On the brink

(Just to add today, 13th June, I wrote this on June 1st and it stayed gathering dust as a Draft until today).

I expect we all know the feeling of being on the brink of something new.  It may be only a minor change, or it may be something enormous like a life decision.  The feeling links up the mind and the body to disturbing effect.

I experience this often.  In the last few days I’ve been on the brink of making decisions about my work as a writer.  Last year I set up this WordPress site, knowing I should do something public as a writer, having – after a long silence – self-published three books with Createspace on Amazon.  I had decided to give up attempting to clamber back into the traditional publishing world.  I would fling myself into the ocean of self-publishers and take part in all the activities – blogging, engaging on social media, and so on – necessary to promote myself, my titles, and sell some copies.

For some reason, which I’m sure I thought logical at the time, I established the domain name aliveinww2.    This is the title of the non-fiction book, one of those three on Createspace, subtitled The Cousins’ Chronicle, commentary and memoir.  It’s based on family wartime newsletters and of course some present-day cousins – at various levels of kinship – were interested enough to buy copies.  Beyond them, did anyone fork out the eight necessary pounds or equivalent dollars to buy and read this book … very few, if any.  I probably thought that by using the title as domain name I might  help sales.

I set up this WordPress site with this URL and made myself explore the world of blogging.  I began to understand just how every second person in the world thinks they can write.   People sometimes tell Peter when admiring his work, that they’d dearly love to be able to draw and paint but they can’t.  I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t think they can write.  After all, they’ve done it ever since they learnt to hold a pencil.  Of course a lot of people do realise that it is an art like any other.  You need a certain amount of inborn talent to start with, then a lot of hard work, experiential learning and perseverance.

One of the things I’ve found hard is being part of this unregulated world.  There is no quality control at all.   When anyone of whatever merit,  lack of talent or basic literacy can publish their writing, how can readers find a decent read?   I learnt about book bloggers, and decided that this would be a way to reach the kind of readers who might like my kind of writing.  A trawl brought up the name of Teddy Rose who organises digital book tours http://virtualauthorsbooktours.com.  I signed on, full of hope.  (I’m a incurable optimist).   My ‘tour’ ended on May 31st after two months.  As yet it hasn’t resulted in a single sale of the novel I was promoting.

In fact, I enjoyed all aspects of the tour save this non-sale result.  It was fun to answer questions about the book ‘White Lies’.   It started with a wild interview with very jolly Michelle Jordan’s  ‘Indie Review Behind the Scenes Maverick Moment’ Youtube video.  Teddy was a good companion during the strange tour of book bloggers.  An early one objected to be use of the word ‘natural’ for the woman she’d prefer to be called the ‘birth’ mother, and removed herself from the tour.  Apart from this blogger, the reviews  were in favour of the book, eleven in all.  I was pleased because they came from people who – I gathered – usually review novels that are easier to read at speed.  They found White Lies needed greater attention but said that it rewarded their time.  One of the last reviewers (on Amazon.com) said the story “paints a fuller picture of the emotional intricacies of adoption.”  She has an adopted brother.  “This book makes me think outside of the obvious.”   She expresses the hope that, if ever they talk about his adoption, she will “navigate the interaction with compassion, empathy and a whole lot of sensitivity.”  This comment pleased me.  I always hope that my books will nudge people to think about and see their own lives and relationships in a new way, as well as entertain them with a good story.

But how much effect, if any at all, has this tour had on spreading the word about Susan Barrett and her work?  I spent money on it.   I would have liked sales to pay for it.    I don’t expect to make money out of writing – very few authors do.  But I would like to reach more readers.   I also want to give up this business of working at promotion, and get back to writing the novel I’d begun before the bloggers’ tour.  Its working title is Greek Gold.  Today I began the third chapter.  Alex, my main character, is on the brink of a parachute jump.  In fact, he’s been on the brink since January.  I kept him there, alive in my head in that quivering moment, for the intervening months.  This morning I began to put into words my vision of the poor chap  – and he’s still not jumped after one page of writing.  I’ve been waylaid by this post because I have the idea that I will give a page of the site to writing this novel.  That might be a good way of finding the path between promoting work and writing it.

I’m on the brink of a decision.

At Sea

Susie Barrett, cartoon greetings cards

At Sea is an appropriate title for today’s post.  Teddy Rose of virtualauthorsbooktours has told me that two of my social media buttons don’t work.  Hell.  My floundering  to stay afloat in the sea of social media and the self-publishing ocean continues.   I’m keen to fathom the Twitter and Google+ links out on my own, without recourse to paying someone to do it for me.  It’s a balancing act between working at promotion in order to make money from possible sales and spending money fruitlessly on that very promotion.  The amount I earn is so infinitesimal you have to screw up your eyes to make out the figure on the screen.  Paying for help to promote is against the grain, common sense and the current account balance.  But how else to gain sales and the readers I hope for?

I’ve just posted on Linkedin talking about the way pictures are more likely to attract attention than words.  I’m thinking of writing the story behind the greeting cards.   Click on the linkedin button in the sidebar to the right and please let me know what you think.

At Sea

Nesting

How did I do?

There may be people  who never feel the need for feedback.  Perhaps even Trappist monks occasionally feel let down when they spend the day in prayer and no-one says at the end “Well done.”  If you cook a meal, and I don’t mean just heat up a readymade, you’re encouraged to repeat the performance if it’s greeted with appreciation.  Even as the daily cook in our household of two, I know I like to hear some kind of response, even if it’s just the question, “Is there any more?”

Yesterday, 26th April, I received the consultant’s report after a CT colonoscopy on March 31st.    During the wait, I’d felt reasonably confident the result would be clear.  Yet it is all too easy to fill silences with imaginary bad news.  So I was relieved to learn that the scan showed up nothing untoward.  Better than this was the consultant’s style.  His letter read like a kindly schoolteacher’s summing up of the term’s work:  “the bowel was well prepared” … “this is a reassuring investigation”.  It made me feel like a praised pupil and led me to think about feedback, how useful it can be, not just for morale but for guidance.

This morning I played around with something that turned up in the (possibly) haphazard way that happens when we log onto our emails.  Google suggested I create a form.  So I’ve come up with a feedback form for “White Lies”.  Whether this will be useful or not remains to be seen.  I’ve had good reviews posted on the novel’s Amazon page but many readers don’t bother.  Others are given the book or borrow it, so they are not ‘verified purchasers’ and therefore not entitled to post a review.

The form may be a way of capturing the response of more readers.  Or I might ditch that form and compose another one for all my novels.  Here’s the link: https://goo.gl/forms/IJoDTVzRVZJdNKwm1.  If anyone has a view on the questions I’ve chosen to put on the form, I’d appreciated feedback.

At the same time I became involved in a LinkedIn book group discussion.  Someone asked how he could get reviews for the short story he’d just published on Amazon.  His request was not worded well.  He wrote, “We’re there any funny parts.”  I found myself eager to point out how the apostrophe altered his intended meaning.  Later, I worried that I’d been harsh on a newcomer.  I hope he can accept what I consider was constructive feedback.

 

Promotion

Nobody likes a braggart.  People of my generation in particular were brought up not to blow our own trumpets, as our parents’ disapproving voices phrased it.   So what does a writer producing a new book in one of the many independent ways that exist nowadays do about promotion?

When I was firmly bedded in the mainstream literary world, I never had to worry about PR.  The publisher and my agent would do what they could; it was in their interest, too.  The last novel that was published in the conventional way – Stephen and Violet, published by Collins – was launched with a small party at my agent’s office.  Two other writers kindly came: Jonathan Raban and Sebastian Faulks.  They were ‘names’ then but went on to become even better known.  Heady days, which I took for granted.

Today, without an agent, without a publisher, I must pick up, polish and blow my own trumpet.  Although it’s half a year since I brought out two novels and a non-fiction book with CreateSpace on Amazon, I’ve done nothing as yet.   But my reluctance to self-advertise has changed.  I’ve embarked on a publicity venture, thanks to Teddy Rose of Virtual Author Book Tours.  On Saturday I shall find myself in my study, facing my laptop’s screen, video-conferencing with someone called Michelle in the States on a Blog Talk Radio Show.   The book I will be pushing is “White Lies”.  I’d better leave this post and have a quick re-read to remind myself what on earth it’s about…

How to be your own PRO

I’m just at the beginning of this lesson.   I’m not even sure if the job title is still Publicity Relations Officer.  But I have learnt one or two things since I began hoping to sell my books this autumn.

First of all, it’s necessary to have the confidence that what you are selling is worth selling.  This is not easy when it is your own work.

It’s like looking in the mirror.  Do you count the lines on your forehead? Those will surely have increased just by looking at them with a critical eye.  Those of us who regard our own image with lasting satisfaction are few and far between.  The same applies to writing.  Of course it’s right to be self-critical while you are doing the writing.  But if you want to sell your own book, then you have to squash that impish little self-doubting critic and concentrate on what is good.

The next imp that jumps in is the one who tells us not to boast.  I wonder if this imp pesters people of my (elderly) generation more than others.  I know I was brought up not to draw attention to myself.  This attitude is a severe disadvantage if you want to sell your work.

But an advantage we have nowadays is the way we can easily communicate with the world without leaving the safety of our own rooms.  I have decided to run an advertising campaign on LinkedIn.  I’ve placed an ad, with the image of the cover of “A Home from Home”, on a pay per click basis.  Clicks will come through to this website, but will any click on this site result in another click to the Amazon page of the novel?  And will that further click result in a sale?  It seems a long chance.

My early career as an advertising copywriter prompted me to write FREE in big letters in the headline.  The only thing I could offer free was the ebook edition on Kindle Unlimited.  So no royalties there.  But it may bring me new readers.  And that’s my biggest aim.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1537014838

Malpractice and mayhem in a care home - and the elderly residents triumph.

Malpractice and mayhem in a care home – and the elderly residents triumph.