Tag Archives: amateur stage

E-Commerce: buying with a click?

Ooh, catchy title. That’ll have ’em flocking to my blog in droves. In fact, that’s a lot of the problem I’ve been thinking about this week. Well, thinking about in the few spaces between bussing the Weasels to Weasel Camp, greeting merry Home Improvement Customers, laundering the Washing Mountain and resurrecting the long-lost Gazebo. Plus it’s hot.

As you know, I finished and made available, through the wonder of the internet, my e-book “Writing a play for the Amateur Stage” (or, if you’re in North America, “Writing a play for Community Theatre”). I knew, as it launched, that this was not going to be the end of the work. Nothing sells itself. But this is the internet, and everyone knows that selling stuff on the internet is easy. You just make a viral video, or tell a few folks, or mention it on your blog, and the next thing you know whatever you’re selling has been mentioned on “Oprah” and you have to give up your day job to stay ahead of demand, you’re appearing on reality TV shows and dating a singer…

E-Book to real book. Even I enjoy reading it....

E-Book to real book. Even I enjoy reading it....

I really, really thought about making a viral video for the book. I mean, I’m a writer, and I’ve written scripts for films before. Short ones, yes, and longer ones that didn’t get made (yet) but even so, writing a viral is a bit different. For a start, as someone pointed out recently, YOU don’t make it viral. The people who pass it on do that. Setting out to make a viral video is a bit like setting out to write a bestseller. It doesn’t get the title until it’s earned it, and that’s the bit you can’t influence. So I haven’t done that yet. Plus there’s the fact that at the moment I only have the Weasels on hand as volunteer actors, and they’re not interested unless there are special effects and lightsabres involved.

So I talked to other writers about my book. The first problem I ran into was that this is an electronic product. I handed out little cards with the cover on them, plus a neat Tiny URL (http://tiny.cc/ghfo9) that takes you straight to the sales page of our website. Neat, but useless, as you have to then go home and type the URL into something. What I needed was an iPad to demo the book for people there and then. I didn’t even try to convince Mrs Dim that an investment of $500 was a good idea to flog a book costing $10 a time. I needed to show people the book, in situations where I wouldn’t be in front of a PC or laptop. Social situations, relaxed situations. In a burst of brilliance, I realised that what I needed to do was have a physical copy of the book. Something with pages you could turn. Ludicrous as it may seem, I went off and negotiated with a Printer to get two copies of my e-book printed out and bound. It took a lot of explaining. He was concerned that the cost of producing the book would be prohibitive. I explained again that I only wanted two of them. He pointed out that the book wasn’t laid out in the traditional manner, with blank pages included, and so it was rather low on the page count. I reminded him that it was intended as a download, which made blank pages redundant. He asked me again why I wanted it printed. I wondered that too, as I gently banged my head on his desk.

A fortnight later, I have two physical books. Yes, they’re still a bit slim, and they don’t accommodate the changes suggested by Claire Sowerbutt at our last PWAC meeting, but people can look at them without a computer. They can see the product I’m trying to sell them. I’m sure that’ll help with the folks I see face-to-face, but what about everyone else? I’m not going to go out into the world and meet everyone who I think might like to buy the book. The internet should give me the opportunity to present my product to millions of potential customers, and in a way that isn’t half as intrusive as the leaflets that still come through my mailbox about getting my driveway re-covered. I saw a brilliant interview about this on BBC World the other day. A woman was talking about targeted internet marketing and saying it’s not a bad thing. She used an example of a book about Labrador Puppies. Surely, she said, it’s better that the advert for that book only appears on websites about Labradors? The people who visit that website are more likely to want a book like that. Compare that to an advert on the homepage of, say, Yahoo.co.uk, where only a fraction of the people logging on will care two hoots about dogs, let alone Labradors.

I think she’s right, but then I got to thinking about internet advertising in general. I have never, ever clicked on an advertisement on a web page and bought something I wasn’t already intending to buy. I use the internet for all kinds of shopping, from movies and music to electronic AV gear, but I don’t think I’ve been tempted to a purchase by targeted advertising. I get targeted adverts from people like “Things from another World” a comic and Sci-Fi store. They have literally thousands of products I would love to own, and their adverts turn up on webpages I view as well as dropping into my general-use email. I’ve bought one thing from them in the last ten years, and it was something I went to find online. I bought the thing I wanted and I haven’t bought anything from them since.

So what about YOU, dear reader? Do you follow the clicktrail from the brightly coloured adverts on your homepage and make impulse purchases? If you belong to a Facebook group, does it annoy you when people use the Wall to post adverts for their products? Or is that part of what Social Networking is for? I know I would be much more likely to follow a link from one of the people I follow on Twitter than I would be to open an advert. I’ve contributed to independent film production through a Twitter link (For the brilliant “Origin” by the one and only Danny Stack) but I don’t even click for the movie preview trailers on the Yahoo homepage. Answers in the comments box please!

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Book, book, book…..

It's the book what I wrote...So, only….er….five months after the initial idea, and I now have a published e-book to add to my credits. Actually, that’s not strictly true, as this is a document in pdf format, rather than an actual e-book, but you get the point.

Back in January, as I may have mentioned, I went along to a Writer’s symposium, hosted by the Travel Writer’s Association of Canada (TWAC. I was there as part of PWAC. Acronyms are silly things.) One of the speakers talked about the need to build up your webpresence and your own brand for your writing, which lead me to rediscover this blog, for one thing, and to begin writing the book. She’d said that everyone is an expert in something, expert enough to write a book. And while your book might not be compelling enough to attract a major publisher in the paper and ink industry, the glory of the internet is that you can publish without the stunning overheads and publicise your product yourself.

I realised that for over a decade I have been writing plays for the amateur stage – what the North Americans seem to call “Community Theatre” which sounds less patronising – and therefore I could legitimately say something about doing that. Plus, of course, I’ve spent the last few years as a script reader for Lazy Bee Scripts, reviewing new plays and handing out advice and judgements and assembling my own set of “What everybody gets wrong, or right” rules.

The speaker at the symposium made a lot of sense, saying that the book itself is not the major feature, but you can build on the sale of the book with lectures and classes. I didn’t want to get too overexcited about that, and decided to see if I could write a convincing book first. It’s taken longer than I thought, thanks mainly to the hard work of my friends and co-writers, ensuring I didn’t settle for the first draft, going that extra mile to produce a document that’s not only worth reading but enjoyable to look at. I’m painfully aware of the number of projects that languish at the “half-completed” stage, not because I’ve run out of enthusiasm for them, but because I’m scared I’ll wreck what I’ve got by pushing on. Two plays are stuck in that limbo right now. I was determined that the book would not go the same way, and this week the final draft (number three, I think…certainly the third version to make it to the pdf stage, anyway) has arrived and been hosted, both on the Lazy Bee Website (www.lazybeescripts.co.uk ) and on the TLC website (www.tlc-creative.co.uk) . We’re advertising the book on various websites, pushing out news of it through Facebook, and later this week I’ll be attending another PWAC event where I’ll finally get to tell the other members that I have acheived something they can actually see.

So, what’s the book about? It’s NOT a “How To” guide. I don’t lay out the best way to write your epic play, there aren’t any simple five-step programmes included that take you from your idea through to staging your masterwork. The book talks about the aspects of community theatre that make it ideal for first-time playwrights, the things that you should be aware of before you begin writing. It discusses the limitations of the local stages, and how you can get around them or work with them. It talks about the different types of writing you can do for the stage, it highlights common mistakes and other issues to avoid. Best of all, it has funny pictures with hilarious captions scattered throughout.

I’ve read it about half a dozen times now, and each time I feel it’s necessary to point out that I only supplied some of the words. The organisation, proofreading, graphical work, factchecking (and occasional buttkicking) have been done by my writing partners Steve and David at TLC and by Stuart at Lazy Bee. I hope other writers will find it useful. I really hope some people who might not have considered play writing will give it a go as a result, because I hadn’t thought of plays until I was asked to write one, and they really have changed my life for the better.

And if anyone’s interested, I am available for lecture tours…..