Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Archive for June 2008

Another useful tip I got through confidence coaching was to find a model of excellence- a writer you admire and want to be like.

I don’t know why I struggled so much to find mine. I enjoy the work of Martin Amis, although my writing is not of that literary bent, and I can’t identify with Amis’s background. J.K. Rowling was suggested, but I thought a model who wrote closer to my genre (sort of thriller) would be more appropriate.

Then it struck me- a successful writer who strays between genres, whose technique I admire and sometimes consciously emulate is Dean Koontz.

I told Lynn Grocott, my confidence coach, that I had identified my model of excellence and she said: ‘Right. Now you need to stalk him.’

‘What?’

‘Stalk him. Track him down any way you can, find out what got him where he is and do what he did.’

There are websites which will give you, sometimes at a small cost, addresses of celebrities including writers or their agents. When I found Dean Koontz’s address it looked sort of familiar- and I realised that I had actually seen it before in several of his books. Dean actually wants people to write to him- this was going to be easy stalking. But would he reply?

I wrote my letter, beginning ‘Dear Mr. Koontz…’ (I don’t think overfamiliarity is respectful,) thanked him for the pleasure I’d derived from his work and commented on his positive portrayal of people with learning disabilities.

I then went on to explain that I had written a novel, would appreciate any advice, and would he maybe like to see a section…

Then I posted it.

About three weeks later an envelope arrived from the States. It was packed with articles and pamphlets about writing and about Koontz’s work, and contained not only one but two letters.

The first leter said that he was busy so had to send out a standard response, although the signature (‘for what it’s worth’) was his. But under the signature, in the same handwriting, was a note to see attached letter.

The second letter explained that his attourney forbade him to comment on anyone’s writing. That is understandable- I would be the first to submit to a publisher with a letter which said Dean Koontz liked it.

The rest of the letter advised that anyone writing their first book is better to concentrate on the ‘High Concept novel.’ The high concept novel is something which can be described in two sentences which will make a publisher salivate. The example he gave was ‘Jurassic Park’:

Scientists have created dinosaurs. Now they are loose.

One example of a high concept Dean Koontz novel is ‘Velocity,’ although he admits that at his level he is free to experiment.

So that is the advice from the master: the high concept novel. I am currently working on one: ‘Legion’s Daughter,’ at the same time as trying to publish ‘Tasting the Wind.’

Since writing to Dean Koontz I have also discovered his excellent website. Amongst other things it contains podcasts of Dean talking about his experiences as a writer, and they are well worth a listen. Although the cynical would say that it is excellent marketing and self-promotion I would like to think that this is a writer who looks after his fan base.

Someone once said that successful people are not to be looked up to, but looked into. Choose your model of excellence, find out all that you can, write to them, if possible interview them, then do what they did.

They made it. Why shouldn’t you?

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It may not pay immediately, or at all, but if you want to publish your thoughts to a potentially huge international audience, you can do so here and now.

Blogs are one example, another is the ezine.

I am an ‘expert author’ on ezines.com (not to be mistaken for the subtly different ‘ezine.com,’ which you have to pay for.)

 

All you have to do is write an article on a subject about which you are passionate (or at least know something about,) and upload it.

Your first articles will take about a week to appear (after that you get upgraded to platinum, and it’s a shorter process.) All work is edited to make sure that it adheres to their rules of publication.
The editors are very strict about the rules, which is a good thing, because it means that people are not disrespecting their readers, and children are not going to read things they shouldn’t.

I once tested one of the rules, and was found guilty. I sent in an article based on a Blog I’d written about different writers’ approaches. I’d mentioned that some writers start at the beginning and, with no plan, go where the novel takes them. My comment was that ‘I couldn’t write like that as long as I’d got a hole in my ****, or if you’re American ***.’
The article took a little longer to go through the editorial process than others had, so I guessed that there may have been some debate about my asterisks (no pun intended.)

Eventually I got an email which said that I had contravened a rule by including a serious profanity in my article. I’m not sure whether they meant ****, or ***, so removed both, resubmitted, and it was immediately published.

Another rule regards self-publicity. A blog can be unashamedly self-publicising and narcissistic. I could publish pages of:

memememememememememememememememememememememememememememememememe…
and it would stay there. An ezine article has to be about a subject other than yourself.

You are, however, allowed to put in two ‘self-serving’ links to other sites.

At first I submitted articles purely about writing. These had links to my Blog and YouTube videos. I then decided to write an article about another interest of mine- house rabbits.

Now although I enjoy sharing knowledge (and it is a nice feeling for a writer to know that someone somewhere is reading his stuff, whatever it’s about) the main reason for my web presence is to get my novel ‘Tasting the Wind’ out there.

But there is nothing more annoying than finding that an interesting article has links which are nothing to do with the subject, and are probably trying to sell you something.
So on my House Rabbit article I have put one link, which is to my MySpace page, where you can see pictures and videos of cuddly bunnies. Oh… and you can hear or read the prologue to my novel… but that just happens to be there…

Another thing that you are asked not to do with your ezine articles is reproduce your Blog, because if one of your links is your blog page then it’s a little bit boring for your readers to be directed from your articles to identical content.
I have to admit to doing this at first, although I have tried now to add some variation, hence the House Rabbit article.

One Blog which I turned directly into an article was my ‘DaVinci Code’ parody, ‘The DaDisney Code.’ Interestingly, this got the most immediate hits and the greatest number of URL clicks- most of them checking, I imagine, if I was still roaming the street and, if so, was I in their neighbourhood.

The lesson, I think, is that referring to big names and well known reference points such as Dan Brown and the DaVinci code will draw more attention than ‘Allan Mayer’s ideas on writing.’
Which brings me to Dr. Who. The new series is currently approaching its climax on British Television. The show is so big that Dr.Who is ranking very highly as a top search on Google. So… my current ezine submission which, as I write this, is pending publication, is about Dr. Who.
I have added one link, which is my website. Which just happens to mention ‘Tasting the Wind.’

Did I tell you that I’d written a novel…?

 

So how do you get people to listen to your talking book on your YouTube channel?
Firstly, you need to add the right ‘tags.’ These are the key words which describe what your video is about- the sorts of words that someone might use to search for such a channel.

One site that I read suggested that as the greatest number of searches are to do with sex, adding phrases such as MILF and BBW to your tags could increase your traffic (if you don’t know, I’m not telling.) The problem is that as it’s the biggest search, due to the laws of supply and demand you would therefore be competing with a large number of websites. You might attract the odd viewer (some of them very odd viewers,) but I would imagine that once they find that it’s you reading your novel and not some buxom dominatrix they will probably leave and never come back. I know I would.

One idea I had which generated immediate hits was to send an email to everyone in my contacts list, explaining what I was doing, asking them to pass the message on to all of their contacts, and so on. You can see the email at: http://thelynngrocottacademy.bravehost.com/experiment.html
and if you feel well disposed toward me you might want to cut and paste it into an email and send it on. (you don’t get anywhere if you don’t ask.)

Another way to get noticed on the net is a blog. You’re reading this, aren’t you? So you’ve noticed me. So give it a go. Apparently search engines love blogs.

Once you’ve got the blog out there link it to other sites including social networking sites such as: facebook myspace bebo and wayn. You can also put your vids on these.

To get your blog out use Bloggupp and Zimbio. Paste your URL (The address of your page ) onto Pingoat whenever you add a new Blog, and this will send it out to Blog search engines, including Technorati, which you can join for free.

Set up a Squidoo lens. Also try Diggit and stumbleupon where your page will come up randomly for anyone who has registered an interest in the subject you are writing about.

If any of this is like a foreign language to you, it was to me a couple of months ago. Just Google any of these names to find out more. There is also a list of sites and instructions about how to submit your Blog dirctly to Google and Yahoo at Blogfusion.com. just don’t leave your Blog, webpage, or YouTube contribution sitting there- feed the flames, it will be worth it.

I’ve probably bombarded you with too much information already- I’ll leave ezine articles for next time.


As Featured On Ezine Articles

It was a guy called David Hyner http://www.stretchdevelopment.com/ that came up with the suggestion that I record excerpts of ‘Tasting the Wind’ and upload them onto YouTube.

The idea was that I put several chapters on to the site, and that this would eventually generate sales. These could be hard copy (once I’d got some hard copies) or ebooks.

My first thought was that I hadn’t got a camera and couldn’t afford one. So I sat on the idea for a couple of weeks. Then it occurred to me that I did have a Skype set, which consisted of a webcam and microphone.

Until that point I didn’t know if a skype set could record- but it can. And it was inexpensive: I had purchased mine at Argos for £20.

You can choose what you want to show on YouTube- a film of you reading, or something else. For two good reasons I chose something else.

Firstly, YouTube made me look like a fat, bearded slaphead. Which is strange, because in real life I actually look like Brad Pitt.Secondly, the still which people have to click onto to see your video is taken at random from your submission, so you can guarantee that you will have been caught at the split second when your expression was that of a mentally deranged axe murderer.

 

So I opted for my videos to show a single screen, which is different versions of my book cover. As the book is not published yet I had to design my own (something you will have to do anyway if you publish through a Print on Demand site such as Lulu.com.)

Think what would represent your book. You can use your own artwork or photography, if you’re that way inclined, or get pictures from Google images. You will need a photo imaging programme which allows you to cut, paste and merge images- as long as you are creative and avoid anything with a copyright.

I chose to have a grey victorian instituion as the backdrop for a bright red balloon, which has some symbolic significance in the novel.

Not appearing on the ‘video’ can also be an advantage in that it can improve your voice. As no one can see you you can act it out- pull faces, throw your arms around- whateverer it takes to get some drama and changes of tone into your reading. (If you have written your book using a word processor it is useful to read from the screen to free up your hands and to avoid rustling paper.)

All you have to do now is to get a YouTube account, which is free, and upload your video- or in this case talking book.

Simple as that. Well not quite…

It’s no use having parts of your book sitting on YouTube if no one’s going to look at it.

Next: generating web traffic.

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My 2007 copy of the ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book’ is full of useful articles by published authors. I haven’t got the 2008 version, but I can guarantee that even though they say that the content changes every year the message will be the same: If you want to get your book onto the shelves you need tenacity, staying power, and a positive mental attitude.

Funny how none of them mention the mental attributes of a box of frogs…

I remember the day I completed my novel, thinking naively that I would send it off, maybe get a few rejections, but that by this time next year…
When it doesn’t happen it is easy to get disheartened. Read accounts of how bestselling writers went through the same. Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is a good one.

In the 2007 Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook J.K. Rowling tells of how getting rejection slips made her feel like a real writer. I feel so sorry for her not having the chance to feel that way again that I’m going to send her some of mine in return for her fortune and movie franchise.

I have found confidence coaching a useful tool. (For more information go to http://thelynngrocottacademy.bravehost.com/coaching.html or read Lynn’s book, ‘Cut the Strings.’)

What I would highly recommend is that you find a confidence coach. You can read about the techniques, but there is no substitute for having a real live person helping you along. These days this doesn’t have to be face to face- Lynn Grocott coaches by phone, by email and through Skype.

One of the main tools that I have used is the pyramid. Draw a pyramid with lots of bricks with room to write in. Put your goal at the top- e.g. ‘I want to see my book on Amazon.’ This is what you are working towards. Do you believe that? If so you will be working towards that until you achieve it, or for the rest of your life- whichever comes first.
The bricks at the bottom will contain those things you need to do first- e.g., if you’ve not already done so, write the novel. Others will be about research you have to do, browsing publishers websites, completing your synopsis and application letter etc.
Many publishers these days like to see that a writer can help market themselves, so marketing should come in there somewhere.
Your pyramid will be topped by a massive goal, but the steps below will be things that are easy to achieve. And as you achieve them cross them off or highlight them. This is really helpful when you feel like your goal is a long way off.
And do something every day. You may think that you don’t have time. That something may be a five minute phone call, or a browse on the internet for writing or publishing sites. It all feeds into the pyramid and gets you a little closer to your goal.

GOOD LUCK

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Once upon a time in Fairy Dairy land a man wrote a book. It was a special book because it contained a little bit of his heart and a lot of his soul. He tried to get it published, but no one would believe in the book like he did.

One day he found a bottle, and when he rubbed it a genie popped out, who turned out to be an author. The Genie sent the man’s book to her publisher, they published the book, and the man lived happily ever after. 

Of course it doesn’t happen like that in the real world. I had been reunited with my old friend, Lynn Grocott, who had already published. She got me in contact with her publisher, Lean Marketing, who were very helpful and encouraging, but as a small publishing house only specialised in specific titles and subjects. I got an email explaining that at present they were after books about people making their home in Spain. As ‘Tasting the Wind’ is about people with learning disabilities and a psychopathic nurse, I couldn’t find a single link between it and Spain (although Spain must have its fair share of both,) so gave up on that one.

Lynn passed my details on to several of her contacts in the world of publishing and PR. The publishing contacts didn’t handle my sort of material, but I suddenly felt like a serious writer- emailing and phoning publishers and PRs for advice. After the years of writing and rejection slips I was getting quite a buzz from this.

Now for a bit of name dropping.

The networking in which I was suddenly involved was linked to the confidence coaching process (more on this in a later blog.) Lynn told me of a friend of hers who had become a successful author through using the methods she was teaching me.

Soon I was in touch with Andy Cope. Admittedly I had never heard of him at that point, but if you have children you may have done. Andy is the author of the ‘Spy Dog’ series; he is presently working on Spy Dog 5.

Andy wrote to me with some good advice (again, his agent couldn’t help me because he specialised in children’s literature, but hey, I’m communicating with another published author here!) and he asked if he could be my ‘Critical Buddy.’ I sent him a copy of ‘Tasting the Wind,’ which he is wading through at the moment. His reaction has been very positive and encouraging, although he admits to preferring lighter reading. But thanks, Andy, for taking the trouble.

The main point I want to make here is the value of networking. Writing can be a lonely process, and the struggle to find a publisher can be even more lonely and demoralising. The internet abounds with information from and about writers, and linking up with people who are either travelling your way or who have arrived there can make the difference between carrying on or just lying down in the road.

I was in W.H. Smiths one day. Looking at the childrens’ books I picked out the ‘Spy Dog,’ series. It seemed bizarre that in my pocket was a copy of an email from its author.

I turned around and looked at the adult books. Finding ‘M’ I made a space.

One day my book will be there.

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PREVIOUSLY ON ‘ONE WAY OR AN AUTHOR…’Allan is having a lousy year, when suddenly he receives a message: ‘Can We Join Forces.’

 

I wrote back. It turned out that Lynn Grocott was someone I had known quite well through both school and church, but hadn’t seen for over thirty years.

Lynn had written a book called ‘Cut the Strings.’ I was shocked to discover that it was about, amongst other things, the horrific abuse she suffered as a child. I was shocked because I remembered this bright, happy go lucky girl in her early teens, and never suspected that her tears at the end of Church camp were not only because a good time was ending, but because she now had to return to a house of horrors.

I thought that writing my book and trying to get it published had been a difficult task. Lynn’s apprenticeship as an author had been a life of suffering.

But that wasn’t her only reason for writing. Despite all of the cards being stacked against her (her parents committed suicide, she contracted MS,) she is now one of the most positive and life-affirming people you could ever meet.

Lynn’s life was turned around through confidence coaching. Now I have always maintained a fair share of cynicism regarding this sort of system, but I was suddenly confronted by someone I knew, someone who had been through so much, but who was positive, hopeful, and could still experience joy in abundance.

We started to exchange regular emails, catching up and reminiscing about our shared background. For weeks I either forgot to mention that I had written a novel, or when I did think to say I felt guilty that I had originally accepted the contact because I thought it might further my ambitions.

Then came the day that I did mention it, and Lynn asked if she could be of any help. From that point my approach to getting my novel out there has taken me in so many new and interesting directions. These will be the subject of my next blogs.

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