Monday, 12 August 2013

An interview with Paul Kater

In early July I was contracted by a new publishing platform to write some blog articles. Unfortunately the deal fell through when the client didn't pay for the test article as promised and failed to produce any kind of contract. Therefore as I own all the rights to the material I have decided to publish it here first. On Wednesday I will publish the second article, an interview with none other than Valerie Douglas.

There aren’t many writers out there who can say that they published their book because a fan demanded it. But in 2010 that is exactly what Paul Kater did after he wrote the first of his Adult Fantasy series “Hilda – the Wicked Witch” during a friendly writing competition.
Three years on and his first book still continues to do well on popular book retailers notching up a total of 78,000 downloads. And there is little doubt that the character is a firm favourite with readers as Hilda has her own e-mail address that regularly receives fan mail. This kind of desire from readers for more has prompted the writing of a twelfth book. And it is the writing of a series that Paul feels is part of his success.

“I think a good series is a great way to build a platform where people know you.”

The author considers Hilda, as well as many of his characters, an extension of himself. Being able to see and talk to them has created an environment in which storylines easily flow forcing Paul to type fast to keep up with their conversations.
But Paul hasn’t always had it easy during his writing career. One of the lowest points for an author is when you receive your first one star reviews.

“I think the lows are mostly the first few negative reviews on books. Those are the sour apples you need to get through.”

Despite these negatives Paul has certainly strived to achieve better with each book and his latest, Hilda - Magic on the Rocks, has only received glowing five star reviews.
This bounce back attitude helped him most during his early writing days when he approached Traditional publishers about buying his book. He was turned down at every corner when the publishing houses didn’t think there would be a market for such a character or genre.
Since he joined the world of self publishing Paul has noticed there has been a large influx of new writers. While some of writers are skilled in their craft, some of them lack the basic skills needed for industry such as spellchecking and proofreading. To him part of his success (and any author) is having top quality books. There should be no taking shortcuts when it comes to storyline, grammar, spelling or formatting. Any errors and readers will pick up and scold you for them.
Paul also has his readers in mind at every point of his creative process; giving updates regularly through his webpage and Facebook. He added that every author needs to keep their readers up to date with what they are doing. This reminds readers “...that 'the author' is actually a real person that talks back, responds.
It is certainly a policy that is serving Paul well as demand for new books continue.

You can find out more about Paul Kater at his website

Monday, 5 August 2013

Service is king

So at the weekend I went out for a day with my wife. It is a rare treat for us to have some time on our own and without the children, and although we love them to pieces, it is good to spend some time to ourselves. The day was a success, but I had found very good business lessons whether you are an author or a business owner should be part of your mindset.

Bowling Alley

So the first event was a couple of games of bowling. Although there were none of those horrible plastic chairs and each lane had its own table, the setting needed some work. The music was very loud; so loud that I could barely hear my wife speak into my ear. Even so, there was a worse issue to contend with: poor service. To begin with the staff insisted to on placing our names on the system, but then failed to spell ‘David’ right three times. How you can do that is beyond me.

Secondly we were asked whether or not we would like food at the lane. Having missed lunch because of various reasons, and feeling a little peckish, we ordered a sharing platter and a couple of drinks. What happened next is up for some debate but the bottom line was clear: our food and drinks didn’t arrive.

After our first game we became concerned. So we inquired as to what happened. After some rushed fumbling by the staff it transpired that the kitchen never received our order. However I had seen the staff member who took the order immediately run into the area. It took another 20 minutes before our food arrived, at about round seven of our second game. We ate some and played some, but inevitably we still had some food at the end of the game. So we sat there on the lane to finish it off as looking around 6 out of the 10 lanes were not in use.

Within five minutes the staff had come by, picked up the two bowling balls we had been using and returned them to the stands. Then two minutes later a group arrived to use our lane. This was a little annoying, more than half the lanes were empty and yet it was ours that they had assigned to them. A little disgruntled we picked up everything, including our bags, shoes, plates and drinks to relocate. After we finished we went to pay and left.


The end of the day was capped off with a meal. This restaurant has great ratings online and the food sounded lovely. It was fairly pricey in some parts of the menu, but it was a treat. It was lovely food. The starters cost just £2 ($3) each but the mains were about £20 ($30). But quality was not dropped on either.

When it came to paying my wife and I were having a discussion about how much to give as a tip when the manager came over to take our payment. I was still talking of a story in America so carried on. When I finished the manager turned round and said – “We stopped years ago insisting on tips – it just isn’t worth it.” I smiled a little and replied, “I think the key for a business is to make that one visit become another and then another,” the manager smiled and agreed enthusiastically.

In the end, we did pay a 10% service fee, which was reasonable. The food, service, attentiveness to detail was beyond doubt some of the finest I have had. But from these two experiences there is an important lesson: customer experience.

In the first instance such a negative opinion of the establishment was formed. And worse still they facilitated that image to be impressed upon another customer by moving us before we had finished. I know from a fact, because they spoke to us later, that they didn’t order food because of our experience and they felt guilty about having to move us. In an environment where there are two competing bowling alleys within three hundred meters and another one closer to our house, it makes me ponder whether to return there or not.

However the restaurant has another example. The service was excellent and the food was without a doubt some of the best food out I’ve ever had. The pricing was interesting too, despite only being £2 my order of sausages with a sweet chilli dip was massive. There must have been two big sausages and a good sized portion of dips, yet it was relatively inexpensive. The Tiger prawns and garlic mushrooms I had on the other hand was a small amount for the price – but the taste was immensely good – so very much worth it. The fact that this restaurant sees the value of return custom - instead of trying to drain as much money out of you in one go, is a good philosophy.

The mindsets are perfectly transferable into being an author. If you give a poor quality service then people won’t come back no matter how good your product is. Readers want to have a personal connection to their books. If you shove them out of the way once they’ve bought the book, then they are unlikely to form a positive image about you and your brand and will not return for another book. Yet if you are polite and take the time with the small details, customers will return and continue to buy your works no matter the cost (within reason).

In September I will be running at least three competitions, including chances to:

  • Win a copy of "Ghost Haunts", my paranormal short story collection
  • Win a copy of "Entrapment" - my new release and first in the PIT series
  • A chance to have a character named after you in the second book of the PIT series
To make sure that you have a chance, like my Facebook page or follow me on twitter.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Internal thoughts of mine

This week has been a pretty hectic week. I’ve had orders come flying in from my clients for social media plans, blog posts, white papers, content writing and on top of all of that I’ve had to manage the upcoming publication of my new book.

I always knew having to manage this workload was going to be tough but I never actually thought that to do it would require quite so many hours. But as I sit here and think what has gone well in my first couple of weeks of taking on freelancing work, I remind myself of something a solid fact. It can take up to six months to get established in a job.

This doesn’t mean that I won’t produce quality content, but it does mean that to get my schedules working and my efficiency will take time.

It is like that with any new author. When you first writing your first book can take months to write it, if not longer, when some authors can produce a book in under two months. This shouldn’t be seen as a failure on your account. If you are starting out perhaps your should cut yourself some slack. You are learning a trade which is hard to grasp a hold of. If it were easy everyone would be a bestselling author.

Cope with your learning curve and if you stick with writing you should find yourself writing books at a speed of knots in time.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Six ways to organically grow your twitter following

Social media is fast becoming one of the best ways to market your brand and Twitter is outperforming the rest of the platforms for lead generations hands down. According to recent studies; Twitter generates nine to every lead generated through the combined efforts of Facebook and LinkedIn and is responsible for 84% of all leads generated through social media. Although with hashtags and other tools, it is easy on Twitter to send your message out to a large audience, the key is still to have a large following.

There are many companies offer packages where they will add followers to your account, but usually these are detached followers who have no interest in your business. Instead companies should focus on building a following organically using a social media management team or in-house. Here are six tips on how a business can grow their following in-house and inexpensively:

1.    Interact with current followers and those you follow

Users of social media are interested in engagement and it creates an emotional attachment between you and the audience. That attachment can be a powerful draw when they next want something you offer.

2.    Don’t tweet only about your products / services

Give a little to get a little. If you offer free advice, comment on industry related news and other items that have nothing to do with your products / services people will be more interested in reading your tweets, allowing your promotional tweets to be received better. This is also a good way to encourage new followers – no-one can resist free advice.

3.    Tweet less than 8 times a day

Companies that tweet less than 8 times a day are shown to develop better connection with their readers and generate more leads. In a law of averages more leads is better for business and therefore less tweets should be used. It also shows that you are not going to spam followers with constant tweets at all hours of the day.

4.    Use less hashtags

Using one or two hashtags has been proven to be shared more than tweets with hashtags or three or more. Use hashtags sparingly and receive rewards further down the line with new followers. While we are on the subject of hashtags, don’t use inappropriate or irrelevant tweets. Sometimes companies use tweets because they are trending at the time. However when these hashtags have been trending because of important world news at the time, like a shooting incident, it has often been received badly by readers and those companies have lost followers as well as consumer confidence.

5.    Shorten Tweets

Tweets which are between 80 and 100 characters long are normally shared more often. More shared tweets mean greater exposure and more people who could follow you or more lead generation. Keep those tweets short.

6.    Don’t just post links

Social media is versatile and it isn’t always about posting links to your blog / website / news article. Sometimes a picture or video can be a long way to interest new people to your account and encourage a following.

I hope this article has been some use to you. Please feel free to comment if you have any further suggestions or please take the time to follow me at Facebook or on Twitter..

Monday, 29 July 2013

Six of the most important possessions an author needs

To produce anything in this world, you need something to produce it with. While being an author I have often been told that all I need is my laptop and fingers. Yet during my time writing and about to release my second book, Entrapment, I’ve come to find there are so many ‘items’ in the world that are important to my writing. Without some of these of 'possessions' I wouldn’t be able to write full stop; with others they make more productive. So here is a list of six possessions (and I use that term loosely) that authors need to be successful.

1.    A computer

Yes it is top of the list and it probably isn’t any surprise as to why. Without the computer we simply couldn’t publish our work. No computer, no uploading it KDP or marketing it through Twitter and Facebook. I know that it sounds pretty silly, but nowadays if you want to be a writer you need a computer.

2.    A notebook (and pen)

Considering point 1, this seems a little redundant. But a lot of my ideas start out as scribbles on a page before moving on to a handwritten outline and I am writing the first draft of one book on paper first. Why? Because sometimes the physical sensation of writing feels like it is right. However authors should be aware that a notebook and pen are useful when out and about. It’s good for writing ideas that come to you while out and about and it is great for writing short paragraphs while commuting from home to work. I think the pen and paper will always be around and rightly so.

3.    A good bed

Sometimes as authors we put out bodies through a lot. I wake at 5 am and sometimes I do not go to sleep until midnight (or later). To cope I need a good solid few hours sleep and for that I need a good bed. It is the same for every author. If you want to perform the next day, getting a good night’s sleep is critical and therefore a bed is important.

4.    A website

A website is important to an author. From there you can advertise you books, other services and really push your brand across the internet. A website acts like a 24 hour shop front which you can communicate with your readers without having to be there. However without a website you may only use social media – which can get a little spammy and harm your reputation.

5.    Rewards

Rewards are important. You need something to aim for and a reason to get there if you are going to have drive to achieve it. When I started freelance writing this month my wife told me I could have a Chinese meal out if I earned £100. I actually reduced this to a Chinese takeaway but I agreed. Within 1 week I smashed this goal (meaning I need to set better goals – see this post by me). I've now waivered that reward and am instead taking my wife out for a day filled with surprise activities and a good meal out – to say thank you but also because I need the reward to remind me of why I am working so hard.

6.    A support network

The biggest asset any author can have is the support network they have around them. Friends and family are so important at lifting our spirits when we are down; bringing us down to earth when we get carried away and bringing us cups of tea when we need it most. I could not be a writer without my family and friends. And it isn’t just the ones I have who live near me. All my friends who I have met online are an excellent support and without them I would not be where I am today. So a big thank you for those who are there for me when I need it.

If you have any more examples please let us know in the comments below.

I hope you enjoyed this article you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Six Things We Shouldn’t Do When Writing a Book

Most of the time I talk about our social media activities when I talk on this site but I thought for a change I would give some advice on some of the common generic mistakes that new authors make. Here are six things that authors shouldn’t do when publishing their book.

1.       Publish the First Draft

The first draft is very rarely ready for the reader’s eyes. At the very least an author should have the manuscript edited. Most (if not all) need to have the manuscript re-written in a second draft.

2.       Not editing the manuscript

Everyone makes mistakes and editors are there to catch them and make them right. Readers can be rather unforgiving if they spot a mistake in your book so I would always suggest a book needs to go through a good editor.

3.       Cover design

Unless you have a particularly good eye for art and are pretty talented in such a field as well as writing, it is normally best to get a professional cover artist to do your book cover.

4.       Not doing the research

If you are going to be writing for something that has an established feel, look, procedure, etc you need to make sure you know what you are talking about. If it is a location pack a bag and go visit for a few days, if it is a regular event that is held go and participate, if it is a historical event – read, read, read about it.

5.       Thinking other authors are competitors

Authors aren’t competing with each other. Unlike with some industries readers don’t have to stick to one supplier – they have as many different books as they want from as many different authors. Instead other authors are support, guidance and can be inspirational. I have many author friends and I don’t think I could do without any of them for my career.

6.       Get stuck on social media

If you can get addicted to social media, learn to turn off the modem, set limits, anything that will stop you looking at Facebook and instead concentrating on your manuscript. Social media only accounts for 1% of all online sales so you can’t even use that excuse.

I hope you have found this article useful. If you have any more examples please let us know in the comments below.
I hope you enjoyed this article you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Six problems with being a Self published Author and / Or Freelance Writer

Being a self published author or freelance writer can be hard at times. There is no doubt about it that sometimes the world just doesn’t understand about what it is like being a writer. There have been times when I feel that I am just pushing back against them to legitimize what career I have chosen. There are many problems as to why people think that self-publishing and freelance writers are badly portrayed but most of them aren't true.

Here are six problems with being a self published author / freelance writer:

1.    Friends and family call it a hobby

My writing is by no means a hobby. A hobby is something that costs you some to partake in which you enjoy. Although I will admit that I enjoy writing, the end result is to earn money from it. I also have to cater for client needs and often have to negotiate price, deadlines and content. This all makes it a business and career rather than a hobby.

2.    You must be raking it in

At the other end of the scale are those who remind me that J K Rowling and other famous authors who make millions from their books. Therefore according to logic; I must be making a comfortable wage each month. This is not strictly too. I am now freelance writing, which divides time from writing creatively, but that is paying me regularly. But I am not making an excessive amount – but within a few months enough that I hope to call it a full time wage.

3.    I am lazy

Writers are lazy??  I’ve heard this one a lot. It is very funny to hear this one because people are very quick to judge your career based on misconceptions from a society stereotype but are not so happy to have hear their own career’s negative stereotypical description. Just to set the record straight I am up at 5am working and go to bed about 10pm after finishing work. Most of the people who say this to me aren't up at 7 am and are watching soaps by 7 pm.

4.    Self publishing is expensive

Without considering marketing costs, self publishing is expensive. Cover art, editing and formatting can all cost you up to about $500-1000 if you want to have the job done right and then you have the costs of the print proofs. When you add in marketing your costs can spiral out of control. Self publishing is not for those who want to be cheap.

5.    Self publishing is lonely

It certainly isn’t. I have met some wonderful people throughout my writing career and struck up some wonderful friendships. With those friendships I have learned a lot of new things and been steered in the right direction in many cases.

6.    Writing take no skill

I’ve had this said to me often. But I always respond with the same question: “how many books have you sold?” Writing a book from start to finish is not easy. Freelance writing is not easy. That is why companies will pay writers good rates for writing their content whether an e-book or blog content. Just because it takes no skill to tap on a few keys on a keyboard, does not mean that it takes no skill to write something coherent.

I hope you have enjoyed my article and I hope you come back for more.

I hope that you take the time to follow me on Twitter or Facebook.