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Messages - FrankColes

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Hi all,

In two days time I have a press pass, a Google Glass headset and a streaming account to use at Harrogate Crime Writers Festival in the UK.  This gives me access to many of these authors for 10 minute slots.

So here's the plan, I'm going to put together 10 or so questions that I would like to ask in a parlour game style - a bit like James Lipton's in Inside the Actor's Studio only more focused on writing.

So if you could ask anything, now matter how off the wall, fun, strange, what would it be?

[btw; the original subject for this job has a meeting to serialize his work with one of the networks in the UK - happy days!]

Thanks in advance  ;D

Writers' Cafe / It's okay to stop being a writer...
« on: January 07, 2014, 02:51:16 AM »
I've been a writer for nearly two decades [TV, journalism, branding, books], I caught the bug for indie a couple of years ago when my kids were born. I was doing all the things you're supposed to then I had an epiphany: for me, writing wasn't fun any more.

I wrote this blog post on it in October:

And since then I've found a new business, got a new polar challenge in the offing and have a fledgling charity that I'm really excited about. I'll be writing with all these activities but not racing to compete with the next great series of same-same but different stories and sitting at that damned desk all day.

So I just wanted to say if you're not finding it rewarding there's no shame in turning your back on it. It's a sunk cost like that shirt you bought, never wear and still keep in the wardrobe. Sometimes it's better to give it away, create more space in life and cease clinging to ideals.

If you're enjoying it, fantastic, genuinely, if you're not I thought I'd offer up a different perspective.

Either way, happy writing, happy living.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Non-fiction authors
« on: October 15, 2013, 04:04:30 AM »
HI Sam, I asked the same question just after you, here's that thread with a few more non-fic authors on there. Some good reports.,164596.0.html

Suggested we head up each topic title with 'non-fic' at the beginning as a heads up to all those with that interest.


Writers' Cafe / Re: Where are the non-fiction writers on kboards?
« on: October 12, 2013, 12:40:06 PM »
What an enlightening thread, so glad I asked the question. Perhaps, as time goes on, if we have specific queries, topics and tales we could start our subject topics with NonFic: Topic title (with a read me now hook of course)

Frank's experience with Bookbud is interesting to me, because I did not have it on my radar as a possible advertising source because all the post I read on it were from fiction writers so I assumed non fiction would not do well there.

Onaje, I ran the $80 free campaign for the 'Advice and How to' mailing list as an experiment, a three day freebie on KDP USA only (that's a rights issue I've yet to sort out on that one), it upped sales from three per month to three per day for six weeks. It has now dropped to about one per day. I priced it at 5.99 but will most likely set it nearer the $10-12 mark to match genre competitors when I run it again in six months.

Additionally the free downloads amounted to just over 40,000 and resulted in over 30 extra reviews on the US site averaging 3.8 stars. It earned back the investment for sure.

I'm also non-fic! I'll share what I've experienced. Hopefully it helps someone.

I have 2 books out so far, and my best seller is my priciest, "nichiest" book at ($24.95). My strategy has been low volume/high value content, and it works well for me. My readers are not ravenous. They are reference readers, and for them content is king. They, like me,  are willing to accept a higher price point for well-researched material from a trusted voice in the community.

I am actually a latecomer to ebooks. My books did well in print, and since I prefer to read in print, I never knew there'd be a market for my work as an ebook... or audiobook.  I was wrong.  :D Readers pushed for Kindle availability and that's how I found KB!  Branching out and being available in both formats made it possible for me to quit my day job and write for a living. For the 2.5 years I've been publishing, I've made ~150K each year and most of it thanks to one good book. I pay myself the same thing I was making before I quit, and what doesn't go to taxes is tucked away safely.

I'd say that non-fic writers would probably do well to look for additional distribution and reach outside of Amazon. It's hard to judge how well non-fic does by looking at sales rank (and it's sometimes depressing! :P).  I know for me anyway, I sell very solidly offline. Much of my income comes from selling to schools, salons, boutiques and shops that cater to my niche. I also do a lot of speaking engagements, conferences and workshops (all paid). It's amazing how speaking boosts hand sales at those venues. I don't even mind bringing down my speaker fee because the post table sales are spectacular.  My books have opened so many doors for me, and have allowed me to connect with a very special audience who had been ignored by NY for the most part. People don't like being sold to, so I do my best to share info freely with hopes that people will just have to know more! I also sponsor events and occasionally host a scholarship related to my niche. While I'd love to make a list like NYT, I know it's probably not in the cards for my business set up.  That's okay, too.

Lets see . . . In my niche, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter are critical. I use these outlets to share my expertise and host giveaways. My books have been out for just over 2 years and my social media presence continues to grow steadily-- FB (47.5K), Twitter (11.6K), and Youtube and Instagram which I kicked off this spring are at (7.5K and 3K).  For me, it's about slowly building a solid brand, and dedicated audience who'll be ready for a new, improved hair book every other year or so. I tend to get distracted by social media, so I have to keep a safe distance, lol.  I try to pop in once a week.

I find that advertising on book blogs does not work well for me. Connecting with niche-specific bloggers helps tremendously, though.

Really interesting read Saja and well done on the sales. Offline sales should definitely not be forgotten if you are writing or presenting to a niche market, especially in your case: point to point selling I believe it's called. I can cite four cases of this amongst friends in the UK who did this before ebooks and these were their results.
1. A psychologist with a passion for sewing published a first run of a dictionary of sewing terms that have entered the English language. The first edition has sold out twice and she has released a sequel.
2. A mentalist has a book on a reading people technique that was rejected by every UK publisher over several years, he released it himself and has netted over £200k and a workshop business too.
3. A climber wrote a route book for one very popular climbing wall and over a five year period sold 10k copies. I've often said to him he should do this for every popular wall in the country. I'd do it myself, however a wrist injury means no climbing for two years. Boo.
4. A security specialist runs tailored courses for companies throughout the year. He sells a generic book in this area directly to participants but also online. It ranks at 50k on Amazon year on year.
There are more, but you get the idea. Trad publishing has always avoided these types of evergreen authors because the long term business model doesn't work for the stack 'em high business model of book shops.

I'd love to work out how to do more workshops. I do some freebies on branding for corporates and, my favorite, geography workshops for five year olds (can't really sell to those cheeky little blighters mind).

I also think the series idea for tech subjects could be lucrative. We all know about the lag in trad publishing, and if you can be first to market as an indie with a strong brand and authoritative work, who knows? You could be going head-to-head with the for dummies crowd.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Where are the non-fiction writers on kboards?
« on: October 11, 2013, 01:06:17 PM »

Here's an old reddit thread on making $1000 in a day with non-fic that you may find interesting:

I swiped it from a fiction thread here on kb.,150526.25.html


Writers' Cafe / Re: Where are the non-fiction writers on kboards?
« on: October 11, 2013, 05:24:58 AM »
I'll throw in.

Tip: When taking pictures or inserting diagrams, make sure they are 300 dpi, or they'll look like crap when Createspace prints the book. Most older smart phone cameras won't generate that dense of an image. A free software, called, can resize some images to that level, but not all.

I hear you Joe. Ideally take pictures with a dedicated camera rather than a smartphone as it's all about the lens and sensor quality in the digitial age. Set it to large unsharpened uncompressed jpeg and you will be fine. has some straight talking about all this from cameras to dpi/ppi (confuses most people).

Photoshop also has a plug in that resizes quite well. Alienskin I think it's called, alternatively increasing in increments (eg 10% at a time) does the same thing.

A heading hierarchy is quite useful if you are doing anything with a multitude of sections. I learnt this the hard way. So you might do something like CHAPTER HEADING; A-title, B-title, c-title, to make better sense of it as you write and save having to go over the whole thing and figure out what goes where afterwards.

JR, who are you using for your localization (note the cunning use of a z there)?

Writers' Cafe / Where are the non-fiction writers on kboards?
« on: October 11, 2013, 02:19:27 AM »
I know you are lurking around somewhere, show yourselves. Please. It'd be great to share tips like the fiction authors do.

Here's one. I recently ran a free promo on Bookbud for the non-fiction book in the signature below. Upped sales from three per month to three per day, made the cost back in two weeks.

I also recommend wearing red wellies, a paisley dressing gown and a Groucho Marx mask to your desk every morning. It stops all those delivery men with the "just one more parcel for next door" line.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Do you have any (tenuous) links with famous writers?
« on: October 11, 2013, 02:08:46 AM »
Martina Cole for me. Hung out with her and her crew at a crime festival once and now still hang out with her crew.

Lisa Gardner once asked me to add her as a character and have her knocked off if ever I wrote another novel.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Do you really want to write...
« on: October 11, 2013, 02:06:11 AM »
Went away for a nap and look at these responses. Very rewarding to hear from you all.

So, Joe & Brian, commercialism. Yes, I'm okay with it. In fact my happiest most creative period as a writer was probably as a copywriter-for-hire during the middle east boom where I charged about $600 a day plus expenses. For two reasons: the restrictions of tardy clients or creative briefs meant you had to be more inventive all the time. I'd write in a different tone of voice every day, write about subjects I never thought would be interesting and found I was always challenged. The money helped a lot. It allowed me to go off and do interesting things (live in jungles, explore deserts, learn new skills, etc) without worry. I thought applying a series-like external structure might create that same working environment, and I guess it has but there is no external force (the client, the cash) demanding it is finished to time.

Which, DaringNovelist brings me to Lester Dent, great plot formula, interesting life and I still listen to his adaptions on old time internet radio. However when I read his entry in wikipedia it's this paragraph that interests me most:

Much of the success stemmed from Dent's fantastic imagination, fueled by his own personal curiosity. Dent was able to use the freedom that his new-found financial security allowed him, to learn and to explore. In addition to being a wide-ranging reader, Dent also took courses in technology and the trades. He earned both his amateur radio and pilot license, passed both the electricians' and plumbers' trade exams, and was an avid mountain climber. His usual method was to learn a subject thoroughly, then move on to another. An example is boating: in the late 1930s, Dent bought a 40 foot two-masted schooner. He and his wife lived on it for several years, sailing it up and down the eastern coast of the US, then sold it in 1940. The Dents traveled extensively as well, enough to earn Lester a membership in the Explorers Club.

When I read that, that's what drives me too, I think authentic real-world experiences and learning that can then be translated into passion on the page are key drivers for me. Maybe I need to write a week, explore a week, maybe I need to make the real-world experiences primary and the writing secondary. I'm not sure yet. Learning a skill and then writing a book about it perhaps (that stuff still sells well for me - although not to Joe Nobody level!).

I make up stories for my kids every day. I wrote one of them down the other day. Now that was fun! I think I might do more with that. It's joyous playtime.

Also writing a series in a genre that I know is going to sell but doesn't inspire me...not sure if that's me. I've been reading Dean Wesley Smith's Writing in Public threads recently and his idea of writing being easy, just sitting at a keyboard making stuff up and then going and watching tv in the a life? Noooo, that fills me with horror (not the easy bit, the act of writing is easy, I agree with him there), but if you notice, while that's the rhetoric he actually gets out a lot on business, writing is often secondary in his day.

PiiaBre, I love what I've read on Erle Stanley Gardner, like when he decided he'd cracked plots:

he felt he finally "got it" about plotting. He sent a story to Black Mask with this note: "If you have any comments on it, put them on the back of a check."

But again, he practiced law at the same time as writing.

Reminds me of something my dad used to say about relationships that last. He reckoned that if you had outside interests you always kept the relationship new and fresh, otherwise you just fed off each other. One fattie, one deado, hmm.

Anyone got any info on how to do a plot wheel? That might bring back the fire and a sense of urgency in fiction.

Thanks for helping me think this through everyone: non-fiction, stories to please my kids, (possibly fiction with a sense of danger), and real-life excitement.
That should make the writing life exciting again.
Or live life first, then write about it.
Gosh, look at that, a maxim, never had one of those before!

Writers' Cafe / Do you really want to write...
« on: October 10, 2013, 12:29:05 PM »
...and, if so, what do you really want to write?

There's a general strategy that we're mostly applying this year:

1. Write fiction.
2. Make it a series or serial.
3. Write more quickly than we are now.
4. Use bookbud.
5. Do a perma-free.

And that's cool...if it works for you. But what if it doesn't? I've recently relearned to touch type, planned a series, started writing it at a blistering pace and then found emotionally I'm not connecting with it. Yes, it could be the characters, or the setting, maybe I've overplanned this time, maybe it's the 'lergy the kids have given me, or maybe I really want to write non-fiction. That's where I made my living as a writer for many years in TV, ads and journalism after all.

Or maybe I'm reacting to the whole churnalism feel of the new publishing world. When I used to retrain TV production companies to stop thinking in terms of glorious one-offs and think in terms of 26-52 episodic runs TV lost it's appeal, when I got to a point with my travel writing that meant I could go to the North Pole or stay in any five star suite in the world in return for an article that genre lost it's shine too.

Maybe I'm craving the authentic, and if you are writing a series that is authentic to you whether for commercial or creative reasons, then I envy you. But for me, I'm struggling with it. To paraphrase the Arkansas Traveller skit: I can't get there from here!

Am I alone?

Writers' Cafe / Re: Series vs stand-alone novels
« on: October 04, 2013, 12:36:45 PM »
However, there is a third way, and this is the way the most successful crime/mystery writers make their fame: a series of standalone novels featuring the same characters. Some might have a minor arc, but generally each book is a fresh story but with the same character. This forms a pseudo-series that provides the benefit of safety and expectation to the reader, but gives the author an opportunity to write self-contained, complete stories.

It's that approach that I will take with my new 'series.' Each one will be a James Bond-esque 'mission' that can be read out of order. This will still allow me to offer the first book of the series as a permafree but not all the hassles of having to keep the story plot running over multiple books because for me, after 3 or 4 I'm pretty much done with the story and want something else. Too many authors can sometimes pad it out and stretch a series plot way beyond its stay. IMHO.

Been thinking the same. Thanks for summing it up out loud. Lisa Gardner is quite good at doing this. Fleming. Pratchett. Any other suggestions?

Writers' Cafe / Re: Topic on military books and bad language.
« on: October 04, 2013, 12:32:27 PM »
It totally depends who you're writing for. Who is your audience? If it is primarily serving or ex-military folk then you can probably use all the language appropriate to the character and situation, whether it's slang, swearing or acronyms. If you're writing for a mainstream audience, tailor it to suit. They won't have the context, or understand.

I used a private military background for the main character in Dark Market. The military scenes are all at the beginning and I used a softened version of guys I train with for combatives and firearms. As it's a regular thriller after those scenes some readers complained about the softened swearing they contained, even though it was for only three chapters.

As an exercise you could take your most profane chapter remove all cuss words. Does it still work? If you add them back in one by one, when is there enough to suit the story?

Personally I love all the jargon and the linguistic heritage of each force. Especially the humor. If ever I want a quick laugh I just go for a quick jaunt on the Army Rumour Service (ARRSE) forums.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Defeated by Scrivener
« on: October 03, 2013, 12:10:34 PM »
 Nothing beats the Cork Board in Scrivener though.  Love that function!

My favorite bit too. Works just like real-world index cards. They also rock. :)

Writers' Cafe / Re: Defeated by Scrivener
« on: October 03, 2013, 12:02:09 PM »
You do not have to use Scriv, no matter what others say. Do what gets you writing.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Thousand words a day club 2013
« on: October 03, 2013, 08:19:36 AM »
3k per day this week. Aiming for 5k per day by end of next week. Now if only the little one would stop shouting! :)

Heinlein's rules are transforming this particular work week for me.

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you start.
3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
4. You must put it on the market.
5. You must keep it on the market until sold

Writers' Cafe / Re: Capitalizing religious words
« on: October 03, 2013, 08:11:02 AM »
Also, when talking about God as a proper noun, you should also capitalize. For instance, the word Him.

I once had to write a style guide for a publisher (a real eye opener to the land of crazy). What I learned is this, every guide and grammar guru does things differently, the bare bones you need to know is that whatever style you choose, be consistent. Depending on the demands of the genre you could get away with any of these:

1. So, Hell is a destination. Like Hell!
2. So, Hell is a destination. Like hell!
3. So, hell is a destination. Like hell!

However, if your characters are literally going to Hell. Say for a day out with the kids. Then avoid 3. One of the standard rules, as Brie points out, is that if it's a direct instance of a name/title of a place, person, branded thing, cap it. If not you're describing a generic, e.g. a captain, the captains, rather than Captain Wilberforce Wimbleydale Pebbledash, Fourth Vicount of Upper Darling, inheritor to the Earl Grey tea empire.

For example because I'm a heathen non-believer I insisted that all references to God be decapped in one book, as, for this writer, I was always talking about a generic god in relation to varied human belief. Some may not like that, but it was consistent, accurate and grammatically correct. Language is after all how you use it, not necessarily how you are told to use it.

'Tis a bit tricky sometimes. And if you are hiring a third party always find out what guide they are using. See if it suits your style.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Defeated by Scrivener
« on: October 03, 2013, 07:30:43 AM »
I find I can't write and revise in Scrivener. I do my initial draft in Word, do my revisions in Word, then import to Scrivener to compile to epub. Then I use Sigil to edit the ToC to my liking, and save as epub. I use Kindlegen to create my mobi files.

This is probably more work than it needs to be, but I don't like working in the Scrivener interface, and it works for me.

But then, I create books of collected short stories, which is why I need to edit the ToCs. I don't know whether you'd need that step for a novel.

I do a similar thing with Atlantis Becca, it generates a ToC from h1, h2, etc (same as Sigil). I tweak the ToC in Atlantis, export as Epub and set the opening page in Sigil. Whether using Sigil or Atlantis (or any other prog), I make two versions one with an embedded cover, one without. If you then use the one without it then removes that 'double cover' effect you sometimes get if epubs are sent straght to kindle.

Takes about half an hour, but it's rock solid and works for all platforms including POD.

Writers' Cafe / Re: So today is my first spin on the BookBub carousel
« on: October 03, 2013, 06:45:15 AM »
Great figures, I ran a promo experiment a month ago for a rereleased non-fiction title which now sits happily around the 10-30k sales rank. It has continued to sell since the promo. Although it slowed last week then picked up again this week. Best comparison is your sales before the promo and sales after. Don't worry about a drop just get writing so readers have more product to buy.

The only negative I've found is because some readers download anything free you can get reviews from people who definitely aren't your target audience. Some right nutters to be honest.

Enjoy that top 100 buzz!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Defeated by Scrivener
« on: October 03, 2013, 06:36:28 AM »
Hi Hezba,

I started a similar thread a while back, at first Scrivener appalled me, then I was converted to it (formatted some stuff, made my own templates, etc). I then did all the research for a series in it, where it shines as a research and planning tool btw - but then when it came to the writing itself, I instinctively avoided it and started writing in a small cut down word processor called Atlantis (also formats to epub/cspace with minimal fuss).

I found Scrivener too messy to write in. Too much noise. I'm writing 3000 words a day this week (upto 5k per day next week). I'm not stressed by or wasting time figuring Scriv out for the act of writing - even though I own it. I'm simply writing.

Just do what gets you writing the moment you sit at your desk. Notepad will do.

Writers' Cafe / Re: talk me out of responding
« on: September 26, 2013, 10:03:30 AM »
I once responded to a similar comment in a positive way, i.e. thanking them for the feedback and making changes while briefly fielding any genuine misconceptions. It worked for me in the past. I did not ask them to change the review or star rating in anyway, and it did create a positive dialogue and allowed me to address any potential reader concerns.

That's here:

You responded to criticism earlier in a positive fashion, eg:

good idea - I've just changed the blurb to "5 and older".  Thanks for the suggestion.

It's not for everyone. However my Mrs has been training me not to be a prickly bar steward for years. So it was good exercise. In writing simply remove any emotional statements. Do beware of trolls if you strike off in this direction though.

On a similar note, whenever I used to get the inevitable comment: "I'm not familiar with any of your work, do you write under another name?" I almost always responded with: "Yes, I use the name Stephen King, but not a lot of people read my books under that name, so I stick with Duane Gundrum because they sell better."

Mind if I steal that line?

Writers' Cafe / Re: Createspace queries - Extended Distribution and Kindle
« on: September 26, 2013, 09:13:06 AM »
Expanded Distribution through Createspace or any middleman doesn't make cents to me.
You only get 19 cents on a library sale?
My book sells for $19.95. By eliminating Createspace or any middleman, I give the library a 25% discount and get $14.96. Subtracting my print cost of $5, I end up with $14.96.

Sorry for long delay. Just to confirm you approach the library direct right? Is there particular person who deals with procurement?

My mileage does indeed vary wildly! I'm in a nark because I started a book last night with the legend:

"I guarantee that once you read the first page of this terrific novel, your hands will keep ripping the pages until there are none left."

I read the first page and was underwhelmed.
On the second page chap about to stab a dude is presented with explosive cliff hanging predicament.
By page five I totally lost interest.

Perhaps the quoter meant I would be "ripping pages" for a different reason?

So definitely first chapters are important as are first pages, and page 300, 27 and 896 and chapter 12. Storytelling is important. Always.

Will go and hang my narky hat up now!

I guess itís simple really. If you donít want your work critiqued donít write books and donít write reviews!

Both are fair game for the fully informed, the uninformed, gushing fans or the inebriated.

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