So, here's the thing! A nice lady reviewer of one of my books complained about me using 'stood' instead of 'standing', and 'sat' instead of 'sitting'. She also mentioned a few occasions where I'd missed the apostrophe off it's to signify 'it is', and one incidence of putting 'aloud' instead of 'allowed'! Okay, I hold my hands up to these latter minor transgressions, but... and here's the thing - I didn't know about the 'stood/sat' and 'standing/sitting' usage. I know, you're thinking, WHAT, the guy has a PhD, two Masters degrees, is a qualified teacher, and has written sixteen books! Well, first of all, let me say that I'm not using the following explanation as an excuse, merely as an explanation.
Apparently, it's a Northern thing. Some have said it's dialect, but it's not dialect it's simply the way people speak. Well, I come from Manchester, and we say 'stood/sat'. Now, when I say, "We" that's not strictly true. My wife is also from Manchester and she doesn't say it, but when we discussed this issue yesterday she said she'd been taught the correct usage at school. That revelation brings up a number of issues. First of all, we could blame her for not telling me! I mean, after thirty-something years (I can never remember how many - and I hope she doesn't read this!) of marriage you'd think she'd have corrected me when I said something like, "I was stood behind the bar helping myself to a pint of Guinness" instead of, "I was standing behind...", or "I was sat watching Manchester United thrash Arsenal 8 - 2" instead of, "I was sitting watching...", but the evidence for such finger-pointing is a bit tenuous to say the least.
Okay, if she learnt it at school why didn't I, you could ask? And you'd be quite right to ask too! The trouble is, it was probably one of the days I wasn't there, and I wasn't there a lot of the days I should have been there. My mates and I used to wag it, bunk off, play truant. In fact, I left school at 15 when the actual school-leaving age had been increased to 16. I did go back to get my razor and little Gideon's Bible, but otherwise school was a complete waste of time for me. I was in an all-boy's prison... school (Freudian slip, or what!), I mean how can they put a boy with raging hormones in a school surrounded by boys? And... worse than that, they put an all-girl's school across the road. What I did learn at school were the concepts of magnetism, torture, and corporal punishment. Yeah, unfortunately I was seen smoking a cigarette and strutting my stuff past the girl's school when I should have been in lessons. Needless to say, I got six of the very best for the privilege!
So, you can probably guess, based on the aforementioned conditions under which teachers attempted to 'learn me good', that I didn't learn a lot. In fact, I obviously missed the lesson on the correct usage of 'stood/standing' and 'sit/sitting', but you know what they say , "You're never too old to learn!" And it's true. I started doing my Masters degrees (Oh, I was able to get into University because I'd done a lot of edumacation in the Army in terms of Maths and English - and a lot of other stuff as well - but I obviously missed the lesson on correct usage again!) when I was 40 years old, and didn't finish until I was awarded my PhD in Educational Management at Lincoln Cathedral on a cold January day at the tender age of 51.
Anyway, after my sloppy English had been pointed out in no uncertain terms by the wonderful reader, I did some research! Hey, if there's one thing I know how to do - it's research. And you know what I found out? Of course you do - I found out the correct usage of 'stood/standing' and 'sat/sitting'. So, I'm thankful to the reader for pointing my error out because I genuinely didn't know! And... you wonderful readers, don't think your reviews are ignored! Oh no, they're taken very much to heart by us writers (OMG I'm a writer!). So, when you say that, "Your book sucks", you may as well go round to the author's house and stick a twelve-inch knife through their heart because that's the effect it has on us! It's as if you've put your grubby hands in the baby's buggy and throttled the ugly creature... I won't carry on with the analogy, but I'm sure you get my drift. Now, I'm not saying don't write a truthful review, but you could be gentle with us poor half-crazed writers huddled round the braziers trying to keep warm as August turns to September. I write my books in about 4 months (don't say, "It shows" like that!), but others take a year, two, three, or more, so in effect what you're saying is that a writer has wasted a large chunk of their life creating a lead balloon, a concrete parachute, a chocolate fireguard or teapot, a ... - don't you just love idioms?
Anyway, after I'd worked out the correct usage of 'stood/standing' and 'sat/sitting' (because its not easy let me tell you) I revisited The Wages of Sin and made corrections - there were a lot of them! But you you know what - now I'm using two words instead of one to say the same thing! And... after using the incorrect terms for over 40 years it just doesn't look right, but I suppose I'll have to bite the metaphorical bullet to keep you wonderful readers happy. If other writers can get it right, I'm sure I can. So, I suppose I'd better look at the other books I've writ and correct them - don't want people thinking that those who come from north of the Watford Gap services (pictured) can't write proper King's English, do we?
You know what else the woman said in her review? She mentioned an editor/proofreader! Well yeah, one of those would be great, but contrary to popular belief - they cost a lot of money, and for starving struggling authors such as myself it's a big deal. Not only that, when I first started writing, I sent six chapters of a book to an editor who suggested changes etc., and charged me an arm and a leg for doing it (I think - £180), but you know what - she was rubbish. Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but once I started teaching myself how to write properly - after I'd written three books (It's a man thing - we read the instructions after getting the flatpack out of the box and trying to put the damned thing together!) I found out that I'd paid £180 for a shoddy service. Now, I do it myself. Hey, I miss the odd 'its when it should be it's' or 'aloud when it should be allowed', but generally speaking, I'm a damned good editor and proofreader. Not only that, even the professionals get it wrong - the amount of traditionally published books I've read peppered with errors you could stack one on top of the other and make a skyscraper!
Anyway, to conclude! Now that I know how posh people from the South talk, I'll endeavour to write proper English from now on. I mean, whilst I'm sat sitting here thinking about standing up in a stood position, I could learn to be a proper writer instead of playing at it! Have a nice day y'all!
So, here's the thing! You've spent month's creating your baby - I know, the analogy of the birth of a baby has been used many times before in relation to creating a piece of writing, and I also know - because I was there, in the delivery room, at the birth of my son, watching the blood, the forceps delivery, the episiotomy, the ugly pointy-head thing splurge out, and hearing my wife screaming as if the gynaecologist was torturing her - that writing and publishing a book is absolutely nothing like giving birth, but bear down with me, and PUSH when I say.
So, you've written a blockbuster, a bestseller, a magnus opus? You've nurtured it, held it in your sweaty hands, talked to it, caressed it... Yeah, some writers are like that about their books. Anyway, after all the antenatal classes, the breathing practise, and carrying around a bowling ball in a sack, it's time to publish. You've written a blurb, and sought advice from those who know about those things; created a cover or paid someone a fantasmagorical amount of moulah to create one for you; edited it yourself or sent it to someone who say's they're an an Editor who charges exhorbitant fees to put in a couple of commas or take them out, sent it to beta readers who tell you that it's fantastic - the best thing they've ever read, so you decide now is the time! You wait expectantly while the midwife cleans the acid-drooling alien with an oil-soaked rag, you keep typing in the title on Amazon to see if its there yet, and then when you weren't looking, it appeared and people started downloading it. OMG! Your heart thrashes about abnormally, you have to breathe in and out of a brown paper bag (do they still make bpb's?), you lie down in a darkened room until your sales reach double figures.
You fret and worry that they won't like your beautiful baby, and lo and behold, they didn't. They said it was ugly, too short, too long, there were problems with punctuation, grammar, and formatting. There was far too much (or not enough) violence, sex and gore. You can't write sex scenes, romantic scenes, violent scenes. In fact, the general consensus was that you can't write at all, and should think about dancing, singing, acting, or possibly a job as a highwire act. It was over-priced, under-priced, at any price, so you made it free and that was far too expensive, but it shot up the free bestseller list - don't people just love a bargain!
You felt violated, betrayed, used and abused. You swore you'd never write another thing as long as you lived. Then somebody said your baby had beautiful blue eyes, a warm smile, that although it was still a monstrous abomination, it had some small redeeming features. There was a sliver of light in the all-pervasive darkness, you stopped drinking the alcohol, stopped popping the pills, crawled out of bed to the computer clutching the quilt to your flabby nakedness. You forced yourself to put one word in front of another again, to create sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters. Ideas were like stormtroopers trampling through your mind, characters rose up like wraiths in the mist and created conflict, mayhem, and emotional turmoil, stories with plots and twists snaked away into the distance like a yellow brick roads, and so the process began again.
You hadn't forgotten though, you would never forget. The wounds were deep, too deep to really understand the psychological damage that had been wrought by uncaring readers. Reviewers who liked the sound of their own reviews and took pleasure in trying to be funny with their one-liners. This time it would be different though, this time you would be prepared. Nobody would ever say you had an ugly baby again.
The darkness slowly enveloped you and you signed on the dotted line, Lucifer was your constant companion, but in the end you knew he was only after one thing - your battered and bleeding soul, and welcome to it he was. What good was it to you now? You had promised him everything if he gave you everything, and the sales started to peak, readers said how beautiful your new baby was, a top-six agency offered to sign you to a publishing contract that would make you a legend in your own mind. Indies, self-pubbers, and other strange creatures that live in the London Underground tunnels, began to use your name in their blogs, follow you on Twitter, wanted to friend you on Facebook. You were the talk of the town, men with burning eyes sought your company, took you to expensive nightclubs, for exotic meals, and bought you stylish gifts. You became a parody of yourself.
If you've read this far... All I can say is that you obviously have too much time on your hands. Get writing that blockbuster! You can't please all the people, all the time - Bob Dylan said that!
So, here's the thing! I took a few days off from the obsessive displacement activities of blogging, tweeting, checking my month-to-date sales, checking where I am on the Amazon bestseller lists, seeing who's above me and below me, and wondering why nobody in Vietnam wants to buy my books, to do some writing! I know, call me names like wordsmith, writer, or ink slinger, see if I care!
I'm at 20,000 words for my third Parish and Richards novel The Flesh is Weak (first chapter available here or there), and I've identified the title of the fourth book in the series: The Shadow of Death. Trouble is, I can't write fast enough. I know I'm reasonably prolific, but what I'd like is an autopilot (or should that be an autowriter?) - a button to press, which would allow me to write and do all the other things like eat, take a shower, slurp coffee and ginger beer, walk the dogs, sleep, watch some TV! Wouldn't that be great, hey! In fact, in my next blog I'll tell you about my writing day - excited or what!
The first two books in the Parish & Richards series are selling very well in the UK: A Life for a Life and The Wages of Sin, and one assumes being received well by those wonderful reader people, but sometimes one ponders the imponderable! Well, you do, don't you? Especially when you've sold a hundred books and nobody comes back to leave a 5* Review! I mean, what's going on? Now, some of you might be happy for readers to return and leave something less than a 5* Review. You might be driven - in your tortured minds - to say, "Hey, all reviews are good, helpful, and very wonderful!" And I say, "You're insane - get in that cell, and don't expect to see daylight anytime soon! Whoops there goes the key swilling down that drain!"
I've heard some readers say, "Yep, look at the reviews, take them to heart, make my choice based on: 1) How many there are; 2) The quality of 'em; 3) What they say about plot, characterisation, and the sustainability of the Amazon rainforests!" Other readers, however, sit in the middle, like those birds on the telegraph wire in Hitchcock's The Birds, wondering which person's eyes to nibble on first. Finally, there are those readers who say, "Reviews are subjective! One person's 5* is another person's 1*! Hey bozo," they continue in a high-pitched guttural wheezy type of voice, "books aren't kettles or ray guns! Now if you give a 5* Review to a kettle or a ray gun I might take some notice, but a book - go stick you head in the sand, I want to make my own mind up!" Which type of reader are you?
So, I thought, maybe if I change the book's categories on Amazon sales might pick up. Maybe I've got my books in the wrong categories and that's why they haven't gone viral! I mean, does anyone actually know how those categories work? You can only choose two when you upload your magnus opus, so maybe the two I chose were the kiss of death (oops, those idioms get everywhere), black book holes, or doorways into alternative universes! Before I focus on my mainstream crime thrillers, let me mention two others: Orc Quest: Prophecy (YA Fantasy) and The Knowledge of Time: Second Civilisation (YA Science Fiction). Both of which I think are pretty good, but have only sold a handful! Well, I scanned down the categories and realised there was a 'Juvenile' category - I know I should have spotted it before, but I was looking for 'Young Adult' forgetting that American was a foreign language!
Anyway, I thought this has got to be the reason sales are non-existent, so chose sub-categories within the main 'Juvenile' category and sat back rubbing sweaty hands and waited for fame and fortune to come knocking on my metaphorical cyber door. You're sitting on the edge of your seat drooling now, aren't you? You want to know whether sales soared, or if the books became scuttlebutt and went viral? Sorry to say - I've seen more movement watching paint dry! Changing categories hasn't made the slightest bit of difference!
In fact, I won't even talk about my crime novels, because changing categories hasn't altered their sales either. So, what's a guy to do? What innovative strategy should I use next? I see posts - often - asking about book promotion - where, how, who, what? I see indie authors frequenting padded cells - often - wearing straightjackets and flipflops and trading Viagra for cigarettes - they want to know how to reach their target audience - any audience - where to go, which best foot to put forward first, who's hand to shake using the secret handshake, or where the skellingtons are buried! Send your answers on a postcard to me @ here, but don't write in invisible ink, don't mention blogs, blog tours, guest blogging, forums, kindleboards, or anything that's been mentioned before because not only is it boring it also doesn't work, and if you're doing all those things you can't be writing - like wot I'm not now! Ta Ta For Now (or TTFN)!
So, here's the thing! In my last blog I started talking about one-star reviews and jubblys, but then got sidetracked by the Normal Distribution and investigating whether they applied to some of my favourite authors. The answer - if you were wondering - is not really! So, before you - yes you, I'm not taking the blame for everything - take me down a side road and have your wicked way with me again - I'd better talk about these terrible one-star reviews you've been getting lately! (I haven't got any, and before you rush off to rectify that, I don't want any either!)
Why would someone give your book a one-star review? Well, let's scrutinate (is that just the best word?) the possibilities. 1) It was unadulterated drivel! Oh my... (One of those three idiots in the Wizard of Oz used to say that, didn't they? Which one was it - the lion, the witch or the wardrobe - mmm!) So, you've written a book that either has no plot, boasts none-dimensional characters, you've treated the subject matter like a bull in a labyrinth, it reads like a shopping list, the spelling is atrocious, the grammar sucks, your punctuation is modelled on my blogs - Oh my... No wonder someone gave you a one-star review!
Let's examine some one-star reviews to see what motivates a person to circumnavigate the obstacles to reviewing a book! Now, I've lifted these off random fiction books from Amazon, and I hope there's no infringement of copyright, or trespass law, or squatter's rights, or whatever? And if there is, please don't sue me because I have no money, I'm just a struggling author trying to make ends meet...
I persevered with this book as I thought that somehow, somewhere, it will start to make sense and the plot will start to unfold. How utterly wrong could I be? I read this book but actually have no idea what it was about, who the main protagonists are or what the point was. Utter rubbish.
I don't usually review anything here but feel compelled to by the sheer awfulness of this book. As soon as the killer was intoduced I thought that would be stupid, that's the killer, sure enough I was right. The cops are all borderline retards FBI included. I'm a little depressed this book got published never mind sold well, I suspect the author might actually be a bit thick.
This was a horrific book with no substance, bad characters, and an ending that made no sense. Half of the book reads like bad porn and the other half is just horribly boring. None of the characters are likeable or even slightly interesting. The reviews are very misleading. I will never waste my time with this author again!
I don't even think that this was worth 49p. It wasn't even easy to read as the plot was laborious with no real reward at the end. It leapt from terribly cheesey cliched writing, to boring amounts of detail describing court cases, to wrapping up important subplots in one incidental sentence!
As far as I'm concerned, this book is just not very well written or thought out. Stilted dialogue, stereotypical characterisation, poor grammar and punctuation, all serve to disappoint from the very start. And with that in mind, as the scenarios became more ludicrous, I wondered why I was bothering to continue. I made it as far as a scene where the main character has a conversation on his mobile phone in an area that has had all radio signals blocked, then I gave up.
This is the worst book I have read for years. It is banal, the plot is lucicrous, the writing repetitive & the novel appears to be aimed at an audience aged under 12.
So, it seems to me that a book has to be pretty awful for a person to give it a one-star review. However, it should be noted that the 1* reviews quoted above are also counteracted by 5* reviews, which just proves that reviews are subjective. I suppose the trick to not getting one is to keep your drivel to yourself (not that the books from which the 1* reviews came from are drivel - I'm not qualified to make that judgement and I haven't read any of the books in question. Now, there were some interesting comments following the first part of this blog which deserve mention: 1) Readers only give reviews if they really like it or really hate it! There might be something in this. Certainly, controversial books such as Sugar & Spice by Saffina Desforges attract a large number of reviews - 127 in a couple of months (and sales - 50,000), whilst others have hardly had any - reviews or sales! 2) Reviews are subjective - one person's 5* is another person's 1*! Again, a valid argument - the amount of times some people have been surprised (on Amazon) by 5* reviews when they think the book is rubbish (and vikki verki) - books are not kettles (is that an insightful observation, or what!) 3) There are too many good books about to read rubbish books, so most reviews will be skewed towards the 5/4* - Again true! Why read something you're not enjoying (I don't) life's too damned short. What surprises me is that people persevere with a book when they're clearly not enjoying it - see the one-star reviews above! 4) As a reader, because reviews are subjective, I don't see the point in leaving a review (I'm going to throw my teddy bear into the corner!) 5) If I can't fairly give a 4 or 5* review I won't bother (you can read my books anytime). 6) I barely look at the Amazon reviews, I consider either personal recommendation or book blog reviews (so that's why authors want book blogs to review their books! I keep meaning to get some reviews don, but... See below!) 7) Average books don't motivate the reader to leave a review - I can relate to that. 8) I've downloaded two of your books, but haven't read them yet - WHAT? (That teddy bear is staying in the corner until...)
Before I sign off, let's briefly investigate the goings-on of these so-called book review sites. Now, I've listed quite a few on my page entitled Reviews, but I haven't really had time to peruse them in detail. However, a few observations: 1) If you type in the nice Mr Yahoo's engine 'Book Review Sites', you get back 'professional review sites' i.e. book reviews by professional writers and critics - they review 'proper' books! If you want sites that review 'indie books', one must type 'indie' into the engine. 2) Now, some people are doing a roaring trade in reviewing indie books, but... and here's the thing... apart from them being your average reader, what qualifies them to review books? I don't want anybody thinking that I'm having a dig or casting aspersions - nothing could be further from the truth - I see them filling a gap in the market. So, don't go grabbing my books by the dangly bits to tar and feather them! Not that you would, because you're all such nice people! 3) Most sites have a review policy, which states that reviews are unbiased, honest, and if you don't like the review - tough! Yes, I saw the tooings and froings of that author who got a bad review and then started effing and blinding at the reviewer - not really the way to go. Well, I've rambled on for far too long as usual, so I'm going to finish here, but... and here's another thing... seeing as you keep coming back to riffle through my offerings I'll write some more on Indie Book Review sites in my next blog. Later alligator!
So, here's the thing! What's a book review? You wrenched the very question out of my chocolate-stuffed mouth, Grasshopper. Well, let's scrutinize this phenomenon, shall we? (Have I said how much I like the word shall? I do - and I shall continue to use it!) Anyway, let's scrutinate! (You could retire on words like that).
I am, of course, referring to the wonderful Mrs Amazon's 5-star classification system for customer reviews (see picture on the left). I'd like to say that the picture was a screen grab of the reviews from one of my books, but alas it is not. This particular item has had 31 reviews - sounds like review heaven to me. The most I've had on one book is two reviews - I mean, what's that about? Anyway, I'm sure I will re-visit the lack of reviews further along in the blog. First though, I'd like to dissect the whole idea of reviews, because I don't want you to take them at face value. Ha, you're thinking: A review is a review, isn't it? Unfortunately, Grasshopper, no it's not. Read on, and all will be revealed.
Numero uno is the Five-Star Review. I can hear your breathing rate increase, you feel your chest getting tight at the very mention, perspiration breaks out along your hairline! "Oh yes, yes," I hear you moan. "Give me a bucketful of those." But... and here's the thing - Can you trust 5-star reviews? There's an article (yes, of course, someone has written about 5-star reviews. Let's face it, reviews influence sales, and if humans are involved in the review process then they'll find a way to lie, steal, cheat, and twist everything around to benefit themselves!) I know, call me a cynical old fool - but quietly please. Here's the article, which basically says that eliciting or posting dummy positive reviews is called 'shilling' - those fabulous Americans have a name for everything, don't they? (They also have a few other names such as: Amazon bombing, Sock puppetry, Astroturfing, and Seeding!) Well, I suppose it's because they invented them all! The British aren't like that, are they?
Anyway, I thought a shilling was an old British coin - just goes to show what I know! Only this morning, my wife and I were harping back to the good old days of the farthing, halfpenny, penny, threepenny bit (my gran used to save them up in a bottle and give my brother and I a handful when we went on holiday to Colwyn Bay in North Wales. There was an ice cream shop on the corner that sold the best ice cream in the whole world with bits of ice in it), the tanner (sixpence), the shilling (bob), the two-bob bit (florin), and the half-crown (we were poor, so I never had a crown - five bob). Those were the days - you could get four liqourice Black Jacks for a penny! They used to make your lips, gums and tongue all black, but they were great to chew on. Do you remember the Jubbly as well - I loved sucking on those babies in the summer - they made your lips and your tongue numb!
Anyway, apparently these 5-star reviews aren't all they're cracked up to be. If you're on the ball though, you can spot them: 1) If there are only a few reviews, assume that there is a good chance they've been planted by friends or foes (now hang on a minute - all my reviews have come from genuine reviewers - I have no friends or family - and I've only got a few reviews - dabs eyes with tissue); 2) If there are many reviews, act like a statistician, and start by dropping the most extreme comments; 3) watch out for similarities in style between reviews from people with different usernames, particularly if those reviews were placed about the same time; 4) watch out for people who are new users, or whose only reviews are on the same item; and 5) a sudden wave of five-star reviews after a more sustained run of lower ratings should provoke suspicion. Also, be wary of: 1) gushing praise; 2) advert-like qualities; and 3) repeated key phrases.
So, in my experience, getting reviews is like trying to push a piece of string uphill, or skydiving with a concrete parachute, or skating on thin ice, and equally impossibile pastimes! My books have been on Amazon for 8 weeks, but lets just take one book - A Life for a Life - which has sold 119 copies (in the US and UK), but has only attracted two reviews on the US site and two reviews on the UK site. I mean, why don't people leave a review? Is it overly difficult for readers to post a review? Some feedback from readers here would be useful? Maybe, after reading the book, readers are disappointed and just can't be bothered writing a scathing review? Maybe... Well, who knows? Certainly not me. I'd like a few honest reviews.
Now, when I say "honest reviews", I mean constructive reviews. Numero due (you're impressed with my grasp of Italian, aren't you?) takes me to the other extreme - the one-star review. Let's quickly mention the Normal Distribution again, Grasshopper! In any review system you would expect 68% of 3-star reviews, 13.5% of 2- and 4-star reviews, and 2.14% of 1- and 5-star reviews - that's the theory anyway! Does it work? Well, it's no use looking at my books because I've hardly got any reviews (have I already mentioned that?) So, let's examine some of my favourite books: 1) The Religion by Tim Willocks - he's got 47 reviews (41 x 5-star, 4 x 4-star, and 2 x 3-star)! The theory's looking a bit shakey already, but if you haven't read it you need to. 2) Lord of the Rings by an indie called JRR Tolkien - he's got 255 reviews (215 x 5-star, 18 x 4-star, 7 x 3-star, 7 x 2-star, 8 x 1-star). There's a distribution, but it's skewed heavily towards the 5-star review, but are you surprised? I mean, LotR is the best fantasy book ever! How could anybody give it a 1-star review? But.. and here's the thing... not everyone will like your book! WHAT? I know... shocking, or what?
I'm enjoying this! So, let's do one more for the road, but feel free to examine your own favourite books and see if the theory holds up! Let's look at 3) Steig Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which in my humble opinion was brilliant (as was the trilogy and its a damned shame he died, and died intestate). It has 938 reviews (that's a serious number of reviews) - (465 x 5-star, 211 x 4-star, 115 x 3-star, 56 x 2-star, and 91 x 1-star). Although still skewed towards the higher reviews, this distribution lends a bit of support to the theory. So, it might be that you have to have a whole bucketful of reviews before the theory holds up. Or, maybe the Normal Distribution doesn't apply to books! I think I'll stop there, because I have the habit of rambling on. I did want to talk about book review sites, but I'll save that 'till the next blog!
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...
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.