Book Review – The Snail and the Whale

Format

The Snail and the Whale is not quite square at a size of 28cm x 25cm and has the standard 32 pages. The book has a variety of page layouts with many full-page spreads. I found this gave the book a more relaxed flow, as opposed to books with pages that contain many panels.

Writing

The Snail and the Whale is beautifully written and uses what seems to me, an unconventionally rhyming pattern.  When read aloud the words flow with an upbeat, interesting pace. There was one page that took a couple of readings before I could get the correct rhythm, however overall the book is very enjoyable to read out loud.
The characters are fun, although not particularly developed in the story. In The Snail and the Whale, however, this isn’t really needed as it’s the journey itself which carries the narrative. The narrative itself is uplifting and sweet – the whale takes the snail on an exciting journey, and later the snail repays his kindness by saving him from being stranded on a beach. A lovely story about two friends helping each other out!

Illustrations

The illustrations are typical of Axel Scheffler and are easily recognisable as his style. The images are bright and bold and have a softness very suited to a younger audience. The design of the characters is simple but effective – there’s only so much you can do with a snail and a whale as main characters! The backgrounds are detailed and varied and really bring the book alive. The illustrations tend to stick to a side-on perspective, but this works well as more unusual perspectives could have been jarring and might have disrupted the gentle pace of the read.

Conclusion

The Snail and the Whale flows effortlessly and with the offbeat rhyming, this book is a joy to read. It’s my favourite book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer, and my oldest boy tends to pick it more than the others too, so it’s a winner in our house. Another highly recommended read!

Click HERE to visit The Snail and the Whale’s Amazon page.

 

 

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Author Update – August 2018

Not so busy this month…

So I pretty much took August off from all book related tasks as I’ve been on holiday over the summer and I used the break to have some quality time with my family. (Hence the lack of posts on this blog!) That being said, there’s still a fair bit to catch up on, so lets recap back to the end of July when I did my first proper book promotion using Amazon’s KDP Free Book Promotion tool.

 

Promotion

I chose to run my promotion over a weekend during which time My Nan is a Ninja was available to download for free. Leading up to the event I researched and compiled a list of over 50 promotional websites that advertise your book for free. I went through the list signing up to as many as possible and removing entries that turned out to be duds. In the end I submitted my book to 29 websites including a paid promotion with Awesome Gang which cost me about £7.

So how did it go? I’d say it went okay – not great, but not terrible. Although to be honest I’ve got nothing to compare it to so my opinion could be completely off.
I sold 30 free copies and was promoted on 11 of the sites I applied for, so overall I’m quite happy with this as I didn’t expect miracles on my first time. I also managed to get a couple of reviews from America on Amazon.com which is great, as a book with no reviews looks a bit sad!
I was also pleased with my paid promotion from Awesome Gang, as like I mentioned last month I managed get to the top of the front page. This didn’t last long though unfortunately, as I was soon pushed down the list by all the other books released that day. For seven quid though I guess I can’t really grumble too much!

 

Book Development

Although all development has been on pretty much standstill this month, I did begin altering My Nan is a Ninja ready for paperback. I could print the book using the version I have created for Kindle, but I feel that the narrow aspect ratio (to fit Kindle screens) wouldn’t work well in paperback format. I’ve looked at the options available and have chosen 8.5 x 11 inches. This will require some page tweaking and I will need to draw in some extra background content to fill the increased width, but I think it will be worth the effort in the end.
I had planned to alter the page images in Photoshop and then use Kindle Kids Book Creator to add text and export to the relevant file type. Turns out you can’t do this in KKBC, so I’ve had to rethink my method!
I’ve already altered the page dimensions and begun editing the images in Photoshop, but this time – due to the aforementioned limitations, I’ve added the text using Photoshop too. And this turned out to be a really good thing! Let me explain –

I chose KKBC to add the text when creating My Nan is a Ninja as I guess I felt it was the ‘right’ way to do it. I found however that in hindsight this was a bad decision.
Granted the text is much sharper when you add it via KKBC rather than embedded within an image, but this is the only real advantage I’ve found. The format and placement of the text is severely limited in KKBC, and if you go over a certain font size the words end up partially cropped.
I worked around this initially, but since adding text using Photoshop ready for the print version I realised the error of my ways. I decided to scrap my current Kindle version and instead use the Photoshop embedded text as it has has superior composition and works much better with the images.
I haven’t bothered creating pop-up text this time round, as I feel the text is big enough to not really require magnification. I’d be interested in hearing if people actually use pop-up text, as I found personally it spoilt the reading experience rather than enhanced it. Just my personal preference though!

 

Website & Social Media

To be honest, other than posting info about the July promotion, I haven’t used or developed anything in terms of website or social media this month. Next month I’ll make a conscious effort to use all the various platforms more consistently and come up with more of a plan for their use.

 

Author Progression

Although not much has taken place in terms of personal progression, I have made headway in a couple of areas.
While updating my book ready for paperback, I discovered a fairly simple way of adding a thicker stroke (outline) to the main elements of the image. This helps the characters stand out more and gives my illustration style an overall bolder feel. I wish I would have discovered this earlier as I would have incorporated it into My Nan is a Ninja. I will however be using it in my next book so hopefully this will give it a more slick finish!

Speaking of which, I have began sketching out ideas for my next book which is untitled at present, but will feature a boy and his robot. The story is already written so I now need to design the characters and begin the illustrations.

I have also began my first couple of freebies which will be a My Nan is a Ninja colouring book and a My Nan is a Ninja ‘ninja skills book’. As soon they’re finished I will send them out to all my current mailing list subscribers, and add them as a sign-up bonus for new subscribers. If you haven’t already, then CLICK HERE to sign up today and get all my future freebies and updates!

 

Sales

When writing my sales section last month I had no idea what to expect from my KENP royalties (they aren’t updated at the end of the month). After researching some formulas for working out how much I might be earning I was pretty optimistic about my 700+ pages as that equated to 27 book downloads. Using the formula I worked out I should earn about £50. Turns out that was a gross miscalculation – I in fact only earned just over £2. As you can imagine I was somewhat disappointed! Still I know now, so I won’t be expecting much earnings from KU/KOLL in the future!

August RoyaltiesThis month I have sold 1 paid units, 30 free units and 39 KENP pages.

 

Final Thoughts

Although this was an even worse run than last month, to be honest I’m not really worried as I’m not doing this to make big bucks, I’m doing it for the satisfaction of doing it. If it does one day become a source of income then that’s great, but if not that’s fine as I’m just proud of what I’ve achieved!

I haven’t run any adverts this month liked I’d planned either, as I decided I wanted to wait until the paperback is complete. Once this is done, I will begin using AMS ads and maybe then we might see an increase in sales!

See you in September!

 

Author Update – July 2018

The first of many…

So this is my first update since publishing My Nan is a Ninja. It’s only been a few weeks but quite a lot has happened actually!

 

Post Launch

The first thing of note happened immediately after publishing. I had planned to launch the book as free on the first day, however, when you set a promotion the effects aren’t immediate, so I had to choose another day to offer it as free.
Then to my annoyance, on the morning of the promotion, my book still wasn’t set as free! Turns out the promotions run from 12:00 am Pacific Time, so here in the UK we had to wait an extra 8 hours before it became available!

The next issue that arose, dare I say it, was some grammar mistakes and a few illustrative errors in the book! I had read through the book numerous times and so had my wife, but it was only when some of my friends and colleagues got hold of it that the problems came to light! I quickly resolved these issues, but I would have prefered to have had an error-free book on launch!

And that is why you need an editor.

I’ve enlisted two of my colleagues, one of which is a former English teacher, to help me out next time! I really was surprised by how easy it is for mistakes to creep in though. I checked that book over and over and was sure I hadn’t missed anything… Nevermind, lesson learnt!

Something else I discovered upon launch is that reviews from customers in the UK only appear on Amazon.co.uk, not on Amazon.com. I had never considered that the two sites were separate entities, I had always imagined them to be the same site, just with an auto-translator for the spellings and currency! This was a bit of a blow, as although I’ve collected a handful of reviews here in the UK, I have none to show in the US.

 

Book Development

When publishing your book on Amazon you are required to choose two categories that your book will be listed in. The categories you are given to choose from are very generalised and don’t contain all the subcategories available. To access these additional subcategories a couple of steps needs to be taken. (Information on these steps can be found at Kindlepreneur for those who are interested).
Of course, I wanted access to these special subcategories as they give you a better niche in the market. So after doing a bit of research, I found a couple of categories that I felt I could gain more of a competitive edge in. Already I have gone from ranking at about 2000 odd in a more general category to the top 10 in my two new categories. The rank is changing all the time, but that’s not a bad start!

I also added a direct link to my mailing list at the end of the book. It was a bit of a pain as I tried following instructions from a number of sites but none of them seemed to work. I managed to get what appeared to be a link, but it was unclickable. After much trial and error, I discovered that the code was correct, it just didn’t seem to work when it was copied and pasted into place. When I typed the code from scratch, it suddenly seemed to work. Maybe one day I’ll do a tutorial on this!

 

Website & Social Media

After publishing my book, it meant I could then create an author page on Amazon’s Author Central, so I did this straight away. When I viewed my book on Amazon.com however, my author page didn’t exist. Turns out you have to sign up to Author Central both for the UK and again for the US. *Sigh*
I really hope that Amazon combines all the various markets into one unified platform one day. Or even just a unified platform for all the English based marketplaces. It just makes sense!

Another option that became available after publishing my first book was that I could list myself as an author on Goodreads. I did this straight away and I’ve begun answering author questions.

I have updated my website and all my social media with new logos and banners based around the My Nan is a Ninja theme. This has tied them all together visually and is another step towards a consistent branding theme.

I also signed up to Amazon Associates and replaced all the links to my book with affiliate links, so hopefully, this will build up another small pot of cash over time.

I have also begun creating my automated e-mails on MailChimp. The first two are in place and I will continue to develop more as time goes on. I have an idea of what I want to cover over the course of about ten e-mails, so I’ll continue to add extra content as I go.

Author Progression

This month I completed Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur’s free AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) course. It’s an excellent course and covers everything you need to know about advertising on Amazon. It’s something I’m hoping to implement in the coming months, so the knowledge I learned was invaluable.

I also completed an author interview on Awesome Gang. When it finally published, it must have been uploaded at the same time as a load of other authors, as it was pushed down the list straight away! It was on the front page though so that’s the main thing.

 

Promotion

Awesome Gang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow I will be doing my first proper promotional push, and I’m hoping to break the US market! I’ve applied for My Nan is a Ninja to be promoted on over forty free book promotion websites and I also purchased a paid promotion on Awesome Gang. As you can see from the screenshot it was at the top of the list for a time there! The book will be free on the 28th and 29th of July, so check it out HERE if you haven’t read it yet!

 

Sales

 

I want to be completely open and honest in this blog so I’m happy to share my author earnings with you all. It might take a while before I can present you with any exciting figures, but everyone has to start somewhere! Hopefully, by showing my earnings over time, it will give other authors-in-progress an idea of what to expect as they follow a similar path.

July RoyaltiesThis month I  have sold 1 paid units, 30 free units and 729 KENP pages.

Just to note the royalty for KU/KOLL isn’t shown until after the end of the month so this sales section was updated in August. I admittedly was very disappointing with the royalty I received for KU/KOLL, but I explain this more in the August update so read more about this HERE.
Overall it wasn’t a great month profit wise, but being as it’s very early days I’m not too worried. Let’s see where it goes from here!

 

Final Thoughts

Wow, that was a really long post, congratulations if you stayed until the end!
Seems a lot can happen in a couple of weeks!

Just to note, instead of posting my author update on the last Friday of every month as I had planned, it will instead be the last day of every month from now on. This is to avoid clashing with my book reviews which are every other Friday.

See you in August!

 

Book Review – Supertato

Format

Supertato is a typical 26cm x 26cm square picture book and has the standard 32 pages (or 36 if you include the cover sheets). The page layouts vary between full-page spreads, single page images and split pages with two or three images per page. The layout is random and each pair of pages tends to be different to the pair before, creating a dynamic and interesting reading experience.

Writing

Supertato is a very witty and cleverly written book. It uses lots of play on words and amuses throughout. The characters are likeable and well realised in the text (the Evil Pea, the long-suffering villain, is definitely my favourite). The backing characters also have their fair share of well-written one-liners, especially one comment about the flavour of the jelly near the end. Supertato maintains an exciting, fast pace and keeps the reader entertained throughout.

Illustrations

The illustrations are bright and colourful and each panel is well designed. The design of the characters is simple and effective and perfect for a children’s picture book. Admittedly I am not a big fan of the ‘rough edge’ on the outline of the characters, but that’s just a personal preference. The backgrounds are also well illustrated and you never forget that the story is based in a supermarket. The illustrations contain a variety of perspectives and angles that keep the book exciting and dramatic.

Summary

The jokes are genuinely funny, and I quite possibly enjoy reading Supertato even more than my boys do. The characters are very fun to create voices for, and I have now got set voices that I use every time I read it! Supertato is a favourite in our household, and the fact that we buy every sequel is a testament to its popularity! A highly recommended read.

Click HERE to visit Supertato’s Amazon page

 

 

My First Book – PUBLISHED


Mission Accomplished.

My first book ‘My Nan is a Ninja’ has been completed!
After many months I can now officially call myself an author, not just a writer! (For those who don’t know, to be classed as an author you need to have a published work under your belt).

There was a lot to learn, many new skills to develop, and I managed to misjudge how long tasks would take every step of the way. But I finally made it.
I’ve really enjoyed the entire creative process and I’m proud of what I have achieved. There’s still plenty of room for improvement in all areas, but that’s good, as it means I have room to grow!

From here on out I will only be posting updates on my book progress once a month, as like I’ve mentioned previously, I have a feeling it’s going to be much of the same for each book! I will start my book reviews in two weeks time, and these will be posted every other Friday. Once I’ve got more experience under my belt I will also begin posting my favourite tips and advice once a month.

Thanks again to all my friends, family and subscribers who have been with me on my journey. Here’s to the next book!

To get your copy of ‘My Nan is a Ninja’ click HERE!


My First Book – Week 16


Today Tomorrow Sunday is the big day!

So, I had planned on publishing ready for a promotion today – turns out I had a lot more tweaking and finalising than I realised! I’ve only just managed to compile the book yesterday and this evening I’ll make the final edits.
I admittedly feel quite anxious about publishing as I don’t want to have missed anything, or find out there’s a mistake after the book’s published. I wonder if that’s what all new authors feel? I guess nothing can be perfect and eventually you have to draw a line under it and just get it out there.

I also realised this week that I’d missed a crucial point when designing the pages – I hadn’t accounted for the Kindle aspect ratio. As I started to load my images into Kindle Kids Book Creator I was surprised by how my pages all seemed to fit perfectly, despite not paying any heed to resolution or image size. I’d expected maybe a tool to resize the images in the software, to make the images fit the standard Kindle aspect ratio, but there was none. It seemed all too convenient – something wasn’t right.
A quick Google search and I found another author – Chip Street, who’d had the exact same problem.  Turns out that despite appearances, the Book Creator software doesn’t auto-resize images and instead adds in scrollbars when needed – not what anyone wants!
Following Chip’s guidelines, I resized all my pages to the Kindle 5:8 aspect ratio, adding a bit of extra image on at the top and bottom. This actually improved the composition as it then meant I had more room to fit the text in, which is a problem I realised I might have earlier in the development process. So thanks Chip!

All going well I’ll publish tonight and set the free promotion for tomorrow. Watch this space!

UPDATE:

So I managed to publish My Nan is a Ninja yesterday as planned, however upon publishing my book, it then went under review which I was told could take up to 72 hours (something I was completely unaware of)!
I found that although the review was completed this morning, I’ve now missed the deadline for running a promotion today. So instead, the promotion will be tomorrow!

See you then!


 

My First Book – Week 15


The Finishing Touches

My Nan is a Ninja is almost complete. Almost.
I had planned to publish it this week ready for this Friday post, however, I wanted to be absolutely certain I haven’t missed anything. I’m going to go over everything again this weekend with the intention of publishing by Sunday.

I did some more tying up loose ends this week – I finished the front cover and ‘from the author’ pages, I did some final tweaking to the illustrations, and I made further adjustments to my website. I also wrote my book description and chose the all-important keywords – let’s hope they’re good ones!
All that’s left to do now is to finalise the layout in Kindle Kids’ Book Creator and arrange a few promotions using my long list of promotional websites (courtesy of Kindlepreneur)!

Next week I’ll get an Amazon promotion in place on Friday, so as a thank you to all my subscribers you’ll be able to download it for free! One more week people!