Are All Politicians and Commentators Nuts?

You would think that given their actions the question ‘Are All Politicians and Commentators Nuts’?’ Is self answering.

Today in the UK there is brewing one of those made up press rows about which the general population stares in disbelief and has to check it’s hearing.  This row concerns the use of the word nuts.  On BBC TV’s Andrew Marr Show The Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, was interviewed and asked about the proposed policy of the Opposition’s Labour Party and it’s leader Ed Milliband to increase Corporation Tax for businesses.  The Prime Minister called the policy ‘nuts’ the interviewer tried to turn this into David Cameron calling Ed Milliband nuts but Mr Cameron managed to avoid that potential trap, however, the row is not about the respective merits of the policy which on BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme was not discussed.  Instead it was about the use of the term nuts and linked to a story last week about Asda, a supermarket chain in the UK, withdrawing from sale Halloween costumes described as Mental Patients because they were potentially offensive to Mental Health Patients or sufferers.  This could have led to a more interesting discussion about the continued Americanisation of events like Halloween and the importing of those traditions into the UK instead it was only about whether the mental health lobby was offended. They better not watch One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest or The Shining then, or read/watch any other horror, thriller, crime, story that feature potentially psychotic behaviour.  Let alone Basil Fawlty hitting his car with a branch because it has broken down, or should we just call him nuts, sorry I’m not supposed to use that word it might offend other car hitters suffering from a mental aberration.

What has this to do with writing you might ask?  Censorship, is my answer and in particular self-censorship.  Something that public pressure in the form of media frenzy seems determined to inflict on all of us that write.  Now irrespective of the benefits or otherwise of the political policy why shouldn’t Cameron be allowed to call the policy nuts if that is what he thinks it is.  I’m sure Mr Miliband thinks several of Mr Cameron’s policies are nuts as well and if he does why should he not use that term which is defined in this context in many thesaureses as

Nuts – adjective
(slang)=  insane, mad, crazy (informal), bananas (slang), barking (slang), eccentric, batty (slang), psycho (slang), irrational, loony (slang), demented, nutty (slang), deranged, loopy (informal), out to lunch (informal), out there (slang), barking mad (slang), gonzo (slang), doolally (slang), off your trolley (slang), up the pole (informal), as daft as a brush (informal, mainly, British), not the full shilling (informal), wacko or whacko (informal), a sausage short of a fry-up (slang), psychopathic, off the air (Australian, slang) • Either he’s joking or else he’s nuts. • A number of the players went nuts, completely out of control.

Now some of these uses do imply behaviour that is abnormal and have been linked with slang terms to describe mental illness, but should that stop us using a perfectly good description for a policy – I don’t think so.  There is a worrying habit where perfectly good terms are no longer used by writers and commentators because of fear of offending someone.  Language changes – just look at the term gay for an example, I know what it used to mean, happy, joyful, now it can’t be used in any other context apart from to describe homosexual behaviour.  Will I soon have to stop using nuts to describe some of my favourite food for fear of alienating the mental health lobby that really will be nuts.

Meanwhile I continue to know very little about why Mr Cameron thinks Mr Milliband’s policy is nuts nor do I know what the policy link in the USA is between the latest budget crisis and the existing Health Care policy.  Again the story there was described as a row against President Obama and the Republican Party with neither policy being debated just personal invective fired in all directions.  Whatever happened to reasoned debate.  Again on Radio 4 this was linked to a Republican Congressman reading extracts from a Dr Zeuss book, why was not clear and what that had to do with budget debate was not clear.  This was linked to a doorstop canvasser in Virginia knocking on someone’s door.  Meanwhile the fact that Asian stock markets were down several percent because of the impending budget issue wasn’t mentioned.

Now in a debate on Education or literacy, reading Dr Zeuss may be relevant but the whole article struck me as being nuts and if that offends some mental health experts so be it.  Also nuts was the fact that the BBC like many media outlets instead of calling it that actually gave more air time to that Congressman reading extract from a Children’s book.  As to the actual policies being proposed by Democrats and Republicans we heard nothing.  The story was then linked to the next Presidential Election not even a year since the last one – please! Are you all nuts?

I’ve used the BBC’s reporting twice here simply because I was listening as I often do to BBC’s Radio Four Today programme.  I used to think the programme provided a cultured insight into the day’s headlines but now seems to be little more than thirty second sound bites interrupted by the presenters trying to get their take on the story.  Of course the politicians don’t answer questions, except Mr Cameron did bluntly, albeit on a TV interview,  then tried not to because he was scared of the language he used.  Now that was nuts.  The fact that he may have joked about the Mental Health lobby was also discussed.  Is it just possible that we could have a debate about the tax policy of the parties rather than a debate about the language used to describe the policy.  How about some facts or am I being nuts?

So what as a would be writer should I do?  Should I add to my earlier rants about controversial subjects by using as many examples of allegedly controversial words as possible?  I’ll self censor here, I don’t want to offend anyone in a blog  so no N, (black) C (female sexual organ), used but I have mentioned them, should I not.  If I was writing 1950’s dialogue in the American South shouldn’t the N word be used.   If I quoted D H Lawrence should I use the C word?  I’m feeling happy should I call myself gay or avoid the words as toxic, use euphemisms in order not to upset people.  Do I have to add loony, nuts, mad and countless others to my proscribed list for fear of upsetting someone.  That would be nuts.  Apparently there are over 1 million different words in the English language with many having multiple meanings depending on context although the  Oxford English Dictionary

contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as sub-entries”

Does this rising tide of words we should not use, mean that the number of words will reduce, do we as a population not just writers want our vocabulary reduced?

Now that really would be nuts!

HTML in Amazon’s Author Central

HTML in Amazon’s Author Central from 2013 and some guidance settings are now different

As I briefly blogged yesterday I have been playing or more accurately trying to play with my book descriptions on Amazon.  This follows several GoodReads forum discussions on marketing and how we as authors, can persuade you as readers, to buy our books.  The flat nature of a typical Amazon book description does not help to catch the eye of a passing potential buyer.  On one particular forum, here,  it lead to the author of a new book on the subject both promoting his book but also talking about how it was done.  I even became a test case for him and he has kindly shown on his blog where I ran into trouble, which we both then spent some detective work trying to sort out.

My experience shows up in screen shots on Marcus’ blog here.  You can get the full down and dirty in his book here (no longer available) which discusses the how to and gives practical examples.  This though is about the problems we overcame initially.

Problem One

I didn’t have the same lay out on my Amazon Author Central account as discussed in the book.  Following an exchange of Goodreads messages with Marcus I approached Amazon support and received a completely unhelpful response which told me what I already knew.  I had an Amazon.co.uk Author Central Account not an Amazon.com one.  What they didn’t tell me was that I could get a .com one just as easily.  Marcus told me that follwing an alternative suggestion, which I also couldn’t do, about noms de plume.

Problem One was then solved by creating an Amazon.com Author Central Account and claiming my books on sale in Amazon.com.

Problem Two

Each version of the book has its own details section, which are not pre-populated.  I was horrified to see for example that the hardback description for my first book An Agent’s Demise had no description despite the editions being linked.  Likewise my author profile for each edition was missing.  Several frustrating hours later all were populated.  There is also another section to fill in for Shelfari which also needs to be filled in but only on their site and again it doesn’t copy from editions so I haven’t finished doing that yet.  The screen shot below show the unfilled in sections but you have to go to Shelfari and open an account (you can use your Amazon author account) to fill this in and then it backfills – what a pain.

shelfProblem solved with a lot of copying and pasting

Problem Three

Now I can actually get round to doing the thing I went on Author Central to do, namely use some of the clever stuff to enhance my book description.  Now I’m not an HTML genius and my eyes aren’t as good as I wished they were, especially when I forget to wear my reading glasses.  Some parts seemed to work fine.  The formatting of text is fine.  My main problem was the more advanced elements like video and Amazon widgets.  I managed to get both working at one point but not formatted position wise.  When I adjusted they all stopped.  After some further action I have managed to get it all working, but you do have to be very careful and precise.  If you visit To The Survivors on Amazon.com, you can see all the elements working.

Problem solved after some fiddling and correcting my errors

Problem Four

Not really a problem but the process does take a lot of time, copying, editing, pasting, checking and then waiting for Amazon’s servers to deliver the new code because the Author Central platform doesn’t show you what it actually looks like.  You have to wait about 30 minutes for it to upgrade, then find out that something isn’t right, then check the sales site, then re-edit and start again.  If you think this will be a quick process then think again especially to do several books then get all the descriptions sorted.  Then there is the author profile which can also be adjusted…

Verdict

The techniques do work although they could be overdone if you are not careful.  From my personal design perspective the Amazon page is already crowded with Amazon stuff like recommendations OneClick and so on.  I’ll be experimenting further if I have time to get other changes made like font colours and so on.  I know it’s my errors, but I’m supposed to be working, or writing my next book, not playing with HTML code.  If Amazon were a little more forthcoming on the formatting of Product Descriptions then maybe we wouldn’t have to bother in the meantime give it a try.  Marcus’ book is not cheap but it is worth it.

Author Central

The advice in the book referenced regarding Author Central no longer applies due to changes in Amazon policy on HTML

Spent a good part of the day battling with Amazon’s Author Central trying to get my product descriptions sorted. Ended up yesterday having to create a new American Profile because the UL version is different. Then I had to add the same information to each version of the book, Kindle, Paperback and Hardback. Then add various other bits for each version.

Finally, I was able to attempt to add the clever HTML described by Marcus Eigh in his book which can be found here Editors Note: No longer available)

I have managed to get some bits of the coding to work but not all.

Advertising for the Self-Published Author

According to some sources there are 9,000 new books being published each month, thus making advertising for the Self-Published author a key requirement. Most of these are new books from self-publish authors like me. Sometimes we get called indi’ authors as in independent, but whatever the tag line we all face a huge challenge in getting out masterpiece noticed.  Lots of other companies vie for our trade to take our promotions further.  From blog sites like WordPress offering named domains to Publishing companies offering to promote the new tome for a fee.

For this blog I wanted to review my own experiences of several of these services in relation to my different books.  Like all reviews it’s my own opinion.

An Agent’s Demise

My first book received no publicity at all on launch as frankly I didn’t know how.  I did create a Facebook page and set up my website, but there were no Ads.  It was enrolled in KDP Select and had over 3,000 downloads on its free days.  It even got to number one in its genre in the USA for a couple of days.  After it was no longer free it disappeared from the rankings, currently number 272,000 in the rankings on Amazon.com.  More recently it did share advertising space via Project Wonderful.

Result – No publicity worked, no change in sales with Project Wonderful – I put this down to beginners luck and a popular genre. I am now looking to re-edit professionally, if I can justify the fee.

To The Survivors

When my second book launched I was on Goodreads and I joined Bookdaily.  The book has sold steadily.  It has featured on the Project Wonderful Ads and I even did a You Tube Trailer.  Sales have been steady, currently ranked #12,935 the UK Kindle Store and #43 in it’s genre.  It has never been in KDP Select although it did launch at the 99c price point.  The only formal push through advertising was Bookdaily, although it was featured with accompanying articles on two blog sites, which prompted the creation of this site.

Result – Despite a more realistic price and no further advertising, the book continues to sell.  I am now looking to re-edit professionally, if I can justify the fee.

The Persuasive Man

For my third book I have tried, Project Wonderful, Ask David (Twitter), and it has even featured on Goodreads.  It is in KDP Select but sales have been exceptionally disappointing, even with free days on KDP.  Given the amount of publicity I hoped to at least get several hundred free downloads, but no less than 100 worldwide.  It’s now at 99c on KDP.  I have joined Twitter, blogged and talked about it. If I had done nothing there would be no change.  It has one 4-star review, not from anyone I know, and that’s it.

Result – Unclear, it may be the genre that makes it a difficult pick up, perhaps the cover, who knows.

The Methods

KDP and KDP Select –

The jury is out, yes I had a lot of downloads with An Agent’s Demise but virtually nothing with The Persuasive Man despite the publicity.  In the end what is the point of free downloads if it doesn’t generate future non-free sales or lead to reviews.

Project Wonderful

Budget set and controlled by me – 232,000 views of my ads, 81,000 unique, 51 clicks – no attributable sales

BookDaily

Fixed price per month – Featured book in emails, two months of cover to 23,000 emails.  1,500 allegedly read my exert – no attributable sales

Ask David

Cheapest method – 10 tweets to 19,000 followers each Tweet, – no attributable sales

Goodreads

Most expensive per day – 56,000 views of ads, 20 clicks, no increase on to-read lists, no more reviews – no attributable sales

Others

I have looked at vanity publishing houses, paid reviews, author exchanges and most look like scams with no solid results.  Lot’s of blog review sites all fighting for the same audience.

For one of my new books, I am trying a different approach with a story background blog already in place.  Just got to get some people to look at it let alone buy the book when it comes out.

Conclusion

It appears that advertising is a waste of money with these services.  Your advert cannot compete with the expensive adverts from the publishing houses on Goodreads let alone Amazon.  The list of services for Self Pub authors is expanding but getting a reader of a web site to actually purchase is not something any of the advertisers want to talk about.  For the Author it’s very much buyer beware.  The services mesmerise you with statistics on followers, viewers, page impressions, but don’t tell you the results.  The only information needed is how many people buy the book as a result of the advert.  On my evidence it’s virtually none.  Save your money.

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