Tuesday 29 January 2019

Do You Prefer Plain Text E-mail?

I used to really love Plain Text e-mail. I'm not just talking about e-mails without any formatting; I'm talking literally about e-mails which are sent in Plain Text format, without any HTML code in them.

In recent years, I've gotten over it, as HTML becomes the standard, and it actually becomes more and more difficult to read e-mails in Plain Text. My day-job, for example, forces me to use a signature at the bottom of every e-mail I send, and that signature contains images and hyperlinks behind buttons, etc. Many other companies do the same... sometimes without you, the employee, even knowing it, so even if you did send an e-mail in Plain Text, by the time your recipient receives it, it's been converted to HTML so that your corporate mail server can attach the signature.

Plus, many e-mail clients use HTML as the default way to display and send e-mails, and it can be very difficult, if not downright impossible, to configure it for Plain Text.

In recent weeks, though, it has occurred to me that I haven't given any thought to the Plain Text format of the e-mails I send to my mailing list. I did think about them years ago, when I first started, but back then I was using MailChimp; I had no idea what MailerLite did.

I went back to some of my old campaigns and tried to view the Plain Text version of the e-mail. The first thing I noticed was that there's no way to do that. None. MailerLite quite simply does not let you view the Plain Text version of a previously sent e-mail. So I created a new, dummy campaign, and then told MailerLite to show me the plain text e-mail that was about to be sent. This is what I saw:


You have received a newsletter from Graham Downs.

However, your email software can't display HTML emails. You can view the newsletter by clicking here:


You're receiving this newsletter because you have shown interest in Graham Downs.
Not interested anymore? Click here to unsubscribe:

Well, that's not ideal.

Still, it's probably not a big deal, because nobody's ever complained before, and I highly doubt any of my current subscribers are actually interested in the Plain Text versions of my newsletters. And at least MailerLite actually does provide you with a way to edit that version. I added it to my to-do list, and moved on.

Until the other day, when I saw someone subscribing to my list. I happen to know the guy, and I know that he definitely prefers to read all his e-mails in plain text.

I immediately went and carefully crafted Plain Text versions of all my automation mails, and from now on, will make sure all my campaigns have readable, usable Plain Text versions.

Even if I did it just for this guy, it's enough. But I'd like to hear from you - how do you feel about Plain Text e-mail? Do you still send and read e-mails in Plain Text? Is it your preferred format?

Hit me up in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday 27 January 2019

The Green Mile by Stephen King (Book Review)

A few friends have recommended that I read this book over the years. I'm glad I finally did.

It's a flawlessly told story of life inside the Death Row block of a penitentiary. There's ostensibly a mystery that's slowly revealed as the story progresses. But even though I've never read this book before, and never seen the movie in its entirety (just snippets here and there), the sheer weight of this story's success means you know who done what from the start.

There's still plenty of suspense, though, and loads of twists and turns. I absolutely loved it.

I was pretty sure I was going to give this book four stars, because of the formatting issues in my Kindle edition. I got the impression it was scanned in from a print version, and then someone was tasked with reading through it and fixing all the OCR software's mistakes. Only they missed quite a bit. It's the typical OCR stuff: mostly n, h, and b being confused, so you'd see the word "hoss" instead of "boss" for example.

Being tech-savvy, I immediately saw what probably happened... but sometimes, both possibilities are actually words, making the situation worse.

The last couple of chapters though... wow, those last few chapters are intense. Gut-wrenching. Incredibly emotional. With an ending like that, I'd be nothing more than a petty lugoon if I docked a star for some silly software issues!

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

The Green Mile: those who walk it do not return, because at the end of that walk is the room in which sits Cold Mountain Penitentiary's electric chair.

Click here to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Is one of your resolutions to read more books in 2019?

It's the time of year again when people start thinking about sticking to their New Year's resolutions. And more than a few people have confided in me that they really need to read more books this year. But more than a few people have also told me that they struggle to find time to read.

I was inspired to write this post after reading an article on BookRiot, How to Read More in 6 Easy Tips. If you're serious about increasing your reading volume, you should definitely take a look.

Personally, I can't do Audiobooks (my mind wanders too damn much), but I want to emphasise and elaborate on one of their tips in particular.


I know that loads of you are die-hard print book fans, but hear me out here. E-books changed my life. 

When I was younger, I used to read voraciously. Every spare moment, my nose was buried in a book. As I got older, and particularly as I left school and started working, I just didn't have the time. Not only that, but I couldn't see myself as one of those people who carried books around wherever they went. No, I was far too self-conscious for that.

And then, about nine years ago now, something amazing happened: my boss at the time bought me an iPad. I'd heard about this Kindle thing before, but didn't think it was for me. Well, now I had an excuse to try. After playing around and getting comfortable with my new toy, I installed the iOS Kindle app.

I didn't think I'd buy anything, you understand. Just looking. The thing is, I didn't need to buy anything, what with the proliferation of free books at the time. It was fantastic.

Fast forward to present day, and while I'm not the fastest reader out there, and plenty of people get through plenty more books than I do in a month, I'm reading more now than I ever did before.

Now, every spare moment I get, be it waiting for things to happen, while sitting on the toilet, lying in bed, or whatever, I whip out my phone and read a couple of screens of my latest book. Then, when I have a good long stretch of time to play with, I switch to my tablet (no longer an iPad; I graduated to Android a long time ago now) and pick up where I left off.

It's incredibly liberating, and it feels... productive. Way more productive, anyway, than aimlessly surfing Facebook for those few minutes, which you might be doing now.

Amazon's not the only show in town, either. Nowadays, we have 
If you literally have zero budget, fear not. Libraries have moved on to e-books, too. Here's a blog post I wrote a couple months ago with a list of South African provincial and municipal libraries that allow you to borrow and read e-books, free of charge, all from the comfort of your own home!

I hope what I've said here has made some sense to you, and if you don't read nearly as much as you should, I hope it will spark the beginning of your journey. Right now, there's no reason anybody should deprive themselves of the joy of reading (yes, even if you have to read audiobooks. Just because they're not for me doesn't mean they won't be just perfect for you).

So what's holding you back from reading more this year? Feel free to hit me up in the comments, and let's start a conversation; I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday 8 January 2019

How I set my book's price online

Happy New Year, everyone! I trust your January's treating you well. Have you gotten back to the office yet?

I missed the past two blog posts, what with the hectic festive season, and the fact that both Christmas and New Year's Day happened to fall on a Tuesday this time around. But I'm back with a bang.

One of the things I always like to do around this time of year is to revisit my books' categorisations, keywords, and prices at retailers. But I try to be super-scientific about it. For each book at each retailer, I have a look at the categories and keywords. Do they still accurately reflect the subject matter of the book, and what I think readers are looking for?

Then it's on to pricing, and here's where I get really nerdy. Take a look:

For each category the book is in, I go look at the top ten books in that category. I get each one's price, deduct VAT if the retailer charges VAT to South Africans (like Amazon does). Then I divide that by the number of pages the book has, which gives me a price per page.

When I'm all done, I multiply the overall average price per page by the number of pages in my book. Then I round to the nearest 0.09, and voila.

It's a lot of work, but I like this approach because it ensures I stay competitive, and instead of charging what I think my work is worth, I'm charging what I know people are willing to pay for books in that category.

What do you think? Does this pricing strategy make sense to you?

By the way, it's impossible for me to share the 2019 prices for each of my books, in each of their formats, here in this post. However, if you'd like to browse through all my books and see for yourself what they cost at the various retailers, click here.

Monday 7 January 2019

The Sleepwalkers by B.B. Griffith (Book Review)

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a story this much.

Gordon Pope is a beautifully written, complex protagonist. Although he's an expert in his field, he carries with him some serious emotional baggage which makes him doubt himself and his abilities. When he's forced to confront that baggage head-on, he grows and becomes more confident. A growth which seems natural and logical, not forced to happen just because the plot requires it.

The story also seems to be fairly well researched. In my younger years, I had a passing obsession with the fields of sleep science, the limbic system, and lucid dreaming, and many of the concepts presented seemed familiar to me. It was actually quite nostalgic... although I'm sure a real-life expert in those fields would pick lots of holes in the story; it's always more complicated than fiction tries to present (something I know all too well as a software developer, who gets frustrated reading some descriptions of tech in fiction).

Although this book is the first in a series, and I don't often read series, it's still a complete story. Right at the very end, there's a scene that looks like it's going to lead into the next instalment, but there are no cliffhangers. It actually reminds me a bit of James Bond movies. This also means that I'm pretty sure if you read the second book in the series, without ever reading this one, you won't be missing anything. I hate cliffhangers, so that's something I really appreciate.

If you're into psychology or have an interest in how and why we sleep, I strongly recommend you read this story.

My rating: 5 / 5 stars

(To see where you can get your hands on a copy, click the cover below)

About the book

Is it still a crime if you commit it in your sleep?

Ethan Barret is on trial for violent assault at only twelve years old. The problem is, he doesn't remember doing it. His hands committed the crime, but he was asleep the whole time.

Gordon Pope is down on his luck. He was one of the best child-psychiatrists in the country before his divorce. Now he's broke, bored, and spiraling into depression. He agrees to be an expert witness in Ethan's case because he needs the extra cash for drinking money. What he doesn't know is that he's about to be thrown into a race against time to save the boy, and himself, before it's too late for both of them.

The Sleepwalkers is a dark thriller that will change the way you think about sleep--and dreams--forever.

Click here to find out where you can pick up a copy.