I am, of course, referring to American English (AmE) and British English (BrE), but you knew that - didn't you? I mean, let's not beat about the gooseberry bush here, we (and when I say we, I mean the British people because I was born in London. I'm not a Cockney though - to be one of those you must have been born within earshot (that's a great English word, isn't it? Invented around 1600 when people knew how to speak English) of the sound of St Mary-le-bow church bells - and I don't think I heard any jangling when I was taking my first breath in the dank rat-infested birthing hovel beneath Hammersmith Hospital on a stormy night in 19... A long time ago, anyway.)
So where was I? Oh yes... as much as it pains me to say it, I have the suspicious feeling that we were beaten by the Americans in the American War of Independence in 1793 and thrown out of the Americas - I mean, if that's true (and I have no reason to doubt my source) we should have taken our language back, forbidden them to use it, made them develop their own language - like Spanglish, Esperanto, or Pidgin. There are lots of languages out there they could have had, why did they have to use ours? Although, I did see an unnerving report about dying languages here! At least English isn't dying. In fact, if I'm not too much mistaken, isn't it the International language? But... I was surprised to learn that it is only the third spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese (that's because they've got a lot of people - I mean, nobody can actually speak those Chinese characters, can they?), and Spanish (I know! I blame Christopher Columbus for that, but people probably only speak holiday Spanish to the tune of: "We're off to sunny Spain... Viva Espanya", or something like that).
Anyway, I think we were more than generous in allowing them to use our language after they beat us up and threw us out. All we wanted was more land and taxes - where's the harm in that? In fact, they probably owe us some money in reparations now for letting them use our language, but... and here's the thing - is the language they're using now what we let them have in 1793?
Well look, if you were writing a dead-tree book - you'd have an English version and an American version. Yeah, I know! I can hear the cogs whirring around inside that walnut you call a brain. Anybody would think we spoke different languages. I mean, I can understand the Germans or the Inuit (they wear some great coats and boots) having their own versions, but Americans! Some authors - and I'm not one of them - advertise the fact that their magnus opus has been translated into N (N = a random number of your choosing) languages. But... is one of those languages American? Are there English to American translators? Is it a well-paid job? What qualifications are you required to have?
Let's look at this phenomenon more closely. I remember Bernard Cornwell ( I love his Sharpe series - and Sean Bean was the perfect Sharpe in the TV series - I've got all the books (and the short stories) and the DVDs - brilliant! Oh, and if we'd made the Spanish speak English when we were tramping about in Spain then we'd be second in the spoken language list now - just a thought!) So, Bernie (I'm sure he won't mind me calling him that seeing as we're both authors) hated the fact that for the American version of Harlequin they changed the name to The Archer's Tale. At the time, I recall wondering why there was an American version anyway.
So, why is there an American version of a book? That's a very good question from the pretty girl at the back with a penchant for obscure languages! Well, for one thing, they use different words for the same things (the Kindle has a translator, you know! I mean, we watch American films, read American books, and eat American food, but we know that a truck is a lorry, an elevator is a lift, two weeks is a fortnight, a drugstore is a chemist, and a freeway is a dual carriageway - we don't need a damned translator for goodness sake - why do they?) The second thing is, they spell some words differently like aeroplane becomes airplane, honour becomes honor, mum becomes mom, etcetera. Still don't need a translator! Finally, quotation marks - the Americans prefer "double" quotation marks, while the British use 'single' ones, but does it really matter? Do Americans and British need translators? You know, when they're all at these G8 or UN conferences having a knees-up (do I need to translate that into party?), and the British Foreign Secretary is speaking political gobbledegook is there a translator telling the American Secretary of State what William Hague (you thought I didn't know who it was, didn't you?) said?
Let me conclude by saying that the Americans shouldn't call their language 'American English' (AmE) anymore. They've made so many changes to the beautiful language we were so generous to let them keep in 1793 that it isn't even English anymore. So, from now on, they have my permission to call their language "American", and we'll call our language (and I mean by 'our' - single quotation marks - the British people) simply English. That's fair, isn't it? And if the Americans don't understand some of the words we use, or don't like the way we spell and punctuate - they can have their "American version" - see if I care!
Here's the thing! Book titles are not copyrighted. So yes, I know Steve (King) wrote something along those lines - On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft - I've even got a copy somewhere under a load of boxes in the cellar (only kidding Steve - I ain't got a cellar). Anyway, I realised that I've been bleating on about marketing, promotion, sales, the few people who own a Kindle, etcetera., but... I've said nothing about writing. You'd expect an author to wax lyrical about his craft, wouldn't you? Well, here it is - my thoughts on writing. It's a general overview, because I'll write some more blogs on specific elements of the craft - don't want to put all my eggs in one basket - translation of the idiom here!
So, when I began to write, I read a few books and put mechanical pencil to paper (a bit like building a flatpack without reading the instructions). Well, I was still teaching then, so writing/reading time was limited (but I went on holiday to Turkey - phew it's hot out there! - where I started writing my first book and lay on a sunbed by the pool for two weeks writing - and, of course, drinking beer!) Needless to say, it wasn't the best book that had ever been written). Well, I thought it was (you do don't you?). Some agents didn't though (probably about a million!) Anyway, one day I was riffling (don't you just love that word?) through some magazines in a Charity book shop when I came across a bunch of old Writing Magazine and bought them for a song (I think it was My Way by Frank Sinatra!). I didn't even know that such magazines existed (I know, call me a bonehead - quietly!) So, I devoured all of them and sent off my subscription to get more. That was three years ago, and I still receive them every couple of months. Definitely worth a subscription because there are actually two magazines in one - Writing Magazine and Writers' News - and they're chock full of goodies such as special features on writing, words, grammar; interviews and profiles of real writers (yeah, that doesn't include you and me); how to's about fiction; poetry; freelance writing; novel and short story competitions; letters... I'm sure you get the idea, and no I'm not getting a cut of their revenue for saying how wonderful they are - I wish!
So, inside the pages of these magazines are a potpourrie (don'tcha just love that word?) of links to follow up, and one such link led me to YouWriteOn (YWO) an online peer review site. There are a few of them about, and I've tried a couple, but if I'm being honest - which I usually am - it's the best one of the lot. Not least because I'm a member, but also because it's run by an enterprising and very helpful young man called Edward (Ted) Smith. This is the way it works: You upload the start of your magnus opus (7,000 words I think it is now), or your short story; you review other people's work (for which you get one credit for one review) and someone then reviews your work (yes, there's a chart which caters for the competitive minded, but that's not the deal here). The people on this site will teach you how to write properly, how to develop an armoured skin and accept criticism, how to critique other people's work (and therefore your own); and... I'm sure you get the picture! There's also a message board comprising lots of interesting discussions, and where you can make a bucketful of friends. Also, I get my dead tree publishing done there - for price and quality they're the best - take a look at my dead tree books: Warrior: Scourge of the Steppe, A Life for a Life, and Untended Treasures. Don't just believe me though, here's a review of the site by Phoebe A Durand from Associated Content at Yahoo. If you do nothing else in your sad life join YWO today, and upload your magnus opus.
Now, you'd think that once I'd given and received a million reviews on YWO I would have been snapped up by the first agent/publisher that came along! Unfortunately, times are hard for agents and publishers (altogether now... arrrgh!), and they didn't feel confident enough that they could place my work (standard rejection letter), so I did more self-training and read some more books. I can heartily recommend these: Hooked by Les Edgerton - a book about beginnings; Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella; Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress; The Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld; Plot by Ansen Dibell; Description by Monica Wood; Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda N Edelstein, PhD; Description & Setting by Ron Rozelle; Make a Scene by Jordan E Rozenfeld; Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble; Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell; and Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress. This list is neither exclusive nor exhaustive, but I found (and still do find) these books useful in helping me to master the craft. If I had to choose one to recommend to you - I couldn't - it would be two: Hooked and Crafting Scenes.
So, there I was, a graduate of a whole series of books on creative writing - a well-read master of my craft! I put my first book aside (as you do) and set to writing another one, then another one, and... I've now written 11 in total with more on the way. I sent some of them to agents. Only one peaked their interest, but alas it was not to be. Another book was accepted for publication by a small press in America, but the lead in time was 18 months - too long. I published all 11 books myself as ebacks on Kindle six weeks ago (they're the ones on the right - I think it was the right decision, but only time will tell.
I write in a number of genres, and maybe I should have used a pseudonym for each genre! I don't know - a lot of authors do, but I wanted to use my own name (I wanted to become famous as me not as a pseudonym, but that's another blog). Are readers confused by an author writing in different genres? Personally, I prefer to know what else an author has written even if it is something totally different. Using a pseudonym feels as though the author is trying to fool the readers! Oh well, maybe another blog.
So, I keep writing, I keep reading, I keep learning. Always willing to listen to well-reasoned criticism, and hope readers who purchase my books are enjoying them. A couple more reviews wouldn't go amiss. I'd like to submit to review sites, but you have to wait about 3 years for your book to reach the top of the pile - sigh! It reminds of the slush pile.
Oh, I nearly forgot about all my other vices! Well, let's see, I can't smoke since my heart attack; I can't remember the last time I had a pint of Guinness; my wife says retired people don't have sex (I bow to her wisdom); I do eat the occasional truck-load of chocolate; I love serious murder mysteries and science fiction on television; I love the peace and quiet of no children; I open my laptop up at 5 in the morning and don't shut it down until about 9 at night; I love my five Shitzhu dogs (my babies); I love to... You can see that my other vices are fairly pedestrian, but what did you expect? Just because I write about serial killers it doesn't mean I am one... does it? Don't even answer that because I know where you live...
Here's the thing! It seems that only 52 people own a Kindle in America and 199 in the UK! "OK," I hear you say, "please explain?" Well, let's do the numbers. (You know I'm good at numbers from my brilliant mathematical calulations in the last post!)
So, the population of the UK is estimated at 62M (give or take a few illegal immigrants, an old bag lady called Daisy with two front teeth missing pushing an Asda shopping trolly around Hyde Park in London, and a family of half-humans living in the sewers beneath the British Library). So, that's a lot of people! Let's take 10% off that figure rounded up to the nearest million - Call it a cool 50Mil - there's lots of people in the UK who can't read (because they're too young, too old, crazy people, etc - you were thinking I was going to say because they were stupid weren't you? - Shame on you!)
Now, there are 307M people in the US (you needn't check, I've done my research - both sets of figures are from the 2009 Census!) So, that's a ginormous amount of people (can you wrap your brain around a figure like that?) Anyway, let's dispose of the same 10% and round up - and call it a humungous 250M (give or take those damned surfers who never register for the Census, a bag lady called Moffat who wanders around a Mall in Pensylvania dodging the CCTV cameras, and a family of rednecks who survived Burt Reynolds in the film Deliverance - that was an awesome film - and live in the backwoods somewhere in north Carolina!)
Now, I've got 11 books for sale (yeah really - you obviously haven't looked at My Books! Do that now before we move on - Okay?) So, as of today (and I'll leave you to work out when today actually is) I've sold 52 books in the US and 199 in the UK (not a lot spread over 11 ebacks really! Clearly, I am not a self-publishing phenomenon yet like Amanda Hocking or JA Konrath!) Anyway, if every one of those 50M in the UK bought a copy of each of my books that would equate to £143M (Now we're talking figures I can curl my tongue round! And that's just for me - no agent's cut, no publisher's cut, no production manager's tea girl cut - all mine, mine, mine!) But... (there's always a but) that's not an end to it! If every one of those wonderful 250M people in the US bought a copy of each of my books that would be (lines dogs up and starts counting paws) - $960.25M! - Say what? I didn't know figures like that existed. Bill Gates better keep looking over his shoulder at the top of the Forbes super rich list, that's all I can say!
I'm not even going to convert the £'s into $'s (or vikki-verki). Lets face it, when you've got that much money you don't need to get your hands dirty working out how much you've got in the bank, what the exchange rate is, or if you can afford the latest Kindle, do you? So, now that we've worked out how much I should be earning as an author, let's look at the actual figures and try to determine where its all gone wrong, shall (I love that word) we?
I'm not going to give you percentages either because you can easily see that a 199 books as a percentage of 50M people in the UK is a lot more than 52 books as a percentage of 250M people in the US. But... and here's the thing, because people in America aren't buying my books it makes it look like they haven't got a Kindle. Now, I hear you hollering from the rooftops that there might be other reasons such as... (you better be careful here - I don't want to hear you suggest that my books might be crappy stories, or suffer from poor writing and abysmal characterisation because I can assure you...) Anyway, it might be that only 251 (199 + 52) people (assuming that separate people bought a book instead of one person buying multiple books - how sad would that be!) have a Kindle - I expect Amazon will be dumping it as a failed experiment soon! Or, it could be that my marketing strategy is about as good as a baseball bat made from jelly!
Well, before we move on, lets examine the Marketing Mix (or the Four P's) for P's benefit (He knows who he is even if you don't!). Price - I spoke about this in my last blog, and at 99 cents it's competitively priced - some people might say a bargain! Product - superb stories, well-written, edited to a professional standard, eye-catching covers, attention-grabbing product descriptions, sample download problems sorted out, what more could I possibly do? Distribution - Amazon deal with this, but downloading an eback is a pretty simple activity for 99 cents! Which leaves Promotion! I spoke about this in my first post on social networking, but let's go there again and talk specifics. And to start with, here's Beth Barany from the Writer's Fun Zone.
Promotion! Let's unravel this Gordian knot. How can I promote my books, so that 50M people in the UK and 250M in the US buy all of them, and I become a legend in my own padded cell? As usual, things are never as straightford as they seem - that's why I've referred to promotion as a Gordian knot (Click on the picture to read the story of this bit of rope).
What we're trying to do when we promote our book is influence, inform, or persuade a potential buyer to purchase it. If we were rolling in those greenbacks (are they still green?) we could promote our book(s) on the TV or the radio, take out full-page advertising in newspapers and magazines, create an all-singing all-dancing website (like this one), pay to send enticing messages to mobile phones, employ an advertising agency to create an ad campaign like the Guinness Evolution advert (see the video below - brilliant. You Americans don't know what you're missing. I love Guinness, and I love this advert).
Anyway, we ain't got no money, so let's look at what else we can do to get our magnus opus to the unwashed masses. Much has been said (see my first post on social networking) about subtle promotion - going onto the Kindle forums, discussion boards, or other places where readers congregate, and joining in conversations as if you were just a regular guy. The idea is that the readers frequenting those places (and its debateable how many actually do because all the authors go to these dens of iniquity smoke hashish and annoy everybody) are unaware that promotion is taking place because you drop hints, slide oblique mentions into the conversation, have a link underneath your name, but for goodness sake don't ever say: "Buy my book." For one thing, that's not very subtle is it? And not only that, you'll get an email from Amazon saying: "Blatant self-promotion is not permitted."
Next up, we can get reviews done and posted on our books (from family and friends, readers, book review sites, and anyone else that will read your book and give you a review, because these tell the purveyor of fine ebacks that you've got the best book since the invention of the flushing toilet. Then, you can get your book placed on relevant sites. Here's one I prepared earlier: The Knowledge of Time: Second Civilisation. You can start a Blog like this one, but its no good writing drivel. If you're going to draw the punters in off the street (metaphorically speaking), you've got to make the site attactive, the writing scintillating, and it should smell and sound like you know what you're talking about.
You can Guest Blog, and here's a couple I prepared earlier: Mine and Josh Stallings. You can run a Featured Author programme on your site, which will attract visitors through tweeting on Twitter and liking/sharing on Facebook, as I'm doing here. You can give some books away, and here's another one I prepared earlier: Free eBacks. You can also give books away on Goodreads and a lot of other sites I might get round to if I ever stop writing blogs! Finally, there's special events like #SampleSunday, Murder Monday, Thrifty Thursday, and Freaky Friday. Yeah, there's probably something on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday as well, but hey... And, you could offer discounts, run a contest to get free copies of your book, the list is long and requires some innovative ideas.
So, let's get back to the 249.999M people in America and the 51.999M people in the UK who don't own a Kindle - because if they did have one of those nifty little ready things, they would have already bought and downloaded all eleven of my books, devoured them in a readathon, written their reviews as the reader agreement requires of them, and more importantly - I'd be eating a cheesburger and drinking a lime milkshake with Bill Gates in Planet Hollywood. The promotion - it can only be the promotion that's gone wrong! Note to self - must be more subtle on forums and discussion sites; must spread myself and my books about a bit more on other people's sites; must beg, steal and kill for more book reviews; must write more blogs and subtly direct people to My Books! Must...
Here's a thing! We have a hardback, a paperback, and a... what about an eback? (Did I just create another new word?) Anyway, the hardback costs about... Well, let's deal with a specific case in point: Michael Connelly's The Fifth Witness (I like to read Michael's books - I don't know if I'm being a bit forward calling him by his first name, but being an author myself - well, we're nearly family now, aren't we?) Anyway, Mike's book was originally priced at $27.99 - its now $14.28 - that's nearly half-price! As I'm writing this, its had 269 reviews (obviously some of the 5* reviews that were meant for my books were mistakenly posted on Mike's book!) As I was saying, being eagle-eyed, you will have noticed that he has a star rating of 2.5 and is No.3 in thrillers - Say what?
At face value, you would conclude that a lot of people have bought his book, but didn't like it - Mike's ability has deserted him. He's become a normal human being like the rest of us! But... all his other books are great, so what's gone wrong with this one? Well, he has 151 x 1* reviews - I know, you're thinking, This book must be the pits! Look more closely and you'll see that most of the reviews are complaining about the price of the book. That's why its nearly half price now, I suppose!
What appears to have happened here is that the power of the reader (or consumer) has forced someone (Amazon, Mike's publisher, Mike himself) to reduce the price of the book. Now, there are three points here - first, I saw a thread on Amazon discussion boards talking about the extortionate price of the book, and it appears as though these people have banded together (like people do in a democracy) to change things - it worked! The second point, is that we do live in a democracy and that people have power to change the status quo - if publishers forget that, then they're in for more of a dismal time than they're getting now. The third point, is that people power has forced publishers (which includes you and I by the way) to accept a hierarchy of pricing - hardback, paperback, eback - I know, there's audio, special editions, anniversary editions, etc., but let's stick to the basic three shall (I love that word) we?
So, if hardbacks are $15 (or thereabouts - I did a quick straw poll of some new books: Lisa Scottoline - $14.73; Danielle Steel $16.46; Maeve Binchy $14.70; Kathy Reichs $16.25; JR Ward $16.21). You get the idea, I'm sure?
And paperbacks are $10 (Edward Rutherford $11.08 (but this is a big damned book); Stephanie Meyer $7.99; JA Konrath and others $9.99; Rick Riordan $8.99). So, let's say $10 - you agree? Of course you do. We're not doing a scientifically significant experiment upon which rests the fate of the world for goodness sake!
Have you got there yet? I've been straw polling famous writers - I know, but unfortunately neither you nor I are famous (I say you because I doubt that anybody famous is reading my blog). Waiting in the wings we maybe, searching in our pockets for the door key, knocking on the dimpled Georgian glass, but sadly - not famous yet. Now, you may ask yourself why I'm not famous (you've got no chance, so we won't talk about you), but I should be famous by now - that sounds like a future blog if I'm not too much mistaken!
Let's look at book shops shall we? In America you've got a bucketful of book shops, but here across the pond our book shops are limited to Waterstones and WH Smith. I suppose if I had the urge to get on a train and go to London I might be able to find a few more, but now that I'm retired my wife says I shouldn't be getting urges anymore. So, When I go to the local town I womble around the Charity shops and pick up the latest bargains. I do go into Waterstones to see what's new, but I can't afford to buy anymore. And anyway, why should I when, in a month or so, I can get the book I want for a pound in a Charity shop? Am I being mean? Do you think that I'm contributing to the demise of the book-selling industry? The trouble is, its not just me is it? Everyone's doing it! And then there's the eback. I don't know if you've noticed, but ebacks reside in virtual book shops? That would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that ebacks are like a book-eating virus!
As an aside (I do a lot of that don't I? - Wander off the subject I mean - its called getting old!) Do you know what that RSS feed button is for? I didn't, and because of that I ignored it (always a good strategy with technology you don't understand!) Anyway, I was looking for a 'Subscribe to my Blog' button, but you know what - that's what that damned attractive RSS feed button is for! Ha, I looked on the Internet - as you do - and it was a simple matter to find out. Here's a webite that explains it in stupid people language: WiseGeek. So, if you want to know when I post my blogs - click the damned button!
So, the hardback appears to have found its level at $15, the paperback at $10, and the eback (for famous people at least) at around $5! - Nice and simple hierarchical pricing structure - except... You and I are still not famous, so we can't price our ebacks at $5 until we are (which for me will be soon, but you... Well, you might have to wait awhile). Not only that, but I'm sure you've noticed that there's been a veritable flood of ebacks published on Amazon since the release of that infernal Kindling machine! This, in effect, (much the same as everyone having degrees reduces their value) has devalued the eback - especially indie ebacks like ours. So, here's the thing - there's so many indie ebacks out there that if you try to put a $5 price tag on it - you'll get very few sales. (And I'm not even going to mention the gazillion free ebacks that some thoughtless people have made available, which devalues our brilliantly written, suspenseful, thrilling ebacks still further).
Remember Mike's The Fifth Witness? And the power of the people? Well, they've forced us to price our ebacks at 99 cents (or thereabouts)! Metaphorically (and financially) speaking this is the thin edge of the wedge. I mean, some people take a year or more to write a book (I churn them out every four months - and don't say, "Yeah, it shows in the poor writing, the crappy plot, and the one-dimensional characters," otherwise you and I will fall out you unfamous person). So, after a year of writing the best book you've ever written, sweating cheap plonk and doner kebabs, writing until your hands were bloody stumps, the final nugget of gold is priced at 99 cents - Say what?
Let's do the numbers working on a year to write your book - that's 0.99 divided by 365 = 0.0027123 (Yes, I write on Christmas Day!) - I didn't realise that such a small number existed! So, seeing as we've been rounding up - or in this case rounding down - that means you're getting a daily wage of - NOTHING! I hope you haven't got a wife, mortgage, kids, or a parrot to support because I have the eerie feeling you're going to starve and end your days in a cardboard box under the railway arches. And not only that, poor people very rarely become famous! I'll be all right, I've got a very generous pension, no mortgage, my son's left home (just in time before I murdered him), and my wife's on a fat-free diet. So, where do we go from here? Well, lets face it, there's only upwards left to go isn't there? Fame and fortune awaits both of us - if we can just live long enough to grasp it with our sweaty hands!
So, here’s another thing! When you upload your book onto Amazon, you have to add tags. I know... you're thinking, Tags - I've heard of them! And you'd be right. Tags are part of the online bartering system, "You tag mine and I'll tag yours," is the mantra of the tagaholics (did I just create a new word?)
You can have a maximum of 15 (tags that is), and these tags should relate to your book, but here's a website that explains it a lot better than I ever could: http://bit.ly/eELton - Good job Mrs Kennedy who doesn't even know I'm directing traffic her way! Now, you might think that's an end to it - tagged, done, finished, caput, terminus! Well, Grasshopper, (Do you remember that TV series from 1967 called Kung Fu with David Carridine in? I loved that, but... let's not start veering off into the uncharted territory of my memories). I can tell you that is not an end to it, not by any stretch of the imagination (and let's face it, Grasshopper, you have a bucketful of imagination). I hope you're sitting comfortably, because this tale could meander down smoggy lanes and stretch late into the night? Amazon.com seems to be reasonably stable, but Amazon.co.uk is really flakey. Sometimes the tags are there, and sometimes they're not. (When they're there they're very very good, but when they're not they're very very bad - sorry couldn't resist!)
Also, you have to sign in to do anything with these tags - you're thinking, Do I sign in? Well, if you don't you'll be wandering around forever looking for the revolving door. (Do you remember that Star Trek: Next Generation episode called The Royale where Riker, Data, and Worf are stuck in a Casino? Well, it'll be a bit like that. Oh yes, I'm a Trekkie - they should bring it back. Somebody should start a petition!) "Is that the end?" you're asking. No, no, no... we have a long way to go yet, Grasshopper And don't think you can sign in on Amazon.com and hop over the pond and use it in the UK (or vikki-verki for that matter), because you can't, Grasshopper! (Grasshopper was David Carridine as a bald-headed boy being educated by Shaolin monks in the origami of Kung fu, or was it feng shui...?) Anyway, if you want to tick the tags on both sites you have to sign in twice.
Now, we haven't even addressed the reason why your book (or for that matter your vibrator, or perfume, or... have you seen that book called Dating my Vibrator - how desperate is that?) has got tags. I'm reliably informed that its so readers can find your book - stop laughing Grasshopper! You're thinking, The tags are there, why haven't readers found my book? And why aren't I a millionnaire already with a Jacuzzi, radio-controlled garage door, and a stair lift? Well, Grasshopper things are never as simple or as easy as Rubik's cube (Could you do it? I swivelled it for what seemed like my whole teenage years and never even got close! I think I've still got it somewhere...) Anyway - where was I? Oh yes, vibrators... no no, readers finding your book - Yes, that's the deal. You've got your tags listed, they're a mixture of most-used and unique as advised by Mrs Kennedy above, so go on - pretend you're a reader - type in one of those little tag suckers - did you find your book, Grasshopper?
"No, Master," you say to me. "What lesson will you learn me today?" (He used to talk like that, you know - with a high-pitched voice that I can't quite master anymore). I've written 6 books about serial killers (and a number of others about other stuff as well - Link here: http://bit.ly/gcNL94), and I've put 'serial killer' as a tag on each one of them. Go on, Grasshopper, guess what happens when I type that tag in the search box? "This is a trick question isn't it, Master?"
You're getting the hang of this, Grasshopper. Well, let me tell you the answer because the hands of the clock are in danger of moving backwards. I go to my book http://amzn.to/dKPVOe and it tells me its lying at a respectable 25 in the serial killers category, but typing 'serial killers' in the search box reveals a list where my book is not No. 25! Now, at this point you're thinking, I hope he's got a ball of golden thread with him because he's in a maze, inside a Japanese puzzle box (Have you seen one of those infernal devices? I had one as a kid. Here's a link: http://amzn.to/h7A5EL). So, if you actually look under 'Product Details' (of my book!) the route to actually navigate to this particular book in Serial Killers is: #25 in Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Social Sciences > Law & Disorder > Issues > Serial Killers - Say what?
Exactly! I rest my case, Grasshopper! Now, you may not be the most colouful marble in the marble bag, but if someone can tell you how a reader finds my book I'd be happy to let them download a free copy of any one of my titles - Ha, easy money!
There’s also a Like button, but what does 'Like' actually mean, Grasshopper? Does it mean, I like the web page? I like the book cover? I like the fact that I actually made it here and found your book? I like your book even though I havent read it? or... I like yours because you liked mine? I know what you're thinking, but let's keep it clean shall we? (Have you noticed no one uses 'shall' anymore - except me, I use it a lot so that the word shall not die out)! So, when you press this 'Like' button it changes colour (nifty or what?) and the number inside increases by numero uno (didn't Schwarzeneggar say that one time in the Terminator? I still watch those movies, you know - Call me a deranged psychopath, but those suckers are some of the best films ever made!) Oh well... when an actual reader works his/her (PC) way through the convoluted tunnels of the labyrinthine Cretan maze at Amazon, they'll see that a numero uno person likes your book - Great, or what?
Readers may like to (play on words there if you were reading so fast you didn't notice - slow down, Grasshopper) comment on whether anybody takes any notice of this 'Like' button - No Grasshopper, I'm not giving away anymore damned books - I mean, they're already 75p/99c (+VAT/Tax, handling charge, wireless fee, production manager's cut, lighting boy's wedge, or whatever). If that isn't a bargain I don't know what is. "A future blog, Master?" - Damned right, Grasshopper!
Finally, let's expound on the subject of reader reviews. Your hundreds and thousands of fans – once they’ve finished reading your book – can write an honest, but glowing review saying what a wonderful story arc it had (that’s a beginning, a middle, and an end - to the unwashed, or should that be uninitiated?) How the plot was riddled with conflict – rising action – climax – falling action – resolution, and threaded itself inexorably to that unputdownable ending (Did you cry at the end of Titanic? Not me - real men don't cry!)
"Are you still talking about reviews, Master?" Forgive me, Grasshopper, an old man's memories sometimes impinge on everyday life. So, that pesky reader - who downloaded your book for a bargain 75p/99c and read it twice because they couldn't believe anybody wrote so beautifully - is in mid-utterance telling you how the characters are multi-dimensional, believable, and utterly compelling. How they were sat on the edge of their seats, biting nails that had long since withered away - essentially, they were rooting for the protagonist and his Moll (Is anybody actually called that anymore? I remember watching Bonnie & Clyde - watch the brilliant ending with Warren Beaty and Faye Dunaway...)
"Don't wander off again, Master." I'd give you a clip round the ear if I was still allowed to do that, Grasshopper. So, reviews - two quick points because you've got your initiation ceremony soon - where you walk on red hot coals and pick up a burning cauldron with your bare arms - Remember, pain is all in the mind! "Thank you..." Stop interrupting me, Grasshopper. The first point is, can we believe the number and content of reviews? Well, let's say there are 25 x 5* reviews, which is what you expected anyway, but hold on... I've heard that all 25 of those reviews were written by family and friends. "Surely not, Master?" Yes, I can see the shock chiselled on your innocent boyish face, Grasshopper. Who would do such a thing? Unfortunately, readers (who have had the good fortune to stumble upon your book) don't like books that ain't got at least five reviews. Here are two links: Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk - Scroll down the list of my books (yes, I know it appears to the unwashed (or should that be untrained?) eye as if I'm shamelesslessy plugging my own books, but there's a valuable lesson to be learned here, Grasshopper).
"Is it time for a lime milkshake yet, Master?" Nearly, Grasshopper. As you can see, my books have been strutting their stuff on Amazon for a month now, and (apart from not being a multi-millionnaire like Amanda Hocking) they've hardly had any reviews. You can rightly conclude from this that I have no friends, and my family can't read. At this point, let me also formally thank those readers who 1) have bought and read my books, and 2) posted a review on Amazon - What more could a writer ask for? "More sales, Master?" Damned right, Grasshopper!
The second point, is that... Oh yes, where are the reviews? Those pesky readers buy your book, read it in one sitting thrilled at the wonderful... Anyway, why don't they post reviews? Don't they understand that part of their reader responsibility when they hand over the extortionate amount of 75p/99c is to write and post a review on Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, Barns & Noble, Diesel... Is it idleness? A laissaiz faire attitude - init? Or, does it go deeper than that? "What do you think the answer is, Master?" The fullness of time, Grasshopper, the fullness of time...
Here’s the thing! Now, it might be that my eleven ebooks are total rubbish, and although I’ve had a couple of harsh reviews about two of my books because I like sex, I have had some 4 and 5-star reviews of two of my other books. Reviews, however, are not the subject of this blog – although reviews do deserve a blog of their own, and I will put index finger to keyboard in the near future.
For my first blog I'd like to talk about the dilemma that is ebook marketing, promotion, advertising, etc. There’s been a few people blogging about this black art as if they knew what they were talking about – do they? How did they find out? Where’s the objective evidence? I’ve got a PhD, so I know about research, objective evidence, statistical significance, etc., and I haven’t seen the figures – show me the damn figures to prove that any of it works.
Social networking it’s called – Facebook, Fan Pages, Twitter, Kindleboards, Amazon Forums, Bookbuzzr, Goodreads, but there are thousands (maybe millions) of sites out there, and new ones sprouting up every day. Here’s a link to get you started: http://traffikd.com/social-media-websites/ Also, there’s guest blogging, featured author, featured book, ebook giveaways, etc.
Call me a whore, but I ventured down this road into purgatory. I joined Twitter http://twitter.com/ (timellis13) and started tweeting, retweeting, following and being followed, but did it result in any of my ebooks going viral (definition here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viral_phenomenon)? The answer – in case you were wondering – is NO!
I’d joined Facebook http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=1117655869 way back when, but hadn’t bothered with it. Then, when I Kindled all my books, I thought I’d have another stab. I joined Writing Kindle Books – a group of likeminded ebook authors who chatter, tag, like, tweet, moan, groan, love, share, and Digg each other like any extended family. I’ve made a lot of friends, but has the word got out about my books? Have just one of the wonderful titles on offer shot off into the stratosphere? The answer – in case you were wondering – is a down-to-earth NO!
I saw a FB friend with a widget, and I lusted after it. I joined the free part of Bookbuzzr or fReado – there’s a premium (pay) membership as well - and I uploaded all my books onto the site. I got those nifty widgets. Here – take a look – http://timellis.weebly.com/my-books.html – do they make you want to read, steal, download, or otherwise purloin my books? Have these widgets (and the automated tweets) resulted in a conflagration of sales (a fire sale)? The answer – in case you were wondering – is NO!
The Amazon Kindle/book forums were the place to be. Like Danny Gillan http://susannefromsweden.wordpress.com/ I ventured on there, hunted out the UK and USA forums for the different genres I write in, made some acquaintances in the fantasy forum, advertised my books, but to a large extent the squatters in the threads made it quite clear that authors promoting their books are lower than a snake’s belly and viewed as the second coming of Bubonic Plague (definition and nice picture here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubonic_plague). Anyway, I persisted, until I got an email from the wonderful people in Customer Services at Amazon saying my posts were not posts, but blatant self promotion and if I didn’t stop it my forum rights would be curtailed – told off good and proper. I tracked over a Baker’s dozen of threads and received notification by email of new posts – everybody was doing it, but they picked on me! I’m not tracking any threads now. I’m not posting on anymore threads either – I know when I’m not wanted. Did this embarrassing sortie into the Amazon jungle of forums result in me being compared to Steig Larsson, JRR Tolkien, Arthur C Clarke, or any of the other dead greats? The answer – if you were wondering – is a resounding NO!
I went on the Kindleboards. I got told off because I had too many books – the covers looked very nice all lined up next to each other – but apparently, I wasn’t meant to advertise on any forum except the self-promotion forum. I chatted, introduced myself, talked about esoteric things, made observations, asked questions, jumped from thread to thread with casual abandon, exuded wonderfulness, but did any of my books become bestsellers, a top-ten chartbuster, a mover or a shaker? The answer – if you were wondering – is a Top Ten NO!
I gave some books away: http://indiebookblogger.blogspot.com/2011/04/free-ebooks-galore.html, and put myself about a bit: http://indieebooks.blogspot.com/2011/04/knowledge-of-time-second-civilization.html?spref=tw, and in a couple of other places that I can’t remember (note to self – must write things down!). Did these forays into the blogosphere turn any of my books into blockbusters? Was my email clogged up with agent’s begging to represent me, or publishers offering me six-figure advances, or Steven Spielberg wanting the film rights to at least one of my books? The answer – if you were wondering – is a big fat NO!
I could talk about Amanda Hocking, but I’m not going to. She’s now signed for a traditional publisher so she doesn’t have to do any Social networking. Now there’s an idea!
This is my incursion into blogging. Will it result in sales, spikes in the Excel chart, emails from Amazon saying I'm now in their Top Ten all-time favourites and they'd like me to come back to the forums? The answer - if you were wondering is - let's wait and see!
Please feel free to tell me if I've missed something, or you've been offended by anything I've mentioned. And if you like it, feel free to Tweet and Share - you never know - I might get a sale!
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.