Music and Stories

For me, music has been a constant soundtrack to my life. Key events, loved ones, hard times and great times all have a song or album as a soundtrack. Books and movies are no exception.

Little wonder that my own debut novel was so driven and influenced by the music pof the times it’s set in and passes through.

Here are the three songs I chose for each “Act” of the book and why:

In part one I quoted Huey Lewsi and the News “The power of love” :

“Make a bad one good.

Make a wrong one right.

The power of love will keep you home at night.”

Partly because I love the track but mostly because the era that part one of Bobby’s Boy is set in is encapsulated so well in the memories that this song envokes. All the good stuff and all the bad are brought to the fore of my mind’s eye in the openeing 5 seconds of this song. The quote also evokes the love I wanted Tommy to encounter and be changed by

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NMph943tsw

The second act of the book was introduced with the quote

 

“Oh I would never give up and go home,

 beaten and broken.

 No, I don’t know who I am anymore,

But I’ll keep on chasing those rainbows.”

 

from “The Only Enemy that Ever Mattered” by the wonderful Hopeless Heroic. At this stage of the book, tommy was departing on the trip of his life, but he was every bit as much running from his past as he ws barrrelling towards his future.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eau7ojfX7_E

The last song I used was intended to show the wish to start all over again. Tommy’s been fantasising for so long, and he now lives in a world once more he wishes wasn’t real , but is. The video is a perfect fit also.

Coldplay – “The Scientist”

“Nobody said it was easy.

No-one ever said it would be this hard.

Oh, take me back to the start.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqWLpTKBFcU

Bobby’s Boy is on FREE PROMO until tomorrow

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1347132445&sr=8-2

 

 

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Irvine Welsh and Snow Patrol F@cked It Up

I’m just so excited about the stage we have reached in terms of the music and literature industry in Britain right now. We’re about to hit a bubble where a massive explosion of new, exciting, meaningful and mind-blowingly energetic music and novels are about to emerge; clearing out the bland pish we are currently drowning in. Even the odd meaningful movie with a heart is sneaking through. Chronicle for example.

Don’t believe me? I’m a man in the know.

All my life, I’ve had a peculiar “affliction”. The technical name for it is synesthesia. Essentially it means that sounds in general, and music in particular, appear in my mind’s eye as colours. These are very specific and distinct to what each song or voice is conveying emotionally for me. As well as this, I love books and movies also. Imagine the soundtrack to a movie enhanced by flowing, swaying and splashing colours to accompany the music and words. Imagine the colour that flows from the words on a page when spoken aloud.

Now, how does this give me insight into the shifting landscape of our music and book industry? Well, for about 5 years now the British music industry in particular has been a very beige place to be in. The seemingly endless conveyer belt of X-Factor puppets and reformation of man-bands and Buble’s of the world have left the music scene dry, boring and colour-less. Where’s the excitement? Where are the songs and albums that you can identify with, laugh with, be outraged with, or that make you want to go f@cking nuts? Which particular artists are going to define the teen of today? The Script? The Wanted? JLS? Take-That? Nothing wrong with any of these acts, certainly there’s a lot worse around, but to my ears (and eyes) it’s music to chat to; music to have “ isn’t this civilised?” dinner parties to; but mostly, music to ignore.

Just look at Snow Patrol. This group actually produced some decent and innovative songs in their early days. Now? They’re slaves to their record company’s demands for formulaic coffee table soft rock ballads. They’ve gone from being a battered old VW van, full of charisma, tales to tell and character to becoming a 5 star safety rated Renault Megane. Don’t get me started on those bastards, Nickleback!

This Snow Patrol record is shite

The literary world is just as bad and just as beige. Irvine Welsh came along and redefined everything for me about how a book could be formatted and written, or a tale told. Trainspotting was a revelation; Glue was arguably his finest moment. Everything else? A copy of a copy. Each piece written to emulate what made his early work so vibrant, but never quite recapturing the hunger and passion of those works. Irv, please, don’t keep writing what you think the audience wants; rather give us your best, straight from your black heart. I miss Juice Terry, Begbie and the boys, but don’t trot them out like well-worn slippers for a tired re-enactment or two, put some good old-fashioned Welsh spunk in their stories or don’t bother yer arse.

I could list all day the formulaic strategy that writers have adopted and name and shame those c@nts, but why bother? You know how you are; Grisham, Cornwell, Patterson, Harris, Ludlum and your pals. The comparison between these “industries” is obvious to anyone who loves music, books and movies. The “big 6” have told us who and what we “want” to read for long enough.

Just as music is emerging (hopefully soon) from an age where the bean-counters and committees decide and dictate what we listen to, read or watch, so too is the literary world. Self-publishing without a doubt will bring its problems: poorly written, poorly edited or written to a formula John Locke-type “novels” etc. However with that comes the freedom of being able to publish the stories we want to tell when we want to tell them. To be able to write and distribute the very best words straight from our hearts to (hopefully) our audience. Fine times are ahead indeed.

Here’s the Brucie-Bonus though. Every so often when music or film or literature gets to its lowest point a monster of a group or completely new sound, or a new voice, director, writer or visionary comes along and inspires change of immense proportions. Guys like John Niven are starting to emerge and that suits me just fine Times of austerity and poverty also historically produce musicians, writers and artists who are hungry for change and have a message to force into the public consciousness.. Times are very tough at present.

Revolution is on its way, praise the Lord.

Good times are a comin’.

My debut novel, “Bobby’s Boy” is available now on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335467068&sr=1-1

 

 

How I self published: Part 3. Formatting

How I self published: Part 3. Formatting

Getting your document formatted and ready for Publication

So, I completed my novel (finally) and now had to look at getting it formatted correctly for the marketplace(s) that I intended to use to sell it. My preferred option are; Amazon (duh), Smashwords (after I use Kindle select for 90 days), and Goodreads (easy Pdf file, hooha!).

The formatting process was surprisingly simple for kindle, as I’d kept my document pretty simple, with no fancy-pants fonts or characters throughout. NB: You can look inside my novel on Amazon using the “look inside” feature to see my fonts here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334745095&sr=8-1

I read lots of different manuals, forums and guides on how to prepare the manuscript and all served to terrify me. Being hard as nails, I ignored my fear and pushed on. Each document suggested that however much time and effort I spent prepping the document, that the kindle transfer would say ”sorry big man, that’s shite, try again” and spit it back at me endless times. Not so it turned out.

The main formatting techniques I paid heed to worked for me and my manuscript slipped on through the fearsome KDP beast, perfectly, first time.

Here’s my top tips:​
1. Indent paragraphs, first line, 0 space before an 0 space after.
2. When inserting a new paragraph, hit enter key once.
3. when looking for a gap between paragraphs, for a change of scene or something else, hit the enter key twice.
4. I used Cambria at size 12, with 1.15 spacing.
5. Use ctrl/enter to insert page breaks.
6. Use insert pic, to put in pics rather than cut/paste them.
7. Do not use the tab, instead, use your left/centr/right align buttons for titles or chapter headings.
8. Keep it simple.

By doing this, it was incredibly easy to save the file as a HTML doc, pop it through Mobi- create and then onto Kindle Direct. Job done.

I used a great series of videos as instructions for this part and found them spot-on. Part 2 especially was a great help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU2kprKRrGY&feature=plcp&context=C42a1a04VDvjVQa1PpcFOy9rGaVLvKBbYZbjQsRV5-yKgO8N6FG0I=

I will be going through the formatting guide a step at a time for Smashwords in two months (when my kindle select 90 sentence is served). It’s possible and fairly inexpensive to hire someone to do this for you, but I’m Scottish and therefore too cheap and convinced I can do better on my own, so I’ll be learning how to myself. This strategy did not work out well for me on my last DIY project, and I “got a man in”. I‘ll pass along what I learn at a later date (or advise you to hire someone).

Bit of a boring, “how to” blog today I’m afraid. Normal, cantankerous self will return for my next post.

Bobby’s Boy available now on Amazon

Are Indie-Authors the Whores of Social Media?

Are Indie-Authors the Whores of Social Media?

I’m beginning to think we are you know.

Since the very day I stepped into the world of self-publishing/e-publishing/Indie-publishing, whatever, and published my short-story collection “Paddy’s Daddy”, followed by my full length novel “Bobby’s Boy”, I’ve had my metaphorical arse in the air on twitter (along with every other indie-author) in an effort to attract readers. Mostly I attract other authors, trying to attract readers.

Tweet, retweet, reply; lather, rinse repeat; has become the currency of the indie author. We (the authors) have become the modern day equivalent of the ancient tradition where the poor soul would sit outside the temple reciting “Alms for the blind?” Either that or we’re the tweet equivalent of fluorescent-wearing chuggers on the high street, chasing some poor bastard down the road for a couple of quid royalty, only when we catch them, they’re one of us, and so we gather number. The twitter-sphere is saturated with link-posting authors, in the desperate and futile act of pimping their books, ultimately to each other.

I'll retweet your brains out if you retweet me first

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Indie publishing should have empowered us, instead we chase readers and each other in circles. We sit with a wee sign up saying “buy a book from X, his writing’s great, just ask him, he’s over there. Oh, and he’ll tell you the same about my book, so come back here when you’ve seen him. What’s that? You’re a writer? well, c’mere and I’ll retweet you then, but back of the queue first.

I’m not against a bit of mutual promotion, but it’s so constant, so ubiquitous, so time-consuming and soul destroying and so unimaginative.

Link after link, after link. “My book’s free, mine’s only 99 cents, mines is a series, etc”. It’s become such a clichéd strategy, but it seems that we are all stuck in the cycle because the pioneers of self-publishing, or dickhead profiteers like John Locke, say it’s how it’s done. Guys like Steven Lewis (@Rule17) are a rare and welcome exception, offering much in the way of valid, constructive and useful advice on self-publishing.

I say no.

I say rediscover the creative spark that so easily comes when you write and apply it to your promo on twitter or any other social media. No more links (save for the one in your profile. That’s plenty). Instead, let’s have honest to goodness thoughts about life, books, movies, music, the news, whatever floats your boat. People know you’re an author, its’ right there in your profile, if they like you they’ll go check out your website anyway.

Engage with your “followers”. Retweet away ‘til your hearts’ content, but pass on fun things people say or do. Post ridiculous pics of yourself, have a conversation, by Christ have some fun! Stop self-promoting under the umbrella of promoting others. We’re not buying each others’ books, but we’re tweeting and retweeting the same tired links around each other. Put those creative thoughts out there in conversation. Engage your followers and they just might become readers.

I’m in the process of launching my third book. This last year I’ve done Speeches at a variety of venues on a range of topics including writing. I’ve been on blog tours, promo interviews, been in several newspapers several times. I’ve handed out flyers and dozens of other strategies. None of this makes much difference.

Here’s what I’ve found makes a significant and recurring difference in sales:
Keep writing quality stories, get them edited well and get a professional cover. Give your reader value.

Target the right categories and readers. Do your research on keywords and phrases and place your book in the right shop window.

Don’t rely on social media. Less than 0.01% of this you pester will actually click on your link to your book. Only a small fraction of those will actually buy.

Look at the long game. Your book, if it’s well written, will be there forever, build momentum based on real readers feedback and reviews an your developing skill as a writer. Don’t expect continued and sustained sales from the tweet retweet jerk-circle. It’s a self-limiting and ultimately self-sabotaging type of promotion.

Please fellow writers; let’s stop being the biggest spam source in the whole twitter-sphere. Rely on your blogs, websites and most of all, novels to do the selling and just enjoy the social media for what it was intended. Being sociable.

Or maybe I’m missing something and the “feeling like a social media hoor” phase I’m going through will pass.

Either way please do buy my book……*cough* here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1334424320&sr=1-1

How I Self-Published: Part 1

How I Self-Published: Part 1 or: Gavin Bain made me do it!

Self- Publishing or Traditional? 

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a series of articles detailing the process I’ve gone through, and am still learning my way through, on the route to becoming a self-published, eBook author and promoting my books. It’s been a steep learning curve and I’ve made some rookie mistakes along the way (which I’m hoping to save you the time of having to correct) but also the most fun I’ve had working…ever.

All comments and shared experiences more than welcome. Anyway, here’s Part 1:

Gavin Bain made me do it!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. During the process of writing my debut novel, “Bobby’s Boy” I went back and forward in my decision as to whether engage in the process of wooing an agent/publisher. When I started writing, I firmly stood in the self-publish camp. As I progressed in the book, I researched the industry more and more. Royalties, advances, agents, services performed by the publishing house and or the agent, big or small publisher? There was and is a lot to learn. I did weeks of research, seeking out those agents and publishers (mostly Indie) whom I thought would like me and my book, and whom I thought I’d like to work with, and could subsequently stomach whoring myself around. That list remains unused at present.

More and more, as I immersed myself in the snaking and shaded corridors of the literary industry, the same nagging questions came back to me. Is it worth giving away control of my work for the potential exposure a big publisher might bring? It seemed to me that if these guys deigned to take you, they’d in all probability change your work endlessly, until it fit their formulaic idea of what a commercial novel should be. It seemed that most of the promo and marketing would be done by me rather than them anyway, so why should I give them such a huge chunk of my potential earnings and, more importantly, complete control over the words that I had spent so many hours writing? What was more important, potential earnings or creative control?

Advances: For many authors, it seems that an advance, especially a huge one, is the holy grail. I just don’t understand this mentallity at all. Sure an advance is a nice pat on the back, and an indication that your book is commercial enough (or at least can be made to be, in the payers opinion). It also seems like a goood way of allowing the author the privelage and means to write full-time. For me, its a scary prospect. An advance simply means that you’re in debt to the issuer unti your sales repay the money. If the sales take years to do so? Well, you’re in hock to them for years, and quite probably on a deadline for at least one more book. No thanks.

Agents: Whilst there are of course many good quality agebnts, who work hard for their clients, lets remember two key things about them. Firstly, they do try to get the best deal for their authors, but that may mean something different to them than it does to the author, in terms of cash, advances (brrr) or prestige of publishing house over creative control or effective care from the publisher. Your agency is a business, the more money(debt) they get for you, the more money they themselves make, and that is their primary objective.

I also dislike that most publishers now only take submissions from those who have an agent. It’s like a whole level of the indusrty exists as a vetting and an introductory service. Crazy

Secondly, they will take around 15% of your money, which is already a very small percentage (somewhere between 7 -15%) when considering the fact that you worked so hard on your book and will continue to work your arse off promoting the book, publisher or no publisher (unless of course you’re high on the publishers’ radar). Whilst the services of agents can be very valuable, if you take the traditional publisher out of the picture, there’s really no place for an agent.

For me it was a no-brainer, but still, a small part of me, the one that’s low on self-esteem and thinks everything I write is shite, told me that I needed the recognition from an agent or publisher that my book was “good”.  I ignored that needy little shite-version of me, and ploughed on, buoyed by the research I’d done into the standard of eBooks out there. As far as I could see, my book was as good as many self-published eBooks, and better than most (there’s the tiny little bit of ego/confidence I do possess asserting itself).

I had a chat with a friend of mine, Gavin Bain. Gavin is one of those rare people (author, musician, rapper, and singer) who have had extensive experience of not only the music business, but the book business (the music biz with posh accents according to Gav) also. After advice from Gav, stories of mis-handling, missed opportunities and loss of creative control from Gav and several other writers, I decided that my initial, gut, reaction to self-publish was the correct one.

As the lovely Edith Piaf says: “je ne regrette rien” (so far)

Coming In Part 2: The publishing process.

You can find my debut novel “Bobby’s Boy” at the links below. Please come join me on twitter @markwilsonbooks

UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334080079&sr=1-1

US:

http://www.amazon.com/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334080132&sr=1-1

Look up Gav’s band at: www.hopelessheroic.com

John Locke=Simon Cowell

I spent an hour this morning reading John Locke’s “How I did” book. An hour was pretty much all it took to complete the book. Three minutes was all it took for me to decide that this guy nicely represents everything that’s wrong about the publishing industry (and to this man, industry is the keyword) in one self-satisfied, smug and number-crunching little package.

For those that don’t know of Mr L, he sold one million ebooks in five months. Ask him, he’ll tell you. He responds to any and every email dontcha know? He also loves and values each one of them. He should, he spent hundred of hours seeking them out and convincing them to buy his books with some excellent marketing and promo sneakery.

Whilst there are some good tips inside the books pages (many of which you’ll be able to find online for yourself), Mr L spends most of his time telling us about formulas, and strategies for writing. He (like the seasoned gambler) has, he believes, developed his “sure system” for successfully selling thousands of books. Mr L spends hours constructing the perfect blog, containing all the right emotions, themes and keywords to bring you to his book. Very clever (and effective too it seems) but whatever happened to writing because you just had to? Writing because there was something inside that needed to come out?

Not Mr L’s style. Rather, he targets people, deciding what type of beings they are, what they like, eat, dress in, watch at the cinema, and writes specifically for the most common denominator. He seeks out or manufactures the common ground between he and them, between his novels and them. He “gives people what they want” constructing scenes and character traits from a checklist of likes and attributes of what he believes people need or want in a book.

Mr L does not write from the heart. He has no great story to share or demons to exorcise with his work. He doesn’ t even really seem to seek to entertain people, just keep them coming back for what he’s calculated that they want from a book. Safe, predictable and familiar characters, written for a bottom line rather than for his audience’s pleasure. To be fair, it seems to work for him, if you measure success the way that Mr L seems to. In Numbers. In Sales. In volume of books, rather than quality.

Like the man himself Mr Simon Cowell, Mr L pores over data, figures, reviews, feedback and focus groups, assessing, will this strike the right note? Will my targets buy into this? Is it close enough to my “formula” so as to not alienate my core readers? Mr L refers to his books as employees, little soldiers lined up working day and night for him. Simon Cowell, with his endless stream of fame-hungry media-fodder would be proud and envious.

It’s sad to see, especially now at what may just be the beginning of a new era for Indie-Authors, a man like Mr Locke reducing the potential for good, passionate writers to make their mark by pishing in the literary waters with this data-driven soulless approach to writing. The man is a shrewd and calculating businessman first, a profiteer second, and a mildly entertaining writer (who seems to hate writing) third.

The mainstream music we listen to is written, manufactured and promoted by businessmen who care nothing for the art or the artists that they use up so readily and cast aside; onto the next. Music that the masses consume, written to a “formula” and a budget, with little or no input from anyone who cares what it sounds like, conveys or evokes in the listener. They shit it out and laugh as we scoff it down and fill their coffers, marvelling at their own skill in deducing exactly what we want.

Authors have a chance, right now, to break the traditional stranglehold and power that the big publishers and literary agents have over our original ideas, creativeness and yes, earnings. We have the opportunity to produce our very finest work and present it the way that we believe it should be, not diluted down and gelded by a committee of suits, who “know” what the public want.

In my view, books should never be written in this kind of formulaic and targeted way, but delivered from the authors’ imagination and heart onto the page. Polished and packaged up and yes marketed and promoted, but never designed to appeal to this demographic or that emotion. It is a business, writing and selling books, but its a privilege as well.

I hope that John Locke’s breed don’t do to the book industry what the suits in power in the music industry have done. Time will tell.

Keeping the Words Flowing

I’m Mark Wilson. Bobby’s Boy is my debut novel.

It’s been an interesting process, writing my first book, but a fantastic one as well. I began writing the novel as a short story titled “The Rusted Key” in October 2011. The story was based around a simple concept, inspired by a graphic novel called “Stray Bullets by David Lapham (I won’t divulge the concept here as it would act as a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t read the book). The short story grew so I started calling it a Novella and kept writing. The Novella began to gain momentum and slowly became my first novel. I made little progress over the next few months, finding myself short of time, and even shorter of discipline. Then January came.

January 2012 was a turnaround month for the novel. I decided at the start of the month, under the advice of Mark O’Donnell (my best friend) and Jack White (via an interview he did on keeping creativity flowing), to dedicate at least an hour every day to writing the novel. At the end of Janaury I renamed the book “Bobby’s Boy” as the previous name just didn’t work anymore.

1000 words a day was my target. According to Mr White, you’ve got to work your creative muscles like any other and use them every day. To an ex-gym addict it struck the right note. Some days it’ll be shite that you write (like that wee bit of poetry I slipped in there), others you’ll produce work that’ll make you wonder where the hell it came from when you re-read. I take the rough with the smooth. The important thing is to keep the story moving continuously and to not “wait for the rays of the sun to shine on your keyboard, ‘cos you’ll rust your ideas”.

Some-days I managed more words than I’d  targeted, a lot more, but I never fell below at least 1000 words a day. My new “working ethos” helped me jump from 22.500 words on January 7th, to 75000 words in the completed novel on February 14th.  I’m not saying that these words were all brilliant, some most definitely were not, but they did moving the story on, and were re-written on another day. Not bad for having a full-time job teaching high school kids and my three year old son (my top priority) to keep me busy also.

Invariably I would sit each session with a destination in mind for where the story would go, but no idea what words would come to get my main character where he was going. It was fun to discover the story s it came onto the page.

The discipline worked and the ideas and words just keep flowing. I truly didn’t have the time to make use of all the ideas my brain was bringing to the surface. Some were utter bollocks, some were quite good. I note everything down, every idea and quirk of thought in the hope of finding a few hours sometime to explore them. Perhaps one day I’ll reach my goal of writing full-time.

Tom Kinsella, my Novel’s main character, has had one hell of a ride through the book, travelling extensively through Europe and North America in the company of two rock acts and had some crazy experiences. In the process he confronted some truths about his family and himself that he was unprepared for, but survived to build a new life.

I’ve re-visited some really dark experiences during the writing of this novel and in the construction of Tom’s character and story. Some of these I’d forgotten about for decades. Other memories have resurfaced that I’ve enjoyed remembering for the first time in many years.  I had fantastic fun writing my first novel, and resent deeply the gap I have to enforce to market and Promo the book. I just want to start my next project, but books don’t get themselves noticed.

I’m looking forward to seeing the final edit of the book completed in the next two weeks and to putting Tom out into the world to be interacted with or ignored, what-ever the fates may bring. I’ll be sad to leave him and will miss writing about this cool, lucky, happy, tragic and a little damaged wee guy every day. Still, onto the next one, with gusto.

Orignally written as a guest blog for http://www.kindlepromo.com