The Cynic’s ‘To Do’ List for Aspiring Authors.

  1. Read squillions of blog articles that detail definitive ‘to do,’ lists for aspiring authors: you don’t want to miss out on anything. Research needs to be thorough.
  2. Build your author blog: you could probably skip this step if your surname is ‘Anonymous.’
  3. Write frequent and interesting posts for your blog: like this one you’re reading right now, though obviously way better.
  4. Build a fanbase for your blog: to be honest– most of your ‘fanbase’ are not strictly ‘admirers of your writing. They are mutual back-scratchers. It’s all about the numbers, you know.
  5. Interact with other bloggers on a regular basis: my better results have been when I kept my comments polite and courteous.
  6. Establish an Amazon Author page: maybe not required until point #21, but it’s easier to do this while your enthusiasm is still high.
  7. Set up an ‘author’ Facebook page: it’s best to separate your personal life from your author persona. Readers / potential readers of your cutsie YA romantic novel are probably best shielded from your drunken antics last weekend.
  8. Invite all your personal Facebook friends to ‘Like’ your author page: they will, if you badger them long enough. Go on, go on, go on …. Remember, it’s all about the numbers, you know.
  9. Write frequent and interesting posts for your author Facebook page: I don’t – and look how many books I haven’t sold.
  10. Join a Writing Group. Online or the good old fashioned way, it doesn’t matter: don’t just sit there feeling alone and miserable, devoid of any ideas. Spend time with like (empty) minded people – a problem shared is a problem halved and all that.
  11. Read the WIPs of fellow aspiring authors in your Writing Group: actually, you will be well impressed by some. You will be inspired to write to such a great standard. Some though will be complete bobbins.
  12. Feedback to said fellow aspiring authors: try to find that precarious balance between praise, patronising and downright jealousy.
  13. Continue reading books of similar genre to that which you will (eventually) write: being an aspiring author is difficult. It’s fraught with pressures, not least, that on your time. Try to relax with a good book, but one that keeps you in ‘the zone.’
  14. Set aside some regular ‘you time,’ for planning your book: 3am is generally accepted as the only available slot for this. Blocks of ten or fifteen minutes will probably have to do.
  15. OH YEAH – WRITE YOUR BOOK!

  16. Revisit steps 1 to 15 for the next three years.
  17. EDIT YOUR BOOK! self-doubt, familiarity with the story and slight tweaks to the plot that involve complete rewriting of several chapters, mean this step could take another year to complete.
  18. FINAL EDIT OF YOUR BOOK!
  19. Submit book to every publisher you can track down: you owe it to yourself to at least try. If nothing else, once the submissions are made, you have a short period of respite and relief where your life may return to what passes these days as ‘normal.’
  20. Remember to recycle your rejection letters.
  21. Decide to follow the self-publish route: who needs a publisher anyway? Self-publishing means you are in complete control, right?
  22. Set aside a couple of weeks to correctly format your book for submission to Amazon: you won’t be short on advice and help. Fellow aspiring authors are always willing to help. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are not stupid – they are just highly intelligent and technically gifted.
  23. A) Plan a marketing campaign through Amazon and offer your book at a generous discount: this will probably be the most hurtful part of the project. It’s not exactly a ‘loss-leader,’ but it will still stick in your throat to do this. You will likely generate some sales though. Results will however vary in line with how much you outlay on your marketing campaign. B) Don’t worry about the extortionate costs of doing so through likes of Bookbub – you’ll likely be rejected anyway.
  24. Request your doctor prescribe a raft of anti-anxiety medications. Or take up yoga: you will need something to calm you down each morning as you excitedly open your laptop to view the daily Amazon sales reports. Yippee! You made $9 yesterday. (Less, of course, the $10 daily average of your marketing campaign.)
  25. Take advantage of this quiet period and re-introduce yourself to your family: reassure the dog you are not a burglar.
  26. Be amazed as your book, boosted by initial sales to family and friends, rises to be #1 in the rankings: Ok – #1 in the (eg) Books > Home & Garden > Animal Care & Pets > Dogs > Dogs with a lisp, category.
  27. Be amazed at just how quickly your book can fall from an overall Amazon ranking of 3,023 on the first day: remain positive though. The book-buying public are fickle. Things will change.
  28. Nothing changes: after two weeks of crossing fingers, and selling your soul to the double-crossing book gods, you book is probably now ranked around the 2,435,647 mark.
  29. Run a promo campaign to give your book away free: your book instantly shifts 53,178 copies. Well, downloads. Now you need your doctor to prescribe some meds to calm you back down again. Or take up yoga. Again. The initial fad didn’t last long – it never does.
  30. Doctor simply suggests you look at the Amazon sales reports: No royalties from the freebies. You feel such a fool. And only two reviews on the Amazon page. From 53,178 sales? Sorry. Free downloads. The cold truth dawns. People like free stuff. Just for the sheer heck of it. How many actually read your book?
  31. Cheer yourself up by blowing all the earned royalties from actual, proper sales: the family are excited about a trip to the movies. And possibly a visit to the local burger joint on the way home. But best take the credit card for that, just in case.
  32. And tomorrow? Tomorrow, you’ll still be an aspiring author. Tomorrow you’ll start on book #2 and repeat the process all over. It’s just what we do.


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A Goan Adventure (?)

So, another adventure in Goa, India draws  to a close.

‘Adventure?’ Perhaps that’s an exaggeration. The word prompts thoughts of conquering the unknown; of searching out new experiences, or even perhaps legging it with an ancient relic tucked under your sweaty armpit whilst evading a multitude of jaggy-edged booby- traps, set by the Guardians of the Dead to a previously unknown civilisation.

In actual fact, the most exciting and adventurous thing I did, was bare my arse to a hitherto unknown Indian chap who promptly thrust an anti-biotic laden needle into the muscle mass of my glutes.

Being unwell on holiday is … well, a complete bummer.

Never-the-less, if you are going to be ravaged by a mucus-soaked chest infection, Goa is the place to be. You may well feel like shit, but you certainly won’t feel out of place since it seems every taxi driver you hire is partial to the odd roar of gargling phlegm.

And, on the plus side, should you fall victim to ill health, appropriate medication is easily had in the local village at the the rather decrepit looking pharmacy. And for a mere fraction of the price you’d pay in England, too.

Of course, with free prescriptions in Scotland, us Scots are outraged at having to pay 325/- (@ £4.22) for enough amoxicillin, levobalt, paracetamol, & cough syrup to undercut a chain-smoking Venezuelan drugs baron.

But needs must.

Most Goans speak English as well as their native Konkan, but the most effective means of conveying your illness to the dispenser, is to demonstrate your ailments. A simple cough, protruding your tongue or tearing slices of dead skin from you sunburnt forehead usually results in the grumpy, wizened old pharmacist scampering up an unstable ladder to reach the outer limits of his stock.

I will never fathom how he knows where to find a specific unbranded white box of drugs, incidentally each of whose name comprises a minimum sixteen letters and sounds like a Polish shot putter’s under arm deodorant . But he does, & that’s all that matters.

A word of caution though: active demonstration of Delhi Belly is to be discouraged. It’s considered rude and unnecessary in these parts, and rather than meds, you are only likely to be handed a shovel.

BUT THAT’S ALL BY THE BY.

Goa is a colourful and magical place. The Heritage Village Club at Arossim, its staff and guests, even more so. Nothing is too much trouble, and even though I effectively lost over half my fortnight holiday through feeling unwell, it was heartening to see how concerned and attentive the staff ( & fellow guests) were.

I thank you all. It’s been a pleasure spending the past two weeks with you. I will, of course, completely understand you not reciprocating the sentiment if come Tuesday, your wheezing lungs are similarly filled with green, sticky stuff.

So that’s it – I’m home in Scotland now. And still coughing.

Right now, though, I’m going to get some shut-eye. For tomorrow morning means an early start as I’ll be straight off down to Boots the Chemist, dropping my kecks and demanding a free jag in the bum.

Wish me luck.

The Second Lord of Procrastination & Broken Promises.

That’s me, that is: The Second Lord of Procrastination and Broken Promises.
(The First Lord met an untimely end when, on the eventual realization that Time waits for no man, he tried to catch up with it by removing the batteries from his clock. He consequently failed to notice the time of High Tide was fast approaching and rather sadly, he drowned.)

Some authors have learnt well from this little parable. But not all. Like me, for example. Right now, I feel I should be editing the first ten chapters of ‘Evhen & Uurth,’ (w/t) and not procrastinating until I’ve written some half-baked blog post.

Or should I?

What’s more important? Writing a potential best-seller  or, letting prospective readers know that you’re writing a potential best seller?

I’ve been pretty slow to the social media table, but two years after the release of my first (ok – only) book, I’m becoming more convinced of its value.

See, I figure that just about anyone who writes a book, writes a ‘potential’ bestseller. Take the ‘Fifty Shades’ series by E.L. James. The first of these, and I presume the others, was widely acknowledged as being, well, for want of a better description … crap.

Tell you what – I wish I could write books as crap as them! And indeed, I probably can. You probably can. We all can. The difference between our crap books not selling and Ms James’s making her a very rich and successful woman, is social media. The hype, and even in this case the negative comments, that surrounded the initial ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ book piqued the curiosity of a certain demographic who just had to see what all the fuss was about.

It’s really a case of establishing a market-place for your book and unashamedly promoting it. But in the right manner.

From my experience, there’s no point in spamming the book-buying public. Scattergun Tweets to a following of possibly thousands is unlikely to generate much in the way of sales, if any at all. And cold-calling messages sent on Facebook are about as effective as a telephone call from a PPI claims team. What’s required, is genuine interaction with people interested in the subject matter of your book – be that flying saucers, trolls, cozy romance or in my case, psychopathic rabbits.

Over the past couple of years, I have read some really excellent books by authors I greatly admire, especially so regards the other members of the Goodreads CLOG group. (I distinguish them simply because their humorous writing is more the style I aspire to.) These books, regardless of how many have been sold, deserve to be read by many, many more people. Some, and I’ll spare the blushes of those to whom I refer, should in my opinion, have prominent display positions in national book stores.

The fact that they don’t, is down to a lack of self promotion. I know this to be true in the majority of cases to which I refer.

It doesn’t come easy. Most people, authors or not, worry about being perceived as boastful; being considered arrogant. As a Scot, it’s just not in my nature, for example, to tell anyone that I’m any good at anything. Self-deprecation is viewed as a valuable safety net up here:

“Ah – it’s just something I knocked up on a few rainy Tuesday afternoons. It was either that or clean out the cupboard under the stairs. Its not a serious effort to become an ‘author’ as such. If it sells a few copies, I’ll be happy.”

That’s the way do it. Glass half-empty. If the book sells well, then that’s a bonus. If it bombs, then we were prepared for it.

But with that attitude, which is the more likely?

I’ve learnt that with ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee,’ if I go quiet on it, and don’t undertake some targeted campaign or other, then it may sell the odd one or two copies a month. It will perhaps be read a couple more times on Kindle Unlimited.

But if I do some work on it, tell dog / pet lovers about what a darned good read it is, then sales can be increased ten fold. And this is two years down the line from publication.

So, my point is this: not all procrastination of a work in progress is bad. Proactive and targeted use of social media is just as valuable a use of time as writing that book.

Getting your name known through interaction with potential readers of your particular genre is key.

Right, there you go. That should just about do it.

Now, let me just check the time of the next high tide.

DESIST, ASSIST and PERSIST.

Book Week Scotland - Balloch Library - 28th Nov 2015 - 3It’s now one year since I published my first book, ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee.’

Get me –  ‘first book.’ Now I’m talking in some kind of author-type language. Like I’ve got another book in me. Well …

I’ve learnt a lot these past twelve months: I cringe now when I think of the number of exclamation marks I used in my first drafts of ‘Damp Dogs;’ I now understand why many readers dislike the overuse of adverbs; head-hopping can become confusing and overuse of ellipsis (oops – see above) and quotation marks can becoming annoying.

I’ve also learnt to cultivate a thick skin – this being the result of submitting pieces of work to Critique Circle. Boy, can they be brutal? (See? – in the old days, I’d have had an exclamation mark just there. And there.)

But most of all, I’ve realised that to be a writer, successful or otherwise, you need to learn to desist, assist and most of all, persist.

STOPDesist from talking-down your book. Understandably, you will be unsure as to how it will be received. Will it merit many / any ‘five star’ reviews? Will it attract any reviews at all? Authors writing in the same genre are far better and more experienced than me. Those thoughts, and others, can easily lead to the conclusion that the best way to prepare for disappointment is to get your strike in early. Lower the expectations of any potential readers and work from the ‘promise low, deliver high,’ perspective.

Logically, this may be a sound approach. Except that the number of potential readers may have been greatly reduced as a result of the author’s perceived negativity.

Don’t do it. Tell the world how great the book is. Show some belief.

Sheepish modesty may be cute, but it doesn’t sell books.

You Can HelpAssist other aspiring authors in reaching their goals. Whether this is through constructively critiquing their work via online writing groups, or re-tweeting details of their work / special offers, or sharing links to their sales pages on your social media / blogs, it doesn’t matter. Writing is fun, but it’s kinda lonely. Not in a sad way, but it’s good to talk as a wee bird once said.

Mutual back scratching is way better and more productive than mutual back slapping. Be honest with your comments to others, but be positive. And guaranteed, you’ll receive the same benefits in return. Authors are a breed apart, but form a tight-knit, worldwide association.

I know from experience, I’ve had invaluable help from The Inca Project; Scribophile members; the CLOG group on Goodreads; Clean Indie Reads and numerous individual writers.

Show support, and if at all possible, buy their books. Kindle editions normally cost only a couple of pounds. I’ve read more books this past twelve months than at any point in my life since leaving school. And all have been from indie authors, the majority of whom have not yet made it into the High Street stores.

There are some tremendous stories out there.

PERSISTPersist with your belief. Writing a fabulous book is the easy bit. Telling the world it even exists, especially with no marketing budget at your disposal is another thing entirely. It’s a slog, I know, but a little bit of work, even just through social media can pay dividend.

This past week, I’ve run a low-key promotion in the UK – there will be a bigger effort made in the U.S. market after the Olympics. I spent a total of £10 and that was on a donation basis to a site that promoted ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee.’ The direct results of that promo were poor, but through my own efforts of persistence, I managed to sell another twenty-six books.

No – it’s not big-time. And no, I can’t yet give up work to become a full time author. But it’s all relative, isn’t it? The fact that the book rose from around 200k to circa 12k  in the Amazon Kindle rankings was good enough for me.

UK Promo -pre campaign - KINDLE27th July - 9am - KINDLE

 

 

I’m not writing for money – just as well, eh?. I’m writing for experience. So that I may learn how to make more of a success of the comedy-fantasy, ‘Soul Survivor’ that I’m currently working on.

Success is all relative. I started out as the hopeful writer at the start of the ‘desist‘ paragraph above. I reckoned that if I sold about thirty books to family, friends and clients, then I’d be happy. So, having sold over two hundred and seventy (when the average for a debut effort from an indie author is, I believe, ninety) I’ve now embraced the mantra from the end of that section.

It’s not rocket science, and it’s all been said before. But after a year, the penny’s finally dropped. With all your invaluable assistance and support, even from just reading this blog, I know both ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee,’ and when ready, ‘Soul Survivor,’ are / will be successes. Even if just in my own head.

See you on the shelves of Waterstones and Barnes & Noble.

Wimbledon 2015b - 200

(Cee Tee)

MOVING EMOTIONS

Please excuse the amateurish style – this was written over thirty years ago. 

I had completely forgotten about it until my sister recently moved house and I then read a blog post on the subject.

House

MOVING EMOTIONS

It’s quiet for once, that room

Where the children used to play.

Not vibrant, noisy and happy –

We’re moving house today.

The old open-hearth fire

By which the cat would often lay,

Is to be replaced by central heating –

We’re moving house today.

The spare room now so peaceful

Where drunken friends would stay:

No longer filled with hungover groans –

We’re moving house today.

Kitchen windows I can now see out,

Not like on washing day.

No longer misted and clouded over –

We’re moving house today.

And that pretty garden corner,

Where flowers bathe in warm sun rays,

Will soon be tarmaced over –

We’re moving house today.

Rooms warm, inviting and cosy,

I’ll remember them that way,

Not as now – stark, cold and empty.

We’re moving house today.

_____________

A Culture Addicted to FREE—How FREE is Poisoning the Internet & Killing the Creatives

This interesting, thought provoking and I reckon, totally ‘bang-on’ article first appeared on Kirsten Lamb’s blog on 9th February.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image used with permission from the creator Ira Gelb. Image “Not for Sale” used with permission from the creator Ira Gelb who’s an activist in stopping Human Trafficking but authorized this image for use outside.

It’s funny, at various junctures I’ve felt propelled to tackle certain topics, even when that made me very unpopular. My biggest leviathan to date has been this notion of artists being expected to work for free, and I believe the reason that this topic is weighing so heavily on me is that, for the first time in years I’m no longer enthusiastic about our future.

In fact, I’m downright frightened, because of THIS.

I Feel Sick

Yesterday morning on my Facebook, a friend shared this open letter to Oprah Winfrey from a local performer in the Bay Area, Revolva, whose act caught the attention of mega-icon Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah was holding The Life You Want conference and the producers contacted Revolva to see if she…

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