5 Years Published: Some thoughts and lessons…

Time can be a funny thing and it has certainly flown since I first envisioned and then eventually released my first book ‘Open Evening’ back in 2016. We’ve seen pandemics, two different presidents and even hardbacks being introduced to Amazon since this book came out.

For a story based upon a bad dream I had during my teen years it has shaped a huge part of me and my author journey ever since I wrote down the events of that nightmare onto six sides of lined paper. While it sat amongst many of my writings gathering dust for some years after, eventually it would be brought back into the light and served as my great writing reset while also being my debut novel and probably being my most important publishing moment to date. This post is dedicated to some of the vital things I have learned through releasing that book and my wider path as a creative.

Books capture a moment and version of you in time…

I am going to defend it jealously but I am also not afraid to admit that ‘Open Evening’ doesn’t contain my strongest writing – why would it? Because between then and today six other releases have arrived in that time. That’s six opportunities to be better than the previous project. Literally hundreds of hours toiling away figuring out my own style and the English language in general stand between my debut and now.

The story to me is still strong, but the execution, that’s something all writers will always be trying to get better at and so O.E. captures my writing ability at that moment in time. This is a book based in the US but written by a UK based author who has never been across the pond – words and phrases don’t always connect but I’m not going to change them for the world, this book represents so many things I’ve learned in time and those quirks make it all the more meaningful. There’s almost a charm in early works by some creatives and this book perhaps has a little of that.

Every time I have gone back into the manuscript files to change back matter or correct the odd error I find myself unable to change anything more than that. It represents me back then and I’m proud of that version of me in time. This also means that if you do read this book first and move on to later releases, you should hopefully see my writing ability evolve.

Truth in fiction resonates big time…

You’ll find that ‘Open Evening’ contains a huge dose of truth in between the monsters, the running and the terror. My own high school days play out in this book but with the fictional volume turned up. From geographical elements to even characters, much of this story is influenced by real things, people and encounters. For it, you get one hell of a resonating and relatable ride. If you are able to find some element of truth to base your own works on, you’ll probably captivate readers. Combine that with the sometimes outrageous fictional ideas and we’ve got ourselves an immersive tale. That ‘truth’ model is a concept you’ll find in all of my works so this book paved the way.

There are some fictional influences also…

From combining the name of my old high school with the town where slasher film ‘Halloween’ is based all the way to Alien, Buffy and even Blade. Much of my favourite thriller/horrors are also represented in this book and I’ve found that paying homage to them in a story gives readers a weird nostalgic comfort. If you liked Final Destination or any of the stuff below, you’ll probably like ‘Open Evening’.

Social Media Following is everything to me now, but it wasn’t always…

I had a fraction of the following I have now when this book was released and still it sold relatively well at the start.

41 copies – most of which were paperbacks got sold on release. This was a record I have only just broken in terms of release month sales. Back in 2016, Facebook was my main platform along with this blog which also had a fraction of the following I now have.

My advice when it comes to authoring and releasing books: You don’t necessarily need a big following to start off with because as long as that work of yours is findable, readers will eventually gravitate to it over time.

Me: I worked on regularly releasing content before I got anywhere near the social media following I have now. Content will foster new followers.

I got busy writing and spending the time I had to create…

Like I have said before, time is probably the governing factor in all of my content and success. When’ Open Evening’ was ready to be released, my editor wasn’t available and then so I had a year in lieu to use and that’s exactly what I did. Just as O.E. hit its release I was planning my next and already had a draft of ‘Darke Blood’ ready to be edited. 8 months later I had two books out there all because I used the time.

The Free Promo(s) have been worthwhile…

Many authors are strongly against giving their work away for free but I’m not many authors and for the six times ‘Open Evening’ has been priced at zero, thousands of people downloaded it. This has led to me finding an important readership and has even boosted paid sales of other titles over time.

Damn, getting reviews is hard…

I’ve tried near enough every trick out there to try and get more reviews and all of that started with this book. From sending physical copies to bloggers who never even responded, let alone left a review to giving copies to perhaps ‘higher end’ indie authors only to see that same copy on ebay some time later. Reviews are so hard to get and this book confirmed that for me. Since publication ‘Open Evening’ has managed 30+ reviews in that time. A small figure to some, but to me and considering I had very little following back at release, a good number.

It is never too late…

You’ll see me preaching this on Twitter every now and then but the release of a book is only the beginning and from that moment after, the opportunity for a book to find sales, reviews, audiences and a following is always there. It is never too late.

Edit: The official release was the 29th but it was uploaded to KDP early

Only you can write your book…

Writing tips and advice take many forms these days, from the awesome gems of guide books out there to social media, but only you the author can find what it takes within to write that book. It started for me with this fast paced high school creature feature horror but I have dabbled in many different genres while only really listening to myself and figuring out this wonderful craft.

Friends and Family were there for me…

As much as I am thankful for the support this book got at the very start, I will stress the word ‘were’ because after the release most of my family and friends disappeared. While back then it was kind of crushing I now understand that most of these people were supporting me and perhaps not the book which forced me over many years to go out and find my own supporters who backed both books and me. This became a blessing in disguise and I know some authors will never even get the acknowledgement from anyone they know for the work they have done so I am ever thankful for that initial support.

That initial support is how I promote myself today…

While most of my family and friends grabbed a copy of this book on release, they did so to support me personally and today that’s how I promote myself – as a person first and then my books second. Most of you reading this would have probably come from social media and might not have even read my works but you know who I am for that effort.

International pricing matters…

This is more of a practical lesson but for a while, my books never sold anywhere outside of the UK and this was mainly due to me not being fully in the detail about pricing in other countries. Be sure to do a little research just to see what is a fair price someone would pay in other places around the world.

Seek Professional Help…

My budget for most releases includes cover artists and editing – both of which to me are essential building blocks that make up the basic anatomy of a book. From word choices, structure and overall guidance; a good editor will help shape that work of yours. A good cover artist will also guide you – ‘Open Evening’ looks the way it does because of the professional help I got. The original cover I envisioned was way more elaborate but I know that those scratches embody everything I wanted to covey for a potential reader.

Keep Creating, Keep Learning…

The journey never ends and books once they are released will outlive us eventually. Books are a life investment and it’s important to learn what you can from releasing one into the wide world where anyone and anything can be said about it.

‘Open Evening’ represents the start of my publishing journey and for all it’s ‘charm’ this book is something I am immensely proud of giving to the world. There is something truly genuine about fostering a story from scratch and writing it with your heart and then offering it to the world; perhaps that’s the most genuine thing a human can do. To me, its certainly up there, so no matter what happens, embrace your art, learn from it, keep creating it and in this case embrace the unexpected.

The Power of Positivity on Social Media

Over the many years and through great trial and error on social media I have concluded that positivity is a powerful thing. Now I’m not talking about stapling a smile to your face for the crowd because when it comes to being positive online, that’s something that cannot be staged. But like most of the things I say that work on social media, they are no good unless I show you. So what do I mean by being positive – perhaps something one shouldn’t go shouting about these days out in the street without some context or a mask…

Some Context

Any victory small or large that you positively share with a social media following in a gracious way should be well received. How do I know that? Because I’ve spent a huge amount of time testing the waters and those stormy social media seas can be weathered by anyone; all you need to do is try and keep trying. But what do I really mean? All I can do is tell you my results that have worked and no, there isn’t any hack or magic formula to being positive online – you just have to show up and share.

But what if it feels like I haven’t achieved anything big or small to share?

That’s the wonder of being positive because it has multiple inputs. Sometimes it isn’t all about you and yes even I struggle with telling my ego that but, well-wishing is greatly received on social media. Just wishing your following a good day will resonate with someone and that resonation might compel someone to converse which is engagement which will turn into visibility and visibility turns into sales or follows or often overlooked – a good conversation and experience on social media. And remember social and media, they are named in that order to me for a reason – be social first, share media second.

Being positive on social media isn’t always about sharing results or victory but simply sparking an opportunity to engage and talk with another human behind the handle. So many users forget that or don’t even realise that. Just being on social media to sell things probably won’t take you very far unless you have a very mainstream and needed product or a bucket load of money to push your presence in front of everyone.

There are so many social media users out there who try to stir a reaction by being controversial or perhaps even spicy. I call that sort of thing bait and they’ll cast it out to the masses just to stir engagement – having been a reader most my life and present on social media for years, someone like me can see straight through it and none of that stuff ever really compels me to engage plus ultimately it is negative. Those who do thrive off negativity on social media will not last, no human can sustain negativity for long so be positive instead because sharing good things leads to even better things.

The Outlook is Positive

I know all too well that it’s hard having a lower following and for a long time it will feel like you are simply shouting into the void. Fill that void with positivity and it will answer back eventually. From sharing those smaller victories like a follower milestone, single book sale or new book review to simply wishing others a good day – humans are drawn to good news, good things and good things happening to you.

It fosters hope and if you give another person hope, they are unstoppable.

Practical Applications for Being Positive on Social Media:

Basic Tip: For those looking for a better reach, try using some hashtags. Most of the time the Hashtags I use are writing based like: #writingcommunity #authors #indieauthors #booktwitter #readingcommunity

There are even some mainstream hashtags that trend at certain times or days like: #mondaymotivation and #fridayfeeling

You can find more positive things listed on the original post which can be found and read for FREE over on my Patreon.

Those thinking about signing up will receive social media shout outs, coaching, a free book and will also get first dibs on my many guides coming soon.

Thanks for reading and stay positive folks!

What’s Next?

The next step on this author road beckons. While in the foreground I have put together one hell of a successful year so far in writing, my eyes are now set on stuff that has been happening in the background. I’m extremely happy with how things have turned out this year although much of it came with a struggle and perhaps that struggle is always going to be there for a creative who started at zero and has no real industry backing. Selling books when you have no industry backing is such a grind. This month has been slow but I’m hopeful it will end well. What I don’t have has never bothered me and the never haves aren’t worth the worry – my following is the best ever and there’s now a focus on spreading it across platforms that aren’t Twitter or this blog.

It has always been the plan from day one of book one being published to eventually aim to find an agent or publisher to take my work to new heights. Those seven books behind me are proof that I can do this on my own back and accompanied by a following forged over time – perhaps something that will make me as a creator unique and appealing. You never know if you don’t try and while it has been many years since I tried to attract the attention of a literary agent my sights are now set on it. I know how to write stories, I know how to sell stories and I know how to work on building a social media following. Perhaps agents need to apply within…

Weekly Ramble #109

10,000 Twitter followers is a huge achievement. That’s 10,000 reasons to keep going. 10,000 reasons to not give up. 10,000 reasons to be thankful for the support I have. While it is an exceptional and somewhat numbing moment, right now I feel as if a huge amount of pressure has been lifted. Having that many people behind you means that I no longer have to fight for attention or tolerate things that would effect my following if I reacted in a particular way. It has been a journey and it is now paying off.

Since even before my rise on Twitter I’ve been incredibly lucky to be supported by good people on here. The day-in day-outers who show up and click like on my posts, folks like me trying to make it in this world that is full of challenges. You guys were here before that and during it. I never forget those who have helped me and this celebration is just as much yours as it is mine. Inclusion has always been my mantra and probably why I am so successful at social media.

Sometimes the good guys win and sometimes it all just works out. I’m nothing special but what I stand for and those who stand beside me are exceptional. All I have ever done is carry on, regardless of bad results and being in the company of my old friend zero, I’ve kept going and the rewards are finally presenting themselves. Resilience in the face of adversity is probably the one thing I know, everything else I’ve just picked up along the way. If you do head over to twitter in recent times you’ll see a video at the top of my profile which outlines everything I feel right now. My determination to support and prove that indie authoring is viable, continues…

A year on since, well you know…

Its weird to think that a whole year has gone by since some of us thought the absolute worst was upon us. The end perhaps and maybe it was the end of ‘normal’ days before a pandemic gripped the whole world, captured our darkest thoughts and kept us away from one another.

The last twelve months have been a journey of emotion. There are those I know personally who lost the battle against a pathogen which didn’t discriminate, it just spread, quickly. My heart and thoughts go to the one’s we lost and their families. This has been a time I won’t want to live through again and even though I claim to be introverted I get my energy from being around others, real people, not through a Zoom call but through in-person interaction. I’m hoping soon that I can refill my energy by being around those I miss and haven’t been able to see.

This blog has done it’s best not to acknowledge these ‘times’ and for it there have been some wonderful moments of success that even extend to my writing career. Not only did the world change a year ago but I vowed to carry on through whatever and perhaps my situation allowed that, a fortunate situation and believe me, I know it’s worth. To release a book in 2020 was the biggest statement to fight against an era which did everything it could to rip our lives apart and the truth is, I’m a better person for it. Survival is a word that gets used a lot these days and maybe that’s all this was. Those who faced their own battles in 2020 and even those now still fighting the darkness of what unfolded, the sun is about to come up.

Truthfully and only for a short while this whole deal felt a little dystopian and deep down I was scared. It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to be hurt and it’s okay to have scars. This era has proven how precious life truly is and what the relationships that mean the most to me are truly worth. Even the friendships I forged during this time online are precious to me. The followers on here and my other platforms kept that fear at bay and kept me going. People gave me hope through all of this. So as I take one hell of a deep breath to reflect, my thoughts are with the one’s who never made it through this, the vaccine was only months from their tragic departure. Life can be like that I guess…

Re-blog: This blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award!

Hello friends, today marks an important anniversary. Its 2 years since this blogging effort got nominated for an award so I thought I would re blog what was a pinnacle turning point. We haven’t had many nominations over the years so it’s worth celebrating….

Lee's Hall of information

I can happily announce that this rather small blogging operation has been nominated for an award!

liebster

First and foremost I humbly accept and let me take this opportunity to say thank you to the Thinking Moon Blog for the nomination. This is the first time my writing efforts have ever been recognized in any way, it truly does mean a lot but this award nomination isn’t all about me (begrudgingly moves away from the spotlight…)

As well as being the rules of my nomination (more on that in a bit) it is my duty to say something about the fellow blogger who nominated me. The Thinking Moon Blog  contains a huge and diverse amount of content categories from sustainability articles all the way to Buffy the Vampire Slayer stuff (my favorite category). You can also find more Thinking Moon content via the tweet machine and Instagram. The word on…

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The Final Ramble – 2020

Unprecedented is probably the biggest understatement to describe this year but somehow we face the end of it.

Reflecting can do strange things to one’s thoughts. The future, the now and the past all come to mind. What we’ve been through as individuals and together will shape our lives maybe for many years to come and I won’t lie, back in March even I thought this fragile society we live in could possibly collapse – it came near but not near enough because we dug our heels, stayed indoors and got through. We dealt and most of us tried to make do while others suffered. Still good folks out there are suffering and its important to think of those in need no matter what time of the year it is.

There have been so many ups and downs, it really has been a rollercoaster and not for one second do I regret carrying on with this blog, carrying on producing content and overcoming everything to publish my 6th book. I wouldn’t have met folks like you if I didn’t and not to mention the loyal folks who have seen this blog rise from absolute zero. All of you make me somebody – perhaps my dream in all of this. The rewards have formed into a hopeful and promising future, I’m still only on the first few rungs of the author ladder but I’m getting there. Armed with a dream I’ve had since the age of 12 and you guys, the loyalists who somehow see what I see, together a vision shared is one dreamed. I just made that up but it sounds pretty epic and let’s hope better days are just that.

Thank you for joining me this year, wherever you are have a safe end to 2020, be kind to yourself and others, you, they and we deserve it. Even though you’ll probably be busy over the coming weeks, I urge you to check back here on Christmas day. I’ll sign this post off with a quote I first laid down back in 2017, some thing’s don’t change, they just get better…

Weekly Ramble #90

This year has represented many things for me but probably above all it has proven how much I really miss socialising with people.

Writers are stereotypically introverted and of course we have to be alone to create but I get my energy from being around others. This virus has taken away that opportunity to recharge through socialising. There were days when I was much younger and relied mostly on the release of being social and being out there under the streetlights or even in a lively bar out in the world. It completed me in a sense and got me through more than I realised. This year has been difficult without that. Perhaps this is why I’ve stepped up my social media presence – there’s a pandemic so I have time and it’s also a great way to talk with lots of different folks. It’s probably why I have started interviewing fellow creatives on here also.

As humans we all need escape and being within the confines of indoors has taken it’s toll on the best of us. Until things get better out there I’ll be staying in mostly. I’m lucky to have a significant other who is a perfect companion in all of this and together we’ve binge watched the best of TV this year. The horizon does seem bright but 2020 hasn’t been anywhere near a write off, it’s been the most successful ever for my writing and blogging. Views are at an all time high, sales have been satisfying and the following of this here blog better than ever. Burying myself in work as an author and blogger has pulled me along, let’s hope that continues. I’m eyeing up next year to be even bigger and my efforts are not going to slow one bit.

I’m thankful but also enduring toward this year, November felt four months long, let’s hope December flows a bit better and then 2021, well anything is possible…

In a couple of days I am going to be taking part in Pitmad – a Twitter pitching opportunity where authors and agents connect. I’ve recently finished a project that would serve as a great opportunity to pitch. More soon hopefully… and if you’re on the tweet machine and see my Pitmad tweet give it a Retweet!

You can also catch my rundown of the best books I’ve read this year, that’ll be dropping on Friday! Peace out, rock and roll man!

Come what may…

Very early into this online authoring and blogging venture I learned that the American people are decent. No mater what happens today, especially if you are an American, remember that. Politics aside, to me you have always been supportive, loyal and welcoming. As people and whether or not you know it, that’s what you truly stand for no matter who represents you in office.

Some of my greatest supporters come from the USA. Some of my better interactions on here have come from American people. Even at the very beginning when I didn’t really know what I was doing and when I first put out stories on that outlaw site called Booksie, there were supporters then who still check in now from across the pond.

Perhaps with the coming result and even before you might need to hear that. So come what may, I don’t judge anyone on their politics alone and you American folks are always welcome here, with open arms.

Lockdown Equals Opportunity

What a week this is shaping up to be. I mean is this the run up to the final episode of 2020? We’ve got lockdowns announced left right and centre along with an election across the pond. It’s felt like one hell of a long slog to get here with March literally being three years ago, or so it seems…

While in an ideal world it’s fun to compare this present reality to one of our favourite or not so favourite shows (Game of Thrones, cough, cough…), in real life there isn’t the luxury of fading to black and rolling to the credits, or blaming the writers who secured a gig with Star Wars just before they started production of the final season…

Over here in the UK – or specifically England, we’re about to face a second lockdown. Having been there before and because so many of this blog’s followers are facing similar circumstances in other countries I can wholeheartedly say that with a lockdown comes opportunity. Now I’m not talking about the business shark antics that take advantage of someone else’s misfortunate – what do you think this is the 80’s? But when the first lockdown hit back in March I eventually realised people need content for a distraction. Because I had the time to focus more on producing content, the numbers, follows, book sales and pretty much everything went up. This blog has faced more success this year than ever before!

If you have something to offer in this world that will serve other people, offer it, especially now…

Those who can produce content, right now this is your opportunity, not only does it express the importance of you personally carrying on, but someone somewhere will appreciate your efforts. It’s a circle of well-being because for me expression through words makes me feel good and my hope is that those good feels are passed on to readers. The world is in a state of flux right now but those who can remain doing what they did before without endangering themselves are serving to preserve what will be left after this era has gone. We as humans have always looked to escapism to survive the crap that is happening out the window, be that escape for someone. You’ll find purpose in creativity and content trust me.

Carry on, write that blog post, produce that video, put out that tweet, review that book because you’ve probably got the time now, seize it because lockdown equals opportunity!