Book review – Paul Jarvis – “Company of One” #CompanyOfOne #NetGalley


Company of One Paul JarvisI’ve been trying to work my way through some of the older books on my NetGalley shelf as well as the older physical books on my actual TBR shelf, and this was the second-oldest on there. I do like a business book and as the owner of a small business myself, this was going to appeal.

So this is a book about the power of the small-scale business – whether, it turns out, that’s a true one-person business, one run by a person with a particular skill who outsources a lot of the actual work to contractors, or a person within a company who has the ability to take their own initiative and grow their role as they will. I’m very much towards the first of those: I only outsource my accounting to a professional accountant, although I have skill-swapped for an editor for my books and a graphic designer for some early images. The company which starts with big ideas and too much spend is the one that’s apt to fall over, whereas starting small and achievable with low expenses and growing slowly, if at all, sustainably and in profit rather than rushing to acquire customers will help you. There’s also much talk of the lower cost of keeping clients as against constantly acquiring new ones, and getting prospects by word of mouth, both things I subscribe to (so I could feel nice and smug reading this!). He talks about how important it is to let your company match your particular ethics and personality, the authenticity this gives it bringing clients that appreciate those qualities.

Jarvis does apply the theme to people working within companies to make it more widely applicable and he highlights some fascinating new examples of businesses (as well as the interminable South-Western who make it into every business book!) with flat structures and opportunities for “ownership” within the business. I really like how he shares his failures as well as his successes, taking his inability to be a classic charismatic leader and manager of people into a successful model hiring contractors who know what they’re doing who he can leave alone to do it. I also liked the section at the back explaining how to set up a business. Freedom of choice rather than huge profits is his motto (although obviously you need a decent profit to be free) and he introduces the idea of setting an upper limit on what you want to earn or how many customers you want to have.

Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for approving me to read this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. And this was my 100th NetGalley review!

I’ve written a companion piece to this on my business blog, if you fancy a read.

Incomings and West Penwith highlights @Edgybooks @SharonMcSwiney


I’ve just come back from a lovely week in West Penwith, staying in Penzance and roaming a little around the coast and across to St Ives. As I read 8.5 books in 8 days (this included two 7 hour train journeys!) I had to replace them obviously, so there’s a book pile later, and I also wanted to draw people’s attention to a lovely bookshop and a super maker.

Edge of the World Bookshop Penzance, external view

The Edge of the World Bookshop

The Edge of the World Bookshop is a wonderful independent bookshop on the main shopping street of Penzance. You can find them online here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. They do loads of author events and signings and have a brilliant stock that’s both deep and wide. I always buy a few books here when I’m in Penzance, and I’ve never been disappointed. I was really chuffed this time to manage to pop in during Bookshop Day – something I don’t usually do as it’s always the day we’re travelling down or back – and picked up a lovely book bargain.

I took a trip to St Ives mid-week and my best friend Emma had given me a mission to find Sharon McSwiney’s shop. Sharon used to share a workshop in the Jewellery Quarter with Emma’s and my mutual friend Esther (who is also now based in Cornwall, making jewellery and automata, website here). So I found the Drill Hall, just up the hill from the sea front, and there was the charming shop and Sharon’s very nice husband, who runs the shop while Sharon makes and teaches.

Sharon McSwiney’s shop

There are so many beautiful objects in the shop – I particularly loved the autumn leaves, and there is both jewellery and larger metalwork items.  Even better, Sharon runs courses, and I bet my local friends would be interested in those. I picked up a couple of leaflets and promised to share them!

You can do full or half-day courses and all info is on Sharon’s lovely website.

I always love finding quirky and interesting shops and artists when I’m away, or returning to favourite places, and I think it’s only fair to share the loveliness – no one asked me to share these details and I’m getting nothing from this apart from the joy of sharing some lovely places and things. Do let me know if you pop to the websites or find something fun to do or buy, though!

And those books?

I always do a trawl of the charity shops when I’m somewhere different and was surprised to find only two books this time. Jo Brand’s “Born Lippy” is a book of advice that also acts as something of a memoir: it’s hilarious of course but with good advice, too. As I’d finished all the books I took with me, I read half of this on the train home. Bernadine Evaristo’s “Mr Loverman” is a novel telling the story of an elderly man, born in Antigua and living in the UK since the 60s, a husband, father and grandfather, who has secretly been in a relationship with his (male) best friend almost his whole life. I got these two from the charity shop opposite the Davy statue, the charity of which I’ve shamefully forgotten.

“On the Marsh” by Simon Barnes tells of buying and living in a slice of Norfolk including some marshland which he then rewilds, giving his son, who is living with Down’s syndrome, a place of quiet and calm in the meantime. Bought at The Works when I went in for some post-it tabs.

Then in Edge of the World I spent my book token from my friend Laura on “Homesick” by Catrina Davies – this is the book about the woman who lives in a shed on her parents’ land near St Ives after she realises she can’t afford to get on the property ladder. A very appropriate book to buy in West Penwith, and I had saved it to buy in the shop. Jonathan Gornall’s “How to Build a Boat”, which is about him learning to build a boat when his daughter is born, to sail in with her, was bought with a cheeky ‘book token’ from my friend Sian, and Isabella Tree’s “Rewilding” was in the bookshop’s Bookshop Day special offer – their favourite books for £5 each – which they are running all this week.

Have you read any of these? I know at least one person who’s just read “Homesick”. And if you have a small independent business that’s a favourite and you want to tell me about, pop a link in the comments!

Change your book title and boost sales …?


Liz and Business books

Liz and her books. Photo by Simon Howes

I was setting up a post on my main blog introducing my two new books to the world and I thought it would be interesting to write a “making of” on this blog which is, after all, about my adventures in reading, WRITING and working from home … And the title of this piece explains it all, really – can tweaking your book titles change your sales profile? I’m sharing my experience of naming my books and tweaking those names … and what might have happened next …

Funny book titles equals higher sales? Hm.

My first book was called “Going it Alone at 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment“. I realised there was a danger of people only reading the first part of the title and thinking it was a guide to empty nest syndrome or divorce, but it was my first book, so I could ‘leverage’ that and tell the world about my book. It was sufficiently differentiated from other books to do quite well, and I’ve had some lovely positive reviews (if the worst someone can say about your book is that it contains a few too many cardigans, then life isn’t too bad).

I wasn’t really planning on writing another self-help careers book … except I then put together a Quick Guide to Your Career in Transcription, because people kept searching for that topic on my blog, and that has indeed done pretty well, given that it’s a small book, not a full-length one. And then I kept on blogging about how I was building my business and developing my career and it became apparent that I could put together another book, about increasing your income, saying no and planning your time, plus what I’d learned about blogging and social media. I wrote some new chapters for the book which were later summarised in blog posts, and I published “Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Successful Business After the Start-up Phase” in early 2014.

I did some market research on this title, this way round (and yes, if you’ve clicked the links, you’ll notice that the titles aren’t quite the same now) and people generally thought it was a good and funny title, as well as thinking the idea of the book was useful, given that there are lots of books out there about starting out and not so many about what happens next. I asked friends and colleagues on Facebook and in person at networking events, and excitedly launched the book. At the same time, I launched an omnibus e-edition of the two together so people could get better value, and called that “Going it Alone at 40 AND Who are you Calling Mature? The Omnibus“, which was probably a mistake. Who was going to find THAT searching for business books?

Launch your book and watch it fly!

Or not. I’ll be honest, sales were not what I’d hoped for. I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do, including sending out review copies, and people have bought it and posted some good reviews. But not in the numbers I’d wished for.  Then I asked again, did anyone think there was anything wrong with the title? And I got lots of replies, some along the lines of the business area not being as large, but several saying that the title didn’t lead them to think about business, but about some kind of guide to growing old disgracefully. Oh. After some fulminating about there being subtitles and blue books with graphs on the cover not generally being the way to sell comedy books on ageing, I actually listened to the advice, realised that no one had a chance of finding the omnibus, and switched all the titles around.

Do your research and tread carefully

It’s been a week or so since I changed the titles around. I haven’t actually changed the book covers – yet. I considered it, but as my motto is “Do things carefully and don’t spend out unless you have to”, I thought I’d see if the change had an effect.

What did I do?

  • I changed the titles around on Amazon, and added a whole new title to the omnibus, so it’s now called “Your Guide to Starting and Building your Business“.
  • I remembered to change the titles on my business website’s publications page, and I took the opportunity to add to their SEO (search engine optimisation, AKA making sure that people can find your stuff) by adding sub-headings with the book titles.
  • I changed the titles on my book pages on this blog
  • I told people what I’d done and thanked them for their input
  • I wrote a blog post on my main blog introducing the books (with their new titles) to the world – it’s common practice to launch independent authors’ books once they’ve garnered a few sales and reviews) and made sure they were helped by the SEO of that site

What happened?

I sold more books. It’s anecdotal, obviously: there hasn’t been enough time to see whether this is a trend or a spike. I don’t think the sales were ‘support buys’, i.e. my friends feeling sorry for me and buying a copy to help out (I do massively appreciate that when it happens, and am chuffed at all sales, but that does sort of skew your sales statistics!), but so far I have had significantly more interest and sales.

What happens next for those book titles?

Well, for a start, I’m going to leave them that way around, as it obviously works.

I’m going to see how sales go through next month, and if they are good enough and I can see they’re going to pay their way, I will get the covers redesigned (including the covers for the print books)

And I’ll let you know!

Update – 20 days on and I’m redoing my book covers!

Update: 20 June. I’m pleased to report that as of 20 June I’ve sold copies of my books every day, and more copies of the renamed ones. Luckily, I get a nice report from Amazon about daily sales. I don’t think I’ve been talking about my books any more on social media than I usually do, so I’m putting it down to the new book titles.

Update – August 2014

Liz new books fbI ordered a new cover for the Omnibus e-book, and the two print books – and here they are. Doing that plus creating a dedicated books website has helped to build traffic and sales – but what started it all off was changing the titles! I’ve blogged a more detailed update here.

Book review – Louise Harnby – “Marketing Your Editing and Proofreading Business”

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Marketing Your Editing and Proofreading Business Louise HarnbyI’ve previously read and reviewed Louise’s first book, “Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers“, aimed at newcomers to the profession and those who needed to brush up their business planning skills. This book on marketing is for a similar audience, but it goes much more into the nuts and bolts of the actual marketing process, telling the reader what is out there that they can try, explaining why it’s a good idea to try it, providing some examples of people who have tried it (and in the interests of disclosure, I am one of the people who she mentions as examples of good practice) and giving some pointers as to what to do next.

As I do in my own writing, the author professes not to use jargon in her book, and she doesn’t, explaining concepts clearly and concisely without muddling the waters with marketing speak. As such, the book will be very accessible to those who fear marketing and can’t see the point of making the effort – or those who try to do it, but half-heartedly – the “embarrassed marketers” as Harnby calls them. But no one could fail to be convinced by the information that’s laid out clearly and methodically – and everyone can learn from it – I certainly learned a bit more about the relationship between Google+ and searching for your services, and about some of the other social media service that are out there.

The book is clearly laid out in four parts, covering concepts – ideas about marketing, what it is, how it helps you to grow your business; then activities, which sets out a chapter on each of various marketing channels including cold letters, face-to-face networking and social media, among many more; then a very useful sample marketing plan; and a good solid list of resources at the end. The marketing plan is a stroke of genius, as it takes a non-traditional editor – certainly not a woman who’s worked for a publisher then struck out on her own, which is something of a stereotype in our industry – and sets out what they can achieve around an editing career, branching out into all sorts of other activities and, as Harnby advocates at the beginning of the book (and something I strongly advocate, too) making sure that they have a mix of customers and types of work.

This book would be particularly useful for anyone starting out in editing freelancing or for anyone who’s giving it a go but not getting very far with getting customers. It’s also very useful for anyone planning to work with traditional publishers, as it sets out a lot of information about choosing which companies to target, etc., although one of Harnby’s own strengths is that she also works with self-publishers, and she has plenty of advice about how to deal with this market segment too. It also served to make me count my blessings and realise how lucky I’ve been to have gathered together a broad portfolio of clients through word of mouth, social media marketing and a couple of directory sites.

In summary, if you’re in the early stages of an editorial career, perhaps especially if you are not sure of the market in which you wish to work, buy a copy of “Marketing your Editing and Proofreading Business” and read it cover to cover (or percentage to percentage, I suppose, if you read the e-book version!). I will be recommending it to my mentees in the profession, and including it in the list of resources in my next book!

Find out more about the book on Louise’s website. You’ll find more info there on the book and links to where you can buy it.

Note: I received a review copy from Louise – thank you. Although I am quoted and referenced in the book, I make no financial gain from you purchasing it (although of course it helps my marketing effort in raising awareness of my website and thus my own books!).

Read this and pass it on …


mature_frontI don’t do chain letters and blog award things very often, but I’ve been nominated in this writers’ one, and as I have my new books out at the moment (“Who are you Calling Mature?” and the Business Omnibus), I thought it would be a nice one to do. The person who nominated me is Chris Longden, aka Funnylass, a novelist who’s a friend of a friend; she writes satirical novels that are funny and make you think, and she’s been generous in sharing three nominations in her post.

So, the idea is that you accept the nomination, answer four questions, then pass it on and nominate two more writers. I’m glad that the writers can be fiction, non-fiction writers or even Plain English writers and editors like my friend and fellow-nominee, Laura Ripper (here’s her post from today, too) and here I go with my answers …

What are you working on?

I’ve just published my new business book, “Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Successful Business after the Start-up Phase”, and so what I’m mainly working on is building its visibility, collecting some reviews (including sending out a few review copies) and then talking about it. I’ve done this one in print and e-book versions simultaneously (exciting!) after producing a print version of my first business book, “Going it Alone at 40”. I’ve been working on climbing up the steep learning curve with that: I’ll admit to having 10 copies in my possession which are formatted a little oddly – for that reason, I’m going to give them away via BookCrossing. I can assure any potential buyers that the copies now available on print-on-demand will be formatted just fine!

So I’m working on building my profile as an author; I’m always looking at different ways to share knowledge, and I’m contemplating putting myself out there as a speaker locally, although that’s only in the thinking stage at the moment!

How does your writing differ from others in its genre?

I like to think that I have two Unique Selling points in the business how-to genre …

  1. I have a relaxed and approachable style, encouraging rather than instructing, and happy to admit my own mistakes and learning points. I like to be a bit light-hearted, friendly and sometimes funny, which is something I do in my blog posts and something I take across to my books. My first book talks about what a homeworker wears, and my second one takes you on journeys through the real ways in which social media can help you – all trying to tell it how it is while encouraging my readers to take those first and subsequent steps. I hope that I come across as caring, too.
  2. I give all of the information people need. I give a lot of information away on my blogs, and this, again, carries over into my books. I get really frustrated when people don’t tell you exactly how they did things, or you have to even buy an expensive downloadable or course in order to find out the nitty-gritty details. I share exactly how I’ve done what I’ve done, in detail, with examples from my own life. The books don’t have many images in them, but they have links to FREE material on my blogs which has screen shots and all sorts of extra explanations. I have vowed never to make my readers pay extra to access that material: it is important to me not to do that. They can buy the next book, or the other book, of course …!

Why do you write what you do?

I am passionate about encouraging people to believe that they can set up and run a successful business – on their own terms. I started writing my Word tips on my business blog when I didn’t know how to do something and wanted to make a note of it. That built into a successful series, then when I went full-time with my self-employment, I decided to blog about my experience, sharing exactly how I did it and what happened. That became the raw material for my first book, and my next year of blog posts formed the nucleus (although again much enhanced) of the second one.

I started writing with a how-to guide on lowering your cholesterol without drugs, which is still my biggest seller, and I added one on transcription as a career when I realised that I was getting a lot of searches on that topic reaching my business blog. All of what I do is basically to share what I’ve learned along the way, and to encourage other people by sharing my own experience and real-life examples. If I can inspire somebody to take the plunge and start their own business – and enjoy it – then I’m very happy.

How does the writing process work for you?

The kernel of my books comes from my blog. But it’s not just a question of copying and pasting a load of blog posts into a Word document – there’s a lot of editing and fiddling around, re-ordering, putting into context and new writing to be done.

Typically, I will collect together posts on a topic or number of topics, pop them in a Word document in a vague order, work out what else I need to write, and write that. Once I have a document – oh, and this is all done in the spare time I have in between doing jobs for my regular clients – I send it off to Catherine, my editor, and Chrys, my beta reader, who go over it for typos, errors, things that don’t make sense, things that need more explaining, repetition, etc., etc. Then I edit it again, and out it goes. It can be a long process – obviously the shorter books take less time, but I’ve put out one full-length book a year for the past two years.


Now it’s nomination time, I’m pleased to nominate my friend and children’s / teens’ author Leila Rasheed as my first colleague. Leila has written a variety of books, and she also teaches and lectures in creative writing. Leila’s blog post is here.  My second nomination is Fiona Joseph. She’s a fellow non-fiction writer who’s produced some lovely books about figures from Birmingham’s history; she also writes short stories and has a novel coming out this year. Again, there’s lots of interesting stuff on her website and blog, and you can read her post, too!  Over to you, ladies!

Book reviews – The Strange Case of Dr Terry and Mr Chimes and Dark Horse

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kindleI’m breaking off from the Month of Re-Reading here to review two LibraryThing Early Reviewers Programme e-books. Why I received two, I’m not quite sure. One was very, very disappointing, one was good for what it was, although not directly relevant to me and my business endeavours. I did resent them a little bit, especially as I don’t seem to have had as much reading time as I’d hoped this month, so they definitely took at least one book off that lovely pile, but when you sign up for LTER, you undertake to read and review within a month, so read and review within a month is what I’ve done …

Terry Chimes – The Strange Case of Dr Terry and Mr Chimes

(e-book, LibraryThing, Jan 2014)

Terry Chimes was the original drummer in The Clash and rejoined the band part-way through their career, as well as working with other rock bands until he decided to change career and become a chiropractor. I thought that this book looked very interesting from a music and career-change perspective, but I was, I’m afraid, sadly disappointed.

It’s very … pedestrian. He manages to make life as a rock drummer sound really boring, and the business wisdom that has been praised in other reviews already published consists of truisms and exercised in stating the obvious. Be reliable and things will be better for you. There is no limit except that set by your mind. All that sort of stuff. Although he thanks an editor in the acknowledgements, he must have ignored their suggestions, as the prose is flat, full of dangling identifiers and non sequiturs, and littered with errors. I was really pretty disappointed with this, and was glad I didn’t pay for it.

Re the editing issues, I know it’s a pre-publication copy but it seems to have been out there for a while, perhaps in print, already, judging by the number of reviews.

Dan Mack – “Dark Horse”

(e-book, LibraryThing, Jan 2014)

A book about small companies that do better in business and against their larger competitors than they logically should do, with insights from the leaders of such companies culled from seminars and groups run by the author. He certainly knows his stuff, and the book is packed full of insights, inspiration and real-life, concrete examples of the theories and practices he discusses.

This book would be most useful for companies that are offering a product (rather than a service), and in the sectors of health, beauty and wellness, as these areas are where most of the examples are located, although there are some good general principles too. It would also be of most benefit to the small-to-medium sized enterprise, rather than a very small or single-person business, as there’s information about recruiting and managing the appropriate staff and departments working together which wouldn’t be so directly relevant.

It’s well laid out, in an easy to follow structure that is consistent across the chapters, and there is a good bibliography and references list to back everything up. I would recommend this to the CEO of a small company trying to hit above its weight, or to anyone in business (and in fact big businesses could learn much from this, too).


Currently reading: I am finishing off “Mansfield Park” at the moment, and then it will be goodbye to the Month of Re-Reading with “Jude the Obscure” for the Hardy challenge, which is a re-read of which I remember nothing but a very dim impression!

Market research – please give your answer!

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I’m trying to work out whether it’s worth producing my book, Going it Alone at 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment, in a print version. This will also help me to decide how to produce my new book, Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Business after Start-up. Thanks for answering the poll – just click on one of the answers!

A day off


char wallahOne of the great things about running your own business is that you can (often) take a day off when you fancy it, without having to ask anyone’s permission. So I had a day off with Matthew today – we started off at the Birmingham Social Media Cafe for its fifth birthday, and chatted with regulars and newbies, had lunch at Eat, and then did a bit of shopping – new coats for both of us and my birthday TKMaxx vouchers finally spent. Our friend Ali had told us about a new shop called Char Wallah and so we popped there – do drop by if you’re near the Pavillions, shopping centre. They have a lovely little shop nestling on the basement floor, with a huge range of teas as well as teapots and mugs. A really warm welcome and they have worked really hard on the concept and design, so deserve to do well. I hope to feature them in my Small Business Chats on the Libroediting blog soon, so watch this (that) space.

We’re now finishing our day off with a lovely cup of tea, curled up on the sofa with our books and cats. Hooray for days off. And if you run your own business and don’t take random days like this – why on earth not? We can all do one every now and then!

Reading Kindle books without a Kindle


Just a quick post as I’ve discovered that not everybody knows this …

If you want to read a book that’s only published in e-book form for Kindle (like my cholesterol book or my self-employment book – sorry, had to get some plugs in!), did you know that you don’t need to own a physical Kindle to read it?

You can download a free Kindle app that allows you to read Kindle books on other machines like phones, tablets and computers.

Where to find Kindle apps

Amazon offer free downloadable software so that you can read Kindle e-books without a Kindle – on a PC, Mac or various types of phone and tablet.

If you do have a Kindle, your phone, tablet or computer version of the software will automatically sync with it to record where you’ve got up to in a book. Magic!

They have a page about it here. This is not an ad for Amazon, more an attempt to reassure people that they can still read my books!

A lovely day, some haberdashery, and some more books …



Lauren and Tilly working hard

I had a lovely day today – reorganising Libro a little bit has led to me being able to take full days off with impunity; hopefully long gone are the days of working all day, every day.  One of the things I’ve been meaning to do more of now I have more free time is my crafting / sewing. I’m more of a cross-stitcher really (certainly not a knitter) but I have made four sets of curtains for our house, not to mention that 150 metres of bunting last year … Anyway, I’ve been enjoying watching the Great British Sewing Bee on the TV, and was excited to see that Lauren Guthrie from the show was opening a haberdashery shop, Guthrie & Ghani in Moseley today.


Liz meets Stuart

So off we trotted and met Jen there, too, and to cut a long story involving a dash back to Kings Heath to buy the last copy of the book in Smiths, I bought the book, had it signed by Lauren, Tilly and Stuart, all contestants on the programme, and had a lovely chat with Stuart who, it turns out, was a contemporary of mine at University! Anyway, the shop is lovely, I bought buttons, ribbon and a pincushion, and will be back – and I’ll be talking a bit more on here about any crafty creations I manage to finish and anything else lovely I buy from the shop.

GBSB 3But of course, this has led to yet another book confession, as a shiny copy of the GBSB book had to be purchased in order to be signed. It does look great, though, doesn’t it! And has loads of hints and tips, and I haven’t bought a sewing book for *ages* (well, not a modern one; I can’t resist those old Golden Hands books when I find them second hand, even though it’s often a seventies fest inside).

20130427 1This confession reminded me that a Virago book landed on the doorstep in the week, kindly sent to me by Dee from the LibrayThing Virago group. I very much enjoyed the last Mary Webb I read, and this is her last short novel plus some short stories, so a real treat, and a lovely original Virago Green, too.

20130427 3After my second (ahem) visit to Guthrie & Ghani, I went to the regular BookCrossing meetup. To my shame, I didn’t take any books along (again), but I did only pick up one, a travel book about completing the Silk Road in China, etc., on horseback, so right up my street. Um, road.

20130427 4And then I got home and found that my next read-with-Matthew read (we so enjoyed reading Capital together, we thought we’d do it again with another book – all are welcome to join in) had arrived – Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being” which centres around the Japanese tsunami. We’ve both enjoyed Ozeki’s other novels, so this should be a good read – and it has 430-odd pages of fairly small print, so should last us a while.

So, a variety of books on a variety of subjects, and a lovely day, too, involving the purchase of buttons, ribbon, a pincushion and then some falafel at the Farmers’ Market! What could be better?

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