Frequently Bought Together

There are many proud moments in an author’s career like when you finish your first draft, when the first copy of your book arrives in the post or when you get your first review.

I was on Amazon this morning and I felt a pang of pride I simply have to share with you and it’s seeing that Amazon are listing that my three non-fiction books as being “Frequently Bought Together”.

Now I’ve no idea how many people have to do this before the Amazon algorithm kicks in – it might just be one!! It is however a significant milestone in any author’s strategy.

In the best selling author John Locke’s book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, his advice is not to even attempt this with one book.

So my advice to all authors is this :

1. If you are just starting out – think how you can write a series – publishers and readers alike will love you for it

2. If you have written one book and want to sell more copies – write at least two more

3. If your book is out in print only, make sure it’s available for the Kindle too (as it can be then read on all devices)

Note that your books don’t have to be published with the same publisher or a linked sequence of titles – it’s best if they follow a particular theme or logical progression though …

For example, my books flow like this:

Blocks – clear barriers to creativity

Flavours of Thought – understand not all thoughts are the same

Light Bulb Moments – tune into a special class of thoughts that take you on amazing leaps of imagination and creativity

P.S. the fourth book is being crafted right now and it extends the thoughts in these three to a whole other level … watch this space and I can’t wait until Amazon list all four as being Frequently Bought Together 😉

Afterword in 2013 – here is that book Planes of Being and another I didn’t even plan to write called This We Know

P.P.S. Not even two years after I wrote this blog, I find Amazon recommending not just three but five of my books to people via emailfrequentlyBought

Lightbulbs on the Kindle

I am so thrilled that my new book, The Art and Science of Light Bulb Moments, has now made it on to the Kindle platform a couple of weeks after it was available in print.

Especially as I have just been reading about how US-author John Locke has been going about selling over 1 million books in a few short months – see my Bookwright blog for details on this.

At the same time, bookings are coming in thick and fast for talks on how to experience light bulb moments on demand – see the schedule here – and contact me if you have a group you’d like me to talk to.

I’ll also be sharing some new about the full workshop programme I am launching in the UK in Autumn and extending worldwide to 2012.

It’s a real testament to the doors writing a book opens to an author … watch this space.

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… a fresh approach to creating an eBook

Sales of ebooks are predicted to overtake paperback books by 2014. For authors especially, simply to bury your head in the sand by saying you prefer a printed book is not an option. Aside from any other consideration, increased royalties make writing with the ‘ereader’ in mind a prudent strategy.

An ebook can, of course, be an electronic copy of a pre-existing printed book. If, however, you are writing a book from scratch, there are some benefits for both you and the ‘ereader’ to adopting a slightly different approach. Note that this article mainly relates to writing of non-fiction.

The new breed of reader
The term ‘ereader’ can now refer to both the device itself and the person holding the device. Personally, I am favouring reading non-fiction on my iPad but still reading fiction in print. The reason for this is to do with reading patterns.

For me fiction is something I read curled up on the sofa at weekends or relaxing on holiday – both in long reading sessions when I can get lost in the book. Non-fiction is something I absorb perhaps a chapter at a time while commuting, in between meetings or in bed at either end of the day. I may dip back into a book for research later and often I may even read a book out of sequence; just diving into specific chapters that take my fancy.

Different devices
eBooks can, of course, be read on a desktop or laptop computer. The Amazon Kindle device with its e-ink display that can be read in bright sunlight is becoming the ‘Hoover’ of the eReader world. The fact it currently has a monochrome display should be born in mind when it comes to both cover design and embedded images.
iPads have the advantage of a larger, colour display and the ability to have audio and video embedded in the ‘book’. Don’t try and read one outside on a sunny day though.

Smartphones, typically iPhones, are also potential target devices but of course have a smaller display to consider. Making your books readable on a phone gives you access to a huge market of commuters and those with short attention spans.

For all devices, as text can be resized by the reader, the concept of page numbers flies outside the window.

A different approach
So bearing all of this in mind, content needs to be delivered in a slightly different way. Here’s my top seven tips which you will note are used in this article:

  1. Include a hyperlinked table of content.
  2. Summarise each chapter in bullets at the start or the end for the speed, skimming reader.
  3. Make sure you use structured headings – Heading 1, Heading 2 etc – and no fancy formatting (unless you know what you are doing).
  4. Restrict chapter lengths to around 1500 words – i.e. 6 or so pages in a standard book – and keep chapter lengths balanced and around the same time.
  5. Less is more – be brief, be concise – don’t use more words than necessary.
  6. Ensure images work in both monochrome and colour.
  7. Read your book out loud before ‘publishing’ it. If you find yourself pausing for breath, you need punctuation. Record it too and generate an audio book at the same time.

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In summary
Using all of these tips also works in favour of the writer. You could, for example, write a book a bit at a time as a blog or set of articles. For example, I am leaving this series open so it can morph into a book if it merits it and generates interest. This is a great way of testing the market. Book writing then becomes less of a marathon and more of an enjoyable daily routine.

  • Be mindful of the person reading an ebook
  • Be aware of the different types of ereader devices
  • Make your job as a writer much easier

I’ve written two books recently in small chunks, a day at a time specifically with ‘ereaders’ in mind – they are currently being merged and republished as one bigger book in print …

  • Flavours of Thought: Recipes for Fresh Thinking
  • The Little Book of Floughts

For more information on both, see

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If I was writing this article just five years ago, when asked what an ebook is, I would probably have said a PDF. Where PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format which, unlike say an Word document, is read-only and retains all the source formatting and layout.

Nowadays, with the increasing ubiquity of ereaders, it might be tempting to define an ebook as something you downloaded to be read on an Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad. To make matters slightly more confusing, the humble PDF can be read on both devices.

Where a PDF essentially differs from a book formatted for an ereader is that the latter, be it in ePub, HTML5 or the techie format, tends to be copy protected and tied to the purchaser’s account – not even their device. This means they can read it on their Kindle, iPhone and computer if they own all three.

Neither of these descriptions however fully defines what an ebook is or can be.

Before I explain, although I am a technophile and even writing this article on an iPad, as a reader, I am a big fan of the printed book. Specifically, I much prefer reading fiction in print but now favour the ‘ebook’ for non-fiction.

As an author though, I am both agnostic and catholic about how readers of my books engage with them. An ebook in my eyes (and ears) is simply any of my content which isn’t print and that is delivered by electronic means. I want the reader to choose how they engage with my work.

The publishing industry is going through the same transition as did the music industry 10 or so years ago. In some ways and in some areas, it is even overlapping and merging with it. One of the reasons being that the ebook is just about to come of age.

Now an obvious format for an ebook is audio. This allows those with visual impairments to enjoy a ‘good book’. Many people like commuters and those with dyslexic different-abilities might prefer auditory input.

The exciting developments in the ebook arena are the Enhanced Edition book and the mobile app. In addition to the rich functionality offered by these two developments, the ebook and app also come with the potential of royalties of up to 70% for the enterprising author. All of this is of course in a context where the number of target devices is in the millions and growing daily.

If I now have your attention, let me explain what they both are. Enhanced Edition books allow you to embed multimedia elements like audio and video inside a book. Good use of this format are books like Knitting for Dummies and Yoga in Bed.

For ‘ebooks’ which are apps, even richer functionality is possible. For example, user input such as completing exercises or a journal or even engaging in dialogue with the author. Content can also vary depending on date, location or user type. The latter could be dependent on parameters such as age or subscription level.

With all this choice, it would be easy to get carried away. Baby steps are advisable and market testing is essential. The future is very bright for both authors and publishers who embrace the possibilities that are opening up. The caveat being that the reader, listener and viewer is the ultimate judge of what is good use of the technology.

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Some example links

Example of an ebook with embedded audio and video – Wordlube

Enhanced Edition : Yoga in Bed

A discussable book – 140 Characters the Short Form

A multimedia app : Elements a Visual Exploration

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So I’ve had an iPad for the best part of a year now and loads of people have asked how I use it and what I’m using it for.

Or if it’s just a bit of a toy?

Well I’ve discovered using this new type of tablet (and watch this space for the clones) ushers in a whole modus operandi.

In short, it’s brilliant – especially for writers, designers, entrepreneurs, inventors and creatives. I would struggle to go back to using a laptop.

This new way of working merits the introduction of a new word – iPadivity.

noun [n] :

1. the phenomenon of increased creativity and productivity when using an iPad – and activity while doing the same

2. the generation of new ideas using an iPad

3. profitability from generating and using iPad apps

Now I have to say everything I’ve been able to do I could do with a combination of iPhone or laptop. Some of it admittedly even with paper and pen. While the iPhone scores on portability, it lacks screen real estate and typing is slow (this whole blog incidentally was written at speed using the iPad on screen keyboard).

The laptop is just so much heavier and I have always felt a bit nerdy to get out on a commute and certainly in a coffee shop. It also takes too long to boot if you just want to do something quickly and acts as a barrier in a business meeting. The 3G enabled iPad delivers a useful synthesis of both devices which is better than both – plus I have to say it looks cool !!

This Mind Map tells the story of what I am using it for … of course generated on the iPad as were all the graphics in this blog.

The first iPadivity gain is really good use of “dead time” – those times in the day when you would have been waiting for something can now be used to process email, do a tweet or two and check out news or write a blog.

The second iPadivity benefit is being able to read, listen to or watch pretty much anything – either online, in iTunes or your own archive.

The third iPadivity capability, and to me the most important, is being able to write stuff. Here the lightness and specific functionality of the apps comes into its own. For example, before writing each chapter of my new book, I’ve taken a hint from artist Cat Bennett and I am drawing using Brushes an image that encapsulates the concepts I am about to write about.

I am working to a master Mind Map structure for the whole book but I’ve also started mapping each chapter before eventually writing it in Pages.

This has lead me down several new avenues I simply wouldn’t have explored.

Now could I do this on the laptop or desktop – absolutely – but not when the Muse takes me – and certainly not with as much ease and FUN !!

Add to all of this, the ability to browse on a whim for research and dip into the brilliant Wikipanion app, my iPadivity is probably up 400-500% of where it was less than a year ago.

I’ve also used the iPad in several client sessions. Again, its unobtrusiveness is the key. It’s like having a paper notebook but where you can email the notes instantly. In the sessions I did last week, this included a colour-coded Mind Map of actions arising and a wireframe for an iPad app I am designing, using iMockup.

This of course points to an amazing iPadivity – the ability to encapsulate your knowledge and wisdom in an iPad app which you can share with other and generate profitability from … watch this space !!

So if you’ve got an iPad or an iPad2 or another type of tablet device, or are getting one, I’d be interested in your thoughts ….