Tuesday, 17 October 2017

10 Reasons to Choose Self-Publishing

Finding a publisher who is willing to take a punt and offer an advance has long been the Holy Grail of aspirant authors as they contemplate their uncertain futures whilst putting together their maiden works. However the arrival on the scene of self-publishing has changed the game beyond all recognition.

Self-publishing in the modern age is no longer, as was once the case, a next-best scenario for writers not quite able to make the grade. Many authors today, having considered the options available to them carefully, plump in the first instance for self-publishing as a route of preference to the uncertainties of dependence upon the goodwill of a middle-man whose primary interest is invariably the financial bottom line. One could do worse by way of an example than Fifty Shades of Grey

There are, of course, many advantages to sticking with the traditional publisher route, but here are ten reasons why many opt to self-publish all the same:

1. Complete editorial control

The thing you want to say may not be the same thing as what a publisher thinks the customer wants to read. As the saying goes he who pays the piper calls the tune, and if the traditional publisher feels strongly enough your piece of art is going to be tossed about and re-purposed with solely commercial objectives in mind. With self-publishing you write what you wish to write, and trust your own judgment as to whether or not it will sell.

2. No barriers to publishing

For better or for worse, the book you submit is the one your readers will see. You are responsible for spelling, grammar, syntax and layout, and any mistakes are yours alone as it is nobody's job to spot them on your behalf. But as long as you take care of the basic housekeeping, you do know at least that your work is going to make it into print.

3. No minimum sales threshold

Modern printing technology means that books can be printed as and when ordered, meaning there is no minimum number of sales that the writer has to achieve and no financial commitment beyond the purely optional cost of hiring a proofreader or cover designer. Platforms such as Amazon's CreateSpace will make a profit even if you should only sell one solitary copy.

4. Faster process

When you upload a book for self-publishing it is live and on offer to the world sometimes within a matter of a few hours. Of course the actual writing of a book is time consuming, as is proofreading and formatting it for publication, but once that is done there is no waiting for months or even years for a publisher to get around to reading it. Hit the send button and you’re away.

5. Print On Demand

The beauty of self-publishing a paperback is that copies are not printed until or unless they are ordered. Which means no stacks of unsold copies in the garage and no financial gamble involved.

6. Ebook option

As it becomes even easier for just about anybody to download an electronic version of your book and to store it on their reader, smartphone or PC, so sales of ebooks will inevitably increase. As there is no physical copy being printed or shipped royalties on ebooks are usually significantly higher than with printed books.

7. Better royalties

Royalties on ebooks are generally up to 70% of the sale price. Even on paperbacks they are substantially higher than would be the case had it been published by traditional means. You set your own price and your royalty is determined from there - simples.

8. Easy to amend manuscript

No matter how many times you read and re-read your work there will always be a typo or two which invariably you will spot just as soon as you’ve uploaded it. Self-published books can effortlessly be taken offline and altered. Within 24 hours or so you’ll be back in business!

9. Longer shelf-life

Self-published books are available to purchase from your online store or webpage in perpetuity. They never die.

10. No longer the preserve of second-rate authors

The days when self-publishing was for substandard writers who couldn't secure a deal with a real publisher are long gone. The random and sometimes seemingly arbitrary way in which publishers seem to decide who does and who doesn't get a contract has inspired writers to look for another way, and self-publishing has risen to meet that demand. Today many established authors of proven ability and talent are eagerly embracing the self-publishing route.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Glam Rock Files by Diana Wilde - Review



When submitting an old manuscript to a traditional book publisher some years back I was told that I ought to make my work "less autobiographical". She didn't want to hurt my feelings and so she was tactful, but what her advice amounted to was that no-one much wants to read the autobiography of somebody who is not a household name.

The Glam Rock Files flies defiantly in the face of this advice, and with a great deal of success. This is the personal testimony of a schoolgirl growing up in the early/mid-1970s against a backdrop of the unique Glam Rock phenomenon in music and popular culture, an experience which we of the same generation will straight away recognise, and can only share with affinity and affection.

When Marc Bolan first appeared on our screens splayed in his sequins and glitter, we could all sense that something new and exciting was about to happen in our lives. Bolan represented a bridge between a waning late-sixties hippydom and a beckoning new age of superstars - glamorous, flippant and, above all, fun. Like many of us the author was captivated by the emerging glam scene and embraced Bolan as the herald of the new age. And, also like many of us, when David Bowie burst onto the scene a short while later and took up the baton, elevating what was already a mesmerising development onto a completely new level, she recognised him for the cultural messiah that he was, and followed him relentlessly along with his futuristic backing group the Spiders From Mars.

This is not a long book and the formatting is a bit unorthodox, but it works. The hallmark of a good book is no more than that it leaves the reader reluctant to put it down at the end of a chapter, always hankering for just a little bit more. On several occasions I found myself hanging on for a few more pages to try to find out what happened next when I really ought to have been attending to something else as had been the original plan.

GLAM DEMI-GODS

The book charts with anticipation and good humour the progress of the author's love affair with the glam demi-gods, sneaking off to concerts often in stark defiance of her parents' wishes, not only revelling in the music but also waiting for them at their hotels and dressing rooms and, sometimes, managing to steal a moment with her heroes. Lou Reed, Mick Ronson, Freddie Mercury - even Bowie himself, albeit very much in passing - were lured successfully into spending chatting time with their persistent young fan.

As well as being the author's personal testimony The Glam Rock Files provides us with a fairly useful, if slightly selective, chronology of the glam era. I feel she is perhaps just a little hard on some of the less "serious" acts of the day such as Slade and The Sweet, who in my view all more than earned their place in the story of glam. On a purely personal note I was disappointed that there was no mention of Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, but then as I (or rather my lead character) argued in my self-published novel The Best Year Of Our Lives he and they were an acquired taste, not for everyone.

What made The Glam Rock Files work for me overall was the amount of empathy, and reminiscence, that it engendered. Being male and straight it would be fair to say that I spent less time than the author seems to have done during the 1970s contemplating the bulge in Bowie's trousers, but the sense of awe and excitement which surrounded the glam heroes of that unique and wonderful era was one that she and I shared very much. Those who are of our age group will know precisely what I mean, those who are younger and thereby had the misfortune to have missed it all won't be able to help but get a feel for it from this inspired work.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

FREE eBook Promotion - Ends Monday 16th October

The ebook version of The Best Year Of Our Lives is available free of charge for a limited time only. This promotion ends on the morning of Monday 16th October (UK time).

It isn't necessary to own a Kindle as Amazon allows you to download a reader, also free, which will work perfectly well on your laptop, desktop or smartphone.

Go to goo.gl/kcptpX and simply follow the instructions.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

In Pursuit of Good Quality Content

As well as writing books I endeavour to make something approaching a living out of compiling content for other people's websites. But the lot of a content writer can be a frustrating one. Generating unique and interesting content is always a challenge in itself, trying to find new and different angles and approaches when the topic of choice is something one has been writing about for aeons. Even the most prolific amongst us are sometimes stricken with "writer's block".

Having overcome this, the next task is to compete in the market with "writers" who have been raised in a world of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), in which it is not so much what is written that matters as using the right sequence of words and using them as frequently as possible.

Because this trash-writing technique requires little in the way of imagination or literary finesse, the market inevitably becomes saturated with "writers" who need have no ability to write anything even resembling good English, nor even to speak it. Far less of the ability to construct sentences which are attractive and pleasing upon the eye. Just so long as one can pack the words "payday loans london" fifty-seven times into 1000 words of completely meaningless and disjointed scribble there are customers who will gratefully pay a dollar for this rather than invest sensibly in some legible content which would confer so much more credit and credibility upon them and the organisations they represent. Getting the unsuspecting to the website is everything, what they do or think when they get there is something to worry about later. Indeed the "SEO expert", having been paid his money, will not be worrying about it at all.

HOORAY FOR PANDA AND PENGUIN

This is why decent content writers have generally been grateful for the development by search engines, and of course we are talking primarily about Google, of ever more sophisticated algorithms which seek to reward quality content and to demote sites whose sole objective is to attract traffic with no consideration for what awaits the visitor on arrival.

In the world of content, the two words on the tips of everybody's tongue are Panda and Penguin. Both are simply names given to significant changes in Google's algorithm the effect of which has been to relegate sites which use strategies such as keyword stuffing, self-generated links and other "black hat" (i.e. dodgy) techniques to try to trick the search engines into believing that their site has more authority and more quality than it actually has.

This is good news all round for those of us who have found ourselves out-priced and undercut by ten-year-olds from nether regions of the world who have understood and mastered the art of manipulating search engines but not of composing high quality content of a kind that only a writer can produce.

The clue, after all, is in the name.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Letter from a Legend

It would be an understatement, to put it mildly, to describe simply as a great privilege the letter I received yesterday from the music legend that is Steve Harley, frontman of Cockney Rebel (even most of the youngsters amongst us, deprived musical upbringing notwithstanding, will be familiar with the 1975 UK number one hit Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) - one of the most played songs in British recording history).

Steve has kindly permitted me to reproduce his letter in full, which I do below. Please click on the image to enlarge:

No further comment should be necessary.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

"I Like to Think it Works on More Than One Level" - My Member Spotlight Submission to CreateSpace

Here is the text of the submission I made this morning to the self-publishing platform CreateSpace, in response to four questions put to me about my novel The Best Year Of Our Lives:

Tell us about your title

The Best Year Of Our Lives has been a work in progress for a whole forty years, a real labour of love. Set in 1976, the year of that glorious summer, I have unashamedly drawn inspiration from my own adolescence which was fresh in the memory when I began to put it together, and have tried to synthesise my own real-life experience with a storyline which I'm sure will resonate with those who look back with fondness to their own formative years, particularly in my own age group but also hopefully in others.

Essentially it is about a group of young people who are trying to carve a niche for themselves on the streets of the Middlesex town in which they live. As with most teenagers the world in which they are growing up is the only world that really exists, and the things which are important to them at their point in life are the only things that are really happening. Adults exist in their world almost as ornaments and the things which inform and motivate them are of little consequence; the only politics which matter are those of the youth club and of the street corner on which they hang out.

The lead character is an ordinary young man who has aspirations to be top dog in the neighbourhood, but not the physical presence to make it happen by fear alone. To compensate for his own limitations he builds a movement which operates under the cover of a benign inner circle of younger friends, male and female, but through which he moves to outsmart and outpace the crude gangs with their limited, parochial estate-based loyalties and their predictable modus operandi.

At the same time there is a spirituality about the lead character and his closest friends which is real and genuine and fuels a mission which, though undefined, allows them to feel vindicated in their quest. Their goal is not just to conquer for conquest's sake, but to civilise and to impose their superior values upon the unbelievers for the greater good of all.

Their relationship with one another and the way in which that is repeatedly empowered by their dislike of certain others delivers a sometimes chilling lesson on the symbiosis of love and hate, of good and evil, and the dividing lines between the two are seldom completely clear. The story begs the question as to whether success is achieved by being ultimately in the right, or just by the sheer power of the will.

Some of my reviewers have enjoyed the book at face value and have been happy to treat it as a simple story in its own right and as a pleasant reminisce, and I'm cool with that. I like to think it works on more than one level. But what is most important to me is that I have finally put into words the thing I have waited forty years to say, although I'm still not quite sure what that is.

Why did you choose to make your content available On-Demand?

That was a no-brainer. Traditional publishing has had everything its own way for so very long. After having spent so many years preparing my work, fine-tuning it and deciding what needs to go in in order to tell the story that I wanted to tell, the thought of a publisher with an eye on the financial bottom line but with no emotional attachment to the story pulling it apart and repackaging it as a commercial project filled me with dread. It would have been a betrayal of everything I have worked for.

What are the most notable successes with your project?

The biggest success was always going to be just getting it into print after all this time, and out there for anybody who is interested to read. It has been selling quite well and of course that is important, and I'll be considering strategies through which to increase exposure and build sales during the coming weeks and months, but the fact that the book has been written and published was always going to be my primary achievement. I'm proud of this work and when I read the nice things that reviewers have said it truly makes the whole thing worthwhile.

How has CreateSpace helped you reach your goals?

CreateSpace is a wonderful resource which has enabled me to overcome all the obstacles which daunted me so much at the time when this work was in its infancy. Not only has it allowed me to put the story onto the market intact and untampered with, but it has done so by making available to me tools which are so simple for somebody of modest technical competence like myself to get to grips with.

Self-publishing has totally rewritten the rules of the game and CreateSpace is obviously at the centre of all that. It's an exciting time to be a writer.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Annus Mirabilis, or the Year the Music Died?


My introduction to "pop" music came, peculiarly, in the person of Michael Jackson.

We were at primary school, I was ten years old. For reasons which I cannot recall, one particular day was declared to be a "free" day – no lessons, no classwork, no booky stuff. Instead we were invited to bring in our 45s, to be played to the class on the old record player brought into school by the teacher.

Being inspired primarily by other things, mainly football and toy cars, I didn't actually possess any records of my own, so I brought in some of my mother's. Who, unfortunately, had rather conservative musical tastes, and my classmates groaned and stuck their fingers in their ears as the sound of Frank Sinatra strained datedly from the turntable. My friend Paul, unable to take any more, lifted the needle in mid-croon and replaced it with a record of his own, Michael Jackson's "Rockin' Robin". Humiliation turned very quickly into devotion. I was hooked.

As befits my obsessive personality, I transformed myself very quickly from pop novice into classroom authority on the music charts. By the end of 1972 and into '73, by now a first-year pupil at senior school, I was the first to rush out and purchase every latest release by the big chart acts of the day – Slade, The Sweet, Gary Glitter, T. Rex. The new chart was announced at noon every Tuesday, and I would race down to the toilets as soon as the bell sounded for the lunchtime break with my illicitly-smuggled transistor radio wedged firmly in my blazer pocket and pre-set to Radio One, pen and notebook at the ready, to list all the latest Top 30 placings. By the end of the dinner break I could recite them all sequentially without reference to my notes.

WIND-FLAPPING LOON PANTS

My dear late father and I would argue at some length about my musical enthusiasms. He was a rock'n'roll man, raised on Elvis and Little Richard although by no means averse to the Beatles and some of the stuff which had defined at least the earlier part of the sixties. My music and its accompanying culture, he informed me, were ridiculous. The long hair, the wind-flapping loon pants, the absurdly impractical platform boots, the (to him) banal and repetitive lyrics (not at all evident, I would point out sarcastically, in ditties such as "She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah"), and all the monster-sized egos which paraded themselves shockingly around the stage every Thursday evening on Top of the Pops.

Worst of all, all the music of my era apparently sounded the same. Not so, it would seem, the simplistic be-bop of Stone Age rock'n'roll or the pudding-bowl haircuts and four-guys-in-suits which defined the so-called musical revolution of the early- to mid-sixties. No, it was Elton with his Zoom! spectacles, Glitter with his ostentatious if ever so slightly too tight costumes, Marc with his corkscrew locks and Bowie with his androgynous Ziggy persona who were apparently identical to behold. How could anyone be so blind?

In fact so locked was I in that moment that even now a part of me still thinks of Mud, Wizzard and Suzi Quatro, not to mention Sparks and the Rubettes, as being "new" acts. Of course I bought into those as well when they arrived, especially Suzi Q who doubled for a time as my childhood fantasy woman (not least I imagine because she was about the same height as me).

One "new" act by which I was particularly captivated was Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. Not glam in the sense of sequins and tassels and look-at-me stacked heels, but showy enough to hold a '70s audience for long enough to appreciate some really nifty songsmithery from a truly gifted writer and artist. And then there were always Mott and Roxy.

CULTURAL BACKDROP

Of course such a full-on onslaught of sparkle and glamour was doomed to enjoy a limited shelf-life, and by the time 1976 arrived I was already, musically speaking, a man lost in time, with only the evergreen Bowie for company. And yet, at fourteen, I was beginning to take my first tentative steps along the awkward road from childhood into maturity, and was much in need of a cultural backdrop against which to strut my stuff. What I found was a zeitgeist both unique and peculiar, a mosaic of fading glam intermixed with an uplifting discofied soul which I found eminently palatable in spite of my normally European tastes (I'd long since jettisoned Michael Jackson from my list of idols by this time, Rockin' Robin notwithstanding). Add into the mix the most glorious summer of all and I was in ecstasy, an emotional and spiritual state of being which I had never encountered previously, and have never found since. 1976 isn't formally recognised as having been the best year ever to have grown up in for nothing.

And then, at the height of it all, came punk. Spitting, snarling and, worst of all to me, pretentious. I could swear with the best of them, but vulgarity was for classroom banter or the rest room at the youth club, it was never part of my music. Anybody who gobbed at me could expect a fight, it wasn't something I went to a gig to experience. Worst of all, on my streets at least, many of the kids who seemed to embrace this sudden outpouring of anarchy and revolution were the kind I had always thought of as being, well, a bit middle-class. Geeks, spotty types and pencil monitors had suddenly become the ambassadors of rage, and I couldn't quite work out how or why.

By the time the world had become bored with the cultural one-trick pony that was punk, it was too late. As the impact of the explosion faded, what emerged from the dust and the smoke was Grease and John Travolta. It was as though the proverbial gods were punishing us for having turned our backs on our spiritual nirvana. The twentieth century equivalent of a plague of frogs. The flares had gone, alas, and we had climbed down from our platforms forever.

Of course, my story is precisely that. Others remember 1976 with fondness precisely because of punk, viewing it as a liberating force sent to rescue us all from the ever-encroaching triteness of disco, to move us on from a post-glam musical wasteland which no longer quite knew what it was about. Oddly enough I can understand and even sympathise with this view. Hidden amongst my collection of singles which still lurks in a forgotten cupboard somewhere at my mother's home are a few of the more well-known numbers by the Sex Pistols and Sham 69. At times I swayed with the wind, no matter how hard I struggled to stand firm.

A SPECIAL YEAR

The fact is that 1976 was a special year for all sorts of reasons and that applies whether one was a punk, a disco kid or a lost soul still wandering confused by the demise of glam. It was a special place that we all inhabited at the same time, moving around in the same age often oblivious to the existence of one another. It was like a veritable black hole which sucked in everyone from every genre of adolescent society and spat them all out sometime later transmogrified into Bee Gees.

Some wag recently remarked that in spite of all the strikes and shortages, bombings, football hooliganism, Carnival riots, Cold Wars and Cod Wars we were all younger in 1976 and it is this fact alone that makes us regard it lovingly through rose-tinted spectacles. This doesn't of course explain the special affection this particular year holds in our hearts which is absent in respect of other years. There's always one, isn't there? Fact is, the Spirit of 1976 lives on as a memory that will never be erased, a candle that will always burn. Don't take away the music, whichever tune from 1976 it is that floats your boat.

Reproduced with acknowledgements to The Spirit of 1976.