39 things you didn’t know about me

39 things you didn’t know about me

I’ve been meaning to write one of these for years – they are easy and can be fun ways to share information: make a list of lesser known, interesting facts about yourself and your life. Include some pictures if you want to. It won’t get search traffic, but it’s good content to share with your list later and engage them by asking them so respond or post one of their own secrets.

  1. I was the star of my highschool musicals
  2. I used to polevault
  3. I can understand Spanish and Chinese, but speak haltingly.
  4. I spent summers at scout camp as a goodwill ambassador and crafts instructor.
  5. I eat too many cookies
  6. I once bawled in public at the airport over a girl
  7. this is harder than I thought it would be
  8. I spent my Junior year of high school as an exchange student to Argentina, and fell in love with mate (tea), empanadas (the best kind are with meat and olives).
  9. I went to school in Malta for fine art and philosophy, then studied classical painting at the Angel academy in Florence for a semester.
  10. After that, I ran an outdoor school kitchen and taught kids about nature for a year.
  11. I moved to Taiwan to teach English, after getting a teaching certificate in Barcelona, and – after getting rejected twice, finally enrolled for a Masters, then a PhD program at Taiwan’s #1 school.
  12. My favorite places ever are Oregon, Argentina, Bali and Malta (maybe? It’s been a long time, I need to go back and revisit).
  13. I gave myself my first tattoos. They still look pretty good. They’re astrology symbols for Jupiter and Saturn: they’re my two ruling planets.
  14. I believe in astrology (though I dislike the term “believe” – I think there are measurable, repeatable effects with a statistical significance). It makes sense to me and interests me.

15. I have weak teeth, and after getting screwed by a crappy dentist, a very nice one gave me a bunch of dental implants without charging. I try to repay the favor whenever I see someone struggling.

16. Most of my early fiction is based on real places, mythology or history. I do a lot of research, and we’ve even spent time in Northern Ireland / Eastern Bulgaria for research trips.

17. I’m fascinated by ancient civilization, megalithic structures, and all things ancient.

39… I’m currently 39 years old, and still struggling with adulthood.

Writer Confessions

Writer Confessions

What is this post?

Writer confessions probably isn’t the right term, but the idea is – in this post you could talk more about your writing process. Describe your typical day; the things you wrestle with, the things you must have in your writing arena. Your writing space should be an extension of your author platform, not only to keep you inspired, but as a visual cue to readers.

Do we have to?

If your writer space is messy, just mention a few of the key objects you rely on; you can even use pics from the manufacturer’s website. You *could* also use affiliate links to products you recommend, but unless you’re driving tons of traffic, this probably won’t be a strong source of revenue – it’s better to get something done quickly than procrastinate because you haven’t added in all the fancy stuff.


My confessions:

  • Two characters in two different books quote the same passage from Keats in dialogue
  • I sometimes mix up my characters’ names – even across series
  • I need a plate of cookies and a cup of coffee or tea; or ideally a beautiful coffee shop with cake
  • Background noise distracts me (I can’t even have someone walk into my field of vision when writing) so I have a huge pair of noise-cancelling Sony headphones, my wife hates them because she’ll have to yell to get my attention. When writing, I listen to soft indie folk music or trans/techno music (all beat, no lyrics).
  • I’m much better at plotting and editing than I am at getting the first rough draft down into words, but I’m working on increasing my writing speed.
  • One time I hid under the table at the London Comicon rather than talk with readers.
  • I’m a cat person. We’ve had several small black cats named Xiao Hei (little black). One of them got sick, and I couldn’t bear to have the vet put him down, so he had two good weeks at home before dying in what I assume was agonizing pain in the yard. Still one of the big regrets of my life.
  • Sometimes I lie awake at night musing on all the stories I’ll never have time to tell.
  • I LOVE rain and thunderstorms, but only from the safety of a front porch with a nice view.


Now it’s your turn

What interesting details can you “confess” about your own writing process?

How to make a living with your writing

How to make a living with your writing

What is Lorem Ipsum?

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

Why do we use it?

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using ‘Content here, content here’, making it look like readable English. Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for ‘lorem ipsum’ will uncover many web sites still in their infancy. Various versions have evolved over the years, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (injected humour and the like).


Where does it come from?

Contrary to popular belief, Lorem Ipsum is not simply random text. It has roots in a piece of classical Latin literature from 45 BC, making it over 2000 years old. Richard McClintock, a Latin professor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, looked up one of the more obscure Latin words, consectetur, from a Lorem Ipsum passage, and going through the cites of the word in classical literature, discovered the undoubtable source. Lorem Ipsum comes from sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, written in 45 BC. This book is a treatise on the theory of ethics, very popular during the Renaissance. The first line of Lorem Ipsum, “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet..”, comes from a line in section 1.10.32.

The standard chunk of Lorem Ipsum used since the 1500s is reproduced below for those interested. Sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 from “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” by Cicero are also reproduced in their exact original form, accompanied by English versions from the 1914 translation by H. Rackham.

Where can I get some?

There are many variations of passages of Lorem Ipsum available, but the majority have suffered alteration in some form, by injected humour, or randomised words which don’t look even slightly believable. If you are going to use a passage of Lorem Ipsum, you need to be sure there isn’t anything embarrassing hidden in the middle of text. All the Lorem Ipsum generators on the Internet tend to repeat predefined chunks as necessary, making this the first true generator on the Internet. It uses a dictionary of over 200 Latin words, combined with a handful of model sentence structures, to generate Lorem Ipsum which looks reasonable. The generated Lorem Ipsum is therefore always free from repetition, injected humour, or non-characteristic words etc.

Your Author Funnel

Your Author Funnel

I wrote recently about author funnels on Creativindie but the point was this: you can’t try to give everything to everybody. You have to focus on the 95%.

Who is going to visit your blog? Either people who know you, your name, your book’s name – or people who don’t.

People who already know you and your books probably don’t need to visit your website much: when they finish a book you’ve include a call to action and links to go buy the next one, or sign up for a free book from your website. (If that’s the case, you have a special landing page where they can sign up for their free book, not just the homepage).

And it’s important to get those people onto your list.

But it’s more important to think about the people who found you by accident – because they were searching for stuff related to your genre, and because you were smart and wrote a lot of great content with keywords relating to your genre – they stumbled upon you’re site.

And now you’ve got, maybe, 3 seconds to catch their attention.

How do you do it? With fancy colors and images and moving gifs and flashing lights?


One Facebook or Twitter, when they are scrolling through a bunch of stuff, pictures help your posts stand out. But they are already on your website. You don’t need to catch their eye, you need to hook their brain. Probably with an interesting headline or subtitle.

All your posts should extremely clickable with captivating titles, but you also need your subtitle/tagline (under your blog header or logo) who you are and what exactly you do.

And then you want them to do something.

But don’t give them a ton of choices – too many choices will paralyze them.

Give them  one choice.

The choice will probably be, “Read Something For Free.”

You could offer a free book, but if they don’t know you yet, they aren’t going to want it – at least not badly enough to give you their email.

So instead you should try and get them to read an excerpt. “Read the first chapter free!” and immediately following, add social proof with a few reviews, or “over 100 5 star reviews” or “over 10,000 sold” or “winner of X prize.”

Give them a reason to start reading.

Back it up with social proof.

At the bottom of your excerpt you have “get this book for free on Amazon” (for your permafree book – if you don’t have one, you can link to your book).

At the end of that book, you have another offer – something even better – to try and get them on your email list.

Why do you need an email list?

So you can let them know when you have a new book out, ask them to buy it and review it, and hopefully share it with others. But if you only have one book, after they’ve bought it and read it, having them on your email list is worthless… unless you plan to write more books soon. It’s still a good idea, but it can be expensive once you get a few thousand people on your list to keep it up, unless you’re earning some money back.

So you need more content.

My point

Don’t give them everything. Don’t worry about everybody. Make the thing you want them to do the easiest thing to find; remove obstacles (price, confusing site, email optin). If you ask for their email too earlier they’ll leave. You need to make them want your book before they’ll trade their money or their privacy to read it.

You can do that with excerpts, or a brilliant description, or a beautiful book cover, or lots of quality reviews. Attract them with the right content, grab them with a good offer, get them on your list – OR sell the book hard and get them to click over to Amazon and buy.

What to write about on your author website to get more traffic

What to write about on your author website to get more traffic

Congrats! You have a site! Hopefully you kept it clean and simple, and didn’t add a bunch of ugly graphics, awards, bells and whistles, or an ugly header/logo. The good news is this: content matters most. The majority of authors who have become well known in self-publishing circles, “celebrity bloggers”, are using WordPress’ default theme or a free blogger theme or something else rudimentary and poorly designed.

But they had a lot of good stuff to say, so people followed them and shared them. Most authors, even if they manage to set up an author website, have no idea what to blog about – so they don’t. Or they post banal, trivial updates about their life.

You’re going to do better, right?

Firstly, you need a bunch of content so Google recognizes that you exist. I recommend starting out with 100 posts. That seems like a lot, but it isn’t.

Choose five main keywords. Focus on “longtail” keywords (phrases, rather than words).

For this site, for example, they might be:

  • WordPress author website
  • Book sales page
  • Author Platform
  • Book Marketing Tips
  • Setting up WordPress

For Urban Epics, it might be:

  • paranormal romance
  • indie published books
  • urbane fantasy
  • free kindle books

Those keywords might be too competitive, so I could focus on longer ones by combining them, like “free paranormal romance kindle reads” or “indie published urbane fantasy book”.

Then use a title generator: here are some.




Type in one keyword at a time, and make a list of 100 article titles. You can tweak them a bit if they sound strange, or use them to think of better ones. Don’t overthink these: you need a “body” of content up on your site quickly, so Google knows what you’re all about. I would suggest writing 5 of these a day. Shoot for around 500 words each (that’s just 2500 words – it should take you a couple hours or less). They need good titles and some writing, and shouldn’t be total crap: write them for humans. But don’t overanalyze either – it’s very possible you won’t get many readers. But you need the content so that Google starts to trust you. You can spend more time rehashing good topics later. From then on, after you get your first 100 posts, you can just write something every week or two.

What to write about next

  • Keep a lookout also for trending issues you can jump on
  • Review books, movies and TV shows in your genre
  • Offer free book reviews to other indie authors in your genre (it’ll make you popular and bring you a lot of traffic, quickly).
  • Round up posts like “The 10 best new paranormal urban fantasy books I read this year” (or do a monthly roundup; search Amazon for bestselling books in your genre and post a monthly list of top sellers.”
  • You can also blog about your life, your moods, but don’t whine or complain, or show off or preach. Just try to be authentic, but also share things of interest that are related to your genre.

Improving your sales rank

It takes time for Google to know you and trust you. Probably a year or two. But you can grow your traffic faster by:

  • Getting people to link to you; by having great resources or doing lots of guest posts.

Jamie Gold, for example, put up this page of ‘writing beat’ worksheets in excel that I keep coming back to when I need help plotting.

  • Repurpose content: make videos, powerpoints, image quotes – when you post a blog post, also make extra content for Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, Pinterest and Youtube.
  • Write stuff that people will want to share (using the title generators will help a lot with that)
What to add to your website’s top menu?

What to add to your website’s top menu?

You menu should, almost always, be on top of your site, but under the header (like this one). You should only have one menu. (Though you can have different links on your footer menu – that’s OK).

You shouldn’t have more items than fit on one line. If your menu breaks into 3 lines because you have 27 items in it, it will look like crap and be confusing.

Choose your main categories and put the other pages as submenus, usually that dropdown when the mouse cursor is over the menu.

Your main pages should be:

  • Home
  • About
  • Books
  • Reviews
  • Store/Buy (I put these under books rather than adding a separate page).
  • Contact (or this can go under “about”)

Other items may be,

blog, events, news, reviews, public appearances, awards… but if those don’t have a lot of content, you could put most of them on your “About” page rather than making them jump around to different pages.

Keep things as simple as possible.

You may have to make tough choices in deciding what to display or not. I don’t think you should have more than six items on your menu at any time, so you have to think about how your organize things.

You can also determine the flow of traffic. Where do you want them to go first.

What do you want to show them next.

Figure it out.

Remove all the menu headers except a few – you could even add a “start here” page, and after they read that say “now you can read and excerpt, buy the book on amazon, sign up for my list or follow me on Facebook” with links to all those choices (although, that’s probably too many chance).

Focus on one main action and make it the biggest, easiest choice.


Should you use a popup on your WordPress site?

The short answer: NO.

Everyone else will tell you optins WORK so you should use one; and they do work, if you have a clean and organized site with a strong optin offer.

But most authors don’t – they have disorganized, ugly websites and before you can figure out where to go and what to do, you get a popup that says “Join for updates” and you’re thinking,

Join who? For what? Why should I?

If people aren’t joining your list, it’s not because you don’t have a popup. It’s because you don’t make it super easy to do with a bold call to action, or your offer isn’t good enough, or you aren’t providing social proof or value.

If you’ve done all of that and people are signing up – then you may be able to increase conversions with a popup, however I recommend you pay for one of the premium popup plugins and get something that has “exit intent.”

The means it only shows up when readers drag the mouse up to the top left to go back, or close your site, or go somewhere else. At that point, you’ve got nothing to lose, so a well-time popup could work, if you give them what they want and it solves their problem or they can’t resist.

Don’t have popups “pop” too early – give them 30 seconds or a minute or so to look around. (There are studies for the perfect timing of this but I think it depends on your site).

Check out the popup on Jason Werbeloff’s site, it’s well done: it shows the book cover, some reviews and a sign up button (I would add a screen shot but since I already saw it, it probably won’t display again for me for 10 days or a month or something).

How to build your optin form for your blog and sidebar

How to build your optin form for your blog and sidebar

Some websites or themes come with built in optin forms, but most don’t. However there are some plugins we can use, and you can usually get the code from your email service.

I use Mailchimp. A lot of people like Aweber. Both are free to start but get increasingly

expensive. Mailchimp lets me get the code to add to my page or sidebar.



The style won’t always look right though, it depends on your blog’s CSS.

And you shouldn’t use “Subscribe to my list.”
You need to give them a reason. What are they going to get? Why should they? Otherwise they’ll be ignored. At the very least,
Sign up and join 83,289 other successful writers; and get insider publishing tips that will help you rise against the competition.

On my blog, I had “sign up to get four free books” – but that wasn’t focused enough, so I changed it to this:
On my book covers site, I have an optin form that looks like this:coversoptin
The books on top is an image, the dark form is a WordPress Optin Plugin made by Codeleon.
There are other optin box WordPress plugins so you may need to test a few; or it is often worth paying extra for a premium one that looks better and has more functions.
I’m going to talk more about popups later, but for most author websites you should avoid them (I’ll explain why in another post).
However, a lot of people will say that you shouldn’t even put an optin form on your site, because you’ll get higher conversion if you use an image promising the benefits and “click here” button – people are more likely to sign up if they see the optin form after they’ve take action. For that reason, I made some sidebar optin offer templates you can use and put them here

I could also add a direct link to my signup form like this.