The Second Lord of Procrastination and Broken Promises.

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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 five 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.

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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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It’s All About Me (of course!)

The following is a reproduction of the interview that appears on the excellent Lenka’s List website.

What inspired you to write?
There was no blinding flash of light, no epiphany moment as such. I have always enjoyed writing, be that school projects, internal memos at work and as Scottish correspondent for a national music magazine, Artrocker. (I stopped that a few years ago.)

Probably what gave me confidence to tackle a light-hearted book, was the favorable comments I received for my Facebook posts.

Did the inspiration to write come to you suddenly, or had you been thinking about it some time?
As far as writing ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee’ is concerned, it was something I had a notion for doing as soon as I started my own petcare (dog walking) business.That was about eight years before I started on ‘DD&RW.’

However, I viewed it as practice-run for the book I’m currently working on. It’s a comedy-fantasy, and I just really sought some form of reassurance that I could make people smile / laugh with my writing, before embarking upon it.

How did you tell your story? In other words, did you use an outline, or just write your story from start to finish?
Being basically memoir, it was pretty straightforward. No plots to worry about! Nobody could take issue with the characters in the book as they were all real! So, it was just a case of ‘start at the beginning,’ and highlight the more humorous and poignant moments under single word headings / chapters.

Did you receive any encouragement from family and friends, or did you work on your book alone?
Oh – my wife was very understanding, what with my locking myself away in the evenings to write. (She was probably more than happy to have the TV controls uncontested, and didn’t have to watch football every night.)

I actually didn’t tell many friends and relatives I was writing the book, but I did join an online writing group, and several people there were very supportive and helpful.

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
The opening, without doubt. Same goes for my present project (now with a working title of ‘Evhen & Uurth.) Getting it to a point where you are confident that it will retain a prospective reader’s attention is not as easy as i thought it would be.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing your book?
Dreaming of what I was going to say on the TV chat shows I felt certain I’d be invited on. That, and deciding whether I should spend the first batch of royalties on a a flash car or exotic holiday.

Did you experience any personal transformation after the book was published?
Yeah, most definitely. I’m no longer a hopeless and hapless ‘dreamer.’

What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity?
Facebook.

But there’s loads of distractions – sport / training / reading and critiquing other authors’ works / work itself.

What strategies do you use to deal with criticism?
I’m pretty thick skinned really. I think you learn to identify what is actually meant as constructive criticism, and what spiteful. I now have a band of writers whose opinion I value. So much so, I feel I can now do without the large online writing group that I subscribe to – you get so much conflicting advice, it can all get too confusing. Best to have a consistent pool of reviewers who are basically on your side, but not afraid to be blunt and to the point.
I make a definite point of asking them to be brutal in their feedback. Then, if any patterns of criticism appear, you know it’s a legit point..
Far better to have criticism now, at the WIP stage, rather than having it panned on Amazon or wherever after its publication.
Bring it on, I say!

Have you received any awards for your book? 
The short answer is ‘no.’ No awards. Nada. Nuthin. I guess it’s just not found its way onto the shelves of the bookshops frequented by Messrs Pulitzer or Booker.

Are you working on a new book at the moment? What are you up to nowadays? 
Yes … I’m working on my light-hearted fantasy. Working title is ‘Evhen & Uurth.’ This was the idea I had before writing ‘Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee’ as an exercise to see if i could actually write, and just as importantly, successfully market it.

Here’s the brief synopsis: A rather incompetent junior god and his beautiful minder; a bad tempered, cantankerous crow, and a psychopomp with a troubled past – why would anyone put the fate of the planet in the hands of this motley crew? The Dux Shrevas may just be having second thoughts.

Progress is slow, unfortunately. Trying to find time between work, training, tennis, baseball (watching) and an elderly cat with separation issues, is proving difficult. I’d like to think I can get a proper run at it and have it ready for autumn / Christmas (that gives me a decent window!).

Do you have any author appearances coming up and/or are you doing any books giveaways or contests?
I have no more promotional appearances for DD&RW planned. I will probably do another 99 cents promo in US in next few weeks. I’ve used Fussy Librarian in past. But while working on the new book, and running own business, there’s not a lot of time left for promo of the ‘old’ book. I DO know, however, that if I can get it out in front of the right audience, it WILL continue to sell. Only this week, this comment was placed on the FB page of Clean Indie Reads, by an established author:

Lia London-Gubelin: I still think that’s one of the funniest books I’ve read in years. Too bad I’m not Oprah to promote it for you with a single shout out… (15th May 2017)

Tell us more about yourself… Where did you grow up and what is your favorite/worst childhood memory?
I grew up in suburban Glasgow. It was a happy childhood – lots of playing outdoors and football. LOTS and LOTS of football (soccer.)
I honestly can’t think of any bad childhood memory. Nothing that’s haunted me ever since. (There is one helluva embarrassing memory from Primary four at school – age about 9 or 10: after watching a schools geography TV programme, teacher asked the class,
“Now, children – where is Bali?”
I had been daydreaming, but recalling something sai by the little kids over the road from my house, who went to a fee-paying, private school and had been educated in classical arts by their parents, I stuck up my hand to answer the question. Miss Wotherspoon (I’ll never forget that name) and proudly said,
“At the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, Miss,” at which point the classroom was filled with howls of laughter, and a warm glow emanated from my face.
(Yeah – where my parents and grandparents would take me to the movies (‘pictures,’ as we call them) or to see Glasgow Rangers, those little brats over the road were taken to art galleries (‘pictures,’ as I call them) and to see The Royal Ballet.

Do you have a favorite quote?
‘You can lead a horse to water, but if you can make it do the backstroke, then you’ve got something.’ (Woody Allen)

What is your favorite show on TV?
Sports programmes and cartoons mainly. And old-school UK TV comedies.

Would probably have to say Fawlty Towers and the old Sixties Batman TV series are my big favourites.

Favorite movie?
Life of Brian and Blazing Saddles. (I’m not big on movies, really.)

Favorite book?
Any by Terry Pratchett.

Who would you want to meet if you could? Dead or alive.
Have always said Neil Armstrong, Bob Marley and the wee sod who stole the milk and newspaper from my doorstep this morning.

Is there a talent you wish you had?
I’d love to be able to play an instrument. Preferably bass guitar or drums. Both my boys played in touring bands – I have no idea from where they inherited the ability.

What’s something about you that would surprise us?
I’ve had a gun pointed at my face during a bank raid.

Describe yourself in 3 words!
Short, funny, punk