Counting the Blessings

Last night was a strange one, not what I really expected, then again, in my job I’ve learned to ‘expect the unexpected’ but last night got me thinking of what was, and what might have been. And counting the blessings that stopped them happening.

Let me explain a bit, see I work for a bus company, I started off about six years ago as a driver, but about eight months ago my role changed and I now work mostly in the office helping the bosses to coordinate the runs.

About six months ago we bought out the competition and ended up running all the routes in the city, that brought a few challenges, most of which are either driver or vehicle-related.

Yesterday we were a few drivers short, so I got the word I was going to be ‘on the road’ (I still love that part of the job, it’s something you REALLY look forward to when you’re working in the office) but the routes I was driving I wasn’t that familiar with as they’d changed quite a bit since I was last on them.

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One road, in particular, I went down I hadn’t been there at night for years, and I found myself thinking of the last time I was there at that time of night.

Seven years ago I was made redundant, twice in the space of six months, I ended up with a job working seventy-five hours a week, permanent nights cleaning the streets, getting paid just over the minimum wage. At the time the economy had crashed, and we had two rentals as well as our own house that had dropped in value dramatically, the income from the rents didn’t cover the mortgages on the properties, and they were worth $100k less than we paid for them, we were in serious trouble!

But last night as I thought of all that stuff, I kept thinking of the song I learned in Sunday school “Count your blessings”  and that’s what I started to do.

I wish I could say the debt’s gone, it isn’t, and won’t be for a very long time, the houses are gone, but I do have a job, granted I work long hours, but it’s only sixty-five now instead of the seventy-five and I’m thankful for a company that allows me to work what I need to in order to pay my bills. We rent a better house than we could ever afford to buy, and life is pretty good really.

Yeah, life can seem to throw some pretty crappy things at us, but just stop for a moment, take a look at what else is going on, and you’ll see little blessings sprouting up, the shoots might be so small you have to look hard (they were for me six years ago) but they’re there.

 

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Backup plans

“Ya gotta have a backup plan!”

How many times have you heard that phrase?

I can remember a few places where I’ve worked things at times seemed so chaotic I wondered how we ever got things done? I mean so many things going on, and half of them because some machine or other packed up, broke down leaving people stranded and all needing a ‘backup’

(What’s your backup plan?)

I work in a job where we don’t use one ‘backup’ but several, and we work out ahead of time “If this goes wrong, then we do this, and if that goes wrong, then we’ve got plan b”

We start at 5am, but by 10am we’re often on the third or fourth plan for the day, Hey, when a half-dozen vehicles break down, that’s how ‘ya gotta run’

See, I work for a bus company in my normal job, we’ve normally got anything up to a hundred vehicles, and when you’ve got that many around, things can go wrong!

A couple of years ago, I was writing my first novel, I’d got almost the whole manuscript written and ready, then my laptop died on me, the screen was useless, and my manuscript was nearly lost, I had an idea for a plan, but hadn’t followed it, it very nearly cost me dearly.

(The novel I very nearly lost)

We did manage to retrieve the novel and put the ‘backup’ plan into action, its saved me more than once.

The Novel I almost lost.

This week we had another ‘issue’ occur, our internet access went down, and to say I was grumpy about it would be a major understatement, but then, a little while later we just went on to the ‘backup plan’ while our provider sorted the problem out.

Having a plan means you get things done, but having a backup plan means that when ‘Murphy’ plays his law (Whatever can go wrong will) you can turn round and say. “Stuff you, Murphy, I’ve got a backup!”

Small victories

I didn’t post anything last week, just so much going on that I didn’t get the chance to write all that much, so there wasn’t much chance to write here.

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything going on, there was, and it was a lot, or at least for me, it was a lot.

Remember a few weeks ago I told you about when Amazon and I had a small disagreement, well. they must have had a rethink, and behold, they created the series page that I asked for!

Take a look at the series. By the way, browsing the first couple of chapters is free!

To me, it’s a small victory, it’s a small piece of the building blocks that let people know that I’m here, and I’m writing.

There are those of us who go for the principle of writing as much good stuff as we can and do very little in the way of marketing the stuff we do write in the hope that the sheer volume of written material will give us the sales, it might! but it also might not.

I’ve gone (so far) with trying to list on as many ‘free sites’ as I possibly can, so far I’ve got onto about four, and the books can be found there, but not so many sales, or at least not the millions I hoped for, but I’ve made some pretty good friends along the way.

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Actually, that’s one of the great things about Facebook, it’s got some pretty awesome groups on there where people are willing to ‘pool their knowledge’ and help each other on the way.

I mean, let’s face reality here,  a self-published author just doesn’t have the time or the finances to chase down every possible lead or idea, so why re-invent the wheel?

It was someone in a Facebook group who suggested to me to ask Amazon to set up the series page, I’d never even thought they could. When I asked them how, they explained that as long as I gave Amazon the ISBN or ASIN numbers that I wanted linking, also as long as there was something identifying them as part of a series on both the cover and inside the book, then there shouldn’t be a problem. So I did and after some reluctance, they obliged me and created the series.

On a slightly different note, this week I got to drive a dilapidated Chinese made bus that has done over a million kilometres (it’s less than 10 years old, note I didn’t say ‘Old’ and yes, that’s about 700,000 miles) and after that I’m going to say “If it’s got four wheels, I can drive it!!” So yes, you can do anything if you really want to, you just may not do it as well as you want to!

To me, both of these were small victories.

 

 

 

 

Traction

The other day I saw something that spoke volumes to me, probably partly because of the times I’ve been in a similar predicament.

I was driving the bus, the weather was pretty awful, the rain coming down pretty hard.

A truck was delivering supplies to a building site, as it backed down a road to the site the road gave way on one side and twenty tons of building supplies got stuck in the mud.

That got me thinking, yeah, my thinking can be dangerous.

All it took for that truck to get stuck was just a little soft patch of dirt, that’s all it took.

It made me think, back when I was in the Forces one of the first things they did when I first passed my truck driving test was how to drive ‘cross country’ and how to get ‘traction’ where there might not be any.

See driving a truck ‘cross’ country you need a few skills, one thing you learn is “If you can’t walk over the ground, you sure as eggs are eggs aren’t going to drive over it!”

You know, it’s the same with marketing a self-published book. We often want to start with the ‘big stuff’ marketing campaigns and all that, but “if we can’t walk the ground, we sure aren’t going to drive over it”

Think about that.

Trust!

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking these last few days. I know, that’s dangerous right? I mean thinking, it’s bad for the health, it forces us to try and do things a little differently at the end, and that’s not good as it means we have to change right?

Well maybe, but the stuff I’ve been thinking of, well yeah, maybe it’s a little dangerous.

See, the last few days I’ve been running a ‘free’ promotion of my book ‘Sting of the Scorpion’ as every few months KDP allow the books priced in its range five days ‘free of charge’. It means no royalties for me, but hopefully, people like the book so much that they come back and buy others you’ve written.

What’s the result? Well it got about a dozen downloads, not exactly spectacular, least it doesn’t sound so spectacular at first, and that got me thinking “was it worth it?”13419107_1290666714281668_338369810850854355_n

The other day, I got an email from a group that I work with that showed me how many people actually saw my posts, and that made me sit up and take notice.

Facebook

Total of about fifty saw the post, but this doesn’t include the FB groups I posted in

Twitter

Maybe around 150 saw the message.

I used to work as a door to door sales person, and one thing I remember from those says was that for every twenty presentations you do, you’ll get maybe three leads that’ll turn into sales, but I’m not talking sales here, I wasn’t selling anything, was I?

Think about this, only maybe a hundred or so actually saw the ads I put out, and out of that hundred, some went and had a look, but about a dozen downloaded the book, it made me think of a saying that Dad used to have ‘Quality always sells itself’ (I’ve linked the post here, so go ahead, read what I wrote)

Trust

There’s basically only one thing going on here, those people saw the opportunity and decided to trust me with their time, trusting that the book will keep them entertained enough to want to read it, and I’m sure they’re going to enjoy it, but it does something else, it builds trust.

Have you ever seen an advert for Rolls Royce? Or what about Ferrari or Aston Martin?

They all sell cars, just like Ford and General Motors, but you never see the adverts! Why is that? Yeah, they appeal to a small market, and they intend to, but come on! You still need to tell people what you sell right?

Unless they already trust you that is!

The people who buy those cars want a car that’ll do what it says, and those companies have taken years to build trust, what they say their cars will do, they do, and probably more besides!

The one thing I realized this week is that everything is built on trust, ‘My word is my bond’ as the old business saying goes, and for us writers, the same has to be true.

I’ve also come across the idea recently that when a writer ‘signs’ with a regular publishing company it’s the publisher that takes the risk, but the truth is, they don’t really, see the reason I say that is they’ve taken years to build up their list of outlets and people who buy their books, they know that they can sell ‘X’ amount of books in specific genres, and that’s how they target the books, they take very little risk because they’ve built up trust over the time they’ve been in business.

Incidentally, 85% of new businesses fail because they don’t build enough trust to make things ‘viable’, they fail within the first three years before they’ve had the time to build that trust.

What are you getting at? I can hear the question whirring round in your head! Well, what I’m getting at is we succeed when we take the time to build up trust, and that’s done by getting involved in groups, making our presence known, showing that we’re reliable and produce good quality writing on a regular basis.

Okay, so how are we doing in that area? It’s early days, but things are going good so far I would say, how about you?

By the way, take a look at the book, even though the deal’s now finished, it’s still a steal at 99c ‘Sting of the Scorpion’

Meanwhile, I’ll keep building on the trust I’ve already gained.

 

When Amazon disagrees

Guess what? Amazon and I have a bit of a disagreement going on! Something that I was a bit surprised about, but that’s what’s happening at the moment.

It’s not a major ‘earth-shattering’ thing, and I’m not likely to get booted off the site, but it’s regarding something I asked them to do, and they got back to me saying “Not enough evidence to warrant us doing it!”

See, I’ve got two novels out through CreateSpace and Kindle. To me, they’re the first two books in a series, they’re ‘standalone’ books as well, but they also follow a team of Special Forces as they deal with a situation, but Amazon said that I hadn’t put enough into the books to make it obvious they were a series!

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I know what they were getting at, that at the beginning of the book they wanted me to ‘list’ the books and put links in there to the next in the series, but at the moment I haven’t done that, maybe I will or maybe not, I haven’t decided as yet.

One thing I did do this morning was I took a look at my previous sales on Kindle, it was quite interesting, see I’m thinking of running a ‘Kindle Countdown’ sale later in the month, but the last two times I ran one I didn’t sell a book! I sold in the month before and after, but not during the countdown sale! Not sure what to make of that really.

By the way, I’m running a ‘free giveaway’ at the moment, click on the link and see what it is, it’s only running for the next five days, then it’ll be back to the regular price.

Regarding the rest of the Marketing, well I’ve got the books listed on a couple more sites, one of the books even got a five-star rating on Goodreads, that I was impressed and really happy with.

Anyway, that’s all for now.

Bye for now

Lawrence

‘Self publishing’ or self Marketing?

One thing they never tell you when you start this ‘self-publishing’ thing is that you also need to be a ‘self-marketer’ and boy, can it be a big learning experience!

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying every step of it, and so far it’s not half as ‘scary’ as I thought it might be, it’s a lot of work, but the things you learn along the way, the people you meet, they’re amazing.

Last week we started this journey with a look at some of the things that I’d already done, that didn’t take long as there wasn’t that much. But quality does sell itself and after two years on Amazon, they’d sold a few, though it wasn’t much more than a trickle.

Actually, as I thought about it, the fact is that most of us want to do a bit of marketing and hope that it turns into a huge flood right?

Guess what, ever taken a look at any of the rivers here on this wonderful planet of ours?

I remember as a kid being fascinated by the story of David Livingstone and his journeys, his quest to ‘find the source of the Nile’

Guess what, it doesn’t have one source, or even two, it has literally hundreds, all tiny streams that flow into the slightly bigger streams, and then into the small rivers, then the bigger rivers, and finally into the huge torrents that we know as the ‘White Nile’ or ‘Blue Nile’, not to mention the other bits that flow into ‘Lake Victoria’

Guess what, good marketing is like that! Take a look at any product on the market, they’re in literally thousands of shops and stores.

This week I started to look at marketing my books on the Market, and the results haven’t been totally what I expected.

See, no books sold, not so far, but there were extra visits to the Team’s facebook fan page

Here’s the fan page

So, that’s a boon right?

And it gave me some pretty good ideas.

One thing that I did was list the book for a paid advert on a site called Awesome Gang, here’s the link to the site

Awesome Gang, ‘Sting of the Scorpion’

But that gave me an idea, see the first one I listed was a ‘paid’ advert. but there’s also a ‘free option, granted it doesn’t get you ‘featured’ on their site, but it does get you listed.

I wondered if there were any other sites that you can list for free.

There are more than a few, but for the sake of being brief, I’ll talk about the ones I went ahead and did something with.

Goodreads

Just go over to my page on Goodreads, I’ve got my two books listed there, along with other books I recommend reading.

And another I signed up for, and listed the books on, though they aren’t showing up yet is

Pretty hot books

So, I’ve been pretty busy in that area, and I hope that it gives any other authors struggling with ‘getting the word out’ ideas on how they can make inroads in making their books known. By the way, one thing I discovered is that my book ‘Sting of the Scorpion’ actually had five-star ratings from readers (okay a reader) on Goodreads, and it wasn’t one I put there! So that goes to show, quality does sell itself, but sometimes it appreciates a ‘little help from my friends’

Bye for now.

Lawrence

 

 

 

“Quality always sells itself?”

So, the book’s on Amazon, you’re all poised for the big time, now the question is how to ‘break in’ to the big time?

I was watching a YouTube interview a few weeks ago from an author who just knew she had a book that would sell millions, if she could just get someone to publish it that is!

Eleven publishers rejected the manuscript, but she kept plugging away, and eventually, one small publishing house took it on, and seven years and seven books later that writer was a Billionaire whose books were found on every child’s bookshelf, or if not on the shelf they were on the ‘wish list’

An inspiring story, but what about those of us who’ve taken the gamble and cut the ‘middle man’ publisher out?

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I got my book onto Amazon, and truth was, I’ve had no idea what to do next! My sole ‘marketing plan’ was just put the books on Facebook and sell directly to people, I didn’t really expect to sell that much.

Actually, I kind of hoped that someone would stumble across the books and things would go from there!

In one sense, that’s what happened when I got asked if I’d enter the second novel into the Ngaio Marsh 2018 crime writers awards. Yes someone did ‘discover’ the book, but it wasn’t because of any kind of marketing I did.

Quality always sells itself!

Dad was a Coal merchant when I was growing up, going from door to door in the North of England selling bags of coal to the general public, most people had coal fires back then, but one thing that used to surprise me was I don’t think I ever remember him advertising his business!

Forty years he was in business, and not once did he ever put an ad in the paper, or on the radio, or anything like that!

I once asked him “Dad, why don’t you advertise?” thinking that even though he was always busy, it would bring more business in, that had to be good right?

I’ll never forget his reply, “Quality always sells itself”

Dad knew that if you were selling the best product, then once the word got out, people would come to you for your product, and forty years in business showed there was some truth in those words.

But how to get the word out?

That’s why Amazon relies on the system they do, they rely on people reviewing the books they sell, and they’re pretty fierce on enforcing the policy of making sure any ‘reviews’ are obtained fairly.

Hey, I never said I’d give you the answers on how to, I said this was a journey we’d undertake together, and so far this is what I’ve done, judge for yourself if I’ve done it right, it’s about us working these things out together.

When I published I basically had no idea what or how to get any reviews, and all I got was ‘post on facebook’ and the like.

Well, I did, I joined Facebook groups, and I’ve learned a lot from them, but mostly all I got when I posted stuff for sale was ‘Likes’ which were nice, but they don’t pay the bills.

But Quality does sell itself. See, I got some books that I sold ‘face to face’ and guess what, people started asking “When’s book two coming out?” and when it did, they were asking about book three, so I guess Dad might have been right.

But here’s a guy who’s helping me on the way

Meet one of my Mentors Dave Chesson

Dave doesn’t know I’ve put the link there, but he wouldn’t mind anyway.

One thing I did a few days ago (and it blew me away) was I went onto my Kindle page and took a look at the history of my books since the day they were published, and I discovered they have been selling, but tiny amounts!

See, quality does sell itself, and that’s what they’ve been doing, but how to get the word out, Facebook got me known a little around the ‘indie’ world, but mainly only ‘likes’ when I put stuff up for sale.

However I did learn some great things from Facebook, and I’ll be using them when I ‘ramp up’ the selling in the bookshops!

One thing I have learned, is I need to ‘target’ whom I’m going to approach to market the books to, but that’s for another post.

If you want an idea which Fb groups work, then leave a comment.

By the way, the ‘book’ I talked about at the beginning was ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone’ and the writer, JK Rowling, need I say more!

My Book’s on Amazon, now what?

“You’ve done the hard yards, you’ve written the book” you’ve heard, or read the ‘spiel’ usually followed by, “now all you have to do is follow my ‘xyz’ plan and you’ll make a bundle of cash”

Ever come across those lines? I have, and usually, they just don’t sound right!

Over at my regular job, we’ve got a poster on the wall that says ‘if your brain is saying “is that safe“, it probably isn’t’

I’m going to say that it’s probably true of those sites as well, it probably is too good to be true!

Okay, so the book’s on Amazon, now what?

Well, sorry to disappoint, but if you’re looking for a ‘quick fix’ and a ‘how to’ article then you need to go find one somewhere else, I don’t have what you need.

But if you want, you can join me on a journey, one where we might just find the answers together.

See, a few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to do something I thought was totally out of my reach as an author, I got the chance to do a ‘book promotion’ in a local library, and it was ‘bloody awesome’ (remember, I’m English, not well practiced in the art of understatement!).

What happened was a few months back, I’d just posted my second novel on Amazon, and a guy was looking up ‘New Zealand crime’ when Amazon nicely told him of my novel, set in NZ (and I live here) so he asked me if I’d consider putting it into the Ngaio Marsh competition, which I did, and hey presto, it’s actually doing pretty well, they asked me if I’d like to take part in the event in the library and I pretty much snapped their hands off!

That showed me that actually, it’s not just me that thinks my novels are good, and not just friends ‘being nice’ but they really are good, and worth the effort learning how to market them, then came the big surprise.

Yesterday, when I was thinking about this post, and thinking whether I’d have the guts to write it, I did a check on Kindle (both books are available on Kindle) and bearing in mind I’ve done nothing apart from the occasional Facebook post, the two books have sold about seventy copies of the ebooks, and been read in the Kindle Unlimited!

My first book, “Sting of the Scorpion”

Okay, they’re not screaming to the top of the bestsellers lists, but if they’re doing that with no marketing, what can they do if I take the time to learn how to do it properly?

That’s what I’m offering here, a chance to sit back and enjoy the journey, possibly learn from my journey as we set about learning how to market books on next to no money, we make mistakes, we make sales, and we build a platform for marketing books.

The second one that got entered in the competition “Scorpion’s Reach”

Take a look at them, by the way, they’re both on Kindle Unlimited so you can read them there for free.

Join me next week as we begin the journey.

Strange things these be!

It’s true if you stop and think about it, someone who takes the time to help on the way, that’s what a ‘Mentor’ is or are they?

Think about the great movies, and the role that the ‘Mentor’ plays in them, I’m thinking of Yoda in Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi (or Old Ben Kenobi as we’re introduced to him in the very first movie made, ‘Star Wars, a new hope’) or Mr Kiysaki in ‘The Karate Kid’ and you get some ‘old guy’ (or in Yoda’s case a very old Alien) showing up to help out a young and pretty inexperienced kid get out of a huge jam they’re in, is that a pretty accurate picture?

But things aren’t always that way with the real one, see, we all use ‘mentors’ in some way or form, the fact is, most of the time we just don’t know we’re using them!

 

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(A Very good life Mentor)

“What is a Mentor?”

Ever asked that question?

They’re sort of guides, guides for life in general, and also they can be guides for specific things.

Ever asked a buddy how you do something? Like how you fix the damn car that won’t start, or could they show you how to cook up that amazing breakfast you just had?

They roll up their sleeves, and away you go, learning what you just asked about, then a few weeks later, they’re asking how you’re going with the ‘new skill’  checking in, seeing what the progress is like, they’re not much further ahead in that skill than you are, but guess what, you’re both learning, and ‘mentoring’

Just recently I’ve taken on a mentor for marketing my books, he doesn’t know it as I’m using a website, but it’s there, and every few days I check into the site to learn a new skill or set something up, but each step is mentored as each step I get clear instructions on what to do and what not to do. I leave feedback at times on what works and what doesn’t, that way we both learn, and we both grow from the process.

So what about you? Are you using a ‘Mentor’?

By the way, they don’t have to be Human, or alive to be a mentor, they can also be a book, take a look at one of my biggest mentors above.

Leave a thought.

via Daily Prompt: Mentor