Y’know, the internet isn’t going to go away. It’s going to get bigger, and soon there won’t be anyone alive who has known life without it. That’s a scary thought isn’t it? To think that within a few years, no one will remember not having the internet around is, well it’s wild.
When I think back to before I climbed aboard the web, life seemed so slow back then. There was tv of course, to while away the hours, reading books was something I did a lot of, and walking was a regular feature, but I spent hours just pacing around the house screaming “I’m bored.” Not now though. Now I complain that there aren’t enough hours in the day with which to make more use of the internet. Last night I was up until 2am fiddling with my website and updating bits and bobs here and there across my various little internet watering holes. A few years ago, nothing short of a fantastic sci fi movie would have kept me up that late.
As a writer, a brand with a product to market, the internet is a tool with which I could possibly enhance my standard of living, so I’ve had to take it more seriously, and I’ve found that it’s a lot of damn hard work. Luckily, there’s a shed load of free stuff floating around that I can take advantage of in my quest for literary domination, and every day I come across more. Great, more free shit that’s going to fill more of my time.
Seriously though, there are loads of places online where, as a broke author, I can enhance my brand’s online presence, and I plan to take advantage as much as I can. From free blog hosting sites, free promo sites, and all manner of free tools to enhance your product’s presentation online, it’s a regular Alladin’s cave.
With this in mind, I plan to make a new page here, for online resources geared for the writer who wants to promo/market their books. This will be a constantly evolving project, so it might be a little thin on content for a while. Be patient, and visit regularly, you may find something useful.
I’ve been bullied and cajoled into doing something I should have done ages ago, but didn’t. It’s a long haul, but a necessary one and I will be glad when it’s finished. Glad, and hopeful that it might pay dividends.
As a self published author, the internet is our shop front. We are our own brand and unless you are fortunate enough to be as rich as Croesus, you must do the work of marketing yourself and your product on your own. It’s a slog, but if you do it right, you will have a wider online presence that will be less work to maintain than it is to build.
I have always been honest about my lack of ability to market myself. I suck at it and probably always will, but even I can do a few easy things that give me a better presence online, and create a greater opportunity for readers to stumble across me and my work as they surf. These can be broken down into a few basics.
Spread your net wide, update regularly, and bait that hook well.
There are many places on the internet where you can have a permanent presence, for free, and showcase your work. They may not lead directly to sales, but if you’re not there, the people that are there can’t see you or your work, can they? Take advantage of these sites, make your profile and put your books up there so anyone surfing over there can stumble across you. Places like Author’s Den for instance are free to join, you can have your own bio page and all of your books showing, and all for nothing. People might say that such places aren’t worth the effort, but if just one person see’s your profile there and decides to take a chance on one of your books, it’s worth it. And what if that one person happens to be a major Hollywood director? Ask around, google for ‘free online promotion sites’ and see what comes up. Take the time, it could bring you that chance you’ve dreamed of.
Once you’ve spread yourself around the internet, it’s important to keep the information updated regularly. Bookmark all of the places where you have a presence, and visit them regularly to make sure all the information is up to date. If you decide to update your bio for instance, or your book blurb, go around your sites and update it everywhere, it only takes a few minutes to copy and paste.
Of course, all this should be done after you’ve made sure your bio, blurbs, covers etc are the best they can be. If you find blurbs troublesome, ask a friend to help, go to the pages of similar books on Amazon and read their blurbs to inspire your own. Try to make them inviting, even a little mysterious. They should make a reader want to find out more, not tell them everything right away. Re do your personal bio, or get a friend to help. I find my own bio difficult, but you can send a list of questions to some trusted friends and ask them to take a minute to answer them. Ask them how they would sum you up in less than six words, what do they feel your strengths are, what is funny about you, what do they feel is unique about you? Their answers will help you understand how others see you, and you should be able to update your bio from that without it sounding too cheesy.
I’m in the middle of all this stuff at the moment, and although it’s work each day, it won’t go on forever. Once I finish putting all of my books onto these sites, it will be there forever. It’s just because I have eight books to do that’s making it take a while. Places like Author’s Den and Kindleboards have quite a process to go through to get your book up and looking proper, so I’m doing them one a day to spread the load. Even if it doesn’t lead to sales immediately, I will have a bigger internet presence, and as a brand with a product to sell, all free exposure is good exposure.
Another thing I’m making the effort to change, is my approach with twitter. I’ve been doing content tweeting for a while now, and I’m getting a lot of retweets and favouritings from it, although mostly the non promo posts. What I didn’t realise until a friend pointed it out, was that my tweeting was too general, and maybe I should change it more towards my genre. Why the hell did that not occur to me? Duh! So, I’m in the process of finding another couple of hundred interesting sci fi friendly content tweets, so I can update my tweeting and hopefully attract sci fi loving folks to my door. By the way, if you happen to know of any sci fi type articles, videos and other interesting stuff, leave the link in the comments and if it fits what I want, I’ll add them to my content tweet list.
Blogging is something I’m working on, and I’ve made a vow to blog 3 times a week (at least). Increasing traffic here to the website is a big goal, and one of my main ones behind selling millions of books and having movies made of my books. Again, keep your website updated properly, with appropriate links to everywhere else you and your work can be found. This means of course that I will have to spend more time sitting on my already substantial rear end at the computer.
The internet is a wonderful tool in so many ways, and there is no doubt that it largely enhances our lives. From online shopping which makes daily life for the disabled or isolated, much easier, to educational information available to everyone, to online business opportunities, it opens life up to us in ways we never realised were closed before.
As with most things in life however, there is a darker side to the internet, and it seems to be gaining in strength. There have been several high profile instances of cyber bullying and general aggressiveness, the latest of which is the abuse suffered by Stan Collymore, the retired English football player. He has been on the receiving end of racial abuse, mainly via twitter, which has escalated into death threats and all sorts of other horrors.
There are two questions that spring to mind immediately. Why do people do this and what can we do about it?
The first of these questions is multi-faceted, but simple to answer – because it’s anonymous. You don’t have to identify yourself truthfully anywhere on the internet, and this allows you the safety to behave in ways you would never dream of otherwise. You can call yourself any name you can think of, you can put any random photo on your profile, and no one need know who you really are. This is extremely empowering, especially for those people who are socially introverted, and/or too afraid to take part in what used to be called ‘normal social situations.’
Suddenly, we can now spit forth all of the darkest horrors that dwell deep within the most animalistic region of our minds, and which we tend to keep locked away when we have to physically interact with people. No one in their right mind would walk down the street, see a black skinned ex footballer, and yell the N word at the top of their voice. The chances are that the aforementioned would come over and nut you one if you did. We all know this, and, not wishing to invite fisticuffs with another person who might hurt us far more than we are able to hurt him/her, we keep our mouths shut and our kneecaps intact.
Get on the internet however, and suddenly those risks are not there anymore. We no longer have to risk getting a black eye or broken nose, we can be as horrible as we like and be totally confident that we will always get away with it. That gives us all a lot of power, but it is a power that causes nothing but pain.
I think there are several underlying causes of this upswing in anonymous aggression. Firstly, our societies are terribly over populated and our territorial boundaries are being invaded every day as more and more housing goes up, gardens get smaller and more people are being housed in apartments without even a balcony, let alone a garden. We now have more neighbours, far more closer to us than ever before and we are forced to live in far too close a proximity to everyone else. Everyone likes their own space, but when your own space is not much bigger than your own footprint, it has a detrimental psychological effect, so much so that there is now a new educational discipline called Environmental Psychology. People can now study the effects of overcrowding and the way it affects us.
This enforced crowding, leads me to the second reason. The closer we are forced to live with our neighbours, and the less personal space we are allowed, makes us withdraw from social interaction more than we would have done fifty years ago, in order to try to get some time away from all these people so close around. This withdrawal does nothing to enhance or develop our social or interpersonal skills, and subsequent generations are much less effective at what I call, compassionate social interaction than people of my parents’ generation was.
Given our dwindling ability to interact in a compassionate way, the dwindling of our personal space, and the enforced ‘close proximity living’ we are all experiencing, the type of interaction offered us by the internet, with it’s anonymity, makes cyber abuse bound to happen. We now have a platform on which to vent all of the pent up feelings our lives cause us, and knowing that we can say whatever we want without anyone having to know who we are, the temptation to vent forth with our most vicious feelings is too strong for many to resist.
So what can we do about it?
This is a hard one, and one that does not have a simple answer. We should encourage our younger generation to interact physically more than they do, limit their time on the internet so that real interaction becomes the norm for them, and give them other opportunities to vent their feelings in a way that does not involve hurting anyone else. Ideally we would all have the opportunity to live in slightly larger personal spaces than we now do, but unless there happens to be a sudden pandemic anytime soon, we are doomed to live shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours. Education is very important and often overlooked in this particular arena. Those who have spent many years being educated to a high standard, have not only showed that they have high self discipline, necessary for study, but they often have life goals that involve getting out into the world and doing something with their time and skills. Under educated inner city no-go area housing estates are often filled with people who have not had such a good education and who have practically no job prospects. They have more free time in which to sit around and get bored, due to not having a high standard of living, and the temptation to spend hours daily on the internet, and using it as an outlet for all of their woes, is very high.
We need to be teaching the younger generation how to be a compassionate social person in a high density society. This is where we can blame the parents – us, for not having done our job properly. Human nature is naturally compassionate, to a degree, but we are also naturally competitive and want to be better than the next guy. We are capable of great violence and as kids, we need to be taught how to control our selfish urges and live in harmony with others. With all the educational, racial, cultural and religious differences between us and our neighbours in our new borderless societies, we need to learn how to live and let live. It doesn’t come naturally, it needs to be learned and we haven’t taught this to our kids.
When it comes to social media, those in charge of these sites need to jump on any wrong doing quickly and deal with it, and this is where they are falling behind. In all of the recent high profile cases, the social media site(s) involved have done nothing about the abuse. This needs to change, especially as there have been several suicides resulting from cyber abuse. The problem for us as users is that we are almost totally powerless to force their hands. We can email, tweet, post etc demanding they toughen up, but 99% of people, while agreeing, won’t bother to get involved, (another demonstration of today’s lack of compassion for others).
I’ve had a few nasty comments on facebook over the years I’ve been involved with it, and my response is always to go public with it. I copy and paste the comment, with the person’s name, and let all my followers see it. I respond not with aggression, but with honesty and openness and show the world who this person is. Hopefully the ensuing embarrassment will help them to decide not to do it again. If I get a reputation for always showing the world what you’ve said to me, the chances are you will try to make sure what you say to me is not abusive. That’s my opinion anyway, and however flawed it may be, it works for me.
I hope Stan Collymore gets the result he deserves, and I hope the twitter bigwigs get off their fat asses and tighten up their response to such crap. In an ideal world this shit would not happen, but this is not an ideal world, because people live on it.
As a self published author, one has to constantly run the gauntlet of snobbish opinion as to traditional vs self publishing. This is a tiresome task and one that never goes away no matter what we do. No matter how carefully we proof read and edit, no matter how much money we spend on cover art, no matter how many beta readers we send our manuscripts to and no matter how many re-writes we do, our work will always be regarded as shit because it’s not been traditionally published.
This subject came up again on facebook just now, when some knob-head made the following comment,
“Self-published authors are exactly that, self-published. This is almost like arguing what the difference is between art and garbage.”
We all know there is a glut of badly edited trash out there from self published authors who should never have thought about putting their shit out there, let alone actually doing it, and we all know that the good stuff is buried under this mountain of trash, making it very difficult for our work to be found by readers. We also know that these trash writers give us good writers a bad name and are responsible for this stigma that plagues us.
The sticking point for me, and the one thing I cannot get past without getting angry, is that my work is judged by those who have never read it. No one has the ability to know whether my work is shit or solid gold without reading it first, and my opinion is that until they do, they should shut up and keep their asinine opinions to themselves. When I commented to this effect, on the same thread as the comment above, I was then told, “I’m not risking money and time on something I don’t trust. You have to earn that chance, you aren’t entitled to it. You do this via marketing yourself. (Of note, angry rants do not help your case.)” To anyone who believes that since I self publish my own work, I do not have the right to express my exasperation, I say this,
My ability to express my feelings has no effect whatsoever, either detrimental or otherwise, to my written work and if you think it does, then you’re probably not the kind of person I would wish for as a reader. You had probably better stay inside and carry on with your knitting and siamese cats, I’ve got gritty novels to write for readers with an educated and open mind.
In my humble opinion, it is people such as those I mentioned above, that are killing writing and not authors self publishing their own work. Whilst badly edited work does annoy readers, opinions such as those outlined above do much damage to talented authors trying to get their work out there to those minds waiting to receive it and enjoy it. It is these talentless and blinkered troglodytes who are hindering the evolution of writing/publishing, not authors missing the odd comma or misspelling there/their/they’re.
As those of us with a few brain cells know, there is no benefit to being traditionally published these days. They may (may) give you a small advance, but they keep 80% of your royalties, they do no marketing for you and you get no say about the cover art. A traditional publishing house will demand you present them with a fully outlined marketing plan before they consider offering you a contract and you will be expected to do all the leg work in getting your work out there. Self published authors keep up to 70% of their own royalties and have total control over cover art, and still do their own marketing/promotion etc. There are many editors out there advertising their services if you don’t have the knowledge or confidence to do it yourself, so self publication need never be the poor relation of the writing family.
Times without number I find spelling errors and other simple mistakes in traditionally published works by well known authors, but never have I seen comments about how bad this is, nor how this should not be tolerated etc. No, the opinions are always about how self published authors are the street urchins amongst the traditionally published earls and duchesses. Until this changes, the writing/publishing world will never evolve as we know it is currently trying to do.
I made a decision recently to blog more often. The reason was the lack of visits and comments which had almost made me give up the blog. Up until then, I’d blog when I had something definite in mind to blog about but then I noticed that many others blog far more frequently than I do, sometimes several a day. So I decided I would make an effort to blog every day, which may mean you’ll sometimes get little more than rubbish but hey, it’s worth a try.
Is it simply a matter of quantity over quality that gets readers and comments? It’s not for lack of followers as I have around a hundred (approx) so maybe it’s just that I get lost amongst the others who spam the feed with multiple daily posts. Social networking, if blogging can really be labelled as such, is a rather unpredictable thing. There doesn’t appear to be any hard and fast rules to rise up the ladder and get yourself noticed. It’s all a bit hit and miss.
There’s a lot talked about SEO, which as far as I can gather, is a way of manipulating the way your blog appears when people do google searches so that your blog is higher up the list. I know zip about such things as SEO so I won’t be fiddling with that side of things, although I do take care to do the ‘tag’ thing before posting. And I have categories, which I also gather are important. Sometimes I wonder if my blog is visible at all and I’ve thought maybe there’s a button I haven’t clicked yet and no one is seeing my shit at all. That would be so me..!
Writing is what I do. It’s my thing. I find it easier to write a 100,000 word novel than to speak to a group of people face to face for five minutes. Funny then, that I should so often be stuck for an idea to blog about.
On a brighter note, I got $25 today from Smashwords for 1st quarter royalties, which is delightful. I also did another short story for my planned horror anthology which will be released later this year. My Saturday hasn’t been a total washout then.
It occurred to me that twitter is like one of those Maurits Escher paintings.
Everyone is so busy trying to sell their own shit that they can’t see anyone else is using the site. They’re so blinkered into thinking they have to shout louder and more often than anyone else that no one actually sees or notices anyone else’s tweets. Everyone is shouting and no one replies. Just like in the Maurits Escher picture, everyone is in t heir own version of reality and totally unaware of anyone else on theirs and never the twain shall meet.
If people would just shut the fuck up and read a few tweets, reply to some now and again and even, heaven forbid, get a conversation going, people might start actually interacting. Then you can start talking about your shit and listening to them talking about theirs and you might just both get a sale.
Everyone should meet on one staircase instead of running up and down their own.
I finally realised something today that I should’ve realised ages ago. Years ago in fact. Oh well, better late then never huh?
The thing that brought this valuable but unsettling lesson is facebook, or rather the people in it. Watching a certain behaviour and even participating in it for a while, and failing miserably (of course, it’s what I do best) has been at times angst ridden but educational. There are a lot of well known people that hang out over on good old Eff Bee and they have many millions of fans between them, many of whom try to get ‘noticed’ by their particular chosen one. Most of them fail but still they try, I admire their perseverance, and I was once one of them. Now, maybe because I don’t have that perseverance I admire so much, I’ve realised that I don’t like how that particular merry go round makes me feel, so I’ve chosen to stop doing it.
Why do we need the acknowledgement of some relatively talentless but good looking famous person? Why do we seek it so fervently? Those are the questions that have plagued me for the past couple of years and it’s only recently I think I found answers that resonate comfortably. It’s because we’re so overcrowded that few of us feel our voice is being heard. We feel we’re drowning and we’re desperately crying out for a moment of attention. It’s because we all want that moment of feeling we’ve reached a bit higher than the millions of others also drowning around us. It’s because we hope their success will somehow rub off onto us thr0ugh their “hello” or smiley face. It’s because we feel so unworthy of achieving success on our own merits.
Another question I want the answer to, is why does it take fame to make us feel successful? What is this thing about fame these days?
Of course there are people who will say “I don’t seek fame at all,” and that’s wonderful but offer them fame and see if they turn it down..!
Will it make my life better if I get a “hello” or a smiley from a famous Eff Bee’er? Will it fuck..! I’ll still be the same ageing, unattractive, overweight and unsuccessful single writer I was before. I’ll still be the same socially crippled and unlovable weirdo that most people try to avoid because they can’t ‘get their head around’ me and my autism. The constant striving for a moment of attention from this or that celeb only serves to remind me how unsatisfying life really is, how life sucks cock big time. I don’t want to be reminded of that all the time I fail to be noticed. I don’t want it and I certainly don’t need it. It will not serve me positively.
So I’ve taken the decision not to do it anymore. I will still appreciate a person’s skills in their chosen field, but I will not seek their attention any more. I’d rather be noticed for my own skills and appreciated for my creativity than because I got a smiley from a celeb on Eff Bee.
I’ve been on facebook for a few years now. I was a myspace convert at the time when myspace decided, in its infinite wisdom, to try and make itself more like facebook as it was then. Alas that was its death knell and 90% of its users left overnight, me included, and defected to facebook.
Facebook is called a ‘Social Networking Site’ and in those days when I first joined, that’s exactly what it was – social. People chatted, played games, sent each other kisses and hearts and collected eggs. If you had 400 friends on your list in those days, then all 400 saw everything you posted to the wall. Now, just around a tenth will see it and you have to pay for any more to see it.
I used to be a big farmville player up until a couple of years ago. Just yesterday I revisited my farm with the intention of playing again and spent a happy few hours rearranging things. Today I find that I cannot see a single post from any other players on my wall and nothing I do can make any farmville posts appear. The game requires you to get ‘help’ from your ‘neighbours’ in order to complete quests and part of achieving this is by responding to their farmville posts on the wall. If I can’t get anybody’s posts, how the fuck am I supposed to actually play the game huh?
It’s bad enough actually getting the bloody neighbours to help at all but not getting their posts either, I haven’t a prayer.
Other games on facebook limit your playing time by giving you a set amount of ‘energy’ that once depleted means you can no longer play for several hours until your energy bar has refilled. You can of course pay real money to buy energy..!
I mourn the old facebook days when it was actually social. Today, facebook is not a social networking site, it’s a pay to advertise site that gives you an option to talk, but no one actually bothers.
Come to think of it, I don’t actually mourn the old facebook, I mourn the old myspace.
I just want a game that I can go to for an hour or so here and there for some mindless diversion. I want a game that doesn’t require me to solicit help from folks who have no intention of doing so and one that doesn’t limit my playing time with an energy bar.
Oh, and it would help if I didn’t have to spend real money either.
Alas, I firmly believe no such site or game exists anymore.
There has been a lot of talk in recent months about sock puppets and for those who’ve only just returned to Earth, sock puppetry is buying reviews for your book or making a fake account from a site such as Amazon and giving yourself a glowing review. That’s the basic version anyway. Google it for more information.
I’ve discovered a new kind of sock puppet and this one wears a disguise to try to hide the fact that it’s just a sock puppet. Over on facebook I get invited to many ‘pages’ and ‘events’ run by authors all wanting to market their book or raise its public profile and many of them resort to good old bribery to do it.
They offer you prizes such as Amazon gift cards, kindles, paypal money etc but in return for being allowed to enter this competition (which is nothing more than pulling a name out of a hat) you have to buy their book, download their book, vote for their book and/or leave a review. Then and only then will you be entered into the draw, which you probably won’t win anyway.
Now, we’d all love a brand new Kindle Fire or £100 paypal money and many people go in for these so called ‘competitions’ without realising what they are actually doing. They are taking the promise of material reward in return for leaving a glowing review of a book they’ve probably never read anyway, which gives potential readers a totally false view of the product they intend to pay honest money for.
Let’s say for instance that this gal wrote a romance novel and offers such a thinly veiled bribe and people leave glowing reviews of it on Amazon or Goodreads saying how wonderful it is, how perfectly written and how they can’t wait to read more from this wonderful wordsmith etc, you know the sort of drivel. So a real buyer comes along and likes the look of the hot guy on the cover and thinks about buying it but decides to read the reviews first. Everyone seems to be awestruck by this wonderful piece of literature so they buy it and eagerly await the postman. When the knock at the door comes they almost bite off his arm to get at the package and rip it open. With a fresh coffee to hand and the cat on their lap, they sit down to read.
Then they discover the spelling errors, the bad (or none at all) punctuation, the continuity errors, the horrendously stilted dialogue, incorrect or total lack of research, contradictions galore and generally bad grammar. They might not know the mistakes are there on a conscious level but they will quickly realise the book is difficult to read, it doesn’t seem to flow and they cannot tell who is talking and who isn’t. They will get irritated by the overuse of identical dialogue attribution (if it’s used at all) and will find themselves thinking,
“What the fuck is this all about?”
They will feel disappointed and angry at the wasted money and time and will then assume that all indie/self published books are of a similar standard and will be far less likely to buy another. For those of us who take a lot of care over the quality of our product, that is a slap in the ta ta’s we don’t deserve. We must act to raise the bar for the whole indie/self publishing world and a huge part of doing that is to stop trying to con our customers. You may think it’s okay to help another author out, even if you’re only doing it in the hope they’ll do the same for you (they won’t, believe me) but take a moment to think of the customer who reads your review. Will they be happy that you told the truth? If not then remember that same customer might not be too happy to buy your book when it comes out, after being conned with the last one.