A great artist and a lovely human being..
I write in English and live well away from cities in a foreign country, so there’s not much call for book-signing events or any of that sort of thing anywhere near me – but “now” seemed to be a good time to get into it.
Right now I’m away from relative seclusion in sunny South-West France and I’m back in Australia for several weeks then on to Fiji for a couple more. A lot of the trip is doing research for the two new novels I am now working on – a sequel to BEGINNINGS, my time-warping, historical novel about Spain and the Basque people (by the way, the e_book is now on special discount of 0.99c for a short time), and a more personal memoir about growing up in Australia in the 1950s-60s …. and about dogs ———- but enough of that. Now, I’m taking the opportunity to do some active marketing as well – mainly “book-signing” and “book-reading” events.
I embarked upon these marketing appearances with some trepidation. Like many writers, I have a horror of casting myself as a salesman, PR person or networker. Somehow it didn’t fit well with my social and political conscience – but now I believe I was wrong. I’m keen enough to tell people how to make the world better place… so why not tell them about my fiction and other writings.
Indeed, I’ve written lots of academic and professional books but never has a publisher ask me to do any appearances, book-signings or networking. I gave papers at professional conferences and thought that was enough – I probably didn’t even really care about book sales. My readers bought my books because they needed to not because they wanted to – and therein lies the difference. So over the last couple of years, I’ve come to accept that these marketing activities just have to be done …. and indeed should be done. At first, I started by throwing myself into twitter , blogging, author pages on Facebook, AboutMe sites etc. That’s all time-consuming enough. So I never got into the business of “appearances” at book-signings, book readings and speaking events. But taking this on has meant facing a bit of a “learning curve”, at least for me.
Preparing or Winging It?
Now I’m not averse to speaking in public but even my short career as a trial lawyer and then a university law professor didn’t prepare me for doing ‘stand-up’ comedy, nor even for pitching my own creations to present and potential readers.
Everything I did before was about “preparation”. You don’t go into a trial without a heck of a lot of preparation and you don’t give a law lecture or present a paper at a professional meeting without being fully prepared … otherwise you risk embarrassment or even worse. But book promotion appearances aren’t the same. Here you speak from the heart not the head. You talk about your own creation, what motivated you to do it and where you wanted it to go and where it led you. …. It’s really about making a connection, not making an argument. It’s as much about ‘who you are’ as ‘what you say’. So I took a different tack and just spoke from the heart. Hey, that shouldn’t be so difficult, should it? But it goes against decades of professional training. Judges, students and other lawyers don’t care how you feel about things… they want to know about the case in question and the law that applies to it. So, did this “non preparation” approach work?
My first event was a book-signing at an occasional lunch function for survivors of my old High School Alma Mater – Brisbane Grammar School – and I was surprised by the warm reception, interest and how keen some people were to have their copies of BEGINNINGS signed. It was a semi-public event but pretty “laid back” and amongst relatively familiar company .. so a good start.
The next event was an appearance and signing at a privately hosted evening cocktail-champagne party on the Gold Coast – Australia’s version of Miami, for those unfamiliar with it. Mostly, there were new people present. A lot of fun. And I was to talk about my writing, my motivations for writing BEGINNINGS, what it was all about and then I had to follow it up with a “reading”. Well, again nothing was prepared and in view of what I said above about my background, it was certainly hard for me to contemplate just doing it, though a bit easier to carry it off. I can’t really be sure what it was that I said or will say next time, but the response was good.
Lots of applause, compliments and interest! So maybe it worked! But when it comes to reading, aloud, for an audience, even if it is your own writings; that doesn’t come easy …. and I’d recommend at least a little bit of preparation!
My support act – and I had invited him – was the writer of “Bar and Barbecue Humour”, a series of slightly ‘politically incorrect’ joke and humorous story books, Rumford Kindling – a pseudonym of course – but you can get his books on Amazon. A few jokes and funny stories was a wonderful way to wrap up the formal part of the event – if you’re not afraid of having the limelight stolen away from you by a comedian.
Autographing Books and Dedications?
It certainly is a pleasure and an honour when someone wants you to sign their copy of one of your books. A cynic might say that maybe they’re hoping that one day, when you are famous, it’ll be worth a lot of money. But I look at it differently. It’s just another symbol of what I was talking about about… making a connection between the reader and the author.
But you might ask: how do you autograph a book? Exactly where is the best place to sign it? I usually use the back of the front cover. There’s quite a few guides on these questions. But it can make a difference and autographing can be embarrassing. Of course, it helps when you have met the readers before or if you know them socially … but not if you can’t remember their names – though you can always ask glibly: By the way, how do you spell your name again? And as long as the answer isn’t B..I..L..L or something equally uncomplicated, you’ll probably get away with it. Then, what do you say in a dedication – though perhaps that’s not the correct term for the little extra you write above and beyond the signature? If I don’t know the person at all or haven’t really had a chance to meet them, and can say: A great pleasure to meet you! or Wonderful to see you again, all I have been able to come up with is hoping you enjoy the book! Any other suggestions would certainly be welcome!
And Are There More Events?
Yes, soon off to Fiji and another couple of appearances at book-signing or book reading events at a couple of tourist resorts. That will be interesting.
Finally, I’ve been fortunate to have these events set up for me, and for that I am truly grateful. But here’s a few tips and ground-rules for anyone thinking of hosting a book-signing for themselves. Better still, here’s how to maximize the impact of the event.
Marketing is a pretty cunning activity as any ” Indie” author already knows … or certainly soon finds out, especially if you read books like “The Brain Sell” by David Lewis; and see what lengths the marketing people are going to in order to harness our emotions and persuade us to buy “something” .. or anything!
What about “freebies”?
However, I was amazed recently by an Indie author I spoke to …… on-line, not in real life (who actually talks to anyone face-to-face these days?) … and she told me that out of 33,000 downloads of her e_book, there were 29,000 give-aways! Whoa! I thought to myself .. that’s still 4,000 sales which isn’t too bad .. and .. with all those “freebies” she was certainly getting her name around.
….. Incidentally, another useful way to do that seems to be through the About Me network!
Now with all the restrictions Amazon and other distributors impose on their authors, offering “give-aways” is pretty difficult, except perhaps through Google Play: Books – but I’ve found their site and distribution quite complicated to manage – so I haven’t yet been able to sort out such massive free download possibilitites …
But I thought I’d do what I could, to the extent possible through the traditional e_book distributors of Amazon and Smashwords (including retailers from iTunes and Barns&Noble to Flipkart in India), and the best I could do was to try “0.99cents” … worldwide … Looking forward to seeing what impact that has!
“BEGINNINGS” …March Only Promotion 0.99cents!
Of course, I also try to promote other “Indie” authors whenever I can … and still keep hoping they’ll help promote my books as well…
If you haven’t read any of Ann Massey’s books, you should give them a try. They’re all a good read and quite different. You can find them on Amazon. Ann has a new novel coming out soon.. this time it’s humour: The Little Dog Laughed. It sounds as though it’s completely different too. On her Facebook page, Ann says –
“The hero, Spartacus aka Sparky (BLESS HIM), is off on a time travel adventure in Roman-occupied Briton.”
Ann Massey is an Australian author living in Perth, Western Australia – the far south-west corner of the continent. It’s a state that, at a guess, makes up almost two-thirds of Australia and probably 95 percent of it is desert. It’s a pretty bleak environment but down in the civilized corner, money talks. And the people there love it. Here are my reviews of the three of Ann’s novels that I’ve read and enjoyed…
The Biocide Conspiracy: This was the third book by Anne Massey that I have read – it was her first novel and without underrating the other two which I very much enjoyed, I think it is the best! Good story, great plot and characterization, and well written. Yes, it’s about biological weapons of mass destruction but like Anne Massey’s other novels, its also really about people and important social issues … especially the young and how easy it is for them to get into trouble and how an uninspired legal system and an unforgiving society, especially those uprighteous, self-satisfied members of the affluent middle class, are all too ready to see the worst in everybody except themselves. The story revolves around secret biological experiments on an international space station that crash-lands in the middle of the desert in Western Australia bringing with it lots of action as a young offender from the city on probation and a nerdy young local girl see conspiracies everywhere and go through trials and tribulations in trying to outwit a violent group of soldiers of fortune looking to sell the WMD to a foreign terrorist state. Lots of local scenery and insights into the hardship of life where tough old farmers eke out an existence in the vast open spaces of arid Western Australia.
Salvation Jane: This is the story of an ordinary, not so young woman’s emotional growth from rather shallow materialism to a thinking, caring human being. But it’s more than that. It’s also a comment on a cynical politics, greedy corporations and the realities of social conscience in the western world. Everyoned needs to read this … it also paints a telling picture of the Australian social landscape at the beginning of the 21st century…. Now I’m a bit of a sucker for novels with a message – an
essential ingredient of a good novel in my view – and this message is so important as the the mass media (owned by the rich) does nothing but magnify the myth that the poor and homeless are that way because of their own fault and laziness. This book sets the story straight. It doesn’t glorify the homeless but in an intelligent and balanced way, it juxtaposes the plight of the poor with the soul-less selfishness of the rich corporate and political class (a misnomer as “class” is one thing they lack). You’ll enjoy it!
The White Amah: This is the second Ann Massey novel I read and very much enjoyed. It tells the story of a rather unpleasant and ambitious young woman who seems to stop at nothing to build a career as a rock star… Ann Massey does a great job of juxtaposing the rise of this totally selfish young woman to riches and fame with the gentler path of the hapless baby she abandons to life as an orphan in rural south-east Asia …. at least until their paths eventually cross. Gangsters, toffs, celebrities and greedy corporate interest litter the scene .. and there is subtle social commentary as one expects from Ann Massey. A gripping read.
Gripes About Politicians
It’s almost eighteen years I’ve been living back in Europe … and that’s after a stint of a dozen years enjoying that “rich man’s paradise”: Hong Kong .. but I’ve always tried to keep informed about politics in North America and in Australia – my homeland … So I thought I’d bring up here just a couple of things that get me annoyed about political life, especially over here in Europe. (Just “a couple” you say! Well who’s got all day to listen to me?).
Now these gripes of mine may not be precisely the same sorts of things that grate on people’s nerves in Australia and North America … “holy cow, matey!!!” I just had a horrible vision of a kind of intellectual, foot-in-the-mouth, mild-mannered, pugilistic “shirt-fronting” leader who looks like a morphed version of a disappointing Barack Obama and a disingenuous Tony Abbott . .. that’d give anyone nightmares … I’m over it and getting back to Europe and my gripes .. and very likely, you can see the same sorts of politicians’ “world visions” festering in most western democracies, even if at the moment they are only in a gestating embryonic form or going through some sort of slow, laborious birth pains. ….
And ” What are you talking about?” you may ask.
Well if you’ll just give me another minute, I’ll tell you just what it is that I’m talking about.
…We’re All In It Together…
I don’t know if it is me, and maybe it’s not so common in Australia and North America as it is in Europe, but when talking about how tough times are for lots of people these days, I seem to always be hearing politicians saying that “we’re all in it together” … and of course, it always seems to be those “pollies”:
- born with a silver spoons in their mouths,
- with sublime career connections gained from having beaten each other as “fags” with switches and taken ice-cold showers together in swank private schools, or
- who happen to have made or inherited multi-gazillions from one or another family corporate empire.
… Yes, it’s always those kinds of politicians who seem to think that the poor sods of ordinary men and women with a mortgage, three children’s schooling expenses to pay, increasing energy charges, a car and other household necessities with ever- increasing built-in obsolescence – like your iPhones and most everything else – somehow need to be reminded that they are all in the “it” together .. yes … they want us to imagine that we are “all” suffering in much the same way; ground down by just how expensive ordinary life has become over the last few decades .. since all the world’s wealth has been siphoned off by those few individuals who benefitted handsomely from the private equity banking crisis …. and left with almost no time to worry about what sort of world we are leaving for our grandchildren after we (or someone who’s making lots of money) finish polluting the “Frank Lloyd Wright” out of it.
And all the while, there are our erstwhile political leaders sitting comfortably up there in the political capitols of the western world, on their leather armchairs scoffing taxpayer subsidized dacquiris and canapés .. or .. in the case of the slightly less right-wing ones, feeling only slightly more self-consciously embarrassed on their padded fenceposts with a vintage champagne disguised in stained old coffee mugs – and all of them cracking their whips over our bowed heads while we trudge back and forth on our daily toil. And that’s if your lucky enough to have a job … and we don’t even live in poor old ravaged Greece.
Clearly, we are not all in it together …. but then they tell you…
…Look At How Many Jobs We’ve Created…
.. by giving subsidies and tax-breaks to big business… ‘Coz that’s another thing these elected (so-called) representatives of the common man and woman (or of corporate interests and rich bankers …depending on you political persuasion) seem to keep telling us …. is just how many jobs they’ve created and how many lives they have improved by this wonderful beneficience they have bestowed upon us all ….
Of course, critics of our cheerful politicians will tell you that these so-called jobs are mainly “zero hours” contracts, especially in the UK, and there could be 1.5 million of them in Britain this year … and casual work in the U.S. as well ! You don’t know what “zero hours contracts” are? .. It’s when a contracted “employee” gets a call or a text each morning or late the night before to tell them how many hours they are needed for that day .. or if they’re needed at all (and that means “no pay” that day) – of course, they can’t refuse if they are needed – and if they’re not needed, surely, can’t they go around to the Job Centre (assuming it hasn’t been privatized and turned into a jobs for “pay-offs to the staff” centre) to see what’s on offer .. of course they can’t get any help there ‘coz they’ve already got a job! And they should be damned thankful for that .. shouldn’t they? … Well that’s what the politicians say! …. Especially because these people are now not counted in the official unemployment statistics. Damn! It’s a “win.. win” strategy for the “pollies”: the illusion of more jobs and the illusion of less unemployment – statistics don’t lie!
On the other hand, you’ve got the mainland european (to some people, “smelly socialist”) model … where employers just don’t hire people at all – they can’t afford to, as they have to pay almost as much as their (admittedly low) salaries to the government in charges, to help fill up the deepening “black hole” of social welfare – and because, like in France, they only have a choice between offering a “contract for life” and a “fixed-term contract” …. Of course, the banks don’t help by refusing to offer home loans or any kinds of loans to anyone unless they have a “job for life” … and they’re the only people rental agencies want to see if you are looking for somewhere to live. ….. So employers don’t want to hire at all …. and employees only want an employment contract for life; they’d rather stay on social welfare ‘til the right job comes along. And even if they do work “casually”; any pay received gets deducted from their meagre benefits. It’s a “no win” situation all around!
The politicians just don’t seem to have a clue. Or they don’t care.
…Job-Sharing For Politicians…
So what’s the solution? Job-sharing for politicians, but not quite like what has been seriously discussed in the UK and in Northern Ireland; not just to bring more women into politics. Something a bit different. …. How about every elected politician is obliged to spend three months each year doing the job of – or looking for work like – an ordinary person (and receiving their pay or benefits) … a person whose name is chosen at random, or pulled out of a hat. And that person does the politican’s job (and receive’s the “pollie’s” pay) for three months. It’s a sort of Jobs Lotto. And you don’t even have to pay for a ticket.
Then the politicans will be able to say, self-righteously: “I’ve been there! I know how ordinary people feel. I know how they live.” And the ordinary people may just get a better understanding or how much or how little their elected representatives actually do for them or for anyone else. … They’ll even get to vote in the politician’s place. It can’t be any worse than what’s happening already, with politicians voting on strict party lines or influenced by well-funded lobbyists …. remember what those lobbyists said about cigarette smoking …
And if lots more people got a say in political decision-making, it may well be that we’ll be a darn side closer to true democracy than we are at the moment.
Other Links and credits:
“Webucator” has asked some authors for their views on writing novels …. here’s my response..
What a question! My thoughts on novel writing …. and as a part of the National Novel Writing Month campaign … well, that’s taking a risk! Given what I’ve said about it in the past .. though now my views have mellowed. So congratulations to all those who braved the challenge of writing 50k words in a month!
NaNoWriMo … love that abbreviation .. it wiggles round the wips … especially for non-americans like me .. who didn’t grow up talking out of the sides of their mouths! I grew up in Australia, and we mumbled – our excuse? .. trying to avoid the flies sneaking in .. it wasn’t really, t’was probably anxiety at hearing our own voices – like when you hear yourself on playback for the first time! Cringe.. Hey, that was a lifetime before YouTube! We were pretty self-effacing in those days. …So maybe writing is a way for me to say something without hearing my own voice… maybe that’s why I write… maybe. Maybe that’s Freud sitting astride the elephant in the corner. “Tell me Sigmund … what do you think?” .. “Let it go, boy!” he whimpers. The elephant’s backbone must be hurting. I do as I’m told.
So back to “Na-No-Wri-Mo”: “try it” I say, “just try to say it”. “Move your lips .. try it” .. the trouble comes when you get to the “wa-ri” … it’s the only way I can say it .. and even then it feels like I’m the only old guy at an elocution class. ….. Sigmund tries and fails .. his guttural Austrian accent makes it sound like “Ve azk ze qvestions”.. I squirm. “Should I be afraid?” “Vy are you zo afred? Iz it somezing to do wiz yur childhood?” he offers … Disgusted. I shut him down…. perhaps too curtly. “Let’s get on with it.” I grumble.
… Now, I should make a clean breast of it. I’ve only written one novel .. it’s new cover is just here on the left … no right … I’m still struggling to master wordpress’s editing and formatting tools … especially as I have rather neglected my “author blog” for quite some time. I’ve even let down the twittersphere of late. Too much to do… No, not “NaNo”, though I do have a couple more novels on the slow burner and I’m just about to turn up the gas. … But I do have a good excuse for all this delay and neglect; and it does go some way to answering one of the questions you pose… notably, what pays the bills? Well, it’s been a tragic year for novel writing as far as I’m concerned. I’ve barely had the time to translate my e_book: “Beginnings” into a createspace print-on-demand masterpiece !!!!.. and I’ve still not pressed the final button to set it free – I’ll do it tomorrow .. it’s hard to let go .. maybe I should ask Sigmund about that? Sorry, he’s dropped off to sleep. Wait, I’ll do it now. I’ll publish “Beginnings” in print and be damned!
But yes, you’ve gotta “earn a quid” (or a “buck” as many of you would say) .. when you can. And it just so happened that a couple of the books I wrote in a previous incarnation needed new editions and a couple of others needed writing and the odd article … and they’ve taken me just about the whole year to do …. don’t scoff or scorn, one’s a 1,000 page plus encyclopedia on aviation law… it’s the third edition. The other two or three? .. Well they’re much the same sort of stuff but quite a bit less lengthy .. anyway only some ‘proofs’ left to polish off now and another little “spin-off” project to complete. .. So my unfinished new novels beckon. Anyway, it’s not that the money these publishers pay that actually pays the bills .. even though they’re some of the richest publishing corporations in the world .. of course, they don’t stay rich by lavishing money on their authors. But that’s publishing, I guess. So, I don’t do it for the money … No. No, I don’t rely on writing for a living. I wish I could. So why do I do it? It’s tedious sometimes .. and frustrating .. and incredibly time-consuming .. and incredibly underpaid .. but I think I must love it. Just trying to get the words right .. or is it the right words … or is it .. just to write words right!
Sorry to say, but it’s the old career I gave up as an academic lawyer that just about finances my life now – of course there wasn’t much less left after it subsidized going off and sailing the South China Seas … …but that was just another shattered dream .. and life’s full of them. .. a bit like the internet and property bubbles that transferred all the wealth to the super-rich. Anyway, even if I had used all this last year to finish the sequel to “Beginnings“, the royalties it’d likely be bringing in might just buy dinner at a chinese take-away. So it’s not for the money that I write. It wasn’t even for the money that I wrote books during my academic career. Lots of academics don’t do it. … It’s that you want to be heard. … Or I do! … You want to communicate. You hope that someone might just get something out of what you’ve written… learn something, think something new, get some pleasure or even some comfort .. Ideas have a life of their own, after all .. at least I believe that … and maybe, just maybe they can help to make the world a better place …. My other books were useful and some were appreciated, but I was and still am hoping for much more with my novels. …. Strangely though, I’m a bit embarrased when my readers tell me how much they’ve enjoyed “Beginnings”. You’d think I’d be glowing! Weird huh!
Do I have any advice for fiction writers? Decide what you really want to achieve. .. getting published .. making money or what? Well, what I want to achieve may be quite a bit different to what lots of other writer’s want. I want to write great literature … and I want to write literature that will be read in a hundred years’ time… and maybe even make a difference. … “Modest aspirations,” you say! As to wanting literary longevity, my friend Sigmund would no doubt tell me it’s because I’ve written lots of ‘law books’ and they go out of date every few years or so and are forgotten! “OK , Siggy … but it’s not just that!” And what about: “great literature”? What is that? You may well ask. …. For quite some time I’ve asked myself that question … and I even blogged about it… it’s hard to put your finger on it and even harder to do. .. Then, just lately, I read a little book called “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning“, about a young man’s wanderings by poet-cum-author Laurie Lee, and then an almost impenetrable mist thinned and lifted, dark ominous clouds parted and the word “poetry” appeared. It reminded me of my old High School English literature teacher, “Buster” Bevan, when he quoted from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”:
“Out, out brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard of no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
And this was before my university studies in English “literature” dashed for decades any hope of my actually writing literature … and left me with the law. But to make that sublime choice of words, that flourish of imagery, elegance of simile and shock of metaphor … it adds so much to what is just a nice little story .. and there are lots of nice little stories around, but not much literature …. yes … there were moments when Laurie Lee overdid “it” and maybe then “it” didn’t quite work .. when the flurry of words let something other than the simplicity and beauty of the image weadle its way in … maybe that’s what went on in de Waal’s “The Hare with Amber Eyes” … So I read the last book in Laurie Lee’s autobiographical trilogy, called “A Moment of War” when he trekked over the Pyrennees in winter to join the republican forces and fight Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War .. what a debacle … and this time there was more than just a nice little story … and the poetry was back but muted and never overdone … and I was back home again … back with my book, “Beginnings” .. set in the Basque country in the aftermath of the conflict that should have warned the western world about the rise of fascism, but didn’t. … Doesn’t history repeat itself …
Look, I am keen on e_book fiction… not because I’ve traditionally published a “clutch” of books (academic) with up-market publishers who’ve basically wasted my time .. but maybe it’s because I really appreciate the anarchy of self-publishing … anyway enough of my prejudices .. let me tell you about HUNG UP IN BEMIDJI …by Kathy Cohen.
It’s based in a rodeo .. and though I’ve been to a few, I never thought I’d find it fascinating .. but Kathy Cohen does just that without even trying .. and really it’s just the background … it’s the human interest stories of Cooper Lydell and his “bull rider” son and his eclectic band of fellow travellers who make it a really enjoyable and sometimes funny double murder mystery in the arid back-drop of Minnesota (or was it Iowa) or somewhere like that … but it could be western Queensland or New South Wales in outback Australia … The story starts of slow as it should… and picks up pace as the reluctant hero finally accepts his role as private detective and in an inimitable beginner’s fashion almost gets himself killed in solving the murder! Full of down-to-earth characters that you’ve got to love and a bunch of “baddies” not all of whom are likely murder suspects.. A very good read .. highly recommended..