My message may be unpalatable to some…

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…certain individuals don’t like plain speaking, preferring to bury their heads in the sand.

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One current ugly stumbling block for all writers these days to be ignored at all costs is the average inbred moron seated at his/her computer who deludes him/herself into believing that what he/she says on a public book based forum, actually matters. His/her kind set themselves up as self-styled critics, typically wittering on endlessly about subjects such as non-American spelling and grammar in books written by anyone living beyond the borders of the US for instance. Thereby clearly demonstrating their ignorance of the English language to the world at large. The aforementioned description while general, nevertheless fits the individuals currently responsible for the majority of one, two and three star reviews for any book you care to name on Amazon, to the detriment of the genuine reviewer.

Not one of them has ever written a book in their entire lives, let alone had one published, and yet they feel it is their bounden duty to harshly criticise, especially when it comes to newbies, no matter whether or not they are self-publishers or mainstream. There are also a few unscrupulous individuals who see absolutely nothing wrong in adding a link to their review of your book, to advertise their own efforts – extremely bad form!

Like most writers these days, I simply fail to understand why Amazon seemingly encourages and condones what amounts to nothing more than often vicious attacks. As a writer, for the sake of your sanity take my advice and never read the reviews. Above all refrain from entering the forums, no matter how indignant you may feel.

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As a successful writer I see far more pressing issues in a lot of what today’s eBooks have to offer. The main one often being the new writer’s poor choice of genre. A lot simply jump on the bandwagon hoping to cash in on what is portrayed as popular by various advertising campaigns by publishers and so-called professional editors and book touts, such as the current trend in nauseating vampire and zombie based stories and what can only be described as badly written pornography (think Fifty Shades of Grey). While it is true to say that largely these genres appeal to the uneducated, those who write more thought provoking novels are left by the wayside, struggling to survive.

Some writers become convinced that niche markets is the way to go, which in reality means the product of their efforts will barely sell in the dozens rather than the thousands.

Face it people, the only book that will sell in its thousands is the one whose subject matter initially provokes curiosity in the mind of the often fickle reader. A growing number of writers cling desperately to the belief that by writing in a largely unpopular genre, the product of their toil will be noticed. How many times recently have I seen writers desperate to sell their wares, spend money time and effort to change a cover for instance and to produce actual paperback copies, which they then hawk around the many small time book fairs, largely at their own expense? In the end none of the aforesaid will make a damned bit of difference if your favourite genre is currently out of fashion. To my mind this kind of thinking is nothing more than an example of self induced vanity press. In other words spending money you can ill afford.

Just remember this – if you have to shell out good money after bad to get your manuscript edited by a so-called professional, you have to recover that cost as well as the cost of the cover and printing before you are in profit – something which a lot of modern day writers ignore at their peril… Remember this – if a book fails to sell in the traditional publishing world it is remaindered (pulped) and a line is drawn under your name with the words DO NOT ACCEPT ANYTHING FURTHER FROM THIS AUTHOR! Traditional publishing hates loosing money. So should you!!!

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Next comes the biggest stumbling block for a lot of writers – editing and proof reading. Many pay someone to edit for them. However, using the ‘look inside’ feature available on Amazon, it would appear that many mainstream editors let alone self-published writers simply fail to use a Spell checker, common to all writing software packages. The same goes for the humble Grammar checker – patently ignored by the majority. How many even use the Look up or Synonym features, accessed simply by right clicking over a word? Not many it would appear…

~~~

We now arrive at colloquial language and writing in the first person. Many fall into the trap of using colloquial language when two characters are conversing within the context of a story – bad idea! The other big no-no is to write in the first person. It is not easy to do. The use of first person is chock full of pitfalls for the unsuspecting. Avoid using it if you can. Loathsome as it may be, even third person is preferable.

~~~

Finally remember this simple fact – the product of all your hard work is just one among millions currently available. If its content doesn’t stand out, especially these days where people prefer to wait until you buckle and offer it for free, (even then there is no guarantee it will be read) it is destined to sit in the literary equivalent of the doldrums for ever more. No amount of cover changes, giveaways and signed copies in an internet contest will increase its chances of becoming a best seller one iota…

Just imagine, you have all of the above to look forward to. Do you still want to publish that book?

😉

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Déjà vu

If this post seems familiar to some of you, it should do. I originally posted it on the 15th of February, 2015. Later I reblogged it. But as you know WP only allows a post to be reblogged once by any given individual. Hence the repost today with a couple of additional points included. Why? Because in these days of don’t read anything longer than a tweet, its message is still relevant – probably more so…

~~~

woodchuck

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
As much wood as a woodchuck could chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.

If you are of a certain age, chances are that you learnt that tongue twister in primary school, just as I did back in the early nineteen-fifties. It is a perfect example of the overuse of specific words, even though in this case it’s just a fun thing for kids to learn and to attempt to recite.

Many emerging writers tend to rely on a limited vocabulary, even though most words have perfectly acceptable alternatives. How many times have you seen specific words endlessly repeated by a new writer? Either that, or the incorrect versions of words.

Chances are you will come across examples of words when writing, which while sounding similar when used in actual conversation between two people, are completely wrong in a given instance within any piece of writing.

Note to self – hmm, a lot of words beginning with ‘w’ in that last sentence. Must watch that. Damn, there’s another one!

If you want an example of similar sounding words think about there, they’re and their. They all sound exactly alike. But in each instance they have a totally different meaning. Even simple words we all use such as and, can and do become seriously overused by most writers. I’m no different in that regard. I’ve even been known to start a sentence with it on occasion, for example the one word question – “And?” But only during a conversation between some of my characters.

What I’m about to say, I’ve said in previous posts here on my blog. But just for you, here it is again – once you have written that first draft, go back over it many times during its edit phase. Make sure that one of your editing sessions is solely dedicated to deliberately finding alternatives of those words you are so fond of using.

How? Use the synonym function incorporated into your writing software in conjunction with a dictionary and thesaurus. Even better, why not rewrite certain sentences using completely different words, that convey the same meaning as the original one?

Before some of you feel an attack of righteous indignation coming on, and are thinking of going on the offensive, I am fully aware that I have used several words in this post more than once. In this instance I am completely justified as I’m merely pointing out that every one of us needs to pay heed to the way we write.

In short folks, do your darndest to avoid using certain words too often. Here are some more similar sounding words that writers tend to get wrong – your and you’re, to and too. Allowed is yet another example of a word that sounds the same when spoken even when spelt differently. Its cousin aloud has a completely different meaning. The list is endless. Is it any wonder that so many people find the English language hard to come to grips with?

~~~

Next, I would just like to point out something to all of the various types of literary cowards who insist upon hiding behind pseudonyms, such as a number of the armchair critics, pedants, grammar nazis, literary snobs etc, who inhabit the darker recesses of the Internet, each of them purporting to know far more about the written word than most writers.

None of us likes a smart arse who deliberately sets him or herself up as a scathing critic.

To all of the above – I can only surmise that what you appear to be suffering from is the literary equivalent of penis envy. Remember this, apart from being counterproductive, jealousy tends to feed on itself. Never forget that. It’s the only reason I can think of for why you deem it absolutely necessary to be so vicious towards not only the newcomers, but also seasoned writers, whether Indie or traditionally published?

First of all, may I suggest that you get over yourselves. Secondly, instead of endlessly criticising new and seasoned writers, by issuing those interminably boring, often repetitious one and two star reviews you are so fond of placing in the public arena, in your pathetic attempts to destroy a writer’s reputation, as some of you still tend to do on Goodreads and Amazon (you know who you are), why not actually try to write a book yourself. Maybe you already have, which probably accounts for the way you behave. But go on, give it another try. Far better to occupy your time by writing a book. Once you do, prepare yourselves for when it is torn to shreds by your fellow trolls. In other words, I’d think long and hard if I were you before you feel the overwhelming desire coming on, to rubbish someone else’s work.

Like most writers, I always refrain from reviewing some books, especially those written by new writers, if they did not succeed in gaining my full attention by drawing me into the story. Believe me when I say that it’s always better to do that, rather than to publicly condemn, and by definition, earn yourself a reputation as yet another vicious troll.

Just cast your minds back to the so-called review of my historical story Autumn 1066 , which I posted here on my blog a few weeks back… If I ever feel the need to offer criticism, it’s usually in the form of advice offered privately, well away from the gaze of the general public, either by email or when chatting to my fellow writers on Facebook.

All disenchanted individuals should try doing the same thing instead of attacking…

😉

Avoid all the literary con artists on the Internet like the plague!

The words on the picture below reminded me yet again about something that sooner or later all writers come across – so-called litarary experts…18032992_1179548492167908_3489112258262059821_n

Somerset was, and still is, perfectly correct. When it comes to writing, no one knows what the rules are. I have no doubt that today’s literary experts, will vehemently disagree with that.

Which begs the question, why should you listen to them? You shouldn’t!

If one of them latches on to you by offering their help, ignore them with a vengeance. Why? Because without exception they are talking through their backsides. How many of them are failed writers? About ninety-eight percent. The remaining two percent have become so-called editors whose only aim is to take your money. Either by editing your MS at so much per word or line of text, or by offering to publish your book, once more at a price, in their capacity as the owner of a Vanity Press.

In the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, flim-flam merchants were easier to spot. People were always on their guard when it came to crooks and charlatans. Once the internet was born it opened up all sorts of money making opportunities for con-artists. Offering editing services was just one…

These days they tend to dazzle the unwary with their fancy internet sites promising to make you famous as a writer, but always at a cost. Some even claim to be professional editors, which is an out and out lie, because there is no such thing. As yet no universally recognised qualification has been devised within the academic world!!!

Don’t dismiss all small press publishers. not all of them are crooks.

Each of us old hands knows at least one good one, depending on the genre they specialize in. One who immediately springs to mind lives in South Africa. He goes by the name Joe Myndhardt. Joe is rapidly making a name for himself. He owns and runs Crystal Lake Publishing, specializing in publishing horror.

If ever there was ever an area where the words ‘buyer beware’ still applies, it very definitely is today’s literary world. If you enter with your eyes closed, I guarantee that you will be fleeced by the unscrupulous, and then some, believe you me…

Of course you are entirely free to ignore my advice. But don’t complain when you find you have been taken for a ride by yet another money grubbing fly by night.

Before you begin to write, take the time to talk to other writers. Those of us who have worked in the literary school of hard knocks for decades, are well worth your while listening to. Remember, we started out just like you as total innocents in what can only be described as the toughest market place there is. We’ve all made, and learned from, the same mistakes waiting in the wings to catch you out, long before you even thought about writing that book…

😉

A thought has just occurred…

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…no, wait a minute. That’s not strictly true.

I’ve been thinking for several years now about why today’s generation don’t read as much as my own did, and still do come to that?

For instance, why do so many of the one, two or three star book reviews on Amazon and other internet book sites, often written by ordinary members of the public, focus on how any given writer approaches dialogue between characters in particular? Why is it that they they feel obliged to go on the offensive?

I believe I know why. Today’s generation relies heavily on visual images such as in films, on television, and even via the Internet, particularly channels like YouTube, for any story to have a chance of gaining their attention.Think about those annoying video clips some writers are forced to put out by their publisher in the vain hope of attracting prospective readers?

If you want a for instance, I’ll give you one! Think about how today’s generation believe that a book’s cover is all important, and not the text! They want to see pretty pictures not words! Think about why so many writers offer up their latest work’s cover for scrutinization across all social media platforms these days? Once again in a vain attempt to attract today’s generation, that’s why!

Quite frankly I can see a time in the not too distant future when illiteracy becomes the norm unless today’s generation buck up their ideas, starting with losing themselves in the pages of a book!

My friend and fellow author Bob Van Laerhoven reminded me of how vital the cover is these days, when he asked me the other day if I had thought about the cover for my work in progress Autumn 1066 yet? Even though we were both joking about it, we know that for it to sell, it will either need a scantily clad buxom young Saxon or Viking female, or a muscular Saxon or Viking warrior in his prime on the cover for it to even be considered by today’s generation! Whether we like it or not, PULCHRITUDE IS WHAT GAINS ATTENTION AND HOPEFULLY SELLS BOOKS TODAY!!!

It’s my contention that because of the highly visual age we live in that today’s generation have completely lost the means to emerse themselves in anything written down, such as a book, unlike my own generation who were brought up on the written word. In other words quite literally they must have everything spelt out for them visually.

Then there are those individuals who when they come across written dialogue, apparently consider it a foreign language. The following example is the rough draft of one particular short piece of dialogue from the story I am in the process of writing, in this instance involving two eleventh century Saxon thegns:-

What do you think Beadurof?” Colby wondered.

About what?”

The shapely hips on the comely wench yonder. Hey Aldred, we’re glad you brought your beautiful niece with you. Oh and just look at the way her hips swing? Not to mention how her shapely rear quivers as she walks. Very desirable, don’t you think?”

Aldred bit his tongue as he fought hard not to smile. Because of Cynric’s tender age and slender build, his nephew could so easily be mistaken for a young female from behind at a distance. Smirking, he briefly glanced in his direction. Cynric’s face flushed bright red with anger at the good natured jibe by one of Aldred’s oldest friends.

“If she gets cold sleeping on her own tonight or any other night, I’ll fight you for the honour of protecting her Colby. I’ll keep her warm, providing she lets me have my way with her that is. So what say you my beauty?” Beadurof replied with a grin on his face as he blew a kiss in Cynric’s direction…

So, did you imagine the scene while reading it? No? Then you are a lost cause…

As a member of today’s generation, its incumbent upon you to tell the rest of us why you find it so difficult to do the same damned thing when reading, instead of wanting it spelt out to you on a silver screen? Seemingly it’s something today’s generation are incapable of!

It would appear that for them to be able to understand the above example at its most basic level, requires that they actually hear the characters speaking, and not via the medium of imaginary voices in their heads. Plus they need to be able to see the characters portray their facial expressions and both their physical and emotional reactions.

I have only this to say on the subject – wake up idiots! What you want is utterly impossible to achieve in a book. Reading a book requires your participation as well. All you have to do is use your imagination! For your information the difference between a book and a visual interpretation of a story via a film or television script is that the former asks you to engage your brain, or if you prefer it – your mind’s eye. Whereas the latter does not. In that instance, all you need to do is to sit in a vegetative state in a darkened room eating popcorn while staring at the silver screen!!!!

~~~

Lastly – I’ve been accused of being overly fond of description, in particular by one of my more vocal peers in the past. You know who you are. 😉

In my defence, I only ever do that when creating the back story. I’m about to disappoint the particular individual once again, when I tell them here on my blog in front of witnesses (metaphorically speaking that is) that my historical adventure Autumn 1066 will be no different. Without a descriptive background constantly running throughout the book it just won’t work. So, you can either like it or lump it while eating your Païdakia my friend.

Rant over. Now I’d better get back to it. First things first – I need another cup of coffee and a smoke…

😉

Are Amazon’s published authors being shafted?

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From their published author’s point of view the answer has to be yes!!!

While the realists among our ranks (myself included) know we will never gain fame and fortune despite our best efforts, when you become a published author you would be forgiven for thinking that once your book(s) has been accepted and published that you are entitled to receive royalties for each copy of your book sold.

That used to be the case with Amazon until they decided to change the rules to save themselves having to honour their side of the agreement in favour of the far cheaper alternative from their point of view – Kindle Edition Normalized Pages!

While the idea of being able to read as many books as you can each month for very little outlay (Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited) may appeal to the avid reader, do any of them for one moment bother to ask themselves whether or not the authors of those books are being provided with royalties for each copy of their book(s) sold by Amazon? I seriously doubt it!

While its true that we do receive a pittance in the form of a few cents for every page read, we do not receive royalties for books sold under the Kindle Unlimited program! In essence what we are subjected to thanks to our books being advertised in Kindle Unlimited is nothing short of blatant exploitation by Amazon!

While we all reluctantly give away a few free copies while promoting a work, regarding it as a necessary evil, what Amazon is doing is outrageous! In essence they deliberately abandoned paying royalties to each author in favour of KU and their cheap skate pay per page read scheme. Did it increase the number of copies bought? No! Nor does the giving away of hundreds of copies in a free promotion, despite what some pro Amazon pundits may say!

As a published author I will never ever obtain a copy of anyone’s book using KU. To do so would be to deprive my fellow published authors of the monetary acknowledgement for their literary endeavours – in other words, their royalty payment. As readers I strongly urge you to consider doing the right thing as well. Buy your copy!

I know there are many tight-fisted individuals who would argue that by getting books using KU they save money, and that in effect they are buying their copy.They could not be more in error if they tried! So the next time you chose a book to read consider paying for it.

DO NOT HIT THE BIG YELLOW ‘READ FOR £0.00’ BUTTON!!!

Before you ask – yes I do have some free copies of ebooks. In total they number less than eight, each one sent to me by their author as a complimentary copy…

😦

On Reading Trends…

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With no book sales since September the twenty-fifth, or sixteen days ago if you prefer, it got me thinking. The other day I was reading one of my old mate Derek Haines’ blog posts from months ago on the subject of what he thinks today’s public seem to prefer when it comes to reading matter.

He looked at the sales figures for the best-selling ebooks at the time of his post. Any book longer than twenty-thousand words didn’t make it into the top twenty. Why? because most people these days, and by that I mean those a lot younger than both Derek and myself, appear to have little or no interest in reading a full length novel. Whether you believe it or not sales figures back up the assertion. Both of us watch the marketplace closely. We’ve become more aware of this latest trend in reading habits in the last several months.

So what’s the answer? It matters little which genre you choose, nor the target audience you aim at. Or for that matter how much money you spent getting your book out there. It appears that for the forseeable future, if you want your book(s) to be noticed by airheads, forget about writing full length novels. Instead it would appear that you must keep your next book’s word count below the twenty thousand ceiling.

As for my generation (the early Baby Boomers born between 1945-50) we’re to long in the tooth to bother about people who do not like to read. We were brought up on novels and so we’ll carry on championing them.

When you read your next novel, don’t keep quiet about it, tell your friends. In the meantime whatever my next book is about, will it be longer than twenty-thousand words?

Stupid question…

😉

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Two links for my books on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Why do we bother to write?

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It’s a damned good question – why indeed?

Writing is a thankless task. To begin with it helps if you have masochistic tendencies. Without a doubt it has to be one of the most disheartening things to engage yourself in these days. Right from the start everything is stacked against you. From the assortment of literary critics, conventional publishing’s gatekeepers and literary agents, not forgetting the trolls, all of them only too happy to trash the product of all your hard work – which is why so many of us prefer to self-publish. But even going down that route has its drawbacks. Then there is the fact that unfortunately we’re living in an era when the majority of the population these days struggle to read anything longer than a tweet. Before you start screaming at me, yes I can hear your hackles rising from here over that last sentence. But whether you like it or not its a fact! How many of you will actually bother to read the rest of this post – maybe a half dozen?

These days authors whose books are read in large numbers (over two hundred thousand) are few and far between – fact!!

Until someone actually dares to tell us to stop writing, not that we’ll take any notice, because we’re masochistic remember; we will persist because we love the written word and what we do. The fact that the product of all our hard work will be lucky if maybe half a dozen copies are bought, no matter how aggressive the marketing, before it rapidly disappears from the public view into the slush pile, particularly on Amazon, is something else to consider.

These days the only way to shift numbers of your latest work is to endlessly give them away. Does that guarantee sales? No! Does it mean that the free copies will be read, let alone reviewed? No!

Even going to the trouble to give the public the chance to sample your book(s), by giving them the opportunity to read the first few chapters using Free Book Preview on Kindle, does not mean that they will bother. I offer this service from time to time on my Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Facebook pages. But like I said earlier, anything longer that a tweet won’t necessarily be read.

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I stated the following on my Facebook page the other day – “Now that ‘Race Against Time’ is out there, I’m back reading through both ‘Fingerprints of the Gods’ and ‘Magicians of the Gods’ by Graham Hancock, looking for the subject for my next novel, having abandoned the idea of writing about my favourite sixteenth century artist, and all round bad boy, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.”

So I have a hell of a lot of reading to do over the next few months while the rest of you are texting each other, taking selfies, or playing games on your Smart Phones, anything but actually reading a book!!!

😉