Tag Archives: Scrivener

My experience with Goodreads giveaways and some handy tips for posting your own…


If you are an author and you want to get your book noticed then there are many ways that you can do it. There are thousands of articles populating the internet telling you how you should ‘build a platform’ and get yourself a ‘tribe’ in order that they can shout out about your book so that you can generate sales.

I can tell you now that all of the above is very hard work. I work (this is not my day job) for about fifty hours a week, I have a baby son and I have a life to lead. What this means is that I have one hour a night in which to write. Since I started trying to publish books this hour has been split between writing, editing, marketing and, perhaps most importantly, learning…

Of course many of you know this story (Oh woe is me, it’s so difficult to find the time, blah blah, etc). To be honest, I love the writing, but I also want people to actually read¬†my books (because everyone needs feedback on their work, you know?).

Anyway, I decided that I should do a thing called a ‘Goodreads giveaway’. If you love books and you haven’t checked out Goodreads then I would highly recommend that you pop over and have a look. It’s a great tool for finding what we all want (that’s more good books to read, not piles of gold or Jennifer Lopez in a bikini by the way…).


The thing about Goodreads is that they will only allow you to do a giveaway with a paperback book, you just can’t do it with an ebook. This presents a problem to many self published authors as they cannot or will not produce paperback versions of their work. This was a stumbling block for me too and it took me the best part of a year to pluck up the courage- and figure out how- to format and publish a book through Createspace (the alternative is to use Lulu or Lightning-source or Ingram-spark, but I chose Createspace because it seemed the easiest and was free to use).

It took me a while but using Scrivener (a truly wonderful piece of software) I was able to put together the files for a paperback and upload them to Createspace.

Anyway, I digress, I am going to post a blog about my Createspace experience soon, so you can read all about that process then ūüôā

When I had my paperback version of ‘Empire under siege’, the first book in my epic fantasy series ‘The Adarna chronicles’, I posted a giveaway on Goodreads.

The process itself is quite straightforward, you fill in some fields detailing when you want the giveaway to start and finish, how many books you want to giveaway etc, and then you link it to your book (you must have uploaded it to Goodreads already to do this).

I posted my first giveaway for two days and gave away one book. During the two days 779 (forgive the use of numbers, it’s just so much blooming easier that writing out longhand, although actually by the time I’ve explained it all it’s probably about the same… ho hum…) people ‘requested’ it (they entered the competition). This means that at least this number actually saw the cover and blurb and liked it enough to enter the competition. In addition 314 people added ‘Empire under siege’ to their ‘to-read’ bookshelf (basically saying that they wanted to read it at some stage).

I was totally over the moon! Wow, I thought, there will be over 300 sales from this one little giveaway!

Well, actually, no… The fact is that in the last week or so since the giveaway ended I have sold about the same number of books as I sold before. I do think that about seven people from Goodreads have bought the book (as the number with the book on their ‘to-read’ shelf is now 307) which means that I have just about broken even on the giveaway. I could be wrong of course and seven people might have removed it from their shelves…

There may be more people over the coming weeks and months that buy ‘Empire under siege’ because of the giveaway, but I don’t think that it will be that many. You see, when you examine the statistics for the people who have put the book on their to-read shelf it turns out that most of them have several thousand¬†books marked to read. Clearly the chance of most people getting around to reading ‘Empire under siege’¬†when it is one of thousands to choose from¬†is virtually zero.

Am I worried? Well, no, actually. You see the thing is that the book got some exposure, and in my mind that has to be a good thing as it increases the discoverability of my work. I actually did another giveaway for my other work ‘Paradise’ with even more people adding it to their shelves (although bizarrely, even though it is only 99c, no one has actually bought it following the giveaway).

Meanwhile ‘Empire under siege’ has another giveaway scheduled for the 24th to the 29th June with the hope that more people will add it to their shelves.

So, in order to try to be helpful, I have added my top tips (using my absolutely vast experience ūüėČ – that’s a joke by the way, just in case you didn’t get it) for Goodreads giveaways below:-

1) Make sure you have a good cover. If you haven’t, then less people are going to stop and read your blurb…

2) Make sure that your blurb is good. Don’t just cut and paste your book cover blurb, you need to be more creative. I put extracts of reviews for my work and also offered the books as autographed copies.

3) Make sure that you spend some time working on the ‘tags’ as there are hundreds to search through and many of them may be relevant to your work.

4) Don’t expect to sell loads of books, it’s more about exposure. Unless you just wrote the next fifty shades of grey (which apparently took off because of a Goodreads giveaway) you ain’t going to make a profit.

5) Consider only offering one book. I don’t think offering more does anything other than cost you more. Although it should be noted that some people use giveaways to get reviews and if so, more books equal more reviews (potentially).

6) Try out different lengths of time for your giveaways to find out what time span works best (my first was two days and the next was three, the one about to start is five).

7) Perhaps most importantly, it takes a couple of days at least for the Goodreads team to approve your giveaway, make sure you start yours in the future so that it doesn’t finish before it has started (if you know what I mean).

Hope this was useful (wow, long post!). If you like it why not ‘like’ it below, or follow my blog (top right for the button) or tweet me or facebook me or do some other social networky thing. Cheers.


Why I no longer use Evernote for my writing (How to find your lost Evernote notes in Android)

Frustrated and confused

I had an issue the other day that frightened the hell out of me. I spend a lot of time on the train these days and when I am not on official ‘work’ business (i.e. earning a crust), I like to write on the train journeys.

*NOTE* If you have found this post through a search engine and you want to know how to get your lost ‘Evernote’ note back, please feel free to skip my ramblings and go to the end of the post, where hopefully the solution awaits you ūüôā

In a previous post I have outlined¬†my writing tools¬†and I thought it was important to provide an update. You see the other day on the train I decided I wanted a break from writing and editing the ‘Adarna chronicles’. To be fair I was getting a little tired of the first novella ‘Empire under siege’ (for those who have read previous posts, the project used to be called ‘Hope’, but I realised that the name meant nothing to anyone…. Now I know some of you will think ‘What the hell, if Hugh Howey can sell a book called ‘Wool’ then why not have an abstract name that has little meaning until you have read the book?’¬†But I just wasn’t convinced, so the name has changed).

Anyway, back to the point. I was a little tired of ‘Empire under siege’ and when this happens I tend to work on a short story (which is how my first published work ‘Paradise’ came in to existence) to get over the writer’s block. I have a long list of short story synopses that I hold as ‘Evernote’ ‘notes’, and I will continue to use Evernote for this purpose. The mistake I made was to use ‘Evernote’ as a cut down word processor.

You see I started writing a short story called ‘The hunger’ on the train in Evernote as it seemed easier than trying to use a word processor on my Android tablet. I’ve done this before with great success.

On the day I hit a seam of inspiration that enabled me to polish off the first draft of the story (5,000 words or so) on the journey to London and back. I was ecstatic. Rarely have I been able to finish something in a day, and although there are many rewrites ahead for the story before it goes to the editor, I have to say that I was very, very pleased with it (which, to be fair, probably means it is the worst thing I have ever written!).

I finished the story just as the train got in to my home station and I didn’t have time to sync ‘Evernote’ to the cloud, so I closed my Android tablet and went home, secure in the knowledge that the work would be preserved (I had pressed ‘save’ quite a few times) until I got home and could sync to the cloud and transfer the story to ‘Scrivener’ (which is my writing platform of choice).

Sadly, when I got home and opened Evernote on my iMac, only the first half of the story was there. I didn’t panic, going instead to the Android tablet and checking the ‘note’ on it (surely,¬†I thought, it must still be on the tablet?). Sadly, only half of the story was on the tablet too.

Any writer, I think, will sympathise with my plight. I had been hit by a moment of inspiration and hurled words onto the page in a frenzy. There was no way that I could recapture the lost words. I knew the story, sure, but it would never be the same (plus it would be a pain in the arse to write it all down again). I was utterly, completely, dejected.

I scoured the internet for a solution (after moping around for an hour or so), but couldn’t find anything. To make matters worse, the Evernote website help section was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

After much head scratching (and cursing), I reasoned that because I had pressed ‘save’ in Evernote the file must be on my Android somewhere. It turns out, thankfully, that I was right.

Here’s what I did:-

1) I opened up my Android tablet and went to the file manager app.

2) In the file manager app (there are many available, all you need is something that will let you browse the files on your Android) I located the ‘Android’ folder (if you have an SD card or similar inserted you will have to search this too).

3) Within the ‘Android’ folder I opened ‘data’ and scrolled down until I found a folder called ‘com.evernote’ and within this a folder called ‘files’

4) Within files I opened a folder called ‘unsaved notes’ (be aware that the structure of the file system in Evernote is such that you may have folders with these names on any storage device connected to your Android and they may have different content. So make sure you look through them all). It did strike me as a little bizarre that my saved files would be in a folder called ‘unsaved notes’ but I found them, so who really cares?

5) I found some ‘.enml’ files that had a date and time stamp that coincided with my train journey.

6) I emailed one of the .enml files (the latest) to my iMac.

7) I tried to open the .enml file. It opened but was mostly nonsense.

8) I did a search on the internet and found out that if you rename a .enml file to .html then it can be opened. So I did this and then opened the .html file in my browser.

9) Hey presto! My entire story popped up in my browser. I copied and pasted it into ‘Scrivener’ and the job was done! I slept soundly that night.

So that, dear reader, is why I will never write anything (other than notes) in Evernote again. I have to state that ¬†there is a function on their website that allows you to ask for support. I did send them a request for help but by the time they got back to me I had solved the problem myself. ¬†I should also note (pardon the pun…) that Evernote is an extremely handy and powerful tool if used correctly and I will continue to use it in the future for many other things.

So, that’s the end of a rather different blog post for me. I hope that someone out there finds it useful at some stage. At the very least, I hope that it will help others avoid the mistakes that I made.

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My first two weeks as a published author

Paradise tweetSo it’s been two weeks since I published my Novelette ‘Paradise’. This is pretty much how it went down:-

1) Spent the best part of a month polishing the text, rewriting until I was sick of it (not really, but you know what I mean. If you’re a writer you probably¬†do know what I mean).

2) Sent text to editor. Got back many helpful comments, most of which I agreed with (yes, I know I am sentimental and verbose, Mr Ed, thanks for reminding me…).

3) Got corrected text back from the editor, went through text and accepted most of the changes.

4) Realised whilst going through the editors comments that there were still areas of the book that needed work. Spent the next week completing the work (something strange happened when I got it back from the editor, I was somehow more detached, more objective, more able to criticise it).

5) Set a date for release on Amazon.

6) Procrastinated for two days.

7) Published on Amazon (really rather easy, particularly if you use Scrivener).

8) Broadcast the release on this blog and through twitter.

9) Got two (count them, that’s two) sales on the first day.

10) Felt very happy for the first day (woo hoo, two sales!).

11) Got first review of the book (she loved it!), felt even happier check it out .

12) Checked Amazon sales figures every day, at least once, praying every time that more sales would appear.

13) Repeated number 12.

Do you see a pattern? Checking for sales has become an obsession, but the thing is that if no one knows the book is out there then no one will buy it. So the next major task is to market the darned thing! Hey ho, back to work then…..

Eat, sleep, write, edit, social media, market, repeat (is that a song lyric?).

My writing tools….

So I’ve been writing for over a year now in a relatively serious fashion (on the train, for half an hour before I go to bed each night- minutes snatched here and there… you get the picture). During my time I’ve found that a particular set of tools helps me do what I do, so here they are (it’s simple really):-

1) Scrivener- this writing suite from the rather brilliant guys over at Literature and Latte is the key tool that has helped me to follow my dream and actually start to write. The thing about people who want to write (novels in particular) is that they have to be very, very, organised. Often a novel has dozens of chapters, hundreds of scenes and more characters then you can swing a cat at. It’s ridiculously difficult to keep track of all these things. Scrivener uses a simple and intuitive interface to allow you to keep track of everything (I would advise you take the time to watch the excellent tutorials). The software virtually becomes an extension of your mind once you figure out how to use it (and I am stumbling across new features all the time)..

Scrivener is a must if you are serious about writing (in my mind)- I am going to write a separate post on it at some stage as it would take a day to describe its brilliance. Just trust me and try it (there is a thirty day free trial). There is a link on the sidebar (note; I gain nothing if you buy Scrivener- I am not an affiliate).

2) Evernote- there are two reasons for this, the first is that Evernote is a great tool for taking notes, photos or just about anything else and storing them in the cloud. Perhaps more importantly, unless you are a very heavy user, it’s free (there is a premium version for those who are love to eat the megabytes)- it also allows you to sync your account in the cloud across all of your devices- so you write something on your phone and you can pick it up on your tablet or laptop.

The other reason I love Evernote, is that it allows me to continue writing chapters on my Android devices (see below) when I do not have Scrivener available- and then when I get home I can just cut and paste and voila! Everything is back in Scrivener. Hopefully Scrivener will be available soon for Apple and Android mobile devices- but until then Evernote bridges the gap. To be honest I will continue to use Evernote in any case for gathering information and as an aid memoir.

3) Scapple- difficult to describe but essentially a kind of mind-mapping tool by the good folks (again) over at Literature & Latte. I use it to write plot lines or timelines or a ‘character cloud’ detailing essential characteristics. The great thing is you can then import straight into Scrivener (you get the picture).

4) Samsung Galaxy S3 (other phones are available!), I use this with Evernote to jot down story ideas or take photos.

5) ASUS eeepad transformer- this is essentially an Android notebook and ten inch tablet in one. When the keyboard is docked it has a rather fantastic sixteen hour battery life. It can also be taken just about anywhere (I am writing this post on a train from London, and I have found the transformer fits perfectly on any seat back tray- the advantage being that I don’t need a plug or a full table seat that would normally be needed for writing on a train. It also has a full ‘chiclet’ style keyboard, which is great for hammering out the words.

6) Google Drive- this is essentially a cloud based storage system that is great for storing your documents on. Don’t forget, they aren’t safe until they’re in the cloud, and you wouldn’t want to lose your precious writing, would you? I back up to Google drive at every opportunity.

7) My laptop- this is the central hub of my writing hobby, I use it to run Scrivener and also to do all of my editing directly in Scrivener and for uploading files to the cloud etc. It is Windows 7 in my case- but I understand the old Apple devices are pretty good too!

8) My Kindle- what I’ve learned over the last few months is that it’s really difficult to read something on a computer screen, particularly when editing, it’s very easy to miss words and grammatical errors. I’m really not sure why, but this does seem to be a widely accepted phenomenon. Many writers print out physical copies and read and edit from a page- but the truth is I tried this and it was just too messy for me (although I am sure it would suit some). The Kindle makes it easy to read the text (I create a PDF or .mobi file of the chapter I have written using Scrivener and e-mail it to my Kindle), the digital paper better recreates the book reading experience and I can annotate as I go along. Then all I have to do is read through the annotations and make amendments as necessary in Scrivener on my laptop. It sounds like a convoluted approach, but it works for me and it saves on paper, so may even be better for the environment.

UPDATE: I finally caved in and bought a Mac. The thing is though, I have always thought they were a bit overpriced, so I managed to track down a second hand iMac 17inch on eBay (it was made in 2006 and it runs like a dream). I now use the iMac along with all my other tools. The main reason I got a Mac? To access Scrivener 2.0 (of course), and I have to say that I have not been disappointed…

UPDATE No.2: The writing tools seem to have worked! I have just released my first novelette (a very short novel or very long short story– go figure). It’s called Paradise and is available on Amazon (those are links by the way, press them if you want to see the book!). OK, so I have to admit this might look a little desperate, but what can I say, I’m excited! ūüėČ

So that’s the lot. The tools listed above have become my writing life. I am sure you have your own and some of them may be better than mine. If you have suggestions why not post them below for all to see?

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Finding the time to write and train journeys

Lovely writing view

I reckon I don’t get much time to write, what with work and the wife and the gardening etc it’s very, very difficult to get anything done. This is particularly true as I now spend half my life and nearly every free moment looking at tweets and blogs and trying to figure out what this whole ‘social media revolution’ thing is all about.

Let’s be clear here. I’ve been afraid of social media since I first learned of it’s existence. I have friends who routinely facebook and tweet and pintrest (or whatever it’s called) all the time. I’ve remained steadfastly against such practice as, essentially, I’m shy (ahhhh, you all say).

Well all of that changed about a week ago when I realised that it wasn’t that bad after all. I’ve learned much from twittering and blogging etc and whilst I haven’t gotten around to the whole facebooky thing yet, it doesn’t hold quite the terror that it used to.

So anyway- time is a¬†big issue and one of the ways I’ve found to get around the problem is to better utilise (arrgh, the American spell checker tells me I’ve made a spelling mistake yet again, please forgive me if reading this in America- I know there’s at least one of you from checking the stats page on wordpress!- but I plan to use English spelling as I am in the UK) the time that is available to me.

Along with what seems to be the whole world at the moment, I am currently writing a book. It might surprise you to learn that 20% of the writing so far has taken place on the train. So here’s how the story goes:-

– Get up in the morning for early train to London or wherever. Pack ASUS eeePad (it’s a bit like an iPad but has a proper ‘chicklet’ keyboard- really rather brill- google it) and get off to the station. Get on train like zombie that you are in the morning (arrgh, it’s cold, arrgh it’s raining, arrgh I hate getting up early, arrgh where did all these people come from?).¬†

– Sit on train with eeePad perched on naff plastic tray that you’ve pulled down from the seatback infront of you. If lucky get window seat. If unlucky get aisle seat and prepare to have elbow banged into by every bugger that needs to get on or off, or go get a sandwic,h or go to the toilet etc etc.

РIf really lucky spend entire journey on your own. Two seats just for me, hurrah! If unlucky (which is far more likely, this being the UK after all Рthere are a heck of a lot of people packed into a very small space here), spend the entire journey sat next to either:-

a) a very large matronly lady who actually needs three seats for her ample buttocks and spends the entire journey eating boiled sweets and breathing so heavily you think she may expire at any moment.


b) a man the size of a haystack with a cold so bad you suspect he should be using a towel rather than a handkerchief- oh my god he’s making squelching sounds with is nose, blurrgh.

– Keep elbows in and lean forward intently whilst you write scenes from your little novel. Make sure you keep the screen angled toward you though (which is bloody difficult when you’re in the aisle seat….) as you don’t want matron or fat sickly man to know how bad your writing is (you imagine them standing and addressing the whole carriage- ‘oh my god, this is so¬†funny, this guy thinks he can write.¬†Yeah this one- right here, haha,’ everyone in the carriage roars with laughter and points at you, ‘he thinks he’s an¬†author, all of you,¬†look, he thinks he’s gonna be a proper writer!’

– Not put off by the laughter and pointing, continue writing for the whole journey. Get back ache and hand cramps (oh the pain…) but continue because you have to, you just have to get the damned book finished…

– Get to destination. Go to meeting. Spend whole meeting thinking about plot ideas and character profiles and story arcs. Pretend you’re paying attention when the Chair of the meeting looks at you (amazing how much you can get away with by nodding and giving the occasional ‘yes’ or ‘I agree’).

РFinish meeting, get back on train and write some more. Write like your life depended on it.

– Check word count at end of day (because for some ridiculous reason this is important to you- as if quantity makes up for quality…..) and discover you have written over 3,000 words in four hours.

The trick here? Having absolutely nothing else in the world to do. No internet. No twitter. No Blog. It’s a bit like the computer program ‘write or die’¬†in that you’re forced to concentrate on the task at hand- what else is there to do on a train in any case?

Newbie’s tip for the day; I use two programs for my writing at the moment:-

1)¬†Evernote,¬†which is great for making quick notes for plot, storyline or character (yes, occasionally in the middle of meeting- they’re never gonna figure it out, hehe) and syncing across all devices. I also use Evernote¬†for my train (and other places!) writing as I can be sure the work is stored safely in the cloud and will be available on my desktop when I get home.

2) Scrivener, which is a program that allows you to break your novel into scenes, store character profiles and plot information- the list is endless. I bought it after a 30 day trial recently and I would recommend to anyone who is serious about writing, it makes the job so much easier (gonna write a review of Scrivener at some stage in the future).

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Adios for now