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!

aklahepkeIFgivaway

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!

Amazon’s Hammer Strikes

crackdown

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?

 

A Promotion for Fans of Instant Gratification!

15094516_10153843624155938_5365870176143742940_n

All the books in the promotion are participating in Kindle Matchbook: the paperback book purchase entitles you to the Kindle version at a special discount. In this case, the Kindle version is FREE! Hop over there and check it out!

The Facebook Boosted Post

facebook boosted posts
You know how it is: you post something onto your Facebook Page, and no one sees it. It’s not like no one cares, its that your post is not showing up in their Facebook News Feed. It makes you want to do a frowny face 😦 !

Facebook obviously became really all about the money when it comes to Facebook Pages. Nowadays, it’s basically expected that you’ll pay some money to “boost” a post or your page so that someone will see it. This is really obnoxious, unless you realize how to make it work to your advantage rather than against you.

Facebook Post Boosts can work if you plan them the right way. They can even work if your Page doesn’t have a lot of Facebook fans yet. In fact, doing a post boost can mimic having your post shown in front of an audience that is targeted (not as fine tuned as a Facebook Ad in Power Editor, but good enough for the usual intents and purposes) and, depending on your budget, hundreds or possibly thousands of people that would be fans of your page if they had clicked the Like button. This is the reason why most people tell you it’s not that important to have a lot of Facebook Page fans anymore; you can’t get too many posts in front of them for nothing any more anyway, even if they are fans.

Now I’ll explain in detail what I have been doing the past 3 out of 4 weekends and give you some idea of what to expect. Last month I ran a deal on my first book and on the “box set” of books 1-3. I designed a Facebook Page post that looked like this:

FB boosted post 1I created the graphic according to Facebook’s normal guidelines for ads. Then I just put the link to the page I wanted people to go to (which was a special sale page on my blog with links to all the sellers, rather than a direct link to Amazon) and Facebook got the text generated from WordPress. I went in and changed a bit of it so it looked a little cleaner, and then I published the post.

The next thing I did was click the “Boost Post” button. If you don’t have an advertising account with Facebook, they will have you set it up before boosting your first post. If you are working on the desktop, a smaller box appears in the middle of the screen. It’s essentially Ads Manager Lite. You have the choice of a few different budgets (I picked $5.00 over 2 days, which was pretty much the minimum) and you can choose whether you want the post to be boosted to people who have already liked your page along with their friends and family, OR you can choose an audience that is targeted toward demographics and location, like with normal ads. The latter is definitely your better option, as there’s no guarantee that people who liked your page necessarily have friends that would like your content, and that would be a big waste of money. Not only that, but people who have liked your page might not appreciate that “Jane Doe liked this page” posts are showing up in their friends News Feeds. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know… Anyway, you have a minimum of four interests to add to your targeting, along with the country or countries, and the age group  and gender you want to target.

I easily ended up with about seven interests. Again, it’s not as micro targeted as Ads built in the Power Editor, but actually, I think the boosted post ought to be shown to as many people as Facebook thinks it’s possible. Also, with Boosted Posts, there is no choosing the aim of the campaign like website clicks, website conversions, or any of that. Instead, Facebook just boosts the post, and if people interact with it with post likes and shares, then Facebook makes it look like they are “charging you” for those interactions. Frankly, I didn’t much care about likes or shares (although the version of the post I used the second week got about 13 likes), I cared more about clicks to the page and how many people bought books and where they bought them from.

Facebook then boosts your post after they approve it. Yes, they have to approve Boosted Posts just like any other ad, which is why I made sure the graphic was up to specifications. If you use the Facebook Ads app for your smart phone, you can check on how your post is doing on the go. Facebook will send a message through Messenger when the post is approved.

The first Boosted Post I did with the budget of $5.00 over 2 days was 801 people reached (people who I never would have reached, even when Facebook wasn’t throttling Page posts to death like now). That resulted in about 3 post likes and one new Page like. The next one was shown to far fewer people (289) but it got 13 post likes. I noticed the correlation between more page and post likes = less exposure for the post.

I skipped last week, since the sale was ending and it was Mother’s Day. This weekend, I did a bit of a different post boost: I have a link to a blog post I did about the difference between Steampunk and Gaslamp fantasy, and I have a CTA at the end of the post for mailing list sign ups. I’m hoping to get a couple of new mailing list sign ups and a few new free book downloads with this boosted post, but since it’s not done yet, I don’t have much to report about the success of this one, aside from that I already have 3 post likes, one new Page like, and some more traffic to the actual blog post. We’ll see if the approach I’m taking with the mailing list sign ups is too subtle (I don’t have the über obnoxious pop up box on my site yet, but I’ll do it if I have to!)

Do you have any experience with Facebook Boosted Posts? Do you prefer just straight ads instead of the light version you get with Boosted Posts?

click here to find out

How to create a great box set

All interesting ideas I hadn’t thought of when creating my cover for my box set!

click here to find out

Kobo Writing Life

By Tara Cremin

Box sets are hugely popular on Kobo at the moment. Our best selling titles on Kobo Writing Life are nearly always ones that are part of a greater series. It’s important to note that we have no limit on the price that you can set your box set. You can set as high as you’d like and still receive 70% royalties! Here are some tips to help you create a great box set.

The Content

Whether your box set is three books or ten books, you should really spend time ensuring that it’s easy to navigate through your finished ePub. You want your reader to be able to easily go through each title so it’s important that you check your Table of Contents. Maybe you don’t need to include a specific link to your acknowledgments or about the author section for each book. You may want to consider…

View original post 581 more words