Taming the Dragon: Can Dictation Be the Key to Massive Word Counts?

dragon taming

Dictation has become one of the topics among authors lately, ever since the Self Publishing Formula Podcast featured Scott Baker as a guest, and he extolled the virtues of Dragon NaturallySpeaking software.

I know I’ve contemplated using dictation before, but never believed that I was a good fit for it. I did not think that the software would work well with my accent. And, I also didn’t know if I could train my brain to dictate.

It turns out, dictation is really not that hard, especially for things like blog posts!

What do you need to get started? Glad you asked!

First and foremost, Dragon NaturallySpeaking comes in a few different flavors. There’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Home, Premium, Professional… It gets a little complicated figuring out which version to buy! Unfortunately, they don’t have trial software, like Scrivener did or some other programs do. So how do you know you should be making this kind of investment if you don’t know it will work?

Of course, you could wet your toes with dictation in one of two ways:

  • Experimenting with your smart phone. I have an Android phone, and I use the Swype+Dragon app. This cost me all of $.99 (and there is a trial version of this app as well, so you can see what I mean), and it does a rather good job of basic dictation. Mind you, it’s not going to perform some of the more advanced corrections, but for the purposes of dictating something on the road, it really isn’t bad. It also gets you used to dictating into something, and seeing your words come out. For iOS users, there is Dragon Dictate which I’ve heard works well with email and other smartphone apps. There is also a “Dragon Anywhere” app in both stores, but be warned! While it says it’s free, they mean there’s a free 1 week trial, and then it’s a $14.99 a month subscription!
  • Experiment on your computer. If you have a PC that runs Windows 7 and up, you can try out the Windows Speech Recognition, which comes free with Windows. You have to activate it by going to your Ease of Access settings in the Control Panel. (There’s more on this process here if you want to try it.) After it’s set up, you will then train using the dictation so that the computer can get accustomed to listening to your voice. I have to warn you, it can be a little frustrating. It does not work with any non-Microsoft applications. I’ve found it works best in a applications like Word, but I’ve tried out a little dictation with Edge, too. It can also close and open applications for you, and there are some more advanced correction commands than the basic dictation you get with lower priced smartphone apps. It’s really designed for someone who is disabled and can’t use the keyboard for some reason it must use their voice.

Once you dabbled with some of these things, you may find that you want a more robust program. That is when Dragon NaturallySpeaking comes in.

Rather than buy the software first, I recommend buying a microphone. My laptop has a half decent mic built in. It’s the kind of microphone that you would use with the built-in WebCam if you are using Skype or something like that. The problem is, you have to be one or 2 feet away from the mic or else it’s extremely sporadic with what it will pick up.

I followed Scott Baker’s advice and bought a headset microphone that is plugged in by USB cable, not by the 3.5 mm jack. When you use the microphone jack, it involves your sound card and I think a lot of people’s sound cards are not up to snuff. For some reason, USB microphones don’t have that issue. He also advised getting a wired headset rather than wireless, especially at first. Not only do they cost a little less, they works much better. The headset I ended up bying was a Logitech H390 headset. As you can see, they do not have to be very costly to work well. In other words, you don’t need the badass wireless gaming headset that will cost you way more than you need to spend and is total overkill for dictation purposes!

Then I started the shopping for the software. Of the many versions available, Scott Baker’s advice was to go with Dragon NaturallySpeaking premium version 13 for PC. He feels that’s the best version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking for anyone, even people who own a Mac. If you’re running a Mac, he advises that you run Parallels and install the Windows version on your Mac, because the Dragon for Mac is notoriously bad as well as overpriced.

Why not the Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Home? Because, as you will see, there’s an essential feature missing from that

Version, and that is the ability to transcribe your recordings. And, as it turns out, it’s not worth the savings that you might get.

There is also a professional version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but this is overkill for our purposes as authors. Apparently, there are some that need the extra features that are included in the professional version, but they are not worth the extra money.

Even when you decide to buy the PC version, there are still a lot of options, which doesn’t make much sense considering it’s all the same software. There is the version that you can find in the store, which tends to retail for $99.99. However, most of the time they will only give you that discounted price if you are a student or a teacher. Therefore, it is not worthwhile to buy it in a store like Best Buy or Staples.

I managed to buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking for PC premium version 13 at Amazon. Now, Amazon offers the software as a download for $79.99, however, I was able to get it for $39.90. How did I do that? It’s offered this way as an Amazon exclusive item. While it comes with McAfee total protection software, it is not necessary to install that software if you already have virus protection. In the box, they also include their own headset, but don’t be tempted to use it. It’ll probably be fine for listening to your music, but not for dictation because it’s not a USB connection, but the 3.5 mm jack :(. It comes as a disc only, so you’ll need to fire up your DVD drive on your computer. And don’t get freaked out if it takes a long time to install! It will install, and it will run nicely once set up. Your computer should have an i5 Intel processor or faster, and at least 4 GB of RAM. I was concerned my old, rinky dink computer would not run it, but it does.

In another post, I will explain how Dragon works best, along with how the transcription works.

Have you tried dictation? Do you think it will work for you? Let me know in the comments!


Instafreebie Promotion! Young Adult and Teen Fantasy Books!


Book lovers may well know about Instafreebie. There are loads of authors now participating, and you can pick up a lot of really great books, both previews and full length books. All you have to do to get them is give them your email address, and they send the books right to you.

This Instafreebie promotion is the first one that I am personally participating in. This is a great opportunity to pick up The Inventor’s Son, along with some other beautiful books. The promotion started on April 14th, but it will continue through May 14th. Enjoy!

Now I’m Performing Another Mad Experiment… With Instafreebie!

Now available on Instafreebie!

Instafreebie seems to be the big thing for authors these days. It’s been said that you can collect a lot of email addresses by using the service. If you are not familiar with Instafreebie, let me explain a bit about what it is and what it can do for you.

Instafreebie is a website that offers authors the ability to post free material (either whole eBooks or samples chapters) that readers can download in exchange for their email address. The free service does not make readers opt in to your list, but for $20 a month, they will pass along the emails they collect from people downloading your material. They  will provide an EPUB, MOBI, or PDF version of your book or sample for the reader.

To get started, I made up an account, and uploaded an EPUB version of my book, which is the same one I use for typical mailing list sign ups. Right now, to give it a spin, I decided to keep the free option, though you do get a trial month of the paid service for free. I’m offering The Inventor’s Son as a complete book readers can download. Right now, I am not making people opt in to my list. I’m actually rather keen on growing an organic list, but I have heard that Instafreebie is a great way to gather a lot of mailing list sign ups quickly. If you like to listen to podcasts, Mark Dawson had this episode not too long ago featuring Ashley Durrer of Instafreebie, discussing the ways that Instafreebie helps authors build their lists quickly.

You might be wondering why I haven’t gone ahead and just started making readers opt in, and that is because I want to grow an organic list if possible before resorting to Instafreebie. But, if the opportunity comes along in the form of a mailing list share like I’ve done with Patty Jansen in the past, that might push me off the fence and in that direction. For the time being, though, I just like that I have the book on there, and one of the really great things about Instafreebie is that you can update your book info instantly. I’m experimenting with a new blurb for The Inventor’s Son there, and it’s radically different from the previous one I’ve had for over 2 years. If you want to check it out, you can find my book on Instafreebie here.

If I find the blurb seems to have an effect on the number of downloads I get there, I will post the new blurb on Google Play Books next, because this is another sales channel that I can change things like that very quickly, and I don’t need to do a rain dance to get a change like that through.

Have you decided to try Instafreebie too? What do you think of the service?

An Experiment With Kobo

resized kobo logo

As many of you who follow my blog may know, I use a distributor for my eBooks for many sales channels outside of Amazon. Draft2Digital is my key to getting into stores I know I’d never get into myself (like the Tolino dealers). However, I’ve been hearing a great deal about how much better it is to “go direct” with Kobo in particular. The reasons vary, but I hear that Kobo offers some good promotional opportunities. So, this morning I went ahead and delisted my boxed set from  Draft2Digital. That will be the first book I will take direct to Kobo.

This actually happened by accident. My boxed set (which consists of The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning, The Inventor’s Son, and The Scientist’s Son) is proving to become a really great promotional tool for me at Amazon. With the introduction of Amazon Marketing Services available to any book seller, not just people enrolled in Select, I had an opportunity to see what this set can do. Priced at $3.99, it’s not the bargain price of a Book Bub boxed set, but it’s making me money while getting a number of my books into readers’ hands, and I like where it’s going.

I recently did an author cross-promotion with a group of other Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors which promoted the permafree The Inventor’s Son. What was my follow up sales from Kobo? The boxed set. Even though the book they had downloaded is in the boxed set, they were still getting the prequel thrown in for the price of what The Scientist’s Son would have cost purchased on its own.

Apparently, there’s a boxed set culture at Kobo, more so than at Amazon. And I want to be a part of it. So, the ability to promote my boxed set directly on Kobo could be a big boon to me. I may never delist any of the other books from Draft2Digital, and who knows, I might go back to listing the boxed set with Draft2Digital if this doesn’t work out the way I hope. But I think this is a great thing to play around with and see what happens.


UPDATE: After delisting the boxed set and trying to start the process to upload my book to Kobo, two issues came up that stopped me, and frankly, I should have considered these things sooner. The first issue was the publisher name. Right now, when you go to Kobo and look at my book listings, there is no publisher name. This is because, presumably, Draft2Digital takes care of that field on my behalf. I will probably have a publisher name in the near future, but not just yet, so I didn’t know what to put in that field. They wouldn’t let you leave the field blank, so I just put in something that I know I’m wanting to name my company when I form it. The other thing that stopped me was the ISBN issue. Draft2Digital gives out free ISBN numbers, but they own them. I cannot use that ISBN for any edition other than the one distributed through them. While you don’t necessarily need an ISBN to publish through Kobo, they strongly recommend you get one. In the US, ISBN numbers are pretty costly, and not worth the money unless I was selling a lot of books. Then, I’d have to go direct with everybody I could, and buy my own ISBNs and start from scratch, basically.

My objective for getting Kobo readers for my boxed set hasn’t changed, but my strategy has. I think my best bet might be Facebook ads directed to Kobo readers in countries outside the US. This will be a worthwhile, do-able experiment!

(Don’t worry, I will have the epic AMS ads blog post soon. I’m still testing one or two more things.)

Amazon’s Hammer Strikes


This is just one of many stories swirling around the indie publishing community today and for the past week about Amazon’s apparent crackdown on scammers.

In a blog post from yesterday, indie published author Adam Dreece tells his story which would strike a lot of fear in anyone, but particularly someone whose books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited…

Last week (Thurs – Jan 12, 2017), I received an email from Amazon around 11pm. They were “reaching out to me” to inform me that they had detected something called “system generated accounts” and thus, were immediately deleting my account. I’ve recently learned that there were a number of us hit, and all of us had the same thing happen.

Dreece had his books widely available for a while, but had taken this one series off the other eBook retailers and put the books into KDP Select, hoping to gain some traction there for this one series. He did a couple of promotions through December, and this resulted in improved rankings and higher page reads. Although he noticed that there was something strange about those page reads, and he emailed KDP about it…

I’d noticed a weird spiky behaviour in KU reads, 25k, 0, 10k. It looked suspicious to me, so being the boy-scout that I am, I raised it. I even posted about it on FB, as it was really weird.

The KDP Support person’s response was clearly they thought me cute and naive, and they assured me there was no problem. I said I was scared that the Fiverr promo I’d used (which was new to me, but had over 650 reviews and was a top seller) could have been a scam or something, and they told me no. I even DOUBLE checked with them to please check everything, and I was told everything was fine.

Obviously, there was a problem, as far as Amazon was concerned; a few weeks later, they deleted his account and unpublished all his books from their Kindle store (He notes that his paperbacks were still available, as were his stories featured in anthologies). While Amazon “investigated the matter” and thankfully, ultimately restored his books (but not his ranking, which I noticed when I went over to his page to see if they were actually back), all he could do is freak out, then wait.

What are the things I’m taking away from this most recent tale?

  • Dreece also reported that he had issues with Amazon bothering about his copyrights on those books.  This is something I heard happened to another author whose story was highlighted on the Sell More Books Show Podcast last week. Is it a coincidence?
  • Amazon has had to delete a lot of books and a lot of fake Kindle Unlimited subscriptions in order to start dealing with the brazen scamming that has been going on with the program, especially once some work-arounds with inflating page reads were discovered and exploited. The click farms are striking back by now covering up their fake book page reads with real book page reads. This is why Dreece had the trouble with the “system generated accounts.” Apparently, Amazon realized that the bots are page-reading legit books in order to throw off Amazon and somehow fool them into thinking the click farm fake KU subscriber is a real account. As Dreece points out:

 I’ve since learned that scammers have been pointing their bots at other authors, often targeting the #1 in smaller categories, so to throw suspicion away from their fake books.

  • Fiverr seems to play into this in some way. I have used Fiverr in the past to promote The Inventor’s Son, in particular I’ve used BKnights gig a few times, both for free and paid book promotions. The effectiveness of the paid book promotions was diminishing, however, in 2016, and so I have stopped using them for this purpose. A lot of indie published authors, however, still use Fiverr gigs for promoting their Kindle books, and those books tend to be in KDP Select more often than not. They are hoping to get page reads, since that boosts their rankings just as much as if someone bought their book, just as much as they are hoping people buy the book for 99 cents. The books are legit, and possibly even the promoter is legit, but the click farms know those sites and seem to be preying on those books featured on them. I have heard they were even targeting books featured on BookBub, and that’s pretty brazen, IMO.
  • Amazon really, really wants you to use AMS ads  (I’ve got an epic post coming up about them, stay tuned)!  I think they got tired of Facebook and BookBub sending so many people to their site, so they decided to get into the PPC (Pay Per Click) game and upped the ante by allowing all authors to participate, not just those enrolled in KDP Select. Use of other book promo sites seems to be raising their blood pressure these days…
  • I think Kindle Unlimited may be seeing the final year of it’s existence. I had noticed that Amazon has been advertising HARD to get new subscribers into the program (possibly to make up for all the fake accounts they had to shut down) but at the same time seem to be trying in a very clumsy manner to plug the holes. Since some of the subscriptions they might have sold during Cyber Weekend were for a year or even a bit longer, Amazon might try to hold out and keep it running until those subscriptions run out. They may integrate it into Prime once again, or have an expanded KOLL program to take it’s place, to allow Prime members to borrow more than one book a month and allow even people without Kindle devices to take advantage of the program, but I don’t see Kindle Unlimited surviving as it is too much longer. Authors who might have been considering putting books into the program (and let’s face it, three months is a long time in the world of the indie author) can read tales like this and it makes them think long and hard about it!

Dreece himself put it best in his own blog post:

In December, I’d decided to enter their KDP Select program. This was my reward.

Some authors I’ve already heard from are wondering about which Fiverr gig he’d used, and are wondering if there isn’t more to this story than we’ve heard. Although, since Amazon did actually republish his books, there must have been some evidence of this author’s innocence. What do you think of all this?


My Plans For This Blog In 2017


It’s official: 2016 is over!

Like many people I know, I’m still coping with 2016 and the events that have happened. We had a difficult summer in Florida this year, and just missed having terrible damage from a hurricane in my area. My dog passed away in October. November, and the eighteen months leading to it, featured the most toxic US presidential election I think we will ever see in our lifetimes. In December, I got very sick (a kidney infection) and though I’m feeling better now, I still have to have some tests done to make sure there were no lasting effects from the infection I had. These experiences made me realize that I had to prioritize my efforts and conserve my energy for the things that matter the most to my writing.

This blog matters to me a great deal. I do not want to give it up. In fact, this blog is one of those things that I want to expand! I want to be sharing my indie publishing experiences with others. It just so happens that I have a website that’s been pretty quiet but just ripe for a blog…

Now, there technically is a blog on the website, but it’s used very sparingly ;). The subject matter on there is pretty much only useful to readers of my books. This blog, Doing the Write Thing, started to take on a purpose after the first year, as more mature blogs tend to do. Doing the Write Thing is much more an author-centric blog than I had originally conceived it to be, and I’ve been chronicling my indie publishing journey here for almost three years.

I have a load of material I’d love to blog about here, but it just seems dumb to blog about it on a WordPress dot com site when I have a perfectly good website to host a blog.

Remember that last year, I had started a third blog, The Author Social Media Deep Dive, and you’ll notice that I migrated those posts to this blog. Even though it’s not formally done as of yet, I basically closed down that blog. I am thinking of doing something similar with Doing the Write Thing, by migrating posts from this blog to the SB James Author and Artist website. From there I can put those posts into their own category, to be accessed by the menu like the Author Social Media Deep Dive is on this blog.

To ease the transition, I will cross-post for a while, so anyone subscribing to this blog won’t have to go to the website to read the posts right away. I have some work I want to do on the site anyway, so this will be an ongoing transition. But I do want to be fully migrated by the summer of 2017. It’s not the highest priority project, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for quite a while and I think I’m at a point where I just need to do the things I feel like I need to do.

There are far more things someone can do on a self-hosted WordPress website that they just can’t do on a blog hosted by WordPress dot com. That being said, I don’t foresee closing this site down in 2017. It may be next year that I formally shut it down, if at all. But I just wanted to let you all know what I’m planning to do, and like I said before, I am hoping that this will ultimately prove to be an enhanced experience for the people who read my blog. I hope you all have a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year, and I am very grateful to my readers!