I do not use Ramblings from a Writers Mind for direct promotions because it is not the raison d’etre of this blog.
These ramblings are about sharing knowledge and experience. They are about in-depth consideration, informative articles, about highlighting the good and bad regarding writing, publishing and indie authorship.
It is not a place for advertising.
Considering the above, the following may seem directly opposed to this ethos. But read on, you will see I am seriously designing something to help and aid writers and authors like ourselves.
What is more, I am asking for your views and feedback on this project, a project I have called, @Open24.
@Open24 is an online Amazon store, my online Amazon store. (which is Open 24 hours a day, hence the name.) But… it is a store with a difference, a difference which I think will be of use to you.
Allow me to explain…
I have been an indie author for several years. Years during which I learnt far more than I could have imagined when I began to pen my first novel, ‘The Abduction of Rupert DeVille’.
In the early days, I struggled to find high quality, comprehensive information on writing, authorship, formatting, publishing, and all the sundry things which are part of being indie.
Do not get me wrong; the information was there, in libraries, on websites and, of course, on Amazon. My issue was and, to be honest still is, finding it.
For instance, if I want a book which covers sentence construction, I will have to carry out several searches, scroll down, past many irrelevant publications to find something vaguely, possibly akin to my want. That is for one single book. If I want to compare it with other books or find something similar, I need to repeat the search all over again.
I am not above posting articles which could be classed as controversial, such as this one, because I think it is a writer’s duty to bring into the open topics which can be discussed and debated among one’s peers.
Therefore, your comments and viewpoints are most welcome, even if they are incorrect!
Many indie authors tend to ‘chase’ reviews for their books.
Many more coerce family, friends, co-workers, fellow authors and the like to write a ‘good’ review, even a ‘five-star’ review for their newly released novel(la).
After which, the race is on, posting to social networks, giving away volumes of volumes, (pun intended), to gain several more one or two lines like:
“I loved this book, you will too.”
“I spent all day reading this book as I was sick in bed. It is good as I spent all day reading it and have only just finished reading it after all day. I liked it alot.”
(YES, these are genuine ‘review’ quotes I stole from the internet.)
There are those which babble on about very little, and end up with lines such as:
“Five stars from me.”
While others focus on the ‘writers’ style and what they ‘got wrong’ and what they, [the reviewer] personally agreed with, so ‘sorry’…
“I can only give this book three and a half stars.”
It all makes me chuckle, especially as many of the self-righteous sounding comments, I hate to term them as reviews, are written either by self-proclaimed literary reviewers or by a paid for review service.
Neither of the above being literary or journalistically trained, none can be classed as successful authors in the ‘household’ name sense, and none have any doctorate or master’s degree in the art of book reviewing.
All which is self-explanatory, when considered in the cold light of day.
Now, personally, I believe the time and investment an author puts into creating a book, the concept, planning, writing, re-writing, editing, cover design, re-writing, formatting, proofreading and so on, is enough money spent.
Once the book is published, the idea is it starts to return the investment made. (see The Frugal Author for details.) It is NOT the time to be paying someone, often with little talent, to scribble a few badly drafted, ill-advised comments and call it a review. It is NOT.
Neither will their comments give any true credence to your book’s status, even if they say a ‘seven-star’ review… or a ‘ten thousand star’ review… they mean absolutely next to nothing, if not less.
One reason is, ‘stars’ or even the concept of ‘stars’ hold no value. There is no academically, or commercial accepted value to these ‘stars’.
They hold NO value, because any Tom, Dick or Harry… or Sharon, Karen or Portia for that matter, can ‘award’ these ‘stars’ to anyone for any reason whatsoever.
Recently, there has been many a disgruntled an author complaining to Amazon because they removed several ‘reviews’, or disallowed others from appearing on the Amazon book pages.
This is a good thing.
I SHALL EXPLAIN WHY.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the coerced reviews, those from friends and family etc.
Now, consider the facts.
Anything any of these people write, as so-called reviews for your book is, by the very nature of its inception, biased.
Given these untrue reviews, any person buying the book ‘off spec’ and finding the reviews posted were false, will most often leave a scathing review of their own, which will often impact with a far greater force than a dozen fake reviews could ever deliver.
The author will then run the risk of being classed as fraudulent.
Which is one of the reasons why Amazon have, and are, clamping down on the reviews they allow to be presented to their potential customers.
This is something I fully support.
One more thing to seriously consider regarding friends, family and colleagues.
IF… and I mean IF your friends and family really want to help you succeed, if they really want to help with the sales of your book, the best and MOST effective way is the simplest… to buy a copy of your book.
This will increase your book’s exposure and move it higher up the rankings with almost immediate effect. This alone is worth more than a mass of fake reviews.
IF they don’t or won’t buy your book, you will know who your true friends are; or find your book is so bad even they don’t want to read it.
Either way, it will save you a ton of long-term heartache.
The second point is, ‘paid reviews’.
To pay a person to review your book is worse than asking your Mum to write something nice about it.
As with the family and friends’ gig, paid reviews are fake.
They are false because the reviewer has a vested interest to keep you happy. After all, you are paying them and they want your money again in the future when you ask them to read your next book.
Also, they [the reviewer], will not want you posting remarks about their ability or aptitude regarding reviews. So, they will keep you, the author sweet by writing nice, or at least a less critical review of the book in question.
BUT… here are a few things to consider.
Amazon is cracking down on paid for reviews and will be doing so again, soon.
They know ‘who is who’. They do this by monitoring who, where from, when and how reviews are written and posted.
So, you could be risking your hard-earned cash on a review no one will see.
Secondly, many so-called ‘professional’ reviewers boast about the number of books they review in a year.
Many of these numbers would mean the books have to be speed read to manage those figures. So, the reviewer will never read your book in the same manner as a ‘normal/regular’ bookworm.
There are some who have a pool of readers, each of whom gives their comments to the principal reviewer, who then uses standardised templates, altering a few words here and there to ‘personalise’ the ‘review’ of your book.
Not that it matters to the reviewer, they don’t care about you or your book, they just want their fee.
Genuine reviews are given by people who read your book without any other reason than something attracted them to it.
It could be the cover, the back-cover blurb, the ‘look inside’, a book trailer you have on YouTube or a post you made on social… it matters not.
What matters is their review will be honest and unbiased.
This is the ONLY form of review which has any genuine validity whatsoever, be it the one-liner which says,
“I liked this author & want to read more.”
Or the long form of essay, sometimes greater in length than the book reviewed which ends in,
“I give this book five stars.”
See, I told you anybody could do it.
That is why reviews don’t count for much… unless.
Do you, as an author, want to know and understand more about the ‘Stuff’ of being indie, about books, the publishing and printing processes?
Gobsmacked is a well-known colloquial saying in the county of Yorkshire. (That’s Yorkshire, England, for all my American friends.)
Gobsmacked roughly translates as; So surprised you cannot speak. Overwhelmed with wonder, surprise, or shock. Astounded.
Liken such a surprise to that of being punched in the mouth and you are beginning to understand the word.
To break it down, ‘Smacked’ as in hit, slapped, punched, struck etc. and ‘Gob’ a slang word for mouth.
Hence, I would say it means; So surprised you are dumbfounded, unable to speak, as you would be after being ‘smacked in the gob’.
Now, on with this post.
I do not feel Gobsmacked about the general lethargy and apathy I see and sense within the indie author community of late. I have noticed it, slowly but inexorably, growing over the past year or so.
Don’t get me wrong, this dispirited indifference is not an affliction which infects every single author, but a general condition proliferating throughout our worldwide community.
It could be a reaction to the changes at Facebook, the closure of CreateSpace, Amazons ever-changing algorithms or the news G+ is soon to close to the general public.
It could be a response, a consequence of them all. A mass writers communal PTSD from the constant shock and awe of all changes on social media… doubtful, but who knows?
(Much of what has passed this year, 2018, I predicted and wrote about on this blog. Not surprisingly about a year ago.) Check it out HERE.
So, you may ask, what is it that causes me to feel Gobsmacked?
Allow me to elucidate.
I frequently, make that continually, read posts on social media where writers ask how to market their books.
I read questions that ask what is the ‘best way’ to do this or that. I see authors enquiring “who has had success with (such & such) and how did they do it?” or “what is the best book marketing platform?” and “is it worth paying Joe Bloggs ltd to market my book, they only want £10,000 a week“… okay, maybe that figure is a little exaggerated, but you get my gist.
Far too many times have I read how authors have been ‘ripped off’ or ‘scammed’ by the unscrupulous preying on writers.
I have no doubts I shall read similar accounts tomorrow of people feeling ‘robbed’ as I did yesterday and today.
Why then, when a genuine marketing method is offered do so many authors fail to grasp the opportunity?
I am speaking of a marketing organisation run by well respected, established and recognised indie authors.
No strange claims.
No get rich quick schemes.
No large sums of money required.
Just a solid method of creating awareness and establishing trust with readers.
What’s more, I am speaking of a marketing method which pays full royalties to those participating. In effect, it is a marketing which pays authors to sell their own books.
Yet this is one writers ‘cannot be bothered’ looking at or cringe about paying the small, token (once only) membership fee.
Instead, those very same authors, the ones who did not want to spend a few pounds or dollars, then post on Facebook about how they have lost a fortune on scammers and vanity promotions.
This then has the effect of pulling down the mood of the whole indie community. Something which is currently tangible. All you have to do is follow a few of the author group conversations on social and you will soon see for yourself.
That is why I get ‘Gobsmacked’.
I am the founder of Electric Eclectic, a book brand marketing programme and author co-operative.
Electric Eclectic is not a get rich quick scheme. It does not offer magical solutions for generating massive sales.
Electric Eclectic offers a dedicated promotional strategy with growing market reach. It is a long-term, slow burn plan generating loyalty and confidence within our marketplace.
Oh, and yes, authors who are part of Electric Eclectic earn royalties too… but that’s only part of being an Electric Eclectic author.
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.
“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?
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.
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.
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)
To 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.
Does this title sound stupid? (Don’t answer that.)
I was trying to come up with a fancy, clever, literary genius of a title, one which would give an undeniable clue to the content of this post.
I got a few good ones lined up and then re-read them. Most were so oblique even I forgot the connection. Others read more like popular newspaper headings than a serious post about writing.
In the end, I settled for what you have above. Which cannot be too bad because here you are, reading me waffling on about something inane.
Okay, on with my post.
Many of my indie author friends, especially those who tend to write in a specific genre, have one or more series of books.
I know writing a book series is no new thing, but it is one which has become resurgent in popularity over recent years. This is partly because of a shift in reading habits, which in turn is partly influenced by film and television ‘franchises’. (I shall not go into the reading trends and patterns regarding general social psychology of the masses here… albeit a subject I love.)
The ideal is to have someone buy a copy of one of your books and like it so much they rush out and by the whole series… or nowadays go to an online bookstore; not so much fun as browsing a ‘real’ shops shelves but quite practical, especially for social hermits.
Anyway… I seem to be digressing.
The problem, it seems, lays with having ‘that someone’ buy the first book of your series.
Herein lies a quandary.
Until such a person has a copy of your book in their sticky mittens, they shall never know how captivating the story is. They shall never know your carefully crafted characters, fall in love with your protagonist or hold disdain for your antagonist.
Neither will they learn how well you write, narrate or how charming a tale spinner you are. Which would all be a ‘bit of a shame’.
Oh, I hear so many of you thinking, “it’s all about promotion and marketing, that’s how you get readers.”
Well, yes and no.
Yes, it is about promoting your works, and NO… Allow me to enlighten you on my reasoning.
It is not all about promoting your books. (‘Promoting’ is a word I shall use as an ‘umbrella’ term to include marketing, advertising and such hoo-ha for the duration of this post.)
It is all about promoting you, your books, both individually and collectively, and your author brand, in a certain way.
If I were to cover all these topics, in one post, I would end up writing an entire thesis three thousand pages long, neither something I have time to write in one sitting, or, I am sure, you have time to read. So, I shall concentrate purely on one aspect and follow up, in future posts, on other relevant subjects.
As the amazingly conceived title of this post states, I shall continue discussing your book series.
It has become something of an urban legend, a myth which survives to the present day and one which far too many authors still fall prey to, that is the one which says: “if you give your first book of a series away as a freebie you will gain lots of new readers who will buy all your other books.”
That is a lie, promoted by those who generate financial gain from (often desperate) indie authors. Free may have been a viable option in the early days of the internet when Amazon was just a simple bookstore when indie authors were referred to as desktop publishers and vanity press meant having a book for sale outside of a mainstream publishing house. (See: https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1fn )
There are ways forward, none are push and go or plug and play. Each takes time and consistent effort to achieve and not all will work equally for all authors, their books or series. Book promotion is not an exact science.
Thunderclaps, Daycause, Blog hops, Tweet chains can all form part of your overall promotional strategy… You know, the carefully planned and timed schedule you have designed. The one which ensures you maximise each promotional effort… Yeh, that’s the one, your synergetic multi-arena integrated sales stratagem for the 2018/19 marketing period.
However, few authors consider writing a further book, or two or three or more to help gain and build readership and, on the face of it, with good reason. After all, writing another book is only adding to the series and that takes us back to square one… doesn’t it?
You see, this is about taking a new approach to authors promotions, in this case, Prequels… now, I know prequels are not new; way back when, we had Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’ (1874); but did you know that Jean Rhys wrote the ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ in 1966 as a prequel and response, describing the background to the marriage Jane learns about after going to work for Mr Rochester?
How about a prequel with a difference?
Let me ask you some questions…
What if… you could write a shorter book, a book especially targeted at attracting readers to your current series?
What if… a group of authors would help you promote that book?
What if… a book brand would include your book in its promotions, making it constantly visible to a global audience, online, in magazines and via social media?
What if… you became an Electric Eclectic author?
Currently, Electric Eclectic are well known for their ebook Novelettes, their short stories books which help connect readers and authors.
But now, Electric Eclectic is launching a form of book they call a ‘Proquel’
These are Prequels, Character Backstories and Parallels designed specifically to introduce readers to your book series, in fact, the name Proquel is simply an amalgamation of the words promotion and prequel. (Pretty cool, yeah?)
Now… unlike many books, an Electric Eclectic proquel is unashamedly a promotional tool. While there is no compromise regarding the quality of content or storytelling, these books do not have to be full-length novels, but novella’s, with a suggested word count of between 17K and 40K words.
Once assessed and accepted by Electric Eclectic, your book(s) benefit from all the marketing and promotional activities of Electric Eclectic and your fellow EE authors.
You will have your books on the Electric Eclectic website along with a personal author page and much more. You can check out the Electric Eclectic website HERE.
And…this is the BEST BIT… you make money on your proquels too… yep, you still earn full royalties on your book sales.
Electric Eclectic is NOT a publisher and does NOT take royalties.
You will get all the above for a minimal fee… and I mean a minimal fee.
You have nothing to lose.
So, why not find out more about becoming an Electric Eclectic author and, how writing just one other book, could help you sell your whole series?
With major ground shifts and changes occurring throughout the publishing and online worlds, becoming an Electric Eclectic author could be the best decision you make this year.
Once we have learnt about something, once we consider we understand it, think we have mastered it, we like to run with it, to keep it.
We are often loath to stop, to give it up… to alter anything.
Many of us are resistant to change, of losing the little comfort zone we made for ourselves. One can liken such to the reluctance of a child giving up a blanket, or a soother.
If we do make the move, we find it easier to be weaned, to slightly adjust, little by little, so we don’t notice the change, or at least that is how we convince ourselves.
The problem is, by the time our situation has evolved in a way which assuages our reluctance, we find we are far behind the madding crowd, so far behind we have little chance of catching up.
In these days of high tech communications and internet connectivity, it is now more obvious than ever before.
Only the fearful and desperate cling to what once was,.
Only the backward and slow reminisce and wish for those ‘good old days‘ when a Facebook post actually reached ALL your ‘friends’ and not just the 3 to 10% they do with today’s algorithms.
The same is true of your book promotions. This is why your sales do not exceed the minimal expectations you tell yourself are reasonable goals, let alone your wishes and dreams to become a consistent bestselling author.
To give away a book for free is an archaic, outdated and outmoded marketing model. One which no longer holds any credence, but one which so many still cling to with dying hope, like a gambler sliding deeper into depressive debt.
Paying another organisation to give your books away is a sign of utter desperation. A despondent cry for help, for someone, anyone to read your story.
In reality, it is authorship suicide; one you may never recover from financially and one which could leave your reputation in raggedy tatters, before you even start.
Book launches and parties no longer pull the crowds. They are a nice way to spend a few extra hours chatting with those you regularly talk to every day; to hear them say nice things about you, your book and “what a marvellous cover” you have.
But such events no longer attract readers. They have been overdone and done over, like an ancient, wrinkled whore, they no longer hold any attraction whatsoever.
Thunderclaps, Headtalkers, Daycause are little more than a (mostly) unseen flash-in-the-pan. A quick blast of tweets and public post which disappear down the scrolling stream faster than Usain Bolt running a hundred meters.
Authors, you NEED to find new ways to promote your works, ways which offer longevity rather than the promise of making a ‘quick buck’ or selling a few more copies of your latest tome overnight… for one night only.
You need to find a simple, ongoing promotional aid which is always working for you, even when you’re not working.
A low-cost way that won’t break the bank, or better still, a way which will pay you a return, a royalty, on your promotional material.
Now wouldn’t that be wonderful…
If only such a thing existed…
Well, such a thing does exist, but only for those who are prepared to move forward, to see the changing lights (mostly red ones) as social media platforms are brought to task and the hyper highway of freedom and unlimited possibility become more crowded, slower and, well… limited.
Even more so now Google plus is/has shut its doors. MeWe and Pluspora just don’t have the numbers or, as yet, the financial backing to grow fast enough or fight hard enough to take on the big boys… at least for now.
A small, but growing group of indie authors, are moving forward into the new dawn of altered perception, of interweb reconstruction and publishing future.
It is a group which, (at present), still has its doors open to welcome a few more indie authors inside. Authors with great tales to share, who are well crafted in penning a wonderful story. Authors who are serious about writing, about selling their books, about being authors.
So, what is this group and who are these indie authors?
Simple, we are Electric Eclectic. The book brand which is sweeping the internet.
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.
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,
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,
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.
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…
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 that “robota“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.
We all knew where we stood.
Then along came James Camron who introduced us to Skynet, and all hell broke loose.
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.
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.
Why 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 HEREI 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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
This is what The Frugal Author says you can achieve, in this book of the same name.
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.
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.
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 😊
My last Rambling style post was a bit of a rant, but one which shares the truth about how ineffective giving away free booksis and how doing so is damaging all indie author’s prospects.
This 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.
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 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.
Calculate 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.
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.
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.