Wednesday, 23 April 2014

April Update Part 1: Website and Blog Redesign

Dear all,

Excuse me for being so quiet this month, Easter weekend already! I hope you enjoyed your time off work and ate all the chocolate that you actually bought for your partner or children...
            I’m going to write three updates today as there is a lot I want to tell you about and this first one is a very quick note concerning my website and my blog. The second is going to be a quick note on my thoughts on some developments with self publishing platforms, and the last one is going to be most likely a long ramble on where I am in my year away writing adventure…so forgive the long break and I am back to regular blogging again.

So, any writers out there, whether wannabe like me, or those with actual ability – what is the most common problem people always complain about when talking about writing? In my unscientific non-surveyed or researched opinion it is finding the time to write and not being distracted once you do. Therefore it won’t be a surprise when I say that I have spent the last couple of weeks at home thinking about social media rather than writing…
            …Once you have finished tutting at me but empathizing at the same time I’ll explain. As I have discussed in previous blogs I have quit my job and I am taking this year to try and feel better about my life by living in Spain and writing as much as I can. For those who didn’t know this, yes, before you say it, I know, I know…well, I mean I don’t know…I don’t know what I will do when I am back. I will be homeless, unemployed and broke but I don’t regret it at all and the first three months have been fantastic and it’s the best thing I have ever done. Anyway, more of that in the third part of this blog later today. The reason I mention it here is that I made a planned return to London in April to see friends and family before moving on to the next accommodation, I fly back out next week and I have spent a lovely couple of weeks here which I will tell you about later, but what I haven’t done here is any writing…there has been too much on, which is shame because I was on a good roll before and it is an understatement to say that I have a lot to do, however, I am also running my own company and have responsibilities and cannot simply put everything else in my life to the side while I write and I don’t think that is too much of a bad thing and that is what I want to talk about here.

            Self publishing by yourself (as opposed to using an aggregator company) isn’t just about writing, that may sound blindingly obvious to those of you who are doing this but actually when you speak to people in general they do not realise the amount of other work it takes. I suppose one could say this about any job really, and I have a vivid memory of someone walking into my office once (in a previous job) and asking me how I got my job as it seems a really cushy number just doing this one particular task they always saw me doing and I had to politely explain that in fact what they saw me doing was probably only 5% of my entire workload, so yes, this does go for everything.
            Some of the basic elements involved include ebook formatting, cover design, editing, author profile and account management, sales reporting and as per all UK company requirements, end of year company accounts and self assessments. Now whether you do this entirely by yourself or get help it doesn’t matter, it takes a huge amount of time and effort. Once that is done you then need to move onto the most important part of all which is marketing.  Paid and unpaid marketing is essential and I have been going over two years now and haven’t even moved into the paid marketing stage of my business plan yet, that is a 2015 goal, and I’ll talk about that another time.
            The part I want to talk about here is my website and my blog. First of all I have had a little redesign of the blog, it was getting quite cluttered and busy and I wanted to simplify it a bit. So now, I have a plain background and template colour scheme, I have created pages and have started to include affiliate ads.
            The reason I have done this is that I am still doing everything for free, I have a free blogger account and do not intend to go pro until next year. I enjoy blogging and it is still more a fun and engaging hobby than a legitimate marketing and revenue raising concern, I hope you don’t mind me being so honest about this! I have seen some fantastic blogs, really insightful and full of great tips and advice. I may create another blog in the future which will be a resource for self publishing, there are tonnes out there by people who know a hell of a lot more than me in detailed development terms, but I have some good experience and knowledge and I want to share it with people. It will be a free resource for people who want to know the basics. So that is something I am looking forward to. My current blog, the one you are reading now, is a personal blog where I talk about my writing, my thoughts on writing and insert bits and pieces of my life here and there too. However, just because it is personal that doesn’t mean I can get away with it not looking professional, there are so many people out there that you need to stand out and take things seriously, so I will always try my best to spend time on making sure good content and links are presented well. You know what though? It takes time! People always say that writing is the most important thing, and yes it is, but you can’t look like an amateur and think that people will take you for anything more. If you want to be taken seriously then you need to take every aspect of your brand seriously, so although it means taking time away from writing, it is important, do it, don’t neglect your online appearance.  I have visited thousands of literature related websites over the years and unfortunately I navigate away from poor looking sites, and I think I actually invest more time than most. We can’t help it, we are all busy, we are all looking to move on to the next thing before we have finished what we are already on, it’s just the pace of life we live in. So, I know that I need to reflect on that when working on my own sites, and yes it is hard to do so when you have no budget so I’m not pretending it is the easiest thing in the world to create a modern super whizz bang fancy website but just keep it in mind that you need to work hard at it. I know my blog is not the best, and I know that it needs work but I have got it to a level I am happy with for now, and when I am away for the rest of the year writing (how many times have I sais this out loud! I really had better get some work done or I will never live it down…) I am comfortable that it will exist as it is until 2015 when I will move on to the next stage of my plan and start investing in an updated professional blog.
            Moving on to the website. I like it. I really do. I have so much to thank my designer for because we have worked with such limited budget and I think made a very good stab at presenting a professional image. I have one or two more updates to do this coming week so there will be a handful of changes to make and then it will be like this for the rest of the year. The beauty of doing something yourself is that you can really put yourself out there, no corporate constraints on your vision (not that there is anything wrong with constraint, we all have to be careful on that front) and you can try lots of new ideas. However, that said, you can’t deliver those ideas without money and without a serious amount of development time.

            That is why it is a eternally frustrating business, running your own company because you have to manage ideas, it is not an immediate thing to be able to come up with an idea and then instantly apply it. That can be a good thing of course, most good ideas once scrutinized become bad ideas, but when you have a good idea, there is no marketing team to get working on it, no development team, no sales team, no-one other than yourself. So I have lots I want to do with my website and I have lots of projects well under way that I will be incorporating into the website in 2015. Let’s face it, if you have a website that is a selling platform then once someone has bought a product then there is often no reason for them to come back, or if they are considering buying something, if they don’t then they will never come back. So you have to make websites interesting, there has to be a constant update of good content, interactive content that isn’t just about selling something, of course the aim is that people will buy something but they need a reason to be there in the first place and I want people to enjoy my site regardless of what books are there for sale.
So, over the next few years I hope that the things I am working on will make it a place that is cool enough in its own right and I will get visitors who enjoy being involved in some of the things I am doing. I can’t let you know about them now of course, that would be telling, but I am excited by them and look forward to having my life separated into two related but distinct parts - the writer and the…well I’m not actually sure what the term would be for the other part? Social Media Developer? Social Media Organiser? Online Mischievous Monkey? Who knows, but it’s all to do with being part of an online community of reading and writing book lovers (and ahem…ebook lovers…)
Yes, I need to make money to eat, so I need to advertise, I need to sell ebooks, I need to do all that business-e stuff but let’s just be honest, it will be years (if ever!) before I make money that way, it will be a struggle and anyone who hasn’t realised that yet soon will, I will be poor for a long time to come but the big difference is that I am doing something I really love and enjoy and opposed to the highs and lows of my employment history to date, it is something I want to do for the rest of my life. So we can all laugh at this naivety next year when my savings are gone and I am picking up bits of stale bread out of bins for dinner but let’s live the ambition for a while.

So the important thing is not giving up. You have to keep going but then why am I spending time and energy on developing other projects? Why am I spending time on websites and blogs? Why don’t I just write all day long? The truth is that probably I should because first and foremost that is the single most important aspect of my life, that is what it all boils down to. Yet…and yet…I want to be involved in these other things, I enjoy it, I like blogging, I like working on these cool projects that I haven’t told you about yet so in reality they don’t even exist yet! I like meeting people from all over the world who have the same interests and if I wasn’t making YouTube videos, or Pinterest boards and all the rest of it, then I wouldn’t have met these people and I wouldn’t have such varied content in my life. So I will keep juggling, I will keep spending time on multiple project because I like the variety, I like learning, I like being tested and also you know what…? When the time comes in a few years when I have several more short stories published and I have my first novel published…excuse me for a moment while I just wipe my brow after saying that….when all that is a reality, I don’t want to exist alone and have to build up a platform. I want my name and my brand already established, I don’t mean a household name, I haven’t totally lost the plot don’t worry, I mean I want a nice online community that has all manner of weird and wonderful social media projects going on.

The only way to get there is to work hard and so I need to write every day and not get sidetracked like I have done over the last couple of weeks doing other things, but if every now and again I do spend a bit of time on something else I just need to remind myself that it is all going towards the same end goal, it is all for my own progression and development. This goes for you too, don’t beat yourself up too much if you spend a bit of time away from writing, it’s all valuable, just make sure it is something that is going towards your development, it you play five hours of solitaire then yes, that is something you need to address, but if you spend a bit of time in Facebook groups, or LinkedIn groups, or community forums, or you learn a bit about the new epub conversion guidelines or you fiddle around with your blog making it look a bit more attractive to visitors then go for it, why not, it all helps, it all aids the ol’grey long as you don’t lose sight of writing as priority number 1.  Some of it is in fact vital! Read Hubspot’s latest posts, read all the distributer newsletters, read the technical updates to your social media sites; if you were in a full time job in the traditional sense (and being self employed is as full time as you will ever get, you never stop thinking about it!) then you would be expected to go on training courses here and there, you would be expected to learn about the new software updates, you would be expected to go to meetings and so on…this is no different, you have to treat this as the most important job of your life (I haven’t got kids so of course that goes first if you have J ) Self development is vital. If you look at the development sections of my blogroll you can visit some really interesting sites that you can learn a lot from, I don’t do it nearly enough but I always feel better for it when I do! If you are self publishing then the smallest of tips can really advance you.

To sum up, my website and blog are not as I want them to be but I am very happy with them, there is a lot to work on and a lot of projects to integrate and I hope you stick around to see where it goes but for now until the end of this year I will be focusing on writing. January 2015 will be an interesting month, I am both absolute terrified and absolutely determined…let’s see which one wins out.

Okay, part two later on…




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