and am currently writing the ninth. 

The topic of the books are Riddles, Poetry, and Sayings for Cards. Currently, I'm focussed on building a series of Riddle Books. There are five riddle books in the series and the sixth should be published in one to two months.

A General Overview of What to Do When You Self-Publish (According to my Personal Journey)


Note: To date, I've only published via Amazon's KDP self-publishing platform

  • Amazon Author Page: Once you've published your book, complete a detailed page about yourself on Amazon's Author Central Page. Here's Amazon's author central page for the USA. When publishing my books, I had to create author central pages for the UK and USA separately. Perhaps, Amazon will amalgamate things at some point, so we only have to do it once. Here's the UK author central page in case you need it.

  • Amazon Author Page Photo: Decide whether your Author Central page will feature a Logo or your personal photo. At first, I put up my logo but changed it to my personal photo. I prefer to emphasize that I'm just a regular person, not a 'big company.' 

  • Build a Website that Relates to Your Books: If you've never built a website or can't, you can hire someone or just build a blog related to your books. I've built websites (I'm not a website building guru either!), so I was able to create a website to coincide with my Riddle Books. You can take a look at my StumpedRiddles.com website here. Think about how you want people to navigate your site before you build it; write it out, give it a lot of thought. The ease at which people can work their way through your website is important. The top navigation bar on my riddles website features these tabs: Home, Riddles, Answers, Riddle Books, About/Contact. Within those headings are subheadings. Don't forget to include all the legal jargon you need on the site.

  • Facebook Business Page: Build a business Facebook page that features a Shop with your books. It takes a little learning, and you need a certain amount of products before you can build a shop. I chose to link my books back to each of their product pages on my website; that way, when you publish your book on multiple platforms (not just Amazon), you don't have to worry about changing links - since each product/book will direct back to your own product page on your own site.

  • Social Media Main Photo & URL Names: Create social media pages for your business/books. Decide whether you want to use your logo or your personal photo. I decided to use my Riddles logo for my social media pages, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. However, I created a Promo-Video and included that video at or near the top of each social media site: It features my personal photo and personal story. You'll have to choose your social media URL based on what's available; I wasn't able to get "Riddles" - it was taken. However, I choose URL's that were close: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

  • Promo-Video: Create your promo video using your favorite video platform. I used Animoto. If your book/business dictates it, I would suggest being personal while describing your books' purpose. You can take a look at the promo video I created here.

  • Your Tag Line and Book Purpose: If you're able to establish a "purpose" for your books, create a consistent tag-line that describes your purpose and includes that tag line on your social media, website, and books. The tag-line I came up with is "Turn the World Off With a Smile." It's a twisted variation of a lyric line in the Mary Tyler Moore theme song. I know, I'm aging myself! That lyric was "she can turn the world on with her smile." Given the craziness of the world today, I decided my riddles are created for the distinct purpose of helping people to "turn the world OFF with a smile."
Here are some additional articles I've written relating to self-publishing - Again, I'm not a guru, just learning as I go!

As I learn more, I'll add more articles here on ReviewThisReviews. My next learning journey will be how to self-publish on platforms other than Amazon. That should be challenging.

Here's the first riddle book I created - I went through several cover designs before finally deciding on this one:

#StumpedRiddles - Riddle Book
#Stumped - Riddle Book - First Volume






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