DNA Podcast 45 – Affluence in the Media


In this episode, Rob and Don delve into the topic of Affluence in the Media. Where do our ideas of wealth come from? How does the media shape our ideas of what it is to be wealthy? And why is Richie Rich a post-apocalyptic warlord? All this, and Sigmund Freud’s Nephew are waiting for you in this episode of the Department of Nerdly Affairs.

Rob Takes Up Freelance Editing- My Eye and Quill for Hire!

I’ve decided to make myself available for freelance editing jobs, starting with an ad on Fiverr.com offering 999 words edited for just $5! What a steal! In addition, if anyone has any other editing jobs they’d like done, please feel free to contact me directly as rob_paterson@hotmail.com and put “Editing” in the Subject line. For eBooks, I’ll edit a single chapter for free as a sample before we discuss prices.


Amazon’s “Secret” Kindle Category Passwords

Being a self-published writer is never an easy thing, it requires you to be half-writer/half-marketer to succeed, and the ever changing self-publishing world is full of all sorts of little tricks and traps. The traps are mostly about people trying to take your money for “services” you may or may not need, and the tricks are all about getting your book seen by the largest number of people. (And thus improving your chances of people buying your books!)

It doesn’t help that Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform is itself a giant labyrinth filled with ever changing rules and channels. One recent change is to their “Refine By” sub-categories, which can make a big difference in how your books are shown and presented.

Normally, when you self-publish a book on KDP you get to pick two categories for that book to be in. Say, “Romance>Historical” and “Romance”, and your book would be cataloged under those two categories and subcategories. The problem is that each category already has a certain number of titles in it, arrayed by their ranking on the site as a whole and other factors Amazon doesn’t reveal. So, for example, Romance>Historical has 24,420 ebooks in it at the moment, and Romance itself has 194,408 ebooks.

Good luck getting anyone to notice your nice new book in those piles!

Now, to make things a bit easier on authors, you also get seven “keywords” (which can actually be more than one word) that you can pick to describe your book. Traditionally more keywords could be added later by readers as well, and Amazon would use your keywords and theirs to add your book to a few extra “Refined by” sub-categories that you could only get to by Amazon employees adding your book to them.

Say, for example- Romance>Military. It’s a sub-category that exists, but they had to manually add you to that list if they thought you belonged and you didn’t have any say about it. Being included in that list could also be huge, because instead of competing with 195,408 ebooks the Romance category, your book might now be one of 3,128 books moving up and down within Romance>Military group. This could really help up your odds of being noticed and your books being sold.

And now, Amazon has changed their system. Instead of them adding you, if you use certain keywords when you register your book they act as passwords that automatically get your books added to these select lists! For example, if I included any of the the words “military, navy, army, soldier” among my keywords when I added my book to the Romance category my book would automatically be added to the Romance>Military “Refined by” sub-category. You can find a complete list of the “passwords” and more details on the KDP Selecting Browse Categories page, which you can then use to more accurately get your books into the sub-categories you think they belong to.

These will get your books into the “Refine by” lists you can see under the main category lists when you’re Browsing on Amazon, and those are definitely places you want to be to reach the most eyeballs. I’ve seen “Refine by” lists that have as few as 1 or 2 books- I kid you not! Can you imagine what getting your book onto a list that small would do for your chances of being noticed?

Of course, this is all about gaming the system, and I feel a little guilty talking about it. But then again, Amazon isn’t really hiding this, so why not take advantage of it while it’s still an advantage?

Good luck!



Udemy- A New Educational Model?

Udemy is a site where people can create and post online courses in subjects they’re experts in and then charge for those courses. It’s a lot like the courses people stick up on YouTube, but with extra materials, a group learning forum, possible interaction with the teacher, and possible actual certification in those subjects. Think of it like a giant online community college, and you’ll have the right idea, but one where you learn at your own pace and all teachers and courses are constantly rated- so you only have to learn from the best.

I first heard about Udemy on the Rocking Self-Publishing podcast, where a guest who specializes in non-fiction was talking about how he created short Udemy courses in the subjects he was writing about that covered the basics and then referred the students to his books for the more advanced materials. He made the course free so that many people would take it, and used Udemy as a place to show his expertise and funnel people toward his paid book. Apparently it wasn’t giving him amazing sales, but he felt he was definitely getting some benefit from it.

I, on the other hand, was more interested in the idea of taking areas that I’m an expert in (I’m a college teacher who has piles of materials I developed for my own courses) and turning some of those into Udemy courses. I mean, if all it takes it setting it up and letting it run by itself while I make income, why not, right? All it takes is some screen capture software (Udemy courses are almost all videos), a Powerpoint-type setup (like Google Slides or Open Office Impress), and a little video editing know-how and you’re off and running!

One tip I also picked up was to use screen capture software which allows for an image of you (the instructor) as well as the screen. With the instructor’s image usually in a little box, so that the student feels they’re dealing with a real person they can relate to instead of just a disembodied voice over a Powerpoint deck. Of course, if you’re not the photogenic type, maybe you should just skip the image of yourself, or replace it with a cartoon image- who knows?

Making a Little Money on the Side

We live in an amazing age, when thanks to the internet people in need across the planet can find people to do almost anything to help them solve those needs. Thanks to this, it’s become easier than ever for people to use their talents to make anything from a little money to a full income.

Take Fiverr.com for example. Fiverr

It’s an innovative site where people offer services for $5 (with extra options for more money, but the base price is always $5), which can be as simple as writing a poem or a simple webpage, to more complex activities like proofreading and editing short document, or doing short voice recordings. You might think it’s just kids, but a glance around shows there’s a lot of professionals there too.


Well, the thing is, if I can do one short voice recording in 5 minutes (assuming I already have professional grade equipment), and I line up 12 recordings, that’s $60/hour or more. Suddenly Fiverr isn’t just small money, but paying more than many “real” jobs! Same thing if I offer to proofread 500 words for $5, it might just take me less than 5 minutes to do, but that quickly adds up if I can get multiple people asking for my services around exam time. So it’s no wonder that even some Pros are doing a little Fiverr on the side to make some pocket money. (Although Pros seems to be the exception here, not the rule.)

Fiverr could also be a useful tool for things like Book Promotion, or even tasks like getting your book converted to Createspace format. It’s amazing what people are offering, if you just look around, and since anyone can join and offer services on Fiverr, almost anyone does! (And in this case, that’s a good thing!) If it doesn’t work out, you’re now only out $5, which is less than a cup of Starbucks coffee these days!

Definitely worth a look-see, and there’s even a Fiverr Canada subsite for us!

Of course, if you need more serious professional help (or want to offer it), there’s always Odesk.com, which bills itself as “the world’s largest online workplace”. There you can again find freelancers for almost any online task. I guess you could bill it as the ultimate in “temp” services, and since what people offer on there is so vast, you never know what you’ll find. (Although, you can bet it will be more expensive than Fiver, at least in theory.)

So whether you want to go for simple jobs, or more complex ones, the internet can solve your problems. It’s just a matter of figuring out what you need, and how much you’re willing to pay.


Google’s Great New Tool for Finding Royalty Free Images for Blogs and Covers

Google has recently added an amazing new tool for bloggers to its image search function. You can now search for images that you can use on your blog or whatever based on the license the image is released under. Using this, you can easily find blog-safe images you can use for different topics and not have to worry about the copyright police hunting you down and hauling you out of your house in the middle of the night. (Always a plus!)

Here’s how you do it:

Go to Google Advanced Image Search and enter your keywords.

AdvanceImageSearch1 AdvanceImageSearch2

Now, there is another similar option in the basic image search, but the wording is very different for the options so I’m not really sure how to interpret that. It’s probably better to stick with the Advanced Image Search since it has clearer wording, but in case you want to know, here’s the other way to do it:

Image Search 1

Image Search 2

Image Search 3

Why I Launched my New Novel Ascenion by Giving it Away For Free!

I blame Goodreads.

During the two years it took to write and prep my new novel Ascension, I worked hard to make sure that I could release the best product I could. I wanted it to be a book I could be proud of, and something that could start my journey as a writer on a positive foot. I also wanted it to be something I would be compensated for, after all, while I did it because I love writing, I also did it in hopes of making a little extra cash.

So, why did I give it away for free my opening weekend?

I’ve read quite a bit of theory on the subject of playing the Amazon book marketing game, and I noticed a while ago that many authors have had success by making their books free. Usually, they made their books free for a short-ish period of time, and then after that they found their sales jumped. There has been a lot of speculation as to why, but it usually comes down to Sales Rank. By making your book free, you ship a ton of copies, which drives up your sales rank and makes your book more visible for new readers to find when you return to charging for it.

There is also the theory/hope that by selling lots of copies in a short time, you are increasing the chances of people leaving reviews of your book (vitally important) and possibly increasing both awareness and word of mouth. People become aware your book exists, and they also may be telling their friends- both good solid benefits of getting as many copies out there as possible.

So, are these the reasons why I was extremely happy that 230 people took advantage of my special weekend offer?

Yes, but there is another factor at play here.

A few months ago, I started using Goodreads.com more actively, and when I did, one of the things I started to use was their recommendations service for new books I might like. I’m always looking for new things to read, and wanted to try it out. However, before I could use it, Goodreads required that I rate at least 40 books so that the system could figure out what types of books I liked. At the time I considered it a pain, but afterwards I realized Goodreads had given me a great gift.

You see, I came to realize that the most powerful marketing tool Amazon has to offer is its recommendation system- “People who bought this book, also bought…” It’s using this system to match the item you’re looking at with other similar items bought by similar people. If you haven’t noticed, Amazon is also constantly putting books in front of you it thinks you’d like, which it does by slowly analyzing your tastes based on what you search for and look at it.

But, Amazon’s system doesn’t just have to understand you, it also has to understand each book in its library. It has to know what type of person buys that book, what else they buy, and what categories to really place the book in. In other words, the system needs to figure out how to market the book, and it does it based on past sales.

So, what if you have no past sales? Then Amazon doesn’t know how to market your book properly, and you won’t sell many copies unless you spend a lot of time and money pushing it elsewhere to produce those sales.

Therefore, I reasoned, I needed to “prime the pump” and get Amazon to analyze my book’s profile as quickly as possible so that they could start marketing it to the right people and do a lot of the heavy lifting for me.

How to do that? By offering it for free, of course! Every one of those wonderful people who downloaded my book were actually doing me a favor, they were helping me teach Amazon’s system how to find other readers for it. Now, the system knows who and where to market my book to, and will find them accordingly. If I’m right, this will speed up the marketing process greatly. I will still have to make an effort to market my book elsewhere, but it’s a good start.

I hope, anyways! Only time (and sales) will tell!


How To Sell Ebooks

From Joe Konrath’s blog:

How To Sell Ebooks

I just hit a milestone that is hard for me to grasp. As of January, I’ve sold over one million ebooks.

That’s a lot of ebooks.

The question I get asked more than any other is: How can I make my ebooks sell more copies?

That’s actually not the right question to ask. Because there is nothing you can do to make people buy your ebooks, except maybe hold them at gunpoint or kidnap their pets.

This business isn’t about what you have to sell. It is about what you have to offer. And luck plays a big part.

But I’ve found you can improve your odds. Here are some things I’ve done that have seemed helpful.


I can’t overemphasize how important a good cover is. Hire a professional. And keep these things in mind:

1. At a glance, it should convey the type or genre of the book you’ve written.

2. It should be readable in grayscale.

3. It should be readable as a thumbnail.

4. Your name and the title should be large and clear.

There are other little tips that I recommend. Usually legacy book covers have a lot of writing on them, and that makes them subconsciously identifiable as professional. Taglines. Blurbs. “By the author of Whiskey Sour”. That sort of thing.

Your artist should know what vectors are, and the rule of three, and the importance of the color wheel, and all the other tricks used to make a cover pop.

If your sales are slow, consider getting a better cover.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg, lots more great advice at…

via A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: How To Sell Ebooks.

Dean Wesley Smith » The Secret of Indie Publishing

A must read for anyone who wants to be an independent/self publisher getting into the eBook market. (Especially those who want to make money at it!)

I have heard over and over and over from indie publishers how their sales are not what they expected, or how they hope to promote their way to a big seller on their one book. Up to now I have mostly just bit my lip and kept my mouth shut

.It just doesn’t work with one or two or even five stories up. Or at least it doesn’t work that way unless you are fantastically lucky and wrote a great book on the exact right topic at the exact right time. I hate planning on being lucky to make it. I want to plan on hard work and quality writing.

But at the same time, do I expect every indie publisher to even think about doing what I suggested in #9 and sell books to indie bookstores? Of course not. That’s far more work and business knowledge for most indie publishers to handle.

So how can an indie publisher plan on making a living, paying the bills, without “luck” coming into play and without sending out thousands of flyers as I suggested last chapter?

Simple, actually. You have to write more.

via Dean Wesley Smith » Think Like A Publisher #9.5… The Secret of Indie Publishing.

Good Show Sir – Only the worst Sci-fi/Fantasy book covers

What you don’t want your book cover to look like!

A couple “winners”…

What scares me is that this new age of ebook covers will probably produce much worse!

If you want to see more, check out this guy’s collection here:

Good Show Sir – Only the worst Sci-fi/Fantasy book covers.