Publishing trends, predictions & forecasts for 2020

Those of you who follow Ramblings from a Writers Mind will know this time of year I put my ‘professional neck’ on the line by expressing my prognostications regarding the publishing industry for the coming year.

The first of these predictive posts was made way back in December 2017, when I forecast my assumptions for 2018. Looking back now, you will agree I pretty much nailed it. See for yourself,Insights & Publishing Trends for 2018′ 

Last year I published, on the 27th of December 2018, my review for this year, 2019. How accurate is this forecast? ‘Publishing Trends & Indie Author Insights for 2019′ 

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This year, I am once again sticking my neck above the parapet by suggesting what will be happening through 2020, regarding the publishing industry worldwide, especially that which affects the Indie Author.

I have been asked why I post this forecast every year.

My answer is simple; if you have an idea of what is happening, going to happen or reasonably likely to happen, you can plan your writing, your genre, your book and cover design, marketing, promotions, and social media content to take full advantage of the markets predicted movements and organic flux.

In simple terms, you can be proactive rather than reactive and keep up, if not stay one step ahead, of the game.

I have not organised the following in any particular order, so scroll down and pick out the areas which interest you the most and then work through the other sections as there is, most definitely, information you really do want, (or need,) to be informed about in each section.

1 – Book Cover Design Trends

2 – Audio/Audiobooks

3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)

4 – Emerging reach methods

5 – Social Media

6 – Telling Stories on social

7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.

8 – India

9 – Authorpreneurs

10 – POD/Inventory

11 – Author Alliances

12 – Crowded Social

13 – Fundamental Shifts

So, without further ado, this is my insight and predictive forecast into the indie book market and international publishing industry worldwide for the year AD 2020.

1 – Book Cover Design Trends

As a digital artist and book cover designer, this is one area I personally enjoy keeping a close eye on.

There are many elements to good design and bringing them all together in a limited space while incorporating all the necessary text elements is an often-underrated skill.

With the lists of newly released and soon to be released books now in the public domain, it is easy to see the prevailing design trends. Many of which, I suggest Indie Authors should take heed of.

  • The first is those where the designers create Technicolor covers, washes of psychedelic textured rainbow patterns, which appear to be moving across the cover or jacket. It is their dimensionality that tricks the eye.
  • Continuing from 2019 is text and images which overlap images and text, and become interwoven with them, lending an almost 3D effect to the cover.
  • Minimalist covers, such as monochrome with basic lettering, will carry over into 2020. The simplicity of such covers, usually using a bold background image, works well against shelves full of multicolour and bright renditions.
  • Handwritten style fonts, occasionally used with ‘crossing out’ of bolder texts, do not seem to be going away but are becoming more inventive and eye-catching.
  • Staying with text. A resurgence, in a modern form, will be shuddering, shading, glows, bevels and reflections. Big bold typographic statements that ‘jump-right-out’ at you.

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2 – Audio/Audiobooks

The audiobook market has grown in double figures for six straight years with a 37.1% growth in the USA in 2018. (latest figures)

The original audiobook provided a way of reading for those with visual problems and the elderly. The CD market for audiobooks formed 54% of sales in 2010 with digital downloads at 42%.

This has changed in recent years, partly because older people tend to be more tech-savvy and partly because the audience is becoming younger. The average listening age has moved from over 50 in 2010 to under 50 now.

As technology advances, so does demand. Smartphones, tablets and more recently, the growth in artificial intelligence have all contributed to the rise and fall of different markets with physical products taking a hit.

2020 will continue to bring a more diverse listener as marketing targets people of all ages from all walks of life.

The rise of the podcast has, in part, been responsible for the popularity and growth of audiobooks and will continue to bring in new listeners (across all ages) as its popularity transfers across to audiobooks.

People utilise the ability to listen to books while doing other things like gardening, travelling, jogging, knitting. Despite advances in screen technology people still drop devices in the bath or struggle with the sun when on holiday, not to mention the need to hold the device while sunbathing. Audiobook offers a solution to these problems with obvious benefits.

The Big Five publishers have only recently recognised that the audiobook market is the only sector demonstrating year on year growth, but boy are they noticing now. They have huge marketing budgets which will have a big impact on future audiobook trends. There is already and will be more aggressive marketing by the big players who will want to dominate and take their share of the pot. Targeting has only just begun to attract under 45s who use smartphones and AI more than older generations.

Indie authors have to some extent been reluctant to get involved because of the price of production is prohibitive. Having said that, many have entered via the royalty share option offered by producers such as ACX. Early adopters found more success with non-fiction books and these are hugely popular with figures for the final quarter of 2018 making up 25-50% of sales in some non-fiction genres.

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3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Firstly, I am touching on a subject which is pertinent, but one which I expect will see smaller businesses and Indie Authors woefully trailing behind. It is one, however, which opens new opportunities or expands on the offerings of those already in the market.

This is the new wave of IT, or AI, as this in the next organic technological expansion. This evolution of IT will allow the integration of content, engagement and auto-tagging to scale and create process efficiencies.

While basic SEO will continue for the foreseeable, AI leveraged contributions will be at the forefront of the shift to mobile-first index and aid continued spotlighting of both local and personalised search results.

Publishers will start to create platforms to collect and visualise audience and community data as the focus on segmentation grows even more. This will lead to building branded lean sites featuring authentic storytelling and content native to the digital platform.

While content remains king, site architecture will focus on redistributing the information in forms which ensures easy to find and easy to access content for customers.

None of the above,  which may be some time before becoming widespread and accepted, should detract from already accepted processes.

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4 – Emerging reach methods

It is important for Indie Authors and small press publishers to monetize traffic whenever possible.

This should not simply be considered a ‘secondary’ income stream but needs to be considered as part of the mainstream income.

Podcasting and 4K video are two areas Indies can consider. Both need a savvy website design and high-speed Internet.

Note: As mobile use continually grows users expect all content to load just as quickly and easily on their phone as on their computer. Since websites play such a vital role, trends surrounding them range from AMP to PWAs to Schema markup.

Okay, let’s get to some facts.

  • You will need to leverage podcasting with publishing. In 2018, podcast listeners in the US grew from 40 per cent to 44 per cent of the total population.
  • The top revenue stream for worldwide news publisher became digital publishing subscriptions with 44 per cent of the world population reading online.
  • Printing is not going anywhere. Most businesses, 64 per cent, told the Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 study printing will remain important well into 2025.
  • While the global book publishing industry is worth about $103 billion, it has continued to experience 0 per cent annual growth five years running.
  • Self-publishing continues to provide an “in” for those who want to publish, but self-published e-books provide better response for the author. On Kindle, 17 of the 100 top-selling books are self-published.
  • Publishers report their highest priority in 2020 is audience growth and marketing with 34. 2 per cent placing it at the top. Second priority comes successful SEO, say 25.8 per cent.
  • Publishers have deserted traditional media as a source for information and instead, 64.2 per cent say they read blogs with second place going to forums with 11.7 per cent of publishers reporting it as their source for industry news.
  • Publishers say their biggest challenges of 2020 include creating unique content that readers want, 23.3 per cent, keeping up with Google algorithm changes, 22.5 per cent, and diversifying website revenue, 20.8 per cent.

Okay. that’s the ‘techy’ stuff and what the larger publishers think. So, what can the Indie do, what are the trends to follow, or even lead on, regarding Social Media?soc

5 – Social Media

Habits change, platforms evolve, and new platforms come into existence. All this influences how people use and react to social media marketing, as well as how marketers can reach their audience.

What you did last year, or the year before, probably will not give the same results now. Like giving away your books for free… that is a big NO-NO for 2020.

There are now 3.484 billion social media users across the globe, which is a 9% increase compared to last year. This equates to 45% of the world’s population being on social. It also means social media adoption has beaten previous estimates, which estimated 2.82 billion would be using social media in 2019.

Saying that, more people are choosing to “detox” from social media, deleting apps and profiles to step away. This is more than the usual changes seen, in terms of people choosing to use one platform less in favour of another, such as Facebook seeing users decline but Instagram attracting more, this trend is seeing people take a temporary or permanent break from all social media.

One in three adults in the UK are reducing their social media use. Some 6% of users have removed an app from their phone, 6% have permanently deleted their accounts and 8% have deleted their accounts and removed social media mobile apps. A big reason for this is people feel overloaded by social media, with the permeation of social media affecting mental health and wellbeing. Others choose to detox because they don’t trust social media platforms, either due to issues like Fake News or because of privacy and data concerns.

This is not to say social media will become void in terms of digital marketing, but marketers do need to understand the impacts.  It’s also vital you ensure your social media presence is as meaningful as possible. Your brand needs to offer more than memes, you need to deliver content which is positive and memorable. Content that makes an impact on your audience and provides as much value as possible.

While sharing posts you believe your target audience will enjoy is part of maintaining your social media presence, but you also need to encourage and cultivate interactions which are more than a simple like or share. Many brands/other authors have large numbers of social media ‘followers’ yet, their engagement levels are almost non-existent. Don’t be them. Be a brand who attracts engagement from their followers by building communities around your content.

Encourage your(self)/team to create their own social presence to promote content and increase overall brand trust. This tactic leads to an authentic voice for your organisation/brand.

Twitter chats help create a strong sense of community through content, bringing thought from all areas together in a real-time conversation. It gives your brand the perfect opportunity to engage directly with current and potential customers/readers.

Building social media communities help with word-of-mouth marketing, which is another big social media marketing trend for 2020. Communities allow engagement with nano and micro-influencers. many who will already be advocating your brand. Give them more reasons to share honest views and experiences of your products/books/author services.

Note: I mention Nano & Micro-influencers above. These are the people you need to create ongoing relationships with, not the ‘big influencers’ ones often associates with that term.

‘Big influencers’ are no longer trusted by consumers as their activity is clearly biased and devised for commercial reward. They no longer have the impact they once did and are seen as disingenuous.

In comparison, smaller influencers, ones who are likely to be part of your communities, tend to have better relationships with their followers, benefiting from a higher level of trust. This can lead to more engagement, thus increasing levels of trust in a brand/author/books which is more likely to culminate in conversion.

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The rise of alternative platforms

Whilst Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tend to be the core platforms, many users are growing fatigued with their continuous ‘moving of the goalposts’ in order to generate even high levels of their already extreme profits, seemingly at the expense, or disadvantage of their users.

This has led to brands, including the individual entrepreneur/author having to fight harder than ever before to achieve good levels of organic reach and engagement. While Twitter has seen some growth during 2019, its active user numbers are far from its all-time 2017 high.

Similarly, Facebook has seen a huge drop in users, especially younger users, over the last two years, with the younger audiences opting to spend time on other platforms. Combine the above with the increasing pay-to-play format of social media channels means brands are not seeing the result from the core platforms.

Be prepared for more changes through 2020 as these core platforms jostle for users and introduce alternative and optional platforms and media channels.

  • TikTok, with a younger target audience (41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24) could be a great platform to encourage engagement with users who are stepping away from more traditional social media platforms. TikTok is the destination for short-form mobile videos.
  • Although Pinterest is far from new on the scene, it has experienced a recent resurgence. Pinterest has found it fits well into the e-commerce space and has an audience who are engaged with the idea of buying products they see on the platform. 75% of Pinterest users say they are “very interested” in new products compared to just 55% of people on other social media platforms. Brands report success on this platform, reporting 2x higher returns on ad spend from the platform than other forms of social media and a 1.3x higher return than traditional search.
  • Consider Virily is a relatively new Blogging Platform which opened its doors in May of 2017. Its offices are located in Estonia and Macedonia.

Virily practices revenue sharing, which for the small publisher and Indie Author, means the content you post and the interactions you make on the site earn you a share of the platform’s income.

So, by simply posting your engaging content via Virily, sharing that to your other social sites, from which your posts will be viewed, you will earn some revenue. Don’t hold your breath though, you will not earn a fortune, but if you are constantly posting engaging content, which you should be, then why not do it via Virily and earn a few cents per post?

The one downside is, you cannot post long/large blogs (like this one). But you could break it down into three or four shorter articles.

Utilizing alternative platforms allows you to engage with an audience who may not be on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, as well as providing you with different ways to share your content.

This could help deliver better results and shape your future social media marketing strategy.

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6 – Telling Stories on social

I have given this short section space of its own. Although it is still focused on social media, it is also at the core of what we authors do… tell stories.

Allow me to elucidate.

A long time ago I offered my services, on a commercial basis, to companies seeking ‘alternative’ marketing options. By a long time ago I mean the early two-thousands, so around twenty or more years ago.

This involved something I termed, CBNM, or ‘Creative Brand Narrative Marketing’. Not to be confused with ‘Narrative Marketing’.

I promoted the idea thus:

Unlike regular or standard brand narrative, CBNM uses flash fiction, short stories, essays and other narrative mediums to embed brand awareness and responsiveness into the consciousness of the consumer as a cultural and social standard, making it familiar and customary, thus creating longevity of brand loyalty.

CBNM is well suited to the internet; particularly Social Media Platforms, Web Communities, Forums and Blogging chains. Yet can be designed in such a manner that also allows inclusion in traditional and established marketing mediums.

CBNM is pro-active, flexible and adaptive. It can change and adjust your communications to express any modification or revision as and when required.

While I was more focused on the written word at the time than the current fashion for image-led ‘stories’, I see no reason the two cannot be combined and, with the option of linking the message to various other platforms, like Instagram, Amazon or ones own website. I see sharing ‘stories’ is a growth area for engagement.

I was way ahead of the game and now the rest of the world has caught up, as CBNM still holds true today, in fact, even more so. CBNM is all about engaging with one’s audience, about creating great content, about engagement and about eliciting response… the current mantra of all marketing gurus and one of the ‘must do’s’ of 2020.

Since the launch of Snapchat, other social media platforms have rushed to add the Stories format to their offering. The result has been huge growth in the usage of this format for Instagram in particular, which as of January 2019, boasts 500 million daily active Stories users across the globe.

On average, brands are posting Stories on around seven days a month, averaging out to one Story every four days.

Instagram.

  • Instagram Stories are more authentic than traditional Instagram posts that allow for heavy editing and altering.
  • Content is only available for 24hrs, therefore, it is current and will not become outdated.
  • Consumers want live updates and real-time content. Instagram Stories are normally the most up-to-date content a business can offer a consumer.
  • Through Instagram Stories, you can share other people’s Instagram posts. This function allows people to connect easily with other accounts and businesses.

Stories are not a suitable option for every brand, but as stories are engaging and seeing increased use, will lead consumers to expect brands to create Stories, it is worth assessing if and how you can utilize them.

An ongoing question I am asked is, “What’s the future of reading regarding eBooks and Print.”

Since the creation of eBooks, reading on the go has become so much easier… or has it?

Whether you daily commute or travel by plane, seeing people with e-reader devices in their sticky paws, rather than a traditional paperback book is not an uncommon sight. The prime difference is most devices avail the user to such a range of activities, it is so simple to flick, slide or click onto the next thing that comes into the user’s mind. From bidding on that must-have from eBay to browsing Amazon, to looking at pictures on Instagram before opening an eBook and reading another chapter, all can be done almost instantaneously.

Oh, for any doubters out there, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Reading a book is alive and well.

A recent Survey Monkey report revealed people have read eleven or more in the last twelve months. Uncategorised fiction came in first at 26%, with mysteries and thrillers coming in at a close second (22%).

What is interesting is the majority preferred to go with a print book when reading, with around 58% saying they purchased books in both formats. It seems people like the e-readers because they can store more, but overall, most people prefer to read a traditional printed tome whenever they can (70%).

Even with so many people liking the smell and feel of a paper book, curling up on a rainy afternoon with a mug of tea and a thriller may become a thing of the past, feared 45% of respondents.

What has not changed is peoples’ love of reading, no matter what shape, size or format the stories come in.

However, the above are just a few results from a relatively small market sample which was mostly based on people opinion rather than die-hard facts.

The following is a look at the state of the book market and takes its lead from industry published facts.

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7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.

Two new sets of numbers covering 2017 (latest available figures)show ebook sales are on the decline, both in terms of unit and dollar sales.

NPD’s PubTrack Digital, saw the unit sales of ebooks fall 10 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016. In absolute numbers, that meant the roughly 450 publishers represented saw ebook sales drop from 180 million units to 162 million over a year’s time.

The second, The American Association of Publishers, reported a decline in overall revenue for ebooks, a year-to-year decrease of 4.7 per cent in 2017. AAP tracks sales data from more than 1,200 publishers.

This ebook decline occurred in an overall publisher revenue environment that AAP said was essentially flat in 2017. So, some other kinds of book formats that AAP watches, like hardback books, went up as ebooks went down. For its part, NPD says when combining print and ebook unit sales, ebooks’ percentage of the total dropped from 21 per cent in 2016 to 19 per cent in 2017.

Children’s ebooks had the most dramatic decline in unit sales, and children’s/young adult ebooks have suffered double-digital revenue drops ever since the year 2015. Whilst adult fiction remains the most popular ebook category, with 44 per cent of all adult fiction sales in digital form.

However, neither NPD and AAP measure indie sales.

This is simply because centralized reporting of direct-from-author sales is tougher to come by, but by all anecdotal measures the independent market has taken off, notably in the also-still-large category of adult fiction.

One serious source of numbers for online book sales, including for indie ebooks, was the website Author Earnings. (Recently defunct) It estimated that traditional publisher reporting is, “now missing two-thirds of U.S. consumer ebook purchases, and nearly half of all ebook dollars those consumers spend.”

They say; “Ninety per cent of all romance purchases are ebooks,” the site’s latest report for Q2-Q4 2017 stated. “And we can see that science fiction and fantasy, with roughly 75 per cent of sales now ebooks and audio, is not that far behind.”

For all categories of ebooks, Author Earnings figures purely “indie” publishing accounted for at least 38 per cent of ebook units and 22 per cent of ebook dollars in the last nine months of 2017. And that doesn’t include micro presses, Amazon’s imprints.

“The indie share of the entire U.S. ebook market … now looks like what the indie share of Amazon alone used to be,” Author Earnings concluded. “In other words, far from losing ground, the overall indie market share has grown.”

So, you may be wondering: Are people buying more ebooks or more print books, overall? It’s hard to tell, across all kinds of books. Author Earnings doesn’t track physical bookstore sales, and NPD and AAP only track traditional publisher sales.

Jeff Bezos, whose Amazon distributes a lot of independently published ebooks, made it a point to note in his annual letter to shareholders that, “Over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.”

Part of the apparently increasing shift of authors to indie status may be about the money.

 “In traditional publishing, the writer sees a sliver of the profits — 5-15 per cent,” SFWA President Cat Rambo, herself a hybrid author, told me. “In small press publishing, that number goes up significantly, and indie writers get to keep the biggest portion of the pie.”

The future of ebook publishing may increasingly belong to the independent author, especially as traditional publishers shift more marketing weight onto the writers while charging a premium for their traditionally published product.

2020 will see the market share of Indie Authors and Publishers increase again. More traditional published authors will move, at least part of their catalogue, or new book publishing, to the Indie market and in doing so will bring subsequent changes to the way the Indie market operates.

Mainstream publishing houses will also continue to encroach into the indie field as Penguin has with their Independent Publishing arm… which I find a contradiction in terms… but there we are.

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8 – India

India’s book market, currently worth Rs 261 billion making it the sixth-largest in the world and the second-largest of the English language ones, is expected to touch Rs 739 billion by 2020.

General and literary fiction is ranked the number one genre in the books segment while “test prep” was the most sought-after genre in Academic books.

The consumer data survey, (Nielsen India Book Market Report) shows, on average people read books 2.1 times a week while nearly two-thirds read the book occasionally; interestingly, 56 per cent of the respondents bought at least one e-book a year and nearly half of these bought at least 3-4 e-books a year indicating a growing demand for digital books.

Fifty-five per cent of trade sales are of books in English. Books in Hindi account for 35 per cent of Indian language sales.

While the market is highly fragmented, it is also experiencing consolidation, partly due to presence of the merged Penguin/Random House/HarperCollins’ acquisition of Harlequin (all companies with substantial presences in India), but also in educational, with S Chand’s acquisition of Madhuban, Vikas Publishing House and Saraswati Book House, and with Laxmi Publications’ acquisition of Macmillan Higher Education.

Vikrant Mathur, director of Nielsen Book India, adds,

“There is enormous potential in the Indian book market which has been highlighted by the report, enabling publishers, booksellers and libraries to gain a deeper understanding of the market, pin-pointing areas that can be developed and those pinch points that need to be addressed in order to bring more efficiency and cost savings to the Indian book market and its supply chain.”

Those authors who are part of Electric Eclectic will know this marketplace is already being explored by Electric Eclectic. For those authors who are not part of Electric Eclectic… then maybe now is a good time to join us.

I cannot write this forecast without mentioning Amazon… so, here is a brief mention…

Amazon has reported strong growth metrics across business segments in recent years. Much of the company’s top-line growth has been on an organic basis, with the only major exception being the $13.7 billion addition of Whole Foods and resulting physical stores to Amazon’s offerings. (latest available figures.)

Expect Amazon’s combined global online sales to increase from $130 billion in 2018 to over $180 billion by 2020.

The company’s net revenues to increase from $178 billion in 2017 to $235 billion and increase to over $340 billion by the end of the decade.

Accordingly, the online sales business is expected to contribute around 44% of Amazon’s overall revenue growth in the same period.

No one predicted, 10 years ago,  Amazon would emerge as the world’s largest cloud provider, or it would be opening physical bookstores, or offering innovative ways for customers to shop without cashiers (Amazon Go stores). I say Amazon will be pursuing a growth opportunity a decade from now that no one is talking about currently.

I cannot say what Amazon will look like in 2029… but…

Although Amazon is already enormous in size given its nearly $233 billion in annual revenue, there are still many places around the world where Amazon hasn’t penetrated. International revenue makes up about 28% of the company’s total revenue, and the largest market outside of North America is Germany.

Amazon will need to overcome obstacles as it expands internationally.

In China, where Amazon has less than a 1% share of e-commerce sales, Alibaba has a stranglehold on the market.

In India, where Amazon has been investing heavily, it has run into an obstacle in the form of new government e-commerce and anti-monopoly policies that force foreign competitors to compete more on quality of service instead of price.

But Amazon is just getting its feet wet.

In 2019, Amazon started to expand in Brazil and just opened its first e-commerce store in Turkey.

Amazon has generally run its international operations at a loss, but that’s indicative of Amazon’s moat. It requires billions of dollars to build the infrastructure in these countries, not to mention navigate around complicated laws and regulatory environments. There are not many companies in the world, except maybe Walmart, that have the capital and patience to lose money for several years while building the necessary scale to earn a profit.

While Amazon doesn’t disclose advertising revenue specifically, its “other” revenue category, which primarily includes ad revenue, increased 117% to $10.1 billion in 2018. Amazon’s ad business is growing at a faster clip than Facebook’s and Alphabet’s. It’s estimated that by 2020, Amazon’s ad business will reach $15 billion, which eMarketer expects to come at the expense of Google’s digital ad share.

While Amazon’s core retail business will continue to grow around the world, investors should keep their eye on Amazon’s cloud business Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS helps companies connect and scale a host of services and systems in the cloud, including machine learning, blockchain, storage, database system hosting, analytics, and business applications, among several other services.

Revenue from AWS has more than doubled to $25.7 billion over the last few years. It was estimated that Amazon had a 52% share of the public cloud service market in 2017, according to research firm Gartner.

What’s more, AWS contributed nearly 59% of Amazon’s total operating profit last year. One analyst with MKM Partners thinks that AWS alone could be worth $1 trillion by 2024, which is more than Amazon’s current market value of $871 billion (total shares outstanding times the share price).

Over the next decade, you can expect Amazon to continue to push forward internationally and penetrate the crevices of commerce and help migrate more people over to a digital economy. There’s still a lot of opportunities domestically, as well, given that e-commerce sales still represent less than 10% of U.S. retail sales.

International, advertising, and AWS are some of the big things that will drive growth going forward, but CEO Jeff Bezos is never short of ideas of where to steer the company. With Amazon currently pursuing opportunities in non-retail industries, such as the $135 billion video game industry and the $3 trillion healthcare industry, the company will likely look very different a decade from now. But that is what makes Amazon one of the most dynamic companies in the world, and why it’s a great growth stock to tuck away in your nest egg.

That’s it on Amazon. (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.)

I don’t really need to say much else, except to ask where would we, as Indie Authors, would be without it? You may consider Amazon to be a Marmite company, love or hate. For me, the benefits of association far outweigh the alternatives… so, I’m in the love camp.

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9 – Authorpreneurs

I expect to see more self-publishing authors taking the role of “authorpreneur.” Publishing a book is a business venture, one with you, the author, as the brand.

Many successful and experienced authors now build their brand and establish their credibility in a given field. It is not enough to simply write a book; authors must market themselves, become involved in their own promotions and advertising.

This opens opportunities to help, aid and coach other authors, and to create other revenue streams. This can be in editing, proofreading, promotions, marketing, design, virtual assistants, virtual customer services, the supply of hand-crafted merchandise, online stores and more.

Some author organisations, such as Electric Eclectic, allow their authors to use established branding and to work with other EE authors.

2020, I am sure will see many Indie authors utilising their skillsets in this way.

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10 – POD/Inventory

Print on demand remains an important option for indie authors, one of the key factors which allow the independents to compete with their larger and better-funded competitors.

While eBooks are still in (slight) decline, print books show no such signs and allow the Indie Author the freedom of not having to hold a large inventory. An issue even large companies must contend with… even Amazon.

To deal with congestion at its warehouses, Amazon has cut book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. (reported by Publishers Weekly, Nov 19

The head of a publishing company said,

“if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks we could lose the entire holiday season.” He added, “that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations.”

It is this freedom from having to batch print and hold physical stock (of any quantity) which allows the Indie Authors to compete.

I don’t think 2020 will see any major movement from the likes of Barnes and Nobel or Walmart with regards to carrying indie-published books directly, but I am certain these companies are looking into the possibilities of creating their own POD systems.

If they do, it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for the Indie Author… stay tuned, folks.

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11 – Author Alliances

This is not new in concept, but these cooperative associations are morphing into successful unions.

In 2020 I expect many more Indie Authors to pull together to advocate for themselves. For example, authors are challenging the control ACX, a marketplace owned by Audible still wields over the audiobook industry.

For uploading an audiobook, and perhaps a simple quality check, they ask for a percentage of sales twice the size the author receives. Authors are starting to question this and, now, more equitable alternatives are starting to appear.

An important shift now is that predatory and fraudulent companies are being exposed, as authors come together to protect their best interests.

ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, is helping authors sort the legitimate actors from those that have been subject to repeated customer complaints and legal action. Their ranking offers a one-stop resource for authors to determine if a publishing service comes vetted and recommended, with a Watchdog Advisory, or somewhere in between.

Another form of author alliance is common branding.

For example, Electric Eclecticallows its members, Indie Authors and small press publishers, to use the Electric Eclectic branding and share in the brand and individual author marketing initiatives.

My own expectation is, it will be harder to survive without forming an alliance, partnership or collaborating with others.

Take note from some of the big brands who partnered up to expand their reach and increase sales. For example, Starbucks and Spotify, giants in the coffee and music streaming business. They integrated the Spotify mobile app with the Starbucks My Rewards program and app. When customers were in the store, they could use either app to find out what music is playing in the store and add it to their saved music in Spotify.

The payoff for Starbucks was that the collaboration drove customers to download the app and join their customer loyalty program. As for Spotify, users who subscribe to their paid memberships get extra points for Starbucks My Rewards program. The partnership is mutually beneficial, and both companies have the potential to reach the other’s audience without sacrificing their brand.

And that is the key, Mutually beneficial’. Time to get you Mutually Beneficial coalition(s) up and running.

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12 – Crowded Social

Indie Authors must contend with far more than the competition of other books. You must also compete for space and attention which a million and one other products and services are fighting for.

This is most obvious of these are other forms of entertainment.

Almost every day some newform or platform for entertainment is announced. The sources proliferate online, authors compete with not only radio and TV, but the new streaming services beyond just Netflix, including Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, along with sports, live theatre, podcasts, video games, and more.

It can be difficult to stand out, to be seen when you are alone. To stay relevant, Indie Authors need to brand themselves and, as above, share branding, at least for some of their works.

One area where indies can have an upper hand is on a local basis, one’s hometown and county. This year 2020, make it a prime task to link up with your local media, radio stations, newspapers and television. Find out who runs Podcasts and blogs with local content in your area.

Once you have some airtime under your belt or even scheduled, you will find organising book signings far easier as your target destinations will be more receptive.

If you get on extremely well, why not have your local radio broadcast their show from the premises you are holding your signing. You make the radio happy, the bookstore happy and get a ton and a half od great exposure in your local community… hey, celebrity status at last!

Basically, as with all marketing. Think ‘outside the box’. (At least a little)

 

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13 – Fundamental Shifts

Of course, fundamental shifts in publishing will continue and not all of them will be predictable. (Except maybe by me? Lol) Authors do need to stay informed, this year 2019, we saw Sci-Fi, Cosy Mysteries, Women’s fiction and Historical fiction all come to the forefront of ‘trending’. I expect this to continue, at least for the first quarter of 2020.

Over the past years, we have seen Amazon grow from a minor player to the largest book distributor. Borders and the subsequent focus on B&N and Waterstones. Direct to consumer marketing, the vexing issue of ‘Discoverability’ and powerful trends like Open Access. Increasing globalised markets, innovations of workflow, and so much more.

But above them, all were the sea changes in how books of any kind were bought and sold, whether print or ebook and what this meant for the process and structure of publishing.

I think, starting now, we will see the effects of consolidation. Maybe. Eventually, an emergence of supergiant companies, such as the joining of forces of such giants as Pearson, Bertelsman, RELX and Lagardere… all as one? Maybe.

It is not so farfetched. Penguin (&) Random House, now incorporates Harper Collins. Nature and Springer are now one company. Each is a behemoth in comparison to what was considered ‘big’ just 20 years ago.

So, what does this hold for the Indie, the single hard-working writers such as you and me?

Thankfully, I see the road ahead as favourable.

While scale and centralisation may well be the future for the giants, the smaller ‘Davids’ of the world can look forward to continued diversity. Which is a good thing.

The growth of writing platforms, like Wattpad, YouTube for words, Vice, Buzzfeed, blogging and niche newsletters, are all thriving, which proves the case for more an unfiltered environment, rather than a controlled one… (one of the reasons Facebook is losing users.)

Think about the indie publishing markets future like the ripples caused by a stone being dropped into water.

Today, we are in the centre… time to ride the ripples outwards as they and the market expand.


Did you know Electric Eclectic has its own Amazon store?

@open24 lists all Electric Eclectic books, books from associate publishers and a range of gifts for writers and readers.

Have a browse now, @open24, an Amazon store.

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Where to Start?

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I shall start this post with a quote attributed to that most literary of bears, Winnie the Pooh.

“The beginning is a very good place to start.”

I cannot agree more.

BUT…

Knowing where the beginning is, is not always as clear cut as many may think.

You see, your story, any story, must start somewhere, but that start is often not at the beginning.

Take yourself. Take a tale you told about yourself the last day you did something… silly/forgetful/made a mistake… whatever it may be.

Now, consider how you began to tell your tale the first time you related it.

I bet it was not at the beginning, at least not the real, the true beginning of the string of events which led you to such an occurrence.

First, you would, by our very nature of communicating, have plugged it with a strong opening statement, or a soft lead-in, dependant on whom you were telling the tale, be it your Boss, you Mother, BFF or Lover.

You may have said something along the line of…

“You know, Sally and I often go to the bar on Staithes Avenue? Well, we went this lunchtime and, you’ll never guess what happened….”

OR

“I’ve driven down that road for the over ten years and I have never before…”

MAYBE it was, “Oh, my goodness, you just have to listen to this…”

None of those are really the beginning of anything but are leads to an section which is part way through your story, one which, during its telling, you will flit back and forth in time, building your tale of joy or woe into as a believable an anecdote as you can manage/feel right in doing, according to the circumstance.

Therefore, the same story told in the office to your boss will differ slightly to the version you tell your colleagues, or your family, once you are in the comfort of your own home.

girls-talking-restaurant-windowIt will definitely not be as richly dressed as your recount of the occasion in the bar later that evening, or as detailed with the emotions you felt during its unfolding when you share it with your lover while lying in bed.

The same is true of our fictional novels and stories; because the way we perceive them as we write is only a version of the whole. What we feel today will alter by tomorrow. By the time we re-write ‘that’ section of the first chapter, our entire viewpoint has altered.

Therefore, what we once perceived as the beginning was, in fact, only a starting point for us to begin writing. The true beginning is still to reveal itself to us.

The matter is, we should never believe our own opinion during one sitting, but allow ourselves the opportunity to alter and change the picture we carry within our mind. Each time we reconsider our work we must see it in differing light, simply because we are not writing to entertain ourselves, but others.Bloods-Veil-page-one.png

Consequently, by revisiting our works and by teaching ourselves not to become immovably fixated on any factor of it, such as the juncture where we originally started to tell our tale, we can then see our story from the viewpoint of others, those who will read our story.

Once again, Winnie the Pooh says it well…

“When you are a Bear of Very Little brain, and you Think Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

We want other people looking at our work, it is, after all, the whole point of writing; yet we want them to understand, to feel and to ‘live’ our story, empathise with our characters and lose themselves from the real world into our fantastical fictional world, we want and need them to believe.

To do so, we must see our books through their eyes, not our own. If that means starting the story from another place, be it a location, another moment in time, a different character’s perspective, then we must change the start of our story to this new beginning.

It may still not be the real beginning, you may alter it again before publication, write a prologue, an introduction, a prequel, or another book which leads on, even in an abstract fashion, to this one.

The point is, there is no true ‘right’ place to start your story, even the true beginning of your own life was far, far before any human existed, so where would you begin to start that story?

Now, while I much admire the genius of Winnie the Pooh and agree, “the beginning is a very good place to start,” I often wonder where the start actually is.


Looking for more literary insights, articles and short stories? Then look no further. The Electric Press magazine is available to read right HERE, for free.

Electric PressMay2019pub (2019_01_08 20_58_35 UTC)

Why reviews don’t count for much… unless…

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!

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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.”

Or

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.slepatdesk

 

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 such 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.

imagesThis 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.

Therefore untrustworthy.

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 genuinely 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. Not a free copy, not an ARC, not a discounted edition, but actually buy, at the full retail price, a copy of your work.

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 and which members of your family truly support your efforts.

(Or… you will find your book is so bad even your nearest and dearest do not want to read it.)

Either way, it will save you a ton of long-term heartache.

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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 because Amazon will either refuse to publish it or they will remove it soon after it shows on your books page.

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.

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Gimme your cash

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 give you five stars.

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?

Then you need to download ‘Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know’ right now.

AuthiorStuff

Inspiration does not have to be Pretty.

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A good writer has no need to look for inspiration and ideas, they will come flooding unto them.

The fact is, each moment of every day we are surrounded by a million and one stimuli which only need us to recognise their being. We must feel, hear, sense what is around us, what is happening in front of our eyes.

We must allow our perception to absorb, to let our mind create fiction and fantasy from implied interpretation. We must permit our creative seed to run wild.

nathanblog4-700x375I have written on this subject before, albeit from another perspective, in a post called The Curse of the Muse

 

This post is a little different.

A short while ago, possibly a good few months past, I read a post on a social media site from one of my connections. I think ‘friends’ is the general term used.

I was touched by the raw honesty of the post; so much I saved their words so I might use them as a basis for my own writing, either in situation or character creation.

I feel a little guilty for ‘stealing’ these heartfelt outpourings, yet, I am acceptive to the reasoning of creativity and the understanding of where, how and by what means we writers find our inspiration.

You see, most of my works, regardless of genre or setting, focus on our humanity, on social and personal interactions and on life itself.

The following is an edited version of the social media post mentioned. I am sure you will understand the reason it resounded with me, especially if you are a reader of my books and other works.

***

This is it… 

“This isn’t poetry.

It’s not placed on a pretty post.

There are no pictures to pull you in.

This is just me needing to vent and I suppose those who want to know will read it through; there are a few thousand of you, maybe more and I’m just this sickly, tiny, thing who is easy to overlook.

My life isn’t an open a book, but should the play ever be released it will read like a tragedy of comedic design, one that tears the heart and rips the mind.

Irony, you’ll find, is the underlying theme.

I was everything I was told I would be; yet with time viewed through a rear-view mirror, I am nothing which holds value beyond the front door and those therein are on their way out.

I’d leave too, but domestic skills, they don’t count and writing words has yet to pay the bills; besides, without a degree to back up the lines, there are those who say I’ve spent the last three years wasting my time.

It’s pride, I know, but I’m pushing four decades old and I’m not sure I’m equipped to go back to the shit I did before I became a mom and wife.

I mean no offence, but I’m better than a burger to flip, or the next bag of groceries to sack, my mind knows too much to do that any longer.

I could go back to school, try and educate, but what do I do with the stack of debt that’s all late?

I have no resume. That’s the cost, the loss, of being nothing more than a stay at home mom.

What now?

Who am I without the domestic, the wife, the parental role to play, day to day?

So much needs to change and I’m scared to death I’ve waited too late.

Surely this cannot be my fate?

Even this, the sound of my self-pity makes me sick; but this decline of mine, it didn’t happen overnight.

It wasn’t quick.

My worth was stolen by minuscule measures, so slender the slices, I failed to feel the knife and yet looking at my life there’s nothing left but a bloodied mess.

I should find my way out of this.

I’m not as weak as I seem, but at this moment, I am on my knees.

This is not who I am, but damn, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be.

I’m a little lost and there’s no one looking for me.”

***

I titled this blog post, ‘Inspiration does not have to be Pretty’.

It does not.

Neither do the resultant writings. But I genuinely believe our words should be honest, open and emotional. After all, these are the driving factors of life, our lives. It is what we all have in common, it is what we all respond to… even in fictional stories.

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings.


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Visit my website (HERE) to see my books, works in progress and other projects currently underway.

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Selfie!

Moment of the Muse

How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot find a topic for your next piece?

I know many writers frequently struggle with finding subject matter. It is something I hear often via author groups and writing associations.

I am a prolific writer, yet have never suffered from either of the above.

Most often, I can be found tapping away on my keyboard as I continue my ‘works in progress’.

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I usually have a few of these on the go at once; non-fiction, a novel, some short stories, a compilation, it is pretty much par for the course.

I have files called ‘stuff & stories to read’; ‘story Ideas & notes’; ‘more writing notes’; ‘other stuff’, and so forth. Each file has sub-files, documents, snipped pages, images, sticky notes and a plethora of summaries, transcripts, annotations, memoranda, footnotes and odd bits I am unsure what to call.

The overriding connection is, they are all my Aide-mémoires to moments.

Some of these notes were transferred from my notebooks. I tend to carry at least one notebook with me at any time, generally, a small flip-type book. If I am leaving the house for any length of time. On long journeys and holidays, I take several, so I always have one to hand.

The jottings in these books can be about a place, a view, something said to me, part of an overheard conversation, or an observation. I even have notes about signposts I find amusing or incoherent.

Other items have been stored from browsing the net, finding ‘stuff’ while researching something entirely different. Some are from messages, spam, sales emails and so forth.

Occasionally reading another’s story sets my mind racing along parallel paths, so I need to scribble down my thoughts of the moment. The result of the stories which develop from these are a far cry to the original stimulus, but sometimes one needs the initial jolt to send the imaginings down a certain pathway. image_block_full_iStock_68956147_XLARGE

These files also include part stories of various lengths. They are from a single sentence or paragraph through to several thousands of words… unfinished works if you wish.

Some are my deletions and edits of other work. The bits I cut out. The parts which did not make the final manuscript or published book. Waste not, want not. They can all be used again in one form or another.

But, the point of this post, each and every one of the notes in those files have come from a ‘moment’, a single moment I have experienced during my life.

After all, life is simply a matter of moments, one after another, after another, like the single frames of a cinematic film they whirr past us in a seemingly continues unbroken stream.

I believe great writing is having the ability to capture any one, or more, of those given moments and revealing its secrets, sharing them with all who will read your words.

Even the longest of novels is created by producing a string of ‘scenes’. Each scene depicting a moment.

Personally, I have a fondness for creating shorter stories, anywhere from about 250 words to, say, twenty or thirty thousand. My favourite though is around 2,500 to 6,000.

This proposes the challenge of making a captivating tale, one with a ‘proper’ beginning, middle and end, with so few words.

I feel the main test of writing such a short story is to examine the writer’s skill, in not only having a complete story but one which burns its presence, its being, into the mind of those reading it. A great story should ask questions, probe the beliefs, principles and convictions of the reader.

Which leads me back to the start of this post where I asked,

“How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot settle on a topic for your next story?”

My belief is you may be overthinking the issue.

Do not try and think of an entire story, of a whole scenario, before you put pen to paper. Just take one moment, one seemingly insignificant moment of your life and write about that.

Think about today. What has happened to you, with you, so far today?

It does not have to be anything exciting.

Not all stories need to have a romantic outcome or bloodshed, murder and mayhem splattered across their pages. The characters do not have to be heroes or superhuman, to have suffered or survived.

Ordinary people, people like you and I have stories to tell too. Try telling one or two of those. Stories and tales regular, normal people can relate to and understand.Article_wakeup_tired

What did you think of the moment you awoke today… write about that?

Expand on that.

Why were you thinking it, what does it relate to, who was involved, what will be the outcome, can you change it? Do you want to change it? Can you stop it changing? and so forth.

Become your character. Believe you are they. Wholly, totally convince your muse you are.

Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.

Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.

Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.

 

I’ll leave you with an instant.

A while ago, I read a social status in which a young lady was distressed regarding her writing.

It seems her family, particularly her father, not taking her wish to write seriously, held little interest in what she was writing about, suggesting it would be better if she wrote about him.

Of course, this is not what this young lady wanted to write about. She did not want to write about her father. She wanted to write about something she knew, something she understood.

But everything she had written so far was slighted by her own father. Not very supportive, encouraging or helpful.

This made it extremely problematic for her to choose a topic or subject which would not amplify the situation further.

I shall not repeat the derogatory remarks made or the well-meaning, but pathetic and ultimately unhelpful, words of comfort offered on social. But all the responses took this young ladies post on its surface merits.

The deeper conflict was her relationship with her family, particularly her father and the anxiety it created within her.

This stress was heightened by her desire to write something meaningful while not adding to the household turmoil. Yes, she could have written in secret, but it was obvious she wanted, even desperately needed the encouragement and backing of her family.

All this young girl was looking for was some reassurance. She needed positive reinforcement from her family.

I suggested she write exactly what she posted about. The conflict with her father, why she wished to write and why she wanted to write the things she did. How hurtful her fathers’ remarks were and how the lack of support was so dispiriting.

I proposed she then gave her family the manuscript to read and await a response.

She now has a new laptop her father bought for her writing and a small desk in the corner of the room where she can work uninterrupted.

This is a true story.

As I said above, my advice is;

Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.

Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.

Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.


If you want to see my books, find out what I am working on or contact me, then visit my website, HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Associating the Oblique and Ambiguous.

 

Firstly, a note:jot_a_note

It is a while since I have written a post focusing on the process of creative writing.

The reason being, I have said much about other ‘stuff’ associated with authoring and publishing. Stuff I felt important enough to warrant writing about.

However, doing so led me away from the core value of this blog, which is to give, in my usual rambling and rather haphazard way, tips, advice and suggestions on improving one’s writing skills and understanding of authorship.

Those of you who follow me will know I do not write in a scholarly constructive fashion, because I do not consider myself a teacher or an authority of literary genius.

I prefer to allow indefinite abstract descriptions to suggest and evoke one’s own perceptions and introspection to convey the messages in each of these Ramblings.

In my heart of hearts, I believe the soul of the writer, the artist that lays within, is the greatest asset of all. No one can learn to write unwillingly; the writer must have love and passion above teaching and education.

A writer must want to write, above all else.

So, with those matters cleared away, I guess it is time to reveal what this article is about.


‘Association’

As a mass noun, the definition of this word, according to the Oxford English dictionary is, ‘The action of making a mental connection’.

Regarding fiction writing, I would take this two steps further and say it is, ‘The action of making a mental, sensory and emotional connection within one’s imagination’.

However, to create such a powerful, multi-sensory consanguinity within a reader’s mind, requires the writer’s understanding and needs them to be adept at wordsmithing.

To me, the word ‘wordsmith’ is a wondrous, self-describing noun.

Imagine standing before a blazing forge, gauntlet covered hands, leather apron, large metal tongs holding a glowing red-hot bar of iron. The other hand wielding a heavy hammer.

Smell the fire, the heat, hearing the Smithy as he pounds the almost molten metal into the shape of his choosing. Not an easy task, one which takes many re-heatings and coolings of the metal. One which takes countless strikes with the hammer against the solid block of the anvil before anything recognisable is formed from the raw metal.download

This is what I envisage when thinking of the word ‘wordsmith’.

My ‘association’ is with the hours of sweat and toil it takes to form a loose jumble of letters and scattered words into a coherent and meaningful sentence. To mould and form each word so it fits seamlessly with the next, so they all flow in a smooth, well-paced fashion to complete the paragraph.

The result of a Blacksmiths work is more than just flattened and twisted metal, it is a product purposely shaped into a functional object, decorated to enhance its appearance, creating an article of both beauty and reason.

Such should be our undertaking as writers. Our words should not only serve the functionality of revelation but create a pathway of beauty and intrigue for our readers to follow. Our tales should hold within their very form the pure essence of captivation, of fantastical fiction.

To do this we must weave that very essence, the distillate tincture of association within our words.

“That’s fine for you to say,” I hear you mutter.“But how do we do that?”

My answer is to consider the word this post is about, consider ‘association’. The association of words.

Now, many of you will be thinking ‘thesaurus’ because that is what a thesaurus is all about, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no.

You see, when I talk of word association I am not merely speaking of functional words you may find within dictionaries and thesaurus. Neither am I considering which words may be grammatically correct. I am talking about creativity, of creative writing. Of breaking the rules when it lends to better or even great storytelling.

Those among you who write poetry may, or at least should, have a greater understanding of the flexibility of words, how they can be moulded to convey more than their basic meanings. Particularly when two or more are used in conjunction, oblique, ambiguous or both.

Wordsmithing in fiction writing utilises what is learnt through the poetic principle, includes and encompasses it within the whole wordsmithing process.

As a way of explanation, I’ll take an excerpt from one of my short stories, ‘The Bridge‘, taken from volume three of my short stories collection, ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’

Out of context, I think this is a rather unremarkable excerpt. Even so, once studied while holding the concept of association in mind, its secrets are revealed.

The Humber Bridge is monumental. It is suspended by a mass of giant pythons, twisted metal cables one hundred feet above the sludge brown of the river. From tower to tower it is one mile and the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.

Yet, for all the earth destroying steel and concrete construction, the bridge has an illusion of beauty that is enhanced by nature itself. Somehow the two blend, even complement each other, an amalgamation of converse contraries.

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The Humber Bridge

Firstly, the suggested size of the bridge is stated, in an emotional way, by using the word monumental.

It is then revealed to the reader this is a suspension bridge.

Using the term ‘mass of giant pythons’ is suggestive of and leads into the next sentence ‘twisted metal cables…’

Here are the first wordsmithing associations.

Most people know what a suspension bridge looks like. The story could be told by simply stating this bridge is a vast suspension bridge.

The following words about metal cables could have been just that ‘metal cables’. But the addition of ‘twisted’ is used specifically because of its association with the commonly held image of snakes.

We have now created an image in the reader’s mind of ‘giant twisted pythons holding up a bridge’. Which is a far better read than say, “a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables”.

To continue, the height of the roadway on the bridge is given, one hundred feet, so is the fact the bridge is above a river.

So, once more, the story could read “… a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables one hundred feet above a river…’ Which factually would be correct, although it does not make a very captivating or entertaining read.

Moving on, the incorporation of the words ‘sludge brown’ is purposeful. Not only to transfer the perceived visual perception of a dark river but to almost subliminally link back to the snake imagery by suggesting colour association while taking into consideration most people visualise a river as ‘winding’ or ‘twisting’. Another correlation.

While this imagery of bridges and pythons is building in the forefront of the reader’s comprehension, there is also the fact the author is creating an atmosphere of dark foreboding; or at least the idea of something ominous germinating.

Sludge brown, twisting, python, mass, all have links with the nefarious.

The next ‘s sentences structure reinforces this unease.

The factual description of the bridge is given, but this is enhanced by a form of predicate which strengthens the sinister. “… the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.”

Reaching out, grabbing, blackened, fingers; all strong adjectives which focus on creating a sensory awareness of the underlying drama.

While a person may not be fully aware why, or what effect these words are having as they read, you can bet your bottom dollar their subconscious will. Personal and social belief, acquired by myth, legend and the silver screens of Hollywood has conditioned us to be susceptible to even the slightest of suggestive input.

It is also a long-proven fact when one reads, they absorb far more, far quicker than by any other method of communication.

The above example is a rather direct and implicit one. But there are stronger yet more oblique instances.

Like these, from my poem ‘Doorway’

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This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Simple. A wooden frame. Harsh nails, forged from iron, blood and sweat in the furnace of forgotten hopes. Spikes driven deep, driven through, splintering the flesh of being, binding into cold stone of indifference. Hanging forever, bearing the pain for an eternity.

But not so simple. A sign, a warning, a barrier. Invisible in its presence of possibilities lost, scorned, unfound, unbelieved. Open but empty, a nothingness that stops you dead in your tracks.

Division.

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Lost or gained or never had. Can you lose what was not? Can dreams die or do they fade away; decompose as out our living bodies rot with age upon our bones.

What is there, beyond the gaping opening of the way?

Future, or past repeated. Mirrored fears steeped in time, awaiting our return from where we have never been. A destination desired by myth, by greed of those who will not step this way, cowering in the shadows of mediocrity, of sallow existence, of being too far from any door to be truly known, except by repeated words, all meanings lost in the whisper of time, misinterpretations and vague comprehension.

What ifs lay as a carpet of likelihoods, a vastness of possibilities, probabilities, stretching away to the rims of risk and horizons of chance; choices to be made, taken, grasped or passed up.

Prospects scorned or lies waiting to trip the unwary traveller, to crush your skull, your hopes, your faiths until they crumble into a dust of inferiority until your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience.

Know your place.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck. Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

How long the openness. How soon the slam of too late shall shut out the light from the other side, of this side or that, or the other, and so vice-versa. Versa-vice.

Sounds vanished, diminished. New hope runs down our legs, incontinent imaginings puddling beneath our feet, wasted.

There is no return. Time flows by, constant. There is only now, just then, what was. Already you are too late, it has gone. Stealing away those possibility’s which once were yours and now belong to another. Maybe not yet born. A foetus of stardust, a twinkle of forlorn wishes.

Maybe they will be the ones who shall hesitate at the gates of option and chance. Maybe they will settle for comfort and the familiar and choose not to stumble blindly into the realm of the unknown?

Or maybe they shall pass this way, step through the door and into the future of destiny without looking backwards?

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

You choose.

..

Without getting too bogged down in technicalities, (not my thing), I will just highlight a few instances from the above, and then leave you to read and re-read the above poem and find the associated words which link together to create the stories own vibrancy.

First, ‘cowering in the shadows of mediocrity’.

One may expect to read ‘Cowering in the shadows,’ I am far from the first to write those words in that order. But then consider the use of ‘mediocrity’, it is not generally expected in this framework.

What are the shadows in your story associated with? Think of an indirect but implicit word and use that or another to suggest the ‘feeling’ you wish to create. Pair words which are oblique or ambiguous to create new meaning, to create the atmosphere you intend.

Forget about those ‘rules’. Ignore the grammar check in word or Grammarly or whatever. There is no substitution for the mind.

Secondly, take ‘your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience’.

This conveys a strong message from the initial simplicity of what may be expected until the string ‘humbleness and subservience’ appear in conjunction with the rest of the sentence. Those reading are expecting something far simpler, say ‘the castle, or maybe ‘the house’. But inserting ‘humbleness and subservience’, leads the mind to immediately think of servants kneeling on the cold stone floor.

Linked with the previous segment of the paragraph that mentions prospect, lies and faith the ambiguity is one of suggested religion and loss of belief or at least a trial of personal conviction.

Often when using oblique association, or creating one in such a way, it strengthens the powerfulness of the imagery formed.

imagesIf this includes creating your own metaphors or making new words do so. Shakespeare did not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by only using the accepted words of his time.

Using this ‘sideways’ form of association, not only in poetic context but in storytelling, can produce a weighty and influential transcript that will hook the reader both openly and subliminally.

Good storytelling is not just about style and content; it is not all about narration, it is not simply getting all your words in order, it is all of this melded cohesively and working in harmony throughout the entire structure of your manuscript.

It is about modelling the words you use, moulding and melding them to conceive something new, something uniquely yours, it is about practised and proficient wordsmithing.

When editing, read, re-write and work each individual sentence. Hone it, sharpen it, until it has its own perfect edge and then move onto the next.

Never skip a word, examine each one; examine its place in the sentence and change it, one word by one word, sentence by sentence, polishing and shaping and forming each little detail until every sentence is a magical story in itself.

Do the same time again and again, until every detail shines clearly.

Only then will your tale truly deserve to be called your ‘finished’ work.

Anything less is less.


The first excerpt in this post was taken from ‘Tales of Crime & Violence, a three-book collection.

You can get yours by following the links below.

UK http://amzn.to/2zZFWFN

USA  https://goo.gl/Q0DXRq

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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,

OLYMPIA
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.

Say what you mean

writers-block

This blog, as its subtitle states, is where I write about writing for writers.

When I do so, I want to make it clear what each of my posts is about so you can choose to indulge in my words or skip on to something else which blows your frock up in the moment.

The point is ‘CLARITY’.


Allow me to explain where my thoughts are…

I read an awful lot of stuff about writing and being an indie author; articles, blogs, books, newspapers, social media posts, written by other writers, authors and publishers with the intent of giving advice or insight into the ‘black art‘ of a writer’s life.

Generally… and I know one should not generalise by right, but on this occasion, I shall… Generally, all these posts are written with a single perception in mind, that of the fiction writer.

It is assumed, by most authors of these posts, articles and essays that ‘writing’ or being a ‘writer’ means you are working on a fictional novel.

Do not simply take my word, browse away all you like, look for yourself.

I can understand why.

Most of these articles are written, with good intent, by authors of fiction, reaching out to help others. Sharing knowledge and accumulated wisdom. Something which is rarely done in other areas, areas where another person could be perceived as being, and often is, your competition.

This is one matter where the indie writer’s community excels. It is supportive and encouraging to all who venture within the dark realms of the quill.

Yet the term ‘writer’ means so much more and covers a far wider sphere, than fiction alone.

I try to be as inclusive as possible in my own posts.

If I am not writing directly about a particular aspect of fiction, I try to make my posts content equally applicable to those writing a blog, a historical article, poetry, or a non-fictional account as I am to the writers of fiction alone.

A writer could be a reporting journalist, a diarist, a playwright, or engaged in composing a technical manuscript as well as engaging in stories of fantasy and fiction.

So, come on all you other bloggers who tap away on your keyboards. Make it clear from the outset of your post if it is about something which affects all forms of writing, such as grammar, or your view on the loneliness a writer may endure.

Please alert people if it is specific to a certain genre or area of writing, like romantic fiction, historical recording, technical manuscripts or horror. ZGPIAp

Why?

Well, I for one do not want to start reading your post, which I am sure you will have made as interesting and comprehensive as possible, to find, a few paragraphs in, it is covering a subject which I have no connection with and is therefore of absolutely no interest to me.

Being unnecessarily drawn into such will only make me disregard any future article you might post, even if it then covers a subject I am connected with.

You can still have a ‘catchy’ headline or title if you do not want a fully descriptive header. Just ensure, for those browsing a subject they want to read, that you clarify, in the first few lines, the subject matter of the post.

It will help the reader find what they want and it will help you gain followers who like your subject matter.

That’s all I have to say for now.

Enjoy the rest of your day, Paul.

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Yoghurt Tasting.

yoghurt

We often talk of how important punctuation and grammar are when writing. I think this is also true of the spoken word, oration and pronunciation should be a foremost concern.

NOT, I hasten to add, for everyday conversation where colloquialisms, dialects and vernaculars colour our conversations and lives, but when the spoken word is transmitted by mainstream media.

I believe, broadcasters have a duty to society to articulate, to use elocution and enunciation to the highest standard and, by doing so, enable our young to learn the wonders of well-versed dialogue, gain the ability for constructive discourse and communication.

How can we expect our young to learn to speak clearly and precisely, to acquire the ability to explain, to communicate effectively, if the denizens of our communications industry cannot do so themselves?

Personally, I do not think ‘dumbing down’ standards to ‘accommodate’ those considered, in correct ‘PC’ terms to be ‘less fortunate’ is the answer. This only has the effect of decreasing the overall standards by suggesting the lowering of general standards are acceptable. Which, of course, they are not.

I fear for the future.

Today I found myself disappointed by such a badly enunciated sentence.

“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoghurt taster from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

Now… I have, as many of you do, a writers mind. This is a strange and oft uncontrollable beast. One which will pick-up on tidbits and oddities which would, for the greater part, pass most people by without causing a ripple in their lives.

But for those of us who are cursed, or blessed, with such minds will know once this beast has focused on its intended target, once it has its victim firmly caught in its talons of curiosity like an eagle grasping its prey, there is little we can do until it has satisfied its hunger, or passions, or whatever desires need stating.

This was my situation earlier today. As soon as that sentence had been spoken my muse went into overdrive.

A quick and personal excuse, (Disclaimer!): I was not watching or listening to the programme being broadcast, it was just ‘on’. My wife had switched the TV on earlier and it was playing away in the background.

So, where was I? Oh, yes my muse awakening, giving me a jolt.

Questions started to flood my head, ‘Yoghurt taster’ what kind of a job was that? Was it a flavour tasting position or simply to ensure the product was of a certain quality? Maybe this was a taste panel for R&D, for new products, new lines?

How did one get a job like that? Could I get a job like that? What qualifications, besides liking yoghurt, did one need?

My muse was excited; could this be part of a plot? A Poisoning?  Mass poisoning… holding corporations to ransom? Maybe the start of strange happenings in a small town… Zombie-like conditions… Mmmm? My mind continued to race.

However, I love that word so I’ll say it again.

However, somewhere besides my overly stimulated muse, I had a nagging doubt such a position, a job as a yoghurt taster actually existed. Food taster, yes. But I could not believe anyone could be employed solely as a Yoghurt taster.

No, I convinced myself, something was wrong. (Much to the annoyance of my muse.).

Thanks to modern technology, satellite, cable, Digi-boxes, smart tv’s, Interweb etc. we are able to do so many things with ‘live’ and ‘on-air’ television which have previously been impossible. One of these is instant ‘re-wind’.

This is what I used to take the programme back to the point where the ‘voice-over’ presenter stated that Emma was a ‘Yogurt taster’ from Essex.

This time I would actually be watching and listening to the broadcast, rather than having it grumbling away in the background where only my subconscious was taking note.

Sitting too close and staring at the screen like a six-year-old child, I pressed ‘play’. The images began to move and the narrator started to speak.

DarkAngelcaps_008

“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoga teacher from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

I played this over and again, four times in total until I was absolutely certain this version was the correct one.

Emma was a yoga teacher and not a yoghurt taster, as I had first thought.

This was not simply a case of me miss-hearing, unlike those miss-heard song lyrics.

This was yet another case of the shameful media presentation.

I must say, I was more than a little disappointed.

I am sure, in the world of yoghurt, tasters are required? although I am uncertain of what the progression of seniority may be in such a profession. Perhaps one starts with the ‘own label’ products, progressing to ‘natural’ before moving to thick ‘Greek-style’ yoghurts. Maybe, an alternative route would be to delve into the technical realm of flavours or the scientific corridor of ‘low-fat’ and ‘healthy’ options.

I guess I shall never know.

A divergent track which leads me, by some circuitous route, back to where I began this post; which is where I stated my belief that major broadcasters and, in many respects, our respective Governments, should take responsibility for the clarity and precision of language when transmitting programmes.

The above is a prime example of bad annunciation and elocution, the equivalent in my book, (note the pun.), of bad grammar and punctuation in writing.

Besides, my restless muse was unnecessarily disturbed.

Now, I have to find an excuse NOT to write a novel about a wicked dairy farmer, who decides to get his revenge on the local townsfolk by plying them with infected yoghurt, thus turning them into pliable and malleable zombie-like humanoids who forever more will do the farmers bidding.

Of course, as with all good pulp-fiction, there is always one young girl who hates all milk type products, regardless of flavour. Perhaps it is she who can fight back against the forces of evil bovine product manipulation to save the earth… or at least the local town?

That is all I am going to say on the matter!

Milkmaid

So, until next time, enjoy your writing, even if your inspiration has been stimulated by a miss-print or badly spoken presenter. But please, please, take care with your grammar. You never know when someone may read your work live on air, they may even be an ex yoghurt taster venturing into a new career!

Thank you for reading, Paul.

You may like to visit my website and see what else I am writing? http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

© Paul White 2016    RTWM310716/975

One reason why I don’t give my books away.

MagicBook

Because I have worked hard, very hard in making the book a reality.

The uninitiated may feel that is a glib remark, but it is not if you consider….

I first had to come up with the idea, a notion of a story and ensure it had a start point, a good tale to tell and was one which draws to a satisfactory conclusion.

That is, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Then try it now, in the next few seconds. Say these words aloud….ready….go…”My story begins when……

Well, come on. You said it was easy, so what’s keeping you?……

OK. Times up.

Let’s move on.

I shall say ‘we writers’ from now on, have an outline of a story in our head. We know where we want it to start. We may even have a few words which may become the opening lines when we start writing.

Each writer has their own way of plotting and constructing a novel. So, for generalist purpose I am adopting the supposition this is a writer who plots onto a storyline…to a degree.

For the next few days, we shall be breaking down the sequence of the story in our mind, transcribing it onto a plot graph, a timeline of planned stages. This is something we shall change numerous times over the next few days. We shall have the characters, particularly the protagonist, face challenges they must overcome. We will build his/her character as realistically and as humanly flawed as suits the plot and will have our readers empathise, at some stage, with the antagonist. Possibly disbelieving in the actions of the hero….who may yet actually be the real baddy!

This is the type of conflict associated with plotting the story. Already at this stage, the story wants to take charge of the author, as later, during the writing of the first draft, so shall the characters. They WILL take on a life of their own. They WILL wake the writer in the early hours of the morning, banging on the door of new concept.

The same characters WILL, on another night, keep the writer awake until the sun rises just so they can move forward, continue their journey within the unfolding pages of new manuscript.

Most authors become almost, if not entirely obsessed with writing the tale. Some seem, even become unsociable, withdrawn. Because the story must be told, it must be typewritten onto paper or into computer memory. If the writer stops or is distracted for too long, the thread begins to fade, the momentum halted, the spirit lost. The new lives, those characters created start to wither, even die.

Writers are, in the worlds they create, Gods among characters, guides of destiny and givers of fulfilment, destroyers of life, of societies, of cities and planets. The author is omnipotent.

It is a role, a responsibility we take seriously. It is a heavy burden we bear.

Come the end of the first draft and an entire year’s supply of coffee beans. I/we, the authors, sit back in our chairs and breathe a sigh of relief.

It is a short respite.

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Soon our noses are back at the grindstone. We now need to read, edit and re-write the entire work. A first draft, no matter how carefully crafted, is just that. A first draft.

Now we really start work. No longer are we flying in full creativity mode, now we are in a roll-your-sleeves-up and get stuck in approach to the task.

Generally, this stage takes twice as long as the first. Deleting words, sentences and replacing them… or not. Moving paragraphs or rephrasing entire sections of the manuscript. Rearranging the position and order of entire chapters, even deleting them…or writing new ones. There is no limit to the fettling undertaken at this stage.

Once we are (reasonably) happy with draft number six/seven/ eleven? We congratulate ourselves and add a tot or two of whisky into the large mug of rich black coffee, our drug of choice.

Happily, we tell our copy editor we are ready for them to scan our documents. Oh, she says. (Not a sexist remark, simply the fact I have found most of the best editors are women), you need a line editor before you run it past me!

So, weeks later, with some alterations to plot and structure, you eventually pass the manuscript over to your copy editor….. and wait… and wait, which is a good thing. Annoying, frustrating, but good.

You see your editor should be busy… if she is not it could indicate no one wants her services?

The second reason you should be happy to wait is, you want a thoroughly good job done, don’t you? Therefore proper, good, concise editing with a comprehensive feedback means taking all the time required to do the job right. Right?

Everything is not lost during this time, because you have to have a cover. If you have not yet made any advance towards having one designed, now is a great opportunity, it will take your mind off waiting for your editor.

Unless you are a graphic designer or illustrator I would leave the cover to an expert. Even if you are an artist I would, at the very least, consult with one. You see a book cover is NOT what most people (readers/ writers/authors) think it is.

Comes the day when your book cover, both paperback and Kindle versions are ready. You are excited because your manuscript has just arrived back from your editor… the pages listed with notes, amendments and suggestions.

Now, instead of moving forward, instead of getting a step closer to publication you must revisit your story. Once more you sit and work through the entire manuscript, making alterations, altering tense, reading those suggestions and editorial input regarding clarity, flow and all that other stuff.

Three days, (or week/months?) later, in a foul mood and with a raging headache you stab the send button returning, the now amended manuscript, to your editor.

This is when you wonder where the last year of your life has gone. This is when you look out of the window and wonder why it is snowing… in June… only June has long passed. You missed it.

You were living in your own Neverland, guiding your characters away from disaster and death. Now, all of a sudden life seems so much more…. empty.

The story is with your editor. The cover made. Time seems to hang about endlessly, waiting…tick-tock, tick-tock.

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After a day or two of doing virtually nothing, it all gets too much. You plan a launch date, but not too soon. Then you organise a thunderclap, a blogging chain, advertising, a cover reveal and whatever blows your frock up.

Hey, guess what, your manuscript is back, this time there are only a few notes, easy stuff to sort out. So, you do. It only takes the best part of a day, or week, or month, this time.

Now you can busy yourself again. This time you need to format your manuscript into book form. One for each type of book, i.e. paperback and eBook, but also for the platforms you may be using, Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords and so forth. Of course, you can have a professional do this, or you can seek the help of a fellow author… all work well if organised properly.

The next stage is proofreading. Each format needs to be proofread. You can do the first run yourself, pick up on any errors made during formatting, check the margins, headers, page numbering, kerning, font, point size and such. But, I bet you will miss a shed load. So, have other eyes, preferably an experienced proof-reader, one with a good track record, even someone recommended.

Now you press the send on your keypad again and hey-ho the formatted manuscript(s) is/are off to your proof-reader, who will pick up on any punctuation, capitalisation, space and… other issues you WILL have missed.

ONLY after you have fixed all those errors will your story, which up to now has just been a manuscript with a working title, become a book.

Upload to print…. congratulations. It has taken you around eighteen months to two years of blood, sweat, tears and toil. Of mood swings and social deprivation, headaches, doubts, pain, fear and uncertainty to turn your dream into your baby.

Well done you.

Genuine congratulations are in order.

NOW YOU WANT TO GIVE IT AWAY?

That is (one reason) I don’t give my books away.

I have many more.

Sleep well, Paul White.