...when I received a lovely surprise. I was gazing out of my kitchen window - as you do - while licking the spoon clean of illicit peanut butter, when I spotted a cheery-looking man carrying a single parcel waiting to cross the road at the roundabout 'neath my window. In a flash it sprang into my mind - it was The Man from Amazon! And I just knew that he was heading for Me! I was right! After he had narrowly avoided being run down crossing the road, I heard the warming sound of the doorbell to my flat. With a charming smile he handed me the packet (after he had managed to get the lift to work - I am on the second floor - it can be temperamental...). Thanking him graciously, I retreated back into the kitchen, ripped the parcel open - and there they were: Five Proof Copies of the Print version of Everyone Can Write, for which I had paid CreateSpace an inordinate amount in order to receive them before Christmas, and not midway through January.
Why would I do such a thing (apart, of course, from being unable to resist my Instant Gratification Fetish)? Well, several of you Luddites had plaintively asked when the print version would be available, so that you could indulge your disgusting habit of Book-Sniffing. I had slaved for many hours in the days before Christmas (when I should have been buying carefully-chosen gifts for my deserving family - instead I just had to get them all gift vouchers...) in order to get the book as perfect as possible.
But enough of this merry badinage:
HEADLINE OF THE DAY!
The print version of Everyone Can Write is now officially available on Amazon!!
You can get it here: http://tinyurl.com/htbcdh4
It's an awful lot more expensive than the Kindle version (all those trees have to die...), and you can't just click on the links to get taken to all the wonderful resources, you have to laboriously type them into your web browser. But, if you're a Book-Sniffer, then here it is!
And, at the risk of sounding like a Hectorer, when, and IF you like the book, please place a review/rating on Amazon in order to help me become visible. I know, I know - but I'm not talking about corporeality, where I am VERY visible; I mean Digitally, Amazonianly visible. So far I've got two lovely reviews from people who have automatically been elevated to the standing of BFFs - and there aren't many of them... Only 48 to go before Visibility of the Amazonian Kind strikes...
And, just in case: last night I found to my horror that my granddaughter, Rachel, who should know better, didn't know that you don't have to have a Kindle in order to download and read books - you just have to download and install the Kindle app on your phone, tablet or computer. For the wimps among you, go here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/digital/fiona/kcp-landing-page
A sidelight on this: I discovered that you can not only select the Font of your choice, but that one of the fonts has been especially created for dyslexics, among whom I count many friends. One of these took a look and confirmed that it makes things clearer.
One final, small addendum: While, as you might have guessed, I am a HUGE fan of Kindle, there is nothing quite like the quite warm glow you get when you cuddle an actual print copy, smell the wonderful perfume of...
Now I just want you all to get the book, do the exercises, write the novels, short stories, poems that will POUR out of you, PUBLISH them, and get very, VERY rich - stopping by at Balham Tube and Train Station to drop a coin in my upturned cap, and be rewarded with a pathetically grateful smile... As I, frequently, tell my students, I may not personally be rich, nor ever expect to be, but my fingers scatter magic golden dust on all whom list unto me...
Thanks to all who took advantage of the opening offer. I hope you're finding the book to be of value.
This is a post jam-packed with goodies. It continues the 'lessons' that I set out in the book. These are mainly in the area of publishing. I am using the experience of publishing Everyone Can Write to continue to broaden our understanding of the various processes involved.
Now, as I said in the book: publishing via Kindle is easy, the difficulty comes when it's out there and you have to spread The Word. The Word being PUBLICITY. It's one of the really big challenges for most writers, incuding me. It's very difficult trying to get past one's natural shy, retiring-violet reticence and go out there to say to people: Buy My Book, PLEASE! This is where friends and family come into the equation. Amazon operates in a rather strange, though perfectly rational way - when you come to understand it. It's all based on that odd word - Algorithms. This is what Facebook is also based on when it decides which posts you will see and from whom. If you like to get your brain scrambled, Google it. Otherwise, this is the closest I can get to an understandable definition: 'Algorithms are widely used throughout all areas of IT (information technology). A search engine algorithm, for example, takes search strings of keywords and operators as input, searches its associated database for relevant web pages, and returns results.'
Amazon's version goes something like this: To be visible to people browsing through its digital shelves your book has to satisfy a few requirements. What are they? Sadly, Amazon won't tell you. They hint at Categories and Keywords (links below), but don't tell you everything. So what comes next is a precis of what general consensus on the subject is.
No 1: The major requirement is that you sell a lot of books. Obviously, for us unknowns, this is not a possibility. OK for JK Rowling, difficult for Jane Smith, Fred Stone, Brian Astbury, etc. So, what to do?
Well, the first thing is to coerce, persuade, blackmail as many people as possible to buy the book on the first couple of days that it is published. This makes Amazon sit up and take note at once. That's what I was doing when I set up the Mailing List and offered my Select Band the book at the lowest price that Amazon will allow, plus a free copy of my novella, JELLY. People that didn't sign up only got the chance to get the book at that low price - no JELLY! Because of your generosity, this enabled Everyone Can Write to rocket to No 7 in one of the categories into which I had entered it. Here is the list today:
Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #135,077 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#129 in Kindle Store > Books > Arts & Photography > Stage & Theatre
#702 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Literary Criticism & Theory
#1297 in Books > Music, Stage & Screen > Performing Arts > Stagecraft
That's for The Crafty Art of Playmaking by somebody called Alan Ayckbourn...
Choosing your categories is a bit of an art form. You're only allowed two, though, as you can see above, Amazon has added another (Amazon explains: 'When you select BISAC Subject Codes in your KDP Bookshelf, we translate them into the most relevant browse paths for each Amazon marketplace you are selling your book in. You can choose up to two BISAC codes for your book. We may also assign additional browse categories depending on your BISAC selections and assigned keywords.'). If you can find a very small, relevant niche, you might be able to get to No 1 there. Amazon likes that - people will get to see you. Don't ask why. Read up on it. Here's a link that explains this as well as giving a list of the Top 100 Least Competitive categories. The site says: 'Remember that only the Top 100 books in each category get featured in that category. That means if your book is ranked #101, you get absolutely no exposure from being in that category. So you need to pick categories that you can actually rank your book on. These least competitive categories are so uncompetitive that you could literally sell one or two books and get ranked as one of the top #100 books in any of these categories.
The less you’re currently selling, the lower your sales rank will be on Amazon and the less competitive categories you should choose. As you gain more sales momentum and better sales ranking, you can switch your categories to more competitive ones which will send you more traffic and sales.'
My favourite is: Nonfiction -> Science -> Medical eBooks -> Specialties -> Surgery -> Colon & Rectal. Unfortunately, I haven't, as yet, written a book on the subject.
My niche category is Kindle Store > Books > Education & Reference > Education > Adult & Continuing Education.
And then there's Keywords. You have to decide these when you upload your book. They're also an art form. First thing to know is that you're only allowed a certain number - up to seven keywords with Kindle. The second is that they're not just single words, they can be phrases. Amazon says: 'Search keywords help readers find your book when they browse the Amazon site. You can enter keywords or short phrases that describe your book and are relevant to its content. The best keywords are those that do not repeat words in the title, category, or description, as these are already used to help readers find your book. Some types of keywords are prohibited and may result in content being removed from sale.' https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2EZES9JAJ6H02.
Researching my keyphrases after the publication of Everyone Can Write (I didn't do it before as I wanted to see how effective they were - your book really needs to come up in the first 2-3 pages - very few people, except for book obsessives, go further down the list than that - preferably on Page 1) was an eye-opener. My first is How to Write. This might appear to break the first rule above about 'not repeating words in the title', but I need to attract everyone that enters the phrase How to Write into the search engine as, when you do, a dropdown menu that includes How to write a novel and How to write short stories appears. When you click on it, up come 71 pages of books on the subject. I'm currently on Page 16 for How to Write - not very good, but, click on How to write a novel and you'll find me on Page 3; Page 2 for How to write short stories. My goal is obviously to be on page 1 for all of them. I'm on Page 1 with my second keyphrase: Image Streaming. My third - How to publish on Kindle - also brings me up on Page 1. Story structure sees me on Page 5; The Hero's Journey - Page 7 (could do better...).
I'm currently waiting for new keyphrases - Mind-mapping and Publishing on CreateSpace - to take effect. I changed after I realised that entering my own name was an act of stupidity because it will naturally bring up all your books (but, hey, what can you do about vanity...), and that How to write a novel was already taken care of.
Just in case you think that The Almighty, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, Amazon Algorithm is infallible, be aware that when you type in Publishing on CreateSpace the first book on Page 1 is Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species. Amazing how far ahead of his time he was, and we all knew that Will Shakespeare is 'our contemporary', sure enough, there's A Midsummer Night's Dream to prove it. I can't quite remember the reference to Publishing on CreateSpace in either tome, but then I'm not very observant... Slightly more mysterious are The Swear Word Coloring Book and Miss Rivers on Her Knees: Defiled and Degraded...
It's even worse with Trusting the Actor. Type in my first keyword - Acting - and you have to scroll through endless pages of plays (because anything with Acting Edition gets listed) as well as oddities like Stardust and the Daredevil Ponies (Pony Club Secrets, Book 4), that well-known and indispensible volume on Acting for Horses. I'm only slightly mollified to find David Mamet, Declan Donnellan, Mike Alfreds and John Gielgud on P49; Meisner and Stella Adler on P56; though, after another long and debilitating scroll past Utter Garbage - A play for children and Michael Chekhov on P72, it's really depressing to find that I don't even make P75, which is the final one... Better luck with Actor Training, where I make P5, though I'm rather p'd off with Sonia Moore who has THREE versions of the same book, with NO accompanying reviews on P4, clogging up the list. C'mon Amazon! Get you act together! I could've been on P4.
With CreateSpace you're only allowed up to 5 keywords. Terrific blog post here that will save you much research and pain: https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/createspace-kindle-keyword-and-category-tips/
And here's another good post about keywords: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2016/02/importance-of-keywords-to-ranking-your-book-on-amazon/
No 2: So, I've slipped to No 17 - why, and what can I do about it? That's the Next Phase.
Remember that I said: 'Please put a review on Amazon a couple of days later...'? Why wait? Well, Amazon is rightly suspicious of a whole host of Reviews arriving from the fastest bunch of readers in the Known Universe - wouldn't you be? I also said: 'Please don't mention that you are a friend of mine, or have done a workshop with me. It's nothing personal - all of you that signed up for my mailing list are My Favourite People. Unfortunately, Amazon has, for some strange reason of its own, taken against friends posting reviews. Bigger people than I are currently locked in battle with The Big A (or Zon, as it's sometimes called) in an attempt to get it to see the error of its ways.'
Well, the time has arrived for Action! Remembering that I also said: '...if, and only IF, you like it', what I now need (and you will to, when you finally publish) is to garner as many favourable reviews as quickly as possible. To become visible you not only have to sell as many copies as possible in the first week, this then has to be followed up with reviews. Apparently, it takes 50 reviews before Amazon starts taking you seriously, if you're not selling thousands of copies. It has been very frustrating to me that my Trusting the Actor is still to break this barrier, despite having 44 reviews on Amazon.co.uk and nine on Amazon.com. Sadly, Amazon won't combine the two lists. So, if you bought that book, liked it, and haven't yet posted a review: Pleeeaaassse! - my coffee money is running short...
But back to the matter at hand. It is at this stage that the combination of sales and reviews makes a difference... I am told... who knows what The Amazing Algorithms of Amazon have in mind today. So, it is here that a combined effort on the part of family, friends, fans, acquaintances and acolytes can switch you from Mr Cellophane to Ms Standing-Out-In-A-Crowd. Don't forget The Tipping Point. Look what it did for E.L. James, world-famous author of that Giant of Literature - 50 Shades of Grey. She started off sharing it around a small reading group on GoodReads (have you joined yet?). About two months later it had sold nearly four million copies on Kindle - that's 4 with six noughts after it. How? An object lesson in the way The Tipping Point operates. One shares to two; Two share to four; Four share to eight; eight to 16; 16 - 32, 32 - 64; 64 - 128; 128 - 256; 256 - 512; 512 - 1024; 1024 - 2048; 2048 - 4096; 4096 - 8192; 8192 - 16384; 16384 - 32768; 32768 - 65536; 65536 - 131072.... in 17 steps - and that's if they only share to one person each... I don't want to lead you down The Road of Lust and Greed, but, given that she was probably making a minimum of just under two quid per book, that pays for an awful lot of time to lounge on various sun-drenched beaches, daintily sipping champagne...
One thing my background in theatre has taught me is that NOTHING is more powerful than Word of Mouth!
So here we are at the Second Phase. Let's test this out. If you liked the book, please review and rate it. And, if you REALLY like it, (and only IF), please fulminate about it on Facebook, Tweet about it on Twitter, wonder at it on WhatsApp, and generally spread it around as much as you can - you are my lovely publicity machine. There is already one, it must be admitted, truthful, not-at-all OTT review on Amazon, thanks Breman...
And I promise that, when you publish your own book (the reason that I put Everyone Can Write out there in the first place - I'm not THAT desperate for coffee money...) I will be one of the faithful group that helps to boost it into Amazon's eyeline.
A final note: if you're really interested in writing and publishing your book, please keep an eye on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StandUpStorytelling/, which is where I post new techniques and developments, interesting blogs, good books, cheap offers. 'Follow' the page, and when you've set this up, click on the 'Following' button at the top of the page and you'll be given a set of options. Click on the little pencil icon to the right of 'Notifications'. This will give you another set of options. The top one is:
Be notified when this Page posts something new, which is about 2 times a week. You won't see more than 5 notifications a day.
If you click on that you will be notified whenever I post. You won't be submerged, I promise. I only post things of value.
Why, indeed? Well, it's a long story. Too long. The short version? Every time I was about to press Publish the Digital World kicked into warp speed and threw a new technique/possibility at me.
But the good news is that we have finally reached the end. As of today, Friday, November 18, 2016, Everyone Can Write is at last available on Kindle. The print version will follow later, when I have recovered. The Kindle version is all zooty - all of the many links to software, blogs, books (especially towards the back of the book) are attainable with one click. Isn't the Digital World wonderful? Sadly, in the print version you will have to laboriously type out the complicated (sometimes) url.
And the better news is that, as promised, it is available for the ridiculously low price of 99p! That's less than a pound, isn't it? Wow! However, this wonderfully low, extremely cheap, amazing awesome offer will only last for seven days (7)! Then it's back to the disgusting greed of Capitalism at its worst, and the price goes into the stratosphere - 2.99 (and, if you're wondering why there is no pound sign in front of the 2, it's because this Blog editor keeps putting a '£' whenever I try to put a pound sign - oh the travails....)
So, HURRY!! CLAIM YOUR COPY BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!
Then, if, and only IF, you like it, please put a review on Amazon a couple of days later. And, if you do, please don't mention that you are a friend of mine, or have done a workshop with me. It's nothing personal - all of you that signed up for my mailing list are My Favourite People. Unfortunately, Amazon has, for some strange reason of its own, taken against friends posting reviews. Bigger people than I are currently locked in battle with The Big A (or Zon, as it's sometimes called) in an attempt to get it to see the error of its ways.
And, if you REALLY like it, and only IF, please fulminate about it on Facebook, Tweet about it on Twitter, wonder at it on WhatsApp, and generally spread it around as much as you can - you are my lovely publicity machine.
I will be retreating to a quiet monastery for a couple of months to regain my sanity.
But seriously, as bad comics say - thanks for your help, support and encouragement. I hope you enjoy the book; I hope, even more, that you use its techniques, write wonderful novels and get indecently rich.
Everyone Can Write is due to be published in October. Before I can do that I have to build a Mailing List, without which a self-publishing author is dead. We all rely on our readers and other friendly souls to buy the books, spread the word and keep in contact. If you haven't got a mailing list, start building one NOW!
So, if you go to the page called, with stunning honesty - Bribes and Connections, you will find the news of this bribe, and the sign-up sheet for my mailing list. Some of you might be saying with indignation: 'But I have already signed up for your mailing list!' Sadly, that was with a Wix site that I put up. Being of little brain, I have been unable to find out how to access any responses you might have made, and, again sadly, the Wix Support team have proved of no help at all. Then I discovered Weebly. It's one of the few FREE website creators that will show your site in what is called Responsive Design, which means that your site will automatically adjust to whatever medium your readers are using - PC, Laptop, and, crucially, Mobile. Their Support team also REPLYS to emails...
So, here we have a bright, shiny, new mailing list. I apologise on behalf of myself and Wix for asking you to sign up yet again.
This is all, sneakily, part of the continuous teaching process that I rather boringly indulge in. Authors HAVE to have a website (and a Mailing List). You can go to the immense trouble of setting up your own, paying all that money to host it, learning how to master MailChimp (the best-known Mailing List handler), etc. Or you could let Weebly do it for you. If you object to having the Weebly ad on your page, you can pay them $9/Month for six months, or $5/month for two years (payable in a lump sum of $120) for it to vanish and the site to look like your own. Personally, I don't care - Free is Free!
Then, according to all the fundi that I have consulted, it is a GOOD IDEA to offer something free in return for that valuable email address.
In my case I have, once again sneakily, decided to offer you a free Pdf copy of my novella - Jelly. Sneakily, because I would like more people to read it and tell others about it so that I can sell hundreds (or maybe thousands) of copies, possibly even the film rights, etc.
If you sign up you will receive the Pdf by return (if I have managed to figure out how to do it - if not send me an outraged email, and I will immediately rectify this). It can be read on any Kindle, Kindle app, Nook, Kobo, iBook, inside a web browser, etc. I think you might even be able to print it out, but that would cost more than the print copy...
Just in case you think I might be selling you a dud, over the six years that Jelly has been available on Amazon it has garnered 16 Five Star reviews (and one Four Star), not all of which have come from friends of mine. To my amazement and surprise, people seem to like it. This is very gratifying, as it is very dear and personal to me.
In case you're too lazy to nip over to Amazon and see, I have vainly copied all the reviews and here they are:
'This delightful story transfixed me, made me smile, made me think and was over far too soon.
Everybody needs a Jelly in their life and this book will give you one, albeit for a short time, but it will make you think for longer.'
'A stunning book. This is the first book I have read on a computer screen!!! And I didn't want to leave the characters, so expertly were they written. The moral dilemmas of Apartheid South Africa that leave one of the characters so haunted, set you thinking of 'what would I do'. Brilliant book!'
'A poignant, beautifully written novella. Vivid imagery, characters that will quietly take hold of you, and a story that will give you hope. Definitely worth a read.'
'This novella is one of the most moving and beautiful short stories I've ever read. Without ever 'hitting one over the head' it has a clear, positive message about forgiveness and redemption.
I would recommend this to anyone interested in South Africa or the emotional aftermath of morally unclear actions.'
'A poignant, beautifully written novella. Vivid imagery, characters that will quietly take hold of you, and a story that will give you hope. Definitely worth a read.'
'A beautifully written book where the characters jump off the page. Very moving, I cannot recommend it enough.'
'Given its brevity this is nevertheless a very rich, full and rounded story. Mr Astbury totally nails his characters and the real and genuinely funny humour of their interaction hides an emotional punch. A very evocative book which will move anybody who has a soul.'
'...read this in under 24 hours on my kindle app on my phone. I accidentally dropped my phone and smashed my screen but still managed to squint through the cracks late into the night. You find yourself as intrigued as Jelly to discover the contemporary findings of London with an escapee of apartheid South Africa who carries a host of secrets probably too complex for her juvenile mind. Jelly is the daughter I think we all hope to have and her magnetic personality and youthful wisdom allows the story to open up and catapult you back to childhood and the woes and joys of learning about the reality of adult life through those that surround us.'
'Because I am conscious of Astbury's historic work at the Space - South Africa's first non-racial theatre - I wonder how much of the author is present in his sincere but troubled principal character. This story of a good man with a dark secret, who is brought to face his own truth and reconciled with himself through the honesty of an exceptional child, tingles with gentle authenticity. Astbury's voice was a vital part of South Africa's recovery, and here he shows he still adds texture to the music of the Rainbow Nation.'
'I have been meaning to read this book for a very long time. I am a great admirer of Brian's work in the theatre and was curious to see how he would tell a story in another form. What a beautiful and touching book. I do a lot of work with young children, and Jelly for me just leapt off the page. Like the narrator and everyone else in the book, I fell in love with her. And just like the narrator I felt the pain of that final scene at the station.'
'Once I started reading this novella, I didn't want to stop. Compulsive reading! I really enjoyed the character details and the relationships were carefully observed and beautifully understood. Part of me wanted a longer story - the full length novel - but it wasn't ever intended to be that. I will wait out for more material from Mr. Astbury....keep writing Brian. Please.'
'A stunning book. This is the first book I have read on a computer screen!!! And I didn't want to leave the characters, so expertly were they written. The moral dilemmas of Apartheid South Africa that leave one of the characters so haunted, set you thinking of 'what would I do'. Brilliant book. More please Mr Astbury.'
'This book is filled with beautiful imagery which is described expertly with words! I could even feel what the author was feeling when writing (or what he wanted me to feel!). In short, I didn't want this book to end!!'
'A lovely tale - reels you in gently. He writes beautifully and the story is woven together like a small delicate piece of rainbow silk. Have a read of this. I look forward to the next and the next.'
Hello. I'm really glad to welcome you to my blog. Here I will post updates, new techniques - there are always new techniques, share relevant comments and experiences, hope that you will share your own experiences, try and sort out any problems you might encounter. Please feel free to contact me through the Comments section below.
I look forward to hearing from you how this liberating technique works for you.