Originally posted on Ruth Nestvold – Indie Adventures: I am finally (finally!) compiling my “Starting Out as an Indie Author” series into a book, and since I started this weekend, I’ve noticed a couple of things I still need to add. Since the first part of the book revolves around the question, “Is Self-Publishing For…
Originally posted on irevuo: irevuo is about art. And art is about learning new things. That’s why I decided to introduce a new category of posts today. Tutorials. The how-to of making the stuff that we like to call art. The first tutorial? Something I quite enjoy creating. Paperbacks. All about publishing and creating them. Let’s…
It never ceases to amaze me how people (often quite intelligent people) don’t bother to read things beyond what they want to see. Where I work (won’t mention the name) I’m forever yelling things like RTFM (read the f*cking manual) as no one has bothered to read past the first line of the email telling them what is needed, and more importantly how and when. And public wise – honestly – read the bloody info!
KDP-wise – check out the forums BEFORE you ask that question that has been asked a thousand times before. I’ve said it before READ THE FAQ. PLEASE. Years ago when I ventured on the Lulu forums as a noob I got totally roasted as I asked noobie questions and certain folks there really were NOT helpful. Anyway general the KDP folks are but it becomes very tedious with newbies asking the same questions as the person 30 seconds before.
Also if you want advice – then don’t fly off the handle if you’re given it and don’t like what you’re told. There are hundreds of threads asking about why books don’t sell, why the reports are ‘lying’, why the big bad Zon are diddling hardworking authors out of their money and mostly it’s bollocks. There are a number of active forum members who are happy to offer advice, point people towards the relevant FAQ area and try and help, but bitching to them as they’ve told you your book needs more work, or you haven’t registered your bank account etc, and getting snarky is likely to piss people off and remove said advice in the future.
So why isn’t your book selling? There are millions of books available on Kindle, and thousands more are uploaded every day. Why should anyone look at, or even find your book, or mine for that matter?
Promoting and marketing is not Amazon’s job – it’s yours. And it’s hard work, it takes time, patience and a certain degree of luck. There are tons of threads asking for advice on how to go about this. What works for one person might not work for another so there is a lot of trial and error. Here are some of the tactics I use, and have used but there are plenty of others:
Author interviews. Get yourself on blogs and spotlights. There are hundreds if not thousands of blogs that will offer interviews, features and spotlights either free or at low cost. (This one for a start). Obviously there is some effort in this – you have to search around to find suitable blogs – genre related is better but some people do offer to any genre. Ask the host what their following is – what you get – especially if you are expected to pay.
https://princessofthelight.wordpress.com/ – is a great promotional site. The hosters are friendly and although the author does have to pay, it’s worth the money. At roughly $11.50 a shot it’s within the budget of newbies.
Get your own blog/website. Currently we are working on a website to companion the blog and promote my books. Generally it’s useful to have a website – especially if you have more than one book. You can pay, or try and make your own for low cost Try WordPress.com, Wix.com or squarespace.com. I think a blog of some sort is a must. For a start it allows you to network – and this is really important. Generally indie authors are a supportive lot and will reciprocate. Also a blog is a space for readers and followers to get to know you (ditto author interviews). It’s not just about the books. Some people say it takes time away from writing – well yes and no. It does take time away from stories but you are still writing, and honing skills. It makes you think about what to write, who your audience is, what is interesting, what isn’t. Of course many bloggers use their space to share research, or topics that interest them. I’m big on research and I think this also gives the reader some confidence that the author knows what they are talking about.
Facebook: It’s worth getting an author/book page on Facebook.
Here’s mine https://www.facebook.com/LightBeyondtheStorm
Recently I took a foundation diploma in social media marketing and one of the modules dealt with Facebook and ads. I haven’t used a paid ad there yet (I may next year) but there are plenty of free groups that allow promotion. Some people say FB isn’t a good platform – I disagree. I’ve bought books directly from FB promotions and I’ve made good friends, and good contacts from FB.
Twitter: I wasn’t a fan of Twitter and held off getting an account for some while. Does it help? Yes, I think so. It’s a good platform to get the word out.
Why else might the book not be selling?
It’s crap. Of course ‘crap’ is a relative term but generally I mean it’s badly formatted, badly written and well, bad. We’ve probably all seen them: those books in which the English language and grammar are distinctly lacking and plot is absence, or scraped from the internet. Now every author thinks their book is great, but honestly it’s worth making sure it’s well written, formatted properly and (preferably) edited. Do you have a decent cover? A decent synopsis?
KDP don’t have a quality check – that’s your job as well, at least in part. Formatting guidelines can be found here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A12NQC9HQPI9CA
I find formatting for Kindle a lot easier than the other formats but with a decent knowledge of MSword it’s not that tricky. If you don’t have a good grasp of it you may be better to hire a formatter. (That might be a service on offer from us next year) or search the interweb for sites.
It’s worth remembering it takes time to build a following. Very few indie authors release a book and it’s a best seller in a week. It can take years.
There’s a particular poster on the KDP forum who tells newbies to write what sells. If you’re like me you can’t simply sit down and say ‘ah romance is hot this week – I’ll write a romance novel’. Well I can but no one would want to read it. Besides what is popular changes. Tastes change.
It annoys me – substandard ‘popular’ trash uploaded quickly with no care for the reader. There’s a reason indies have a bad rep. Grr.
What I’m rambling about is basically – it takes time, patience and work to sell books. The writing is easy (sort of). Do the best you can with the resources you can spare.
KDP Support Contact https://kdp.amazon.com/contact-us
Chatting with some of my fellow Boo! authors about fear and phobias I remembered the great, and fascinating book I had a while back https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1853263125/
As some of you know – I’m frightened of clowns (Coulrophobia), puppets (Pupaphobia and enclosed spaces (Claustrophobia). I’m not good with crowds or noisy places either, and dolls make my skin crawl. Perhaps I can incorporate some into my characters….
Anyway that got me thinking about what phobias mean and which ones are out there:
The English suffixes -phobia, -phobic, -phobe (from Greek φόβος phobos, “fear”) occur in technical usage in psychiatry to construct words that describe irrational, abnormal, unwarranted, persistent, or disabling fear as a mental disorder (e.g. agoraphobia), in chemistry to describe chemical aversions (e.g. hydrophobic), in biology to describe organisms that dislike certain conditions (e.g. acidophobia), and in medicine to describe hypersensitivity to a stimulus, usually sensory (e.g. photophobia). In common usage, they also form words that describe dislike or hatred of a particular thing or subject. The suffix is antonymic to -phil-.
Ablutophobia – a fear of washing or bathing
Ablutophobia is an extreme and irrational fear of bathing, washing or cleaning. A fear of bathing can be observed in many children, but if this fear carries over into adolescence and adulthood, it often becomes ablutophobia. If left untreated, ablutophobia not only worsens in the physical affect, but also on the social life of the person suffering from the condition. People with ablutophobia will continue to avoid bathing and as a result may have to deal with the alienation and health issues that come with having poor hygiene.
Symptoms of Ablutophobia
Identifying ablutophobia should be quite easy. If the victim of the fear is an adolescent or adult and he or she fits the criteria below, the fear is very likely a genuine disorder. Some common symptoms of ablutophobia include:
- Feelings of dread or panic when the prospect of bathing or washing comes up
- Automatic or uncontrollable reactions in response to the fear
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme avoidance
I can see how this could lead to problems.
Phonophobia, also called ligyrophobia or sonophobia, is a fear of or aversion to loud sounds—a type of specific phobia. It can also mean a fear of voices, or a fear of one’s own voice. It is a very rare phobia which is often the symptom of hyperacusis. Sonophobia can refer to the hypersensitivity of a patient to sound and can be part of the diagnosis of a migraine. Occasionally it is called acousticophobia.
- Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia– fear of the number 666 (or possibly someone passed out on the keyboard….)
This one is based on religious beliefs – 666 being the Number of the Beast from the biblical Revelations. Although interestingly in some ancient Christian Theologists used this to numerically refer to the Emperor Nero, and arguably Domitian. Neither of which have an unblemished track record in dealing with either Christians or other such groups during their reign.
Preterist theologians typically support the numerical interpretation that 666 is the equivalent of the name and title, Nero Caesar (Roman Emperorfrom 54-68). (whose name, written in Aramaic, can be valued at 666, using the Hebrew numerology of gematria), a manner of speaking against the emperor without the Roman authorities knowing. Also “Nero Caesar” in the Hebrew alphabet is נרון קסר NRON QSR, which when used as numbers represent 50 200 6 50 100 60 200, which add to 666.
The Greek term χάραγμα (charagma, “mark” in Revelation 13:16) was most commonly used for imprints on documents or coins. Charagma is well attested to have been an imperial seal of the Roman Empire used on official documents during the 1st and 2nd centuries. In the reign of Emperor Decius (249–251 AD), those who did not possess the certificate of sacrifice (libellus) to Caesar could not pursue trades, a prohibition that conceivably goes back to Nero, reminding one of Revelation 13:17.
Of course the jury is out on who or what the Beast is, was or will be….
The Regans changed their house number from 666 ST Cloud Rd, Bel Air to 668, a runner from a county high school in Kentucky refused to run under 666, forfeiting the chance at qualifying for the state championships, in 2015 US Representative Joe Barton changed the numbers of some bills he was introducing from 666 to 702 due to the ‘negative connotations’.
More phobias to follow in later posts.
An author friend mentioned https://www.bundlerabbit.com/ to me.
Basically it’s a site where an author can upload his or her book and ‘curators’ can bundle books together to sell as a package. Each author gets a share of 70% royalty and the reader gets five, ten or so books to read for a bargain price.
So if the individual book is 1.99 and there are 5 at that price that’s 9.95 but the bundle might be on sale for, say, 7.50. The authors get 5.25 split between them. That may be a sale they wouldn’t have got for the stand alone.
Currently I’m only putting short books in – to see how it goes. It’s a wee bit fiddly, and obviously one has to register and have a paypal account (for royalties).
Readers can look at bundles they want – and either pay what they want or the set price – then the books are downloaded to their Kindle. They can opt to donate some of the price to charity
Copyright stays with the individual authors and they can be sold elsewhere. (Unless you’re in KDP Select – but that’s another case.
More helpful info on publishing on Amazon’s KDP forum:
Creating an account:
Already have an Amazon.com Account?
Sign in to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) with your existing Amazon username and password. (This can be found via the link at the BOTTOM of the homepage.
Don’t have an Amazon Account?
Click “Sign up” from the KDP homepage, provide your email address and select “I am a new customer.” Enter your first and last name, and a secure password.
REMEMBER THESE DETAILS! If you need to contact support they will ONLY respond to the email you provided when you set up the account, or attached to the account if you have changed it. Sometimes people accidentally log in with a new account – this means not only will you not be able to see your bookshelf, your reports etc. but you are actually breaking the TOS. You are only allowed ONE KDP account. One. If you do accidentally create a second account then contact support and explain – ask them to remove it. People have had their accounts terminated for multiple accounts.
You MUST provide your legal name and address when you set it up. This is for tax purposes, and payment purposes. Even if you decide to use a pen name you have to provide your real name (more about pen names in a little bit). Don’t forget this is a LEGAL contract. You must declare any earnings to your country’s tax office, and unless you want to get stung for 30% with-holding to the US IRS you must provide an EIN or your relevant tax codes. This is a rule for any business that sells in the States – not just Amazon. They have no choice. It is also the case for Createspace, ACX, Smashwords, Lulu and any other publishing platform. In fact if you were selling books via your website you’d still have to legally provide this. Of course – if you don’t that is your business – but don’t say you haven’t been warned.
You can access your account details -if you move house/change banks etc) by clicking on ‘Bob’s Account’ or whatever your name might be.
https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AE2UUB8RKZIHN – tax information
https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1OYOT0ESBAU69 – account help
Once you have set up an account, registered your tax number, bank account etc and are ready to publish you can select a DIFFERENT author name if you wish to publish as M Mouse, or D Duck. The first tab you see on your KDP page is BOOKSHELF. This is where you upload your manuscript, cover art, and set the metadata. CREATE A NEW TITLE then follow the steps. If you do wish to use a pen name simply add in the required name – this will attach to your author page and should match the book cover. You can have up to three author pages. Some people like to do this for different genres.
If you co-write only ONE of you can have the book attached to your account, but the other authors can claim it via author central.
Author central is, basically, your author home page where readers can learn about you, see what other books you have and such like. It’s worth setting up a page. (Annoyingly you have to do one per store….)
Don’t forget to claim your books by clicking on bibliography and the typing the ASIN or title of your book and the ‘this is my book’ when it brings up the correct one. Sometimes they automatically attach themselves, sometimes they don’t so it’s worth checking. You can direct fans to your author page. You can also view your recent reviews (see previous on reviews). Here’s mine –
Sales and Orders (again)
I went through this on the last post but I’ll say it again. If the sales you think you’ve had aren’t showing up then either you’re looking in the wrong place or they weren’t sales.
Ignore the graph – that’s ORDERS and collates them all. The reports state actual sales BY STORE. Most indies don’t sell a lot. Sad but true. There are millions of books on offer and it is very hard to get noticed. That said don’t be discouraged- with time, effort and patience your book will start to sell eventually. Decide why you write and what you want and measure success by that. Success is relative. Be realistic – if you have one book then you may not ever sell that many, so write more, blog, do the marketing etc and go with it.
Most of the indies who make a decent living form their books have lots of books, have been in the business for ages and spend a lot of time promoting, blogging, interviewing etc. And some are just lucky. I often see newbies coming on the forums upset because their book is not the latest bestseller. Honestly they expected that? Every author hopes his or her book is the best thing ever but every book can’t be the best….
Let me tell you a story – when I was writing book I my mother was terminally ill with the cancer she’d fought for 18 years. The book was published in June and she passed away in September. Honestly I probably published a bit early but I really wanted Mum to see it. Anyway I produce the first edition (with the old cover) and took one to show her, hoping it would cheer her up. It did, of course. This was a woman who was in pain, knew she only had a few weeks left, and was largely bedbound. Yet she smiled when she saw it. She told all the family, all the neighbours, all the carers. Everyone. It didn’t save her (nothing could by then) but it made her happy, and proud. It gave her something else to focus on. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she held the book. That, to me, is success. THAT makes it worth it. Success is relative.
Writing that book helped me through that awful time, and give me some something else to focus on as well. It gave me peace. Decide why you write – is it for yourself, for the story or to make money? If it’s option 3 you may well be disappointed, if it is option 1 or 2 then you won’t.
I don’t often post my poetry up but having spent the weekend with some military veterans I’ve been reminded of the sacrifice many paid, and still pay so that I may live in a country which is free. Both my parents served in the military, and my father was wounded in action and still carries the scars (physical and otherwise). Admittedly this was not from the WWII but there are few lives in Europe that weren’t touched in some manner by that war. The Normandy Landings were a masterstroke of planning and strategy but it’s hard to imagine, at least for most of us, what went in then and the price paid on those beaches.
There were nearly 20000 casualties (from both sides), including very many dead. Many argue this was the turning point of World War II.
Originally written in 2004 for the 60th anniversary of D-Day – it’s now 12 years on and still rings true. To those who fell, and those who survived – this is for you.
They stand abreast, so proud, so sombre.
Old men now, some blind, some lame,
Upon chests of valour medals gleam.
They reflect upon the past,
Comrades buried beneath the serenity.
They ran on that day, they fell. They died. For our future.
They charged into the mouth of hell,
Upon that summer day.
Numbers dwindling then as now.
Men of such honour,
Heroes of our time.
Then, now and forever.
(c) A.L Butcher, 2004, 2016.
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
Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today.
Please introduce yourself. Hi, I’m Nikki Andrews, AKA Kinan Werdski or Runs With Bears. Long stories.
How did you get into this line of work? Several years ago, a bunch of authors were featured in a collection by a very small local publisher. The editing was so poor that I begged to fix at least the punctuation. That led to a standing position at the company, with more responsibility as time went on. By the time the company folded, I had discovered how much I love the work, and sought out possibilities for freelance and contract work.
Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? Do you have any you love? I don’t accept erotica, porn, or dystopian novels, simply because I don’t like them. I love mysteries, classic sci-fi, and well-written fantasy.
Are you also a writer? If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor? Yes, I am. I self-edit, but also submit to my writing group, and welcome editing by my publisher. If I were self-publishing, I would definitely hire an editor to check my work.
What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors? I think authors short-change themselves by trying to edit their own work. Editing is a different skill from writing, requiring a whole other set of qualifications. Most important of all, an editor is not emotionally attached to a manuscript, and can see where changes need to be made.
Have you ever refused a manuscript? Other than for genres I usually refuse, I rarely turn down work. On occasion I have advised authors that their work needs more than ordinary editing; they may need a writing coach or instructor. In those cases, I’m willing to help, but because the work is much more intense, my fees are accordingly higher.
Have you ever had an author refuse your suggestions/changes? If so how did you deal with it? In my freelance work, a self-publishing author is, of course, free to do what she wants with my suggestions. However, if an author brings me a new story with exactly the same issues as the ones I corrected in his first manuscript, I gently suggest he refer to our previous work together before I contract the new one.
In work contracted to a press, I explain in detail why the change needs to be made and offer alternatives. I cite company policies and contracts, which often require edits to be made to company satisfaction. If all else fails–and this has never happened to me–a book might not be published if the author refuses to make satisfactory changes.
Editors often receive a bad press in the writing community, what are your thoughts on this? As an author, I understand the feeling. Editors criticize your book, which is like a stranger criticizing your child. But for an editor, it’s never personal; it’s always about improving the work. We may have different ideas on what “improvement” means, even among ourselves, but the goal is always to polish the gem.
Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word Manuscript. Regardless of length, I start with the big picture, the content. Is the story compelling, the characters well-rounded, the setting realistic within its genre? Does every scene serve a purpose, whether to advance the plot, develop the world, or deepen the emotion? The key question here is, “Do I want to read more?” If not, why not, and what can be done to make it more engaging?
Then (and often simultaneously) I do the line editing, which encompasses finding the right words, clarifying point of view, checking the flow of dialogue and narrative, verifying consistency, rooting out anachronisms, and more. Finally (and again simultaneously) I check grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
What is the difference between proof-reading and editing? Good question. Some people are under the impression that editing is making sure commas are in the right place. Nope, that’s proof-reading, which looks for the sort of errors that creep in when you’re writing in the middle of the night: there/they’re/their, or is/are, or !/? Proof-reading is “proving,” in the original sense of “testing,” that the text is exactly what you meant it to be, with all the p’s and q’s correct and every word in the right place. It’s a very painstaking process, but different from editing.
Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t? I love watching stories and characters come alive, and seeing writing grow stronger and more dynamic. I hate teaching how to punctuate dialogue.
Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? What genre do you enjoy the most? Housework can wait. Cooking can wait. Visiting relatives can definitely wait. I’d much rather read. I probably read more mysteries than anything else, but I also enjoy science fact and fiction, mainstream fiction, and history.
If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?” As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always “edited” my reads. If a book can make me switch off, I dance.
What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? Get some nuns to teach you basic grammar. Preferably with a ruler across the knuckles. Failing that, and in addition, read some good style guides. Study well-edited books (ask your librarian for suggestions) and figure out what makes them special. Take a course or two or five. Read. Read. Read.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit? Don’t.
Tell us a silly fact about yourself. I settle editorial disagreements with hard copies of Roget’s or CMOS at ten paces.
Please add any links to your blog/website etc.
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?