Writers…

Smart-Phones-Chaning-World

… meet the real reason for the demise of your book sales. I give you the Smartphone!!!

For book sales to once again occur, people have to be forced to put down their habit forming highly addictive Smartphones and apps, for them to even begin to want to read anything longer than a headline or a Tweet. Let alone to suggest they might actually like to expand their minds by reading an entire book. Lets face it, as writers we have to acknowledge that a paradigm shift has taken place in the last few years when it comes to the younger generation, since constant use of Smartphones has created short attention spans and fleeting gratification in their users!

The novelist Howard Jacobson said it best in this recent article. “Blame the reader!” I completely agree with him. For a change publishers aren’t the bad guys – highly addictive technology is!

Just think of the reaction of your own kids and grandkids when you tell them to turn their device off when you are trying to eat and hold a family discussion around the dinner table, or in your living room. I can hear their moans and groans from here can’t you? A handful of schools here in the UK have a no Smartphone policy, taking their student’s devices from them until the school day is over.

Do they ever learn anything worthwhile from their Smartphones? Doubtful. If needs be, force them to read a book by threatening to take away their Smarphones. If that doesn’t work then tell them that their device is freely accessed by the authorities without their knowledge which is true by the way. In the UK’s case the organisation concerned is GCHQ, Government Communications Headquarters.

It should come as no surpise that Big Brother loves to eavesdrop on us. They also love to know our online habits – be they savoury or otherwise. The aforementioned are just two things that greatly interest the authorities in today’s increasingly paranoid world.

Needless to say, I do not possess a Smartphone, nor do I want one. The chief reasons being the exorbitant purchase price for something which has already reached its sell by date before you even buy it. The other is the miniscule screen size. This laptop’s screen is small enough.

Don’t get me wrong, technology is a wonderful thing. After all without it we would all still be living in caves. But to become its slave is never a good idea. Something the Smartphone generation has yet to learn…

PS – by the way, GCHQ has access to every site I use here on my laptop, even though I regularly delete my search history as part of my laptop housekeeping to free up space on its hard-drive. But then again I’ve got nothing to hide.

🙂

 

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I wonder…

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… how many readers of our books realise how much of ourselves is contained within the pages? Reality dictates that in all probability the answer to my question is less than the number of fingers on one hand.

Yesterday I watched a video of my friend the best selling author Michael Jecks and Karen Maitland discussing what goes into any story for a gathering of book lovers.

Unlike the first timer we don’t just sit down and start writing thousands of words in the vain hope that something might work. Those who think that NanoWrimo is best are fooling themselves. No book worth reading ever emerged from that approach.

Long before we begin we start by researching the idea that just won’t go away. As a consequence, during a protracted period of time the original idea may be forgotten in favour of something far more interesting. Ask Michael, he knows…

Then comes many sleep deprived months writing the first draft, followed by many rewrites. In other words writing is bloody hard work often for very little gain.

While the idea of having a book you wrote published may sound wonderful to the unitiated, the reality of the matter is that once its out there your work is not over. Because now you enter the bewildering minefield of promotion. It doesn’t matter how good your book is, if the general public aren’t interested enough to even read the first few pages to gain a flavour of it either online or at your nearest bookshop, no amount of continuous advertising makes any difference. This applies particularly to any and all Independent writers, those of us who are bloody-minded enought to go it alone without the backing of a traditional publishing house.

There are always online sites out there that want your book to add to their comprehensive list of free books. Avoid them like the plague. Don’t think for one moment that by offering your book for nothing, that the tightwads will ever wish to pay to read your work. They won’t. By all means offer your work at a reduced price for a fixed number of days during any calendar month if it’s not selling. But that’s it!!!

To that end my most recent short novella Autumn 1066 will be on offer for $0.99 over the next few days via Amazon.com.

Here endeth the lesson.

PS – A few days ago I was contacted via Facebook by a person purporting to be an American actress I greatly admire. Whether or not I am really in contact with her remains to be seen. I got the impression that she wanted to get to know me better. When I suggested that to do so she might care to read one of my books she went quiet. Needless to say she hasn’t been back in contact with me. Sadly the chances are that the person who contacted me isn’t who I hoped it is. The same thing happened last year. That time it turned out to be a scammer looking for money. In that instance they picked on the wrong person…

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Food for thought from my friend Bob Van Laerhoven…

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Hi,

Is “Return to Hiroshima” still relevant in this era? Decide for yourself after reading this guest post on Toe Six Press:

Click: https://t.co/3kV3SBoBeE?amp=1 

Or read:

Author Article: Literature Resonates by Bob Van Laerhoven

Image may contain: 1 person, beard, drink and indoor

Lately, many people ask me if I think literature is still meaningful in this era of rapidly progressing digital technology: fast changing communication, the many ways of experiencing movies, streamed television series and news.

Literature does matter in our time. In any era.

I’ll explain this with an example of my own work.

Return to Hiroshima is my latest novel in English. As the first city ever struck by a nuclear bomb, Hiroshima became an iconic symbol. A novel with that city in the title inevitably refers to that moment in time that changed human history forever.

Why write a work of fiction in which the nuclear detonation plays such an important role? It’s easier, and faster, to stream a documentary about the subject, or to be carried away by watching an after-the-bomb movie.

That would make us informed, correct?

In a way, yes, but, in my eyes, literature has an added value. It can provoke in us an empathic understanding of the consequences of nuclear warfare.  That’s something else than being informed.

Moreover, are we as informed as we think we are? The answer is a bone-dry “no”. Mass-media and social networks spread “news bytes” every second around the globe but have desensitized us to a certain degree to the deeper meaning – or consequences – of the experience behind information.

What do you think about the heightened possibility of a WWIII, which has been all over the news lately?

***

Tensions are on the rise. A new World War is nearer than ever since the end of the Cold War. Democratic regimes seem to loose the battle against dangerous demagogic populists and dictators: Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Vladimir Putin in Russia,  and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, to name but a few.

Never before was the turbulent Middle East such a chaos of shifting alliances and growing animosity.  Iran and Saudi-Arabia are competing for hegemony in the region and build nuclear facilities that can be used to produce nuclear weapons. The US, Russia, and Turkey – with China looming at the horizon – support different factions in the civil war in Syria… They are allies today and enemies tomorrow. No-one seems to have a sound strategy, a solution, for the region.

It’s obvious that the seemingly endless Syrian civil war could become the trigger of a new worldwide conflict. The airstrike in April of the coalition of US, UK and French forces on the chemical weapon installations of Bashar al Assad’s regime triggered so much international unease that the most important question for the coming  months (years?) seems to become: how close are we to WWIII?

People tend to react to this question with a curiously abstract resignation. When prodded a bit, they usually confess that they can’t fathom how it would be, a nuclear conflict across the globe. Usually they end the conversation with an uneasy, “They won’t let it come that far, will they? I can’t imagine they would.“

***

One of the problems of the modern digital society is precisely that mass-media and social networks have wreaked havoc on our ability to use our imagination. As a result, the all too real possibility of a nuclear WWIII seems inconceivable.

And that, my dear friends, is truly dangerous. Our leaders are not smarter, wiser, or more mature than we are. And they sure do not have more imagination… except in one area – their endless dreams of their growing power.

This is the point where literature can step in. You may have trouble imagining what a nuclear conflict would be like, but literature can.  Moreover, it does this on a one-on-one basis.

A one-on-one basis in this era of mass-communication? Do I hear your Gargantuan laugh booming?

I like movies and television series, even games and social networks, as much as anybody. But I notice that, when spending too much time with these media, my level of thinking is reduced to a receptive, confined mode. The essence of a story often slips away from me like water from a seal.

This is not the case when I read. A novel resonates within me. Words can convey sensations that even the most sophisticated visual media cannot. Words can vibrate with layers of meaning, they can produce flashes of feeling (which is different than experiencing emotion), and they can make the reader emotionally receptiveThe power to step into the story, not wandering on the outskirts of it, is readily available.

I know, I know: you’ve heard this story before. Since the advent of mass-media, countless philosophers and artists have hammered on similar reasoning. You’re probably sick and tired of being advised to read fiction. Why should you, when watching movies is so much easier?

You may argue reading novels takes time, a certain effort, which is getting more difficult with every minute. Stress on the job, stress in traffic-jams, stress at home with children. Stress of not having posted a witty message on Facebook for two days…..

You have every right to think so, but in my view, literature, more than any  other art-form or entertainment, gives you the opportunity to interrogate yourself about the meaning of life: what exactly power or wealth is, how the world is evolving, what kind of society we live in…. The list is endless.

To interrogate yourself is a lot different than being shown what it is all about.

It’s not per se better.

But definitely different.

***

I admit willingly that I present the situation rather black-and-white in this post. But so is the question I hear so often: do you really think that literature can offer something more than, say, Netflix? It’s nearly always about who or what wins, not about differences. We don’t like differences anymore; we want to see winners and losers.

And that, dear friends, is a dangerous attitude, won’t you agree?

So, as an experiment, try something different. Watch a thrilling, shocking movie about the consequences of a nuclear conflict. There are a lot of gripping movies about that theme out there.

And, afterwards, read a novel about the same subject. There are a lot of gripping, passionate novels out there with this theme.

I want to share a few lines with you from Return to Hiroshima, a story set in Japan in 1995. In one of the chapters, a Seizon-cha, a survivor of the nuclear bomb called “Little Boy”, recalls some of the scenes he witnessed and could never forget.

***

A woman staggered past the burning buildings with a baby in her arms. The heat had caused the baby’s skin to peel. He was limp and motionless in her arms.

A man tugged at the body of a teenager buried under the rubble. The boy’s skull was cracked open and brain tissue was hanging out of the wound. He had lost his right eye. He was calling out for his mother, his voice clear and steady. The man had pulled away enough rubble to see that both legs had been crushed. He tried to lift the boy. He succeeded. He continued on his way, the boy motionless in his arms.

A girl, blood gushing from her mouth, stumbled through the ruins of a school. Hands shot up from the rubble, bloody and smoldering. They tried to grab the girl by the ankles. Voices begged: “Take me with you, take me with you!” In panic she kicked at the hands and ran on, her arms outstretched as if she was blind.

Hundreds of people tried to reach the river Aioi. They screamed for help, lost direction in the ash-filled clouds of smoke, and fell exhausted to the ground before they could reach the banks of the river and baked like clay stones in the raging fire.

                                                                 ***

How did this excerpt make you feel?

Reading literature resonates.

An Open Letter…

jeff-bezos

… asking Jeff Bezos to help himself and his contributing authors.

Dear Jeff,

We all know that the only thing you fear is the loss of income. I wonder if you are aware how much you are losing from non sales of ebooks in your literary section? Currently you have several million books of ours consigned to the literary equivalent of purgatory. Why? Because of your company’s ridiculous rating system, designed to consign a book to oblivion in a couple of days after it goes live on Amazon if it isn’t instantly bought in its thousands by the general public worldwide.

Someone close to you who you trust needs to make you aware of how much lost profit is currently sitting on your electronic shelves! It’s bad enough that you allowed your minions to come up with ways of saving money by changing the rules regarding the pittance paid out to authors. I refer of course to the current KENP program (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) read, where if the author is lucky they will receive approximately .003 of a cent/penny per page.

Instead of just looking at the books in the top one hundred Jeff, isn’t it about time you started reminding the reading public of the world via a dedicated ongoing advertising campaign using email, Twitter, Facebook and the rest, that you have several million books just waiting to be read?

Oh, by the way; instead of presenting readers with all you can read for free, do the decent thing and revert to paying proper royalties to your authors.

Kind regards,

Jack Eason – author of Autumn 1066, Goblin Tales, Turning Point, Race Against Time, The Guardian, The Forgotten Age, Celeste, Cataclysm and The Next Age…

Bezos’ book graveyard

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Ever wondered how to remove a book from the reading public’s gaze? Simple. Publish it exclusively on Amazon!

The company’s CEO Jeff Bezos only cares about profit. When he realised he was losing money by paying royalties to each and every author who make their book available only through his company, he put a stop to the time-honoured practice.

From the readers point of view Amazon’s all you can read for X dollars/pounds per month makes sense. The problem is that because of the way it is set up, the author gets next to nothing. Why? Because no copy of the book is actually bought, only ever borrowed and read. All the author receives is less than $0.0003 of a cent per page read!

Even if you are foolish enough to spend money in an attempt to promote your book. If it is only on Amazon, after a few days it will disappear anyway alongside the millions of others in Bezos’ graveyard for books, thanks to one of Amazon’s algorithms, specifically designed to bury your book. Of course something else may account for its disappearance from the top one hundred. It simply may not appeal to the general reader. Even so, the way Amazon’s book division is set up is not conducive to long term book sales, particularly where Indie books are concerned.

You would think that a man whose net worth currently stands at US$116.8 Billion would appreciate how his author’s feel. He doesn’t. All he cares about is increasing his fortune! Since he changed the rules in his favour, is it any wonder that so many people have stopped buying a copy of any book on his lists. Instead they wait until an author realises that sales of their book(s) have ground to a halt and foolishly decide to offer it for free, using KDP’s up to five-day giveaway program, once every ninety days.

Bezos completely destroys the myth that a publisher cares for his authors, and by all accounts he isn’t exactly enamoured with his warehouse staff worldwide either. The UK ones are paid as low as £6.65 per hour.

If anyone reading this still thinks he is a good guy, take a look at his Prime Video streaming system. Currently it’s costing UK residents £7.99 per month. Then on top of that there is the cost of hiring or buying a copy of any of the films on the site. Compare that to Netflix’s £7.49 per month with no additional costs involved.

I rest my case…

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I still don’t get it!

reading

How can you possibly ‘Like’ a blog post unless you have taken the opportunity to actually read it in the first place. It makes no sense whatsoever! I’ve had totally illogical responses in the past. One stands out. I’m talking about people who think that clicking ‘like’ is good. It is, but it isn’t! All it shows is that you can’t actually be bothered to read the post in question! If you did, I’m betting that you would feel compelled to comment!

We all know that while there are millions who still love to read, the majority who class themselves as writers these days, especially on all forms of Social Media – simply aren’t. Instead they pontificate endlessly on the English language and its use. I would suggest that these people have yet to write a book of their own!

In complete contrast, one or two of us like myself and my fellow authors Adele Marie Park, Seumus Gallacher, Bob Van Laerhoven and Allan Hudson to name a few, are actually the genuine article. We don’t spend our entire time just talking about writing. We are writers in the truest sense of the word. We also read work by others, be it a book or a blog post!!!

Now back to the totally illogical practice of ‘Liking’ blog posts. The whole concept of why people do it without reading the post before them in the first place is utterly beyond me. After all, you wouldn’t ‘Like’ or dislike a sculpture, painting or play without familiarising yourself with it first!

Well would you?

All I’m asking is that you break a bad habit. Start with this post. Don’t just click ‘Like. Comment on it for goodness sake! Even if as one of the writers out there who thinks that you are gaining Brownie points by following my blog and others, you completely disagree.

One thing is abundantly clear. I’m not the only one needing answers as to why it is people feel compelled to just ‘Like’ blog posts, while neither reading nor commenting. Help me and everyone else make sense of this utterly nonsensicle practice.

I have to say it makes me wonder why people bother to ‘follow’ my blog, or anyone else’ for that matter if they have no intention of reading the posts we provide. Perhaps seeing how many blogs you can follow is today’s equivalent of collecting stamps. I would remind you that even stamp collecting requires much more from its participants than merely liking those little bits of paper!!!

😉

Why do writers write…

jk-rowling

J.K Rowling

…when they know that there are bitter and twisted individuals who don’t want you to succeed. Those who can’t wait to attack your book(s)!!!

You may as well ask why do painters paint, or sculptors sculpt. Like them, we  writers have a burning desire within us to produce something for posterity. In our case, for your reading pleasure. The serious writer isn’t in it for the money, only the story. Nor are we attempting to become famous during our lifetimes, just to be read.

Sculptors use chisels and other tools to release that statue trapped inside the block of marble. Painters use brushes, palette knives and all manner of paints and pigments to produce that painting which you admire so much in an art gallery. Whereas we use words to paint a picture for your imagination to feast upon.

By its very nature, writing is a solitary occupation. You have to have a writer’s soul and a total commitment to the craft, not to mention a steely determination.

An editor or a teacher of English can give you an explanation for every part of speech in the English language, be it verb; adverb, noun or pronoun, etc, etc. But if you are a writer, what a particular word is formerly categorized as by the academically minded is utterly irrelevant? Leave that kind of thing up to the so called editors and critics of this world. Does a sculptor need to know how to make a chisel, or a painter how to make a paint brush? No. In our case what matters is knowing how to use words to their best effect. To achieve that takes years of practice.

To aid us in writing that story for you, we employ our equivalent of brushes and chisels by spending endless hours researching and fact-finding as well as using our dictionary and thesaurus for the best possible choice of word, plus by reading the works of others.

So, the next time you feel the overwhelming desire to pass judgment on a book you have just read, pause for a moment and ask yourself this simple question, “could I have written it any better?” If you are honest, chances are the answer will be no. Why? Because despite all of your efforts to dissuade others from reading it, the real reason is that you have never, ever written a book worth a damn!

Further to that point, in a post on Facebook a couple of years ago, put out by the BBC about J.K Rowling sharing some of the rejection letters she received over the years with would-be writers, certain sarcastic armchair critics, every one of them insanely jealous of her success, immediately went on the attack by amongst other things, claiming she can’t write. Nothing surprising there. Most social networking sites and internet forums automatically attract highly opinionated hate filled individuals. Not prepared to simply let them get away with it, I posted the following comment in support of Joanne – “I see a hell of a lot of envy by people who should know better going on here.

It’s interesting that after I’d posted my comment the criticism slowed to a trickle, particularly when many other people agreed with me. One of them went as far as saying to one of the critics, “tell you what, why don’t you give me the name of a book you’ve written?” Not unsurprisingly they received no reply.

While Joanne will never know how we rallied to her defense unless one of you tells her, it’s nice to be able to silence a handful of the highly vocal idiots out there from time to time, don’t you think.

Score one for all writers…

😉