Happy New Year and Welcome to 2017 🙂
2016 was an odd year. The Grim Reaper was busy taking the great and the geniuses and politics went insane.
Some of the notable losses from the genius-pool were:
Carrie Fisher (actress/writer), Prince (mega musician), David Bowie, George Michael (musician), Richard Adams (author), Vera Rubin (astronomer), Debbie Reynolds (actress), Zsa Zsa Gabor (actress), Berhard Fox (actor), Peter Vaugh (actor), Ronnie Corbett (comedian), Victoria Wood (comedienne), Terry Wogan (veteran broadcaster).There are lots more…. Wiki 2016 deaths:(
Of course many ordinary folks passed on too, some known to me (such as our neighbour, my friend, and Rich M – an author friend and good guy. I’m not sure why but the losses this year seemed to weigh more heavily than ever before.
I’m not sure about you but I felt there was an air of uncertainty and fear. In Britain, there was a referendum to leave the EU, and many people were surprised and disappointed by the result. I know I was. Whatever one’s thoughts on that ‘Brexit’ (and I REALLY hate that term) is on the cards and the racists and bigots have once again crept out from under the rocks they inhabit. Of course, not everyone who voted to leave has right wing views, and many people voted in accordance with what they thought would be the best for themselves and the country. That said, the potential backlash and the potential instability was not well approached by the elected, or indeed the electorate.
And the US – well that is a whole different level of weird. Seriously? Him? Why? Whether or not you’re a supporter of that person, and I’m definitely NOT in that camp, the election result has sparked a great deal of unrest, and uncertainty both with the USA and internationally. Along with the ever-increasing terrorist threat humanity (at least in the West) appears to be edgy, suspicious of neighbours and former ally and former enemy, and not thinking through actions and decisions. Either that or the moron apocalypse has started. You know something – just because some other folks have a different god (or same god with a different name), or have a different skin colour, or sleep with someone you don’t approve of – it DOESN’T MATTER. The world will not end because of gay marriage, religious discrepancies, skin colour, or someone interfered in someone else’s election/government etc. It MIGHT very well end due to people being ASSHATS to one another. People are people. When it comes down to it we are all much the same.
Some days I wonder if it’s all some complex and twisted novel or game to amuse and entertain some alien or higher power with a warped sense of humour. But if it WAS a story would anyone believe it? Basically -SOD OFF 2016 – we’re done with you.
OK, so that’s enough of the politics for now.
What has 2016 delivered for me in the way of writing, and research?
Shining Citadel – second edition – which brought a few changes, another edit and a tightening up here and there.
The Kitchen Imps – The first in the Fire-Side Tales Collection of short, humorous fantasy tales for all the family. Available in e-book, print, and audio.
Shattered Mirror – A Poetry Collection. I’d been toying with the idea of releasing the poems for some time. Many are introspective, others inspired by current or recent world event, and a few are miscellaneous. Poetry is hard to sell and it is a bit of a niche market. That’s not why I write it (which is just as well). Poetry helps me order my thoughts and emotions. For me – it’s a way of looking at the world, and the foolishness therein.
Echoes of a Song – This is the first in the Legacy of the Mask series. A short public domain work based on Phantom of the Opera. Phantom was and is the love of my life. I first saw the show and read the book many many tears ago and I’ve been hooked on it ever since. Echoes was actually written some while ago but I only decided to publish this year. It’s dark, tragic and emotional. Don’t expect a happy ending…
The Watcher – Rewritten piece based on Jack the Ripper for the charity anthology Boo! Fore! Again this is pretty dark (as you’d expect) and rather disturbing but it IS a horror anthology.
Course in Ancient Egypt- Coursera
Diploma in Social Media Marketing – Shaw Academy
Short Story Writing Course
Also started using Hootsuite (which is GREAT).
I read 60 books (and some re-reads). Good Reads reading challenge Don’t ask how many I bought.
Actually, that’s not a bad haul for 12 months – considering ill-health (thank you Fibromyalgia), building work, day job and the general stresses of life. I’d hoped to get a bit more of Book IV done but I go where the stories take me.
It’s been a pretty active year on the blog – lots of interviews, reviews, advice pieces, spotlights and more.
Soooo what’s the plan for 2017? I say plan but I don’t really do plans it’s more a general meandering in the right direction.
At least one Tales of Erana novella from the two I have in progress;
Working on Book IV;
Release of Shining Citadel in audio (imminent)
Adult fantasyesque sexy fun book as from my alter ego (more about that soon)
Hopefully another Heroika anthology piece (assuming it’s accepted).
I plan to be more consistent with promotion (and less distracted by facebook)
Formatting course, and (hopefully) some freelance work. I’m not going to say too much about this now but there MIGHT be some expanding of the skill set in 2017…
I have several over Udemy and Coursera courses lined up too. – Including learning Latin, various writing and history courses, and some more marketing.
I’m planning to write every day. Even if it’s 5 words…
2017 – I’m coming to get ya
#SocialMedia #Shawsocial #Media
I’m the first person to admit I am not a fan of marketing, if a salesperson is pushy then I won’t buy on principle, unless I REALLY want that item. I’ve worked in retail, a call centre (never ever again – I lasted two weeks), and of course I have to market my books. Time and again there’s guidance on how to sell, what to do and not to do, and a lot of it is contradictory.
I actually find the marketing far more of a challenge than actually writing the books – as I am not especially confident and don’t like to be pushy. So, you ask, where is she going with this?
A good friend of mine recently put me onto Living Social – which is basically a coupon site for discount products. I was looking for an Excel course, I use it in my day job and I know the basics but that’s it. The chance of my work actually providing useful training is pretty low so I decided to look for a course myself, to do in my own time. Whilst wandering around the site I found the Online Social Media Marketing course – for £15 instead of £150 (or close to that). At that price I thought what the hell – it may help and if it doesn’t then I haven’t lost much.
The course itself is run by SHAW ACADEMY, who is one of the biggest online training providers. This is part one of their marketing training, the foundation diploma, and it’s worth doing. Run over 10 weeks there are two hour-long webinars, plus an ‘on-demand’ lecture a week, quizzes to test knowledge and a two hour assignment at the end. They have a You-Tube site, which has extra videos and interaction, plus an active Twitter feed.
The course covers a number of topics: Facebook pages and advertising, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, ORM (Online Reputation Management), You-Tube, Instagram, and a good deal about analytics. It goes without saying that the course is predominantly sales focused but there is a lot of excellent advice.
The tutor – Daniel Gilligan is informed, engaging and has a wicked Irish sense of humour.
Although due to the volume of students the webinars do not allow verbal participation student are encouraged to ask questions, and Daniel and his team are happy to answer emails and phone calls regarding the course. There were incentives to log in to the webinars live (prizes etc.) and as they were at 7pm UK time, that was useful. For a small fee one could buy the slides, notes and extra vids – although everyone got the basic pack. There is a certificate at the end (assuming one does the final assignment) and it is an accredited course.
Not all the aspects are useful for me – I still dislike Linkedin, and although I joined Instagram I’m yet to do much with it. The most useful aspects for me covered analytics, ORM and the discussion on target audience. Times of day are important too. I forget sometimes that my audience are not all in the same time zone, so scheduling a Tweet at 7 pm my time might not be helpful as it could be 2am in the US, or 2pm when people are at work.
I find Pintrest more of a distraction than a useful marketing tool – that said I have set up a board for my own books (ADD LINK), and many people do like the very visual aspect. But I have, as a reader, looked at books based on the cover there.
I’m working on a companion website for the blog, and have quite a number of ideas, plus I am contemplating a Facebook ad, re-jigging the blog and it has given me the confidence to try some more approaches.
What I learned:
Keep it short and snappy, relevant and regular, new and nice is important. Don’t behave like an asshat – it will ruin your online reputation, and it’s hard to come back from that. We were shown examples of some unfortunate and ill-considered posts and Tweets. For example a particular company tweeting a brand and then #RIPPRINCE on the sad day the singer Prince died. Not only totally inappropriate to the brand this got hold of a twitter outpouring of grief at the death of an icon. Trending hashtags need to be used with care – is it relevant to the post, or is it just latching on to a trend? Think through what you post, keep it clean, and make sure it’s not filled with errors.
Don’t overload the sites with the same message.
Also it’s worth considering what’s working and what isn’t and why? Wrong target audience? Badly written promotion? Misunderstood promotion?
Tailor content – what is appropriate for one platform/audience might not be for another
This is the FOUNDATION diploma – and there is a second part – which currently I am not looking at (due to time, money and other commitments) but I would consider it in the future.
Oh and by the way I got a Merit 🙂
2015, Articles, Audio books, Author interviews, Character Interviews, Fantasy, fantasy books, guest posts, Heroika, Indie Publishing, Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, Perseid Press, Reading, Rob Goll, Tales of Erana, tips and advice, Writing, Writing DIary
Welcome back to the Library of Erana and the last day of 2015. So another year has dashed past and I’m sitting at the end of 2015 and wondering where it went. I have a theory – someone is siphoning time out of the weekend and holidays and sneaking it into the working day. That’s why days at work seem to go on longer than the same day on leave.
What has 2015 brought me? A house! We bought our first house in April and it’s great. Whilst the place isn’t perfect it’s a good deal better than renting a damp flat and my overall health is better. Also we now have a delightful doggy – she’s grown from a tiny puppy to almost adult and we adore her. Every day she makes us smile and she’s such a happy and joyful creature.
Work… still there. Still stressful and busy but at least I am working and thankful for that.
Writing wise I’ve not been as productive as I planned – mostly due to the factors above but I’ve not been idle.
Stolen Tower – The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book III was published in March 2015. https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/new-release-the-stolen-tower-the-light-beyond-the-storm-chronicles-iii/
The third edition of Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book I was published with quite a few revisions and a new cover for the paperback. http://www.amazon.com/Light-Beyond-Storm-Chronicles–ebook/dp/B0088DQO9C
Outside the Walls was revised and expanded and the audio book produced with narrator Melanie Fraser. It sounds great. There is something magical in hearing one’s book read aloud.
Warrior’s Curse was produced in audio by narrator Rob Goll – who has also done Heroika: Dragon Eaters for Perseid Press and will be narrating Light Beyond the Storm and Shining Citadel in 2016.
Heroika: Dragon Eaters was published – along with the accompanying audio book. Please check out the A Week with the Dragon Eaters posts for author and character interviews.
I’ve done 17 guest interviews elsewhere including the latest with Melanie Fox here. https://mercedesfoxbooks.com/meet-author-a-l-butcher/ and four character interviews including Mirandra, Ephany, Dii’Athella and the Thiefmaster.
Oh and a course on Roman and Greek Mythology – which was really interesting. https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/greek-and-roman-mythology-course-review/
There have been over 160 blog posts – including another Week in Hell, a Week with the Dragon Eaters, character, editor and author interviews, and several fantasy based posts and reblogs.
10 tips and lessons
1) I’m rubbish at using Twitter! Does it help marketing? Not a bloody clue. Many people say it is a vital tool; personally I’m not convinced as I have never bought a book or product from a twitter link and it looks like many people shouting to me. That said I do follow a few authors and it is useful for sharing blog posts. I follow the history, nature an astronomy posts too.
2) There is never enough time or energy to write. This is, of course, mostly my fault. I work full time and often I don’t have enough energy or brain power to do much but poke about on Facebook.
3) Networking is vital. I knew this already but it’s good to have one’s knowledge reinforced. Indie authors are, generally, a supportive lot and I’ve traded interviews, found great books to read and got to know a wide variety of people through social media and networking. It’s a good way of getting support for new releases, blogging, Thunderclap and more.
4) There are some total asshats about and many more idiots. This too has been obvious for a while. Recent events have NOT made the world a safer place. Whilst I agree that terrorism is bad, and religion pernicious bombing the crap out of an area that is already a wasteland is not going to make things better. Humans have an amazing capacity to be total asshats to one another – I can’t think of any other animal which is so unpleasant to its own kind – of course not everyone is like that and certain groups have been labelled as terrorists when it is the actions of a minority. History tends to repeat itself – and in many ways humans have a short memory – or at least a selective one. Often people are quick to judge, especially when they don’t know all the facts. Ignorance leads to fear and fear to hatred, then the killing begins anew, or the ghetto, or the pogrom, or the genocide….
Facebook especially fuels both idiocy and vitriol. There are lots of calls from freedom of speech but – of course that depends on who is doing the speaking and what they are saying. There is either freedom to say what the hell you like – and that goes for everyone or there’s not – some limitations are put in place. But then where and when does that stop. Perhaps if people thought before they spoke (or typed) such limitations wouldn’t be needed. Just because you CAN say something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Anyway enough of the political talk…don’t get me started I spent 7 years studying politics, sociology, ethics and philosophy and it taught me not to get involved in debates with people who won’t listen and assume they are always right…
5) Marketing is a lottery. I’ve tried some new tactics this year – including Twitter and Thunderclap – results have been mixed. Both are free – at least at the basic level so although not particularly successful no outlay was lost. I’ve found a mix of things helps. Don’t rely on one strategy – vary your approach and keep things interesting.
6) Write every day, even if it’s not working on a book or story. A blog post, a facebook post, a letter or email to someone – it all keeps the brain cells ticking. Write stories when you can and don’t force it. The world is NOT going to end if that story isn’t finished this week. That’s one of the many reasons I love indie publishing. With a few exceptions the person setting the deadlines is me and so if the book isn’t finished or life intervenes (which it does frequently) then it doesn’t matter as much.
7) Be nice to people. If you can’t be nice be quiet.
8) Vary what you write – if you’re struggling with a project then step away from it and work on something else. I’ve found that focusing on other things means my brain can be ticking away in the background sorting out the problems with the other project.
9) Some things can’t be fixed. It’s easy to spend a lot of time on a project or idea only to find it doesn’t work, or its crap. Yes I know this contradicts point 8 a bit but sometimes an idea simply won’t work – or at least not in the way you want. That’s fine. Sometimes shit happens (or doesn’t) don’t force it to be something it isn’t. Readers can spot a forced plot. If it doesn’t work then change it – look at your options. Can it be used for something else? What is causing the issue? Can it actually be fixed? Sometimes it can’t. Sometimes it becomes something else. That’s fine too.
10) Read more. Reading is great relaxation, great research and great enjoyment. The more you read the better writer you’ll become.
So what’s planned for 2016?
I have lots of plans for 2016 – most of which may never materialise but it’s still good to plan.
These are not in any order….
Hopefully a second Heroika volume will happen (for Perseid Press). Not going to mention too much of my WIP but the volume should be great, having seen a few snippets of draft stories. Hopefully my story will be up to scratch and I’m sure the book will feature on the blog when it’s published.
There will be at least one short Tales of Erana, possibly two. I’m planning to release Just One Mistake with a few revisions as a standalone. It’s already featured in Nine Heroes plus my own Tales of Erana Volume One but I have idea how it can be expanded. I think it would make a great audio short story.
Book II is currently being revised so there will be a new edition of that sometime early to mid 2016.
Book I in audio. Rob Goll is narrating that and we are hoping for spring 2016 release on that. I can’t wait to hear what he’s done.
Tales from the Golden Mask – this has been a WIP for a while. Hopefully the first part of the series will be released by the summer. It’s a co-authored erotic adventure set in an Erana of the past. We think it’s a lot of fun, with feisty women, sexy heroes and of course a goodly helping of nookie. This one doesn’t take itself or the world too seriously and is aimed at a slightly different audience.
The Kitchen Imps – a short book of fantasy tales for kids and the young at heart. I really need to work on these, as this is another project which has been around for a while.
I’m contemplating changing the blog – currently this is the free wordpress type but the upgraded version has a lot more features. I’m hoping to attach a website dedicated to just the books as well. I’ll let you know how that goes…
Also looking to participate in a blog tour – I’ve hosted people before but I’ve never done it myself. Will be an interesting experience and I’ll review it after.
Want to try and read more, and review more. I often stick to re-reads but I’m going to try and branch out for new authors. I’ll try and be better at posting reviews as well.
Looking for plenty more interviews – both giving and receiving – guest posts and articles.
Signed up for a course on medieval magic, one on Ancient Greece and also looking at ancient Egypt. Plus whatever else takes my fancy and I can manage with the other commitments.
I’ll look back in twelve months and see how many of these I’ve done.
Feel free to comment on ideas, suggestions for the blog and contacts about interviews.
Hoping 2016 is good for you, my followers, and you’ll keep viewing the blog.
Today I welcome Dylan Callens to the Library of Erana where he chats about some of the challenges facing the new author.
What to Do Next
I’ve finished my first book. I have one month to prepare before its release while my editor diligently works away at what I hope are my last few grammatical and punctuation errors. That leaves me one month to navigate through the insane world of social media, to build some kind of audience before its launch date. Where do I even start?
I have several ideas; I’m not green when it comes to web design or working on social media platforms. I’ve promoting things online before with varying degrees of success. I even purchased a book to help me with online marketing. Alas, I am only one person trying to build a website, tweet interesting tweets, post amusing Facebook content, network on Goodreads, and create articles for other blogs.
Shit, I think to myself. Should I create a book trailer? Should it be shot using live action? I know how to shoot and edit good video, so maybe I should. Then I calculate the amount of time it will take me before I would be happy with such a project. Ten hours, minimum, for a one minute trailer, I figure. That is ten hours where I am not actively networking. With only four weeks until launch, how will I fit that into my already congested schedule?
My attention turns to setting up accounts for distribution. The usual suspects: Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks. I’m leery about iBooks but I’m not sure why. Then I notice Amazon’s button for KDP Select. Some research is required. On the surface, if sounds like a great plan, except for the part where I can’t sell my ebooks on any other platform. More reading. Some have success, some do not. I can’t decide. I shelf the idea for the time being. I still have a few weeks, I’ll figure it out later.
And then there’s advertising. Where do I advertise? What is my budget? I have a little money squirreled away for that but I’m not convinced that it’ll be enough. I figure that I will be throwing money into a pit. Yet, I need to get my name out there. I read a great post about advertising on Amazon that suggests it is a profitable endeavor. Does that mean I have to enroll in KDP Select to use it? And what about Goodreads? That seems like an ideal place. But those ads look so cheap.
My head is swirling with ideas. There is no clear path. I sit up, take a deep breath and try to clear my head. There is only one thing I can do, I figure. Put my fingers to the keyboard and start on something. Anything. I will keep writing. Timelines aren’t that important right now anyway. As long as I keep pushing forward, I will be fine. As long as I can contain the fear of failure, I will persevere. When I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of work that is ahead of me, I will have to re-center myself on the idea that as long as I am working, I am doing the right thing. Making mistakes will only delay success, not stop it.
Dylan Callens is a high school teacher in Sudbury, Ontario. He is the author of, Operation Cosmic Teapot, which will be available on Amazon on December 11, 2015
Not so long ago part time writer Ramon Youseph made the decision to leave his day job and work full time as a writer. For many of us this is a dream come true, for others a decision which is terrifying. Any freelance work is risky for someone with bills to pay. One cannot guarantee an income but Ramon is a man of some determination. Here’s his interview.
What made you decide to leave your previous job pursue writing as a full time career? It’s a big step!
Simple really, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a teenager, and at my age now (44) I decided that I didn’t want to sit about wondering what it was like to live my dream but to get on and do it. For the last six years I tried getting noticed with blog posts, articles and networking but my day job meant I was limited in terms of time, concentration I mean let’s face it after an eight hour day the last thing you want to do is stare at a computer for another five or six hours. Still in that time I managed to publish over 350 articles and posts of my own choosing as well for a client or as a guest contributor. I was even approached for comment by BBC online and quoted in their finished article – it was about the crowdsourced fan film “Star Wars Uncut”. However I Just got tired of seeing opportunities pass me by and not being in a position to seize them. Confidence also plays a big part.
When I started working for Kung-Fu Kingdom it provided me with a sort of litmus test of whether or not I could be a successful writer outside of my own blog. After a very promising two or three months with one very happy client, along with some long talks with my family and friends I decided to take the plunge. Since I have already had to make a couple of big life changing decision in my personal life, the prospect of a third one seemed less daunting, but only a little less.
How much support have you had from your friends and family?
The outpouring of support has been overwhelming if I am honest. Friends who have known me a long time and know this is my life’s ambition have rallied round me expressing their pride, admiration, some even a little envious that I could potentially live my dream. I have been called brave and an inspiration, even one or two of my most risk averse friends have simply said “go for it.” Yet the biggest support has come from my family. My parents are behind me 100% and offering their insight and experience of being self-employed. They appreciate there are risks involved but continue to encourage me, and have every faith that I will make a success of this.
How did you go about making preparations for this?
Well I already had an idea of what was involved from talking to one or two friends who are freelancers. I also picked up this book with the very simple title of “Freelance Writing” by Linda Jones. I noticed it had some good reviews so I thought I would give it a go. It covers all the fundamentals of the business aspect, how to source work, what to do about fees, and so on. It helped me map out a sort of template of the infrastructure I needed to put into place. This is not as a fancy as it sounds – it simply involved many hours in a coffee shop scribbling pages of notes riddled with ideas in a caffeine fuelled frenzy, such as building a professional looking website, marketing, the admin side including what to charge, but mostly what specific services to offer. Writing is such a big umbrella term so I had to think about the specifics that would combine the kind of services I can offer with the sort of writing I like to do. This is still something I am working on but I think I am nearly there.
There was also the question of how to structure my day, working hours, allotted time for breaks and tasks to undergo. I am still ironing out the creases on this. Then there was the question of letting potential clients know that this was the direction I was taking; I set up a mailshot from my contacts list – people and organisations I worked with over the years and sent them a RamonWrites release to let them know I am available for hire. I also used my existing social media accounts to get the word out. The tough part I anticipated would be approaching potential clients for work and so far that is meeting my expectations, for example I registered with various portals that offer freelancing opportunities and there is a lot to choose from. The thing is that because there is SO much listed work they vary on subject matter which is great but also pay levels ranging from insultingly low (£1 per hundred words) to surprisingly generous (£350 per thousand words). Really it is just a case of being meticulous in the search to find work that is right for me. Above all else I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and my aspirations in terms of earning capacity are cautiously optimistic. So far all my expectations have been met.
You are a determined person, I know you’ve started running fairly recently – tell us a little about that? What else drives you?
I used to run as a teenager but like many things you dabble in at that time in your life there is the tendency to move onto other things – some people obviously stick with them. I got back into running over four years ago, worried that my weight was going to get the better of me. I needed something to drive me so a friend pushed me to run the Bristol 10k. It was grueling work for someone of my size but I did it and since improved on my time in various other races. Yes I am getting fitter although I could always lose a bit more weight and I am working on that but here are some benefits of running that I think those who insist it’s unhealthy or even a waste of time routinely ignore or don’t consider; running is one of the keys to both mental wellbeing and success.
As human beings our minds are riddled with thoughts, and rarely focused on the present moment. Sometimes we even overthink and get ourselves worked up over stuff we can do nothing about. A good run whether it’s a mile or ten will drag you into the present moment (sometimes kicking and screaming). It doesn’t take away your fears and worries which continue to float there like vapours but they can’t touch you especially when you’ve ran that first mile, or if you’re in a race, crossed that finished line knowing you beat your personal best. Nothing comes close to that feeling of accomplishment, it’s a rush and that’s when you truly appreciate what it means to be in the moment.
Running for me also shapes my attitude to my work and life in general. It teaches me what needs to be done to be successful. Through running I appreciate that successful accomplishments only come through adversity, hard work and putting in the time for the best possible results. When I run I push myself to do better, and that’s what truly drives me now that I am a full time freelance writer, the determination, not shying away from hard work and long hours, setting achievable goals, ready to climb hills and work through even the toughest days whether it’s dry spots (writing is very much a feast or famine business) or other things life sends to try us. After that intense tirade it might surprise you to learn that what also drives me is to get as much as joy as I can out of my life in all aspects whether it’s work, running, socializing, everything. You only have one life and I have a tremendous opportunity to live life on my own terms and enjoy the ride, why squander it?
If I recall you are a fan of fantasy/sci-fi, why this genre? What intrigues you so much about it?
Well on the lighter note it’s a lot of fun to be transported to magical realms in some far away land or worlds & galaxies light years away populated by an assortment of alien creatures, magnificent battles and so forth. It really excites the imagination and done well makes for truly engaging story telling. It’s a genre you can have a lot of fun with too and the creators are not necessarily bound by the restrictions of “realism” although science-fiction requires a certain element of that, or at the very least some plausibility. It can be exciting and a lot of fun to just get lost in another world.
Yet what I really love about sci-fi/fantasy is how it can act as a window through which we can examine the human condition, whether it’s speculative as with sci-fi pondering on what the future will be like, or reflective, sometimes even making a point about human activity. Some have said that there was an element of environmentalism in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and I think that’s true when you read (or see in the films) the destruction of the forests by Sauruman to build weapons and monsters of war. I don’t think you can get a more impactful representation of the harmful effects of industrialization than that. Both examine the notions of class, society, bigotry with such gravitas but what really draws me in is examining what it means to be human through a non-human conduit such as aliens and my favourite, machines. Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick created some of the most amazing stories exploring humanity through androids or robots. Films such as Ex-Machina, AI: Artificial Intelligence really get into the nitty gritty of this aspect of sci-fi but none more so than Bladerunner. It still makes for a compelling idea that both the human and android characters are embroiled in their inner struggle for their humanity, and as for the ending – well I don’t want to spoil it for anybody who hasn’t seen it but the idea of epiphany finally learning what it’s all about is just mind blowing.
How important is research to your work? What are your best resources?
Research is very important regardless of whether you are producing work through your own ideas or working from a brief/instruction from a client. When I wrote for the Daily Crowdsource I was given a brief outline and relevant web links on the topic I was asked to cover. The brief has plenty of information to craft an article but it is vital that further research is carried on receipt of the brief. I would always spend half an hour to an hour scouring the internet either for additional relevant information but more importantly for anything that might question, refute or even make irrelevant the information given to me. It protects the client and you the writer after all it’s not good business to put your client in a position where they have published false or outdated information. This is not a reflection on the quality of the client’s brief but simply having another pair of eyes covering your back but also suggesting angles and information that would stand out from the competition.
The internet is a great source of information if you know how to use it properly. I try to adapt what I call a newsroom approach to web research which is, say I want to write about working conditions on coffee farms and the first bit of information I come across gives a glowing report. Whilst that is the sort of thing people like to read so that they can enjoy their lattes guilt free I am not going to take one source’s word for it. So I look for a minimum of two corroborating sources and then just to be on the safe side I would research the sources to see where their bias lies. There will always be more than one side to a story and there will always be someone with a challenging view and evidence to support, but what you are doing is checking the validity of your information and sources. Of course not all briefs will require this much extensive research but it doesn’t hurt to check.
I read a variety of blogs, some of which can just be personal musing but also feature insights from news savvy academics, speakers and activists writing or expanding on various topics that might be missed in a Google search. These can saved to your browser or reader. I place great value on internet research which you can do from the comfort of your own bed still in your PJs. However I do find Twitter is a great source of information for any article. Like any social media site it is a mixed bag of news and gossip, activism and of course ephemeral socializing but there are plenty of accounts that provide specialized knowledge that could prove tiresome searching the web. If you were to write an article about Barbecue food you could contact any chef or connect with @devonwoodsmoke, the twitter account for a Devon based chef specializing in smoked and barbecue food. So that’s how Twitter can put you in touch with people and resources with vast knowledge that will help you add real meat to the bones of any article.
Your website offers articles on ‘any subject’ – that’s a tall order. How do you aim to pursue this?
Yes that is quite a boast isn’t it? I am not saying that I have a wealth of knowledge on anything from how to apply lipstick to the implication of Schrodinger’s Cat in solving the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics in everyday objects, far from it. However if a client puts out a call to write about either topic, or both, my experience has been that they usually have an idea of what specific information to be included, style suitable to a target readership and purpose. This gives me an idea of what to write and how to structure it and anything that goes over my head I can learn more from internet research, ploughing through relevant blogs or even putting a shout out on Twitter for “expert” opinion.
There are of course limitations to what I can do and I am unlikely to be approached to produce academic essays that can only be read by other academics or professionals although I am always open to a challenge.
I do feel realistically that I can write about any topic that is put before me and fill any gaps in my knowledge with a little research and this comes from my work in crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Through my blog Crowdsourcing Gazette and my client The Daily Crowdsource I have looked at how those have been used in technology and innovation, film making, journalism, marketing and advertising, crisis management, restoration, scientific advancement, banking, trade, and promoting the arts. It was important for me to understand what I was writing about so that it made sense and that I could decide if certain things needed expanding – for example I wrote an article about a percussion instrument that uses kinetic energy to produce enough electricity to power a USB light or charge a phone – by the way it refers to build up of energy through acceleration. In understanding that I was able to understand how the instrument worked and explain that in the finished article.
Of course I do love writing about subjects of which I have knowledge such as films, martial arts, fitness, and so forth but I am conscious of limiting my market potential should any of these areas “dry up” – I don’t want to be known as a film writer as there is a risk of deterring potential clients. Plus I like a challenge and always relish the opportunity to learn something new. In order to make this happen what I try to do is through freelancing portals apply for work on a variety of subjects but also use my Ramon Writes blog to showcase my varied range. Right now my crowdsourcing work provides ample evidence of my topic range but of course this needs updating. What I am also doing is keeping an eye on the market for what topics are in demand. So far example if it’s Internet Dating, whilst I have some experience as a user I might start reading up on the industry, study blogs and then apply for the job if it is still open.
Do you feel your previous jobs/interests will provide useful experiences for your writing career? If so why?
My interests will provide me with insight where the work will reflect my passions; my work with Kung-fu Kingdom has involved reviewing martial arts films, events, as well as an interview with a graphic novel that combines Zombie story with martial arts. Since these are also my interests I can write passionately and informatively on all of these.
My previous jobs have certainly provided me with some basic skills – organizational, time keeping, day structuring that sort of thing although I am learning that those can go right out the window if you are hit with the dreaded writer’s block and you have a deadline. I already have experience of writing to deadline or quota (20 articles per month for example) so I can bring that to my new role. What I really bring to the venture is a strong work ethic – I don’t like to boast, although some former colleagues might disagree but for much of my working life clients, customers, and employers have expressed satisfaction with my work, and a happy client/boss makes me a happy worker and content in the knowledge that I am doing something right. I aim to please and (sorry for the shameless self-promotion) if you look at the Testimonials page on my website you’ll see current and former clients telling the world how happy they are with my work.
And of course working as a credit controller for 12 years I am not shy about chasing unpaid bills.
The internet offers a wealth of opportunities for writers – do you think the older, printed materials are becoming obsolete?
I think it’s a possibility. Reading online whether it’s on your phone, tablet, laptop or PC offers so many advantages over printed materials – I mean if you feel inclined you can take 1000 books on holiday with your e-reader, imagine trying to fit those into your suitcase. Newspapers can only give you so much information as space is a premium whereas a news website can deluge you with a barrage of stories from all over the world, and through other sites. How can printed materials compete with that?
However I think there is a still a generation or two that prefers print over electronic reading the obvious one being newspapers, magazines and books don’t need charging up but also some (like myself) just love the smell of printed material. There is also still a concern that technology is encroaching on our daily lives, evolving too fast and so want to dial it back a bit – reading printed materials gives you a necessary break from your phone, TV and laptop. It can also be quality over quantity – why take 10 electronic books when you can just take one and take time reading it?
The debate is still raging of print over web – someday we could end up with a paperless society but unlikely in our lifetime.
What are your tips on marketing/promoting yourself and your products?
Oh that’s a tough one and I am still very much working through this but I would have to say is this;
- Put a professional face on your venture, in my case it’s the website. It’s clean, user friendly and visually pleasing on the eye but provides plenty of information without overloading potential clients with too much information. As a writer this is possibly the first glimpse anyone has of my writing and presentation ability so it is vital that the website reflects the best of all of that.
- An obvious one, use social media. Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook I try to post regularly my latest work, updates on how the business is going, articles of interest relevant to writing, sometimes I will promote other freelancers work, and even share my latest efforts out running. Seriously I try to keep it relevant to writing, and business but you can add some personal stuff to remind people you are human. Avoid controversy, bad language and text speak. Like my website my social media presence is the professional face of my business. Just like any business a little office banter or water cooler moment is ok but keep it clean and respectable and at some point you have to get back to work.
- If am writing about an event, any event I take plenty of business cards. Certain events are geared towards networking so there will be lots of business card swapping. I am conscious at such gatherings I will be caught shorthanded when a potential client wants my contact details and I have none to give him save a scrap of paper that is likely to be lost or binned.
- I am currently working on sending speculative letters and pitching ideas for potential articles to various publications.
- If you get an opportunity to talk about your specialism, business etc, or to be interviewed then quoted in a publication then take it. Doing presentations at talks and sitting on Q&A panels will work wonders for your professional face unless of course you get a case of flop sweat and start tripping over your words. Seriously, these events showcase what you’re all about and break the ice come the networking stage. If you were engaging enough, people will come to you with questions and want to know more about what you do. I am still waiting for my invitation however I have featured on the BBC website – have I mentioned that already?