Should You Write a Book?

Should You Write a Book?

For many people one of the top things on their ‘To Do’ list when they retire is write a book. But is it a good idea or not – and will you make any money out of it?

I feel decently qualified to talk about this, as during my career as a freelance writer I have written over 100 books, mostly non-fiction. The first book I ever wrote was a guide for singletons looking for love. The most recent, earlier this year, was a guide to making money from forex trading (ghost-written for a client).

The first thing I would say is that you shouldn’t approach book writing with any expectation that you will make a ton of money from it. For most of the books I have written, my earnings have been modest set against the time and effort I put into them. In purely financial terms, article writing and copywriting have been a lot more lucrative.

On the other hand, even a modestly successful book can go on paying an income year after year, both in the form of royalties on sales and extras such as PLR (fees from library lending).

Writing a book also has attractions other than the purely financial. For example, if you want it to be, a book can be your passport to public speaking engagements, conference bookings and consultancy opportunities. It may lead to paying commissions from book, magazine and newspaper publishers. You may also be asked to appear on local – or even national – TV and radio, talking about your book and (in the case of non-fiction) your area of expertise.

Don’t under-estimate, either, the personal satisfaction of writing a book. Many people find that the process of planning and writing a book is engrossing and fulfilling. The sense of achievement at holding your own book in your hands is hard to beat. And completing a book can give your confidence and morale a big boost as well.

Of course, it must also be said that writing a book isn’t something you can do in a day or even (with a few notable exceptions) a week. It is a substantial project and will require self-discipline and determination. You will need to be well organized and focused. And while you definitely don’t need to be Shakespeare to write a book, at least a basic grasp of spelling, grammar and punctuation is essential.



Fiction or Nonfiction?

Fiction can be fun to write, and the potential returns if you write a best-seller are clearly huge. On the other hand, you do have to be realistic about how likely this is to happen. There is a massive amount of competition, and a new novelist has to be exceptionally talented (and/or lucky) to get a publishing deal.

Non-fiction (factual) books are probably a little easier to get published, and have the advantage that you may be able to get a contract just by submitting an outline and proposal to a publisher (highly unlikely with a novel). You will need to demonstrate that you have relevant experience and/or expertise in the field in question, though.

Unless you are already a well-known celebrity with a high public profile, the bad news is that it is very unlikely that you will be able to sell a book purely based on your life story.

Book or Ebook?

While print books are still very popular, recent years have seen a big rise in e-books. These are read on e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle or tablets or smartphones.

It is actually quite straightforward to publish an e-book for the Amazon Kindle, and some authors have made a lot of money doing just that. There is even a small but growing number of Kindle millionaires. I will talk about writing Kindle e-books in more detail in another post.

Publish or Self-Publish?

Other things being equal, it’s still probably best to aim initially for a contract with a traditional publisher. If they like your book, they will then take on all the ancillary tasks such as editing and proofreading and getting the finished book printed. They will also have a publicity department whose job it is to promote the book, e.g. by arranging reviews and media appearances.

So far as payment is concerned, the usual arrangement is that the publisher pays the author royalties – typically around 10 percent of sales, paid annually or biannually. You may also receive an advance against royalties, though advances generally have been decreasing for some years. Nowadays a typical advance for a new, non-celebrity author is £1000 to £2000.

Self-publishing used to be called vanity publishing, but nowadays that derogatory term is less often used. Essentially self-publishers take responsibility for the entire publishing process themselves, from writing through proofreading and editing to printing and promotion. While there can be attractions to this, self-published books are generally not taken seriously within the publishing industry. It can be a lot of work for scant reward, and I don’t  recommend going down this route unless you have exhausted all other possibilities (and probably not even then).

Self-publishing an e-book is another matter, though. As mentioned above, it is quite straightforward to do this using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. If you self publish a Kindle e-book, you will be paid a royalty by Amazon for each one sold via the store. This can be as much as 70 percent of the sales price, which is a lot more generous than the royalty rate paid by print publishers.

In some cases, also, self-published e-books have been picked up by publishing houses for release in book form. The 50 Shades of Grey books by E.L. James are one high-profile example.

Self publishing an e-book is therefore definitely worth considering if for whatever reason you don’t want to go with a traditional print publisher for your book, or you have no success finding one.



What Next?

In this introductory post I have only been able to scratch the surface of writing and publishing a book, but if this is something you have thought about, I hope it will have given you some food for thought.

I should like to conclude with a few useful resources…

For general advice on writing-related matters, you might like to check out my other blog, Entrepreneur Writer, where I share tips, advice and information aimed at writers and aspiring writers.

For advice and feedback from fellow writers, I highly recommend joining the (free) forum at www.mywriterscircle.com. I helped set up MWC some years ago. Although I am no longer involved with its day-to-day-running, I still visit regularly. It’s a friendly online community with a dedicated team of volunteer moderators, all of whom are keen writers themselves.

If you’re looking for a practical guide to book writing, you might like to consider investing in my top-selling CD-based course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. Although primarily about writing non-fiction books, it also has a section devoted to fiction writing.

And for advice on writing Kindle e-books, my top recommendation is Kindling, a sort of one-stop shop for aspiring Kindle authors, produced and maintained by New Zealander Geoff Shaw. You can click here to read an in-depth review I did of Kindling on my EW blog.

Finally, to find publishers (and agents) who might be interested in your book (and much else besides), I highly recommend The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook or Writers’ Handbook. These are published annually, and in my view there is nothing really to choose between them.

I will return to the subject of writing books (and other writing projects) in future posts on this blog. But of course, if you have any comments or questions about book writing, please do post them below.

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Ten Top Tips for First Time and Solo Cruisers

Ten Top Tips for First Time and Solo Cruisers

In recent years, like many older people, I have become a big fan of cruise holidays. This applies especially since my partner Jayne passed away.

Cruises are great for solo travellers, as every day there are different places to see. There are also games and activities on the ship, so you never need be short of something to do.

And most cruise lines make a particular effort to support solo travellers and bring them together, so they have company (if they want it) and don’t feel left out.

Based on my experiences, here are my ten top tips for anyone, single or otherwise, who is considering booking a cruise for the first time…

  1. Pack at least one smart suit or dress. Most cruises include one or more ‘formal’ nights, and you don’t want to miss out.
  2. Plan in advance what excursions you would like to take. This information will generally be available online so you can assess trips carefully and decide which would appeal. You can book on the ship as well, but personally I think it’s better to do this in advance when you can peruse all the information carefully and take the time to make up your mind.
  3. Think carefully about cruising if you think you may be prone to sea-sickness. Once you are on a ship at sea there is no easy way of getting off, and being stuck in your cabin with acute nausea is no fun at all. Cruises on the Med are unlikely to cause this, but cruises on the Atlantic or Pacific (where the sea can be rougher) might. If you’re unsure, start with a short ‘taster’ cruise offered by many of the cruise companies.
  4. Once you are on board, look out for the daily newsletter. This will be put under your door every night and set out everything you need to know about the ship’s itinerary the next day and all the many entertainments on offer.
  5. One thing you will have to do early in the cruise is the lifeboat drill. This involves putting on a life-jacket and assembling at your designated muster point. The drills are a necessary evil, so just do as you are told and ask for advice from the crew if you’re unsure. Remember that as soon as all the passengers are assembled and accounted for the drill is over and you can get on with enjoying the cruise, so try not to be the person who holds things up for everybody else!
  6. One big attraction of cruising (for me) is the range of food on offer, and I especially enjoy the themed buffets. Use common-sense, however, and be wary of eating things such as cheese or seafood that have been left out for a long time.
  7. You will probably be given a special card to show when you get off and on the ship at its various ports of call. Guard this with your life, as without it you could in theory be denied re-entry to the ship on your return.
  8. Be wary of all-inclusive cruises where passengers can drink as much as they like. Some people inevitably overdo it and I saw some VERY drunk (stupefied) people on the one such cruise that I went on. The smell of beery breath in the theatre in the evenings was quite unpleasant as well. Obviously if you enjoy drinking heavily you may disregard this, but one such cruise was more than enough for me. And I would think long and hard before taking children or grandchildren on one either.
  9. Remember that the sun’s rays are reflected off the sea, and in warmer latitudes especially it is very easy to burn. Put on a high-factor sunscreen every day, therefore, and don’t spend too long in direct sunlight. Drink plenty of fluids (non-alcoholic!) as well, to avoid dehydrating.
  10. Throw yourself into the cruise experience. Keep an open mind and be prepared to try new things such as deck quoits and carpet bowls. These can be a lot of fun, and however bad you are at them, chances are someone else will be even worse! A few people approach these games very seriously and try to win as many as they can, but most just do them for the fun of it. It can also be a great way to meet fellow passengers and make friends.

I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have any comments or queries, as always, do post them below. And likewise, if you have any tips for first-time cruisers of your own, please do share them.




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Upgrade and Save Money with Hassle Free Boilers

Upgrade and Save Money with Hassle Free Boilers

Central heating boilers aren’t the most exciting subject in the world, but the huge majority of us in Britain depend on them for heating and hot water.

In recent years boiler technology has improved dramatically and modern gas boilers are vastly more efficient (and environmentally friendly) than their predecessors. But of course, they aren’t cheap to buy and install.

So what do you do if you’re stuck with an old, inefficient boiler that is generating large gas and repair bills or even worse gives up the ghost altogether? If you don’t have a few grand in the bank for a new one, your options may appear limited.

A company called Hassle Free Boilers offers a solution to this problem. They will install a new, modern boiler for you at a competitive price and maintain it for a monthly fee as low as £19.99. You can choose from a range of premium ‘A’ rated Vaillant, Ideal or Worcester boilers. The fee includes annual servicing, breakdown call-out cover, full system flush, thermostatic radiator valves and a magnetic filter to ensure the ongoing maximum efficiency of your gas heating and hot water system.

Hassle Free Boilers have a range of finance arrangements for the boiler, including a ‘nothing to pay upfront’ option. Obviously, though, if you are able to pay an initial deposit, your monthly payments will be lower. HFB quote a representative example on their website of someone paying £1,999 up front for their boiler and installation, followed by payments of £19.99 a month.

Hassle Free Boilers offer a 12-year contract, which in effect serves as a warranty or guarantee. They say, “You’ll always have a gas boiler in your property and you’ll never have to worry again and can get on with the other things you want to do in your life. We’ll always be there to ensure your boiler and heating system do what they’re supposed to throughout this period.”

If you decide to move home, you can pass on the contract to the new buyers if they wish to take it over. Alternatively, you can settle out at any point. HFB say that you could pay as little as £299 in your third year. In any event, whenever you decide to move, they say you will never have to pay more than the price of the boiler.

What if you’re not quite ready for a new boiler yet? Hassle Free Boilers say they can cover your current boiler and central heating until you are ready to upgrade. This cover will include all parts and labour and a full system flush, and you can then decide when you are ready to have your new boiler installed.

Big Savings

There are substantial savings to be made by installing a modern efficient boiler. The Energy Saving Trust say that heating accounts for about 60 percent of what you spend in a year on energy bills. They state that you could save up to up to 40 percent on your gas bill by installing a new ‘A’ rated condensing boiler with a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator controls. In  money terms this can translate to savings of up to £570 a year.

Viewed in that light, Hassle Free Boilers’ offer (including servicing and repairs) provides the potential for big savings, not to mention reducing your carbon footprint and giving you twelve years’ peace of mind. The company are part of the part of the award winning Ecovision (Group) Ltd. They are Which? Trusted Traders and have already installed over 7,000 systems across the UK. You can read nearly 400 independent reviews of the company on the Reviews UK website.

For more information – and to request a free, no-obligation quote – visit the Hassle Free Boilers website or give them a call on 03456 474747.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Hassle Free Boilers for which I am receiving a fee. I am not an employee of Hassle Free Boilers or an affiliate for them.

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Make a Sideline Income Renting Out Your Driveway or Garage

Make a Sideline Income Renting Out Your Driveway or Garage

Today I thought I’d share a sideline money-making opportunity that – if you’re in a position to do it – can bring in a steady income for very little effort.

The shortage of parking spaces in many towns and cities has created an opportunity for anyone who has a driveway or garage they aren’t using all the time.

One of the best-known operators in this field is JustPark. Through their website and mobile app, they put drivers in touch with home-owners (and businesses) who have parking spaces available near their destination. They claim to have over a million registered users and over 200,000 parking spaces on their books.

Listing your space is free (JustPark add up to 25 percent to your asking price and take this as their payment) and you can set your own price, based on how long the driver wants to stay. JustPark say that charges are still typically 60% lower than on-street parking (if you can find it), which makes the service attractive to motorists as well.

One big attraction of JustPark is that they handle all the admin on your behalf. All payments are made via the website, and space-owners can withdraw earnings via PayPal or direct to their bank account. JustPark also ensure you still get paid even if the booker doesn’t turn up.

All drivers using the service have to register on the site, so you know exactly who will be using your space on any given day. There is also a rating system so you can see any comments other users of the service have made about them. Space-owners are also rated by drivers, incidentally.

You can offer spaces by the day, week or month, and set any restrictions you wish on when your space is available. Anyone is welcome to advertise spaces on JustPark, but the locations in most demand are those near airports, stations and stadiums, and in major cities. According to a recent article in the Daily Mail, people in such areas are making more than £3,000 a year doing this. Even if that doesn’t apply to you, though, you can still earn from a few hundred pounds a year to £1000 or more by this means.

Of course, if you don’t have a suitable space to offer, you won’t be able to benefit from this opportunity. You could still use JustPark to save money on your own parking costs, though. Either way, the service is well worth checking out!

Disclosure: As well as being a registered user of JustPark I am an affiliate for them and will therefore receive a small commission if you click through any of my links and sign up. This will not affect the money you earn through the site and/or any savings you make if you use them to find parking spaces.

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