Friday, 25 September 2015

How to update a Blogger site

Twenty years ago it was common for people (especially women) to drive into a petrol station and sit in the car or stand awkwardly beside it, hoping that the petrol attendant would see them and come by to sort out the pump.

I did that for many years until a friend's sister showed me how to adjust the metallic thingy that keeps the petrol pumping. Not long later, someone showed my mother, and for years she has just bowled up and sorted it out for herself.

It's a great feeling not to have to sit passively, hoping to be helped out. For a while now I've been helping someone add text and photos to their blog, but last week they asked me to explain how to do it. 

I found that the best way to do this was to act as if I was going to update the blog myself, watching what I was doing, and writing down every single step. Clear, technical writing is about starting from the beginning and including every step - not leaving gaps in the hope that the reader will make a leap to the next significant step. I'm happy to say the steps worked for her (with a bit of trial and error, to clarify some of the steps), and she is now on her way to updating her blog whenever she feels like it.

So for anyone who has a blog on Google's Blogger platform, but has got stuck on uploading photos, adding a page or moving text from one place to another, these steps are for you - How to update a Blogger site. All power to your blog!

An introduction to e-book publishing

I recently attended a talk hosted by the New Zealand Society of Authors and picked up some information that may be of interest to anyone who is also tentatively dipping a toe into the waters of e-book publishing.

A key decision is whether to self-publish or to seek a publisher. There are e-book publishers, but not many in New Zealand. One way to identify a suitable e-book publisher is to look at books on Amazon which are similar to yours, and check who published it. When approaching an e-publisher, read the submission guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter. It's their test to see if you will follow future instructions from their editors.

If you decide to self-publish, two key options are to send your manuscript to Amazon or Smashwords.

Manuscripts need to be in pdf format. Amazon give you templates and tell you how to do the layout. Then you upload it, with a cover image. Payment through Amazon only occurs after you've accrued $100 of royalties, unless you have a US, Canadian or UK bank account number. You will need a US tax number.

Manuscripts are submitted as Word documents and put through a 'grinder' which formats and distributes them to Barnes & Noble, Kobo and others. Payment of royalties is made quarterly, through a Paypal account. More detail about this option is provided at the end of this blog.

Other websites to check out
Draft Digital is similar to Smashwords. It you self-publish specifically to them, you will receive royalties of 70%. If you self-publish to a range of platforms, you will receive royalties of 30%. The website is 

Wheelers is New Zealand's largest online new book supplier to schools & public libraries and now has an e-book platform. Visit:

There is a website that will convert documents to pdf, epub etc, called 'Calibre', which you can check out at

Gimp is a free version of photoshop, and was recommended by a number of people at the meeting -

The information outlined above was provided by Sue Perkins, who is Chair of the Top of the South branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors, and has published a large number of e-books, both through a publisher and through self-publishing. She shared some of her experience of e-book publishing at a NZSA meeting in Nelson last week. Members of the audience provided some of the information in the 'other websites to check out' section of this blog.

More about Smashwords

The Top of the South branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors hosted Jim Azevedo (from Smashwords) in Nelson in August 2014, who provided this information.

Smashwords is helping authors around the world to publish and distribute their e-books. Here's a summary of how it works.

  • You send your formatted document to the Smashwords website, at Formatting guidelines are provided, as well as a list of recommended suppliers of formatting, editing and cover designs.
  • Smashwords then converts your Microsoft Word or Epub document into the range of different formats used by e-readers. Microsoft Word documents (rather than Epub ones) are preferred by Smashwords because they are easier to convert to the range of different e-reader formats.
  • You decide on a price for your book. Fiction books costing $2.99, $3.99 and $4.99 tend to sell well. Non-fiction in specialty technical areas can sell for $25 and more - it is less price sensitive. It's easy to change the price of your book, and you can do that as often as you like.
  • Your e-book needs to have a different ISBN number to the printed version of your book, but Smashwords provides this ISBN number for free.
  • Once this is all set up, you review a list of book retailers and tick where you want your book to be distributed.  Smashwords sends it to them. Note the exception - Amazon prefers to receive e-books directly from the author.
  • You can then view a Smashwords dashboard to see where your book is selling. Royalties for the sales from all of the retail outlets are managed by Smashwords, which pays its authors on a quarterly basis, through PayPal. Smashwords takes 10% of the list price of the book, the retailer takes 30%, leaving the author with 60%.
  • The monthly subscription services (Oyster and Scribd) have been great for Smashword authors. They allow subscribers to read as many books as they like for $8.99 a month.

The Art and Fun of Memoir Writing

Lindsey Dawson's enthusiasm for memoir is contagious. I came away from her public talk with a whole new list of books to read, and the urge to pick up a pen and just write.

Within minutes she smashed through myths that memoir writing has to be about writing down where you were born, grew up, and what year you did this and that. She says it is more fun to write about the moments and philosophies that really matter to you. I am sure this will be more fun to read too!

She suggests writing quickly, in seven minute spurts, using a 'juicy spur' to get your writing hand going and the juice rising. She reminded people to be relaxed about the writing process, and understand that everybody's first draft is awful.

If you'd like to give it a go, but are not sure how to start or make time for this, one option would be to join her online memoir course starting in October. See

I also recommend taking a look at Lindsey's website if you've got a website you'd like to improve. I found her website very appealing and engaging.

Memoirs recommended by Lindsey:
Don't Just Do Something, Sit There, by Wallace Chapman

Wallace writes about the importance of slow living. Lindsay says he has a lovely mind, writes well,and this book is an antidote to speed and pace of media.

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
This book is about one year in her life, showing that you don't have to write about your whole life - just something that mattered to you.

Dewey, the Small Town Cat that Changed the World, by Vikki Myron

Cleo, How an Uppity Cat Helped Heal a Family, by Helen Brown

H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
This memoir portrays a psychological tussle between a human and a bird.

Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindberg

Anne describes six months on her own, living in a house by the sea.

How To Write Memoir books recommended by Lindsey
The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
The Practice of Writing Memoir, by Natalie Goldberg
Crack Your Life - how to tell your unique story, by Lindsey Dawson

Monday, 14 September 2015