Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Never two days the same as an Author....

Well, that may not be entirely true BUT day's certainly can get eventful.

I mentioned the other day that I'd entered an Authors Award Competition thingy, The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, yesterday I got the email that said I didn't make it into the 'Finals'. Bit of a downer you might think but it honestly wasn't. First of all had I made it to the 'Finals' I would of had to go along to the Award Ceremony. IF I was going to the award ceremony I should probably get a trade stand there and sell 'Russian Redemption' over the table. That would of created a number of problems for me as the ceremony is being held in Manchester UK. It's a long way from New Zealand. Financially it would of been a real strain, not just the flights but the accommodation, the stock, delivery etc. So, in the weirdest possible way - thanks for not selecting me.

I only entered the competition because if you got through to the penultimate cut, which 'Russian Redemption' did, they promised twenty reviews and feedback from established European Reader Groups, that's what I really wanted.

And then this morning another review gets posted on Amazon from one of their own Top Reviewers 4/5 Stars - That's a total of 3 x 4 Stars, and 3 x 5 Stars - I am really chuffed with that. I sent the lady a 'thank you' email and (seeing as I had contact) I mentioned that I was writing a second book and asked if she'd be willing to review that one prior to release. Her exact words were "count me in!" It's all about building slowly, getting the foundations solid.

Strange as it may sound, 'Reviewers' have their own 'groupies'. People that follow their reviews, and purchase items based solely on the recommendation of a reviewer that they have come to trust. This is another reason why reviews (and reviewers) are so important to an Author. But some people just don't see it.

You can see all of the Amazon Reviews by following the link 'Russian Redemption' or on the website

I've also mentioned that I thought it was important to drive customers to the website, and that it should be kept fresh. As a bit of fun more than anything I've put a map of the USA showing all 50 states. Using Google Analytics I can see where visitors to the website originate (unless of course they haven't set their location when they've set up the connection) so I'm seeing how long it takes to shade in all 50 States. If you fancy joining in just visit the home page and at least one other page - I'll shade in your State as soon as Analytics picks up your visit.

OK - not so much to glean from that post BUT there are still some important  pointers in there, you just have to pick them out.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

So the launch has gone ahead, its achieved it's main aim and suddenly I am a published Author.

Now I needed to chase those reviews. Orchestrating the 'Golden hour' is a double edged sword. Theoretically I had got all the people I knew to download a copy of Russian Redemption free. It achieved what I wanted but in doing so I had given away my e-book, no royalties there then. The second blow was discovering that downloading a free copy does not constitute having an 'active account', you need to actually purchase something for it to qualify. And only people with 'active' accounts can leave reviews. Dammit!

But that didn't matter, my book was 'out there' and so it was only a matter of time before the sales started rolling in, royalties coming out of my armpits and Brad Pitt knocking on my door asking for the lead role in the film that Quentin Tarantino is making called 'Russian Redemption'. Err nope, it didn't happen like that at all, and to be fair I didn't expect it to (but it wudda been nice!).

Somewhere back I went on about patience, and my lack of them (getting better). But I had done a lot of learning over the preceding few months. Now it was time to do a bit more planning.

My strategy was (and still is) to lift the website traffic. To do that I needed to keep the website fresh, something to bring people back time and time again. I came up with lots of idea's; those reviews from the free download people that I couldn't use on Amazon, I collected and created a 'Reviews' page. Using Facebook as main media for communication I would post every update or added review. By writing short 'character snippets' I introduced the main characters of the book, one at a time. Again, utilizing FaceBook as the main announce these additions. I've got lots of other ideas for growing the website which will hopefully roll out over time. My 'FaceBook Friends' also increased, as did the "twitter' followers - nothing startling BUT the numbers started (and continue) to move in the right direction. Each of these people are a possible customer, or a possible advertisement, or both.
Then, one of those real fist pump moments came along, I took delivery of my own order of fifty copies of Russian Redemption. It was so surreal, opening the box and just staring at fifty tangible, professional looking paperbacks. And I had orders waiting. To quote a phrase from Bad Boy's 2 - "This shit just got real".

Experienced authors would probably tell me to never watch the numbers, but I can't not. I suppose I was still looking for justification or acknowledgement that Russian Redemption was of a reasonable standard. Make no mistake I loved the book, but it wouldn't be the first time that I have been accused of 'unusual taste'. So I did watch the numbers, I saw the ranking bounce up and down around the 90,000 all the way up to 1.8 million, and then back down to 78,000. I believe there is about 13 million e-books on Amazon so at least I was in the top half, and that was ok with me. I can't make any real sense as to what drives these numbers because it isn't all about what your book does - but I do know that when my position jumps up I feel good, and the opposite when it takes a dive. I'm going to explain more about those 'numbers' in another post so hang tight.

As I learnt more about FaceBook and websites I expanded my website again, introducing an e-commerce page. (Marketing tip, give three options for purchase but bundle the middle one best, this is the one you want people to take. Make it slightly more expensive than option one but with obviously more quality. "well I may as well spend an extra couple of dollars and get that one...". Theoretically you could apply the same strategy for option three, but it just doesn't seem to work the same.)

It also became apparent that more avenues to market had to be discovered, this was a case of getting a drip feed from as many avenues as possible as I couldn't discover one avenue that gave me lots of feed. I'd got a lot better with managing FaceBook, and the website was at a point where it only required 'maintenance'. I read lots about various other places but I was struggling with 'FREE' options. I think that's when I decided it was time to look at a blog option, and a month later here I am. And I've already mentioned Pinterest.

Here's a thing that probably explains the importance of a slow and steady strategy; One of the Amazon Top Reviewers was too busy to review my book - totally understandable. By coincidence a month or so later this same person had a brief conversation with me, and a few dozen other people, on one of Amazon's forums. He'd made a comment in response to an unfounded accusation that "..reviewers had an important part to play in the success of a book.." and he is quite right. He informed the forum that he received up to sixteen emails a day from Authors wanting him to review their books. I pointed out that I was one of those sixteen a day and that I understood. Something about the conversation obviously registered with him because the following day he informed me that he'd bought my book with view to giving me feedback. A sale AND a review. Slow and steady pays off.

I've also started looking at National and International book competitions. I was really surprised at the cost of entering some of these so be cautious. And it's not always just about winning. I entered Russian Redemption in the Wishing Shelf Independent Awards for a number of reasons a) It was primarily an 'Indie/SP' Authors competition b) Submission was requested in PDF, I didn't have to supply a number of copies at my expense c) If you got through the first crop then you would get 20 reviews from established reading groups, in your particular genre, that go up on Amazon, Goodreads and other sites. In my book that represented damn good value for NZD$45.

As it happens my book flew threw the first crop so I get those reviews regardless.

So what now, oh there is lots to do, and still lots to tell. My thought process is very simplistic, as long as I keep driving the activity and increasing the awareness of ajwilsonbooks and Russian Redemption then I'm moving forward, and as long as I'm moving forward I will achieve my next goal. My second book is coming along nicely and Judi and I will partnering again for it's development, same rules apply, staged payments, staged release. But it will be launched in the manner that the first one should have been launched. I will keep you informed of the progress of that book.

Oh, one other quick marketing tip - subliminal suggestion - You'll notice that 'Russian Redemption' is highlighted as a link. The 'secret' is that it is in a different colour, it stands out from the page. Manage to get it to stand out three times in quick succession and apparently most brains will register it by default. Just a tip .

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How to become an Amazon Best Seller......

First of all there was a 'soft launch' of Russian Redemption. It gave myself and Judi a few days to try out the system, make sure everything was as it was supposed to be.

To receive the Amazon Best Seller badge the book had to be in the top 100 of it's registered genre for one hour of one day - ONE hour of ONE day. So that was my focus.

Coming from the UK I had friends and family across that side of the world to involve in this plan, as well as the southern hemisphere so we had to plan the timings well. We decided on a Weekend launch, this gave us the opportunity to be communicating with our prospects without interfering with their work day. So, 9pm NZ time, was 9am UK time, was the 'zero hour'. Judi had dealt with getting Russian Redemption as a free download over the period of time we were covering. It was actually free for two days but it was my job to get as many people there inside that 'golden hour' as was possible.

The week build up had been hectic with activity, FaceBook, Twitter, email and website advertising, all to tell the world about looming the 'Golden Hour'. I used every contact I had, got them to tell others. I updated my website with the links to download kindle reader onto iPads and computers as a lot of people didn't have Kindles.

So, Russian Redemption would be free to download from 9pm NZ time, we'd enter that 'Golden Hour' and I was nervous.

When I do this exercise again I will change one thing - I will have the book available free at least an hour before the start of the 'Golden Hour'. Y'see with all the effort to choreograph the launch I had excluded one very important factor from the planning - Amazon's ability to work within a given time frame.

As part of the T & C's for the 'free' days there is a little warning that says (along the lines of) 'We don't guarantee timings as this will depend upon server availability and synchronisation'. It took forty minutes of that 'Golden Hour' for the 'synchronisation' to kick in! It was a traumatic forty minutes, I had people on the phone, on FaceBook, on email and on my door - why isn't it free? What am I doing wrong? It was not a pleasant forty minutes. I felt like a customer service rep for Kindle!

At the time it seemed like all of the work had been a wasted. When it did become available as a freebie there were twenty minutes remaining to try and get as many downloaded as possible. It was manic beyond comprehension BUT we managed it. It hit the top 100 and sat there. 'Best Seller' badge sorted. Now, you may ask why it was so important, and here's the answer:

1. As a brand new Author you want every ounce of credibility you can grab. People do not take you very seriously anyway so you need to build your 'reputation' and having 'Amazon Best Seller' Author on your list of achievements is a good start.
2. Amazon feed the 'Best Sellers' into their own algorithms and that gives the book that little more exposure. Every little bit helps.
3. It feels good! To be able to say to people, my book is an Amazon Best Seller feels bloody good. All those people that sneered at the very idea of you writing  book, instead of showing the middle finger, just show them the badge!

It took a couple of hours after the 10pm cut off have it confirmed but we did achieve the aim albeit not the number one spot I was hoping for, but by this time I was just happy to get the title.

So there you have it - 'How to become an Amazon Best Selling Author' -

Just a quick update - I don't know how you claim your right to the 'badge', fortunately Judi at ProofreadNZ sorted that, but it took about a week before it was official.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Other marketing stuff........

Firstly, let me remind you that I confessed to doing all of this too late. A lesson learnt. 

So, we had decided on a ‘launch date’ and I was playing catch up with the marketing to give the ‘launch’ every opportunity to succeed. I had also decided that, once the launch was completed, the focus of my marketing would be to establish a solid base of interest as opposed to just drive sales. I want to create a base for the next book. That is where I envisage maximising on the work I'm doing now. It's an investment.

I'm 50+ and 'Social Media' was pretty foreign to me. I knew of FaceBook, I know it and mobile phone texting will eventually be the death of verbal interaction, and I knew I didn't like it. I understood the need for a website as a 'web presence' if not the e-commerce solution of yesteryear. But I knew jackpoo about building, updating or expanding one. My knowledge of FaceBook was even less.

The website was my first priority. I wanted to establish an identity. Remember that by now I had pretty much completed Russian Redemption and already knew that there would be more books. So my decider was the availability of my preferred domain names. Even though I live in little New Zealand I wanted a web presence that would give the impression of being bigger than just one country so dot NZ, or dot UK or dot anywhere wasn't what I was after. I bought

Owning meant everything else going forward had to link, it was the start of building the 'brand'.

And it is about this time that me and FaceBook became mortal enemies. (Sense of the dramatic please) I had to get in bed with the Devil AND make it my friend. I'm not sure we're 'friends' but we are getting along a whole lot better now. I had to learn from scratch, and with the help of my son and some late nights, and one or two expletives, I managed to get a working knowledge of the beast that is - FaceBook.

Anyway, with some word of mouth and some 'sympathy friends' I managed to add a few 'FaceBook Friends' to the FaceBook account and it kind of built from there really. This is an important exercise, you will want these contacts.

Concurrently I looked into a Twitter Account. To this day I don’t really understand what the purpose of ‘Twitter’ is, but I knew it was perceived as being an important social media tool so I investigated and created I already had a ‘LinkedIn’ account and I had also built an e-mail list of contacts.

For the website I opted for – its ‘free’ service is quite basic but reasonably user friendly. I tried reading the ‘help’ Guide but that just got frustrating so it was a case of trial and error. Then I discovered that I couldn't do what I wanted to do unless I traded up to the next level of their service (not so free!) so I had to invest a little. To be fair I could have stayed with the ‘free’ service at this point but my ‘creative’ side got the better of me, I wanted just that little bit extra to make the website look more appealing, more professional.

One thing I found incredibly useful was ‘cut & paste’. I’d create a ‘piece’ for the website then paste that same piece into a FaceBook post, which was linked to my Twitter account so the post got automatically ‘tweeted’ as well. It saved a lot of time. I’d then paste it to my LinkedIn account, which shared with my gmail contacts. All of this was to build as much interest in the coming launch as possible, it was all about activity.

After the launch I spent a lot more time getting to know the capabilities of the various programs. Again, had I started earlier I would have been far better prepared and knowledgeable prior to the book launch, it would of helped.

One of the things I have used since is the FaceBook Advertising program. I am not sure how effective it was in so much as resulting in sales but to be honest I had a different reason for using it. For those that don’t know, Amazon uses algorithms, secret mathematical equations that select books for their own advertising machine to promote, getting ‘selected’ can make a big difference in the success of a book. Anyway, my thought process was to ‘link’ with specific Authors in specific genres so I did some research. Having identified five such Authors I targeted my advertising campaign at their fan base. I wasn’t trying to take their fans, just share a few of them. The good thing about the FaceBook advertising facility is that you have a lot of control, you decide what your advert says, where it appears and exactly how much you are prepared to invest. You can do a ‘shock and awe’ type campaign or a subtle steady ‘build awareness’ campaign, I went for the latter.  One of the many things that I have discovered on this Authors Journey is that everything takes time, there are no shortcuts of any value. My purpose was to create a subconscious relationship between the readers of the more established Author and me, or to be more exact, with RussianRedemption. I wanted Amazon’s algorithm to start putting my book in the bit that says “people that bought this book also bought….” And that appears to be happening.

This blog page is a very recent addition to my ‘Marketing Strategy’ – it probably should have come along ages ago but it’s that ‘time’ thing again. Yes I want to share my experiences, yes I want to help people avoid or fast track certain initiatives, but at the same time I’m communicating with people, spreading awareness of myself as an Author, and of course my novel RussianRedemption. And that is what all of the ‘social media’ avenues are about, reaching people. I don’t believe there is one singular avenue that will bring success, it’s a case of utilising as many avenues as possible (especially when they are free!) to achieve the aim. ‘Free’ in a monetary sense, expensive when it comes to time.

A couple of points about FaceBook that may help you:

1)      People take more notice of ‘visual’ posts so use a picture every time – words just get lost.
2)      I have noticed that posting between 4.30pm and 8pm gets more of a reaction.
3)      I don’t post anything important over the weekend. Peoples social media goes nuts over the weekend so a lot of posts get shunted down the news feed and missed.
4)      ‘Tag’ people into the photos on your posts. That way they get notified of the post directly, it guarantees that they see your post, and hopefully share it on.

Now there is ‘Pinterest’ as well! I briefly looked at Pinterest a couple of weeks ago and to be honest I struggled to understand its value as a marketing tool. But I was looking at it from the wrong angle. I now see my Pinterest as being my own shop of interest. I have boards that advertise other Indie Authors, one for proofreading & Editing services and one for RussianRedemption – they’re the ‘working’ boards. Other boards are purely my interests or stuff that I like as a person. What this does is give visitors a nose into more about me. Remember a while back I mentioned that the ‘public’ demand a piece of your soul to be on display, well Pinterest allows you to display that piece. Of course you ‘trade’ with others, they follow you or a number of your boards, you follow them and so on – a community grows and you’re all helping each other. Its about having a variety of interests on display that bring a wider audience into your shop, these are 'eyes' that would not normally have seen ''Russian Redemption'. I am still careful of what I put up on the boards though..

I may have mentioned some way back that I wasn't overly blessed with patience. But I also knew that this strategy was a long term thing so in order to see positive results of my efforts quickly, I had to 'adjust' my 'performance indicators' away from 'sales'. Being the person that I am I believe in tangible results, facts, so I turned to the things that don't lie - numbers. I monitored website hits, facebook activity logs, post responses, 'likes', views etc to find positives that proved progress. And then used that progress as motivation to keep going.

(I still do it - for example my last post got 35 views within seven minutes of posting and was shared three times. Before that I had only had one share and no where near that number of views in that short space of time. - progress! And I turn these 'positives' into Facebook posts!)

OK, I figure that’s enough to take on board for this post. Next time I’m going to tell you how I managed to get that illusive ‘Amazon Best Seller’ badge at point of launch, and some of the benefits that’s can bring.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Amazon Forums - a dangerous place for the innocent.....

There is very little point in producing a novel if you don't want people to read it. That said, I am sure there are a small number of people that write purely for themselves, get their books into hardcopy and just put them on their own shelves - If you are one of those then I suggest this blog is not going to be of interest.

However, if you are looking to get your book 'out there' then advertising and promotion are critical. This is another one of those huge topics that I've seen mulled over and over again with all sorts of right and wrong answers. I'm not telling what is right and wrong, I'm just telling you my experiences and you can decide what's right and wrong.

As an Indie Author everything that needs to be done, needs to be done by me. I am sadly lacking a Marketing Department, an IT Department and a Promotions Department, but I have Me, Myself and I. So it has been a very steep learning curve indeed. Every penny that is spent needs to be justified, and it needs to work hard for the 'cause'. And the same applies to 'time'. Consider your time the biggest investment you are going to make in getting your book to where it belongs. Looking down the track you might well see book signings, TV interviews, Chat Show appearances etc, but you have to get there first, it doesn't just happen over night (well, it hasn't happened to me anyway).

Every interaction is a sales opportunity, every person you come into contact with is a possible customer. Keep that in mind. From the start I have taken a very multi dimensional approach to growing the awareness of 'Russian Redemption' - this blog page is just one example. I will explain more about other tested avenues as we move on but one thought I had was to 'mix with like minded people'. There was a few thought processes behind this:

a) I could learn from them
b) They, having been Authors for much longer than me, could have contacts and strategies that I could utilise.
c) Only Authors can truly understand authors (that's not to say that ALL Authors understand ALL Authors, because that is not the case)
d) I could learn from them (that's not a typo!)
e) If they share their experiences with me, much like I'm doing here, then they could save me some pain..

And so my brilliant mind (?) took me to the forums of Amazon.

The Amazon forums are very public, anyone can go and read or post, and there are some interesting topics that are discussed. There are also some interesting characters that seem to live there.

My first piece of advice: You've just published your book and you want to tell the world so you decide to visit ALL of the forums (and there are dozens, if not hundreds) and post all about your new book, where to find it, when it's free download day is and so on, then skip to the next forum and repeat. DON'T DO IT!

There are 'do's and do nots' and that one is at the very top of the 'don'ts'. Consider a group of people in a pub stood around chatting socially, or in deep conversation about the solar system or quantum physics. All of a sudden this whirlwind sticks their head into the middle of the group, "go get my book it's great, it's free now, there, get it, this is my book yes yes go now.." and then the whirlwind disappears. People can get very annoyed, and they tend to respond in an unpleasant manner. Y'see the people that inhabit the forums are just people, a cross section of the world populous and we all know there are some 'very strange' people on this planet, and a percentage of them can be found on the forums. Bear that one on mind.

If you go onto a forum then it is good manners to maybe introduce yourself briefly, familiarise your self with the discussion to that point by reading back posts, observe. I don't know how long the Amazon Forums have been running, quite a few years I'm sure, but there are feuds on those forums that have been going just as long, and if you're not careful you will be expected to take a side. Do NOT promote your book, it will bring the wrath of 1000 naysayers, witches, warlocks and self imposed guardians of the written word to bear, all aimed at you! Hopefully, I've made the point. There are one or two very specifically titled forums like "Authors, post your shameless plug here" or "Indie Authors Self promote your kindle here.." where you are actively encouraged to post about your book, but they are there so when you do get a slaughtering for promoting your book on the wrong forum, they have somewhere to send you.

I tend to stick with the 'Meet the Authors' forums. The title topic is more of a dream, it's what people would like the thread to be about but they do tend to bounce around a bit. The forums are populated with a real mixture of personalities, positive, destructive, argumentative, obnoxious, self imposing, self important, way out and whacky; but there are also some quite brilliant people, experienced and knowledgeable, absolute gold mines of information. You will find legal people, editors, mothers, rocket scientists, teachers and just about every other possible walk of life on there. Each forum and thread that I have visited has, at some time or another, descended into play ground mentality; name calling, unfounded accusations, 'she said he said', and some mind numbing statements of untruths. But, there are occasions when there are some very interesting opinions and experiences that are worth taking note of. I'm no 'old hat' at these forums either, so I tend to read a lot of the posts but comment rarely. I have however started to network with a few people from the forums, and THAT is the second main reason I visit them. The first being the opportunity to learn. It's the same reasons why I joined a few facebook groups as well, but I'll mention that a bit later on. Back to the forums. You will hear a few words, the context of which you may not understand, for example 'Troll', 'Sock Puppet', 'BBA' and 'BBR'. The last two are easy Badly Behaving Author and Badly Behaving Reviewer'. 'Troll and 'Sock Puppet', well, they're not so easy. Sufficed to say they are not compliments. You have the ability to vote on every post to say if it 'adds to the discussion'. If enough people vote 'no' then the post gets hidden. This function does get abused when a group of individuals have a dislike for one person so they gang up and all vote 'no', it's a sort of childish protest. Sometimes these forums swing from courtroom to school yard on a sixpence. There can also be hectic traffic, multiple posts which make it difficult to follow the theme. It wasn't until I discovered the "In reply to an earlier post" in the top right hand of each post that it started to make sense. If you click on the 'earlier post' bit it will show you what the post is replying to. It's obvious now I know it's there but before that it got damn confusing - although mildly entertaining occasionally.

It is difficult to explain, or possibly to understand, some of the personal attacks that do take place. I have seen threats of personal data exposure, sinister innuendo's and outright abusiveness and bullying. There is a 'report abuse' option in every post box, don't be afraid to use it! It can get very ugly. Amazon aren't too keen to moderate these forums, they certainly aren't proactive other than some auto censorship on a few select words. But when you're talking about writers/Authors etc 'words' tend to be their strong point so getting around the basic censorship doesn't seem to present a problem.

This is the reality of the Amazon Forums that I have visited. There are a lot of good people that will help you, there are a few that will see you as a target and attack you. You have to be able to take the rough with the smooth and hold on for that occasional golden nugget (information or person) that will help you on your way. They DO exist.

My strategy has been to observe a lot, identify the people that I think can help me or that I think I want to associate with and converse only with them. Do not get drawn into mud slinging fights with pigs because you both get dirty but the pig enjoys it! Ignore the disruptive individuals (and there is an ignore option) and take it all for what it is.

I suppose you are wondering why you should bother. A valid question. For me it is because it is a resource that can help me on many levels, it's free and if it is utilised properly it can help build my own reputation within the world of writers. Just a footnote, people on these forums will check out your Amazon Authors profile so you should make sure that is up and running before you put in your first appearance on the forums.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reviews - This is a big one, And these are only MY thoughts!

As a new Author I wanted 'reviews'. Lots of family and friends had told me that my finished novel was 'great', 'brilliant', 'really good' and so on - BUT they're family and friends, and with the best will in the world they're not going to tell you any different. OR, your book could really be that good and they're just being honest. For the sake of your expectations think around the first option! So I wanted people that had an unbiased opinion to read my book and tell me the truth. There are some more established Authors that questioned my logic around this but for me it was a no-brainer.

Here’s why, and it starts with a bit of a confession: At my age there's not a great deal that worries me. It's safe to say I've experienced many things in my life, some good, some not so good. I've been reasonably well travelled, had my fair share of knocks and done stuff that would turn a normal persons hair grey. BUT none of that gave me reason to believe I could write a quality novel. It was complete unchartered territory, and it would be fair to say that I was apprehensive. Self-doubt is not something I have ever suffered from, but it was smacking me in the face here, and that's why I needed the reviews. I wasn't expecting 5 star reviews, after all this was my first book, so 3 stars and up would be enough for me to feel ‘accomplished’, and that I had not embarrassed myself. I would feel that I had earned my place on a book shelf. If you've read the earlier posts or the website ( you will know how the story came about so I'm not sure just how much I had to do with it. The 'reviews' were the real test, in the real world by real people. Contrary to popular belief I'm not stupid, I wanted to give my completed novel every chance of success so I took a few precautions when it came to finding reviewers.

I suppose I should briefly describe what a ‘reviewer’ is because there are a lot of stories. Reviewers are just readers, but they tend to be avid readers, with a passion for their preferred genre, the written word and for being entertained by a book. They are NOT lonely old people that sit in a rocking chair by the fire, wrapped in a shawl or blanket talking to books as if they are their friends (mainly) – they’re actually quite normal, everyday folk BUT most reviewers have more of an idea of what makes a good ‘read’ than many writers. (I am so going to get into trouble for that one!)

Onwards. There is not a single book on the planet that everyone is going to like so firstly identify the 'genre' of your book. The 'genre' is the descriptive category that you will file your book under, the 'section' in the library where it is most at 'home'. When you seek reviews it makes total sense to ask ONLY from those that review in the genre of your writing. Think logically, would a romance or children's story reviewer be the best person to read a book about gut ripping, entrails eating Zombies - probably not.

I trawled the top 3500 Amazon Reviewers to find suitable reviewer candidates. Those that did qualify by way of genre preference were short listed. From that, the ones that actually had a contact e-mail address on their profile were highlighted, each then received a personalised email requesting a review, offering a free copy of Russian Redemption in their preferred format for review purposes. I figured that seeing as they were doing me the favour this was the least I could do. Also, by ordering them from the Amazon site and getting them delivered to the volunteer reviewer it meant that sales were registered against my book, which meant my book ‘moved’. AND, I also get the pittance commission off of the sales so it works out reasonably cheap: A win-win situation. Some reviewers prefer to source their own copy, don't be offended they have their reasons.
Anyway, off went a few hundred emails and I sat patiently in expectation of that 'ping' heralding the arrival of email response after email response on my machine. Erm, it wasn't quite like that. There are a couple of things that I wasn't aware of that might help you to understand why:
Amazon reviewers don't get paid to review, it's a hobby, a passion, fun, it’s something they do in their spare time. That is NOT to say that these people are not skilled and of a high reviewer standard, an awful lot are. But, they have real lives to, and real jobs, and real daily trials and tribulations. Surprisingly they weren’t all just sat by their laptops waiting to see ‘AJWilsonbooks has sent you an e-mail’ appear on their screens – bummer huh.

Here is an appropriate point for a little warning. As alluded to earlier there is a rank structure utilized by Amazon for their reviewers; it is not faultless and it can be manipulated by individuals in some very unpleasant way's just to accelerate their own progress up the Top Reviewer ladder. I don't understand what that achieves (other than a badge number lower than Mrs Jones next door) but it happens, I've seen it and it ain't pretty. BUT these are very small in number. I’ll introduce some of the ‘etiquette” of the Amazon Forums shortly but if you are at all unsure and you find yourself on one of those forums, say nothing for now, resist the temptation until you have a basic understanding - we’ll get there.

Back to the ‘reviewer’ topic:- Pick your reviewers very carefully but remember they have lives outside of your review. If you are lucky enough to get some to agree to review your book you need to understand that they are doing you a massive favour, and treat them accordingly. Another thing to remember is that these people do it for the love of books (mostly) and yours is probably one of a stack of 12 or so that they’ve committed to. So, if they don’t get back to you for a week or two, do NOT hound them. Even if they don’t get back to you for a month or two it is very ‘bad form’ to pursue a review. Think about it, you have no idea what is going on in their lives:-

“Hello, is George there,…. Not there huh? Well I’m really pissed, he promised me a bloody review and it’s been three weeks…. Oh, he’s dead huh, hmmm…well I sent him a copy of my book…. Erm, can YOU do reviews…?” Even if you were to get a review from Georges Mrs, I doubt it will be one you want printed!!

Believe me it is sooooooo frustrating, time drags but you really have to exercise patience. I have little doubt that at least one of the reviewers that agreed to review my book was just after a freebie and I’ll never see a review from them, it happens, keep it in perspective, it’s ONLY a book, move on.

When I did start getting reviews back I was absolutely gob smacked. I remember the day vividly (mainly because we were moving house AGAIN!) – I sat on the balcony with a cup of tea (Yorkshire teabags!) and flipped the laptop lid up. I went on the Amazon website and typed ‘Russian Redemption’ into the search bar – ping, there was my page (warm glow) and I noticed a little (1) next to ‘customer reviews’. I was so nervous when I clicked on it. And then I started reading. I hadn’t even noticed that there were five glowing yellow stars! The opening line read: “This is the most enjoyable novel I have read in quite a while” I have no idea how many times I read and re-read that line, probably at least 15 or 20 but it took so long to sink in ”.. the most enjoyable novel I have read in quite a while…” Wow – I was gobsmacked, in fact I don’t remember the last time my gob was so smacked. In that one sentence a complete stranger had erased every ounce of ‘self-doubt’ that I had harboured. The relief was tangible, it was so real it manifested itself in the form of a very full glass of Jack Daniels and ice! One of those moments that can never be taken away. That was a real fist pump moment, but there are more to come.

I currently have five reviews, just FIVE. All of that time invested in sourcing potential reviewers, all the time spent writing and sending hundreds of e-mail’s, all of the frustrations have so far resulted in a total of five reviews. It doesn’t seem many does it, and it’s not, but that gives you a realistic idea of what it’s like. In my defence, of those five I have 2 four stars and 3 five stars so I’m going to brag ‘quality over quantity’ just because I can. Joking! I invested a lot of effort making sure I identified the right reviewers for my book, I wanted the feedback and I wanted the truth and I got both. Even if they had been three star reviews I would have been chuffed, this is my first ever book! It was the feedback that meant the most to me, (but let’s no degrade the stars!) it made it a learning exercise and I am very grateful to those individuals that did take the time to help in my own education and development.

All of that said, a review is just a person’s OPINION,  and I have no doubt there are a couple of ‘cold kippers’ waiting around the corner once my book spreads into the wider global populous. I’m ok with that, I live in the real world. Like I said, no book is going to please everybody. There are some real horror stories of Authors launching hate campaigns against reviewers that (in the Authors opinion) were unfair in their review.  Seriously, big battles, physical violence, lifelong feuds and very underhanded tactics have been employed all because of someone’s difference of opinion. NOT COOL. As we discuss the finer points of the Amazon forums next time I will elaborate further but I reckon here is a good place to stop for now.
Just to carry on......

There are quite a few things on that list that I won't or can't cover off. Mainly because those bits were admittedly outside of either my ability or logical comprehension.

Once you have a completed book ready to go there are many exciting things that happen all at once. If you blink you miss them, and some of them should really be enjoyed.

Contrary to what many people may think about me I actually don't like talking about myself too much. I have a closed 'space' buried deep down that nobody gets into, it's just me, it's very private and that's the end of it. I go there to draw on my past experiences of life and love and that allows me to bring some emotion to my words, so it has a use.

Anyway, when Judi tells me that I have to produce a series of 'personal' pages for the book, the developing website and the Amazon Authors Page I really struggled. I searched the internet to get some ideas of the sort of format and content that was expected and, you guessed, there's about 500 different way's of 'there's only one way to do it'! Eeek

After a number of awkward conversations with Judi we settled on a very basic format; well in truth I settled and Judi rejected it. Y'see your 'Profile' page has to show the reader that you are actually human (?). Apparently people can relate to mistakes, human error, tragedy or fluffy life stories but they struggle with a brick wall of silence - it makes you seem 'cold'. Hmmm. It took a while but it appears that you have to offer some of your soul as a sacrifice to all that is 'public interest'. You just need to be very careful of how much! So, the lesson: It has always been my promise to be honest throughout this entire 'adventure' but you need to think long and hard about your Author's biography, the things you put in black and white, out there in the public domain, cannot be unwritten.

Another task that belongs to the Author is the Synopsis. How to compress 270+ pages into a few paragraphs. You're going to need a synopsis for a number of reasons, the back cover summary, the Amazon sales page, any 'Agent' letters and probably your website. Here's a problem though, they aren't all the same! Who'd of thought it.

A couple of hints that might help:
1. Focus on the MAIN characters only, no more than two or it gets confusing for the reader.
2. Try and keep it to a maximum of three paragraphs. Some schools of thought say two, but I think you can get away with three if it's good enough.
3. Introduce the 'scene' so the reader knows where to set their brain at the beginning.
4. Find the 'Hook'! There has to be something that will draw the reader 'in' and bring them back for more.

These are the very basic's only. You'll need to do some more research to find what best suits your style of writing but it needs to be 'enough' information for the reader to want more, but not so much that they get confused, after all you can't expect to shrink 270+ pages into a few paragraphs and still have a story.

Another area that was over my head was identifying chapter breaks. Much acclaim needs to be given to Judi again. Traditionally, when I used to read a lot, 'chapters' could be of some considerable length and so that is where my thoughts were. However, as was explained to me, shorter chapters are more appealing to the reader especially as Russian Redemption is quite a fast moving story, it allows the reader to breath, then dive straight into the next chapter, into the action. It really does add a quality to the story.

I was going to continue on looking at the topic of 'Reviews' but it is such a complex  section that I'll carry it over to the next one. It is a critical but delicate subject where I have learnt a hell of a lot, hopefully it can help you to. See you then

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Back to THAT list...

I'm going to try and squeeze a lot into this one so pay attention. To recap, I've written a book and the 'marketing' got kind of messed up, recap over.

My 'goal' has been updated, it's no longer enough to just publish my novel, I want an Amazon Best Seller. This came as no surprise to me, or anybody that knows me; as soon as the dream looks like becoming a reality it's no longer a dream so the goalposts get moved to take it back to 'dream' status. It's a new challenge. And I'll tell you how I achieved it later.

It's took 20 months to get to this point. It wasn't the writing of 'Russian Redemption' that took the time, it was being able to find the spare funds for the proofreading budget. As I have said, that is the one part of the whole process that required very specific skill sets that a) I didn't have and b) I couldn't learn. The time soon past though, I was in a new Country, a new job, we moved house 3 times! There was plenty going on.

Anyway, back to that list:

Cover/Jacket - What you have to remember is that the cover/jacket needs to stand out on a page of 30 other thumb nail sized covers. An awful lot of the book covers you will see are pictorially excellent and clever but  in thumb nail size this detail is lost. Initially I argued this point with Judi but was obviously proved wrong. A long way back in my life I was quite into photography, the latter stages of my military 'career' involved photography and I carried the interest on into civvy street, mainly in wedding photography using medium format cameras, long before the digital age! Russian Redemption is a story set to the back drop of war torn Russia so the cover had to present a 'clue' of the content to the would be reader. It had to say "tension, suspense, cloak & dagger" as opposed to "Romance, kiddies reading or Dungeons & Dragons".
I knew what I wanted, a smoky interrogation type representation. But I also wanted to tailor it toward the theme. During my research for the book I had identified the standard issue firearm for a Russian Officer as being the Tokarev T33. As pure luck would have it there was exactly that model available on TradeMe/Ebay in Replica BB format, and that is what is in the picture. (Nobody in their right mind is going to give me a working firearm!) You'll be amazed what you can do with a little imagination, the photograph used was taken in my own front room! Even though I had a good knowledge of photography and access to the equipment I would of needed I opted to bring in a friend, Brent Topine, to do the actual picture taking bit. It was much easier to be objectively critical when viewing the digital images from an 'outside' perspective, than it would of been from behind the lens. I set it up, I knew exactly what I wanted the end result to look like and I was a little uncompromising, sorry Brent!

Some people use photo images from internet Stock sites, the problem with this is that anyone can buy them, and if it's a really good picture the chances are quite a few people have already bought and used it. The probability of your book ending up on a book shelf next to another book with the same cover picture is unlikely, BUT it is possible. I wasn't going to risk that. Also, although Brent was a friend I 'bought' the rights to my pictures from him, and got him to sign a contract relinquishing all rights at point of payment. It's just good practice. Once we'd got the picture that I wanted (and will one day become the wrap around jacket of the hard copy) Judi and I worked on it's integration into the E-book front cover. The font for the title is also important, it needs to be a little different to draw attention. I like what we've achieved and for me, it's apparent simplicity is representative of the era I am taking the reader to. Now that sounds pretty simple and straight forward hey, oh IF ONLY!

Acknowledgements: Writing a book may well be a single persons activity but getting a good quality novel published involves a number of people. By the time Russian Redemption was published I had cashed in many favours, imposed upon many peoples time and taken advantage of other peoples knowledge, the very least I could do was thank them for. And that's what I wanted to do in the acknowledgements. However, be warned, it can get a bit like a wedding guest list in so much as it can get out of control. You can also end up upsetting people by omission. My advice would be keep it short and sweet, only those that have actively contributed need be mentioned. "Oh and I'd like to thank Fuji Xerox for providing the photocopier and paper, the National Grid for providing the power and Uncle Tom Cobbly....." Not Good! I thanked my family particularly for understanding the space and time I needed to write the book, smart move on my part because I'm riding that one in order to get the second book written, major Brownie points!

Dedication: Oh this got ugly! As an ex-serviceman I wanted to do something that could be of benefit to ex-servicemen and women. Only ex-service people or their dependents can fully understand this really, it was a very personal choice. Mixing this with 'marketing' I decided it would be a great idea if I ran my e-book on a promo day so that anyone that bought the book on this day would be donating to those charities. Amazon allow you 5 'give away' days so the plan was to sell the book at a discounted rate and all profit went to the respective charities. I selected three charities, all with the 'forces' in mind, with the intention of giving them all one day apiece. Working with them to maximise the opportunity, agreeing a date so they could canvass their members to push the initiative. Like I said, ALL profits were to go to them, the benefit to me was exposure. A win/win situation?! Nope.
I wanted to use a few poppies and the phrase 'Lest We Forget' to underline the actual dedication wording. Seemed simple enough. Except one particular UK based well known charity I was offering a promo day to told me I breached their Trademark Registration by using said poppy and they also believed that 'Lest We Forget' was synonymous with their organisation therefore not available to me.

"As  I thought the poppy image you are using is trademarked within the European Union by The Royal British Legion so we cannot unfortunately allow this image to be used. WE are currently looking into the phrase ‘Lest we Forget’ and will get back to you early next week."

That phrase comes from a very famous Ode of a Laurence Binyons poem. Anyway, we had a bit of a spat and the end result was - yes please send us some money but we're not going to help, or associate with the book, if you don't mind, thank you, yes, don't forget the money.... (that's how I interpreted the response anyway)

My next choice was the 'Help For Heroes' charity - Long story short - the message was along the lines of 'we don't want to upset the RBL so no thank you kindly, but please feel free to donate in other ways'. hmmmmmm

To be honest, by this point I had ran out of time so I gave up on the idea. Unfortunately the Returned Services Association (NZ) didn't get the chance to say no.

You will notice that I did use 'Lest We Forget', and I did use poppies, just not the ones that were covered by the RBL's European Trade Mark.

More of the list next time..

Friday, January 17, 2014

I think this is so appropriate for any wannabe Author that is holding off because it all seems too hard.

You can't finish a journey you don't start!

Stage 3 - A Big Mistake

An unusual admission yes but the whole purpose of writing this is to try and help new Authors avoid some of the pitfalls ahead.
I want to talk about 'marketing'. Here is where I think I made one of my biggest mistakes of this whole journey. It was through ignorance as opposed to stupidity but I believe it was costly. My total focus was on creating the finished article, my novel, and to get it published. I should point out that I had finished writing the book, in fact it had been finished for three or four weeks by now. When I say 'finished' I had completed from 'Once upon a time...' through to 'The End'. Judi (my proofreading professional and publishing guru) had introduced me to a few  lesser considered additions that were my responsibility:

Author's page

The list just kept growing...... and I struggled with a lot of it!

Writing 'Russian Redemption' had been quite easy because all I had done was lend hands and a keyboard to where ever the story came from, just a conduit; but now it was very different. I had to give a lot of thought to things I knew nothing about; the structure of it all, key words, 'hooks', detail (too much or too little) and a whole lot more. I invested hours and hours, probably days, utilising my friend Google trying to get an idea of what makes a good introduction, or an Authors Page, or a preface - and again I discovered that there are so many schools of thought behind the right way to do each one, and they all profess to be the only way to do it. Fortunately Judi came to my rescue, don't get me wrong she made me do the writing, but she guided me, gave me some ideas but still maintained that it had to be MY style.

I'll talk more about the above list in detail as we go on but back to that 'big mistake'; Marketing! It's not that marketing frightens me, it doesn't. I've spent a lot of my life in a sales and marketing environment, I'd learnt the basics, and fortunately I'm blessed with a modicum of common sense so I wasn't worried; EXCEPT I'd left it far too late before I started thinking about it. 

If you want to give your book the best chance of making a statement, a big splash, when you launch it, you need to start your marketing strategy from the moment you decide that you have the resolve to see your dream through to the point of publication. 

Social Media is a good place to start except I knew nothing at all about Facebook (other than the fact the kids seemed to spend an eternity on it and IT and mobile phones would probably be the death of verbal communication in the future!). The whole concept of Facebook frustrated me. But I knew even less about Twitter. And as for building websites, well, lets just say it was going to be a case of ‘old dog and new tricks’. The challenge was that the 'budget' for marketing, in fact the budget for the whole 'adventure’, was set by the bank manager, at zero! Every dollar earned had a dozen more important places to call home so just about everything had to be done on a shoe string. The one exception, the one area that I would not compromise, was Judi, and to this day she was worth every cent invested. So, I had no choice, I had to learn. Again, many many hours, and many lonely nights were invested searching Google's 'how to...' sections. Oh God, the frustration. How can a kid on the internet make something look so easy and yet me, no chance! It was an horrendously stressful time, (no doubt for those around me to) it sapped my energy and enthusiasm considerably. BUT thankfully, I did have a degree of success: or  or
stand testament to perseverance. I'm not saying they are great, I am saying that they are functional.

Do you remember that quote from Judi "Writing the book is ONLY 10% of the work..." I can honestly say I was starting to 'get it'.

So, my advice would be (if you don't have the budget to employ people to do this for you) do the hard yards very early in the book writing process. You should try and build a base of fan's, of interested parties, of contacts. I wish I had also invested more time is seeking reviews from influential people. It's a thankless task finding volunteers that will review an unpublished novel but they are out there, and it is beneficial. 

You have to be disciplined when it comes to 'marketing' and you have to be patient. Get used to the idea that momentum builds slowly which is why it's important to start early - I'm ok with marketing but 'patience' unfortunately, not my strong point. The lack of early marketing meant I was playing catch up, rushing around trying to build interest far too late. I wanted a successful launch, and for me that was a launch that got my book onto Amazon’s Best Seller list – I’d got ambitious.

There were so many component parts to bring together to make a 'successful' launch, marketing is only one part of it, but a very important part. If you build the momentum early then it takes little time or effort to keep it going, freeing you up to focus on the other components. If you don’t have 'momentum' then the effort needed to get it going is almost superhuman, and that devours time, time you need todeal with the other aspects  - you really can’t do it all in the last few weeks, something will suffer.

All that said, even with the very late run on marketing, I managed my dream, the book launched and achieved ‘Best Seller’ status but imagine what I could of done IF I'd started the marketing earlier. That is why it was my 'mistake', don't let it be yours.

Five months after its launch 'Russian Redemption' is up and down in the Amazon charts, but not doing anything exciting. The main reason for that is that I have spent most of my time since the launch retrospectively building the marketing strategy, the momentum, including this blog - had I done this BEFORE the launch, as one of the many concurrent activities needed, I believe my book would have been much further progressed. It's a setback, but this whole brain to book journey has been, and continues to be, such a steep learning curve mistakes were bound to happen. 

If YOU can learn from my mistakes remember me when you are rich and famous! :-)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stage 2 - The Proof Reader

It was December 2011, I was 10,000 plus words into this 'adventure' (that's what it had become, and I was loving it), and the 'adventure' was changing me.

I'm not one of life's more emotional people so I was a little surprised that when writing I found myself actually getting emotional; I don't mean anger and frustration because that didn't happen, I mean my eyes actually started leaking at times. Definitely NOT the 'me' that people knew. My reaction to this startling side effect was also quite strange, I felt 'free'. Most bizarre and I can't explain in words (I've not been a writer long enough to have the extended vocabulary!).

Anyway, onwards. Like I said, I had 10,000 plus words in a Word doc and it felt pretty good. I'd read and re-read those words so many times, and they still made me feel pretty good inside. It was about this time that the dream of actually publishing the future finished article really started to take hold. Remember, up to this point I hadn't written more than an essay at school some thirty five years ago, actually I lie, it was a history project about Rommel, probably 25 A4 pages with pictures.

I wouldn't class myself as a perfectionist by a long chalk but IF I was going to put my book in the public domain I wanted to make sure it wouldn't embarrass myself, or the growing band of family and friends that were getting behind me. It was time to seek professional advice! Great in theory, not so clever in practice, I had no idea what came next. I did some research (Google is my friend!) just to find out what I should do next and came across terms like 'Proofreader', 'Beta reader' 'Publisher', 'Editor', 'Format Friend' (Ok, that one is made up but the amount of 'advice' that has been published about how manuscripts should be formatted including spacing, font choice, font size, indents and so on is just unbelievable, and most of it contradicts the others!). Reading up on where each of these skill sets fit in the process I decided I needed a 'Proofreader' - back to Google! 'Proof Readers in New Zealand' in the search bar - wham, shed loads, damn it.
My advice here is when you reach this stage DO YOUR RESEARCH properly. Check out a selection of proofreaders, talk to them, get some samples of their work, get references and talk money. The phrase involving 'Peanuts and monkeys' applies. That's my advice anyway. However, in the interests of a scientific experiment (or possibly because I knew no better, you decide) I closed my eye's and stuck my finger on the screen, proofreader selected! This structured and precise selection process led to Proofreadnz, I did follow up with a phone call to my newly appointed professional, so it wasn't complete fluke!. I got VERY lucky, very lucky indeed. Judi is Proofreadnz, a very small independent proofread/epublishing service.

As you can probably guess from the title of my novel, Russia is quite central to the story, it was pure coincidence that Judi (An American living in NZ) had Grandparents that actually lived in Russia during the same period that was being covered in the novel. Spooky huh. We spent a long time on the phone, discussed a great deal about my inexperience and my ambition's, and by the time I hung up I had a much clearer idea of what was involved to move my 'dream' forward. Judi had allayed many of my fears of the road ahead, but also provided me with some fresh ones; I remember her exact words "writing the book is ONLY 10% of the work". If I had known then what I know now I probably wouldn't have sniggered under my breath!

We had agreed on an estimate of the number of the words that I expected the finished novel to contain, give or take five thousand. We agreed a price to take it all the way to e-book published and we agreed the method; I'd send her blocks of ten or twelve thousand words, with an instalment of the agreed charges, she'd work them, we'd discussed and then returned once we were both satisfied, and then we'd repeat the process. I could use a whole 10,000 words just to tell you how invaluable a resource she was in the coming months (but I won't) although it's an understatement to say that I was VERY lucky to have happened across Proofreadnz.

Judi and I became good friends over the next 20 plus months and I learned (and continue to learn) a lot from her. By 'proof reading in instalments' I was also able to improve my own writing. I'd get the section back with all sorts of red column comments and suggestions. If I didn't agree with, or I wanted clarification of her comments we'd have lengthy phone conversations and work it out. I think in the beginning I was expecting to send away a stream of rushed words and for her to send me back a polished edition, it didn't work like that at all! She made it very clear that she was there to make sure my writing made sense from a punctuation, grammar and spelling perspective, the writing 'style' was up to me. Like I said, I learned a lot. The first section that was returned had more 'red' on the side than a plate of fries at a kids party. By the time the last section was returned it was probably down to one or two - progress indeed. Don't knock it, these were important motivational milestones for me.

It is also important to get some colleagues or friends to read your manuscript as it improves. By the time you get towards the end of your writing you have read and reread it so many times you couldn't spot a missing page because your brain will just fill in the gaps, I promise you. So, get fresh eyes involved. It's great to get positive feedback as well but keep it in perspective: Friends and family won't want to hurt your feelings no matter how many times you ask them to be honest. These can also be your 'Beta Readers', ordinary people, students or people you trust that read the completed book, the story, and provide feedback. They can tell you the good bits and bad bits in their opinion, but they also act as extra 'proof readers'. It's up to you what you do with any suggestions they may have because IT'S YOUR BOOK, you are the Author so you decide on what changes, if any, to make.

I don't want to get ahead of myself. There's plenty of things that you need to be doing whilst writing your book and bouncing it between your proof reader, Beta Readers and rewriting, all geared toward the ultimate rush - getting your novel published!

In my next blog post I'll take you through what I was doing, the lessons I learned, and what I will do differently for the next book- Now go find your proofreader!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

So, where did 'Russian Redemption' come from? No idea! I can honestly say that writing a book has never been on my list of 'things to do', it didn't appear on my top 100,000 bucket list, had never interested me.
I'm not the most educated person, basic school curriculum stuff and left school without taking any exams. (but only after I'd secured an apprenticeship with HM Forces so I wasn't completely stupid - probably?!)

Anyway, out of no where, totally left field, a blind assault, came this overwhelming compulsion to write. I rejected the idea at first, why on earth would I want to write a flippin book. In a very short period of time the compulsion became so strong I caved in. But I waited until the wife and kids were out of the house because I didn't want anyone to see me sit down at a laptop and look like I was going to try and write a book. I was actually nervous, I didn't think I could do it, and I wasn't keen on the idea of holding myself up for public ridicule.

I spent a few minutes trying to force ideas out of my head, searching for a start point, an idea, actually pretty much searching for anything! Once I stopped searching around in my head and just sat back, things started to happen.

At this point I seem to recall my only goal was to write a first draft of anything but once the story started to 'arrive' that was it, it just didn't stop. I remember thinking 'this is fun', and it really was, it was almost enlightening, refreshing even. And so it continued.

I secretly showed a couple of people the first few dozen pages expecting to be advised to take up carpentry but met with some positive encouragement. And so I carried on. My goal now was to finish what I had started. On the horizon I was daring to dream, not of being a world famous Author, or of a Nobel Peace Prize, or a big boat in the marina but of actually putting together a fictional novel that was good enough to be published. The good bits and the bad bits between this admission and the realisation of that dream will be discussed as we go on. What I will say here is that the best thing I did was enrol the skills of a proof reader early (at about 10,000 words). OK, if you've made it this far in the post you're probably due a break so I'll wind it up on a positive: If any of this frightens you or gives you reason to doubt your ability to start the 'Authors Journey' you are only experiencing the same emotions that I did. But here's the thing....... No, seriously, here IS the thing: Russian Redemption

Come back again for the next insight.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The plan is also to bring you some interesting and informative links so that you can make some informed decisions as you go. By all means contact me if you want to highlight a site or a link that you think will help our members!