Writing, Promotion and the Self published Author

Writing.

There is only one reason to be a writer and that is because you love writing.  OK, there are those whose novels regularly hit the best seller lists and get made into films and earn the writer untold millions and that is perhaps an incentive to write. Few writers however, get into the millionaire bracket so it is perhaps best to accept that writing is its own reward, just one of personal pleasure at creating something amusing, insightful, or whatever you, the writer, intended.

One of the problems of writing, for me at least is that I have two what I might call ‘situations’. One is the idea situation when I get an idea for something and long to get it down on paper, on my laptop or whatever. The second one is actual writing, that situation when I am alone, Liz has gone to work or out somewhere. She has probably left a list of things to be doing like ‘cut the grass’ or something but let’s ignore that for now. I am sitting at my laptop all ready to create a new chapter for my book, a new screenplay or whatever.

Here then, is the problem. These two states or situations rarely, if ever, meet, so a lot of the time when I am sitting quietly with my laptop nothing comes to mind. The other situation, the one where I am full of ideas, well that usually happens when I am at work and things are very busy or I am driving my car and unable to get this stuff down. Now I do have something of a solution. There is a hand-held dictation recorder in my car into which I blab various ideas, poems and stories as I speed along the M6 motorway on my way to work.

Another is an in idea I pinched from a fellow called Jack Black who wrote a motivational book called Mindstore. I used to use Mindstore quite a lot when I was trying to up my confidence for job interviews and so on. What Jack suggests is building a house entirely within your mind and designating various rooms inside for various confidence building activities.

For instance, there is a shower room where, after going through a relaxation and meditational procedure, one uses the imaginary shower room which not only cleanses but it relaxes and washes away all negative emotions and feelings. There are various meditational procedures used to build this house and its rooms in your mind and the individual is encouraged to design something outstanding. One room I added was a boxroom, in which I store all my unworked on ideas, unused blog posts and book chapters. The only problem is this, when I come to enter that room, I’m usually in situation #1, you know, the one where I’ve got time on my hands and can’t think of anything.

Promotion.

You may have spent weeks, months, even years writing and re writing and now your book is finally finished. Great, you think, pour out a glass of port, or your alcoholic beverage of choice and celebrate. It’s over, the mammoth task you set yourself ages ago is finally complete. Wait a minute, what do you do now?

Yes, exactly what do you do? Well, the first thing is to start searching for publishers which is not an easy task. If that fails you could always self publish your work, just like myself and thousands of others have done through Amazon. Floating in Space is available there as a paperback or as a Kindle download but what then? The book comes out and is perhaps one of 5,000 new titles newly available that or any day. 5,000! That is a pretty huge figure. How then do you not only get people to look at your book but actually buy it?

There is only one answer that I know, and that is to spend a great deal of your free time on social media plugging your work. That is how this whole WordPress site came about. Yes, these weekly posts are just a pawn in the game of marketing to seduce readers into buying my book. Sadly, Floating still isn’t a number one bestseller, I haven’t been able to give up my day job and the few pennies I make from book sales just about pay for my subscription to Animoto, the site where I edit most of my videos. Why video you might ask? Well, here are a few stats.

1 .In 2017 video content represented 74% of all internet traffic.

2. 37% of marketers said visual marketing was the most important form of content for their business, second only to blogging (38%)

3. 4X as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it.

4. Facebook users watch 8 billion videos per day.

5. Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text.

Well, that’s five facts gleaned from various sources on the Internet. My top Tweet on Twitter is one that links directly to my landing page here at stevehigginslive.com and that’s pretty much why I’ve got so many videos lurking about the Internet ready to extol the virtues of my writing and to convince the lucky viewer that they must buy my book! Here’s my very latest video which comes with some very exciting James Bond style music:

Videos aren’t that difficult to make but you do need a great deal of patience when it comes to the editing stage. In a number of my videos I speak directly to the camera and try to impart to the viewer why he or she should buy my book. That isn’t such an easy thing to do but it can be made easier just by a little preparation. What are you going to say? Well, work that out in advance and rehearse, take a few test shots. I tend to keep my chatter down to a few sharp and straight to the point phrases these days because in a lot of my earlier videos I tended to ramble on a bit too much. Anyway, here’s a video which shows just how I used to get it all so very wrong.

One of the great things about video, at least for me, is that I love messing about with videos, editing and adding music and sound effects. My preferred video editor is Windows Movie Maker. It’s simple, it doesn’t seem to overtax my computer memory unlike some other programs I have and it’s very easy to use. One of the problems though with computers and particularly with Microsoft is this. I’m pretty sure they know exactly what programs I use because as soon as I get pretty happy and settled with a particular one, in the next Windows upgrade, they will promptly drop it.

Windows Sound Recorder.

Windows Sound Recorder for instance. A simple program, pop in a DVD and copy some of the music and dialogue from your favourite film, mix it on my trusty magic sound mixer, burn it onto a CD and the next day I am happily hurtling down the M6 listening to wonderful old classic movies as I drive to work. Upgrade to Windows 10 and where is the sound recorder? Gone. replaced by Windows voice recorder which is a total waste of time.

Windows Movie Maker.

A few weeks back I decided it was time for a new laptop. I saw a good deal on Ebay, sent off my cash and soon my lovely HP laptop arrived. A short time later I was online only to find a message saying my laptop did not have the latest version of Windows 10. Now, and this may have been my first mistake, I clicked the ‘update’ button and began a long process of updating Windows 10. When the dust had settled and updates were installed, where was Windows Movie Maker? Gone. Consigned to the trash bin of software history! That scuppered my plans for making a few quid out of my old laptop because I still need it for my video editing.

Oh well, just call me Two Laptop Steve!


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester, 1977. To find out more click the links at the top of the page.

Some Hints and Tips from my Adventures on YouTube

I was checking my YouTube page the other day and noticed that I have eighty four videos there. That figure was quite a surprise to me. Eighty four videos? I have to admit, some of those are in my private file and are for production use only. (That makes me sound like a real film producer – production use only!) By that I mean some were uploaded so I could use the soundtrack on another video, some were uploaded without a soundtrack so I could add YouTube music later and some were promotional videos that use the old Floating in Space cover and were made before I introduced the newer version and rather than delete them I have just taken them offline.

By far my most popular video is this one, Trucking: The life of an HGV driver, 1980’s Style! I’d like to be able to tell you what a cracking video it is and that it is well worth watching although, in fact, it isn’t. It’s one of my first videos made before I even went on a media course at the Manchester WFA. I spent a few days with my friend Brian who was an HGV delivery driver and I made a short film about him at work.

I think people watch the film because of the nostalgia factor. I can see perhaps former HGV drivers watching it because that’s how things used to be, no sat navs or other gadgets, just get your map out and get trucking. They are certainly the ones who leave comments. Apart from that it has no particular merit. Pity I didn’t remove the title sequence, done on my old Sinclair Spectrum with music from Elton John, because if I had, the 35,917 views I’ve had at the time of writing could be making me a few quid in royalties. Instead the video is subject to a copyright claim by the owners of Elton’s music.

That’s probably the best lesson I’ve learnt from my time on YouTube; if you made a video years ago and used your favourite tracks from your record collection, replace them with royalty free music which you can download free from YouTube.

One of my favourite videos is another I made in the 1980’s, A Welsh Journey, Manchester to Porthmadoc. It’s a short documentary made about a rail trip which was inspired at the time by a documentary film presented by Michael Palin called Confessions of a Train Spotter. It was part of a Great Railway Journeys series and unlike some of the travel films made later by the former Monty Python performer, it was a great little film full of enthusiasm for the subject.

My old friend Steve and I wanted to recreate Palin’s journey but instead decided to do something cheaper and easier, a rail trip from Manchester Victoria to Porthmadoc. I did a great edit with a documentary style voice over and some top notch sound, music and effects mixing, courtesy of the new sound mixer I had just picked up. The big problem with that video, as regards YouTube, was that I used music from a great album by the Crusaders called Images. Now, that was fine in 1986 when the video was viewed just by me and my friends. Fast forward however to the 21st century digital age, upload it to YouTube and suddenly you have a whole lot of  musical rights owners who are not happy that their music is playing on my video. Result: YouTube have muted the entire soundtrack. You can still watch it but you cannot hear it.

The only thing to do was to take my original VHS video, slip the digitised version into my Windows Movie Maker and then re-edit and add some royalty free music provided by YouTube, in this case a little track by a guy called Kevin MacLeod called Local Forecast. I re-did some of the commentary, faded in Local Forecast in place of the Crusaders and even tidied up the video as a whole.

Some time ago videos could be edited on YouTube using their on-line video editor, hence the reason for uploading videos for ‘production use only’ as I mentioned earlier. You could trim videos, use the soundtrack from a different video and so on. Alas, the YouTube editor is no more, so it’s important to have your video all ready for viewing before you upload it.

One handy little thing on YouTube are YouTube cards. They are just that; a little card that appears in the top right hand corner in which you can add a link to other videos or even to your website.

Just going back to my Trucking video, two other reasons why that video does so well might be as follows.

a) The title is very SEO compatible. It’s straight to the point and tells you all you want to know and it also has a pretty good thumbnail or icon. That’s the image when you see when you first find a video on YouTube. If you look at the railway video above, you can see the icon has all the basics, a simple but relevant picture, the title, and a little explanation that it’s the updated version, not the one with the sound muted!

b) Thumbnails are important as a  good one can pull the viewer into watching your video.

A lot of my more recent videos were made on the Animoto web site. Animoto is a video editing website that comes with templates so you can easily upload your photos and video clips and the template will do the rest. You can even create a whole slide show video with just a collection of still images. Here’s one of my favourites, even though it’s just a little advert for my book:

Here’s another one, this time a collection of photographs of Lytham St Annes :

Right, so so far we’ve got documentaries from the 1980’s, promo videos, and slide shows. Not only that but I also have my book reviews on YouTube. Yes, I’ve always added a video version of my Book Bag series. Here’s the last one, filmed in sunny France in 2017:

Just as I’ve finished this post and pretty much finished re-editing my Airport 1986 video by adding royalty free music, I’ve had an email from YouTube advising me that because I have under a 1000 subscribers I can no longer ‘monetise’ my videos! Oh well, the Internet is a fast moving and ever changing place. Perhaps I should look at shifting my videos over to rival video channel Vimeo.com! Anyway, here’s my updated airport video, split into two parts for ease of uploading.

So, just to finish, here are three points that are key to developing your YouTube channel:

1. Use royalty free music!

2. Think carefully about your video title.

3. Add a simple but effective icon for your video; that and your video title can be the key to bringing in your viewers and subscribers!

4. People have very short attention spans these days. If they are not interested in your video in the first few seconds, they will navigate away from your video to something else so make those first few seconds count.


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page for more information or watch the short promo below.

Thoughts from a (Lanzarote) Sun Lounger

Travel.

This year’s  flight to Lanzarote wasn’t too bad at all. It was a pretty busy flight, busier than I had expected, but there seemed to me to be slightly more leg room on my flight. It was certainly better than on my previous trip, a few years back, so much so that I was actually almost comfortable. I’ve flown in January with Jet 2 in recent years and the flights have always been under subscribed which has been good, because as you know, budget airlines always try to cram as many passengers as possible into the limited confines of their aircraft and it’s nice to have a vacant seat next to you so you can stretch out a little. Happily on this rather busy aeroplane in the seat next to me was not a big non speaking, rather tubby fellow -like the guy I was stuck with a few years ago- but a pleasant, slim and quite small lady who was nice to talk to and gave me a little extra much-needed room.

Man Bag.

When I am off to European climes I tend to take my ‘man bag’ with me to carry my bits and pieces about. Much more sensible than trying to cram your wallet, phone, keys, reading specs and all sorts into your trouser pockets like we Brits do. There was some consternation at the airport when the bag went though the x-ray machine. That was due to a bullet key ring I had picked up some years ago and left in the bag. It was made using a world war one bullet, decommissioned of course but I was called to security, reprimanded and the bullet confiscated. Good job they didn’t find the Colt 45 cigarette lighter I was carrying! Seriously, airport security can be a bit of a pain but at least we are sure that we are flying safely.

Taxi.

The weather forecast for Lanzarote had predicted rain on our arrival but actually it was a lovely warm day although a little windy. We had arranged a lift from the airport to our accommodation by a Canarian fellow called James we had met some years earlier. He had claimed before we met that he spoke perfect English although the truth is actually slightly different. He actually speaks something that sounds like English, in the way a drunken Glaswegian or a speech impaired drunken Scouser speaks English. There are some familiar sounds there, even some complete English words, but most of what he says is completely unintelligible.

Numerous texts had passed forth between us detailing our time of arrival, our flight numbers and so on. James had texted back, ‘look for a Renault Kangoo van in white outside the exit’. Great, I thought, clearly his written English is better than his verbal variety. On arrival in Lanzarote we looked and waited quite a while but the van was not to be seen so I called him and he answered with a stream of unintelligible sounds, none of which were recognisable as words currently in use in the UK. One phrase did stand out, the repeated use of ‘no problem’. This of course is a new spin on that familiar phrase because there was a problem, that of getting to our villa down in Playa Blanca. Never mind, I said, we’ll get a taxi. No problem came the reply. Well, might as well delete that contact from my phone.

Lanzarote

Anyway, within a few hours we were sitting by our pool in Lanzarote, sipping wine and deliberating whether to plunge into the heated pool. A few minutes later I was regretting that decision as the pool was cold. Very cold! The villa company sent their man out to take a look and he saw that the pool had not been heated for a while and reckoned it could take a few days to get up to temperature so he cranked the heat up and by the next day the pool felt much warmer. So much so that I could actually just get straight in without having to gingerly slip in an inch at a time while I acclimatised!

Anyway, I think I think its time to throw in a picture guaranteed to make all my fellow Brits back home in the freezing cold UK totally envious. Here it is:

Yes, that’s our dining area with the pool in the background.

Spectacles.

Not long ago I got myself some new specs. They are what I call the Clark Kent type, you know black and fairly square, square in more ways than one although they are actually rather fashionable these days. Anyway, I don’t like them and much prefer my old ones which have photochromic lenses which go darker when the sun gets brighter. I love those lenses and as I am rather sensitive to bright light they are perfect for me. For reasons directly linked to my reluctance to open my wallet I didn’t add them to my new prescription and I didn’t bring the old specs but I did bring instead a pair of clip on dark shades that are so worn I can hardly see through them!

Employment.

On this holiday I’ve decided to start looking and see what jobs are out there for an ancient four O’ level former comprehensive school boy like me. Looking for jobs in this digital age is a tad different from what I’m used to. No need to buy lots of newspapers and troll through the situations vacant columns, yes now you can subscribe to special job seeking websites which search available jobs for you. You can upload your CV and the site will pass any likely looking situations on to you via your inbox. Here are some recommended jobs that were sent to me recently

Strategic Insights Executive

Quality Control Executive

Care Home Deputy Manager

PHP Developer (What’s that about?)

Here’s a great one from an e-mail titled:  26 jobs available in Lytham St Annes, (1)  Driving Instructor, Liverpool (!)

Yes, perhaps I might have to put up with my current job for a while longer.

Laptop.

My Toshiba laptop is not one of the best. Perhaps it’s time to put my hand in my pocket and get myself a top of the range one and make my writing and video editing life a little easier. Just in time for this holiday I took my laptop in to be repaired as a lot of the keys, particularly the ‘o’ were sticking. A new keyboard is what is needed, the guy in the shop told me. They sent off for the part and the day before departing the UK I got my laptop back. Everything seemed in order, the culprit keys were all working and I was fully prepared to bang out my new book and churn out numerous blog posts. Now I find, a week into my holiday, the r and y keys are not working! A writer’s life is not easy . . .


Floating in Space is a novel by Steve Higgins set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page for more information!

Video and Recycling the Re-edit

The video of today is very much a tool of social media. Attention spans are short so documentaries are out and very much in is a short, straight to the point video. In fact, social media videos today have a lot in common with music videos which started life in the 1980’s when the idea of a short film or video to promote a music single evolved. Since then, a whole generation of MTV style cable and satellite channels have emerged showing nothing but music videos. No intros, titles or credits, just straight in with the song.

Video.

Michael Jackson’s video Thriller was a highlight of the music video genre. It won an award for best short film if I remember but my favourite video was the one where each paving stone lights up as Jackson, doing his wholly personal trademark style of dancing, steps on each one. Billie Jean, I do love that song.

On social media a video needs to have a quick impact: So quick you wouldn’t believe it. According to statistics, a viewer has to be hooked by a video in the first ten seconds, otherwise they are off. There are more videos to watch and better content to be found elsewhere.  Here are a few more stats from http://www.wordstream.com

  • 82% of Twitter users watch video content on Twitter
  • YouTube has over a billion users, almost one-third of total internet users.
  • 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week.
  • More than 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube each day.
  • More video content is uploaded in 30 days than the major U.S. television networks have created in 30 years.
  • 87% of online marketers use video content.
  • 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound.
  • 72 Hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every 60 seconds.

Pretty staggering stats aren’t they? However you interpret those figures they are saying this; if you are in the business of marketing or social media, you need to be in the business of video. Happily, with today’s technology, videos are not quite as hard to make as they were a few years back. Many social media videos are made with minimal editing on tablets or even mobile phones. Most of my videos are shot either on a small hand-held Panasonic HD camera or on my newest gadget, my action cam. Technology has helped some bloggers evolve from blogging into vlogging, simply by pointing a camera at themselves and chatting away, instead of writing.

Earlier in 2017 I made a short film about cycling. I had picked up, fairly cheaply, one of those action cams you have probably seen advertised. The same style of action cam that is responsible for so many videos of stunt cycles, skiing, surfing and so on that are featured regularly on Facebook and other social media sites. I thought I could perhaps combine some sort of physical activity; in which I am severely lacking, with cameras; which I love messing about with and the result might be an entertaining film with which to pull viewers into the clutches of my web site and then, you guessed it, flog more copies of my book!

Recycling.

So, I dug out my old bike from the depths of the garage. A quick hosing down and a spray on the vital points with WD40 and the bike didn’t look so bad.  I have two action cams; they are not expensive Go-Pro cameras, just cheap copy versions. One cost about £19 from eBay, the other was £2 from a car boot sale. They come with various clamps and grabs and things to attach them to your bike. I had the cameras mounted  in various positions although the best was when I strapped one to my wrist with a Velcro strap so I could flip it around and catch shots of gear changing and braking and so on and even flip round to see me, straining somewhat as I began to get my muscles to flex again.

The big problem with these kind of cameras, at least for me is this -not only are they small, the buttons are small too, and the screen is small, and the indications on the screen -which mode you are in, battery time, record, play and so on, are even smaller, so setting things up is pretty hard especially for a man who uses reading glasses. As for setting the date and time -forget about it! Another thing is that when I switched on my camera and then set off biking, I was not always sure if I had pressed the right mode; if the two clicks for standby and then one for record actually registered so when I came back after a ride I sometimes got:
1. Nothing.
2. A short video of me messing about with the camera and then it switching off just as I ride away.

To be honest, I’m not even sure why I was filming myself, although if I’m truthful, I just like messing about with cameras and video, just as I said earlier, and pretending to be the film director I always wanted to be. Anyway, after three laps of the immediate area and about forty minutes of camera video, it was time for a cuppa. Then it was time to spend days, weeks even, fiddling about on Windows Movie Maker, cutting and splicing and so on until I managed to produce a workable edit.

Editing can be a slow process but as long as you have a clear result in mind it can be very satisfying.

I do so like photography in the digital age. No expensive films, no waiting for the film to be developed and printed. No more expensive mistakes. Today, if you take a bad picture, delete it, take another in fact, take multiple exposures and just delete or edit the bad ones later.

Digital video is pretty much the same. Delete what you don’t like and start again. Even if what you have shot isn’t good, it can be saved by cutting or effects like slow motion.

In the editing suite, build your video slowly, adding each scene and then later your soundtrack, adding layers to the original sound with effects, music and narration.

I remember editing in the VHS days, juggling different tracks on my sound mixer, having to cue each track and fade in when ready, keeping an eye on the monitor all the time. Once, in one of my airport videos I had to do a narration, fade down the original video soundtrack, pause while a helicopter flew into the shot, fade in a helicopter sound effect, fade in the next section of original sound while I narrated the next paragraph and finally, cue and fade in the music and then fade out the original sound.

Today, with digital, all that is a step by step process.

The Re-edit.

Since my original version of my cycle ride, I seem to have finally mastered (perhaps not quite the word) my sound technology and have produced a number of short films featuring me, chattering away about various things. On A French Journey I added a narration that was done extemporaneously (I like that word) meaning basically that I started talking off the top of my head armed only with a few notes about the history of the M6 and the channel tunnel. I think I did about three takes, took away the soundtrack to my sound mixer, cut out a lot of er and ahs and returned it successfully to the video. For my cycling re-edit I tried to do a similar off the cuff piece but it didn’t work out so I sat down, wrote a short essay linking cycling, photography and editing and read it over the video. Again after a few cuts here and there it doesn’t seem so bad. Is it the sort of content that will pull the viewers in to stevehigginslive.com?

Only time will tell . .


Floating in Space is a novel by Steve Higgins set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page for more information!

My 10 Best Posts of 2017

Well that’s it, Christmas over for another year. Time to relax, take stock and perhaps muse over the last twelve months. If you are a blogger, then it’s always good to reflect on your previous posts.

For me personally, it’s not been a bad year. I opted to go semi-retired which was a good choice I think, working three shifts on and six off. Still not happy about the three on but I like the six off!

Did I write the follow up to Floating in Space? Well, I have to admit I didn’t quite get stuck into that, still there’s always 2018!

I always tend to showcase my favourite posts in these ‘best of’ year end posts but I thought I’d start by taking a look at my stats and see what were my best performing posts.

My all time top performing post  is one about the JFK assassination, a tragic event wrapped in mystery and misinformation that has interested me since childhood. It always rates highly with google searches and that’s probably the reason for the high hit rate for this post. Interestingly, I reblogged it on the 22nd November, the anniversary of the Kennedy assassination but on the previous day, the 21st, David Cassidy died and so on the 22nd, many people were typing David Cassidy into their search engines and many of those people may have been surprised to find my second most read post ‘David Cassidy and a Haircut in 1977′ in their results. Maybe it’s a good one, well, I like to think so but then, maybe it’s just SEO compatible.

Earlier on this year, in case you didn’t know, Donald Trump was elected, surprisingly, as the new President of the USA. A lot of people were not happy about it but that is the nature of democracy; the people vote, the votes are counted  and the winning candidate is announced. Simple really, although a great deal of people seem to get very annoyed about it. I wasn’t too happy as I mentioned in my post Tipping Point, the Chase and Donald Trump, because rather annoyingly, my favourite quiz programmes were shelved in favour of the election coverage.

My Mother had her 88th birthday in 2017 and I wrote about her in My Mum, the Microwave and Old Age.

Talking about old age, I became semi-retired in 2017 and wrote a post about it Things to do when Semi-Retired.

In A Monkey, A French Canal Barge and a Million Pound Cheque I returned to my very first job when I had to deal with a cheque for, you guessed it, a million pounds.

I am a big classic movie fan as you probably know from my film posts and I decided to take a look at the persona of the urbane English actor in The Essential Englishman with special reference to David Niven in ‘Around the World in Eighty days’.

Although I’m not a football fan I have always rather liked George Best and in Personal Encounters with George Best I describe my fleeting encounters with the famous Manchester United player.

Going back even further in time than my George Best encounters or even my first job, Schoolday Memories is just that, a look back at my old school days.

As a major Formula One racing fan I tend to knock out an F1 post every now and again. In No Hiding Place and the Mexican Grand Prix  I combine F1 with a little humour and a quick look at a TV comedy classic.

I have spent a lot of time this year messing about with video cameras and editing and although I had some problems earlier in the year recording narrations, since then I’ve recorded quite a few including an updated version of my cycling video with narration rather than captions. Another video I made this year was one using in car footage of our trip to France in the summer. I’ve compiled this year’s video efforts together in a post entitled Adventures with an Action Cam.

Finally, in one of my later posts, I combined that classic British film Green for Danger with some thoughts about my personal work life, past and present, in Resignations, Old Friends and Green for Danger.

So, that was my year. Hope you had a good 2017 and all the best for 2018!


Thanks for looking in and if you liked this post, why not consider buying my book? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Metrics and the Art of Social Media.

You might think having been a blogger for over three years now I’d be an expert in the art of social media? Think so? Really? Forget it!

For the past three years I have concentrated my social media promotions on Twitter. OK, I have a Facebook writer page and a Pinterest account and  Google+ account but it’s Twitter where I have really pushed myself. So much so that I am the proud possessor of over 5,000 followers. Sounds good doesn’t it? If every one of those 5,000 people were fans of my blog and each and every one bought a copy of Floating in Space I’d be quids in. The fact is, out of those 5,000, I’d say only a handful are genuine fans. The rest want to be friends with me for one reason -because I have 5,000 followers and every time someone Tweets one of my Tweets I am honour bound by the unwritten Twitter users code to Tweet them back, Tweet them to my 5,000+ followers.

Yes, I feel good with that power; 5,000 followers. Wow, that’s power. Of course, if you have ever read the Spiderman comics or indeed seen the film you will know that with great power comes great responsibility.

Not so long ago I made a video, a spoof of Woody Allen’s opening to the movie Manhattan. It was good, I thought. I made the video over on Animoto and exported the result to everywhere I could think of: YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and so on. Then I sat back and waited for the results to come in. Next day I had four views on YouTube. Yes, I have to admit I was kind of disappointed. The thing is, everything I have ever written, particularly on WordPress, that I personally thought was really good has never had such a great reaction. Conversely also, those things I have just knocked out quickly because my Saturday deadline was looming have actually done pretty well with lots of hits and comments.

Anyway, not to be daunted I added the video to one of my WordPress posts and hoped I might get more hits that way. A few days later I checked YouTube again. 17 hits. Not bad I suppose. So, next move: check my Twitter analytics. I took a look and saw this:

Yes right in the middle there as you can see, there is a big spike. What was it? Well it was a Tweet created by Vimeo, a sort of automatic Tweet that is created when you post something there. The Tweet had over 12,000 impressions and 411 engagements, which is people actually clicking on the video and watching it. It looks like, in this case at least, that despite Vimeo being the poor cousin to YouTube, or so I thought, it was actually Vimeo that was performing for me!
Why?
How should I know? I’m still just an amateur!

Anyway, over on YouTube I not only have numerous videos encouraging the world to buy my book or subscribe to my web page, I also have various other non-marketing videos available.

My top watched video is this one below with, at the time of writing, over 30,899 views. You might be thinking hey, bet he makes a tidy little sum out of that video. However, if you did you’d be wrong because that video, which I made back in 1986 or 1987 is enhanced by an Elton John album track and all the royalties goes to Elton’s music company, despite my hours and weeks of filming and editing.

The video was one of my early video efforts, filmed using a JVC VHS-Compact camera, similar to the one Marty McFly uses in Back to the Future. One day I must get around to deleting Elton and adding some royalty free music.

Next in my video chart is this one about Manchester Airport;

Manchester Airport 1986 was such a long video I had to split it into two parts to upload it and strangely, part one has 6,839 views while poor old Part Two only has 4,762! Once again no royalties are forthcoming from either video as I used music from the pop charts of 1986.

Anyway, time to take another look at my Twitter account and schedule some tweets for this weekend. Should I do the usual stuff plugging my videos and blog posts or perhaps I should Tweet something a little more thoughtful to my 5,000 plus followers? Something about saving the environment or some heartwarming stuff about love and relationships?

After all, with great power comes great responsibility!


Now the nights are drawing in, why not settle down with a good book? Floating in Space is available from amazon as a paperback or Kindle download! Click here to buy!

More about James Bond 007, and Me.

I spoke briefly about James Bond in a previous blog and thought I might write a little more about the UK’s most famous secret agent.

I started reading the Bond books when I was a schoolboy and unfortunately the very first one I read was the only one they had in our local library: ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, one of writer Ian Fleming’s worst Bond books. Fleming used to write his initial drafts of the novels and then write a second one, adding in all the details which make the Bond books so interesting. Things like details of Bond’s clothes, (the Sea Island cotton shirts) his food, (Bond always had scrambled eggs for breakfast) his cars, his cigarettes (the special handmade ones with the triple gold band) and all that sort of stuff. ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was published after Fleming had died and sadly he had not revised his original draft. I persevered though, did some research, found the proper order of the books and began to read ‘Casino Royale’, the first in the series. I have loved the books, and the films ever since.

004I didn’t see the Bond films until 1969 when I saw probably my favourite Bond film ever, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, at the cinema. It was everything I had imagined it would be and what I liked about George Lazenby, who played 007 in the film, was that he looked pretty much as I had imagined Bond. He had the authentic ‘comma of black hair’ as Fleming had always described Bond having and not only that, Diana Rigg was probably my favourite Bond girl too.

The Bond films were not then a staple of UK TV but there was always a Bond documentary, usually on TV at Christmas time which built up, as it was supposed to do, the public interest in Bond. It certainly built up mine. There was one documentary I remember which showed the viewer how Ian Fleming suffered with back pain and was sent to recuperate at a rest home where they put him on a back stretching machine which he later incorporated into ‘Thunderball’. Aha, I thought, this is how writers think!

Sean Connery was the first movie Bond and he did a great job in setting out the 007 ‘stall.’ The Bond movies are as much about Bond’s colleagues as they are about Bond and in the original films we had some great supporting actors, Miss Moneypenny, played by Lois Maxwell, ‘M’ played by Bernard Lee, and the long serving ‘Q’, played by Desmond Llewellyn. CIA man Felix Leiter was always played by a different actor in each of the movies, which never ceases to surprise me. A good Leiter would have been a pretty good idea for US cinema goers, surely.

George Lazenby was selected to play Bond when Connery tired of the role. However, he was new to the industry and advisers told him that the Bond movies were on the way out. Friction occurred with his movie bosses when he grew his hair long and sported a beard and eventually Lazenby was sacked. Connery returned to the Bond role in ‘Diamonds are Forever’. With Lazenby that would have been such a good movie but Connery played a tired and lacklustre Bond and after the serious and fast moving ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, ‘Diamonds’ perhaps appears a little tame. Worse was to follow however when Roger Moore was selected to play Bond. Moore plays Bond as a sort of smooth talking fashion icon and some dreadful Bond films were produced in the 1980s.

Timothy Dalton took over for two movies, ‘The Living Daylights’ and ‘License To Kill,’ and after that the film franchise was in limbo until it re started with ‘Goldeneye,’ which after OHMSS is my favourite Bond movie. Brosnan doesn’t overdo the comedy unlike Connery and Moore. He seems like a pretty tough customer yet looks good in a finely tailored suit and, like Sean Connery, he has a wonderful troupe of supporting actors to help him. Judi Dench plays a female ‘M,’ Samantha Bond plays the faithful Miss Moneypenny, and Desmond Lewellyn once again plays ‘Q.’

I was sorry to see Peirce Brosnan go because I can’t really say I’m keen on the latest Bond films although I have seen them all at the cinema except for the latest offering. The aim of the producers was to re-introduce Bond to 21st century moviegoers and to show Bond as the hard man he must really be. My feeling is that they have succeeded too well and the films have a hard edge that I don’t really care for. Let’s have another villain like Goldfinger or Doctor No. Not trying to take over the world perhaps but with a really clever criminal scheme for Bond to sort out. And give me some good espionage gadgets, please! Yes, I’m sorry to say that Daniel Craig isn’t my idea of James Bond. Fleming himself reckoned that Hoagy Carmichael was how he imagined Bond and he wanted David Niven to play the part, which he did although it was in the spoof version of Casino Royale back in 1967. And it’s my considered opinon that Bond was based on one man, yes, none other than Commander Ian Fleming of Naval Intelligence in World war II.

Anyway, it was nice to see that in ‘Skyfall’, a good set of supporting actors was established and instead of one actor departing and being replaced, the introduction of the new ‘M’ was handled well and an interesting element was the story giving some background to the Moneypenny character.

Spectre is the latest Bond movie. It was released in 2016 and although I always try to see the new Bond at the cinema, I somehow managed to miss this one. I have not seen it until now as I recently managed to pick up a cheap second hand DVD version for a few pounds. It’s a very well made glossy movie although it is a little lacking in the story department. Yes, the fights scenes are great, as are the car chases although in recent years the Bond films have stepped away from reality slightly. In one scene Bond and a young lady are having dinner on a train. A Spectre assassin comes to assault Bond and a frantic fight scene ensues in which a great deal of the dining car is destroyed. Bond eventually gets the upper hand but the next morning, Bond and his companion are dropped off at the station as if nothing has happened.

One good thing was the return of Ernst Stavro Bolfeld who comes complete with a backstory linking him to Bond’s earlier life. I suspect somehow that Blofeld will return in another Bond but will Daniel Craig?

One annoying thing about Spectre was I felt that the scriptwriters had somehow confused Bond with the character Jack Bauer from the TV show 24. As you will know, if you’ve ever watched the TV show, Bauer is a sort of maverick agent who disregards any instruction or advice from his superiors, even the President, his commander in chief. He always goes off at a tangent and is a complete loose cannon. That is exactly how Bond starts out at the beginning of this film, he is at odds with ‘M’ the head of the secret service but, just like Jack Bauer, he disappears going completely his own way and later he gets colleagues within the service, like Miss Moneypenny and Q, to follow him just as Chloe O’Brian was an insider for Jack.

Hello, Bond scriptwriter! Just remember who you are writing about, it’s Bond, former English naval officer turned secret agent and not Jack Bauer!

Final result: Enjoyable, good in parts but the next Bond would benefit from a more tangible back story.

 


If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page or here to go to my Amazon page.

Blogging and the Art of the Visual Image

I’ve been a blogger for a few years now and I tend to think three years is the extent of my blogging experience but thinking about it, my blogging experience goes back even further, the only difference is when I started doing it, it wasn’t called blogging.

As a schoolboy I used to publish (OK, write out on pages torn from an exercise book) a blog every week. It was called ‘The latest from the Perverted Press!’ It was mainly a spoof on the then current news stories from the late sixties and early seventies. They were things on the lines of, President Nixon issues apologies after visiting the Nuclear command centre and saying ‘time for launch’ when in fact he had really said ‘time for lunch!’

I used to bill myself as the celebrated author of that great trilogy, the ‘Master’ novels. There was the first one, ‘Master Smith’, the follow-up, ‘Master Jones’, and the one that caused a great deal of unwarranted attention to the Perverted Press, ‘Master Bates’.

I had a friend called Jeff Langdon who created a rival blog, sorry, I mean pamphlet. He decided to write about me and called his pamphlet The Steve Higgins Story, so I was forced to reply with The Jeff Langdon Story. Mine, I have to say, was far more popular and Jeff always complained that my popularity stemmed from the fact my pamphlets looked better because of the liberal use of coloured pens and drawings. Alas Jeff, art always was one of my top subjects. I suppose to a great extent things haven’t changed much. It’s still images that tend to pull in the reader to our work whether it is a pamphlet or a blog and it’s impossible to ignore the growing power and value of visual content. Just look at four of the fastest-growing social networks: Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr.

I read an article the other day that stated, amongst other things, that posts with images produce a higher reader engagement of 650% as compared to text only posts. So how do you get images for your posts?

Well, one easy way is to take them yourself. As an amateur photographer I have a big stack of pictures for use in my blogs and nowadays its even easier to produce a picture, especially with my iPad and the various apps you can get to manipulate the image however you want. https://www.picmonkey.com/ is a great site for editing your images and for adding text and there is also an iPad version. Another great one I use frequently ishttps://www.canva.com/  which has easy to use templates for Twitter, Facebook and all the main social media sites.

If you are not a photographer yourself you need to subscribe to a stock photo site such as https://pixabay.com/ or https://unsplash.com/

Another great site that I use often is http://quotescover.com/  and it’s this site I used to create the title banner you can see at the top of the post.

In Quotescover, simply add your quote or in this case, blog title, add a name or the name of your website and click create. You can choose what type of image you want, for instance for a social media post, for Pinterest, or for a Facebook cover or whatever, then you have a choice of image shape; portrait, landscape or square. After that keep clicking ‘next fonts’ until you get the font that you like.

Here’s a picture from many years ago, taken with my old Olympus OM10. It was pretty handy when I came to post an item called Adventures with A Camera. In the picture is my old Zenith TTL, my first SLR camera and the picture was taken with the camera I upgraded to, an Olympus OM10. As you can see from the picture, I was becoming more and more interested in photography, buying new lenses, experimenting with filters and reading all about photography techniques in the camera magazines of the day.

The picture below was a simple one of me posing with the statue of John Lennon in Liverpool. It was edited in Picmonkey, darkened, given a blue hue and some laser like light beams, some arcing electric lights and some text. It helped to draw in numerous readers to a post about my music loves, The Soundtrack to my Life Part 2.

Picmonkey is a really helpful site for manipulating images and adding text. For a post on my Formula One racing book collection I decided to make a few montages with cover shots of my books. To do that, go into Picmonkey and click ‘collage’. This takes you a page where you can choose from various preselected collage frames or design your own. When you are ready, it’s easy to just upload the pictures you want to create your own collage. Save the design and then you can choose edit and add text or other items.

One thing you might want to try on your blog is an animated image, a gif. It’s quite easy to make a gif using a website like http://gifmaker.me/

All you need to do is have two or three related images that can be animated together, upload them and the site does the rest. On my main page I have a number of gifs and they are all pretty simple. here’s one showing the cover of my book, Floating in Space.

Of course, there’s also video content that you can use to entertain your reader but that’s a whole other blog post!


Thanks for stopping by and if you want to find out more about Floating in Space, click the links at the top of the page!

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

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!

DSCF0008

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 for more information or click the icon below to visit my Amazon page!