Tag Archives: PWAC

Blogtrotting

Use your computer with caution

I didn't have a relevent photo for this one.....

That was a title that made me laugh, then I realised it would have no significance for 90% of the people who stumble across this blog. Never mind, I’m not explaining.

I’ve noticed that my blog entries over the past month have fractured into two distinct streams – the real life commentaries, talking about the riveting renovations and my lack of progress in taking the writing world by storm, and the more Meta pieces about issues that I think might be of interest to folks who don’t know me. When I found myself sitting down to write an entry solely because I thought it might turn up on google searches, I had to stop and think about why I was writing in the first place.

 Yes, I check my readership stats obsessively and I’m unreasonably jealous of those lucky bloggers who make the front page of Freshly Pressed and get thousands of hits but there should be a more pressing reason to blog than getting the big numbers, right? I call myself a writer, and that’s because when I need to express something, or explore an idea, I reach for a pen or a keyboard, not a camera or a paintbrush. This is who I am, it’s what I do.

I’ve been involved in some discussions over on LinkedIn, the business networking site, with colleagues from “PWAC” about the importance of Social Networking and using it to boost your business. That’s why I moved my posts over here to WordPress, as you’ll know if you’ve read them all. I used to have a blog on Yahoo 360, which moved to another place (Multiply) when 360 closed. Let me go off on a tangent for a minute here…I’ll get back to Linked In, I promise.

360 was an online community thing, a bit like Facebook. I had a group of virtual friends, we all blogged and commented and had online talks.  Some of my friends I only knew through their avatars.

Bowzer, for example, will always be a small dog to me, because that’s how he presented himself and he never broke character.

 Kate was a real person, and although she preferred to use Gil Elvegren pictures for her avatar, she appeared in person a couple of times, so I knew what she looked like. This was back in the days when there were fewer weasels and I was just beginning on my great writing adventure. I had more time to waste in front of the PC and these people filled that time and probably a gap in my life too – I had moved far from home and missed having friends to talk to. The important thing for this entry was that my blog back then was a personal joke. I wrote what I wanted to write, I wrote things that were deliberately silly, took joy in including photos that made me laugh and had no relevence to the subject. I was not motivated by anything but the urge to write. Yes, I wanted my friends to read and comment, but their approval and laughter was the only goal I had, not increased business success.

Back to Linked In. Someone posed the question “Why do we have a Linked In group?”  and I used it to whine about my lack of success through social networking – not enough people have bought my book, I’m not getting calls from agents etc etc. I got a gentle slap down from others in the group pointing out how I should be doing the social network thing. It comes down to using social networking as a business tool, and that’s when I pull up short. There are days when I’m out walking the dog and a dialogue is running in my head. I would get rid of it by writing it down, but I can’t use it in my blog because that’s not the wisest business course. I worry about who’s going to read it and what they’ll think. I’m self-censoring. That’s a good thing if I’m whining again, but does that mean I should be running two blogs, one for me and one for business? What happens if more people read the fun one than the business one? What happens if no one reads either one?

Mrs Dim says the posts I put up are interesting enough but too pedestrian and I guess I agree with that. This one certainly is, but unless I’m laying the ideas out, I can’t get my head around them. I intended to talk about the blogs that I follow, the ones that I read on a daily/weekly basis, but I guess that can wait until next time. Meanwhile, in the spirit of capitalising on the power of Social Networking: BUY MY BOOK! (www.tiny.cc/ghfo9) VISIT MY WEBSITE: www.tlc-creative.co.uk  Follow me on Twitter! Send me MONEY!

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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!

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…..

Busy, busy, busy…. (originally posted Jun 11/09)

I’m blogging when I should be childminding, because Tiny Weasel has decided that today’s activity is staying in her bedroom, listening to audio books. The reason she can get away with this is that Mrs Dim has been called away to another interview *Pause for general celebration* What’s nice about this interview is that it’s for a part time job, so we don’t lose Mrs Dim all day every day, but it’s in the HR dept of a major University, so she’s well-placed to hear about other jobs coming up. Also, if she gets the job she’ll be an internal candidate for one of those other jobs (like the people who’ve beaten her to the other jobs she’s been interviewed for) and best of all, she checked our accounts the other day and announced that we could survive at least another twelve months on the money we have saved (plus my meagre earnings, of course..)

I am not, of course, standing still on the job front myself. I’ve lined up a series of articles on Real Estate questions, which would be great if I knew or cared about Real Estate. I don’t, but I care about money and I WILL DO THIS! Probably. Unless there are cartoons on somewhere. I’ve sent out my application to the Professional Writer’s Association of Canada, which will allow me to pay them $250 membership fees every year, and in return they’ll…well, they’ll…I dunno, but you have to be a member of SOMETHING these days, and their membership wasn’t too high or too low…It was just right. They’ve suggested that I also join the Playwright’s Guild of Canada. That’s another $150, so I’ve said I’ll wait for a bit on that one. I’ve also renewed my appeals to the University and schools fraternity, asking them why they haven’t paid me to come and talk to the children about becoming playwrights. A sort of cautionary tale, perhaps “Look kids, this is your wallet when you’ve got a regular job…this is your wallet when you’re a freelance writer…” *Gasps of horror* Yeah, I could tell them my sad tale of deprivation. We don’t even have a Wii. And only one tv. And basic cable. Yeah, I know, shocking, isn’t it?

The funniest thing about my application to PWAC (What a catchy acronym! I wish it was the Creative Writer’s Association of Canada….) was that I had to send them copies of my latest plays. Well, all the ones that have been published in the last two years. So, I trawled through the great database my friend and writing partner Steve carefully maintains, and discovered that, for one thing, I haven’t written very much in the last two years. Very much a resting on my laurels sort of situation. For another, I don’t have copies of all the plays I’ve written. Now that’s weird, because you’d think I would have at least a rough draft, wouldn’t you? But no. I write them and send them off to Steve and David for approval and general proof-reading. They come back with comments and I make whatever changes are neccessary, and then, apparently, I delete the only copy on my computer. Since I wanted to send off my application good and early today, and Steve could only lay his hands on one of the two files I needed, I paid to download one of my own plays from my publisher (www.lazybeescripts.co.uk), which is the first time I’ve visited the site as a customer. I have to say, it was easy and cheap to get hold of the play, so I’m very impressed with the whole organisation.

On the local scene, there’s a big fire raging somewhere nearby. There were sirens going for most of the morning, and helicopters overhead. I know that somewhere in my cable listings will be a channel that should have local news, and there’d probably be a live feed from one of those choppers showing me the fire, like when you get a car on the run from the cops, right? But I can’t be bothered with flicking through the hundreds of channels. It’s funny, of all the things I was used to in the UK, I didn’t think the one I would actually miss would be the Radio Times. (Note for Americans and others of a non-UK persuasion: The Radio Times is a TV listings magazine produced by the BBC. It lists, in an easy-to-read and follow format, the programmes shown throughout the week by the five major channels on the UK digital service, plus programme times for another twenty or so interesting digital channels each day. It has weekly film reviews showing when each film is on, and which channel. By contrast, the only listing magazine I have found here is gibberish. The numbers listed seem to bear no relation to the channel numbers available on my digital cable service, and by the time I’ve found the channel and programme I was looking for, it’s usually the next day.) I have resorted to A: not watching as much tv as I used to and B: watching more dvds than before and C: complaining about it a lot.

Right, I’m going to go an drag Tiny Weasel out of her room and go out to get lunch at Subway. There’s one within walking distance (though Steven Wright says everywhere’s walking distance if you’ve got the time..) and at least I’ll be able to tell Mrs Dim we went out. That’s if she can get home past the raging fire. I still hear helicopters. Unless that’s another ‘Nam flashback….