Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Deep Breaths

Better now.  I spent the day brooding but eventually got to the root of the problem.  I blame The Book.

I should have seen this coming; when I held the finished product in my hand and realized that, yeah, it looked good and the content was well formatted and, overall, it was a satisfying and professional-looking job, I allowed myself a mental pat on the back.

In a normal person, this might incentivize them to move forward with the same cautious determination and thoroughness that had brought them to that point; in me, however, it inspires the unrealistic notion that I can do anything.  So I’m immediately off in six different directions trying to get everything done at once and annoyed with myself when I don’t see results within 24 hours.

Focus: that’s my problem.  I was trying to become an Uber-Twitter, and a Facebook whizz and while working on my next book and handling marketing for the current book all at the same time.

So I burned myself out, spent a day sulking and now I’m back in the saddle.

Twitter and Facebook still elude me, however, and I am savagely disappointed by this.  I’ve been working with computers for over thirty years.  This stuff should be easy for me.  I was on the cutting edge back when it was slick with the blood of unfortunates clinging to their IBM Selectrics, but lately I feel like an aging gunfighter haunted by the ghosts of the men he’s left dead.  (BTW, that’s me quoting my own book.  Good stuff, eh?)

But I’ve stopped trying to cram my overcrowded brain with the esoteric workings of Twitter and Facebook; I’ll just keep using them and, according to the rule of 10,000, eventually I will catch on.

The Rule of 10,000 has been going around the internet for a while now, and basically says you need to put 10,000 hours into something to become an expert at it.  I can buy that: a musical instrument, learning a craft, studying astronomy—to do it right, these all require an astonishing amount of devotion.  Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, perhaps not so much, but the theory is the same: focus, be consistent, work on getting better and eventually you will become, if not an expert, at least someone who knows their way around.

It think, with the rapidly changing nature of the web, things like Twitter and Facebook should have a Rule of 10,000 – seconds.  That’s nearly three hours and, frankly, I think that’s enough.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Twit Too Far

I give up!

I’ve been banding my head against the wall for a week now trying to come up with some inspirational marketing plans (beyond the usual giveaways and begging people to review my book on their sites, etc; you know, all the stuff that didn’t work last time).  It should be simple: I have a product, a good one, one I believe in and truly think people will enjoy; I simply need to let the maximum number of people know about this and encourage them to make the right decision.

Piece of cake, really.

So I think, “Twitter!  That’s where all the young, hip and trendy people hang out these days.”  Trouble is, I know nothing about it.  All I know is that my book needs a Twitter account.  So I set one up and realized that was the extent of my knowledge.

So I read a book about how to be a twit, or some such thing.  I do have my own account, so I know how to tweet, but that’s as far as it goes; the idea of re-tweets, mentions, #FF (whatever that is about) and such is well beyond me.  So I read Tweeting For Morons (or whatever) and found out, not only have I been doing it all wrong, but that I cannot understand the way to do it correctly.

Retweets, I am told, are very important.  There is a retweet button in Twitter that does it automatically but only novices and morons use it; to be effective, you need to manually retweet and add a bit of your own commentary, as well.

Fair enough, but nowhere in the book does it say how to manually retweet.  I guess that knowledge is so basic it needs no explanation.  Which tells me I am clearly out of my depth.

And just as I was getting the hang of replies (so I thought) I found out that replying does not show the tweet to your list but only the person you replied to (but isn’t that a direct message?)  To show the reply to all your followers, you need to put a dot in front of the reply.  I had never heard of such a thing, so I Googled , “Put a Dot in Front of the @” and got back, “How to Make a Chinese Doll from Clothespins.”

To make matters worse, according to an actually marketing guy I happened to get into a conversation with yesterday, the bottom third of the demographic now uses youTube as their primary source of information.  So here I am slipping down the learning curve of a technology that is already yesterday’s news.

So, yeah, I give up.

Maybe I’ll see if I can figure out how to make a Facebook page, instead.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Only in America

So, the book went live.  But only on Amazon US.

Now I'm grappling with the question of whether I should begin the promotion in earnest now or wait until it appears on Amazon UK.  From the reading I have been doing, it could be weeks before it is activated on the UK side, so it seems foolish to wait.

On the other hand, many of my customers in the UK will be unable to buy the book (or be required to pay over-the-odds for shipping) and may decide to look again later.  And we all know what that means--out of sight, out of mind, no sale.

Still, I feel like I ought to get something moving, start the juggernaut rolling.

Maybe I can encourage everyone in the UK to buy a Kindle.

Monday, May 16, 2011

On the Move

My, that was fast.

I received my proof copy of More Postcards From Across the Pond today, having only ordered it on Friday. It looks great, and the few issues I have with it are of my own making.

First, the margins are a bit tight, but that was me trying to mimic the formatting, and page count, of the original book. It’s not bad, but it could be a little wider. Also, despite CreateSpace’s warning not to try this, I made the cover image so that it wrapped around the spine and ended on the crease with the back cover. The original book had this, so with the idea that the same sized cover for the same sized book with the same number of pages would be the same, I went ahead with it. It nearly worked. The cover image wraps nicely around the spine but runs over onto the back just a bit. Still, not bad for a wild guess.

Pretty slick, even if I say so myself

The book is already available in the CreateSpace store but I am not going to announce it until it is on Amazon proper. Part of this is in hopes the shipping price will be better when offered for sale by third party vendors. Shipping to the UK from CreateSpace is shockingly high. For the one proof copy I was required to buy, the shipping was nearly thirty dollars! You can order a copy for $6.38 shipping, but it won’t arrive until July. For the US, $3.95 will get it to you in a week.

Just a bit of bleed over the crease,
but nothing to scream about

But all that will work itself out soon enough. For now, the book is here, it looks great and I am terrified to look inside it because I just know the first thing I will see is a huge, glaring error.

See any errors?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let the Games Begin

It’s done.

More Postcards from across the Pond is now available as an ebook:

The paperback is almost ready for production and should be out in a few weeks. Then I can oil up the Marketing Machine and put it in gear.

These are my goals for this book:
1. Sell more copies than the first books did (this is putting the bar fairly low, I might point out).
2. Make more money than the last book did (ditto).

I realize that having no control over the these events makes them wishful thinking rather than real goals, but I’m sticking with them anyway.

If you are interested, you can buy the book at:

Amazon UK or Amazon US (both subject to tax/VAT)

Smashwords where it is tax-free, cheaper and comes with a variety of download options.

If you have not yet been assimilated and,, like myself, remain Kindle-free, you can download a Kindle for PC app here.

You only other option is to wait for the book.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Embracing My Shame

The Book is churning in the conversion engines of Smashwords and Kindle now. The announcement will follow soon.

While I am beginning to come to grips with the idea of self publishing—I mean, being an Indie Author—I still find myself almost apologizing when people ask about its publication. The thing is, self publishing was the territory of sub-standard authors—the timid, the talentless and those lacking in tenacity—that admitting to self publishing remains akin to admitting you are a loser.

The paradigm is shifting, however, and I am coming to accept the view that it hardly makes sense to go with the traditional route these days, but legacy of the loser hangs on.

A lot will depend on how this book does. If it outsells the professionally published book, that will be quite a victory, and maybe then I can stop feeling like I should apologize for having self published it and instead project the idea that it was the smart decision.

I do feel good about this book. The cover is professional looking, the manuscript is as refined and error-free as I can get it and, because I know humor (I’ve had several columns and wrote for radio in addition to having my first book published by a real publisher), I am comfortable that the text is up to professional standards. So this was a good book to launch my experiment with; a novel—if it comes to that—will see me back on unfamiliar territory.

But until the paradigm shifts further in the favor of indie writer, claiming you are a published author when you had to do it yourself will continue to be sound as if you are claiming to have an active sex life because you stay at home on Saturday nights to slap Mr. Johnson around. And although I can point out the fact that a publisher wanted to acquire this manuscript but I chose to publish it myself, that merely sounds like I had a bona fide date but turned it down just so I could stay at home on Saturday night to slap Mr. Johnson around.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

VCR as Metaphor

That thing I am coming to think of as The Manuscript has been coddled and soothed, slipped into its PJ’s and put to bed to rest up for the final round of polishing. God willing and the creek don’t rise, it should be e-published over the weekend.

I have, therefore, been thinking a lot about this Indie Adventure I am embarking on. They say one definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, so I must be crazy, right? The only real change in the self-publishing arena since my last adventure has been the explosion of e-books, and I am counting on that, alone, to make the difference. So I really must be crazy.

I do wonder (and I’m shortly to find out) just how much of a difference being able to buy something that doesn’t really exist as opposed to an actual hold-in-you-hand-and-flip-the-pages book is going to make, but if our experience with the VCR is any indication, it is bound to have at least some impact.

A VCR. What a marvel of technology. We could set it to record shows while we were out and then watch them later. What could be more convenient? Well, like a lot of people, what we ended up doing is recording shows, forgetting what tape they were on, having to hunt for shows on tapes containing multiple programs, taping shows over other shows we had taped but not watched yet and, in the end, just gave up and used the VCR as a clock.

You can think of this as a POD book. It’s cheap, dead easy and ever so convenient for the writer and the customer, who merely has to click on the BUY button, enter their card details, confirm the sale and wait a week for the book to show up.

What could be simpler? And if it is so simple, how come so few people bother with it? Could it possibly be made any easier?

Well, after our VCR collected dust for a year or so, we went out and bought a digital recorder. It is brilliant. Without having to get up off of the sofa, we can scan the on-screen program guide and simply press a button to schedule recordings of a single show or an entire series. We can also scroll through lists of what we have already recorded or what we have scheduled to record. We use it constantly.

Think of this as an e-book. You click on the image and...there it is. The book automatically downloads and, if you have an account set up, the money is automatically deducted from your bank account. A single click and you can start reading.

Add to that the fact that, as an Indie author, I have control over the price (you can make it as convenient as you want but few people are going to pay £13.50 for an e-book) and there is a chance, just a chance, that people will be more willing to buy it.

People want convenience and a fair price and, for the first time in publishing history, e-books can offer this. We will soon see if that is enough.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Editing and Art

Remember those services I spoke of last time, the ones traditional publishers provide but you can contract out for? I advise you to do so.

I just spent the better part of four days coming up with a book cover and these past weeks have been filled with the reading and re-reading of the manuscript until I (and my wife and her mother) are nearly blind. If you want a polished product, hire people who are good at these things to do them—-it may cost a few bob but the peace of mind will be worth it.

I, however, am not contracting out these services for one very good reason: I’m an idiot (no, that’s a second reason) it is all part of the experiment to see if my efforts can match and surpass the published book.

If I were to do this again I would at certainly consider getting someone else to do this part of the job. The cover art isn’t as difficult as the editing-—all I need to do is mimic the first cover and re-learn how to use my twenty-year old software and then spend a long weekend sitting at my laptop sweating and swearing. But editing is a heart-breaker.

The problem is, it is the single most important thing, that bit of the book that separates the "Indie" publisher from the six guys. It has to be perfect, or as near as possible, but getting it right is so, so tedious. Reading over and over and finding different mistakes each time. With my first self-published book, I did hire a professional proof reader. And I proofread it myself, several times. But when it finally ended up with a publisher, they found more errors. And when we sent out review copies, a reviewer found some more. And now that I am talking up this new book (More Postcards from across the Pond, coming out in early May, tell your friends) a fan of the that first book told me she had found errors in it, as well. So I sent her the manuscript for this one to proofread.

That will teach her.