Hluhluwe Umfolozi, feeding lions and a rather intangible abstract notion.

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©PaulWhite

I was asked recently, by Francis de Aguilar, a writer friend, what first caused me to “Become interested in African wildlife.

 

A simple question.

I told him it was after visiting South Africa, particularly the time I spent in the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve. 

However, Francis’s question stayed in my mind; although I answered him, it left a nagging doubt in my mind I was wrong.

I was.

After pondering for a few days, the truth unravelled itself. I now knew the correct answer.

My interest with Africa and its diverse multitude of wildlife was first stoked by reading the novels of Wilbur Smith.

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©PaulWhite

Back in the early seventies, I picked up a rather dog-eared and worn copy of ‘When the Lion Feeds’, which I devoured within two days. I followed that book by purchasing ‘The Dark of the Sun’, again read within a few days.

I was about sixteen years old and, for the first time, ‘hooked’ on a particular author.

I read all of Wilbur Smith’s books up to the 1991 publication of ‘Elephant Song’. My favourite book, (excluding any of the ‘Courtney or Ballantyne Novels’) must be ‘Eagle in the Sky’…or ‘Cry Wolf’…or ‘A Sparrow Falls’….or…

But I digress.

 

The real answer to the question posed to me by Francis is, it was reading these books when I was a young man that stimulated my imagination, made me think about the heat, the vastness, the veld, the bush and, of course, the animals of Africa.

For years, I carried my imaginings of the world Wilbur Smith planted in my head with his words, until one day I had the opportunity to visit Africa myself.

I was not disappointed.

The continent is mind-bogglingly vast. The scenery, the smell, the sun, the animals, the people, everything exceeded my expectations, bettered those imaginings I held onto for so long. This I find is something rare, very few places ever exceed our own imaginative conceptions.

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©PaulWhite

I have returned to Africa many times, to different areas, different countries within this vast dark continent.

You may have heard it said, Africa captures, not only your heart but soul and once you have been, you can never really leave.

These are some of the most honest words ever spoken.

I am here now, but part of me will forever remain in Africa.

Now, being a writer, I cannot leave an article like this with just one conclusion when I know there are always several stories to be told about everything.

Therefore, I would like you to also consider this from Wilbur Smiths point of view; or maybe it is just my own interpretation of what I think his view may, or could, be.

Who knows? But I’ll write my thoughts out anyway.

I wonder if dear old Wilbur thought of me when he wrote his first novel?

I don’t mean me as an individual, as a single person but as a conceptual being. I wonder If Wilbur thought he may influence some young man, somewhere in the world, to fall in love with Africa as he typed out his very first paragraph of ‘When the Lion Feeds’ way back in the early 1960’s. (The book was first published in 1964).

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©PaulWhite

Then, my thoughts ask the very same question of myself.

Do I have an image, a conceptual ‘personage’ in my mind who may, one day, be influenced by my own work, by my writings, by the tiny little black shapes, these strange runes of ink I scattered across countless pages?

The answer is yes, I do have such a notion, albeit a rather intangible abstract.

Which leaves you to ask yourself the same, do you?

Think about it carefully, do you?

If you would like to take part in making my rather intangible abstract notion a reality, then please start by reading ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’ a collection of thought-provoking stories which are not quite as you may think they may be…

Just click the cover image.  WtIPV1small

Thank you, Paul.  

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Some tips to increase your book sales

So much to do, so little time. (I think I have heard that said somewhere before.)

At least I have found a few moments to share another post about being an indie author.

I do not normally write a ‘list’ style post as they generally tend to be little more than ‘clickbait’.

However, on this occasion, I have made an exception to the rule and produced a sort of list post myself.  But one I hope is better and far more informative than those ‘clickbait’  I mentioned above.

I hope these tips will help you create a book which will sell in (vast) volume.

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“On with the post”

I hear time after time and frequently read, on social media, authors asking why no one is buying their book(s).

It could be down to many things, even the lack of serious or targeted promotion.

Novice writers often spending too much time and effort in posting their book(s) on author group pages… HINT… authors are more interested in writing their own books and most already have a vast TBR library they will get around to reading, soon(ish), one day, maybe later, or never.

You need to put your energy and effort into targeting those people who are more likely to want to read your work than another author. (Coals to Newcastle, busman’s holiday… ring a bell?)

However, before you get anywhere near that stage, here are a few basic questions, self-check questions, you should ask yourself and, this is most important, answer honestly.

You will only be letting yourself down if you lie to yourself.

In a nutshell, you must ask yourself, (way before you publish) if your book looks professional and is your blurb up to scratch?

These are the questions you need to use to clarify each point of consideration.

Regarding your books cover:

1, Does it look professional.

No, truly; do your book cover(s) look like they could be displayed alongside the best sellers on show in your city’s premier bookstore?

Bestsellers

If you cannot say it does with absolute certainty, take a mock-up, even a full-colour print of your cover and visit some bookshops. Hold your image up, place it on the shelf next to the big named author’s books.

Now, give it ten coats of looking at. Ask those who are browsing what they think of your intended cover.

This is a form of market research. It can save you a ton of heartache let alone money. But you must be honest and you must listen to what others say, after all, it is they who will be buying your book, not you.

 

2, Does your book cover clearly demonstrate the genre of your book?

Your potential readers will, most often, have one or two genres they prefer. Like many people, once we find something we enjoy it takes a giant leap to change.

Therefore, if your book does not accurately reflect the genre of its content, you WILL be losing any potential readers initial interest.

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3, Does your cover immediately garner attention?

Is it sufficiently attractive to stand out among other books on the shelf or on Amazon?

Does your cover artwork stand out amongst the other books around it? How well does your book ‘stand-out’ as a ‘thumbnail’ image on an Amazon page full of other books?

Are your friends or the bookshop browsers immediately drawn to your cover? If not, you need to make changes.C&Vfront3

Note: Too many authors make the mistake of trying to tell the entire books story on their covers. This is not what the cover is intended to do. In simple terms, the cover is like a candle flame to a moth. It is there to attract a person browsing to take a closer look at your book. Once the browser has the book in their hands or has ‘clicked’ for more details, the cover has done its main job.

After which the points below come into play.

 

 

4, Does your book title grab attention?

Pretty much like the cover image ‘as a whole’, the title of your book must do several things. It must accurately reflect the genre of your book while defining its own individuality.

Along with this, it must show who the book is intended to be read by. Not an easy task to succeed at, especially when regarding fiction, which is far more subjective than non-fiction.

Regarding non-fiction, your title must indicate the benefit and what makes your book different to other covering the same or similar subject matter.

 

5, Does your book’s subtitle and/or description clarify who the ideal reader is?

Does your description work as a prime first hook on the general browser?

The description (subtitle) should convey the emotional (or practical) payoff to the reader when reading your book. (The ‘what’s in it for me’ factor)

LitWZ finalTo communicate this your description needs to capture the curiosity of the browser, it must take them on a clear, cohesive, emotional journey and leave them wanting to know more. You must engage their curiosity?

Is your books description length similar to the prime authors/major publishers books of the same genre?

Note: Nothing on the cover of a major publisher’s book is thereby happenchance, everything is carefully calculated and designed based on a vast database of market research and marketing sciences. You should not go far wrong by following their designs and formatting.

 

6, Pricing your book

Have you priced your book to match that of similar titles of the same genre by other indie authors?

Here price point could be a major influencing factor. Price your book too high and few will buy it. Too low and many will perceive it as a low-value item and pass it by.

The trick is to get this balancing act weighed off. Not an easy task.

 

7, Are your books first pages intriguing enough?

Many online bookstores offer a ‘look inside/sample read’ function. This is akin to flicking through a few pages of a physical book in a bookstore.

When considering this fact, it becomes clear you need to ensure an early hook is built into the first pages, say the first 10% of your book.

This will create an intrigue, a wanting to know ‘What happens next’ question into your potential reader’s mind, encouraging them to buy your book.

I hope these pointers will help you with the designing your books cover and when writing your ‘blurb’.

You will find many more ways to reduce your publishing costs and loads of money-saving methods by reading ‘The Frugal Author’, immediately download-able HERE.

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Write a brand-new story, combining genres…

Before you ask, yes, this is about sci-fi and Robots… but it also about crime fiction, fantasy, steampunk and many other genres. It’s about understanding, imagination and the muse… so read on…

Like all fiction genres, Sci-fi and its many sub-genres must evolve with the times, writers must look to the future. (pun intended)

Czech writer Karel Čapek introduced the word “robot”. It is said his brother suggested using a derivative of the word robata, which means literally “serf labour” and figuratively “drudgery” or “hard work.

No wonder the robots usually want to revolt, to take over our world. To turn the tables on us!

But, long before the word “robot” was invented, the ideas of mechanical or artificial men was in our ancestors’ consciousness. Early ideas of robots or automata drew inspirations from early writings and figures in mythology, who were described as anthropomorphic and crafted from stone or metal.

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TALOS The Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodius, 3rd century BC. Photo credit: Sergio Santos, CG Society website

Described in the Argonautica as a giant man of bronze forged by the smith Hephaestus, Talos is tasked with patrolling the island of Crete and fending off pirates.

However, he is still partially organic, as is shown in the description of a single blood vessel that runs from his neck down to his ankle. Much like with Achilles and his heel, the vein of Talos is his weakness, and he dies in the story from exsanguination.

 

This developed into ‘other’ forms of automata,

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The Sandman by E.T.A. Hoffman, 1816. Photo credit: The Sandmen blog

In ETA Hoffman’s short story, The Sandman, the main character Nathaniel falls in love with the daughter of one of his university professors.

While she is beautiful and elegant, Olympia speaks very little, only responding to conversations with “Ah”.

She is also often motionless for long periods of time.

The people around her find this disconcerting, and it is eventually revealed that she is a lifelike doll.

 

 

Enter the early days of Sci-fi as we recognise it now,

STEAM MAN
The Huge Hunter/Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward Ellis, 1868. Photo credit: World of Sideshow wiki.

 

Edward Ellis’s Steam Man is an early example of the Edisonade genre of science fiction.

Derived from Thomas Edison’s name, the genre describes stories that feature an ingenious young American inventor, who uses his inventions to go on adventures, solve problems, and defend himself against his enemies. The invention often has many purposes, such as weaponry and transportation.

In this case, the teenage hero is Johnny Brainerd, who creates the steam man and uses it to pull wagons that can carry passengers. Despite its large size, the steam man can run quite fast, and Johnny uses this to his advantage (such as, for hunting buffalo).

An imitation of this story was written by Harry Enton in 1876, called Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains, which also features a young inventor and his robots. Frank Reade’s steam man improves upon the first, with a much more efficient engine due to improvements in hydraulics and use of lighter-weight alloys. Thus, it is faster and stronger. Frank Reade’s son, Frank Jr., would eventually go on to create Steam Man Mark III, and replaced the use of steam with the use of electricity.

This and Steam Man of the Prairies were dime novels, popular fiction that is much like the comic books of today.

 

Tik-Tok
Tik-Tok, Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1907 Photo credit: John K. Neill, Wikipedia.

Dorothy finds the mechanical man, Tik-Tok, with a printed card suspended from the back of its neck.

The card provides directions for ‘using’ Tik-Tok, such as how to make him speak, think, and move by winding the clockwork in his body. Tik-Tok needs to be periodically wound like a toy to function, as he cannot wind himself up.

Tik-Tok has been referenced in other fiction, and his benign nature subverted into something more sinister, such as in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and John Sladek’s Tik-Tok.

 

 

As I spoke of in the opening paragraphs of this post, the term Robot arose thus…

ROSSUM'S UNIVERSAL ROBOTS
Robots, by Karel Capek, 1920) Photo credit: Technet website.

 

This famous play, which was successful in its time, describes a factory that makes artificial people or roboti, from synthetic organic matter.

Less like robots and more like androids or cyborgs because of their biological nature, these synthetic people work for humans but eventually organize an uprising, causing the extinction of humans.

Karel Capek’s play is influential for being the first to use the word “robot”, replacing “automaton” or “android”. It is also worth noting thatrobota in Czech means forced labour, of which the robots in the play were made to do.

Robot: We wanted to be like people. We wanted to become people.

Radius: We wanted to live. We are more capable. We have learned everything. We can do everything.

Robot: You gave us weapons. We had to become the masters.

Robot: We have seen the mistakes made by the people, sir.”

Which basically, and with a giant leap of literary faith, brings us to the time when robots were simply robots, like Robby from ‘Lost in Space’. A time when Isaac Asimov penned ‘I Robot’ and hope for humankind lingered.

'ROBBY' THE ROBOT
‘ROBBY’ THE ROBOT Photo credit: Fred Mcleod Wilcox

We all knew where we stood.

Then along came James Camron who introduced us to Skynet, and all hell broke loose.

cyberdyne
CYBERDYNE Image: Geek.com

So, where does that leave us, how can we tell new, inventive and genuinely futuristic tales of machines, androids and automaton now?

Maybe, a little closer inspection of where we stand now will help us, if we stand on tiptoes and look far over the rising horizon…

Robots are all around us, toiling away in factories and warehouses, busting a gut in landfills and working in hospitals. The NAO model introduces school kids and students to programming and robotics and it also teaches children with autism. Another model, Pepper, was created to work in the service sector; its tasks include attracting potential customers and consulting with buyers.

As the IOActive team discovered, to seize control of NAO you only need to be on the same network as the robot. Experts found vulnerabilities allowing commands to be remotely executed, effectively giving over full control of its actions.

To demonstrate how these vulnerabilities can be exploited, the team forced NAO to demand bitcoins from its human interlocutor.

But real criminals would be limited only by their imagination and programming skills. What’s more, it’s not just NAO that can be infected with ransomware; the more business-oriented Pepper is just as vulnerable, and other models probably are as well.

Just imagine if one fine day a robot teacher or store clerk, in full view of John Q. Public, started swearing and insulting people before going on strike or picking a fight.angry_robot_character

You never know.

 

 

 

But why would anyone hack a robot?

What do criminals have to gain here? Won’t it just spoil someone’s day or their life? That might be enough incentive for some hackers, who often do such things just for fun.

But there’s another reason: money.

The profit motive is simple. Buying a robot costs about $10,000; and if it breaks, it must be repaired or replaced.

Both of those require a fair bit of cash, but factor in the downtime cost and reputational loss of having a robot threaten customers and the sum rises considerably.

If an industrial robot is hacked, it can pose an immediate threat to employee safety or production quality.

An attacker compromising a robot in one of those ways might offer a quick solution to the problem, (which they caused), pay a ransom and everything will be just fine.

But, as you might guess, cybercriminals don’t always keep their word. Of course, the vulnerable robot might be hacked again, requiring another payout.

And then, another,and another…

What can be done?

Robots are here to stay (and multiply), so avoiding contact with them is not the way to go. For that, you’d need to invent a time-machine and go back a long, long way as mentioned above.

Instead, users and manufacturers need to be sensitive to robots’ weaknesses to ensure these devices do not go from cutting-edge to catastrophic in the blink of an eye.

Robot creators need to think through security issues in advance before production starts. Today. Better still, yesterday.

Then, after product release, all ears must be kept firmly to the ground to respond promptly to reported vulnerabilities and get them fixed.

…Or some sort of mayhem, a type of life-shattering, civilisation ending apocalypse may just leap from the pages of a book and into reality…

Or maybe that is just my way of stimulating your muse… think on, but carefully and you could join the ranks of Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Isaac Asimov.

You see not all sci-fi which includes rouge robots must be apocalyptic, that idea has been done, and done, and done to death. Now it is time for a differing approach.

Take your favourite crime-based books or film, or a combination of both media. Choose a story without any robots and select a character or two.

Now, think of your chosen characters as automaton, combine those two or three films/books plots. (If they are Hollywood or from mainstream publishing, it will not be a difficult task because they use a five, or seven-point, plotline… its what makes mainstream boring and predictable.) and start writing. Don’t copy… No plagiarism allowed; simply let your muse write the story guided by the basic (combination) of the plot(s) outlines.

You will have a brand-new crime story, but one which includes robots. It does not even have to be set in the future or on another planet, it can be urban fiction, steampunk, fantasy… you decide.

What you will have is a cross-genre fictional work which can be promoted to a wider, but targeted audience. That means greater sales opportunities and a much larger readership potential.

robber0441Why not make your robot a stooge, a fall guy? Have the reader fall in love with it, empathize with it.

Alternatively, have your robot(s) as the victim, the missing link to solving a situation… not all robots are bad, not all are good, some simply have frailties, others damaged personalities, why, some are even human… aren’t they?

 

Whatever you do, have fun and visit my website HERE I have a load of crime fiction and other ‘stuff’ you will just love. But don’t just take my word, go and have a look now.

Distribution paradox & disparity of price of indie authors books.

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Yep, that’s a long(ish) title but it says what this post is about.

I have been asked on several occasions if my books are [officially] available from outlets other than CreateSpace/Amazon.

The answer is: I am slowly extending the platforms where my books can be obtained. Migrating some and simply offering others on multi-platforms.

The reasons for the disparity are many, I shall not delve into them all here.

Another issue on many sites is the price charged for my books. This is to some extent beyond my control, or at least I am bound by certain parameters which make it impossible for me to have a single fixed price across all outlets.

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While this is somewhat annoying, I can see the relation with other products, the ‘recommended retail price‘, or ‘manufacturers suggested selling price‘, which individual retailers try to ‘discount’ against as they compete for their percentage of the market share.

 

I have come to accept, as an author, I am at the behest of these marketing trends and the need for retailers and distributors to make a profit, both which influence the pricing of my books.

Whilst I am happy in most cases to allow market demands to guide basic pricing structures, (after all, no one will pay more than they are willing,) it can become an annoyance in certain situations.

Allow me to explain.

EEgrungeI am sure, or at least I hope, you are aware of Electric Eclectic books. These novelettes, branded by Electric Eclectic, are designed to introduce readers to great authors and amazing stories.

The plan for Electric Eclectic is to offer each novelette at a uniform single price of ‘ONE’.

That’s £1.00, $1.00, € 1.00 etc.

While the Pound (GBP) and the Euro worked, Amazon.com insists adding tax after a price is set. So, the $1.00 becomes $1.34. (With the Euro, Amazon.EU & The Pound, Amazon.UK, the selected price includes tax, so you can accurately select a specific number which will show as the price the store shows.)

While I prefer the sales and marketing aspect of 1.00, a neat, round, simple figure. The issue is further compounded when listing your books in ‘other’ bookstores as they each have their own pricing parameters.

This gives a wide disparity of prices for the same item.

Take my book ‘Three Floors Up’, an Electric Eclectic Novelette such as mentioned above. This is 1.00 on both the Amazon.UK and from Amazon.EU. It shows as 1.34 on Amazon.com, although the price of 1.00 was selected on the site.

Three Floors Up

This alters further, to 1.39 & 1.43 on a dozen more online bookstores, until you reach Apple iBooks where it retails at 1.99, double the price, all bar a single cent, to that which I initially set when publishing on Amazon Kindle. (KDP).

I am sure there are reasons for such a wide differential, none of which I care about to the degree of losing sleep. This is because those who are dedicated to Apple are clearly willing to pay slightly more for a book, as are those who dislike Amazon. I know some people who detest them with a passion verging on hatred.

If you are one of the above or have a direct link, an investment, or another affinity with a particular bookstore platform you will be happy to know all my Electric Eclectic books, and some other works are now online at a selection of alternative stores. (My other books will follow in due course).

These are the main online retails officially authorised to retail my books.

Amazon, CreateSpace, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple IBookstore (Tunes), Google Play, Baker & Taylor and Peecho, are the prime retailers and distributors.

These are my Authorised Booksites, ones with direct links to the retailers.

BookRix, GoodReads, Authorsdb, Authors Den,  and Electric Eclectic.

WARNING.

Bootlegging and unofficial distribution of books is a major internet concern.

Sites with unofficial listings of my books may deliver a poor-quality product. Downloads from these sites may infect your device with a Virus, deliver Trojans, Worms or Ransomware.

Such sites create opportunities for Phishing, Mining and Pwning of your Personal Data.

Only connect and use the Official bookstores I have listed above. If in doubt go to my author’s website or The Electric Eclectic website.


 

Get more tips, insights and information with this book… click the cover image, Now

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Publish your book at little, or zero cost?

This is what The Frugal Author says you can achieve, in this book of the same name.

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He has written this book as an aid for independent authors in pursuit of economical, prudent self-publication.

The Frugal Author produces his own eBooks, paperbacks and high-quality hardcover publications with very little if any, financial outlay.

This book is full of the distilled results, the acquired knowledge and personal practice of being a successful indie author who dislikes paying out more than is absolutely necessary.

In this book, he explains how he achieves that, along with insights into indie publishing and sharing his ideas of how you too can implement the same type of methods for your own books.

The Frugal Author is NOT a ‘how to’ book. It is NOT a step by step guide or tuitional publication. The Frugal Author simply shares methodology, ideas and principles which you can adopt fully or partially, implement in part or whole over time and adjust to suit your own working practices.

You may well ask what credibility The Frugal Author has? and you are right to do so.

To date, he has published 19 books, ranging from children’s stories and poetry to psychological suspense. From Tales of Crime & Violence through to true accounts of Life in the Warzone. Pulp-fiction comic book yarns are written alongside romantic stories and non-fictional military social history.

The Frugal Author is a true multi-genre author. He is also a multi-format author having eBooks, Paperbacks and Hardcover publications.

Two of his books are recognised and authenticated Amazon bestsellers.

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He is a well-known and respected member of the global Indie Author and Writers community and a founding member of APC, Authors professional Co-operative, Founder of Electric Eclectic books and chief editor of CQI Magazine.

He is acknowledged for the help and advice he shares and the initiatives he employs to help all writers succeed, irrelevant of their experience.

Now, he is sharing some of his ideology and methodology with you in this book, The Frugal Author.

Download yourself a copy today, start saving money and start heading into profit… NOW.

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Wherever you are in the world,

you can get your copy of

The Frugal Author right HERE.

 

Stop whinging, get off your arse and DO something about it

waiting

It is some time since I wrote a ‘Rambling’ Rambling on this blog.

Partly, this is because of the large number of commitments I have undertaken recently. Commitments which have left little time to indulge myself in creating an informative and entertaining Ramble.

Which I hope this post shall be, (at least if you read on from this point.) Although this post may seem to ‘go around the houses’ to reach its point, bear with me. It will be worth it in the end… Honest 😊

During the absence of such Ramblings, I have posted a few pertinent, factual and I hope helpful articles about internet security, publicised ‘The List – CQI Magazine’s must-read books for 2018, and posted about the launch of Electric Eclectic books,  a new way to find great authors and amazing books.

My last Rambling style post was a bit of a rant, but one which shares the truth about how ineffective giving away free books is and how doing so is damaging all indie author’s prospects.

grumpy_old_man-Converted-1024x953This post sort of follows suit regarding ranting… maybe I am becoming a ‘Grumpy old man’ or maybe I am already one?

The basic theme here is “Stop whinging, get off your arse and DO something about it.” In fact, I think I’ll use that phrase as the title of this post.


 

First, the ‘whining and whinging’, the consistent, droll, mind-numbing drivel I am hearing from too many indie authors recently.

“My sales are bad.”

“Facebook doesn’t help anymore.”

“Things are getting worse.”

“People don’t even want my free book.”

“Nobody leaves reviews.”

“Adverts are so expensive and don’t reach enough people.”

And so forth. All one must do is read the comments and posts in various social media groups and pages to find a torrent of such remarks.

Now, I may or may not agree with all the above. Okay, the first three are stupid statements, the last three have some if little, merit.

But this wave of despondency seems to be sweeping the internet at present and gathering momentum as it does.Facebook-Finger

Fuelled, no doubt, by the rumours about CreateSpace, Amazon and Goodreads along with the recent and forthcoming changes and alterations to Facebook.

 

Don’t ask me for details, go read Gisela Hausmann’s books on the subject, she is far better informed than I.  Read more Here

Now, nobody said writing a book would be easy. Nobody told me marketing and selling would be a cinch.

IT’S NOT.

It takes commitment, persistence, patience and determination… and lots of it. I said lots of it, that’s much, much more than you are considering or believing right now. So, treble the difficulty factor and then multiply that by the power of 92 and you could be approaching reality.

imagesCalculate the exact opposite for difficulty and obstacles. The resultant sum should reflect the starting point of your journey into the realms of authorship.

Bilbo Baggins exploits were a simple walk in the park, in comparison of what you shall have to endure.

That is why we love being indie authors.

However, (for those who may not be familiar with my Ramblings I love the ‘However’s’.)

So, to continue.

However, I cannot take this downhearted view as one expressed solely by the Indie community, or for that matter, one voiced on social media alone.

I think this mood or at least the pessimistic and depressed expression of disappointment and negativity concerning the present and, more so, the cynical distrust of the future is something which is sweeping our society.

This attitude has now reached such proportions everybody has to have ‘a condition’, be it a simple skin complaint, a dietary need or speech impediment, let alone a major physical or mental syndrome.

As an alternative, or as an added factor, one must also be a survivor… of sexual or mental abuse, a victim of crime, a recovering drug user or alcoholic with latent effects of reoccurring PTSD… and so forth.

Nowadays everyone must have an underlying ‘Backstory’ to be accepted as part of our modern society, however truthful or however factitious that may be.

Personally, I blame Simon Cowell and the XFactor… which traumatic experience I have survived, by the way.

simon-cowell-erectile-dysfunction

I am an exexfactorbackstorysurvivalist, in tentative remission.

NOW… don’t get me wrong. I am not speaking of genuine suffers from such disorders, I am speaking of the media hype and their insatiable appetite to present all who become ensnared in their tentacles as some form of miracle entity. A god or goddess-like warrior who has fought off the evils life has thrown at them.

Such influence affects us and our children’s perception of ‘normality’ in the most ambiguous ways. It is this seeking of constant sensationalism which clouds many of the authors and writer’s minds when they complain about how difficult it is to sell their books.

Instead of ‘doing something‘ to alter the situation it is far easier for many to shout “I am a Victim” and “Facebook is abusing my rights” and such like.

This is where, if you are still with me, I refer you back to the title of this post. “Stop whinging, get off your arse and DO something about it.”

I shall finish with one simple and short example-

I recently launched an initiative for indie authors called Electric Eclectic. I doubt very much if you have not seen at least one blog, post, comment or advertisement concerning such.

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Electric Eclectic allows indie authors a way of using, or recycling, short stories to market and sell their prime titles. This is a form of promotion which actually earns the author money while working as a silent salesman on their behalf.

I have offered, both on major social media sites and by personal email invitation, the opportunity for a limited number of other authors to join us.

The take-up has been dismal, even though our own authors have seen sale generated via Electric Eclectic already and indications of ongoing success.

YET, I have seen some of those who know about this opportunity continue to whinge and whine about sales, the cost of promotion and the ‘state of the market’ while ignoring the offer from Electric Eclectic and other genuine initiatives.

My suspicions are these people enjoy the attention their complaining creates and, I wonder if, they like to ride the current media bandwagon of portraying themselves as victims, casualties and wounded sufferers of circumstance?

Thank you for reading this Rambling. Paul.

To find out more, or to request becoming an Electric Eclectic author, visit the website HERE and use the contact page to message Electric Eclectic.

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A word of caution about FREE & some other stuff worth knowing about.

You may, or may not, have noticed I have not posted here for a while.

This is because there is so much happening in the book and publishing world; two areas I am involved in.

Here is one major ‘continental shift’ which is taking place right now.

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FREEBIE books have lost their appeal.

“The general public has become immune and dissatisfied with the mass of FREE and GIVEAWAY books.

What was once a novel, loss-leading marketing tool has become a haunt for freebie hunters who just want free and have NO interest in the author, or on many occasions the book itself.

In fact, Amazon’s own download figures show that ONLY 2% of ALL free books are read, with over 70% being deleted within 14 days of downloading. (or discarded in the case of paperbacks.)

The probable reason is, that as free loses its appeal authors and publishers are now giving away vouchers, gifts and running competitions to entice people to download their free books.

Basically, they are paying people to download in an attempt to manipulate the figures and gain a ‘ranking status’, in the hope it will influence genuine readers to purchase.

Whilst this may have worked in the past, it no longer has any substantial legacy, particularly as Amazon has once again changed their logarithms to combat this ‘false’ accounting of sale.

Now only verified ‘paid for’ purchases will count towards rankings.

Which leaves only one possible benefit of giving a book away… that of building a mailing list for future direct marketing and sales.

BUT… this now only tends to create a false list of possible future people who may read another of those books, because once downloaded the ‘reader’ then cancels their subscription/listing (as is their legal right). Only dedicated Freebie hunters stay, waiting for the next free book you offer. Which is one of the reasons why only 2% of such downloads are actually read.

This means, most indie authors who give their books away in the belief they will gain readers in the long term are going to be out of pocket for a long, long time. Those who pay companies, the free book marketing businesses, are losing far more.

If it sounds too good to be true… it is.

In the cold light of day… paying someone to give away your book, the book you may have spent a year or so producing, spending money on editing, formatting and cover design, in the vague hope that free will earn you an income, let alone cover your initial costs… without any guarantees…

Hmmph, doesn’t sound so good in the cold light of day, does it?

Read more about this here

 

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AMAZON

Genuine reviews ONLY.

Sales logarithms are not the only change AMAZON have recently made. They have changed, once again the way customer reviews work.

This time for the best, in my opinion.

No longer will pay for, swopped or gifted reviews count, and if things work well, they will not even be shown.

ONLY true, verified, genuine purchases by readers will count. NO form of solicited or professional reviews will be accepted.

If Amazon can and do strictly enforce this rule, then for the first time will all authors get, and all readers have a genuine, believable overview to the quality of the books they are looking to purchase.

I hope this works and the cheats and charlatans are cast out.

 

Goodreads

GOODREADS becomes the ‘GO TO’ platform.

Goodreads has been around for a long time and has slowly progressed to become a mecca for book lovers.

This trend continues and is now being enhanced on several fronts. Goodreads shall soon be THE place for readers and authors to talk and deal with all thing literary. There are many changes which will be implemented during the next year or two.

If you do not have a presence on Goodreads, either as a book lover or as a writer… get on with it… go now and sign up before you are left behind… and remember… you heard it here first.

Read more about current trends here

 

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ELECTRIC ECLECTIC

 Electric Eclectic is the new kid in town, but its founder has a great track record in the indie publishing market with established brands CQ International, TOAD Publishing and PeeJay designs.

Simply put, Electric Eclectic is a brand of books written by a variety of authors from various nationalities.

Each Electric Eclectic book is a Kindle Novelette, a short story of between six thousand and twenty thousand words. These novelettes are designed as introductory books, shorter reads to give you a taste of the narration and style of your chosen Electric Eclectic author.

Unlike the freebie books mentioned above, the quality of storytelling of each Electric Eclectic book has undergone a quality and selection process, before publication, to ensure each book reaches our exacting standards.

When you buy an Electric Eclectic book, you have confidence and reassurance of its quality, which makes it the perfect way to find great reads and even your ‘next favourite author.’

Electric Eclectic books hope that once you find a story or an author you are excited about, you will read their other books too.

That is what Electric Eclectic is all about, putting great authors together with ardent book lovers and readers… a match made in heaven.

Also, as Electric Eclectic books cost just 1.00 (dollar/pound/euro), the reader will have made a verified purchase so their review will be accepted by Amazon, letting them voice their view and airing their opinion too.

That must be a win, win situation all around.

Visit the Electric Eclectic website HERE

HEADS UP AUTHORS… Ads.txt is here and you NEED to know… ‘WHAT IS THE ADS.TXT PROJECT?

Unlike many/most of my Ramblings I regard this post as something of extream importance, a possible game-changing innovation, one which has wide implications but also one which will be of particular interset for indie authors

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As part of a broader effort to eliminate the ability to prointerest counterfeit inventory in the open digital advertising ecosystem, Ads.txt provides a mechanism to enable content owners to declare who is authorized to sell their inventory.

The mission of the ads.txt project is simple: Increase transparency in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. Ads.txt stands for Authorized Digital Sellers and is a simple, flexible and secure method that publishers and distributors can use to publicly declare the companies they authorize to sell their digital inventory.

By creating a public record of Authorized Digital Sellers, ads.txt will create greater transparency in the inventory supply chain, and give publishers control over their inventory in the market, making it harder for bad actors to profit from selling counterfeit inventory across the ecosystem. As publishers adopt ads.txt, buyers will be able to more easily identify the Authorized Digital Sellers for a participating publisher, allowing brands to have confidence they are buying authentic publisher inventory.

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ADS.TXT HELPS PUBLISHERS

Counterfeit inventory comes in many forms, but it typically results in real media spend not reaching legitimate and deserving publishers. Ads.txt helps publishers reclaim control of their media, brand, and rate card. This means more of an advertisers spend can get to the domain owner through their approved sales channels, and not be wasted on counterfeit inventory.

Check out the PDF

https://iabtechlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/IABOpenRTB_Ads.txt_Public_Spec_V1-0-1.pdf

Also read: https://iabtechlab.com/how-to-ads-txt/

This post is brought to you by CQ International Publishing, Electric Eclectic books and iab Tech Lab

 

FREE is killing indie. (An urgent warning)

If you have been following Ramblings from a Writers Mind, or if you have scrolled down, looking and reading many of the posts, you will notice they fall into two main categories.

The first, those where I share my experience and attempt, in my rather haphazard way, to impart and to clarify certain aspects of wordsmithing, along with tips and ideas you may wish to try or adopt.

The second Rambling posts are ones where I express my opinions and beliefs about being an indie author. Many of these articles create controversy amongst the varying schools of thought running through the indie community. I do not see this as a bad thing, but one which stimulates discussion and debate, a great platform to exchange views and examine convictions.

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This is the first of two posts regarding two current controversial topics.

This one is about of giving away free books, an activity which is damaging the entire indie book market and something I am adamantly against.

So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into this wonderfully heated issue of free books.

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When Amazon’s algorithms changed some time ago, giving less weight in rating terms to giveaways as opposed to paid-for copies, many authors became less enthusiastic.

However, the advent of new players in the giveaway frame, such as BookFunnel and Instafreebie, has added a new way of distributing free books and a new purpose: to build your author database by effectively trading email addresses for free books.

While the jury’s still out on the long-term benefits we discover how many of these subscribers unsubscribe – as is their legal right – or not bother to read their freebies.

As with any decision, we should evaluate any potential short-term benefits alongside the long-term effects on the mindset of our customers/readership.

 The vast (vast, vast) majority of free downloads never get read, so giveaways don’t accomplish what they’re intended to do: spread the word, get reviews.

On top of that, many authors pay money to advertise these giveaways, and spring for shipping in the case of hard copies, so they’re actually paying people to get a free copy and not read it.

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Why buy the cow when the milk is free?

We’ve all heard that saying. Basically, the meaning behind it is that someone isn’t going to pay for something that is offered for free.

Whether it’s your virtue or your book, the issue is still the same.

When a writer devalues their work to the point of giving away their book, what are they really doing? Giving it away as if it were nothing?

It begs the question, are those authors so desperate to have someone, anyone, read their book, that they are willing to pass them out like pamphlets on the street corner.

Is the book so bad they think no one would or should pay for it?

What about the months, maybe even years, the author spent pounding away at the keyboard creating the book? What about the lost hours spent editing and reworking it to perfection?

Most authors sacrifice a lot to write a book. They give up any and all free time in exchange for getting the story on paper. That must be worth something; certainly, more than a freebie.

 

Authors tell me it’s a promotional ploy.

Promotion is great and today we must constantly try new angles and ideas to draw in readers. I have no issue with giving away a chapter to entice a reader to purchase the rest of the book, but give away the whole book?

It does not make any sense.

Many, often new or struggling authors, hope by giving away a book, readers will buy more of them or will buy the next book they release.

Unfortunately, it does not work that way. Readers are a very frugal bunch. If they can get free books, why would they pay for yours? They will simply pick up someone else’s free book tomorrow, and someone else’s the next day, and so forth.

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The numbers don’t lie

You may disagree with me — maybe your experience is different — but as a publisher, I have to tell you the sales numbers don’t lie.

While a select small number of authors may have seen book giveaways as a clever promotion to boost the sales of their next book, it is rare. Giving books away isn’t making sales numbers climb.

How could it? Free doesn’t equal bigger royalty checks.

Meanwhile, authors have devalued their craft to the point where even they don’t think it should cost anything.

I’ve been to a lot of craft shows the past couple of months. I’m amazed at the price of the handmade pieces people are selling. Then I think about the hours and hours of hard work these artists put into each piece and I must admit, it’s probably a bargain.

Are not authors the same as these other artists? Aren’t authors creators of their craft and shouldn’t they value their work as much as a wood carver or a glass blower does?

“It’s a tough time in publishing for authors but the answer isn’t giving it away. To me, that’s the same as giving up.”

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People who get a free copy of your book will not convert to buyers.

You see there are two distinct markets when it comes to anything really: the buyers and the freebie hunters.

I know if I go to Amazon and I’m searching for a book about dogs I click on the top free category, I’m not leaving the free category. It’s already in my mind to not pay for something like that. Even if it’s an absolute hobby of mine, I already have a wealth of knowledge resources I can snag for free.

For instance, there are hundreds of new adult fiction books published every day on Amazon. Hundreds of those books are put into KDP Select and are set to a 5-day free promotion every day. If I’m an avid reader of literary porn and I know I can get new quality erotic stories for free every day, why would I pay for it?

Hell, most of them probably won’t even read the book, depending on the genre.

There was a time when I would go to Reddit’s free eBook page and go on download sprees. I Never read any more than 2% of those books and they were deleted from my Kindle library with the same quickness they were uploaded.

It did not matter, they were free. They held no value.

Your e-mail list isn’t going to grow substantially by giving away a book. Even if you offer another free book for signing up, your list will merely be tainted by freebie chasers. They will hop on your mailing list, snag the download, then unsubscribe.

I can’t help but laugh at self-publishing authors who brag about how many books they gave away in their most recent promotion.

Last time I checked, free never paid the bills.

2,000 free downloads of your sub-par eBook do not indicate any level of success.

If it was not selling more than a copy a week, then you gave it away for a few days before it sprang to a few copies a day, I would say it was worth it.

But no… it never happened, did it?

You see, when you discount your book to zero, it devalues mine too, in fact, it devalues every author’s book by undervaluing and diminishing the entire marketplace.

Please, don’t devalue our publishing world.

Giving away one free book can equal a part of an authors mortgage payment, one of their children’s meals, maybe a new pair of shoes they shall now never own.

The thousands of free books given away mean many thousands of pounds/dollars/euros which should have supported an author and their family has been taken from them.

Giving books away is little different to stealing from your fellow writer’s pockets.

Remember, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

So, okay when would I, if pushed, ever do a giveaway?

Personally, never… but….

It seems to me that the only time to do a giveaway is to brand new authors and salty seasoned veterans.

Even if you have written 10 books, but you get no sales, you’re still new.

The only, vaguely possible benefit, of ever doing a giveaway is most major eBook storefronts have an ‘also bought‘ section which shows which ‘other’ books customers also bought.

This is the ONLY possible ‘money shot’ when doing a free book offer (and ONLY for new authors). The population of this ‘also bought’ section will link your book to other books, (& vice versa) so someone searching for a book of a similar subject may stumble onto your book.

So, there you have it, folks. You might give one eBook away for free when you are a brand spanking new author, or perhaps when you have such a massive following and sell millions of books each month, that giving away a book which was once an all-time bestseller, possibly twenty years ago, does not matter a single jot anymore.

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….This is where too many indie authors fall into the FREEBIE TRAP.

Trying to emulate the marketing and promotional actions of major mainstream publishers who market the books of authors who are household names.

The truth is, you do not know what teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy part of the publisher’s overall strategy their giveaway forms part of. It is definitely NOT a stand-alone, individual and isolated ploy, but a small cog of an overall strategy, planned with experts as part of a long-term stratagem focused on future markets and indicated customer trends. A fact every individual indie author I have discussed this subject with was, either not aware of, or did not take into consideration.

My advice, leave it alone.

There are MANY better ways to generate interest in your works.

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Take Electric Eclectic books as an example.

Electric Eclectic is where you take a short story, one you may have forgotten and is lying unused and unloved in your files, or maybe you have one which you published in an anthology some years ago. The point is, where your story comes from is not really important.

What is important is your tale must be between 6k and 20K words, a story which you can turn into a Kindle eBook. By publishing your short story, as a novelette under the Electric Eclectic brand enables you to benefit from the brand’s extensive promotions and marketing initiatives, many which reach markets way beyond the regular social media platforms.

While there is a small, one-off licence branding fee for each book, you keep all the royalties and rights… but that is only the beginning. The true advantage of being part of the Electric Eclectic brand is that each Novelette works as your own marketing tool, leading your readers to your prime books and novels.

So, instead of giving your prime books away, or worse still, paying someone else to give them away, your promotional tool, (your Electric Eclectic book) is earning you royalties while gaining you potential readers for those main works. It’s a win, win situation.

It’s time to stop devaluing your books and yourself, make your promotions work for you.

To find out more email EEbookbranding@mail.com