Saturday, December 14, 2019

Night fell on Earth

It's nine o'clock in the morning, the sun hasn't yet risen. It's the darkest month of the year here in Finland.
Even though Helsinki is located in the south of the country, there is just a small chance to even see the sun. This because at half-past two in the afternoon the sun will start to set, giving space to a long night.

For an outsider, this might seem like something cool, but I can assure you that there is nothing cool once you start living here, and northern winter starts to be your normality.
To begin with, the simple biology that we need sunlight to live should tell you that surviving in a place where for a long period you won't see the sun, is strongly affecting your mood.
People in winter are less talkative, feel depressed, and constantly tired.
At the moment, we have five hours of light, and no snow to give any sort of joy to our souls. Nature is just dark, damp, and cold.
The sky is covered by a thick curtain of clouds, and it really doesn't make any difference whether it is completely dark or just dark grey.
 
Nevertheless, if you move to the city center, particularly now that we are reaching the Christmas period, the lights and the decorations for the incoming festivity, give a good reason to feel hopeful and improve the general mood.
We are just missing the snow...
Well, the recent years have brought a slight change in the seasonal plan of the Finns, living in Helsinki, and we are not having a decent amount of snow until the second week of January. This means that we need to clench our teeth, brace ourselves, hold onto each other for another month before having two main important things: more light, and more snow.

One important happening, people still follow, is the crowning of Lucy.
One week before the winter solstice, in Finland, there one event historically tied to Swedish culture: the day of St. Lucy. 
St. Lucy is celebrated as a “beacon of brightness” in the darkest time of the year. The first records of St. Lucy's celebrations in Finland are from 1898, and the first large celebrations came in 1930, a couple of years after its popularization in Sweden. Every year, in the Helsinki Cathedral, a girl is going to be crowned.
She bears a crown of candles to fight the darkness, and will walk as a bearer of the light for the streets of Helsinki:
 
She comes to remind us that within one week the days will start once again to get longer, and this means walking toward the spring. You might consider this a bit funny, but in this period, every second added to the length of the day is a great step toward the season when the sun will shine for most of the time.
With my heart full of hope, but still tired as hell, and slightly moody, I wish you all a fantastic weekend!



Saturday, December 7, 2019

It's a magical world!

Today I am going to tell you about one of my passions besides writing: photography.
I believe there is a very close connection between all forms of art. In my case, the three things that go hand in hand are writing, traveling, and photography.
How do they relate to each other? Well, writing needs inspiration right? What better inspiration than visiting new places, experiencing cultures, meeting people, reading other countries' newspapers.
Photography offers inspiration. This one helps me to think outside the box, see the world from different perspectives, and clear my mind whenever I feel stuck with a page or chapter.
Here, the weather started to be quite unstable. It began with a chilling period, when we had the first snow, to the time we are now with temperatures that raised far above the seasonal average.
Despite this, during this winter, I was lucky enough to have a camera with me right when I needed it and could get some interesting shots that helped me going through the last few weeks.
Due to stress at work, I couldn't proceed with my writing, so I just got out and took a walk in the forest.
What I found was really stunning, and I spent most of the time taking shots of those crystals. 

The perfect harmony between the white of the snow, ice, and the blue of the sky (believe me, it's quite rare) was extremely inspiring. I could have spent the whole day there.

 And that was exactly what I did. Not caring about the temperature, I stayed the whole day out, to take pictures, and admire the sceneries.
I also got the chance to take a shot of a hawk, who was taking a rest on a tree, checking the food situation on his territory.
Undeniably, days and walks like this give a lot of inspiration, besides offering the chance to unwind from the stress of everyday life. 
With those images, I greet you for this weekend and wish you a great day.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

To err is human


Oh well. I guess I am not the only one who has passed through this step. I still consider myself a beginner in the publishing industry, and this kind of mistake is easy to make.
What I am talking about is the re-issuing of the second book I have ever published, "The Ghosts of Morgan Street."
In the beginning, I gave the editing work to someone who had great feedback about her turnaround times and quality of work. Particularly the latter impressed me, so without even caring about the price, I chose her.
Now, and only now, I start to reconsider that the job was not done correctly. Particularly after having found a new editor who did a fantastic job with Aquila et Noctua, I decided to give her the task to re-edit the work.
Better later than never.
Anyway, I am considering to go through all the other books, including the trilogy, and see how can I improve them.
Of course, there couldn't be any re-edition without dressing the book for the party with a brand new cover. That was perhaps another problem that could have resulted in poor sales. Using the blessed time of being alone for the whole week in the house, I put myself to work. Then, with the help with the best purchase ever, a drawing tablet, I started to combine, cut, draw, and color, until I could reach a satisfying result.
Of course, you would like to see it, and here it is:

It is nothing fancy; actually, I kept it as simple as possible, making it more compliant with the standard for the genre, psychological thriller.
Any feedback is welcome.
The re-release will come in the following week, so it's a good time to stay tuned and hope for the best.
So another thing I have been learning is the importance of not just choosing a good editor, but the one that can work with the kind of issue that most likely is affecting your writing.
For example, my problem is not being a native speaker and finding a person who is qualified for editing works of people who have English as a second language, is critical.
Every writer has a particular issue, whether it is a problem of plot holes, stilted dialogues, or anything else, finding the right editor is crucial.
Of course, this means also going through a list of wrong editors. So far, I changed four editors before finding the right one. Therefore, if you are in the same situation as I am now, and are wondering whether your editor is the right one, I suggest following more closely what the readers say and how do they react to everything you are publishing. They are, at least from my point of view, the best channel to understand whether what you are doing is right.
That said, I wish you all a great weekend and see you next week.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Who is a writer?

But most of all, what makes a person a writer?

I have stumbled several times on posts of people claiming that only those people who completed a degree in literature should bother to think about being a writer.
Now, I think this is a gross understatement about what makes a person who writes, a writer. It is a combination of passion and ability to tell a story. 

The latter is, for me, the most critical part of the whole process. A piece of paper will not necessarily make a storyteller. 

Moreover, I would also like to point out two of my favorite writers Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie. The first studied journalism, which has nothing to do with a literature degree, yet he had a fantastic capability to keep me nailed to his stories.

Agatha Christie instead was mainly homeschooled by her mother, who encouraged her to write, and there is no record on literature degrees of whatsoever. Yet, undoubtedly, she is one of the most talented and acclaimed writers.

Personally, I could go on and cite many other famous and talented authors who never frequented any literary school. Yet, there are still people around thinking that the only ones who should be allowed to publish, belong to this group of the literary elite.

By no means, I consider myself even worthy of being named together with those great authors. Nevertheless, just like many others who feel the same, I write for one simple reason: I have something to tell. There are stories in my heart that need to be written. Also, this is something that makes me happy and helps me to discharge the stress. Not to mention that some people out there enjoy reading my novels, so why my education should make a difference.

Since I began this new adventure as a writer, I have been meeting many authors. I don't recall having heard them coming from the literature background. I have enjoyed their production and admired their capability not just to tell a story but to engage me so much to make me forget about everything else. Those authors, just like the big names of literature, brought me to place I have never been. They showed me how important is storytelling capability when it is coupled with a genuine passion for what they are doing.

As for me, I do not much care about what people say about what am I supposed to be or what I should never do. I truly hope nobody ever in this world will listen to the opinion of a complete stranger telling about their passion. 

If the most brilliant minds of our history had listened to what they were supposed dor not to do according to somebody else, we would have never had any of the discoveries that brought humankind to the level of development we have reached.

Therefore, follow your passion, follow your heart, and be happy.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Some resources for writers - part two

So last time, I gave a couple of hints about some resources that can help you have results with AMS. Those were, of course, based on my experience, and I am, by no means, an expert. Nevertheless, I got good help from them, and I hope they will provide the same service to you.
Now, for what concerns producing an audiobook.
I am one of the few unlucky fellows who are not eligible for ACX, the program of Amazon that gives you the chance to produce audiobooks without paying upfront the narrator and opt instead for shared royalties.
This is undoubtedly the best deal you can have at least for the beginning when you cannot afford to pay the average cost of the narrator, which is on the range of 2000 USD (!)
I have searched everywhere for a chance to get it for a reasonable price, and the best option offered was to produce it by myself, being me the narrator. Now, it is not that I want to doubt my reading capabilities. Still, there is a significant difference between me, reading my book, and a professional narrator, who knows how to use his/her voice to give life to the characters.
Nevertheless, I found a way to find a narrator who will agree to produce my book outside ACX for a shared royalty.
One thing you could do is to go directly to the ACX directory, where all the authors are listed (https://www.acx.com/ss?keywords=&sortBy=&pageIndex=1&) and search for the information of the various narrators listed there.
Some of them have listed their own website with the contact information. Also, they mention whether they are available for a hybrid share, a full share, or upfront payment.
This means that the narrator is also working with other platforms and can not only come to an agreement with you outside ACX but also suggest different distribution options.
My novels are quite voluminous, and an upfront payment would result in a minimum of 3000 USD. This is entirely out of my present and near future budget, so contacting them might be the way people like me, who can't access ACX, to have access to audibles.
Looking around, I have also found out this resource:
https://blog.findawayvoices.com/announcing-voices-share-a-better-royalty-share-option/
They offer a hybrid option, which is a 50% payment for the final product and 60% in royalties. They also provide a wider distribution than ACX, so your title won't be restricted to their own site but to the widest distribution possible
, increasing the chances of the sale.
I am still looking around, and see which is the best option to get started with the production of an audible version of my books.
One very interesting and informative blog I have found out during my search is the following site: https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/self-publish-audiobook-production-and-distribution/
Here there are listed several options besides ACX.
I hope this is going to be useful to you as much as it was enlightening to me.
I will consider all the possibilities and see which one will be the chosen one.
That said, I wish you all a great weekend and see you next week for another blog.





Saturday, November 9, 2019

Some resources for writers

So I have been for a while not just in my writing cave, avoiding all human contacts, except my workmates. Yet, I wasn't only writing, I was trying to find some good and viable way to use advertisements, and if you are a writer looking for some cool resources, just follow me here.
The first thing I have noticed is that Amazon ads have been changing, and there is not just the general .com site where to advertise. When you go to the AMS page, you will find that you can choose the marketplace, and depending on where you live, you are given a couple of more choices to choose from. This is, from my point of view, good news, because it offers the chance to target better your audience depending on where they live.
Once again, this means that you need to do demographic research when you think about the keywords to target your audience. The other good news is that as the general amazon.com seems not to give good results with titles, which have less than 10 reviews, this might not be true for other marketplaces.
Meaning that if amazon.com is restricted because you don't have so many reviews, you might want to check other marketplaces.
Many of us found it struggling when it comes to the keywords, and "publisher rocket" (https://publisherrocket.com/) is indeed the best tool you want to have if you mean seriously to start the road of AMS ads.
The point is that you would like maybe first try it, and unfortunately, nowadays there aren't trial versions anymore. You get instead a 30-day money-back guaranteed. But what if during those thirty days something happens and you cannot even get to try it? Well, you keep the software, and if you are not satisfied, there is nothing much you can do.
One alternative is offered for free by Sonar. (http://sonar-tool.com/us/)
Sonar is a free tool to search for keywords on different marketplaces. It doesn't have all the features of publisher rocket, but it is a way to start and get your hands on the ads with a free tool to understand how keywords are working and how they can be useful for the marketing of your book. The key is trying with as many ads as possible, starting with a low daily limit of 5 $.
I have had 25 ads (and I still have them because I am still on the trial phase) with the daily limit of 5$.
The average monthly expense for the whole was barely reaching the 15$, but it gave interesting results.
No, I haven't become famous yet LOL
Mainly I am starting to see which might be the right keywords to be used, so to be ready to purchase the publisher rocket tool.
Another important thing is how to get your book to the right category. If you nail the right one, you can easily be an Amazon top seller for a long period, not restricted to a time of big sales. This is because customers are looking more into detail the categories they are interested in, and being in the right one makes you more visible, discoverable, hence purchased. Being in the right category means also having fewer competitors.
To understand better the categories and their importance, I suggest you read this article:
https://www.kindleranker.com/articles/kindle-categories-in-historical-fiction/
and use https://www.kindleranker.com/ at your advantage.
Kindle ranker gives you the chance to make two searches for free per day. Although you can use the 0.99$ option to have a 15-category search for 24 hours. Or, if you have a large volume of products, you can take advantage of the subscriptions offered. At the moment I am OK with the two free searches a day. I don't have so many products yet.
Anyway, whatever you do, it is important to follow the ads constantly, not perhaps daily, but twice a week to see what you need to change and try something new.
One thing I personally do not recommend is letting someone else taking care of managing your ads. Although this might sound like a great idea, you need to be the one who checks the ads and calibrate them. You are the one who knows the book better. So if you really want some help, better to follow some courses, but have full control over your actions/books.
I am also looking for producing audiobooks for my novels, and if you don't have access to ACX, like me, I might have found a solution for that too. Follow me also on the next week's blog to find out more.
Meanwhile, I hope this information was useful for you.
Have a great weekend!



Saturday, November 2, 2019

As we get into the cold season.

So, what's next?
As we entered the month of October, every business in town started to theme the windows and shops with Halloween themed decoration. Also, those countries where Halloween is not celebrated and means another day on the calendar weren't missing this big chance to get some extra sale. After all, every excuse is good to sell one additional item, isn't it?
And now that we are already past the day, and we should just give more time to think about our daily life, returning to what is like without the expectation of another holiday, we seem to enter the new phase, the Christmas, interrupted by Thanksgiving day.
For Businesses, this is the most hectic time of the year because never like between October and January, they have to change their advertisement targeting.
Authors are not different, and meanwhile, we are writing our next masterpiece, we are dressing our covers and banners with themes, from the spooky to the festive, from the Christmasy to the New Year.
It's a big load of a job to get the right creatives to get something enticing and new to get a piece of the Holiday shopper's attention.

I make no difference, and as a matter of fact, I am going to do my best to finish my next novel, which seems to get longer and longer as it goes on. My longest book was my debut novel with 143k words, but I am afraid that, in this case, I will have to go over that limit.
At the same time, I am also looking around for new ideas on the creative side for promotions and banners.

Going on this way, I am afraid I am missing my favorite activity, which is observing nature and its changes during this season.
This fast-moving forward from one holiday to the other seems wanting us to speed up our time. Although, this would be rather the time we stop to think about the year that is about to end. Just like in every moment of our lives, we shouldn't be forced to switch from one season to the other in such a hurry.

It seems like the only thing important is not just to have fun during the holiday but to get prepared for the next one as soon as this one is approaching.

But do you know what?
This is my plan, I am going to spend the whole weekend almost freezing outside and risking to catch the flu, by taking pictures of the natural environment around me.
I am taking a break from writing and just spend my time outside, far from the city, far from the businesses, and far from civilization.

I am going to enjoy the calm and the natural routine of a quiet life, without stressing and hurries.
How are you going to spend your weekend?
Whatever you do, make it special!

Night fell on Earth

It's nine o'clock in the morning, the sun hasn't yet risen. It's the darkest month of the year here in Finland. Even though...