Marketing, Social Media and the 1970’s.

I read a lot about promotions and marketing, all in pursuit of selling my book, Floating in Space, to the unsuspecting public. Many marketeers recommend giving away free copies as a way of driving sales forward. Other marketeers are not so certain. A book is a product of many long hours, even years of hard work and for some, giving it away for free is not an option. For a registered tight wad like me that is something I go along with wholeheartedly.

Another reason is that at the moment I only have one book to sell. It’s not like having a trilogy or a series of books, where giving the first one of the series away will drive sales of the other books. Having said all this, I did run a giveaway lasting for three days in the hope that some new reviews might drive sales up but sales seemed to just run at their normal rate.

Reviews are important to an author. Quite a few readers have given me good reviews on Facebook but where I need them are on my amazon page where the buyers go to look directly at my book.  I suppose not being the pushy type works against me but I have recently added my book to Goodreads where readers with a Facebook profile can log on there and add a review. There are links on my Goodreads author page straight to amazon.

Dear me, bet Charles Dickens never had this trouble!

One of the nice aspects of Floating in Space is that because it has been born out of my past, as well as my imagination, reading it is a rather nice nostalgic experience for me, drawn back into the world of my youth, Manchester in the late 1970’s. Reading the book I can once again soak up the atmosphere of Manchester City Centre and remember those late afternoons and early evenings drinking in pubs like the Salisbury after a day in the office, or evenings playing snooker and pool after a shift going up and down the roads of Manchester as a bus conductor. Sometimes I can almost feel the polished wood of the bar in the working men’s club I used to frequent and even smell the cigarette smoke of the smokers, now a long gone sensation in British pubs. The past is inside all of us and I’m sure many people could do what I have done and take their past life, mix it up with a dash of imagination and some humour and write it all into a book.

So how easy is it to write a book like this? Well, not that easy, I can tell you. However, my book started life as a series of essays about my life in the late seventies. I started to compare the worlds of insurance and accounting and the world of passenger transport. Accounting wasn’t that easy in the seventies. Everything was added up by hand and entered into huge ledgers. There was the rough ledger where all the rough entries and working out and cash balancing was done and then it was all entered neatly into the big blue main ledger.

I am sure that today it’s a much easier process with software that does all the additions and calculations for you. One job that really used to tax me was arranging fire insurance for the offices rented by our tenants. They paid a percentage based on their office space. So for instance, if they rented 50% of the available space, they paid 50% of the insurance. There again, there were other tenants who rented a small office on the ground floor that measured 12 by 8. Now, try converting that into a percentage!

Coming back to the present day, here’s another set of maths questions. If I have 4,619 followers on Twitter, (correct at the time of writing although according to Twitter analytics, I get an average of 4 new followers per day so please make the necessary adjustments when you read this) why then don’t I get that figure following my blog? After all, all my Twitter posts lead, directly or indirectly, to this website. I recently had my Twitter page analysed by one of those writers’ sites that offer stuff like that. This is what they said.

Followers are generally people who just want you to follow them back. There’s no love there or loyalty.
Put it this way. 
Say you had a coffee shop and 2 people walked in:
person a) who is an ardent coffee fan and
person b) who came in basically to get out of the rain.
Who are you most likely to get a sale out of and be able to convince to join your email list to send them more coffee ideas?
Clearly person a) – they already love coffee right?
Person b) – harder work to convince them to do anything. Not impossible but definitely more work.
You need a bunch of person a)’s Steve.
The 2nd thing you may be doing ‘wrong’ is HOW you are going about trying to funnel those blog views. Let me give you some generic advice.
With all due respect nobody is interested in you. 
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that nobody is interested in any of us (so don’t take it personally!)  : )
People are interested in what YOU can do for THEM.

I have to admit, that’s a pretty shrewd assessment of Twitter. Everyone who is on there, with the exception of those who just want to Tweet to their friends about their social life, is out there to sell something, just, as my Twitter reviewer pointed out, as I am. I want people to read my blog and then perhaps think, “hey, this isn’t bad, wonder if its worth buying Steve’s book?” Bingo!

Just one last thought. There was no social media in 1977, the year in which Floating in Space is set but imagine if we tried to do the sort of things then that we do now on Facebook?  Suppose we went for a meal and wanted to share the experience with friends. We had to take a big bulky camera, take a picture of our meal, take the film to Boots or Max Spielmann or wherever, have the film developed, have the prints made and then get copies and send them out in the mail to your friends. By mail of course I mean mail, the Royal Mail, put the picture in an envelope, get a stamp and actually send it after adding a brief message for your followers -I mean friends- such as ‘this looks yummy!’

Social media was hard work in the 1970’s!

If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating in Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Writer’s block, Russian Women, and my In-box.

It’s great to have lots of extra time to myself now I’m semi-retired and for me as a writer, well, amateur writer I suppose, (and blogger) I tend to use a lot of that time for writing. The crazy thing is, when you get a nice quiet day, all your jobs done, they’re the jobs Liz arranged for me before she went out to work, it’s great to fire up the laptop and get cracking. The big problem though is this, what do I write? Yes usually ideas seem to just flow for me, especially when I’m at work and it’s all getting pretty busy.

Now I’m not at work and I’m not really busy, the ideas aren’t coming. I could tell you about my TV viewing but I did that last week. Then there’s dealing with semi-retirement but I did that one the week before. I have actually got twelve posts in my draft box but none of those seem to be calling to me, not one of the twelve is saying “finish me!”

One of the problems of writing on a laptop is that eventually, even if you are beavering frantically away on a new post, the internet will eventually beckon. What has been quite amusing this week is how a shocking and outrageous event on a United Airlines flight has spawned an increasing number of spoofs using footage from the movie Airplane. If you’ve been away holidaying in the jungles of Borneo and have been without wi-fi then you won’t know that on an overbooked United Airlines flight, the staff simply picked a passenger at random and ejected him from the aeroplane! Smartphone video footage of the incident has gone ‘viral’ as they say. How the airline will recover from this PR disaster is anyone’s guess but the poor fellow in question, hauled off a flight because they were short of a seat for the staff, must certainly be considering legal action and American lawyers will probably be queueing up to take on the job. Fame and fortune and an easy legal victory must surely await the man who takes that one into the courtroom!

Anyway, Internet surfing done, next is a ‘quick’ look at my emails. I see I have one from the National Westminster Bank saying there is a problem with my account and I need to click on a link and enter my password to get it sorted. As it happens, I don’t have a Nat West account so whoever you are with your beady eyes on my hard earned cash, this scam didn’t work but people are falling for these scams in increasing numbers. Never click on emails asking for your passwords and if you are not happy with any type of mail you receive, call your bank but don’t use any links or numbers in the suspect e-mail.

This Russian lady is probably an Internet Scammer!

Also in my inbox is yet another e-mail from a Russian lady wanting a relationship with me! Poor girl! I have been targeted lately by numerous Russian ladies and not long ago I e-mailed one of these women back and said, look, I think you have fallen for a scam. I’m not on any dating sites and I’m not interested in you. The lady in question, her name was Kristina and she even enclosed a photograph, wrote back a very long letter telling me about her life in a small Russian village, how she was orphaned as a youngster and how she loved my picture and longed to be with me.

Sometimes, when the light gets me in a certain way and I’m wearing my leather ‘pulling jacket’ I tend to think I look quite good, hardly in the Bruce Willis class but acceptable though hardly deserving of anyone’s longing. Not only that, my picture, as far as I am aware, is not on any dating site, Russian or otherwise. Anyway, I wrote back again, told the lady her dating site was a scam and not to pay them a penny, or a ruble more. She wrote quickly back that luckily she had come into a small amount of money and was ready to fly over to the USA to spend some time with me and although she would be low on funds she was desperate to see me.

Yes, I’ve always wanted to visit the USA but hopefully when it happens I won’t be bumping into Kristina from the Russian City of Izhevsk. Of course she could also be after another Steve Higgins, or even the Steven Higgins from Ventura California, who I am constantly advised by the My Life Backgound Monitor Company Dot Com, that important personal details of mine are freely available on the Internet! No they are not and my name is not Steven and the only person who calls me Stephen is my Mum and even then it’s Stephen and not Steven!

Of course some are my details are freely available, for instance my novel set in 1970’s Manchester! Click the links at the top of the page to find out more. Now, back to this week’s post, what can I write about?

Writing, Elvis Presley, and the Year 1977!

This has been an interesting week for me because it has been my first week as a partially retired worker! Yes, instead of the grind of six days on, three days off I have completely reversed the equation. Now I work three days on and six days off, a much more agreeable working pattern as you can imagine.

This should leave me with more time to relax, more time to drink beer, see old friends, drink beer, have meals out, drink beer and, well, you get the picture! It should also leave me more time to indulge in my favourite pastime; to write. I still have my blogs to produce and one day I hope to actually get round to finishing the sequel to Floating in Space.

The problem which arises there is that I have two favourite places for writing, well, not actually favourite places but places where I seem to be most creative, where ideas seem to flow. One is my car. I settle down in my motor, slip something relaxing in the CD player and after a while something will come to me and I either remember it, or if it’s a little bit more complicated I switch on my hand-held tape recorder and start blabbing away into it. (Just a minute, hand held device in the car, is that still legal?)

The other place is my work desk. As soon as I sit down and start to do some work, ideas start coming to me. Just lately we have had an internet ban at work so I tend to email myself at home with an idea or start off a word document and add to it as the day goes on. Now, as my hours at work have been reduced and correspondingly, my time in my car, I can see my output reducing.

Another issue is that at home, my laptop is at the centre of my universe. I use it for writing, for creating my videos and graphics and for editing my photographs. Now I put that sort of activity down as ‘creative work’. I’m sure you can see where I’m coming from but Liz on the other hand marks it down as ‘twatting about on my laptop.’ Now, you can see how a difference of opinion could occur.

Last week as I mentioned in my previous blog post, my brother and I went into Manchester to chat, have a meal, drink beer, and shoot some video. Now I did have something of a plan for the shoot. Floating in Space is set in 1977 and I wanted to evoke the feel of that particular year by mentioning some of the year’s events and characters. I had not brought my notes with me and relying on my memory was not a great idea. Later I realised I had forgotten to mention the most shocking event of 1977. The death of Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Elvis Presley was once one of the most famous people on the planet. The man who almost single-handedly started off the modern pop music phenomenon and yet by 1977 he could only really be considered as a sort of easy listening musician. His days at the cutting edge of the music business were long gone. Elvis was a religious man who hated drugs but at the same time was a drug addict, only he was addicted to prescription drugs. In his mind, drugs prescribed by a doctor were something different to illegal drugs. In some ways you can see where he was coming from but he would ask a doctor for a prescription of some pill and the doctor might only prescribe two boxes of the drug. Elvis would then go to another doctor and they, flattered by the situation of having Elvis as a patient, would happily write out another prescription.

Elvis had long lived in a sort of twilight world. He slept all day and was awake all night. A big problem for him was insomnia and he used numerous drugs to help him sleep. Being so famous meant that normal life was  hard for him. If he popped  to the local store he would cause a riot so he did everything at night. If he wanted to see the latest movie, he would pay the manager to open up the cinema during the night. On the day of his death he even paid a visit to his dentist at night, after all, everyone would bend over to help the King and to be on his payroll. Elvis took pills to help him go to sleep and pills to help him wake up.

Elvis’ gifts of cars to friends, family, employees and even fans was legendary. What I think is sad is that when the local car dealers knew Elvis was on a spending spree, they would hike up the prices of the cars to make an even bigger killing. Elvis and his stepbrothers, who worked for him as bodyguards and assistants had a favourite saying, ‘taking care of business’, but it was Elvis himself who took care of business for all his extended family, however, in 1977 his business affairs were looking a little rocky. His records were not selling as well as they used to and he was particularly poorly served by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker who took not ten percent, not twenty percent, but a whopping fifty percent of Elvis’ earnings.

Elvis was beset by numerous health problems and on the night of 16th August, 1977, they finally overcame him. He was only 42 and I remember being very shocked by the news. When told by a reporter about Presley’s death John Lennon could only comment dismissively ‘Elvis? He died years ago.’ Liz was in France at the time and Elvis only warranted a small inch high column in the inside pages of the newspaper. When she mentioned it to the owner of the newspaper he asked ‘who is Elvis?’ Perhaps even his considerable fame had not penetrated to the South of France.

Perhaps I should have talked more about Elvis in my video or more about the other events and characters of that year. Still, if you want to find out more about life in 1977, you could always buy my book!

Anyway, I’ll have to be off now, I need to do some writing  -sorry, some twatting about on my laptop!

Pinterest, the Lion, and a Visit to the Cinema

Pinterest
Pinterest is one of those social media sites that are a little different from other ones. You don’t shout out about what you are doing, you don’t tell people which bar or restaurant you are in or post pictures of your friends being silly. No, you post pictures of things you are interested in onto your various ‘boards’.

My Pinterest page has various boards mostly about subjects similar to those of my posts on this blog. I’ve got movie boards, TV boards, music boards and so on. My favourite board is probably my Cult TV board which has pictures, sorry pins, from TV shows like The Time Tunnel, Doctor Who, Department S and The Avengers. (Not the superhero Avengers but the John Steed and Mrs Peel version!) Bowler hatted John Steed and his partner Mrs Emma Peel were sixties icons who battled quirky criminals in the offbeat 60’s espionage series. Mrs Peel sported a nice line in leather figure hugging cat suits and dealt karate kicks and chops to the numerous villains that came her way.

What I’ve noticed lately though on Pinterest is things getting a little political. I saw a picture the other day and it was a picture of a woman in America holding a placard which said ‘Donald Trump is not my President.’ The best thing though was the comment underneath which said ‘I have a poster too which says Hilary Clinton is not my President and I know who would be right!’’ That’s democracy for you. Sometimes those you vote for get elected, sometimes they don’t. That doesn’t make the winner any the less legitimate.

Another pin I saw the other day was one of a series of pins about the Rothschild family and how they are mega rich and actually rule the world via their multi-billion dollar banking empire. I’m not sure how true that is but what is strange is that in the past, American millionaires like Randolph Hearst, Howard Hughes and Joe Kennedy all paid money into the campaign of their preferred candidate and in return the candidate, if he got elected felt bound to return the favour. The new President might pass a bill easing the tax burden for his oil millionaire supporters for instance or in the case of Joe Kennedy, a grateful Franklin D Roosevelt made Kennedy Ambassador to the UK. This time round in 2017, rather than favour a particular candidate, one of the millionaires has run for office himself –and got elected!

Lion
This week I went to the cinema for the first time in ages. The last film I saw at the pictures was probably the last Bond film. Actually no, it was the Bond film before that -Skyfall! This time Liz and I went to see the movie Lion. Have you heard of it? Well if you haven’t that doesn’t surprise me as I had never heard of it either as it’s not exactly the most hyped film. In fact even if you do a search on the web the word ‘Lion’ brings up all sorts of things and not necessarily this movie.

Anyway, back to our local picture house in St Annes. It is a pretty small one. The screens are more like a sort of big TV lounge than a cinema. When we visit there we always like to sit right at the front. You can stretch your legs out, relax and enjoy an unhindered view of the big screen.

I was looking forward to the usual Pearl and Dean advertisements and that little jingle that always accompanies their advertising sequence. It’s one of those jingles you remember from your childhood and lets you connect long ago cinema visits to your present one. Sadly it never came. There was a preview though; it was a trailer to the upcoming Lego Batman film. Yes, that’s right, the Lego Batman film. An animated movie made using . . Lego. I’ve heard of product placement but this is taking things to a new level!

Anyway, back to the main event, Lion. Liz had heard about the film from friends and had been warned to bring plenty of tissues. Straight away that had set off a warning bell for me. I knew this wasn’t going to be the film for me. Wrong! Lion was one of the best movies I have ever seen! Well shot and acted, the film tells a moving and original story about a young Indian lad and his brother who go out collecting coal to sell and bring some extra food back to their poor family. One night they go into the local railway station where the older of the two brothers looks for work. Seru, the younger boy is tired and falls asleep on the platform. Later he wanders onto an empty train and when he awakes later the train is carrying him to some distant place far away from his family.

I won’t say any more about what happens but if you have an ounce of feeling in your body believe me you will shed a tear or two at the end of this movie.

Make sure you look out for this wonderful film.

 

If you liked this post then why not try my book Floating in Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

The Problems of a Self-published Writer.

quotescover-jpg-91I was at a pub quiz the other week and one of the questions was ‘name an author who has written 723 novels.’ Seven hundred and twenty-three novels. Can you believe that? The answer, in case you didn’t know is Barbara Cartland. She has a place in the Guinness book of records and is known as one of the world’s most prolific authors. At the other end of the scale there is me, Steve Higgins, with my one book, Floating in Space.

I have probably written more words, in my blogs and tweets and other social media posts promoting my book, than are actually in the book itself. Oh well, that is one of the facts of the self-publishing world: Writing a book is one thing but marketing is an entirely different ball game altogether and of course the competition is fierce with more than 5000 new books released on Kindle every day! Is it worth it you might ask? Why do I do it? Well, quite simply I do it because I like doing it and when the enjoyment has gone I’ll start thinking about doing something else with my spare time.

Nothing improves and hones your writing skills more than the writing process itself and as a blogger with a deadline of 10:00 am on a Saturday morning I have even started to feel like something of a professional writer. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to log into WordPress and find someone has liked one of my posts, or better still has left a comment. I’ve always thought that an intrinsic element of the human condition is finding that out that there are others in the world who think the same way as you do and like the things that you like.

I do tinker quite a lot with Floating in Space and some time ago I added a version which hopefully corrected the book’s various grammatical mistakes and I also added a small index to help explain 1977 to my younger readers. Recently I went a step further. I’ve not always been completely happy with the cover of my book. I used the cover designer built into createspace and KDP select to create a cover from various stock elements but I’ve always thought I could do better.

Using the web site canva.com which has a Kindle cover template I designed a new cover using a background photograph I had taken myself. I’ve always envisioned the cover as being a lovely cloud filled sky and the image of a man floating there, hands outstretched. That image is the whole essence of floating in space and although I’d like to explain further I don’t want to give away the ending for any potential readers. Anyway, there is no floating man on the new cover (yet) but there is a rather lovely cloud filled sky. I was pretty pleased with the result so I exported it to Kindle and there it was, working pretty well I thought as my new cover. Take a look below at the old and new versions.

picmonkeybook-collage

Old cover to the left, new cover to the right.

I then added it to my paperback version in createspace and after uploading it I ordered a copy for promotional purposes. Now I’m glad I did that because the book arrived with its smart new cover but I found there was no lettering on the spine and the entire back cover blurb had gone. Now, after some research, I find that to create a cover for the paperback, you have to create a full book jacket including the front and rear of the book! Looks like it’s back to the drawing board for now for the paperback cover!

I’ve had to be a little creative in using the paperback for my web site photos. The one below shows the new version but the one underneath showing the rear cover is the old version!

dscf1792_31219045553_o

A lot of the videos I have on this site were made at animoto.com and it was great to find I can just edit my original videos, take out photos of the old cover and insert the new one, except of course for shots where I’m actually holding a copy of the book.

Wonder if Hemingway ever had all this trouble!

If you want more information about Floating in Space click the links at the top of the page. Have a look at the updated video below to hear more about the way the novel was written and a little bit of background information:

Update.
I wrote the above post last week and now, after a few days work, here’s the finished cover which is now live on Amazon if you fancy a paperback to read while you while away those dark winter nights.
webversbook-cover

My 10 Best Posts of 2016

best posts 2016It’s that time of year again when we look back and take stock of what we did in the last twelve months and try to arrange everything neatly, tidy things up, add labels and pop everything onto the shelf of past memories before it gets consigned to the distant past. Bloggers are pretty much the same and I thought I might be a good idea to look back at my last twelve months of blogging.

I started 2016 by flying to Lanzarote for some winter sun and a welcome break from cold and wintry Britain. The Marina Rubicon in Lanzarote was lovely and warm, very much like a mild UK summer. The temperature was in the 70s (that’s Fahrenheit, sorry, I don’t do metric) and Liz and I spent a lovely five weeks swimming, sunbathing, reading and dining out in the restaurants and bars of the Marina. The evenings were a little cool I must admit but we dined outside every night, either at our rented villa or at a local eating place. Sometimes a fleece over the shoulders was necessary, sometimes not. I had taken with me my trusty laptop and I-Pad of course and kept myself busy blogging, promoting my book, Floating In Space and, supposedly, writing the follow-up novel. Alas, the follow-up never materialised but, what the heck, we had a great time anyway.

1.Being an avid TV viewer I had a post in the pipeline already, written in advance just in case of Wi-Fi issues on holiday. It was called M*A*S*H and the Emotional Leap Indicator. M*A*S*H is the star contender for my favourite comedy show ever and a show that is close to my writing ethic; that of combining humour with drama, and in this post I go on to analyse and talk about a comedy show that is funny as well as sad and routinely combines humour with tragedy.

2016-01-28 (2)ed2.While on holiday in Lanzarote, I did one of my usual posts, My Holiday Book Bag. I do love books and this is one of a series talking about the books I take on holiday. The idea stemmed from reading a biography of Richard Burton, who had a voracious appetite for books and always took a book bag away on holiday with him. On this occasion I’d thought I’d go one step further and make the post into a VLOG, a video blog, with me sitting in front of the camera giving out a good old rabbit about the various books I had with me. Later this spawned another blog, Making the VLOG about the whole experience of filming, narrating and so on.

IMGA03533.Whilst on the subject of books, I wrote a post about Marilyn Monroe books back in July. It was called 10 Books you should read about Marilyn Monroe. I have a large collection of books about Marilyn and in this post I introduced ten of them. Michelle Morgan, the author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed was kind enough to add a comment on the post.

4.During 2016 I’ve had a few health issues particularly with my back and my neck. I first hurt my neck over ten years ago and I don’t have a lot of mobility in that area but I told the story of my visits to the doctor, my diagnosis and experience of physiotherapists in Lost Horizon, Samsara and a Visit to the Doctor.

5.I regularly write posts about writing and how I work as a writer and blogger and a pretty good post about how I manage my blogging life was Bankers, Potboilers and J Edgar Hoover.

6.You may have realised as you troll through this blog that I do like my TV. Not any TV of course. I like my classic TV from the 60’s and 70’s. I like sci-fi and espionage shows and I adore old movies. I’m a great recorder too, regularly recording and watching stuff which I tend to watch in batches, sometimes watching part of a movie one day then the second part another day. Aliens, Frank Sinatra and Three Days in the life of a Couch Potato documented my TV watching habits.

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley

7.Bicycles, Barry White, and a Man with a Chip on his Shoulder was a nostalgic look back at my younger days when I forced my younger brother to take part in sketches and plays I had written, all recorded on cassette tape for posterity. Music came into the equation when a teenage friend and I recorded interviews with each other discussing our top twelve records. Once again, faithfully recorded on tape!

8.American politics is one of my great interests and Howard Hughes and the Watergate Tapes discussed billionaire Hughes involvement with President Nixon and the Watergate affair.

9.Thoughts from a Sun Lounger Part 4 was written on holiday in France and is part of a series revealing the various musings that have come to me while indulging in one of my favourite experiences, that of lazing in the sun on a sun lounger. This post amongst other things involves another instalment about physiotherapists!

a so called writer!10. The Holiday Diary of a So-Called Writer. This was another post written on holiday in rural France. It was about my efforts, as a writer, to focus on writing rather than reading, swimming, drinking wine and eating and might go some small way to explaining why a follow-up novel to Floating In Space has yet to appear.

Last year, 2016, I published my 200th blog post. Although I tend to focus on books, film, and TV I write about almost anything that comes to mind, always focussing on that Saturday morning deadline. Customer service, Cillit Bang, Captain Kirk and the Beatles were just a few of the diverse subjects I posted about in 2016. I also wrote about my long-term love of F1 racing in Confessions of an Armchair F1 Fan.


Hope you had a great Christmas. All the very best for 2017 and if you are an avid reader and you find yourself stuck for something to read, why not try Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

my novel

The Secret of my Success

successThe secret of my success. What’s that about, you might wonder? Well, I thought it was time to write something about Floating In Space again and update you with how it’s going. Success of course is pretty relative. Floating In Space isn’t a blockbuster hit, in fact it’s currently rated at 677,726 on Amazon so there’s a bit of a way to go before we start challenging the current number one paperback. Still, from my point of view, that of an amateur self published writer, I’m reasonably pleased with myself. I wrote Floating for me, for my own personal pleasure and the fact that so many people have read it is great.

Last year, 2015, I was averaging a few quid in royalties each month. A fiver means I’ve sold about ten Kindle copies and I was selling at that rate per month for most of 2015; sometimes less, occasionally more. In November I thought that was the time to crank up the pressure and get ready for the Christmas rush. I took some of my profits and invested them in a couple of advertisements. One on Twitter and one on Facebook. It’s interesting how advertising on the Internet works. You can target people by age, gender and interests, by geographical location, by personal interests, by all sorts of things. My Facebook ads didn’t seem to do so well, indeed various versions were not accepted due to the text used in my images. Facebook doesn’t like text within images but images on the Internet are highly important as you probably know. Posts with images attract much more interaction than posts without images. Anyway, I eventually solved the issue by using text free images thus making them more Facebook friendly.

On Twitter, I promoted an existing Tweet about Floating and it went pretty well. Well, I thought so at first, the only thing is that my December sales were nil. Same for January and February. In fact it was only mid 2016 that they seemed to recover. The current ad I am using is on Goodreads. It’s a pay-per-click ad which is doing really well. A huge amount of people have seen it, although only a few have actually clicked on the ad, and it’s then, when a viewer clicks on the ad, that I pay a few cents.

This blog, with its various posts and videos was started originally to sell my book. After all, it’s one thing to publish a book, it’s another to start selling it and people need to know it’s out there first. However, this website has taken on a life of its own. My own writing has improved and its a great to have a deadline  -10:00AM every Saturday which just seems to hone my writing. I work towards that deadline every week and so far, with the help of my standby or banker posts, I’ve always made it OK.

My posts go out automatically every Saturday to all my social media. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr accounts and I have a fair few followers on all those sites, especially Twitter. On Facebook, my writer page has only about 150 followers and probably less on Tumblr and Google+ but on Twitter, I have a whopping 3,684 followers. Yes, 3,684! Now, I’d like to be able to tell you how I did that but I’m not sure I can. The only answer I can give you is that networking, constant networking, eventually pays off. I usually post four times a day on Twitter, just links to my posts and videos, all coupled with a picture that I hope readers will find interesting enough to click on. Here’s the interesting thing, the really crazy thing. Often, my stats at WordPress won’t match with Twitter. Take a highly retweeted post on Twitter, linking to a wordpress post and my Twitter stats will show a pretty hefty number of retweets and likes but on wordpress there are not always the same figures. That’s because, I think, my fellow promoters and networkers at Twitter don’t necessarily click the link on the tweets in the first place, they just take them at their face value and like or retweet as they think fit. Why? Because they have their own agenda which doesn’t necessarily fit in with mine. Internet etiquette means that I’ll tend to retweet the tweets of my retweeters and if I do that, boom, those tweets are going straight to my 3684 followers, just as my retweeters wanted. Yes, the Internet can be a pretty ruthless place. My pretty large following gives me a certain sort of power, it makes me pretty popular and means that my following is just expanding organically. My latest stats say I’m getting another 2 followers every day so please check the date and update that 3684 figure incrementally when you read this!

So, is it still possible to find success as a self published author or Internet writer? Believe me, I won’t be giving up my day job anytime yet but it’s not impossible to at least make a living. 50 Shades of Grey started out as a self published novel, and so did many other books. In fact click here to read about the top 10 best-selling self published authors.

Still what is success really? If Floating In Space hits the best seller lists and I make a huge amount of money from it, I’d only fritter it away in restaurants and pubs, spend far too much time in some sunny resort, and probably drive about the country in a ridiculously expensive car. Do I really need success? Do I really want it?

Of course I do!


If you enjoyed this post, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information but in the meantime, check out my one minute video below!

Bankers, Potboilers and J. Edgar Hoover

Bankers, Potboilers, J Edgar HooverHow easy, or hard, is it to write a weekly blog post? Well there is no straight answer to that. Sometimes I just seem to get a whole host of ideas and other times I struggle to find one. The important thing is to keep jotting those ideas down, the ones that come when you are feeling creative or just full of ideas, and use them on the days when you don’t seem to have anything new.

One thing I try to do is have a few ‘bankers’ as I like to call them. Bankers are fully completed posts that I can use whenever I’m stuck for something to write about and that blog deadline is looming ever nearer. I’ve currently got two bankers in the pipeline and they give me that little bit of reassurance, that confidence that if the current blog goes wrong or is just not working, then the banker is there, ready for my Saturday deadline.

I also have a few ‘potboilers’. Potboilers are draft posts that have been going on for a while and need more work to get them right. Every so often I’ll review the potboilers, update them, do more research and add to them. I have two on the boil at the moment. One is about Oliver Stone and is part of a series about movie directors. The first instalment was about Woody Allen, my favourite director and although I‘ve researched a lot about Stone, and his films are great favourites of mine, the post just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t have –yet- that personal anecdotal connection I like to have in my posts. The Woody Allen post seemed to just work straight away but then I do so love his movies. I love that balance he maintains between the serious and the humorous, something I look for in my own writing.

Another one is about Watergate, the scandal that erupted around President Nixon in the early seventies. Watergate and the US White House of the sixties and early seventies are two of my great interests but Watergate is one of those things I know perhaps too much about. I wanted to talk about an interesting connection to Howard Hughes that I think explains a lot about the core of Watergate but now I find I’ve produced the War and Peace of blog posts! A little trimming is in order before I publish that one.

One interesting aspect of Watergate was the involvement of the FBI. Nixon wanted the FBI to do his dirty work, to wiretap his enemies and to provide all kinds of dirt on the people Nixon thought were against him. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI chief, would not help and this was the reason for the creation of the ‘Plumbers’, the covert group who searched for leaks in the government and did Nixon’s dirty work for him.

Hoover, Gray, Higgins

Hoover, Gray and Higgins

J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972 and was replaced by a fellow called L. Patrick Gray and it has always made me wonder if I became the director, pretty unlikely I know, would I have to be known as S. Ralph Higgins?

The great goal of a blogger is to write something that really takes off and becomes, in internet parlance, ‘viral’. The nearest I have come to going viral was a post I wrote some years ago that suddenly cranked up 192 views in a very short while. All the views originated in Argentina so either ‘Floating In Space’ really rocked their boat down there or there is an Argentinian Steve Higgins who pulls in a lot of Internet traffic!

While I was labouring away last week to sort out the Watergate post I came up with an idea about book trailers and quickly knocked out a post about the making of these video trailers. I always seem to produce something in the nick of time, in fact, that deadline of 10:00 AM on a Saturday morning is good for me as a writer: it forces me to produce the goods. Still, a while ago I had five bankers. Now I’m down to only two!

A few nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night with a perfect blog in my head. I was lying there writing it mentally even though I was still half asleep. It was a cracking post: The title was Blog Heaven. It was all about blogging and writing posts and was full of quirky humour. I knew I’d quickly forget it all so I thought I’d grab my trusty tablet and send myself a reminder e-mail so that when I was fully awake I could crank up my laptop and knock out the post.

Later on I sat down checked my e-mails and saw this:

Viral writing- moulding the blog – blog viral- FBI J Edgar Hoover

Sound anything like the post you have just read? Well, it wasn’t half as good as the one I woke up with that other night!


If you liked this post why not try my book? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

 

The Author’s Guide to Book Trailers.

Book TrailersOne of the objects of this blog is to publicise my novel, Floating In Space. In these digital hi-tech days it’s just not enough to whack out a novel then expect people to clamour around wanting to buy it. How will they know it even exists? Well, as I said in Confessions of a Self-Published Author, the writing of a novel is only the first part, then comes the promotion of the book. Yes, this blog, of course, is a great part of that, as are my posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and elsewhere. Anywhere in fact that I have a social presence, I will be knocking out a post either directly or indirectly related to my book.

The important thing is not to keep going on about it; that is probably the social media equivalent of knocking on someone’s door and saying “Hi. Buy this book and it will change your life!” Floating In Space will not change your life but it will give you a few hours of enjoyment, taking you back into the world of the 1970’s, a world so different, and yet so similar to that of today.

Another way of connecting with those potential readers is the video and that is where the book trailer comes in. Back in the 1990’s I went on various courses in video production so I know the basic principles of shooting and editing but nowadays I make use of on line editing sites like animoto.com which can be used to build your video.  Here’s one of the first book trailers I made using nothing more than still images uploaded to one of Animoto’s templates:

One of the great things about YouTube is that you can add annotations to the video: Links to other videos, links to my Google+ page and YouTube cards which open up when you hover over with your mouse and can be customised with web links. You can also add little information boxes which clarify or expand on information that is given in the video.

Here are a few tips for making your own.

1 Use a tripod. I’ve experimented with grips and clamps and selfie devices but the best way to shoot is to put your camera on a tripod, set up your shot and press record.

2. Keep it simple. Make sure you know what your message is and put it over quickly and simply. Attention spans are short these days for video. If people don’t like what they see, and believe it or not they make that decision in the first few seconds, then they just click away from your video to something more interesting.

3. Plan ahead before you shoot. Make a list of what you are going to do or say in the video. Even consider making a short script.

4. You Tube is the second most popular search engine after Google, so work hard on your video’s title!

5. 13% of video views were made using mobile devices so make sure your video is mobile friendly! Click here to read some more interesting stats!

Not only do I have my videos on YouTube, I also have a few on Vimeo. Vimeo.com presents the video in a more stylish way but the cards and annotations that can be utilised on YouTube are not available. Here’s my very latest promo. Shot with my camera on a tripod and edited using windows movie maker.

I’m quite pleased with the fact that I only took eleven takes to make this one. In the first few I didn’t like my shirt so I changed. Then it became rather windy which ruined the sound. Then just when I was about to pack up, I popped on another shirt and did a few more. The take above was somewhere around the take seven mark! Here’s another video, this time made with Animoto templates.

Weather’s looking good lately, why not make a start on your video promo?


If this post has got you interested in Floating in Space, click the links at the top of the page for more information. Click the icon below to visit my Amazon page.

Confessions of a Self Published Author!

self publishingYes, this post is about me, because believe it or not, I am a self-published author. The digital world of the 21st century has given me a chance that was unheard of before now. In the pre-digital world, writers like me would be prostrating themselves before the publishers of the world, trying to get them to accept our offerings, publish them and pay us royalties. Now, even professional writers, not just lowly amateurs like myself, are turning to self-publishing. The digital age has turned the publishing world on its head.

Of course, publishing is one thing but then there’s another stage, something that a publisher would consider part of his job: Marketing. How do the book reading public know about our books? How do they know what is available, what to read, where and why to buy? Yes, marketing provides the answer. A book must be marketed, brought to the attention of the public and, using all the slippery tools of the marketeer, the public must be made to want the book, and then actually buy it!

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Oops, yes, that was the copy that turned out too big!

I completed my book about a slice of 1970’s working class life some years ago. Three publishers had rejected it when I decided to self-publish. I was disheartened by those rejections I must admit, but in the world of publishing, twenty, thirty or more rejections for a new author are commonplace. I used Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing, both part of the Amazon empire to platform my book. The paperback was produced using Createspace and the Kindle version with Kindle Direct.

Producing my book online was fairly simple but the process was one which actually underlined how much work was still required on my manuscript, which until then I had foolishly thought was complete. The first version for which I ordered a test copy was far too big, which I only realised once the finished product was in my hands. I ordered another version which again I wasn’t too happy with and after untold issues with fonts and formatting I finally produced a version that I thought was ready for the reading public. I explain things more in the video below;

I feel I now know something about writing a book but as for marketing, well, I’m just a beginner. I started this blog on wordpress for the prime reason of telling the public about my book but then immediately I was faced with a similar problem. How do I get the public to read my blog? It’s like one of those trick photographs you see, someone holding a picture of themselves and in the picture they are again holding a picture and it’s repeated into infinity. I had to create an Internet presence so I started selling myself on Google+, Facebook and particularly Twitter. I began a campaign of Tweeting; Tweeting my book, my posts, my photographs and my videos. I followed everyone who has followed me and gradually I have built up a pretty big following going from 90 followers to over 3000 in just over a year. That would be nice if all my followers bought my book, however, many are in a similar place to me, wanting to sell their book or video or music track or whatever, so not only are they not interested in Floating In Space, they see me as a potential customer of theirs!

output_lNzmQ3Yes, the writer of the 21st century is free of the restrictions of previous times. He is not beholden to or waiting on the attentions of a potential publisher but he has his own set of unique problems: He must be not only be a writer but also a marketeer. And he needs to have some graphic design ability and perhaps some photographic and video skills too! On top of that, most of my videos are me talking to the camera so a degree of TV presenting skill must be thrown into the mix also!

Sometimes I think about those heady days some years ago when I decided to self publish. Yes, the lure of fame as a writer, the interviews I expected, the potential trappings of success. Yes, that spurred me on to take my unfinished novel that had lain unread and unnoticed on a collection of floppy disks for many a year. To take it and bring it back into the modern cyber world, to re-write it, update and finally finish it for all those hungry fans of kitchen sink working class drama. (Yes, where are you, hungry fans of kitchen sink drama?)

Ferrari

Whoops! Not quite ready to order that new motor!

Eventually of course, reality stuck its ugly size 12 boot in the door: My book isn’t yet a best seller. The TV channels are not begging for interviews. The megabucks are not rolling in: Not sure if the guys at Ferrari were too happy when I asked them to put on hold the order for a new Ferrari I had tentatively made. In fact, the meagre pittance I have spent on a few facebook and twitter ads has far outstripped my royalties from Amazon. Still, who knows, maybe the next youtube video will go viral. Some random BBC producer may notice my blog and read my book and think ‘hey, this would make a great TV film!’ (Just in case, I should mention here that I do have a ‘Floating In Space’ film script draft!)

Of course, all writers are dreamers, that is why we write but if you too have aspirations of publishing success, be prepared to wait a while!


If, after reading this post you feel the urge to read my book, click on the links at the top of the page or click the icon below to visit my Amazon page!

FIScoverbuynow