Tag Archives: web strategy

Up the Amazon


This is proving an education in so many ways. ‘Head of the Beast’ is now available on Amazon, and I shall be adding the heavily revised editions of ‘Sky Full of Stars’ and ‘Falling Through the Stars eBooks in the next two weeks. They’ll take a week to ‘go live’ on the major Amazon web sites.

In addition, last night I revisited Lulu.com for the first time in months and was delighted to find that their eBook distribution now covers both the Kobo and Kindle platforms as well as the Nook and iBookstore. All I need is to double check what’s available and tick two boxes. Hooray.

On the downside, what this means for me is a lot of administration. Creating and updating author pages and profiles. I’ve had one on Amazon.com some time, now the task has to be repeated for Amazon.co.uk. Authors Den and other promotional profiles need to be tidied up and improved. Adverts added to sidebars and a whole host of other time consumers. Not sure whether I want to become an ‘Amazon Associate’ though.

Also I’m writing again. Last nights contribution was a dark little tale of techno-convenience gone wrong. A 2500 word piece I’ve been struggling to finish called ‘Blink’. Today I have some domestic tasks to do before doing the weeks shopping. After that, while I’m in the mood, I’ll revise another 5000 word tale I’ve given the working title ‘the Immortality bug’. Thence another go at ‘A Falling of Angels’. It’s going to be a busy week.

Site changes


The appearance and mapping of this site are undergoing a few changes while my head isn’t in story mode. My psyche has taken one too many shocks to the system to concentrate properly on stories of late, so I thought I’d have a tidy up of the blog. Produce some new headers to try and create a more consistent and workmanlike look than previous iterations. I’m also currently joining authors sites like crazy in order to up my commercial visibility and improved marketability; Not just Goodreads or Authors Den, but some of the others as well.

The five new header images which will appear on each page of this site are based on public domain Astronomical pictures, several of which started life as colour separation overlays and maps of Mars. I’ve played around with them to produce low to medium resolution images. There is also a new email contact form on the ‘About the Author’ page, and I hope to add my LinkedIn profile details to the sidebar as I expand my freelancing portfolio. There will also be a more professional ‘parent’ site, which will be more about our technical writing and educational business than my science fiction.

Just a walk in the dark


Not much writing done today. Spent a good chunk of this morning sitting waiting while my car was being serviced. As I was leaving the house I grabbed my proof copy of ‘Head of the beast’ to pass the time. It’s a little wordy in places, but the dialogues fairly snappy, and as reads go, its as pleasant a walk in the dark as most places. I was so engrossed, the three hours at the dealership just flew by. Seeing as I wrote it, I’m quite pleased with the end result.

‘Head of the beast’ is a dark little story which speaks about how mundane the horrors can be, how those who are paid to cope with the darkness manage it, and how seemingly lofty motives can lead to appalling outcomes. As far as my sci-fi writings are concerned, it’s fairly typical. A mixture of the horrific and mundane. Rather like real life, really.

Ergo I’ve changed the header tagline from the rather anodyne ‘A science fiction writers web site and blog’, to the mildly blasé ‘A walk in the dark’. Which, I feel, is a little more me, and far more representative.

Have picked up the thread with ‘a falling of angels’ and am busy piling on the words as well as tidying up a loose end from ‘Head of the Beast’. Well I like it. Perhaps that’s all that matters.

Good advice from Goodreads


Pleased to say I’ve been accepted for GoodReads as an author.  As a matter of course I spent a few minutes going through their ‘Author Guidelines’ and found this solid little gem;

From time to time, Goodreads authors have responded to readers who gave their books negative reviews or ratings, and the results have been disastrous for the authors’ reputations. Goodreads is not private; other readers will see a hostile reaction from the author, and a single negative interaction is often enough to turn a reader against an author permanently.

Couldn’t agree more. Don’t engage with hostile forces unnecessarily, and you’ll never lose the fight. Make the trolls punch smoke. Sound thinking there from the Goodreads team.

There’s also a mechanism for flagging, downgrading and even removing pointlessly hostile reviews. Splendid stuff.

I have a feeling we’ll get on famously.

On the domestic front we had a minor panic last night. Around half past ten I was convinced I could smell burning insulation in the kitchen. Called Angie, who agreed; yes, that’s hot wiring, not my over active imagination. Called Mark, our landlord, who checked out the wiring and circuits, which were all running cool as frozen yoghurt. After he’d gone I checked underneath the fridge, which seemed to be the source of the hot insulation smell. Plenty of fluff on the evaporator coils, so I set to work with a long crevice nozzle on the vacuum cleaner. At one stage in a highly undignified posture with the fridge up on blocks and me scrunched up between it and the wall, straining to clear greasy dust off electric motor stators. This state of affairs continued until midnight, and I ended up sleeping with a fire extinguisher by the bed. Electrical fires, especially in frame built housing, are no joke.

It’s not like we don’t clean the kitchen regularly, but from what I could see, this was the accumulation of airborne muck from the day the fridge was installed. I’ve seen this phenomenon in old server rooms where the air conditioners were faulty or didn’t have decent air filters. Fine dust in the air builds up over time until you have motherboards that look as hairy as a Yeti in full moult, and there’s a growing smell of hot insulation. Even the odd soft ‘zipping’ noise of a static short circuit. No-one’s fault, but it can be quite worrying to see what people in ‘clean’ offices are actually breathing. Same for the fridge.

This morning; no smell, and the fridge is cool. We’re all good. The sun is shining and think it’s going to be a really good day.

Getting on to Goodreads


Struggling a little with Goodreads yesterday.  Spent a good three and a half working hours learning and navigating their Author program, and still no idea whether I will be listed.  Especially as I share an author name with a guy who writes spiritual and religious tracts.

According to one LinkedIn poster, I’m probably wasting my time as Goodreads is ‘Troll City’.  Frankly I’m not bothered.  There are few opportunities for the self publisher to get out there, and if a few whack jobs want to play bougres stupides , well that’s just fine by me.   In three years walking street patrol, getting verbal abuse every working day my skin thickened, and I can give far worse than I get, if it’s even worth responding.  My tongue and pen are honed to a razors edge.  If I really have to waste the time, there are ways and means to deal with mere abuse.  Bring it on.

It all goes back to the simple truth about self publishing in a niche market.   Getting your work into the public domain is all about networks.  Listing on Amazon, listing on Barnes & Noble, listing on iBookstore, on Kobo,  Authors Den, Goodreads.  Not to mention other distribution platforms.  They’re all networks with their own quirks and special requirements.  There’s a learning curve associated with each one.  Boxes to be ticked.  Procedures to be followed.  Teeth to be gnashed.  Hair to be torn out by the roots.  Pass the antidepressants matron, I’m just off to my padded cell to have a quiet little scream.

You get there eventually, but it takes time and energy better devoted elsewhere.  No wonder others prefer the Traditional Publishing route.

Writing, rewriting, repeatedly re proofing and editing a hundred and fifty thousand word novel is a piece of cake by comparison.  That’s just the third in the Stars trilogy.

Is online activity declining?


This is purely anecdotal I know, but since the Snowden / NSA scandal broke, with all the revelations about surveillance, I’ve noticed a significant decline in online activity. Not this site, because it’s always been pretty low activity. Really, what is less interesting than a self publishing writer in a niche market talking about writing and self publishing in a niche market? On various forums I read, once active posters seem to have dropped off the web, and I’m wondering if this is symptomatic of an overall decline which probably impacts on online sales. I mean for everyone.

I know that Internet use ebbs and flows like the tide, but one time enthusiastic users seem to be less enthusiastic than usual right now. This is nothing I can pin down, and seeing as it’s a developing situation there are few real resources. Alexa.com shows that Google search use basically fell off a cliff in early June after six months of increase. Facebook is 11% down in search activity. Yahoo also suffered a sharp decline in June. Bing a small increase. This could of course be due to the holidays, as the majority of Internet use is driven by a younger audience, and will no doubt be back up in September when school restarts. On the other hand I find myself concerned that we’re seeing the start of an ‘Internet recession’. An overall decline in Internet use as people drop ‘off grid’ in an attempt to avoid everything they say and do being logged and recorded.

Like I say, there are few reliable sources of immediate information, but I liken it to watching a change in the clouds a day before a storm rolls in. The harbingers are there. Once hyperactive users have gone silent. Companies are talking about taking their online business ‘offshore’ and even the antivirus company I use is doing deals on VPN (Virtual Private Network) connections. I’m halfway inclined to configure my router to anonymise web access like in this tutorial, but it’s such a pain to reconfig if something untoward happens at the other end (Loss of proxy, things like that).

Aug 2013 012For those of us who have bet the farm on a ‘web only’ eBook strategy, this apparent decline does not bode well.

Apropos of nothing; during a rainstorm over Dodd Narrows yesterday evening around 7:30pm, I was privileged to witness exactly what is at the end of the rainbow. On a full arc double bow.

Original image. No photoshop. This is what actually lies at the end of the rainbow.

Darkness Between the Stars – new excerpt page


Have decided to put the first couple of thousand words of ‘Darkness’ on an excerpts page. Just to give a flavour of the style and tone. New story thread to add to the mix, with six particular characters.

New page is under the ‘Stars Trilogy’ tab on ‘Darkness between the Stars – Excerpts‘ tab.

At present, inbetween shifts and all the other domestic stuff, I’m flipping between stories, trying not to get them all mixed up. Oh yes, and I’m also growing my beard back.

The future state of publishing


As a self-publisher, I’m always on the lookout for ways to break the glass ceiling. Every self published author knows what this is; news outlets who won’t even think of reviewing a book published by an author, but will give acres of room to specialist works no-one but a handful could be interested in. Book distributors who need all sorts of incentives just to mention a self published work in their catalogue. The sixty forty split which makes it difficult for an author to make any money, even if they are lucky to break into the bookstores.

For a small time self publisher, the means of getting ‘out there’ into the larger marketplace are limited and time consuming. Which is what publishers do. They take the hard graft of getting noticed and into bookstores, and make it look easy because they have established and maintained media contacts and procedures which flow from manuscript to customer. They also get to say what style gets into the marketplace. Which accounts for some authors, in frustration, sending in the barely disguised first three chapters of a classic novel, only to find that it too gets rejected with barely a syllable being read. The castle drawbridge is up, portcullis down, and you peasants can just jolly well stay in your scruffy little self publishing hovels, what? Your betters have spoken.

In some ways the current situation reminds me of the old trades union ‘closed shop’ with all its negotiated restrictive practices. It’s ossified, semi-paralysed, looking for the next big thing, but hardly daring the radical move of expanding its catalogue. There’s always a sense that it’s not what you know, it’s whom.

For me, my frustrations reached boiling point some years ago when I spent weeks on a 1500 word short-short, revising and rewriting because the magazine in question had done “A very nice picture.” Afterwards; having ‘done the sums’ as they say, I worked out that I’d been working for something like five English pence an hour. Hardly a fortune. I’d also submitted several finished manuscripts and when publishers deigned to reply, all I got was one, repeat one, form letter from someone whose job it was to periodically clear the company slush pile of unread manuscripts. The rest I never heard a whisper from. So when I first heard of online self publishing, I thought “Great!” and like so many others piled in. So far the experience has been like building a boat, getting it launched, beating the tides and making it out to sea, then looking out at the big cruise liners disappearing over the horizon and thinking “Now what?” The ocean is open, deep and vast, there are continents to conquer on the other side, but not being able to keep up with the big boys leaves you feeling somewhat adrift.

At the moment, self publishing is an alphabet with letters missing. Like a language without the right words. Conceptually bereft. I suppose like the man in the small boat I’d better get paddling. Doesn’t matter where. Just pick a direction and go for it.

Work in progress; excerpts posted


In the Cerberus Conspiracy pages, I’ve decided to post the first two chapters from my work in progress ‘A falling of Angels’. I’m fairly happy with the chapters as they stand and the word pictures they paint. Paul Calvin, Ben Wallace, Fat Mary and Jed Carter feel right as characters living in a crumbling society, riding the razors edge between anarchy and stability. Link is here.

As matters stand I’m still only about a third of the way through the story, with a lot of ground to cover. Gang wars, the role of a shadowy corporate in societal breakdown, more on the Freemen, blackmail, and pleasure seekers made into techno zombies. Plenty of juicy filling and not too much in the way of bread for padding. So far so good. Well, I like it even if no one else does.

I’ve also added the first chapter from the ‘Shifting States’ MSS on a sub page of the Cerberus Conspiracy tab, which has been work in progress for just under ten years.

Publishing and distribution headaches #SelfPublishing


I’ve been following a highly contentious thread on LinkedIn for the past few days. One which posed the question; “Is self publishing such an evil?” If you were to read the views on some of the contributors, the answer was a simple no. The alternative views were being expressed in a manner so poisonous and ill informed that I had to stop reading. Broad brushstroke comments condemning all self published works as poorly spelt and formatted for example. Which I thought was unfair. Publishers used to send out lists of ‘errata’ after first editions had been printed, highlighting errors which would be corrected in later editions. Nowadays they get sent to the ‘remaindered’ book store or pulped. So the Nyer ner ne nyer ner type comments to the effect that “You self publish, therefore everything you say and do is crap”. don’t really stand up to close examination. Those are the kind of comments written by people who ‘correct’ library books. Small minded and cheap. We all make mistakes and it should be the story not counts. Not minor spelling and grammatical errors from which mainstream publishers are not immune. Build yourself a bridge and get over it for crying out loud.

Although I’m told that a traditional publishing deal is no longer (and perhaps never was) the easy route. It means you still have to market your own books. The funding mainstream publishing companies used to pay to market an authors work, and the access to the big book distributors is often no longer so readily available to the first timer. From observation I’d go so far as to say the age of the big publishers advance is mostly (Except for a few key instances) history. When all’s said and done this is no surprise; publishers take a financial risk every time they put a book out in the marketplace, and if it all falls over massively they’re history. Their game, their rules. Although I’m moved to observe that since they are not immune from the laws of cockup, slagging off self publishers is not a wonderful business strategy. A lot of writers are avid readers too.

The big self publishing problem is not, as some would contend merely in the spelling or grammar of a particular work, it’s actually in the distribution; getting a book, or more easily an eBook listed. Even then the market is fragmented, and while Smashwords and Lulu.com can get you listed across most distribution platforms, there are some quite large marketplaces, like the growing Kobo eReader which require independents and small scale publishers to go through Kobo’s ‘writinglife’ process. Which, if you’ve already got an edition you’ve spent time getting listed on Amazon, iBookstore and Barnes and Noble, feels like having to do the same job twice. It’s enough to give you migraines. Never mind the promotion, marketing and all the other things a writer has to do to get their work out and noticed in a crowded marketplace.

There is still, at the moment of writing, no single low cost route which will transmit from keyboard to bookshelf over the broadest range of popular platforms. Lulu, Smashwords and Kobo are all good, but none of these provides a single, end to end process for an author to get their work out into the broadest of public domains. Never mind the holy grail of going from those points of publishing entry into the big book distributors lists. This issue is proving a major headache, but one that is not incurable. It’s had me contemplating creating my own on line publishing and distribution company, just to see if I can fix it.

Still scratching along with ‘A falling of Angels’. A sentence here, a word there. Progress is slow, but sure. I’d get a life, but what with the job and publishing issues, on top of looking at boats, new cameras, and the odd bit of extra technology Angie wants installed, trying to squeeze a third one in might prove one too many.

Ten steps to a more businesslike approach to writing #WritersBlock


Have been thinking about this a lot recently, and have come up with a simple ten step businesslike approach to writing;

1. Plan the narrative, set and use timelines
2. Write to the plan unless there’s a bloody sound reason
3. Set a schedule, hours, dates, times, which are given solely to producing ‘product’
4. Set hours, dates, times for getting the message ‘out there’
5. Set up a web linking strategy. Follow it.
6. Create useful resources for readers
7. Create interesting forums with anti-troll and spam defences. Be ruthless.
8. Stick with what you’re writing, don’t get distracted.
9. Don’t listen to too much advice
10. Proof read, spell check daily.

This is more for myself than for anyone else, as I tend to let myself get distracted and do anything but get on with it because I get stuck. I intend to set myself a target of 10,000 words per week minimum, with a set maximum of 3,000 words per day. If I’m going to try and make a success of something, the least I can do is do it in a disciplined, focused manner.

Popping the Kobo question


I’ve just submitted a question to the Kobo guys regarding getting existing ePub formatted titles with existing ISBN’s listed on the Kobo marketplace. I’m sure it’s not as complicated as it looks. It’s Friday, and I’m not expecting any kind of reply until at least midweek next week. About the same time the proof paperback of Head of the Beast drops onto my doormat. Should Kobo work out that makes three large market places with product placement.

Note to self: must check out the listings to make sure sufficient excerpts and tasters are available to sufficiently whet reading appetites. As soon as proof is okayed and listed on Amazon, I’ll cut and paste a taster on the Amazon page.

Money is tight right at the moment, and I’ve no spare cash to spend on marketing. So it’s head down and keep on punching keys, preparing product for release into the public domain. Keep the day job and keep throwing things at the wall. Something is bound to stick sooner or later. Although I’d rather it was sooner.

New site page


Working on the next volume in the Stars trilogy, I’m also currently adding to this web site. The latest addition is an overview page for ‘The Sky full of Stars’, which is the first volume in the series. At over 150,000 words it’s a weighty read, and probably overlong, but it tells the tale I wanted to tell. Another overview page for ‘Falling through the stars’ is also now up.

Over the weekend, Angie and I had a long talk about what was happening in our relationship, and how the frustrations of the past two years have been wearing me down emotionally. Angie, being the wise and wonderful woman that she is, agreed with me on a partial solution. A seventy pound punchbag. Below are pictures of punchbag after hauling it up two flights of stairs, and rigged ready for use. I only use the outdoors lash up when it’s dry, and haul it in after each and every use, which in itself is good exercise, and I feel better than after trying to run. Running is bad for my injured left knee, and thumping a punchbag lets me work up a quick and dirty sweat without putting too much strain on my knees old rugby sustained injury.

As you can see, all this pent up violence has my poor dog terrified.
We’ve also booked a much needed spa break over Christmas. We both need it.