Social networking

Bystander Syndrome – the modern version


We’ve all heard about it, people staring at someone in difficulty and not raising a finger to help. When I was a kid it was called Bystander Syndrome and despite everyone agreeing what an awful thing it is, most are guilty of it. I’ve been on the receiving end of it myself. I was attacked in the street when I was sixteen by a stalker and no one helped me. I’ve heard people saying, “oh let’s not get involved, pretend we didn’t notice.”

The modern version of this is Bystander-With-Camera Syndrome. We’ve all seen the videos and photographs on social media. The crimes being committed, the accidents happening, the embarrassing moments, and we all laugh, cry, or are shocked together. Never do I see anyone commenting as to why the person was filming when they could’ve been helping. Now, instead of just pretending you haven’t noticed and slinking away, you get out your smartphone and brazenly film that young girl being beaten to death, or the man being killed, or the dead body of the dog that was hanged by a group of youths.

I wish I knew the reason why people do this. Surely it is better to be regarded as a hero for helping out, rather than the sicko that filmed it and didn’t help, or am I missing a vital point?

The added twist nowadays is the obligatory social media post, which usually goes something like this.

‘This sicko killed this dog. Let’s share this photo all over Facebook so that poor creature can have justice.’

Forgive me for being a tad dense but how the fuck does sharing the photograph over social media bring justice? So you believe the victim deserves justice eh? Then why aren’t you phoning the police instead of filming it or sharing it over social media? Do you really believe that Mark Zuckerberg is going to take all your shares and magically jail the sickos?

I really fail to understand the mentality of the amoeboid sludge that inhabits this planet in the guise of intelligent life.

Using Twitter to build your brand

twitter logo

As anyone with a product to sell or brand to build will know, getting your name known ‘out there’ is the hardest job of all. Whether you’re an author, painter, carpenter, website builder, yoga teacher, or armadillo trainer, getting known, for yourself as well as your product/service is a thankless and laborious task. Unless you have pots of money to give to a marketing firm who will do the work while you sit back and sip your latte, you will have to spend some regular time using the internet.

The operative word here is use. I don’t mean surf, I mean use, make use of. There is a difference. Unfortunately that difference means some time on your ass, typing, but it will be worth it.  For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to concentrate on Twitter as it’s the most intensively used social media for branding, as far as I can tell from daily observation anyway.

I’m going to take it as given that you have a Twitter account that you use regularly and some followers. You will also need a pro Hootsuite account. The pro version doesn’t cost much, less than $10 per month, but you can’t follow this method without it. If you don’t have both of these, go get them and come back here.

One thing worth noting here. I’m not saying that what follows is the best way to approach branding on Twitter, or the only way. It’s my way and I’ve found it less time consuming than other ideas I’ve been told about, and far less expensive.

The secret is CONTENT.

Let’s break things down to simple terms. I want you to do three things. Know my name, know my product, and want to try my product. In order to do this, a lot of people on twitter simply flood their feed with demands to “buy my shit, it’s better than anyone else’s shit.” Of course we all know their shit is probably not better than anyone else’s, and the terse way they bombard us with demands that we buy their shit, puts us off doing so. This type of ‘call to action’ marketing is seldom successful and pisses everyone off no end.

No, what I have to do is let you know I exist first, in a non confrontational way without asking you to do anything for me. I want you to know I’m a nice person, witty, clever, helpful, and have a great sense of humour. It’s the kind of thing you do on a first date. In order to give you the chance to get to know me as a person, I fill my Twitter feed with all sorts of stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with my product. These tweets are known as ‘content.’

You will see this content on your feed, if you are one of my followers, and will hopefully find it interesting, thought provoking, and sometimes funny. You will think, “she’s cool, she’s into the same stuff as me.” Or you might think, “her funny memes are awesome, I think I’ll retweet them.” Then again you might think, “that article she linked to was just what I needed to sort out that problem I was struggling with.” Do you see what’s happening here? You’re beginning to think I’m the dogs bollocks. Because you like me now, you will be more willing to retweet my tweets, and when you finally see one that pertains to my product, a book link, you are less likely to scroll on past.

That is how content works, in a nutshell. So how do we do it? It’s easy really but there is an outlay of work at the beginning, and regular upkeep each week. There are four basic steps.

Compiling your list of content from around the internet.

Making your blocks of tweets.

Producing a csv file in Excel.

Upload the finished csv file to Hootsuite.

The first step is by far and away the most work. It involves trawling the internet for articles, videos, meme’s, blogs, lists, anything you want to include in your content.  It is important to keep your content relevant to your product. If you are a carpenter, you don’t want to post recipes or cute kitties, unless of course they have a funny ‘woodworking’ angle. As a science fiction author, my content is outer space, science fiction, NASA, writing, and everything relevant to my subject. You want to attract people who are interested in the broad subject within which your product lies, so this will help you target your content.

Step two is making up blocks of tweets. I do blocks of six, but you can have any number you like. I would say that four or five is probably as low as you should go. My blocks consist of an article, a list, a video, a quote, a funny meme, and a book link, in that order. These blocks of six are repeated throughout my entire content list. Notice that only one in every six tweets are about my product, my books. This means that my followers can get to know me without the hard sell and when a book tweet comes along, they don’t mind because they know I give them lots of other interesting stuff too.

Next you need to build your csv file in Excel. You will be scheduling your content via Hootsuite, which demands a csv file so there is no choice here. Fortunately it’s easy, just filling in two columns of a spreadsheet in Excel.

Open a blank Excel sheet. You will be using the first two columns only. In column A, you will be putting the date and time of each tweet. In column B goes the tweet itself. The tweet needs to include a link to the article, video, meme, or whatever, and for this you will need to use a link shortener. There are loads to choose from on the internet, but I find it quicker and easier to use Hootsuite’s own.

hootsuite link shortener

If you’ve not used Hootsuite before, above is a screenshot of the tweet input box. Notice I’ve put a URL in the long narrow bit at the bottom? Click ‘Shorten’ and you end up with a nice short link that won’t take up all of your 140 characters.

hootsuite link shortened

You can also add hashtags to your tweets if you wish. Many people on twitter search by using hashtags, so they are useful if you want your tweets to get noticed by people who don’t (yet) follow you. Make them relevant to the tweet itself or you will quickly receive angry tweets from several thousand irate twitterers. Believe me, I know. There is a very useful tool you can use when compiling tweets with hashtags. If you go here you can type in a word and get a readout that tells you how many people use that hashtag.

Excel looks like this:

excel sheet example

I’ve put a block of six example tweets to illustrate how the list is built. Continue building your blocks of tweets, making sure only one tweet per block is about your product/service.

Next you need to decide how often you want your tweets to go out. I do one every thirty minutes throughout three quarters of the day. My tweeting day starts at 10:30am and goes right through to 5am the following morning. I’m in England, so I make sure I catch the folks who stay up late in the USA before breaking it off. We’re 5 or 6 hours ahead here, depending on whether it’s summer saving time or not, so my tweets go out until midnight in the USA and start again at 5am their time.

Build your time preferences into your list. You don’t have to take a break each day, I do because Hootsuite will only schedule a maximum 350 tweets at a time so I can do a week at a time. It also means I can use those tweets in busier parts of the day when more people will see them.

Back to Excel to do column A with your dates and times. This is the part that will require the regular maintenance I spoke of earlier. This is another reason I schedule a week at a time. It cuts down the time spent editing the dates in my spreadsheet.

You have a choice of two date input types. You can either have mm/dd/yy or dd/mm/yy. Whichever type you choose, input your dates and times with date first, followed by time. See my examples in the screenshot above. I’m English so I use dd/mm/yy and mine go like this:

01/01/2016 02:00

Once you have your list, with enough tweets going out at your chosen time interval, for the period of time you want, save the spreadsheet as a csv file. You will notice that there are two choices of csv file, macintosh and MS Dos. I use MS Dos and have never had a problem. I assume that the other one is for Mac users (?). You will get a box pop up asking you if you’re sure you want to save as a csv and saying some features might not work etc etc blah blah blah, click yes. When you go to close Excel, the same box will pop up, click ‘don’t save’ this second time.

Now to upload your file to Hootsuite for scheduling. On the far left side of your hootsuite dashboard, click on the icon that looks like a paper aeroplane. This is Publisher and the place for scheduling tweets ahead of time. Down the page a bit, click on ‘Bulk Message Upload.’ A box will pop up.

hootsuite upload box

Choose your file, click on the date input type and ‘submit.’ Then pray. If there are any problems, they will be listed at the bottom of the box. Basically, it won’t allow more than 350 tweets, duplicate tweets, or tweets that are not scheduled for at least ten minutes ahead. If you get any, go back and check your date and time input, it’s easy to make mistakes in Excel especially when updating week after week.

Make sure every tweet is different, it won’t allow duplicates. This will probably only apply to those tweets pertaining to your product. I have twelve books out, and making forty to fifty different tweets for each one is a huge pain the rectum, believe me. If you want, you can change a full stop for a comma, change a comma for a full stop etc, or change a word or two to make it different, I did this when compiling my lists. Once you’ve corrected any mistakes, your tweets will be scheduled and will go to your twitter as per your instructions.

It is then time to go back into your Excel spreadsheet and edit your dates so that you can reschedule the list. I have three lists of 264 tweets each, which means that apart from my book tweets, all the others are unique and different. My followers don’t see the same tweet for three weeks. Personally, I feel that less than a week between repeats is pushing people’s attention span and patience.

To edit your Excel list, click on the entries in column A and edit them in the edit box. If you look at the example of my Excel sheet, you will notice I’ve highlighted one entry in column A, which has been copied to the edit window right in the middle of the photo.  It’s next to the funny shaped F. Edit your entries in there, click return and it will automatically go to the next one in the column.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Remember to resist the temptation to fill your list with hundreds of “Buy my shit NOW” demands. Keep those to one per block of five or six. Your followers will thank you for it and you will quickly see retweets in your notifications. You will find people add you to their lists, comment on some of your content tweets, laugh at the meme’s. Your followers will get to know you without feeling you’re pressuring them to buy. If they like your content, they might decide to try your product one day.

Building your brand isn’t about getting rich quick. It’s about building your name and brand on firm foundations that will last and grow.


Answering questions and that maddening lack of understanding


I’m having one of those, ‘WTF’ days.

What TF does it take to get my books noticed by the masses?

Where TF should I got to find the ‘perfect’ place to advertise/promo?

How TF am I supposed to get people willing to read my books?

Why TF am I and my work ignored?

and finally,

Why TF don’t I just stop cos I’m obviously wasting my time?

I find this last one is a common occurrence just after I release a novel. It’s a kind of post publishing syndrome I have to go through. There is so much that I see and experience that seems to be telling me to give up, I mean like every day something will happen that makes me realise, ‘yep, I’m wasting my time.’

I’ve seen other writers on facebook talking about their ‘Street Teams’ and what they’re doing for them and how useful and wonderful and incredible they are. Great idea, if you can find people willing to be on your street team. I can’t, of course. No one is interested in being on my Street Team. I tried to get one, I really did. No idea why the lack of interest.

I see people, not always writers, posting about this or that person’s book and how you really ought to read this fantastic book by this fantastic author because your life really won’t be worth living if you don’t. Nobody posts about my books like that. Nobody says that about me or my work. I have several hundred people connected to me on facebook and just shy of four thousand on Twitter, but I never get an embarrassingly sweet repost or mention. I do get one or two, (I really do mean one or two btw) people who repost my cover photo (thank you Theresa and Tiffani and Rebekkah) and I’m hugely grateful for that but it’s a bit like spitting into the wind really. I’ve no idea how to get people to crow unashamedly about me or my work. I’ve no idea how the other writers achieve this. Common sense tells me they pay for it, or the people are family members. I have neither family nor the money to pay people. I guess therefore that this will never happen.

I must interject here because I know people will be saying, “oh well dear,” (really, don’t call me dear, it just makes you look like a poisonous self righteous twat), “if your book is good enough people will shout about it.”

No dear, they won’t. They especially won’t if it is wonderful. If it can ever be considered a rival to their own shit, not only will they not crow about it, they will endeavour to keep it down by any means possible. People won’t read my books, so no one can say they are bad. In order to know whether a work is good or bad, you have to read it first. Just simply being technically brilliant won’t automatically bring readers like some magical force conjured up by a bearded and be-robed Gandalf lookylikey. As usual, you’re argument is totally invalid.

I’ve blogged about the lack of money to advertise several times, so I won’t go there again here.  Suffice it to say that I still have no money to pay for advertising, nor the qualifying number of reviews. I therefore continue to assume that this is not going to happen either.

As I do not know why all of the above is as it is, I have only conjecture on which to base an opinion. There are a couple of possible reasons.

Sheer bad luck.

A personal campaign.


I am willing to accept that much of the reason I spend my life smeared in shit is down to sheer bad luck. Scientists have done experiments about luck and they have found that some people actually ‘attract’ bad luck. I am that soldier, on steroids.

I know and will admit, that there are people within the so called, ‘writer’s community,’ (community? What fucking community?) who hate me, personally and with a passion. I know this is true. You can’t please everyone all of the time. There are some people who will just automatically hate you the moment they set eyes on you. There are people on facebook who I  have pissed off because I tell the truth and don’t subscribe to their imaginary world where they are the best thing since soft loo roll and the bringer of all that is right and good with the world.  I don’t and will never suck your dick or lick your arse unless I genuinely feel you deserve it. Just so we’re clear, I’m 53 and so far nobody has deserved it so the chances of you deserving it are slim in the extreme. Don’t hold your breath love. People hate this about me and hate the truth even more. I can say with complete honesty that I’ve been ‘deleted’ by a lot of facebook folks. They talk to other facebook folks. They pass on their opinions. This goes on. I know it, I’m not stupid.

Even those who seem to be accepting soon prove themselves to be like the rest. They make overtures of help, advice, constructive criticism and when you venture a little further, you hit their brick wall of indifference. For instance, I joined a facebook group where everyone writes little shorts and crits each others work. I have found over the time I’ve been a member that I only ever get a couple of comments, whereas everyone else gets twenty to thirty. I have assumed this is down to some crazy kind of hazing rights of passage probationary shoolyard mindset thing and have put up with it with a smile and gushings of praise to everyone else even when they don’t deserve it (and shit, that has been painful, believe me.) I did however, take the few crits very seriously and re-wrote one of my shorts, after being assured that ‘they’ would “love to see what you’ve done with it,” and compare it with the first version.

Yep, you’ve guessed right (give that person a five pound note and a packet of cornflakes), it has been totally ignored. I mean totally. Not one single like, not a comment, not a ‘fuck you asshole. Nothing, nada, zip.

This kind of thing happens, not only to me but to many other autistic people. It’s the kind of ‘ism we live with every day.

I have a firm belief in destiny and of all three possible reasons, this is the one that has the loudest ring of truth. The universe might just have it in for me. There may be nothing I can do to get my name out of that little black book of ‘people to fuck with for shits and giggles.’ Yes, even the powers that run the universe have their own twisted sense of humour and they have a list of souls whom they use as ‘fuckabout fodder.’ I think I’m at the top of that list.

In all probability, it’s most likely to be a mix of all three. I can do nothing about any of them. I have control of neither luck nor destiny and people will be what they wish to be. If they wish to have a campaign, they will do and I can do nought to change that. I still refuse to buy reviews. I still refuse to bribe people with money and gifts. Don’t wait around here for the chance to win a free kindle honey, you’re wasting your time.

The only thing I can control is what I do and it comes down to one thing in the end.

Do I enjoy what I do?

I enjoy writing. The process of creation gives me much that is and has always been, missing from my life. As an abused child and an autistic adult, my imaginary world makes me feel better and more powerful than this one of yours ever has done and ever will.

I don’t enjoy publishing. I don’t enjoy it because it has proved to be unsuccessful and therefore, a waste of time. People are choosing not to read my books, for whatever reason and this is unlikely to change all the time I refuse to pay them to do so.

The sensible thing to do would be to do what I enjoy and stop doing what I don’t enjoy.

The self publishing tornado


Am I the only one who finds the whole self publishing thing  a bit of a hassle?

No, I can’t be the only one. I refuse to believe no one else feels this way. There has to be more people out there like me.

I’ve only been self publishing since 2011 so I’m a relative noob to this whole thing, but even in the time I’ve been doing it, I’ve noticed the whole thing become less of a joy and more of a chore. I’m talking about publishing here, not writing. That’s a whole different thing.

When I published my first novel, Redemption, back in October 2011, it was exciting to go through the whole process and come out the other end feeling like I was finally a ‘Writer.’ Now though, it feels like I’m walking into a black cloud that will eat me up, throw me around a bit and chuck me out miles from where I started and nowhere near where I wanted to be.

Advertising is a constant source of anguish. The hassle of actually finding effective advertising/promo space that doesn’t cost a fortune aside, the sheer volume of other authors all screaming their heads off about their books is enough to make anyone feel as though you’re trying to swim upstream. What readers must feel when trying to find a book to buy, I dread to think. There are those who react to this feeling of being overwhelmed by resorting to nasty practices to try and give themselves a leg up and although we all know it goes on, no one seems to be tackling it effectively. Is it even possible to tackle it effectively? Has anyone tried just telling them that it’s not a competition? There really is room for everyone’s book out there.

There are many who, when faced with yet another day of trying to get our name out there, look at the enormity of the task and think, “oh fuck, I’m wasting my time here.” Many days dawn finding me amongst them. On such days I go and do something else, hoping that with some time spent doing other things, the spark for the fight will return to me. I’m still waiting.

The lack of any feeling of ‘community’ among the author crowd doesn’t help either. Although they always declare themselves to be willing to help out and encourage other authors, try finding a comment by one of them on your blog or facebook author page. Try finding them among attendees at your giveaway event. Try finding them having bought your book. Try finding them having reviewed it. Yes of course there will be one or two lovely folks who genuinely care and try to help and we all give thanks for them, but there really are only one or two.

Self publishing today is something of an all-in wrestling match without a referee. It’s a dog eat dog world when you’re a self publisher, and you must be always on your guard or you’ll find someone chewing on your ankles. The lack of any real legislation is partly to blame, in my humble opinion, as is Amazon’s well known and continuing dirty tricks campaign, (that itself is a blog for another day). We all know that to get ahead, we must fight our way to the sunlight like creepers in the jungle, and just like them, the most successful are the strangler vines.

If like me you’re not the confrontational type, you will struggle as I struggle. I do not have the energy or drive to fight with other authors who are all convinced that it is imperative Merita King be kept out of the limelight as much as possible in order for the Earth to continue to revolve. Dramatic perhaps but you get my meaning here? Everyone is fighting everyone else and I’m not a fighter. Not because I don’t care about my work, I do, but because I’m not that desperate. It would be lovely to make money from writing, but that is not why I write. I think that is the difference between those who screech the loudest and those who don’t screech at all. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you which is which.

I’m like that seed that stays underground for years waiting for sunlight to hit the ground. When it does, the seed sprouts quickly and reaches for the sky. I’m just hoping that while I’m underground, writing and quietly self publishing, the sunlight hits my bit of earth before I shuffle off this mortal coil, never to return. I’ll be happy to bet my life savings that I’m one of those authors who will be extremely famous – fifty years after they’re dead!

Wandering Thoughts of a Writer -Book Feature

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I had the pleasure of having The Trials of Nahda featured on my good friend Rebekkah Ford’s blog, The Wandering Thoughts of a Writer. Click here to visit her fantastic blog. I hope you enjoy the feature.

The Book Ad Scam



Ever tried to buy an ad at one of those book advertising websites?  You pay the fee and they advertise your book on their website/facebook/twitter for a day. Some are cheap-ish whereas others are hugely expensive and trade on nothing more than their name. The hook is simple – you pay them to put your book ad in front of thousands of potential readers/buyers via their website or email list. Seems great doesn’t it? The only problem is that all of them that I’ve come across so far – and that is a lot – demand you have a certain number of reviews at a certain level before they will then CONSIDER – yes, just consider – taking your book for an ad. Most often they still turn you down even if you can qualify.

I’ve seen a huge number of authors who, like me, moan constantly at how impossible it is to find genuine reviews. Yes, you can do the sock puppet thing by writing your own under fake names. You can buy them, and you can ‘trade’ reviews with another author (the unspoken rule here is that it has to be 5*). Getting genuine ones is impossible, completely and totally impossible. Not only do readers want you to give them your hard work for free, but they then won’t even bother to write a short 1 sentence review by way of recompense. I am quickly getting to hate so called readers.

This whole book ad thing is a total scam. The most well known of these advertising sites charges hundreds of dollars for a book ad, which you then have to ‘qualify’ for by having dozens of 5* reviews. Listen assholes, if I had that many 5* reviews I wouldn’t need your poxy website would I.

My advice to anyone and everyone is simple – don’t use these sites. They just want to take your hard earned money and even if you buy enough reviews to qualify, they then invent some other reason to turn you down – your book isn’t their genre, the cover isn’t professional enough, there is a single typo on page 427, or whatever.

I am sick of all the scams being peddled out there aimed at hard working authors like me. I am also sick of ‘readers’ who actually don’t read and certainly never review. This ridiculously out of control self publishing thing has to blow up soon, it has to. Then maybe, hopefully, all the peddlers of the dross will realise that they really should go back to doing manual labour, and those with real creativity can get their quality work out there. Then it will just be a case of educating the brainless masses on how to actually read quality work.


Very unconstructive criticism

listen-to-the-quiet (1)


I got a message in my facebook inbox today, saying “Willing to hear constructive criticism?”  I replied that of course, I’m always willing.  This is the reply.

“I started to read your story and was repelled by the way you write. I normally can and do push my self to read material that is new. I would not read more of yours than 2 pages and would not buy it. You have me at at loss since the actual suggestions I had for you are now in the cobweb recesses of my mind.”

Now, forgive me for being thick, but how is this constructive criticism?  This is a personal opinion, not helpful advice.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and even if said opinion offends my own, I absolutely stand by your right to your own, but don’t label it as constructive criticism just to give a valid reason to bash me for kicks. If you think you have advice that might help me evolve and develop as a writer, then I’m all ears baby, but if you just want to punch me in the face for shits and giggles, you can fuck off.

I started writing my first novel in June 2011, and this is the first time I’ve had a message like this, so if this happens once every three years during my career as a writer, I won’t be doing too badly.

Bringing my internet presence into the 21st century


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.

Maybe I need to schedule in some exercise?

Write for Readers – Don’t Write for Writers

Readers and writers are two very different animals.  I know, I’ve been both, and am now just a writer.

What I mean is, as an author, you need to constantly remind yourself who you are writing for.  Hopefully, unless you’re writing ‘how to write’ books, you are writing primarily for people who love to read.  Yes, I know writers also read books, but this blog is about the difference in perception from those who write but also read, from those who read but don’t write.

The vast majority of those who read books, don’t write them, and the way they will engage with, and react to your work, is very different from the way another writer will engage with and react to it.  Your job as an author is to please those who read, not those who write.  Remember that.

Give a writer and a non writer a copy of the same book and ask them to review it.  You will get two totally different approaches.

The writer will comment on your grammar, spelling, the depth (or lack thereof) of your characters, your narrative being too wordy (or not wordy enough), plot holes and continuity errors, lack of attention to detail etc etc etc.  Whilst all this is useful to know so that you can improve your writing in the future, it’s not the be all and end all.

Those who read but don’t write will give you different feedback.  They will say how much they enjoyed it (or didn’t), whether they liked the characters or not, whether the story engaged them or bored them.  They might say how keen they are to read your next book, and they might also point out a few spelling/grammar errors if they’re obvious ones.

See the difference?

An important point to remember is that another writer will always have their editing head on, and will always notice the errors first.  As far as most authors are concerned, simply liking the story or characters is not important.  They are the ones who will say spelling and grammatical errors are deal breakers when it comes to buying a book.  Those who just read and don’t write, tend not to regard the odd spelling mistake or grammar faux pas as the end of the world, enjoying the story is paramount for them.

Another thing worth remembering is that other authors will always regard you as a rival for their customers, and many will enjoy pointing out every little mistake you made, in order to make their own work appear superior to yours, and their knowledge all the greater.  Of course I know not all are so calculating, but many are.  I see so many authors wanting the approval of other writers before they feel worthy of self publishing, and seldom do they realise or remember that it is readers they’re after, and most readers don’t write books.

Of course you should make sure your work is as free from errors as possible, that goes without saying, (or it should), but it’s not more important than creating a story and characters that people will enjoy.  Your first concern is what readers want and stuff other authors’ opinions.

I also see authors spending a lot of time networking on social media with other authors, and I must admit that the vast majority of my twitter followers are other authors.  I fail to understand why they think networking with me is going to help them sell their books, as I’ve no intention of buying 99.9% of them, but still they add me in droves every day.  It is getting difficult to find ordinary readers on social media now, and all of my attempts to find them on twitter have failed.  I have to assume that those who read but don’t write, aren’t on twitter.

It is not important that other authors like you or your work, other than the exchanging of information that does sometimes take place between writers.  Tips on formatting, marketing strategies, the best software for making video trailers and other nuts and bolts stuff is useful, but don’t waste time trying to impress them with your work.  They will never will impressed until you are famous for your writing and they are still trying to make it.  Then they’ll be all over you like a cheap suit.

I’m not trying to put authors against each other, but I am trying to explain perspective.  So many  authors (myself included) have become despondent because other authors don’t seem too impressed with their work, but it is not other authors who will buy it.  Authors will happily review your work, if you give them a free copy, but they don’t often buy it.  Again, I know there are a few who do, so no hate mail please.

99.9% of the population don’t write books and never will, and it is those people whose opinions matter most, those people you should aim to please and those whose affections you should be courting – if you can find them.

But that’s a whole other problem.

Cyber Abuse – why does it happen and what do we do about it?


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.