Tag Archives: Online

User pays

The other day I did a Google search for something and found my old novel, Paragon, offered for free download. My novel hasn’t been available for purchase for about six years, so I have no idea how long it had been on this site. The reason I took the novel down was because I thought it had too many things that needed fixing, it wasn’t the best it could be. It bugged me that the choice to hold it back had been taken away from me.

It also got me wondering; how have people’s attitudes to other’s hard work gotten so callous that someone would feel justified putting up the work of a (let’s be honest) unheard of author for free? Is what they gain really worth what they take?

I’m against all forms illegal downloading, whether it is books, movies, software, TV shows, music etc. So often I hear people saying things like “Katy Perry is so rich, it doesn’t matter” –but it does matter. Katy Perry, or any other artist/developer are not doing this on their own. They support a whole network of people who depend on sales to make a living. A movie is not made by several actors and a director. There are writers, camera people, caterers, props people, make-up artists, hair stylists etc. It is an industry, and when you steal, you steal from all of them.

But back to my experience… I am not supporting an industry, just me and those closest to me. In over 20 years of sending off my work for publication I’ve earned less than $500. That’s why I’ve still got the day job. There are lots of people like me out there who haven’t yet made it, and if people keep stealing from us, then we’ll never earn enough money to quit the day job so we can keep making the art that others want to steal.

Imagine if Buffy had been downloaded to the point where no networks wanted to buy the ongoing series. We might never have had Firefly, or Serenity, or Cabin in the woods. I do not want to think about a world with no Joss Whedon! Is that the price we want to pay to be able to save a few dollars?

Technical Difficulties

This may be my last post for a while, I’m having some technical difficulties with upgrading my blog platform, and despite downloading everything I’ve been told to download, the screen just hangs when I try to upgrade. It is a little frustrating.

The platform is going to force an upgrade on December 31st but they have warned this could have disastrous consequences for my blog. Unfortunately I have no choice now but to wait and see if this fixes it or kills it.

If you come back here in 2015 and find no new posts, please go to my website where I’ll post an update about my new blog location (if it comes to that): www.nataliejepotts.com

Thank you for stopping by to check out my ramblings over the past year, your comments and support have meant a lot to me. I hope to be back here next year with more exciting publication news, and hopefully my new writing process will also mean I have some more finished pieces to talk about.

So have a safe and wonderful New Year, and I’ll see you again in 2015 – yikes that sounds so futuristic.

No more blogs?

I was watching a show on social media the other day and it said blogs are now passé. A vlog (video log) is still acceptable, but apparently blogs are on their way out. Naturally, this got me thinking about this blog.

When I started blogging I attended social media workshops and researched SEO tips to get the most out of it. I also started my Twitter account and ramped up my Facebook profile to back it up. Social media was going to be the key to my publication success.

I spent hours on my online profile, at least double the time I was spending on my actual writing. As all the articles said it would, I slowly increase my likes, followers and comments. I didn’t finish any stories.

Then I unexpectedly got moved to Adelaide and suddenly my focus changed (briefly) to removalists, breaking leases, finding homes for things etc. My online profile tanked the moment I looked away. In a very short time my three months of hard work disappeared. I got very disheartened and turned my focus back to my writing. I got some stories finished.

But I kept the blog up. Why? Because this blog represents something that I think is very important in writing; dedication. Even when I’m coughing up a lung and producing double my weight in snot I will still make sure I’ve got something to go up on Sunday. So it may have a readership of just six friends, three strangers who happened upon it by accident and a bunch of people who want to sell rip-off handbags, but it is here and that’s what is important to me.

I’m not slagging social media, I know it does work, but for me the commitment and accountability are a bigger appeal, and the blog provides that. Also I have a theory that sitting at my computer also inspires me to finish stories, which is what I think writers are really meant to do.

So for now the blog stays.

Getting into their heads

I’ve just finished reading Kelvin Cruickshank’s autobiography Walking in Light, which (being a big fan of Sensing Murder) I found fascinating. The strange thing is, I cannot shake the feeling that I’ve gotten to know Kelvin by reading it. I feel like I should say hi if we were to bump into each other on the street –which seems to me to be just a little bit crazy.

That’s when I realised the real difference between an autobiography and a biography. When someone else is telling the story the belief systems and/or prejudices of the author (which will always come through) have no real bearing on your feelings toward the subject.

Yet when you read an autobiography everything said, even the phrases used to say things are all from the subject (Kelvin regularly uses the word ‘choice’ which took me straight back to my youth in the 80’s and always made me smile). It is more like sitting down for coffee with someone who just opens up and lets it all flow out.

To be honest it feels a little bit strange.

It reminds me of how I felt when talking to an author at World Con last year and I made a comment about the beautiful view near her house. Now yes on first pass it sounds like I’m a stalker, but the fact is I enjoy reading her books, so I started reading her blog and she keeps posting pictures of these amazing views from her house. But the creeped out look she gave me made me wonder who she was actually writing these blog entries for?

Which obviously begs the next big question; who am I writing this blog for? Perhaps a post for another day…

Cut backs

I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I didn’t post on Wednesday. I’d like to say it was a planned thing, but the truth was I was so sick that after I had crawled over to the wall to turn the power on to the modem, I lay down, exhausted, and fell asleep on the floor. More accurately, a step. The poor cat thought I was dead.

Anyway, today there is no hint of my malaise of mid-week, but my missed post did get me thinking. My online presence is important to me, and I really do value being a part of the community, but my offline writing is, was and always will be paramount. So I’m axing the Wednesday post in favour of Wednesday writing. The slot is nicely booked out in my calendar for the rest of the year already, so I will just change its use.

That will also allow me to do random koala and pet photo posts any time outside of standard post time, instead of waiting for Wednesday. And an update; I am still working on the cat photos for those who asked, hope to have something soon.

I’m also going to change the nature of my blog a little. I’m going to cut back on the advice –after all, what can I claim to know about writing? Perhaps when I’ve got my third novel out or my Pulitzer, then I might have something worth listening to, but until then I’m just going to share what I can claim to know well; the struggles of a writer trying to get her work out into the world.

So thank you for your support so far, and I look forward to sharing a lot more of my journey with you in the coming months!

Suburban Cowboys

Suburban Cowboys by Natalie J E Potts
Well I pulled my finger out and finally loaded up Suburban Cowboys, my short horror story which was originally printed in Midnight Echo #1 (the Australian Horror Writers Association magazine) in 2008.

This story was inspired by all my drives between Hawthorn and Hampton where my poor little Lancer had to rough it with all the Toorak tractors. One day the fighting with the four-wheel drives just got to me so much that this story spilled out in its entirety the moment I got home.

I do need to warn you there is adult content insomuch as there are graphic concepts, but there is not really any guts and gore (but don’t let the absence turn you off).

At the moment (due to the way the sites are set up) you can only get it for free on Smashwords, but it is available at Amazon for the princely sum of $0.99, or you can wait about a month and then they will (hopefully) move it over to the free catalogue.

Thank you very much to those who gave me feedback about the cover, it was almost a fifty/fifty split, so I went with the all blue, but I might re-vamp it to dual-tone when it gets onto the free list.

Happy reading,

Nat

The Meaning of Life

Yes, I know I promised to present five fabulous non-fiction books to you, but I got some good news this week, and I wanted to share it. So you’ll have to wait until Wednesday for the non-fiction reading list I’m afraid.  

The first bit of good news I got was that my flash fiction story entry Jaxon’s Gift gained an ‘honourable mention’ in the Australian Horror Writers Association short story competition! Which means I wasn’t too far off the pace. I’m also pleased to say fellow SuperNOVA member, Tracie McBride, was also honourably mentioned for her short story Slither and Squeeze.

The next bit of good news I got was that my self-(re)published short story Welcome to Midnight finally made it onto the Amazon free list, and in the twenty-four hours following that over 3,500 people downloaded a copy! As of Saturday night it was ranked #42 (hence the title of this blog). And here’s proof;
Amazon Sales Rank

The truth is I don’t know what the book is being ranked against, it could be all ebooks, it could free ebooks, it could be horror/science fiction books, or it could be free horror/science fiction ebooks by authors with surnames beginning with ‘P’. But I don’t care! My other self-published book on Amazon is ranked at a number four digits longer than Welcome to Midnight, so I’m VERY happy with #42!

So thank you to everyone for cheering up what was shaping up to be a bit of a depressing week!

I promise, next post will be the 5 great non-fiction books!

Nat

When everything is perfect

Star Rating

I did not grow up in the time of ‘participation medals’, not everyone was a winner, and sometimes no-one was. Which is why I think that a perfect score should be reserved for only the very best of something, not squandered so freely as to be meaningless.

As some of you may remember, I published my novel Paragon on both Smashwords and Amazon recently (and it is still available). I quickly followed this up with a free short story Welcome to Midnight. Having rarely purchased books online before, these publications were my first exposure to the mixed up world of star ratings.

It seems that there are a lot of ‘perfect’ books out there. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for my five star reviews, but to be honest I am also very surprised. I would only give a handful of books a perfect score, because as much as I enjoy a book, I believe you should always include room for improvement.

The problem is there are a lot of people freely handing out five stars, meaning that if someone gets four stars or below (because someone like me reviews it) it will completely destroy the book’s standing. So even if the review was positive, and talks about how great the book is, because it is not five stars the author’s book will plummet in the rankings from first page display to 15th page (in some instances).

This leads to pressure to give a book five stars, because too many people assume it is awful if it gets below that. Add to that the complication of many of those reviewing the books being authors, so they are fearful of negative feedback on their own novel if they give less than a perfect score, it renders the whole star rating almost meaningless.

I have learned, as I’m sure many others have, not to pay too much attention to the stars unless they are very low, or if the number of reviews is very high (but even that isn’t watertight). The review itself is the best thing to go by, and that is what I now use when choosing my reading material.

I can’t think of a way to get around the star rating, as a computer system needs something universal to rank by, but it is disappointing that so many good books are so far down the suggested reading list just because they were reviewed by naive people like me, who thought they were being fair.

All about the numbers

Lots of numbers
Hits, followers, friends, connections, comments, re-tweets… Nowadays it seems that reaching out is more about the numbers than anything else. That’s not to say that the content of communication doesn’t matter, it is still paramount, but it is amazing how many people who are active online are hung up on their numbers (myself included).

I’ve recently read comments about the ‘arrogance’ of people who have more followers than people they follow on Twitter. WHAT?!?!?! If there is one place you have no control over who looks at you, it is Twitter, so how your ratio falls can hardly be put down to any fault of your personality. The comment smells a little strongly of jealousy to me.

Having a memory that goes back further than five years, I can recall when networking sites started up. Your friends were actually friends and you shared private information that really had no place on such an exposed network. Now we have hundreds, if not thousands of connections and the communication is substantially tempered to include as little personal information as possible. Well, for many of us over the age of about 22 anyway.

I can’t help but think that the online trend for collecting numbers is turning us all into marketing experts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, selling yourself is a good skill to have, but where does all this work on number building leave us for relationship building?

I know, the irony of a person who writes a blog saying this is not lost on me, but I would be lying if I did not admit that sometimes I wonder if I should be pulling back from my online world and focussing more on my offline world. I’ve done less fiction writing since I created an online presence, and have caught up with friends less often. The two might not be related (I did move states during the same time, after all) but I think it would be wise to see if there is any connection.  

Something to think about… 

Deny, deny, deny

UFO and AlienLast week a sk8ter boy in Tasmania spotted a UFO, not once, but twice. Not only that, but he managed to capture it on video using a tripod, or else he has a much steadier hand than your average UFO cameraman;
YouTube Preview Image 
Looking at the video it could be a UFO of alien origin, or it could be a blimp, or it could be some lights strung up over his back fence. My favourite suggestion so far is that it is the reflection of the guy’s modem in the window. Yes, it could be that.

The thing that gives this story plausibility is the emphatic denial the media was quick to heap onto the story. The bureau of meteorology suggested it might be the Aurora… err I don’t think so. Even a six year old raised by camels in the desert could probably tell us that the blinking lights are not the aurora.

Air Traffic Control confirmed there were no aircraft in the area at the time. What time? I checked out flights and they are pretty regular in and out, not to mention private aircraft. And just turn off your transponder and you are invisible to ATC.  

The military ‘did not comment’ –perhaps they were never asked? See, this could have been the clincher. The military have the real radar that spots everything, but they didn’t comment.

The thing that was not reported was did anyone else who was not in Sk8ter boy’s house see the lights? I know Tassie is a bit cold at the moment, but I refuse to believe no-one was out and about on Saturday night!

You cannot help but wonder if the media beat up is in fact a conspiracy. If they make such a fuss each time flashing lights are seen, soon enough we’ll just ignore them all. As Fox would say I want to believe.