Tuesday, 13 October 2015

35 Day Blog Challenge - Day 31: Blogging a Book

In a chat group someone asked the other day how does one blog a book, or do you just write posts about the book for marketing purposes? Personally I think you can go either way, but as a writer, trying to establish yourself? Write a book.
It can be fiction or non-fiction, both can work wonderfully as a series of blog posts. Just one thing to remember: once posted it is considered published because it will be in the public domain. So no entering competitions where it explicitly states 'not published before'. Competitions can be funny that way, but the rules are the rules.
On the other hand, if people like your blog posts, ie your book very much, they will tell you. 

To give an example: Yip I have one of those on hand - my friend, Vanessa Wright, wrote a series of posts about her Muse. And they were not only very funny, people like them so much that they had been pestering her to publish them in a book.
And to keep things interesting, she added a few stories, not on her blog - now, that's the part that will sell the book. People have seen and loved her posts, and the book will give them more of that.
Well, the good news is she is busy with the final edits, the cover looks amazing, and hopefully soon I will be able to twist her arm to let me introduce her muse to you right here on the Broomstick.

My attempt to complete a non-fiction book has been done the same way. Using the 35 Day Author Blog Challenge I have written several posts to be included in the book. Some of the posts were edited before inclusion, simply because of the style, but others were used as is.
One or two posts were expanded because I don't like long-winded blog posts, but the topic required more detail before it would have worked for the book.

Whichever way you decide to use your blog to write a book, enjoy the process and may your readers enjoy the journey with you!

Monday, 12 October 2015

35 Day Blog Challenge - Day 30: Blogging to share

As I have taken part in this Author Blog Challenge, I have noticed that some of the blog sites cannot be shared. If I found a post interesting, I had to copy the link and then go to Google+ (where I prefer to share blog posts) to share the link there.
This posed two problems:
I had to this manually. I don't mind, but it could have saved time if I had the opportunity to just click, and the post would be shared automatically.
This brings me to the second problem: the blogger didn't know that I shared his or her post. Without the link on the blog, I would have to tag the blogger in the share to let them know what I did. Since some bloggers don't have their names visible on their blogs, or they don't have a profile on Google+, it was not possible for me to to that.
I have been fortunate that people shared my posts on social media sites, including Google+, but four days ago, a visitor made the comment that she couldn't reblog my post. This was a surprise, since I didn't know how to allow that by means of a app or widget to be clicked.
After a little research (and a very helpful blog) I learned that it was a little more complicated than activating an app to share my posts.

You have to understand that while I trained as an electronics engineer, programming and software code was never my strong point. So when the blog said, go HTML and edit that code, I went ice cold. Fiddling around with software code could create all kinds of havoc, which I simply do not have the patience or knowledge to fix.
But, I have to mention in my defence, I can read a mean instruction manual. Which I did. As holding my breath, thumbs, toes and a few unmentionables, I click save after adding the extra code.
There were no fireworks, or alarm bells screaming at me. Neither was there any smoke pouring out of the keyboard or flashing screens with all kinds of errors in my face.
So far so good. And then I tested it, again too anxious to rush into the process. Too weird! It worked!

It doesn't matter which platform your blog is hosted on, add those social media and reblog buttons, you never know who might want to share your words with the world.

This week is the last of days of the 35 Day Author Blog Challenge and I want to personally thank everyone taking part in the challenge for all the terrific posts you had written. I trust you will enjoy my last five posts too.

If you want to see what the other participants are blogging about, you can find their blogs here. Why not pop on over and leave a comment?

Sunday, 11 October 2015

35 Day Blog Challenge - Day 29: Review Reality - do you dare to?

This is my third post on writing reviews, and this time we will have a look at reviewing non-fiction. Of all the genres, this has to be the most difficult simply because non-fiction is not the same as fiction. Non-fiction deals with real life, real situations and real problems. Before I start on the subject, let me clarify: for the sake of this post, academic and other educational books are excluded. The aim is to look as books available to the general public, you and me, via the normal book distribution channels.

To my mind there are three categories of non-fiction:
  • Self-help books: yoga, weight-loss, books on religion and its topics, psychological issues, etc.
  • Books to learn a skill: crafts, writing, art, cooking, meditation, etc.
  • Books that inform or entertain you: wildlife, travel books, history books, biographies, etc.

There are probably more than what I can think of right now, and some of these books can be categorised in more than one way, depending on the contents and your intention of reading it. And that is the essence of reading non-fiction: do you intend to read it for information? Do you want to better yourself? Or are you a writer or subject guru who is doing research for your next book?
When writing a review about a non-fiction book, I am of the opinion that you should state the reason you read the book in the first place. It will explain to the reader of the review, be it the author or a potential buyer, where you are coming from.
If you are a subject expert, and you give the book a less than exalted review, but you didn't state your reason, people might get the wrong impression. If you are a novice, this book might just be the best thing that has happened to you.
The same applies to someone who is reading the book for information's sake. Was the topic covered sufficiently for you to get what you needed? Did you find it easy to read the text? If you used one of the references, was it useful in aiding your understanding of the subject?
While many people, writers included, use the Internet for research, I have found that some subjects should not be researched on our source-of-all-information. I am referring to sex. Before you block my blog and report me to the police, let me clarify.
I needed to understand more about tantra. I searched for books that explained the philosophy behind it, rather than the practical application which was not what I required for my book, We, the One. I needed something different, a new point of view if you like, to tackle this story where intimacy is the key problem between my main characters. Intimacy is more than physical, it has some emotional and spiritual connections too, and I wanted a fresh approach for my story, thus the research and the books.
I found three of them: the first was as dull as dishwater, the second was leaning more towards the physical, and the third explained the approach I was looking for.
Now all three books had merit, but not all of it was useful to me. The first would be a textbook for students of tantra, but it was way too philosophical and vague for what I needed. The second was too physical, as mentioned. The third had more of the information I was looking for, although I was not happy with some of the religious statements the author made in the text. So if I had to review any or all three of these books, I would need to tell you why I read them, otherwise you would have no idea why I would review them the way I did.
I am not going to review these three books, because it would serve no purpose to people who would buy these books. They are all being marketed as books to improve your sex life, and the characters in my book had a completely different need that I had to figure out.

So here is what I suggest for reviewing non-fiction books:
  1. Tell your audience why your read the book - to improve yourself, learn something new or for information only.
  2. If the first two of these reasons apply to you, then study the book, do the exercises and take the next step towards that which you want: to be a better person, or to learn how to crochet. Only then write the review so your audience can appreciate the reasons you gave it three stars, for example.
  3. If you read the book for information only, then tell your audience if the information was useful and did the author fulfil your expectations for buying the book in the first place.

I bought my books online and had limited information available, therefor the two out of three booboo.
If you feel this post wasn't helpful, I won't blame you, since non-fiction reviews are not as easy and straight forward as reviews for fictional books. It is not just about liking or disliking the contents, it could be a life changing event to someone who reads your review.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

35 Day Blog Challenge - Day 28: When a cold shower is not enough

Erotica and erotic romance are two of the genres where people often overlook the essence of good writing. Sex sells, right? The more the better, right? Wrong!
I am going to tell you two stories - the first was relayed to me, the second I have experienced first hand.
A very good friend told me recently that she knows someone who buys erotic romance novels, and then reads everything except the sex scenes. My friend and I both went, what? Seriously? Either this person was lying, or she bought bad books. Because no book, erotic or not, should have any scenes in there that do not 1) move the plot forward or, 2) says or does something to help the reader understand the characters better, or 3) contributes to or resolves a conflict between the characters. Yes, this includes scenes where two or more people are having sex.
If you can read an erotic romance novel, still follow the plot and empathise with the characters' issues, without reading the sex scenes, then those scenes were superfluous to start off with.
My second story. I have recently read several erotic and erotic romance stories (and I am not going to mention any titles) where my first thought was: no, please just no! No characterisation, no plot (or almost a plot), and conflict? Non-existent. In my opinion the author should have been honest and upfront and called it porn. Stop trying to disguise it as erotica or worse, erotic romance. These have been some of the worst stories I have attempted to read in recent times.
The female characters especially, were weak minded, and never even think to say no, or slow down. The male characters were one dimensional, or was it one track minded? The plot had no substance and there were no scenes that didn't involve wanting sex, getting sex or more sex. Sound like porn? Well, it sure wasn't romantic in my opinion.

To review such stories can be difficult. The instances I mention above are the two extremes, and fairly easy to spot, but what about the 60-70% in-between the porn and the superfluous?
If you are a regular reader of the genre, you will probably have read the New York Times and USA Today Bestsellers too. Those authors make those bestseller lists because they are good writers. They understand the essentials of a good story, with or without burning up the bedsheets.
To be honest, the level of heat in the story is simply a choice the author makes when she or he wrote the book. The characters still need to be three dimensional, the plot still needs to be believable and draw the reader in, and the conflict driving the plot must still be the reason you keep reading until the end. And those bed sheet scenes need to be such a part of the story that if you skip over it, you have to frown and wonder: what had changed, or what did I miss?

Don't stare yourself blind against the sex scenes, but make sure to look at all the other aspects of the book too. If you are a not a writer, review the story around the characters. Was the hero more than tall, dark and sexy? Did you like him or her? Did you lose sleep because you couldn't wait to find out what happened at the end? And were you disappointed that the story ended, because you wanted more?

The advertising industry might have convinced the world that sex sells, but don't let bad writing fool you into buying a book just because there is steam coming out of the pages.

See you tomorrow with the third post on reviews: reviewing non-fiction.

Friday, 9 October 2015

35 Day Blog Challenge - Day 27: Blowing my own blog horn...sort of

Today I am going to do something, that I don't do very often: blow my own horn...sort of. The days of the traditional publisher spending loads of money on marketing campaigns are long gone. In the same vein, self-published authors only have their own resources available and in many cases that resources are limited to non-existent.
That is where the network of other self-published authors and blogging enthusiasts pull their combined resources together to help out. I belong to both categories: self-published author and blogger. So if we don't have money, how do we pull our resources together?
Networking. Bloggers build up a following and a network over time. That network will include anyone and everyone who has anything to do with books - from writers, editors, bloggers, reviewers to readers and fans.
While I as a blogger don't charge anything for an author to have their book featured on my blog, I also get the benefit of new visitors and perhaps a new follower or two, which helps to expand my network to the benefit of all.
The featured author will be introduced to my followers who may be looking for some interesting new material for their reading lists. As a blog host, I have found more than one new author whose books are now on my to-read list as soon as they are published.
A second benefit for me is a post on my blog. While I plan to have at least two posts per week, it seldom works out that way. When I have an author's book to feature, it helps me with a post even as the author gets some added exposure for his or her book.
This is not a tap on my own shoulder, but a big thank you to all the bloggers out there who help to spread the word (and book) of the self-published author such as myself.

If you want to see what the other participants in the challenge are blogging about, you can find their blogs here. Why not pop on over and say hi?