Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘tips


So what do you know?

They always say- write about what you know. Strange really when you apply that to some best selling fiction. Did Frank Herbert know about space travel and the politico-religious structures of far-flung empires when he wrote ‘Dune?’ Did Martin Amis live his life backwards, as in ‘Time’s Arrow,’ and is J.K. Rowling regularly seen running through a pillar on a railway station platform?
Of course not. J.K. worked out that she would save a fortune in reconstructive surgery by leaving that sort of stunt to the imagination.
Now of course imagination is essential to good writing, but is a work ever one hundred percent imagination?
According to J.K. Rowling, the character of Hermione was based upon herself at the age of eleven. In the upper sixth, she had a friend called Sean who drove a torquoise Ford Anglia. That is a fact, and not particularly impressive, but what if that car could fly…

There is a school of thought which says that all writing is autobiography. You probably couldn’t extend this to shopping lists, but I can see what they mean.
Look at a little baby- look how they take it all in, processing everything which comes to them through their senses. We are programmed to do that, although it doesn’t carry on at that rate (imagine your capacity for learning new languages if it did!)
What I am getting at is that for some reason we are a part of the universe which has been gifted or cursed with self awareness, and as such we are constantly processing information, trying to make sense of it either through science, through art, through music, maths or literature.

I spent much of my academic career trying to make sense of the Bible. Theology- another way in which we process ‘reality’ through interpreting what we know (Discuss!)
Somewhere back in the mid nineteen nineties I had just finished my Master of Philosophy thesis on ‘Who wrote the Gospel of John?’ After 60,000 words I had concluded that I didn’t know. I didn’t feel that it was a waste of time, because it was now an educated ‘I don’t know,’ and I had a piece of paper to prove it.
But something was missing- big style.
I was no longer writing. The poetry I had once written and performed no longer seemed to satisfy. Seeing 60,000 words bound, with my name on the spine, feeling the weight of it in my hands, oooohhhh…. I knew that I had to write a novel.
Even as a child, this had been an ambition. At the age of thirteen I had tried to write a complex science fiction story, but had given up after several fase starts, realising that at that point I didn’t have the tools.
I left college in 1984, with a combined honours degree in English and divinity. Things had happened there which I thought would one be the makings of a good novel. But again, I wasn’t ready, so what will one day become my second novel, ‘Legion’s Daughter,’ was placed on the back burner.
The next ten years were taken up with making a career in the caring professions, and completing my M.Phil.
This brings me to where I started this post. It’s something like 1996, and I’m relaxing in a reclining chair on a visit to my brother-in-law’s house in Stafford. My mind is wandering to the idea of a novel, when the words come into my head: ‘Write about what you know.’
Well I didn’t think I could pull off a biblical epic. But what about a book in which people with severe learning disabilities are major characters?
In the mid eighties I had been involved in re-locating people from longstay ‘mental handicap’ hospitals. This was a world of which few people had first hand experience, and surely this quiet social revolution would provide a memorable backdrop for a unique story.
Thus ‘Tasting the Wind’ was conceived.


Originally published on ‘Blogger’ Thursday 24th April 2008

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I wish you could know Jennifer Abel, says Carolyn Ferrante at newbornbooks.  At first introduction you would see a quiet, unassuming woman. Soon, you would be charmed by her lush English accent and soft-spoken way.   

Well I did know Jennifer Abel, or Jenny Short, as she was then. We were students at Chester College about… well, some years ago now. I tracked Jenny down recently and found that she looks no different and, it would seem, is as engaging as ever. Jenny is also a self-published author, and has agreed to share some of her marketing experience…


 Jennifer Abel


Successful marketing originates the moment an author is inspired to create, carrying his work almost involuntarily over myriad struggles to become an expression in words or images. It is a beautiful gift, this compulsive desire to produce, knowing that our message is somehow mandatory – that the world needs our perspective or story! And it is this audacious passion that will birth resolve in us to pursue what might become thankless years of marketing. Yes, for there is, realistically, no easy way through marketing for most of us! Besides enthralled commitment to our task, any marketing strategy must equally be based on our confidence that we have guarded the integrity of the published word through precise editing, arriving at a polished end product. Our work has to be the best it can be if we are to be authentic and maintain self-directed momentum for the process. If we have the fervor of these convictions, we may launch a disciplined business plan and push through our writing adventure, embracing the rewards and challenges, step by intentional step.


Thankfully, we live at a pivotal point in the publishing industry. The marketplace is more accessible than ever before, through necessity. Thousands of people are writing books today and the bottleneck of previous years in traditional publishing houses has caused the entrepreneur spirit to rise up and challenge! I steered through mazes of agents receiving nods of approval but not able to hit the all-important and very narrow niche that would grab a manuscript sale. So, with writer’s compulsion and in order not to waste years, I opened my own publishing house by buying a small number of ISBNs. For independent spirits or control freaks, this is our wonderful modern alternative! But with this move, I also consciously entered a lower key realm of marketing. Therefore, I am sharing a smaller scale approach here. Of course, it can be challenging for artists, who may not be predominantly business minded, to run their whole show, but unless one has floating cash readily available, there’s no real need to pay expensive consulting fees. There is a wealth of free information online and in libraries as we search for it. We need to escape the idea that if we don’t make a big splash with our work within the first two months, we have not or cannot succeed. There is not the same huge rush for independent authors to make a mark as for big-time marketing firms with narrow deadlines and limited shelf space – we have time on our side as the smaller people, we have the personal touch, and our walk is only limited by the degree of our resourcefulness over years. Yes, we want to take every opportunity, and success is measured in quantity and publicity, but the quality impact and effect of a work on each life is perhaps more important in the long run.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



Here are several practical steps I took to gain exposure for my books. After buying my ISBN’s, I applied to become a business and purchased a domain name and website ( There is credibility in a professional look and the Internet is also our lead into global networking. Furthermore, anything sold automatically needs to be reported for sales and tax. But a business doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – if a private site is not an affordable option and if side advertising isn’t too much of an issue, there are free pages available for the starting up phase. Leave your URL everywhere, on emails and on networking sites, anywhere that isn’t spamming! Print business cards through one of the online outlets. In the States, Vista Print has good prices and great sales. Create an image or idea on your site to wrap around your books to enhance their reach, thus creating your niche or identity. For example, I interview inspiring people, and post international ministry profiles on my website whose work I actively support. Those who interview also help to spread the word to their colleagues and that engenders further interest. Usually, these people will put an image of your work on their own site – this is meaningful collaboration. Likewise, writing articles for other websites is another way for exposure. Keep your tone honest and accurate – there’s nothing worse than a shallow sales pitch. Appreciate each opportunity and learn from it. Other ideas on my site include running a small poll, keeping content and gadgets interesting, and I have sent out monthly and annual newsletters to buyers and friends. I have also linked a blog to my site, have a guest book for feedback, and I have excerpts of my books available – and lots of photos: People love images! Continuously gage what is working for you and what can be dropped. Either sell your book from your website through a portal like Paypal, or link into It is nice having the shipping and handling taken care of by another company. In the past year, Amazon has opened a brilliant sister-site called Create Space ( expressly for independent authors. For free, authors may upload their polished .PDF and cover, and Amazon will advertise a listing with print-on-demand available through their normal site, putting each book on a level with any other book on the market. It is not the most lucrative sales point but the potential exposure is valuable.


By far the most effective ways to sales and profit for me have been through an established community of support and through speaking engagements. I spoke very briefly at my church to people who had known I was writing, and who had been waiting for publication day with me. Friends were delighted that I autographed their copies, and I had no overhead fees there. Depending on the size of congregation, this can make an excellent foundation. This model can be transferred to any venue where you relate with a group. Print up as many books as needed to obtain the best bulk price, but without going overboard. You don’t want 2000 books in your basement for years, but you will need copies on hand for each opportunity. I spoke at another meeting completely unrelated to my book but it validated me as someone to be listened to in that circle, the effect of which cannot be underestimated. Every time there is a function, I have books available, every time I interact with people, they ask what I write – it’s a lifestyle. I carry those business cards and books in my car, and I give discounts generously to friends. I give a gift copy to any speaker that talks near my topic or who has influence in any greater sphere. I want to bless with my work and I also want to spread the word freely in appropriate directions. Each book is a potential seed.51izrzzxa8l__ss500_


It’s also good to know that trying out ideas and making mistakes or losing a few books to error, just goes with the territory. For example, I took a few books to a local bookstore but found that the stocking charge was 25%, which, after my printing charges, really made little sense considering the effort involved – this was a low-traffic store. One also has little control where a book is placed for visibility within stores, whether Barnes and Noble or a small outlet. I returned weeks later to one store to find my volumes lying on a shelf where few would happen to look! I also phoned a local radio show, which is a great idea, and I met with enthusiasm, but the same week the show stopped interviewing authors! Chalk up such events to experience and move on with a smile. Some people will love our work quickly, others will be apathetic, and it may have nothing to do with how good or bad our product is! Enthusiastic, energetic friends are a huge help, though. Not only do they give vital encouragement, but a couple such friends have been champions of sales for me, too, even refusing a commission. I was able to bag-mail a crate of books to a significant contact in the UK, where they are now advertised on a respected website, and also to send books to Australia for my highly sociable friend to eagerly distribute for me! It’s not a matter of forcing attention everywhere but of following to the max any honest interest that comes. I calculate that I have fifty more years to talk on my subject, and I have books to back me up! It is very easy these days to update content via .PDF, too. My next project will be to write a study guide and hold a local book study group, and perhaps to present on the wildly popular YouTube to see where that may lead. The ideas need never stop!


In the end, we must simply keep going and marvel at the path. Ultimately, we pursue this passion for the love of the work, not for the notoriety we must derive from it. Let’s continue till that famous day when others may catch the strain crying out from our pages and our readership may indeed break through to the thousands upon enthralled thousands! Until then, I feel successful every time readers spontaneously approach me and, sometimes with tears in their eyes, tell me from their deepest parts how much my books have meant to them. If the work says yes, the process says yes, and so we must write our passion, push on, and we will never be defeated!


To learn more about Jen and her work go to







One of the best things about blogging is that you meet so many interesting like-minded people. One of these is Whitney Keyes.  Amongst other things, Whitney writes a business blog for the Seattle Post Intelligencer and has worked as a senior marketing manager for Microsoft…

I’m sorry… I think I understated that. Let me quote from the CV on Whitney Keyes’ Website:

She eventually made her way to Microsoft where she worked directly with executives including Bill Gates. She helped create many of the company’s global initiatives, managed the launch of Office 2000 which at the time was an $8 billion dollar business, and led some of Microsoft’s first viral and social marketing campaigns.

(So yes, I think we could say she’s a ‘big hitter.’)

Some weeks ago Whitney asked if  I would like a copy of  her guide book: Media Tips for Authors: How to get Free Publicity for Your Book, and would I mention it on my blog.

 Would I?

 At the moment the words ‘free’ ‘publicity,’ and ‘book’ mentioned in the same sentence are guaranteed to get my attention.

Media Tips is a well-presented and easy to read guide to one specific area of book marketing. I have blogged previously about press releases from the point of view of someone who is learning the ropes. Whitney Keyes has been there and writes from the position of someone who has tried and tested the techniques and can vouch for their success.

What I hear from a lot of authors is We are writers, we are creative, we are artistic: the business and marketing side to publishing is alien to us. Unfortunately, the reality is that if you publish through POD, self-publishing or a small publisher, then you have to market or you aint gonna sell a thing. If you are one of those people who is put off by technical, stuffy, formal marketing advice, you will find  that Media Tips will utilise your creativity and not turn you into book marketing’s version of Gordon Gecko.

Whitney Keyes’ advice is presented in small, easily digestible sections and provides you with exercises to create such things as your own ‘news hooks’ to get the attention of newspaper editors.

At a compact twenty pages, the booklet provides an antidote for the information overload you can experience when researching book marketing ideas. It also contains a resource guide of books, experts, organisations and websites.

For more information, to sign up for her free weekly marketing tips, and to buy Media Tips (Also available as a download) go to     

She is also a host on Web.TV site:  and can be found at:  Seattle Post-Intelligencer articles

… ’nuff said?’

My Latest Twitterings