Archive | February 2013

WordPress Blogging – Is It A Good Idea To Set Up Another WordPress Blog?

Now here’s a thought. Blogging on WordPress is free, right? Well, the basic version anyway. And WordPress actually encourages bloggers to set up another blog….so why aren’t we all doing just that? Or are we?

It’s crossed my mind recently that having a second blog might be a really cool idea. Yes, I know it will be double the amount of work, and take up more time than I can spare, but having an alternative blog devoted to a very specific niche might be just what I’m after. Some other blog where I can run wild and free. (?)

There are times when I think “It would be great to begin a project, something off the wall, that I could blog about once or twice a week, that would be separate from my main blog about self publishing and writing.”

Like what? Well, I could rattle off half a dozen projects that I’m interested in that are absolutely nothing to do with writing….learning piano for example.

I’ve always wanted to play the piano and have taken the odd lesson over the years but I’m a poor student. I want to run and do cartwheels before I can walk….that kind of thing….and most of my piano teachers (I can think of three) lose patience with me and I end up packing it in.

But I’ve reached that certain age where I find myself walking down the street whistling “Enjoy Yourself It’s Later Than You Think”…and so this time I have decided to really go all out for it and learn to play properly.

But to put that into the main blog? Okay, yes, it would work. It would be fun. Or would it be better in a separate blog? ‘Diary Of An Old Chump Learning To Play The Piano – Born To Pack It In’. I’m not sure…..

So, the question is this….do most WordPress bloggers settle for just the one blog and put all their effort into that? Or, do quite a few of you out there have a ‘secret’ second blog on which you allow your alter-ego to run wild and free?

That would be interesting to know.

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Blogging On WordPress – Good Days, And Not So Good Days?

I’ve been blogging every day, more or less, for around two months now and although I’m trying to look at it as a long term project I have to admit I still fall into the ‘must check my stats’ trap.

I know, I shouldn’t do it, I should just blog away and if others want to come along and read it fine. If not, hey ho, that’s life, move on, you can’t please all the people all the da da da dah.

But every morning I check my emails…. “Sacre bleu, another follower. No, two. And three likes”…..

It’s sad I know. But it does raise an interesting point.

I can clearly see there is a pattern emerging about my stuttering stats.

Monday…well, I might as well blog about the price of sardines in Mesopotamia for all the views I get. Diabolical. I get more views through my kitchen window – at least the post lady looks in to see if I’m walking about in my underwear again.

Tuesday. Ah, good old Tuesday. After suicidal Monday we get the adrenaline rush and all-day high of Tuesday. This is consistently my best day. Why is that? Is Tuesday a slack day at work for everyone, allowing them a couple of hours in the afternoon to check out what’s new on WordPress? I have no idea. But on Tuesday I feel great.  I’m in love with the world. Even the post lady.

Wednesday. Well, it’s like nothing really. Bland. I try to let Wednesday slip by. I shop. I re-wallpaper the hall. Anything to take my mind off the nothingness of my stats. There are some views, but not enough to cause a ripple of excitement.

Thursday. Now that’s more like it. It must be another quiet day at work for most of my visitors. I’m okay again. Life is worthwhile. Thursday is like a warm wet towel on my face. I could stay like this forever.

Friday is ‘anything can happen day’. Friday is exciting. The weekend starts here.  Optimism is high. It could be a record breaker. The post lady even manages a peek through the window and a smile. I wish she wouldn’t when I’m in my underwear.

Saturday is a nightmare. It’s almost as bad as Monday. Is everyone out shopping? They must be. Somewhere at the back of my mind a line from a Frank Sinatra song croons in my ear ‘Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week….’ Too right. Where is the post lady now I need her?

Sunday‘I’m on the top of the world, looking down on creation…..” Awful song, but you get the message. The stats have gone crazy…I’m happy again. Life IS worth living…..amazing. What a shame there is no post today.

Anyone else recognise the pattern? Or do you have one of your own?

Self Publishing On The Kindle – Setting The Right Selling Price

Setting the right price for your self-published eBook on the Kindle is a tricky one. Everyone has an opinion about this, and the jury is out on whether a low or high selling price is the right choice.

I’ve worked with a good cross section of authors over the past few months, converting both their new manuscripts and previously printed books for the Kindle, and no two books have had the same selling price.

They always ask for my advice which I gladly give based on my experience of seeing what sells and what doesn’t. You sort of get a feel for what is the right price for a Kindle book after you’ve read through it a dozen times and played about with the formatting.

I always tell them what price I would set if it were my book, and this is genuine impartial advice, I make nothing from the actual sale of the book. But it’s very much a ‘how long is a piece of string’ type question to which there appears to be no correct answer.

Ask a roomful of published Kindle authors about their pricing structure and you’ll get a roomful of different opinions. So what is the best answer?

What I generally see is this….let’s say the author has written a first time novel and wants to make his/her mark. It’s a decent enough work, worth promoting and selling, and the author is outgoing and personable and willing to promote it. What happens then is that the author says something along the lines of “I don’t want to give my book away so I want to set a fairly high price to begin with then if nothing happens I can drop the price later.

This seems a reasonable enough strategy, but to be honest, in my opinion, it rarely works.

I know others who have sold tons of books this way, but for most of my ‘unknown’ writers this just doesn’t work. In my experience setting a lower selling price wins in the end.

The counter-argument from authors is always “If I sell it too low everyone will think it’s a poor novel. That if it’s cheap it’s badly written, riddled with typos, and just ‘another run of the mill novel by a first time writer’ and I don’t want to give that impression.”

That’s fair enough. But I have seen too many authors publish their book on Kindle and offer it for sale at £6 ($9) then, despite promoting it to death to friends and colleagues and distant cousins, they see no sales at all. Zero. Zilch.

Then comes the mad scramble to drop the price and they feel terribly let down. It’s natural.

One final word about non-fiction….technical books, advice books and similar publications…..I can see there is a difference here. The writer has done a lot of research, has probably written the book after a lifetime of working in that field.  Perhaps they are an expert, and it seems right for them to charge a decent amount of money for all their efforts. I would go along with that, but still advise them to be careful about pricing the book out of the reach of most ‘casual’ buyers.

So to sum up – set the price low, rather than too high.

I’d welcome any feedback on this post as I think it’s something all writers considering publishing their work on the Kindle need to know about…

Sorry, I Can’t Write Anything Interesting Or Entertaining – It’s A Bad Hair Day

I’m in a funny mood. I can’t seem to do anything right. Even writing a decent sentence is beyond me. I get days like that. I’m sure we all do, for different reasons. In my case it might have something to do with the fact that I recently had a ‘bad haircut‘.

Maybe it’s me, but a bad haircut affects the way I feel and the things I do, even writing. I’m not at my best. I can’t take myself seriously. I feel bad about myself. Really bad.

I catch sight of myself in the mirror every half hour or so and I cringe. Is that really me? Is that really my hair? Is that who I am? Is that what I have become? Oh dear.

Worse still, the bad haircut has a nasty habit of turning into an even worse ‘bad hairstyle‘ as it grows out of control into a monstrous thing…….The Mutant Hairstyle from Hell. That’s where we’re at right now.

So, I need to find a new hairdresser. And that in itself is depressing. In general it take at least sixteen to twenty cuts for the stylist (I use the term loosely) to figure out what I want. I say things like ‘Not too much off the fringe, just tidy it up please’. Then when they fiddle and faff with it for half an hour I usually add ‘Could you be a sweetie and just trim it a touch over the left eyebrow? Not too much, just a gentle waft of the scissors should do it.

I am their worst customer. My hairstyle (I use the term loosely) has more or less remained the same since 1971. Not good. I need to emerge from the 70’s and at least drag the hair into the 90’s. But it’s such an effort. And I wouldn’t like the result. I’m comfortable having 1974 hair.

Why does hair have to grow anyway? Why can’t it stay just the way it is? It doesn’t make any sense.

Maybe I should have them shave it all off. A Full Yul Brynner. But would the young girl in the hairdressers know who Yul Brynner was? I would guess not. She doesn’t look the type to have watched The Magnificent Seven or The King and I on TV on a Sunday afternoon.

Maybe if I asked for a Bruce Willis? Or is that yoof slang for something unmentionable? I wouldn’t have a clue.

Until then I suppose I must soldier on…..now, where’s my woolly hat?

 

 

Performance Storytelling – A Night Out in York with Eros and Psyche

For me, a visit to the theatre is always something to look forward to, particularly when it’s to the Theatre Royal in York.

There’s something about the place that feels ‘just right’….from arriving in the bar and having a pre-performance drink to the productions themselves which are always stimulating and enjoyable. If you’ve never been to this particular theatre and you’re in York you should definitely try and put a couple of hours aside to check out what’s on offer.

My previous visit to YTR was to watch one of the great Christmas ‘spectacles’…the annual York Theatre Royal Pantomime, a traditional British panto at its best, no soap stars, no celebrity walk-ons, no politicians guesting as Widow Twanky, just terrific family entertainment from start to finish. A party of us go every year. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it.

However, onto last night’s visit. The ‘performance’ was not in the main auditorium itself but in the ‘studio’, a small 120 seater (approx) space, which is ideal for one man shows and experimental small-cast productions.

The title of the piece ‘Eros and Psyche‘ was performed by Sally Pomme Clayton, and was billed as ‘merging myth, fairytale and raucous Greek philosophy- performance-storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton undresses the myth of Eros and Psyche to ask what is the path of love…?

Okay, not everyone’s cup of tea, or glass of retsina, but Sally did a great job of entertaining us all with her storytelling….a solo performance spanning two 50 minute sections. And it set me thinking about storytelling.

Isn’t that what we all do as writers? We are just storytellers. Nothing more.

Sally had to get her story across in 100 minutes of speech and music and managed that really well, but as writers we are given more time to develop our characters, set the scene, reflect on back story, have internal dialogue, meander down sub-plot alleyways……but in the end if it’s not a rattling good story we risk losing our readers.

So I just thought I would suggest this….as writers we should all take a look at our novel or children’s book and ask “Is the story any good? Will it hold our reader? Will it make our reader want to keep turning those pages to find out what happens next in the story?” 

Sure, we can all come up with novels that break this rule, and why shouldn’t we write something ‘different’, something crazy and original? Fine. But storytelling is an art form that has been around for centuries, and I think we would be well advised to bear that in mind. Give the reader a cracking good story and they’ll come back for more. I’m sure of it.

http://www.sallypommeclayton.com

http://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

Once A Writer – Always A Writer?

Just a short post today you’ll be pleased to see…..about careers of all things.

I’m on Facebook. I don’t say that with any great joy or pride….I’m on Facebook but my heart isn’t really in it if you know what I mean. I realise that for writers being on the ‘right’ social media sites is important, but for some reason or another I can’t seem to get the Facebook bug. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s an age thing.

But on reflection I think it’s all down to one thing that sort of disturbs me. I’m one of those butterfly-personality types that has tried lots of different things in life, not really ‘careers’, more dollops of fun, usually lasting five years or so until I have had enough of it, or it has had enough of me. Probably the latter.

And that brings me to the people I worked with in these ‘dollops of time’. I have managed to retain a small handful of friends from these previous lives, but not a great deal. I tend to keep to myself, do my own thing, move on, and leave it at that.

So let’s say 20 years on I’m surprised when I’m contacted by previous colleagues who want to be ‘friends’. Great, I suppose. And I usually agree. But what really interests me is what they are doing now. In the vast majority of cases they have completely changed direction. TV cameramen have become lighthouse keepers, radio presenters have become landlords, actors have become international experts on bee keeping. So maybe it’s not just me after all.

And the question that now arises is this – do writers change direction? Or if you are a writer, and good at it, do you remain a writer all your life? It’s baffling me.

I need to think about this over the weekend. I need to go shopping. I need to buy a stone drill bit. I think I want to become a stone sculptor. Or a pianist. Something like that.

 

Marketing and Promoting Your Self Published Book For Children – Part 1

It’s Friday yet again, and Book Handover day. Fridays seem to be becoming the day I deliver freshly printed books to first time authors…..and today is no exception.

In a few hours I will be driving 70 miles or so to meet my latest ‘author’ whose first ever book for children I’ve just produced and published. I know he will be delighted with the results. It’s what happens. I’ve written about this kind of ‘book handover’ before so I won’t repeat myself. However, the really hard part begins today for him – namely the marketing and promotion of his books. It will be interesting to see how he does. He’s a very determined chap.

So it set me thinking….”Maybe I should do a series of blog posts about the various ways you can market and promote your own self published book for children‘. Okay, great idea, but it’s been done a thousand times online. However, I thought I would break the whole process down into a series of articles rather than just generalise about this and that in one long post. Right, time then for Part 1. I hope it helps.

There is no particular order for these randomly-posted ‘hints and tips’ and some may be more relevant than others for your book but I have to begin somewhere. This first ‘tip’ might not be something you’ve ever thought of doing, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it…..

Part 1 concerns ‘Marketing using Youtube‘. Now as we all know Youtube is free and available for anyone to use. We take it for granted. But I have to remind you that it is an extremely powerful marketing tool used correctly. So how do you make it work for your book?

I want you to make a short one minute (or thereabouts) Youtube video ‘TRAILER‘ for your book for children. No longer. A minute would be fine…..don’t cringe, it’s not that difficult. (If you simply can’t do it yourself get in touch with me and I will help you out, or even do it for you for a few dollars (pounds)…but this is not meant to be a sales pitch).

You will need a Youtube account. Sign up for one if you don’t already have one. You can now upload short videos onto Youtube and reach an audience of zillions….

You will need a very simple piece of video editing software on your computer. If you have a Mac you will already have iMovie installed…perfect. If you have a PC you will have probably have Windows Live Movie Maker. It doesn’t need to be a sophisticated piece of software…the process is simple.

Now I’m assuming your book for children has some kind of ‘dramatic moment‘ in it. Your main character, let’s say it’s Felicity The Ballerina, will probably encounter some ‘difficulty‘ which she has to overcome….so at some point we’ll have a situation such as  “Felicity’s mum is driving her to the school concert where Felicity will dance in front of a packed audience for the first time…Felicity is already dressed in her ballerina clothes….but the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere….will Felicity make it in time?” That kind of thing…..

So we have a ‘set up’ about Felicity wanting to be a ballerina. Then we have a ‘situation’ where everything seems to be going well for Felicity, her mum is driving her to the school concert. Then we have disaster…the car breaks down….and we have the ‘Cliffhanger’ situation. Perfect.

What you now do in your movie editing software is create a montage of STILLS’. I’m going to describe this in its simplest form, you would maybe make it more colourful…but the effect we’re after is IMPACT.

Still 1 is white TEXT on a black background. “Felicity is like any other small girl….she has a passion in life...”

Still 2 is an image from your book…it’s Felicity.

Still 3…text again “She wants to be a ballerina

Still 4 would be yet another image from your book. Felicity in her ballerina dress and shoes etc…

Nothing fancy here…..just text followed by images from your book….this is the set up.

Follow exactly the same process for the rest of the ‘situation’ reaching a climax with “So will Felicity ever make it to the school concert?” …… Find out by reading the book ‘Felicity the Ballerina’…. “Available now from Amazon etc etc.” And then the book details and your contact number.

As I say….the object is to set up your character in text and images…then the same for your ‘situation…then build tension for the ‘cliffhanger’…keep it simple, no moving images, just stills. Easy enough to do.

Now to really get the piece moving you could add some ‘music‘. Obviously Felicity the Ballerina would need a different kind of music to a trailer for Harry The Horrible Hobbit Who Eats Children For Breakfast….so where do we get our music from?

Check out http://www.freeplaymusic.com

Now this is not ‘copyright free’ music, you have to give the composer credit, but there is a wealth of music here you could use, all in bite size chunks, 30 seconds, 1 minute etc…..one minute would be perfect. There is every conceivable type of music available here.

Once you’ve added your music and made everything in your mini trailer work, then you need to save it in a format that Youtube likes….most editing software these days has a facility to EXPORT for Youtube. (Again, you could always email me and I would help you out)

And that’s it. I know this may not be that easy for some of you to take in, but believe me Youtube reaches a massive audience and it’s there for us to use FREE. Take advantage of it, and with all the other marketing strategies in place it will make a massive difference to your chances of creating a buzz about your book.

Apologies for such a long blog post….I’ll try and keep it shorter next time. If you do upload a mini-trailer to Youtube please let me know and I’ll have a look and feature you on the blog……