Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My #indy journey - 57 days to go

As I travel round Scotland (and the UK) promoting my Scottish Independence novel, I'm meeting hundreds of people with their own stories.

This morning I fly South (I'm writing this from the airport ) and needed a taxi to get to Glasgow Airport.

Before we reached the airport I "casually" mentioned I'd published a novel. This led onto the inevitable question: which way am I planning to vote?

I shared that I'm a marginal Yes which allowed me to follow up with: How about you?

Taxi drivers are sometimes wary of professing strong opinions but with only two options on the table and with the subject breached, he shared he was - as he put it - coming round to Alex Salmond's view.

I wish I'd mentioned my novel earlier. He was as keen to quiz me on my views about independence as I was to find out his.

There is a desire in many Scots to discuss our future. Long may that desire continue!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Lessons in marketing

The first book of my novel - The Great Scottish Land Grab - has been on sale for over a month now and I've been spending a lot of time trying to market it. (in between completing book two!)

As I've blown my budget for this book on solicitor's fees (more about that in another post), I'm limiting my marketing to £100 in total and am finding what a lot of self-published authors seem to find - marketing is a tough world.

I've emailed every member of the Scottish parliament asking if they would give a review or feedback. Six have requested a free proof copy. Less than five percent.

I've lost count of the number of emails I've sent out to newspapers, TV and radio stations offering free copies. The Shetland Times did interview me using the former local boy angle. Apart from that, not a peep. However, one media encounter I had - naming no names - did reveal the pressure the media are under due to the referendum. They can and will be fined if they fail to give unbiased coverage - something certain Yes and No supporters will deny and claim there is clear evidence of bias. As a result many media outlets are nervous about what they produce.

I had a T-Shirt made up. The book cover with text above it asking: Yes? No? Vote for...

I've worn that while handing out those business cards.

I had 750 business cards printed up. I asked for feedback through my author Facebook page and you can view the design there. Front had the book cover and the back gives details of how to buy the book.I've given out over 400 of these cards since they arrived. 300 individually. Through Amazon KDP's wonderful reports I can see exactly how much impact giving out 300 business cards individually has had... I've sold ten books!  Three percent return on investment.

Here's where I'm really struggling. I can't afford to buy advertising space on bill boards and in newspapers or on TV or radio. There are over four million potential readers in Scotland, forty million in the UK. The novels premise is of decreasing interest the further away from Scotland one goes. But there will be people throughout Scotland and the world that will enjoy this book so how do I reach them?

There have been a couple of interesting articles on the subject of marketing and investment over the last week.

Ian Hallett wrote an amazingly inciteful post on how many people your marketing efforts reach: 0.005% is the magic number. It begs the question whether the time I spend on Facebook or Twitter engaging with people is worth the effort. I do enjoy it though. Discussing, asking, answering, commenting, sharing... These are all things I want to do as a writer anyway and I absolutely want to be involved and engaged in the lead up to the referendum on Scottish independence.

The BBC also had an interesting article: The dos and don'ts of pitching for business investment. There are probably three things writers can take from this article:
  • Being recommended is the best possible way to sell a book.
  • Having written a previously good book will make it more likely someone will buy your new book.
  • Continuing to write and publish good books over time will convince people you are worth investing their time and money in by buying your latest book.
It will help when I've published book two. The story is far closer to being complete and questions I couldn't answer when I was marketing book one will be a lot easier to answer.

But going back to those 300 business cards I've given out. I've done this three times at events round Scotland, from Cumbernauld to Tarbert in Argyll and as far North as Unst in Shetland. I've also handed out cards to people on trains going from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Interrupted conversations and readers deeply engrossed in stories on their Kindles. I've been seen in supermarkets handing cards to check out staff and embarrased my kids on several occasions with my willingness to speak to complete strangers.

But... I'm not naturally confident at talking to strangers. I've left many encounters thinking, I really didn't handle that well.

I came across the book Body Language by James Borg. It's made for painful reading!

I don't want to manipulate people or deceive them but the books premise is that body language is a skill like any other. I can learn to interact better with strangers, to become a better salesperson.

Going back to Ian Hallett's post. He refers to Kevin Kelly's article on having 1,000 True Fans - a fascinating read for anyone wanting to make a living from creative work.

I'm on a marketing journey. These have been some of my experience so far. Are you marketing something? Would you like to share some advice? I'd love to hear from you ;)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Rewriting the blurb

One of the great things about self-publishing is that if something isn't working, you can change it relatively quickly.

Another great thing is that we don't have to do it all ourselves. Our friends, family and sometimes complete strangers will offer valuable advice and help.

I tried this out last month through my author FaceBook page: http://www.facebook.com/my100goals, asking people for their views on my proposed book cover. I received some great advice and actually, the act of asking for help forced me to come up with an alternative image to use that ended up being perfect to convey a sense of Scotland's land.

I'm hoping some of you out there will be willing to help me rewrite the book blurb: the description that you either read on a book's back jacket or online.

The original blurb/description (at time of writing) can be seen on Amazon: The Great Scottish Land Grab: Book One -

Product Description - current

Can one man turn the Scottish Referendum into a revolution?

Threatened while walking across a Scottish estate, Robert Castle tries to find justice but neither the police nor courts will help him. His quest to find justice will bring him into conflict with the highest powers in the land. Facing off against politicians and judges, Castle fights to reverse centuries of corruption that has seen Scotland's land stolen from the people. With the Scottish independence referendum fast approaching, he calls on Scotland to reject the politicians lie there can only be a Yes or No vote; and to reclaim the right to decide their own future.

The Great Scottish Land Grab will be split over three books to be published in the months leading up to the Scottish referendum on independence. Book one to be published in June, book two in July and the final book released in August.
ENDS

I'm wondering about changing it.

The book description is maybe the second or third (or fourth...) thing people look at online. Book title and cover maybe being joint first, or split; reviews and description vying for next place.

Product Description - proposed

The fight for freedom starts here…

Threatened while walking across a Scottish estate, Robert Castle tries to find justice but neither the police nor courts will help him.

With the Scottish independence referendum fast approaching, Castle has to decide which side of the fence he will support. Initially a passionate supporter of the UK union he has become disillusioned with a political system that ignores the very people it is supposed to serve.

A tragic accident derails the Yes campaign but could this be the opportunity Scotland needs to recognise true independence and achieve freedom?

Robert Castle’s quest for justice will bring him into conflict with the highest powers in the land. Facing off against politicians and judges, Castle fights to reverse centuries of corruption that has seen Scotland's land stolen from the people. Castle calls on Scotland to see beyond a Yes or No vote; and to reclaim the right to decide their own future.

The Great Scottish Land Grab: Book One – Undecided? Vote to stop sitting on the fence.

The Great Scottish Land Grab: Book Two (July 2014) – Decided? Vote to tear down the fence and build a bonfire.

The Great Scottish Land Grab: Book Three (August 2014) – Committed? Vote to pour fuel on the fire of freedom.

I have to admit, I'm struggling to know how much detail to put in. I don't want to spoil the cliff hanger ending of book one, or give too much away about book two or three. Yet if I don't give enough detail, will people be willing to give the book a chance?

I don't mention Robert's wife Helen who is a main character, don't mention any of the sub plots I'm working in. But is that important?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether either of the above blurbs would (or have ;) encouraged you to buy book one, either in the comments below, or on my FaceBook page.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

BBC cover up

When the most powerful news reporting organisation in the UK appears to deliberately ignore peaceful protest and refuses to report it, I get worried.

My Facebook feed this morning contained this short clip about the BBC hanging up on a member of the public (we're all members of the public when it comes to paying the licence fee!) -


Okay, technically, they didn't hang up, they just redirected to a line that wasn't answered.

The peaceful march was reported in The Guardian and on RT.com. Why not on the BBC?

In fact, when I searched the BBC, ironically the only mention was under the Elsewhere on the web feed:


I have to wonder if this is just an automated spider script that hasn't been adjusted to hide reports of public discontent with the UK government.

Why doesn't the BBC want to report that 50,000 people reject the Coalition government austerity measures? Is it because many millions more of us also reject those painful, brutal measures that punish the poorest while allowing that same Coalition government to offer tax breaks to the rich?

Is it because the BBC is not - and maybe never has been - an honest, impartial, public service?

Is it because the government have put pressure on the BBC to avoid reports of UK discontent and only report on wars in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere - hoping to cause a fear of similar outbreaks of civil war starting in the UK?

Or are the BBC actually just incompetent?

I decided to have a go myself since the clip above only showed an attempt to call the London desk of the BBC. It's a big organisation. Many news desks, surely one of them will answer... Right?

At this point it turns surreal. Getting a phone number to call the BBC off their website is rather tricky. They're happy for you to email or tweet or fill in an online form, all of which could be conveniently lost. But a phone number...

Here's what I get when I click on the Daily & Sunday Politics link:


Other links have more options to email.

I give up. I've made a formal complaint to the BBC about their lack of reporting on this news story. If you believe the BBC should be reporting on peaceful anti-austerity protests, you can complain here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

This one issue could be enough to push me over the edge and stop paying the TV licence. How do you feel about it?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Marketing mad

I'm thinking I have to be more than a little bit crazy to attempt to write three books and market them over one summer.

I finished emailing all 128 MSPs last night, asking for their feedback and offering them a free proof copy of the first book. Had several dozen auto replies from some telling me they could only deal with matters relating to their constituents. I do sympathise with MSPs, I assume all are incredibly busy. A couple have replied and have been sent their copies. Hopefully many others will do the same.

I now have an author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/my100goals. I couldn't believe that address was still available!

Several of you have suggested sites I can promote the book on and given other helpful ideas, thank you! All suggestions will be gratefully received!

I've started contacting radio stations and newspapers. Emailed the BBC. Will contact the other networks as the week goes on.

I've got some ideas for guerrilla marketing of The Great Scottish Land Grab. Or should that be gorilla marketing ;)

If you would be willing to help with some subtle promotion, let me know through landgrab at tajikweb com

I'm now up to two reviews on Amazon: The Great Scottish Land Grab. Please consider reviewing the book. Love it or hate it it will help me as I need a minimum number of reviews before book bloggers will be willing to consider promoting it.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

My father taught me

I bought my father a card, late. I still haven't posted it... I've never been terribly good with cards. Much better with blog posts. So here goes...

When I was six, my father uprooted me from my friends, my home in Aberdeen, the city life I'd been born into and took me to the Shetland Isles. One hundred miles from anywhere. Sea and wind battering daily on the black rocks of the shore.

Why would he do this? Because he believed God had called him there. I believe he was right. My father taught me that being obedient to God is more important than security and stability.

We spent the first night in our new home alone. My mother and sister staying with my grandparents. Dad and I camped out. The next morning we toasted bread over an open fire. I'll never forget that.

My father gave up a secure job and career. He started his own printing business and built that up until it thrived and he could employ several people. He taught me not to trust in someone else for a successful career. Instead, he taught me to work hard, to take risks, to try new things.

He taught me that success comes from treating customers with respect; from building long term relationships. From taking responsibility for ones own work.

He made mistakes. Entire print orders had to be binned because something had gone wrong. It was worth it to ensure the customer got what they ordered.

My father employed me. Paid me an excellent wage. But I was made to work for it. Long hours spent collating and numbering and folding. Hours spent in rhythmic monotony watching paper churn out of a machine, valuable to him to ensure a problem was caught early on.

He started in a rented room. Not even big enough to swing a cat. I don't believe he ever tried to swing a cat. It was tiny. Don't despise small beginnings, my father taught me.

I missed the city but my father gave me the country. Miles of white sandy beaches. We built sandcastles on every island. Rocky beaches where he taught me to skim stones until I could equal him. Endless hills where we could run and tumble and roll.

Long walks until my legs hurt and my moaning scared the birds. He taught me that being outside is wonderful. That God has given us an amazing planet. That there is a need in every human to explore and also simply to be still.

I missed my friends but my father was my friend. He asked my advice, told me his plans, shared his struggles.

We played games. Endless games. My father taught me chess and draughts and rook and monopoly and scrabble and risk. He taught me to be competitive and laughed at my anger when I lost. He taught me to accept defeat with grace but also to keep striving to win.

My father taught me to love God and to love God's word. He lived as a follower of Christ with honesty and transparency. He read Jesus words and tried to live by them. He made mistakes. He confessed them. He got angry. He said sorry. He acknowledged his weakness. My father wasn't perfect but he was real. And, he was blessed.

There is a simple truth in God's word. God blesses people who acknowledge him and who seek wisdom and who work hard. My Dad did all three. As a result we never wanted for anything that we needed. We had an abundance. As I've applied this truth in my own life, I've seen the same results.

One evening we passed a bus shelter where teenagers were hanging out sporting their bright pink and purple mohicans, studded leather jackets and Doc Martin boot. My Dad stopped and talked to them. Invited them to our house. I was mortified.

He welcomed them into our home, treated them as equals and told them about Jesus. My father taught me to accept everyone, no matter how different they appear.

He was passionate for Jesus and persuaded and challenged almost everyone he met. He also loved debating and would pick holes in my arguments. Yet, while he was fascinated by science and logic, he chose faith to underpin them. My father taught me that faith in God allows science and logic to make sense.

My father taught me to laugh uproariously and to cry unashamedly. To love crazy and be content with normal.

I am in large part who I am today because of my Dad and for that I am grateful!

Dad, this ones for you.

Love

Mark

Friday, 13 June 2014

Grab your copy of The Great Scottish Land Grab!

I am now a published author!

I wrote on Monday that my goal for this week was to publish The Great Scottish Land Grab. Goal achieved!

The first book of the novel went live on Amazon this afternoon and is now available worldwide.

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00KYU26XK

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KYU26XK

Germany: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00KYU26XK

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00KYU26XK

Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00KYU26XK

India: https://www.amazon.in/dp/B00KYU26XK

France: https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B00KYU26XK

Spain: https://www.amazon.es/dp/B00KYU26XK

Italy: https://www.amazon.it/dp/B00KYU26XK

Japan: https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B00KYU26XK

Brazil: https://www.amazon.com.br/dp/B00KYU26XK

Mexico: https://www.amazon.com.mx/dp/B00KYU26XK

I'd love to hear what you think of the book:

The Great Scottish Land Grab

Can one man turn the Scottish Referendum into a revolution?

Threatened while walking across a Scottish estate, Robert Castle tries to find justice but neither the police nor courts will help him. His quest to find justice will bring him into conflict with the highest powers in the land. Facing off against politicians and judges, Castle fights to reverse centuries of corruption that has seen Scotland's land stolen from the people. With the Scottish independence referendum fast approaching, he calls on Scotland to reject the politicians lie there can only be a Yes or No vote; and to reclaim the right to decide their own future.

The Great Scottish Land Grab will be split over three books to be published in the months leading up to the Scottish referendum on independence. Book one to be published in June, book two in July and the final book released in August.