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  • Jacobus Kotze

It will cause you only annoyance

As a rule, there is no customer support with Facebook or Amazon. As long as nothing goes wrong the system works fine. When it does go wrong, and it will, it becomes a nightmare.

Last week Thursday I was kicked out of my Amazon KDP with a request to “authenticate” the account. I did nothing extraordinary, by the way, I was simply loading new versions of the books as I did many times before. The problem... the one-time code was sent to my South African phone number and not my Swiss one. And so I cannot and could not access the code. Thus, I was locked out of my own account. I was so angry that I had to go for a walk to calm down. Half the books were loaded and half not, and thus different versions of the same book (paper and Kindle) existed on the website. It is serious, authors actually take their readers very seriously and have no wish to annoy them with administrative hassles. Content is something else. You cannot please everyone. Not even Jesus could. So, you will always have critics.

So why not just change the phone number, you ask. If it was that simple this blog would not be written. The next problem was two-step-verification. You cannot change the South African phone number without a one-time code being sent to the South African number which does not work in Switzerland. Unless flying back to South Africa, during the time of the Coronas, impossible, the number cannot be accessed by myself. The sim card I lost when I arrived almost a year ago. It will not work anyway even if I had it. A horrible catch 22 that took hours of phone calls (at my expense, of course) to resolve. First, you speak to untrained people that cannot speak English properly and certainly don’t give a flying f either. And I do feel sorry for them. They are paid nothing and are mostly Third World people. It is disgusting how the workers are treated whilst the companies make record profits, billions.

I must also say that I have a short temper with this type of thing. Luckily, my wife does not and comes across much friendlier and thus gets more service than what I would ever get. With her assistance, three calls, three hours of wasted time, four days, countless emails, and lies, the problem was resolved. What do I recommend to you:

1. Never ever enable two-step verification. It is not worth the hassle.

2. Take a picture of whatever you entered in the “billing address” because you will be asked years later. Without you remembering, and you cannot refresh your memory, they will simply say that they cannot help you. Interestingly, you become the crook instead of a valued client and author. Yes, explain that one but anyway.

3. Don’t expect good service, hell no, let me rephrase, don’t expect any service.

Patience is a virtue, yes, but there comes a time when you wish that you knew something before doing what you think is a good thing to do, i.e. two-step-verification. Just don’t enable it. Make sure that your information is up to date and keep a good record of what was filled in. It will make life easier if you don’t have to deal with “Customer Service.”

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  • Jacobus Kotze

YES, a book is judged by its cover! If not good you will not sell.


I wrote 62 books at the time of writing this blog. Obviously, I learned a few things which I shared in a series of short video clips for free at https://www.4xsamil.com/author-videos-series. You are welcome to look at them. This blog deals with the one named “Designing a book cover.”

Let us look at designing a book cover. Now it is true, don’t deny what is obvious, a book cover is what makes the reader reach for it. A bad cover or a bland one, even worse, and he will walk right past to the next one. Unless you have a major author name this is important because it affects sales.

Firstly, you can design your own cover if you have some artistic abilities. There is excellent free software online available, I use Canva, www.canva.com which is fantastic. I am lucky in the sense that my wife and co-author is a terrific designer. She is also quick. So, our method is for me to search for a good quality picture and from there she will design the cover for us. If you cannot design something that says “wow” I will advise you to spend money and have an artist do so for you (not us, we don’t have time). But don’t spend hundreds, it can be done cheaply.

There is also in this series two clips on the legalities of book publishing. As a legal man, I know the pitfalls and especially copyright infringements. You would do well to listen to those videos. You cannot just use any name or any picture for your book. You need to either have permission to use a cover picture or use a royalty-free one. There are many websites available to download “high quality free to use royalty-free non-attribution pictures” for your cover. See the list below in no particular order, they all are good:

www.pixabay.com

www.picryl.com

www.commons.wikepedia.org

www.pexels.com

Where you have to attribute, that is to acknowledge the photographer/designer, then do so by saying inside the book (see the video on “Book Format – Technical”) that “The picture used on the cover was taken by WHOEVER. Used with permission, downloaded from www_____________. Thank you.” Usually, the attribution/credit is described fully at the website – a message appears, “you have to credit the photographer” and an example is given. Besides being good manners this is a legal requirement. You don’t need to do so with your own pictures which is not the same as “taking” your wife’s – technically she must agree first. Note also that no child or face of a real person can be used without written permission (if not on one of the websites for downloads). Even so, I will advise you to never use a child’s picture on your cover.

Now the other thing. You must (this is not negotiable), you must have the same name as the author and the book name on the cover as what would be inside the copyright page of your book. Exactly the same, no changes. Before you upload to Amazon and any other outlet you need to have a description ready (see the video on this topic) as well as a short bio and picture of yourself for the back page. The cover must also be in whatever size the outlet wants it to be or it will be rejected. Amazon is as follows:

For eBooks – jpeg format, 1600x2400 pixels, and 600 dpi with nothing written too close to the sides of the book. As a rule of thumb, at least 2.5 cm or 1 inch above and away but during loading, you will see the cut-off lines in their software. Even if close to them will lead to the cover being rejected. Stay inside those lines.

For paperbacks, the most popular size is 6x9 inches but the actual cover is 6.25x9.50 inches as some is cut away during printing. It can be, you tick the boxes, either in Matt or Gloss finishes. Now be very sure that you select white paper (cheap) and not color (unless you must – say a cookbook) or cream paper (awfully expensive). The dpi must be above 500, I use 600 dpi which works.

The way the design look must show it is your series, that is, the same for all books, same font, same size, the same way. This is for marketing purposes, instantly recognized as your series – as an example look at the GMJ Series of books at https://www.georgemjames.com/fiction. They are instantly recognizable as George M James' books. Of course, for a single book, this is not so important. But you will also find out that a series sells much better than a single book. Just a fact of life.

You can always change the cover. That is the wonderful thing about publishing your own works. You don’t need permission or begging. Just do it. You will be surprised how many authors changed a cover and suddenly boosted sales. But the lesson is this, a book is totally judged by its cover and then only for content. This is of extreme importance if you woish to have success.

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  • Jacobus Kotze

On the Author Assist videos


I wrote 62 books at the time of writing this blog. Obviously, I learned a few things which I shared in a series of short video clips free at https://www.4xsamil.com/author-videos-series. You are welcome to look at them. This blog deals with the one named “Five Reasons to Write A Book.”

Let us look at the reasons to write a book. There are surprisingly many and each writer/author has his/her own reasons. The one I need to warn against is money. You will almost certainly be disappointed by sales. If you earn more than $20,000 a year you are doing extremely well. Most authors will make enough money to buy a meal at a restaurant and no more. So I say, don’t waste money on cockroaches (coaches) to assist you with marketing, publishing, and whatever else they sell. Talk to those that are in the business and able to give advice. When spending money please remember how much time you spent on time already writing your book.

What about personal reasons, curing an injustice, or speaking up on whatever is important to you? Yes, a very good reason. When I wrote the first books, the Police Mean Streets Series, I was out of the police for twenty years and still having nightmares and flashbacks. The South African Police Force, sometimes called the Apartheid Police, was not the Mickey Mouse Sheriff Departments at all. We were heavily involved in counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, violent unrest, and policing a very violent place in between. By writing the books I got to explain our side of the story and that helped me tremendously. The nightmares are almost gone. Perhaps you have a story to tell that will help someone else, then do so, please. Write that book.

Then, professional reasons. I assure you that a professional man or woman that wrote a few books on their specialist area will be, should be, and ought to count for more than the one that only has the same degrees. Therefore, it makes sense to write a specialist non-fiction book even if no one reads it. Sales don't matter here, your resume reads better than those competing for the same job. There are great reasons to write a book for professional reasons.

Lastly, simply because you want to write. It is in your DNA, this is your dream, you like playing with words. You want to see your name on that novel which is already formed inside your head. Why not? This too is a good reason. Sit down and start telling the story, it really is not difficult. No one will reject your manuscript, you don’t need permission to publish and unless you are writing hate speech, a big no, the road to your book is open. Just do it!

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