Why I’m withdrawing my Parenting Books

It’s been a difficult decision but one that I’ve thought long and hard about. At the end of the year I’ll be withdrawing my two parenting books from Amazon. These are “Kids’ Clubs and Organizations” and “Great Places for Kids’ Parties”. I still have a few print copies in my loft but, apart from that, they’ll cease to exist. There are several reasons for this but, before I go any further, I want to recap on what led me to publish them originally.

Front book cover final

My plan was always to publish novels eventually and I had SLUR on the backburner for many years. Prior to publishing Kids’ Clubs, I knew that the independent author market was taking off but didn’t know much about the promotional side of things. I therefore decided to test the market by starting off with something small. This would also give me an opportunity to learn as I went along. However, I underestimated how much work would be involved in the parenting books in terms of the amount of research and promotion.

As a new author I absorbed as much information as I could. Unfortunately not all of the information out there is good but as a newbie you have no way of filtering the good advice from the not so good advice. Somebody on a “Linked in” group advised that it was much easier to market non-fiction than fiction so I decided that I would start with a small non-fiction book. Perhaps the marketing advantage may apply for certain types of non-fiction but it didn’t prove to be the case for the type of non-fiction that I was producing.

Limited Market

I put myself at a disadvantage to start with as my market was limited to UK parents of mainly 1 – 12 year olds. Although this is still a sizeable group, I eventually concluded that parents of children in this age bracket are far too busy with the process of bringing up a family to spare the time to read about all the exciting opportunities that are available for their children.

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Both of my parenting books were well received by parenting magazines, mums’ blogs etc. (including a feature on the Netmums website) but very few parents actually bought the books. In fact, my biggest customer was UK libraries.

I had hoped that some of the organisations featured in the second book would help with sales by stocking the book in their gift shops. Had I gained their co-operation it could have made a huge difference as some of these attractions have vast numbers of visitors every day. Unfortunately this didn’t come to fruition, with the exception of one organisation who stocked a small number of books.

I was at a further disadvantage in running Amazon promotions because a lot of the free promotion sites were reluctant to feature the books. I presume it was because they weren’t targeted at the US market.

Input versus Rewards

I have now tried most avenues relating to promotion for these two books and feel that I have taken them about as far as I can. It’s a shame because the bulk of the feedback I have received has been positive. The only negative feedback suggested that the first book would work better as a website because the information could be more readily updated. This is something that I haven’t ruled out for the future but it would be a mammoth task and I would need input from various organisations.

When I produced the books I knew that the information was time sensitive and I therefore intended to update them every couple of years. As the first book has now been on the market for over two years and the special offers in the second book expire at the end of 2014, these factors have prompted me to make a decision. The amount of time that it would take to check all the factual information and make updates just isn’t worthwhile in terms of the potential gains. Therefore, rather than let the content become increasingly outdated I would rather take the books off the market.

Focus on Fiction

Having released my debut novel SLUR three and a half months ago, I know that I want to concentrate on fiction in the future. I already have a short story book planned for release early in the New Year and am currently carrying out the research for my second crime thriller. SLUR is a much more marketable product than the parenting books and, in fact, it has already sold more copies than both parenting books put together.

SLUR

Another reason that the parenting books don’t quite work with my fiction books is because my novels contain a degree of violence, sexual references and bad language. Marketing these books alongside the parenting books doesn’t sit comfortably with me as the two aren’t really compatible. I could overcome this problem by writing under a different name for each genre but, in view of the other factors referred to above, I still prefer to withdraw the parenting books.

I am looking forward to releasing other fiction titles and getting involved in more promotional activities in the New Year. From all the marketing books and blog posts that I have read I believe that it is easier to sell more books if you have several for sale which fit into the same genre. I therefore feel that having more fiction books on the market should increase my chances of success.

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My First Radio Interview

I have avoided radio interviews up to now as public speaking isn’t really my thing. However, deep down I realise that, as part of the publicity for my books, it is something that I will have to confront eventually – just not quite yet. Press interviews, on the other hand, I’m quite comfortable with, having done quite a few to publicise both books. I’ve also been on the other side of things, conducting many interviews in order to write case studies and magazine features on behalf of clients.

Although my books have been featured in a number of parenting magazines, websites and blogs, they haven’t been covered by local press until now. When I approached the Tameside Reporter they replied asking if I would also do an interview for the local radio – ‘Oh dear, the day of reckoning has arrived,’ I thought. I was then told that the interview would take place in my home and recorded with snippets of it being used for radio. This put my mind at ease knowing that I wouldn’t have to speak live on the radio.

When the day of the interview arrived I wasn’t particularly nervous, because I knew it wasn’t going out live. However, the minute the microphone was placed inches from my mouth I immediately Microphonebroke out in a sweat. The microphone was so near to me that I felt as though not only my voice would be picked up but also every sharp intake of breath, clearing of the throat, cough, mumble, fidget and maybe even the sound of my thudding heart – or so it seemed. It was a good experience though as it forced me to ‘get over myself’ and concentrate on the matter in hand. So I tried to focus on the interview and forget the presence of the microphone, although it wasn’t easy as the menacing little machine was positioned in the forefront of my field of vision, looming threateningly between me and the reporter.

On the day when the news item went out I cringed as I listened to myself talking about my book (I actually hate the sound of my own voice). As proud as I am of my Manchester roots, I don’t think the Mancunian accent is the most appealing in the world. Anyway, my piece went out at the end of the news every hour from 14:00 till 18:00. They used a couple of quotes from the interview and rotated them in two sets. I have to say that the second set sounded better than the first where I was a little repetitive. All in all though, it wasn’t too bad for a first time. You can catch the item on the Tameside Radio listen again feature by selecting 4/2/14 then listening to the news at any time between 14:00 and 18:00; my piece is at the end of the local news items.

The day after I’d listened to my piece on the radio I dashed out to buy this week’s Tameside Reporter so that I could read the accompanying feature. I quickly flicked through the newspaper twice before concluding that the item wasn’t being featured. ‘Oh no,’ I thought, ‘Was I really that bad?’ Curiously I scanned the front page to see what type of stories make the local press. And there it was, in small letters at the end of the feature headings, ‘Next week – local author’s kids’ party book release.’ So, next week will see me rushing out for my local newspaper once again.

Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK) is available to purchase in both a digital and print version from Amazon.
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Netmums Book Giveaway

My guest blog for Netmums has now been published and, as a bonus, readers have the chance to win one of five copies of my latest book “Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)”. You can find the blog post here. To be in with a chance of winning a signed print copy of my book all you have to do is post a comment in response to my guest blog on Netmums. The article is full of useful tips about taking the stress out of kid’s parties so it’s well worth a read if you have young children.

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There’ll also be a chance for readers of my local newspaper, the Tameside Reporter, to win a copy of my book through a competition which they will be running in conjunction with a feature about me and my books. I’m expecting a call from them any time now to arrange the interview.

If you don’t have any luck with the Netmums competition but would still like a copy of the book, you can purchase it in either Kindle or print format at Amazon. I’m also currently sourcing further stockists for my book so I’ll be adding details to the books page of my main website in the coming weeks.

Publishing Kindle EBooks with Complex Layouts

There’s no doubt that being able to publish and sell your own books online is a great experience and one that many Independent authors are taking advantage of. When it comes to publishing eBooks with complex layouts though, things can get a little tricky. I encountered a few problems whilst publishing my second book so I’ve described these below together with details of how I tackled them.

Imagesparties
When I published my first parenting book some of the feedback suggested that it would have benefited from colour images. Therefore, as Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK) is a similar type of book, I decided to include colour images throughout. As I wrote each chapter I collected photographs from the organisations featured in the chapters. I didn’t bother about the image format at that point as I decided to tackle that matter as and when I needed to. I only had a vague idea at the time of how many images I would include, and thought that perhaps I wouldn’t use them all, especially if some didn’t fit the required format.
In the end I decided to include a picture for each chapter as the photographs I received were so lovely. When I started to format the book for publication to the Kindle I found that the Amazon specifications were that no image should exceed 127KB. A quick check revealed that most of my picture files were several megabytes so I knew that I had a bit of a problem on my hands.
I set about converting the images on my software but it wasn’t sophisticated enough to change the picture quality as well as the picture size. Therefore, in order to reduce the file size sufficiently it resulted in images that were only about an inch in width. Fortunately, the wonderful Alice Huskisson stepped in and offered to convert the images using her Adobe Photoshop package. Alice managed to convert the images to as near to 127KB as possible without exceeding that file size. At the same time, the quality was still really good, so big, big thanks to Alice.

Bullets and Numbered Lists
Gymnastics picI knew from my previous publication that there would be a problem converting bullets for the Kindle. However, last time it was a bit hit and miss and I couldn’t really determine why it worked on some occasions but not others. As bullets and numbered lists form such an integral part of this book I decided to run with it and tackle whatever problems presented themselves once I had attempted the upload to Amazon.
This time, fortunately, I discovered the crux of the problem. Providing the text in your bullet points does not extend for more than one line on the Kindle, the bullets convert fine. However, if the text runs onto the following line the bullets will appear skew wift. This meant that I had to go through the entire book and reduce the bullet points to no more than four or five words. Where this wasn’t possible I got round the problem by putting N.B. at the end of the set of bullet points and adding any extra points that were necessary. With numbered lists I sometimes had to treat each numbered point as a separate paragraph without a number. Fortunately, it worked out well and hasn’t had a negative impact on the layout.

Hyperlinks
This is a problem that I didn’t encounter the first time round and one for which I had to involve my resident IT expert. This book actually has a lot less hyperlinks than the first book. Although I have tried to include references to further information I deliberately reduced the number of hyperlinks as these don’t work so well in a print version (which will follow soon). Despite this, I still encountered a problem when I converted the document from Word to HTML ready to upload into Amazon. Here’s what happened:
In Word, and in the converted HTML document, hyperlinks show as coloured and underlined. They are very useful because the Kindle allows the reader to follow the hyperlink in order to access further information. Unfortunately, when I converted to HTML there were a few areas of the document where the colour and underlined text extended beyond the hyperlink. In a couple of instances this meant that there were several paragraphs of text that were coloured and underlined. I played around with the document in Word but couldn’t find a solution.

Over to my resident IT expert.

The only way in which we could solve the problem was for my hubby to actually alter the HTML code. The book looks fine now but unfortunately it means that my Word document doesn’t reflect these amendments. So, if I want to make any Kids at Chester Zoochanges in the future I can’t do them myself as they will have to be carried out using the amended HTML document. Needless to say, I’ve given my hubby advance warning that I will be needing his help again when the special offers in the book expire. He’s asked me to point out that he isn’t taking on any assignments from other authors – ha ha! How lucky am I?

I’m pleased to say that despite these little niggles I got there in the end (with a little help from my friends/husband) and the pictures look great. I couldn’t resist including a few images from the book again with this blog – I’m so proud of them! You can have a look inside the book with Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00GXHQ02G. I also have to add that after experiencing all the intricacies of publishing this type of book, publishing a novel should be an absolute doddle.

No doubt these words will come back to haunt me. 

If you want to find out about my other books including future publications you can check out the book page of my website at: http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/books.html.

Book Launch – “Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)”

I am pleased to announce that I have now published my second parenting book “Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)” in digital format. It is available to purchase at: http://www.amazon.co.uParty Settingsk/dp/B00GXHQ02G and a print version of the book will follow in the next few weeks. It was no mean feat as I had a few technical problems when trying to upload the book to Amazon, but I’ll save that for another blog. It’s time to tell you a little about the book:

A big feature of the book is the exclusive special offers from big name party venues as detailed in my last blog. The offers range from free gifts to party discounts of up to 20%. They are exclusive to the book which means that you have to purchase a copy and show your receipt in order to qualify.

Another plus with this book is that it’s full of valuable information to help you prepare for your child’s party. Often parents arrange a party and are unaware of exactly what is involved. This can mean that they arrive at the party venue expecting everything to be taken care of only to find out that they have a bigger role than they thought. There’s nothing worse than trying to organise a room full of excitable children when you’re not really sure what you’re supposed to be doing. This book tells you everything you need to know. I have collaborated with 23 organisations featured in the book, which means that I have been able to provide details that you won’t find on the company websites.

Astro Slide“Great Places for Kids’ Parties (UK)” can also help you with ideas and inspiration for your parties. A quick check of the relevant chapter of the book and you will know whether your child’s dream party is a viable option. After all, it’s no good if your child has his heart set on a particular party only for you to find out that it is too expensive or that it is not available for his age group. I’ve also included lots of fun colour pictures to really get you in the party mood.

Each chapter of the book features a different party location or theme, and has a case study of a party venue or organiser. The case studies provide the following information:

– How you can prepare for the party e.g. how far in advance you need to book, when payment for the party is due, whether the venue supplies invitations etc.
– What a typical party involves.
– How many children the venue can hold.
– The age group for that type of party.
– The catering arrangements.
– The cost and what is included in the cost.Ball Pool
– Any additional points that you need to consider.

I have tried to include organisers that have venues UK-wide or that travel to different areas of the UK. Where this hasn’t been possible for certain themes I have included tips on finding similar parties in your area.

The special offers featured in the book are time sensitive so if you want to take advantage of them it’s best to buy your copy as soon as possible. I’ve covered a wide range of parties that are available throughout the UK so there should be something for everyone. With a bit of preparation you should be able to ensure that everything runs smoothly. So on the day of the party you will be able to relax while the children have fun as you will have the peace of mind of knowing that everything has been taken care of.

I appreciate that not all people reading this blog will be parents of young children, but if you know anyone that is please feel free to tell them all about this book.