Mind melt

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to lose my job. I experienced many thoughts and emotions as  reult of this but one of the outstanding ones was “woo-hoo, I can now concentrate on my writing”. This was, predictably, not to be.

Although I managed to get some short stories written and a number of novels started, I didn’t actually complete very much. I can put this down to two core reasons: one would be that I had no real concept of time and therefore had no deadline by which to complete my work, nothing was pressing and so I had no driver.

Secondly, of the short stories I did complete and went on to submit to websites, I had perhaps not the reaction I’d wanted (although I’m not sure exactly what I did actually expect).

There’s the over-optimistic vision of having agents bang down your day on finding your work online, which is not going to happen… there is hope that you will write something submit it, and wake up the next day in a life of brian style scenario where people shout your name and beg you for further words of wisdom. This is equally deluded but still it would be quite nice to find happening. Finally, there’s the long slow potboiler in which you become some sort of Sugarman character where you are actually unaware of your growing popularity and then people hunt you down for a documentary that tries to find out who this dark, shadowy, revolutionary figure is.

None of these things happened. I did, however, foolishly pay an amount of money to a (apparently established and respected) website to get my work published, only for it to be rejected. I should have paid attention to my own advice of never paying reviewers, agents, publishers and so on. Additionally, where I was published, the reviews only seemed to be provided by other authors and therefore seemed to smile through their words with knives behind their backs. A horrid experience.

My Twitter followers have remained quite static in number, and the only extra followers seem to be other authors intent on advertising their latest efforts to me: another author! The point being what exactly? Surely they should be hunting down bookclubs and reading groups? Coca Cola, to my knowledge, don’t go to Pepsico every week and try to get vending machines installed, the same logic can be applied here. Very, very bizarre thinking.

I will continue working on books soon, and I can’t pretend I haven’t learned anything these past months, but my intention was to write something more optimistic and forward thinking rather than the cynical tomes that are currently sitting in my head waiting to see daylight, or moonlight.

The Dead Famous pt 2 seems more likely than ever, but I had hoped to tell my cat story first. Oh, well, c’est la guerre.

Book Trailer fun

Most of my posts, if not all of them, have been about my ill-conceived and badly carried out plans on how to produce a book and then go about marketing it; this post will be no exception.

I previously posted a link to the book trailer I made to promote my book, The Dead Famous. It wasn’t made too seriously (as I think was obvious from the clip) but it was fun to make and taught me, if nothing else, at least how to use iMovie for mac. It also taught me a couple of other things:

1) Cemetery workers are really suspicious of people walking around with cameras.
2) Cemetery workers are realy suspicious of people walking around with spades.
3) Cemetery workers are really suspicious of people walking around with balaclavas.

It took about two days to film, edit, and finalise the video before finally uploading it to youtube. The problem is that, once uploaded, it’s very difficult to get viewings without paid promotion. Nevertheless, I quickly gained a large number of views within the first few days and I also submitted it to the International Movie Trailers Festival (which has a “book trailers” section) which also seems to have generated a good deal of the attention I needed for it.

Lastly, I ensured that everywhere either my book or my author profile was featured throughout the internet, a link to or embedded version of the video was featured (for example Amazon allow authors to create their own pages with accompanying media)

It’s hard work, and I have complete respect for anyone that has not only made a trailer but also made a success of it. I can’t say that my sales have risen significantly, but it’s been a fun learning curve as has this whole writing experience so far 🙂

Enjoy! : http://www.internationalmovietrailerfestival.com/all-trailers/the-dead-famous/

Making a book trailer

In response to a link posted by @SandyAppleyard on Twitter, I decided to make my own book trailer for The Dead Famous using what little film making skill I have (i.e. none). 

My first step was to read through the post describing what a trailer should contain adn what structure it might take. I then went on to youtube to see what other trailers looked like and wa not exactly surprised, but was curious at the varying quality of clips that were out there. Some such as the one for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters looked as if it had been fun to make, got me a little interested in the book (even though I was already aware of it) and it gave me all the information I needed to know about the book. It told me that it was a book that was not to be taken seriously, was tongue in cheek and was now available to buy from all good etc etc.
The link for it can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jZVE5uF24Q
I would only criticise one element of it, that the credits at the end were hardly necessary and, if anything, distracted from the trailer’s point, that it was an advert for a book adn not a film for film’s sake…on the other hand it has so far received over 370,000 views so judge from that what you will.

On the other side of the trailer spectrum, we have Secrets of Surrender. I have to be honest, the music sounds like it’s stolen from a 1980’s tv movie and the trailer made with Windows movie maker BUT it has still received over 17,000 views and the comments are very complimentary. It can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpDLfFKyzv4

So, what I have learned:

Know your target market; if you’re writing a romance book and think your audience spend all their spare time watching the Hallmark Channel or generic tv movies, make a trailer to suit.

Keep the information brief and to the point: Book Title, Author, plot premise, where to buy the book and when it might be available. I can only suggest that any other information is fluff and probably not necessary (if you can think of anything else that should be included, please respond to the blog, I usually am wrong about most things and happily accept criticism).

Keep it short or, at least, if it is going to be more than about 1 minute, then make sure it holds the viewer’s attention for that time. Go in, give your message, get out.

I’ll end by saying that the trailer I amde was with a camera and a mac book and looks very home made, it is also probably too long and was amde with iMovie rather than movie amker (probably not a giant leap forwards!) but it was a great deadl of fun making it and, after I’ve hacked it to pieces, I’ll post it to youtube for someone to criticise and rip to pieces. That person probably, I don’t know, has a blog or something and just spends their time ripping on other people’s work while creating nothing but literary poop on toast themselves anyway.

Don’t you just hate that?

Originality in plot

I read, quite some time ago, a claim that William Shakespeare had managed to encapsulate most story types within his works. He had been so successful at doing this that now, as a result, people tend to refer to the story types via his writings rather than any works created before him even if the structures had been around for millennia.

Knowing that he perhaps had acheived this feat, a writer might be justifiably be daunted by the prospect that there might be no story structure available for their brain to conjure up without having someone having beaten them there first.
This needn’t be a problem. I personally think that dwelling on the structure of the story is soemthing that is certain to doom the writer to failure before even starting out.
I’m not aware of anyone that came up with the idea of a book and said that the premise should be this or that structure, it’s nearly always the character or the basic plot of the story that has been birthed, developed, grown and created rather than the structure, and that being the case, it seems to me entirely acceptable to ignore the structure almost completely until at least the first draft has been completed. At that stage, it would then deem wise to start thinking about whether the character developments are satisfying, the story has a flow, the events have a natural progression, and so on.
If, after those things have been analysed, you find that the story does indeed have the structure of Romeo and Juliet or Othello then you can take it as happy coincidence, and if it has no resemblance to any accepted structure then, who knows, maybe you are the next Shakespeare, and I bow down to you.

An idea source for stories

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, I had nothing to say for a while so didn’t want to fill the page with rubbish “just because”.

There are a good few stories about people having dreams which they then turn into books, for better or worse. I suppose the most famous is the story of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which did come in a dream to Robert Louis Stevenson and went on to do quite well in sales, although whether or not he’d appreciate the numerous film versions made since, I’m not quite so sure (the only decent version is the 1920 film starring John Barrymore where he actually dislocates his jaw to get the grotesque features required of the role, needs to be seen to be believed).

I’ve dreamt a good few stories in the past and do wonder where the ideas come from, the story structure, and so on. I know that most claim that dreams are a combination of troubles that might’ve been on your mind at a subconscious level anyway, added with things you see during your normal day but don’t fully acknowledge, plus some sort of personification of anything else that might be on your mind at the moment such as a tv programmme or film, you get the idea.

So, I thought I’d write down here the dream I’ve just had as it was so structured it seemed as if it really should at least be noted.

“For some reason this dream took place in the US, in a small town not far from a major city and near the coast. A friend of mine (we’ll call him Cedric, there was no name in the dream) had been having less and less contact with me over the years since he’d had a number of personal problems and had started acting in a more and more distant manner until I rarely saw him at all. The only times I did see him were when he was in a cafe showing pieces of paper to two friends, one boy and one girl, they’d paw over them looking concerned and very serious, if anyone came to near to their table they’d clear the papers away, finish their drinks, and leave.

Sometimes I’d be in the cafe at the time, it was the only major hangout in town that wasn’t a dive bar or stripjoint. As Cedric left I would try and get his attention but he always rushed out before really seeing me.

I managed to stop him in the street later, asked how he was, he seemed evasive but then said that his problems were things I wouldn’t want to know about, I assured him I was a friend and was, if anything, a little sorry he hadn’t felt I could be spoken to in the past about these things. He gave in and said I should drop by his place later. He then rushed off down the road, dropping a couple of papers on his way and almost getting hit by a car as he fetched one from the road.

Cedric’s house was a mess, he said we should speak in his bedroom as it was the only place to talk. His room was just as filthy but it was mainly covered in blurry UFO photos and newspaper cuttings, he spoke for the next hour, quietly at first, but then building into an almost frenzy as he went on and on about how their had been signs of an impending invasion and that the government knew it but weren’t telling anyone for fear of spreading panic and also in the hope they could obtain the technology to use against non-friendly nations.
I’d heard it all before and was frankly a little bored and felt sorry for him. He’d met these other people in an internet chat room and they met from time to time to share evidence and plan what they should do once the invasion started.
I wished him luck and left, nothing really to say to him, he had problems beyond my skills as a friend and really didn’t know what to think next.
I went home to sleep, but was woken by a noise across my room. Looking around and seeing nothing, I then saw the distinct figure of what I thought was a burglar but it had far too large a head to be human and I feared it to be some goblin or other such creature. I blinked and it was gone. Lights on, nothing was in the apartment. I called Cedric. He said that this was happening all over but that only a few people were reporting it as it actually was, visitations but early invasion scouting groups. I asked him how the hell it had got into my apartment but he told me not to overanalyse that as it didn’t change the fact that I had been visited.
The next day I was cutting across a field and, as I trod on a particular piece of grass, the ground acted bizarrely… a line lit up through the grass and then as I trod on it again, a humming sound came from it. I stood back and then the rest of the ground lit and shook as a distinct rectangular shape formed in the grass and then suddenly rose out of the ground: a complete 1950’s diner… The building was empty, no people, it was seemingly abandoned. My shock subsided a little as I walked around the building gazing inside, but one window was dark, tinted, I couldn’t see in without pushing my face against the glass but, as I did so, a face slammed back at me through the glass which I knew not to be human. I fell back on the grass and ran off in panic to tell Cedric.

He wasn’t at all shocked and packed his bag with torches, a small axe, other bits I didn’t recognise and he made calls to his friends to meet at the field I’d described.
As we got there, they said I should wait outside. They found a door, went in, I heard nothing.

Suddenly, there were voices, the shouting, then nothing again. I breathed in increasing panic as I tried to decide what, if anything I should do. The decision was made for me as a loud bang broke the silence and the tainted window suddenly cracked. Rushing forward to look inside, Cedric’s male friend was lying on the floor, the goblin creature from the previous night was holding Cedric in the air by his throat and, as he struggled to be dropped down, his other friend came behind the creature and brought the axe down on his head again and again.

I’d never been so frightened. They ran out the building and I followed as I asked maybe too many questions in panic. What was the creature?Where was it from? Were we going back for his friend? They weren’t listening and, as we got to Cedric’s place, a large light suddenly split the sky, emanating from the fake diner straight up to the clouds. Whatever the light was, I instinctively knew that I didn’t want to stick around to find out what might happen next, we piled into Cedric’s car, he through some pre-prepared bags into the trunk and the three of us sped off down the road. Behind us we could see people slowly leaving their houses to stare at the sky in wonder as what I could only think was some space craft, slowly descended from the sky and moved closer to the planet’s surface. We weren’t going to stop to see whether they came in peace.”

As I say, I dreamt this and only woke up about an hour ago so the structure isn’t great and many elements are generic, but that’s not my point, my point is that dreams can be a great untapped resource for ideas, and that if you write it down every time something catches your imagination in the morning, well, that might help with different viewpoints on how you should write in the future. Maybe it can give new story ideas, but ultimately I think it keeps your options open as to what kind of stories you might write. I would like to develop this alien story more, I never had any interest in alien invasion lit at all, but now I might change that view. That’s my point 🙂

Encouraging the masses

After my book was made available to the public, I enjoyed a brief period of it doing quite well, in fact better than I expected to be honest. It’s now been downloaded over 550 times and went into the Kindle top 20 humour charts. All very good, I thought, something to be sustained, I thought… but how? I knew as soon as people stopped being able to get the book for free, interest would drop significantly, and drop it did. 

Now comes the waiting part. We’re in a period where people have no time to read, there’s Christmas and the new year to deal with, I realistically don’t expect the majority of people to get around to reading it until well into January. This poses a tiny problem. As Amazon.com are hosting the book, I rely on reviews to pique people’s interest in it, but if no-one’s read it, they can’t review it, and with no reviews, no-one reads it; cue stomach acid level problems.

In the meanwhile I’ve busied myself with reviewing proofs of the paper version of the book and approved it for print, this means that anyone who preferred to have a hard copy of he book, can now obtain one. According to my sales figures, those three people will be very happy. Probably.

This is where I fall back to cliches told to me or overheard being said to others when young: disappointment brings character, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, good things come to… nope, I still don’t believe it and remain defiantly convinced that cliches are codswallop. 

Only one thing to do: go back to editing my second book, know the other book will take time to grow and a watched pot gathers no moss, and remember that I just want to write, sales are nice, but getting the stories written down are the most important element of this whole “adventure”, that and developing a tingling ache in my right wrist which I suspect to be early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Not achieved from writing books, mind, but from hitting cmd + R to view my sales figures, it’s so addictive, you wouldn’t believe.

A paperback version of the book is here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dead-Famous-Ronald-Moger/dp/1481278185/

Strangely, it doesn’t seem to show up on amazon’s search thingy. I’m growing ever more suspicious of this whole internet fad, I look forward to the day when I can grow fat eating chocolates while dictating my next masterpiece to a hired hand. God help my bedframe, Ikea can only put so much quality into each bed and I’m pretty sure that bloating to a size that would make Jerry Springer want to interview me via skype isn’t the best way forwards. Salad it is then.

How I’ve tried to promote my book

I’ve found, since abandoning my book to the amazon website, that the internet is full of people’s opinions on how best to promote ebooks to the masses.

Some of this advice seems quite logical, some of it a waste of time, personally speaking. Here are some brief notes on what I’ve found so far:

Kindle readers forums – These are a good way to promote your work and most have a section for authors to promote their latest work, but be aware of a couple of things: firstly some of these forums require you to be, not only registered like other forums, but also approved. This means that it might take time for you to get any work done there and the danger of course is that you might sign up, wait for approval, and then forget about it completely. Time wasted, especially if they don’t email you to say if you’ve been approved.
The second note is regarding time differences, example: I found a forum based in the US where authors could post links to their books accompanied by a short description of it. The problem here is regarding time zones. If you post at a reasonable time in your own zone, by the time the target audience in the US is awake and checking the forum, tens of other authors might have posted after you, pushing you to page 3 or 4 or 17. That, with the rule most forums have stating that you can’t repost within a certain amount of time or bump your own work without moderator approval, equals another big fat waste of time. Timing is definitely key here. I personally would recommend posting when it’s about 4pm in New York meaning that everyone across the country is online in some capacity when you consider the time differences across states.

Shopping sites: no-one seems to have mentioned these, a great untapped resource. On many consumer forums there are threads where people can let each other know about freebies or offers online. I posted a link to my book in one of these and got a great deal of downloads and also became tipped as one of the better freebie offers. Warning: many of these sites warn against self-promotion so it’s best to either use a pseudonym or to get someone else to post on your behalf, lest you become banned from the site!

Facebook, Twitter, Blogs etc: Although you can rely on your friends for the first few downloads or purchases of your books, only the most loyal of chums is going to put up with you harping on about your latest project for very long. I know that an individual author or book page can get you around this partly, but your friends will most likely also be signed up to this, and they rarely distinguish between you posting personally and the promo page posting. People will hate you.
I would suggest that Twitter is more forgiving for this as your posts will only be visible for a short period and you can target your posts to the right people with hashtags. Obvious, I know, but additionally I’d add that there are pages that suggest what hashtags you should use specifically for promoting your ebook. I’d recommend researching these if you haven’t done already. Blogs are great, but so far I haven’t been able to exploit their potential completely. I’m still learning 🙂

Lastly, I found a great deal of Kindle pages on facebook that had millions of “likes” on them. I posted links to my book there and that seems to have paid dividends.

So far I’ve had over 450 downloads of my book in two weeks. I’m all too aware that other people have done much better than me, I wouldn’t doubt that some have not done so well. It’s a learning process and full of trial and error. I’ve made mistakes, but also surprised myself. I’d welcome any comments below on how everyone else has fared, I’d add as well that if anyone has found the tips above useful please let me know 🙂

Shameless self promotion: My book is available on all Amazon websites for download. You don’t need a kindle to read it as you can also get a kindle reader for mac or pc for free by googling it.

The following link is for amazon.com but if your country has it’s own amazon website, please check there for reasons related to local tax etc etc etc

http://www.amazon.com/The-Dead-Famous-ebook/dp/B00APOQVFY/

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