Writing Your Book Is Just The Beginning.

This post started as just a placeholder for some of my marketing bits and pieces, but then the urge to write something about it struck again.

When you set out on your journey to write the book you’ve always had in you – it all seems so simple – just pick up a pen and tell your story. What you don’t realise at this stage is all the other stuff you are going to have to learn if you want it to look reasonably professional – and heaven preserve us – all the marketing work to put it – out there.

You find yourself scrabbling around the internet to learn about structural editing, copy editing, formatting – all the while wondering where this or that is on the Word document menus – and then you realise that all the answers are different for the various versions of the program.

Eventually, you complete something which looks like a finished manuscript, but there is still much to do. If you haven’t got money to burn, you’ve already got this far on a DIY approach, and this has now become a personal challenge not to let anything else stand in your way to publication.

Now it’s cover design, and that means photoshop. If you thought some aspects of Word are obscure, then try just having a go at photoshop. You either give up inside the first hour or spend days trawling through YouTube videos before you get remotely near a cover that you like.

By now, you’ve watched all the experts on YouTube informing you that you should give up now, as nobody will ever buy a self-published novel unless you pay hundreds of pounds on editors, proofreaders, beta readers and anything else you can think of. All these self-help gurus are doing to you at this point is stating that either you’ll speculate to accumulate – leaving you a mountain of debt on the project to recoup first – or, publish your novel, without using their help but don’t expect to sell any. I made the decision that if I didn’t invest much then, I wouldn’t have to recoup much, thereby the chances of making a profit would be much higher. The self-help experts who want your money, work on turning your own dreams against you, by inferring that you are doomed to fail without investment. Having said all that, there is plenty of help and advice out there from fellow authors and self-publishers.

What happens when you give up the part of your inner writer that wants to make millions is that you become free. The pressure is off, and you become absorbed in the act of creating – and finishing – something. To somebody who becomes over-enthusiastic, about anything – this makes me very happy, and endows me with a can-do attitude. Just as well, seeing as I started writing the New Reform Quartet in 2014, finished the last book in 2018 and now it’s halfway through 2020, and I’ve only just released the third book in the series, With Two Eyes. It’s all of the above that has added all that extra time to the project.

I wrote an earlier blog on producing my own audiobooks previously, called ‘Why Audiobooks?’ What I didn’t mention, was the cost to me if I had handed my books over to a narrator/producer to do it for me.

To choose a narrator via Audible, it would cost £100 per hour for a novice narrator, £200+ for an experienced one. Maybe, that doesn’t sound a lot, but all four of my novels, would end up being around 45 hours in length – I’m sorry, but I haven’t got a spare £4500 – £9000 to spend.

So, I did it myself. It was a business decision, to a certain extent, like those management tasks they would play on the Apprentice show. Do you gamble to make sales higher than your costs – or do you keep your costs minimal, thereby almost guaranteeing a profit? As it happens, my most profitable areas have been my audiobooks – not enough to give up the day job – so – I didn’t give up the day job!

Here are my audiobook samples that I have promoted on Facebook audiobook pages and on my Amazon author pages. Fortunately, I already knew how to put YouTube videos together!

There are several themes and threads through the four books, one of them is the use of all the song titles which were performed by some of our very fine local musicians from the Hereford & Worcester areas, as chapter headings.

This idea came from my love of Frank Zappa’s music. He had his Conceptual Continuity Clues through all of his 70+ LPs, where each would have a lyric or musical motif from a previous album. Therefore, I wanted all the works from the video project from the 142 Sessions to be included in these books.

On a previous blog, ‘Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas From?’ I went into exhaustive detail on the birth of the 142 obsession.

A 142 Sessions promotional video.

The other route left to me was to try and get an agent, to save me from all this work. I did try it. I wrote to eight agents, I didn’t receive a reply from three of them, but the other five all sent me encouraging responses, but ultimately, they were rejections, nonetheless.

Andrew Marston interviewed me about On The Record and the 142 Sessions.

There are lots of excellent reasons to write a book. When you’re creating something, it keeps your mind firing with positivity. When you complete a book, it gives a fabulous feeling of job satisfaction, because it’s hard writing all of those words and completing the editing, cover design and marketing your work. There is a sense of legacy as well, in this day and age, your words and your voice – in the case of audiobooks – are something that your grandchildren (as long as they are over eighteen) can access, long after you’ve started your story in the next world.

Why Audiobooks?

There’s a boom in audiobooks going on at the moment. You may not have noticed that yet, because it started in the USA first, but it is now spreading to the UK. There are even adverts on mainstream TV for Audible.

The main reason for this is the development of new technology. The old cassette tapes are pretty much defunct. There is still a small market for CD audiobooks, but these are dying out as they are clunky to use, and you have to remember where you were up to, and as for portability, even the old CD Discmans are virtually obsolete – who would have believed that only a few years before when this was considered cutting edge technology.

Streaming has changed the TV market, and now it has had a dramatic effect on audiobooks.

If these developments have passed you by, then I’ll try and bring you up to speed – and maybe take a peek into the future – I’ll have a bit of fun with that at the end!

I’ll give you an example of what you can get and how you can use it – for one Audible credit (typically, you get one per month for £7.99, and on signing up they usually offer a free book for joining – not unlike the Book Clubs of old) I decided that I would like to listen to one of my all-time favourite books, The Stand, by Steven King. This audiobook is 45 hours long!

There are no physical storage space restrictions with streaming. In the past, audiobooks were abridged, but not anymore. How much would a 45 CD Box Set have cost? You don’t even need a special music player anymore – you can get them with an app on your phone.

As you listen, you can speed up and slow down the narration, you can skip back in chunks of thirty seconds at a time if you missed a bit, or want to play that vital clue back, but crucially, it will always remember the exact time you last switched it off.

So far, so obvious, but the technology is moving on all the time and merging with other platforms. Audible is part of the Amazon empire, which also owns the Kindle Ebooks platform. Together, they have developed something called Whispersync. This links the two technologies together.

Let’s say you are reading your book on your Kindle, or Kindle app on your device before going to sleep. The next morning as you are commuting to work, you put on your Audible – and the narration picks up from where you left off with your book the night before, and later that night, your Kindle picks up from when you switched off your Audible book.

As an author, this does lead to an extra level of detail in the editing process, as to enable Whispersync to work for my books, there had to be a high level of accuracy between the printed and spoken word.

Whispersynch also leads to other uses that may not be obvious at first. For instance, you can read on Kindle and have the Audible narration shadow the text at the same time. This has the effect of having the book read aloud for you. This can be useful if you have young children – it’s a bedtime story. Also, the book can be cast to a TV screen with big print (think karaoke machines) for you to listen, read and watch the text being read, maybe as a family.

I was surprised that I had sold some audiobooks in Germany, and I wondered whether this is a way for students learning English in a conversational tone – I did laugh to myself when I thought about how I was probably teaching them how to say English swear words correctly!

At this point, there is a debate about whether listening counts as reading a book. My personal view is that it does, the two together complement each other. I loved reading the Stand, and I enjoyed listening to it. The difference isn’t an intellectual one, it’s a personal one. When you read, it’s your voice in your head that reads it, whereas when you listen, it’s the narrator’s voice, and then it becomes a question of taste. I would argue that it is a different skill in listening than reading. I love books, but I’m a fanatic about music, and I feel that listening to books mirrors my detailed listening to music.

There were many reasons for narrating and producing my own audiobooks – cost being an important factor. I like big projects, writing a quartet of novels was great and kept me out of trouble for five years, but then what? Well, recording them would be a challenge and a half. I already had some limited experience with Garageband through my years of Youtubing, but that was filming and recording other people’s performances, this was exposing myself to the world.

Funnily, exposing my voice to the world wasn’t nearly as scary as it was to make my audio project subject to scrutiny from family, friends and colleagues. If I knew my next-door neighbour was writing about murder and violence, I’d probably think he/she was a bit weird, but if a complete stranger from the other side of the world wrote it – I wouldn’t give it a second thought. Therefore, I decided that my ideal reader/listener was going to be a complete stranger.

I did worry about my dialect, after all, if someone spoke pure Geordie into a tape machine and played it back, they would understand every word – but would someone in Kentucky? I had to be aware of my own accent and to try and ensure my diction would be as clear as I could get it – but still, there wasn’t any guarantee that my midlands accent would travel.

The final decision to record them all myself – was about the completion of the project, and a little more grandly – it had become my passion, my little labour of love.

And finally, future-forward or pure fantasy?

As I was recording these books, I wondered where audiobook technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence) might head next. I dream affordable dreams! One of them would be on the recording side. I thought wouldn’t it be marvellous if I could change the voices of my characters to those of world-renowned actors. Ooh, I could have Al Pacino for him, and Meryl Streep for her. Imagine I could licence their voice samples to replace the dialogue, or narration on my very own book. But what about listening? I could pick an audiobook, and maybe, there would be a character list that I could populate with the actors/narrators of my choice – Homer Simpson as Oliver Twist might be fun!

At first, AI would struggle with the cadence and emphasis of the author’s work, but if you could overlay the actor’s voice and keep the original narrator’s own emphasis and intentions? Now where’s my James Earl Jones plugin?

If you want to try Audible for yourself, then follow the links below. Happy listening!

Audible in the UK.      https://adbl.co/2ToFlrc

Audible in the USA.   https://adbl.co/2wfAMrn

Audible in France.     https://bit.ly/39bknmk

Audible in Germany. https://adbl.co/2IbZETj

Finishing Touches Prior to Book Launch

From 2014 to 2018 I wrote four books, for a series eventually called the New Reform Quartet.

I published the first in the series, New Reform, in August 2019 and I’m now gearing up for the launch of the second book called The ODC (The Online Death Cult) in February 2020.

There were a several reasons for the five-year delay, and I don’t regret the wait now that I’ve seen the distractions there would have been between books.

You have to learn Photoshop if you want to design your own cover!

Holding four books in your head is difficult enough without thinking about cover designs, blogs, marketing and audiobooks. If I had have done them as separate completed projects, there was a danger that I might have literally have lost the plot.

Pick up ideas from other books, like placing images from other books you have published. This cover is waiting for the barcode which I will obtain when I upload to Amazon.

The other useful outcome from waiting is that now I research an aspect of book publishing one at a time. This means that if I have got to grips with Photoshop or Adobe Spark (Facebook banners, etc.), then I can complete all of these in advance. I have all four covers pre-designed, which actually turns to eight if you add on the Audiobooks.

The Audiobook cover has to be designed differently.

One advantage of Self-Publishing (there’s not many) is that you can think on your feet and change things that aren’t working, or unexpected positive learnings. The first edition of New Reform deliberately had Nazi-themed colourings – red and black. This didn’t sell as quickly as I’d hoped as it narrowed the book’s appeal.

I work in a book shop, which is handy! I checked the fonts and colours of other thriller writers and gave it a teal and orange makeover, and I used more fonts. The other thing that had happened is that I had picked up some positive reviews, so I included these quotes and reworked the blurb.

After this, I picked up a number of female readers, to my surprise, as my initial readership I was aiming for was older males.

By the time you release book two, you are thinking about branding.
Book One needed a redesign to fit in with Book Two.

This meant I returned to my pre-designed covers for the forthcoming books and changed the fonts and colour schemes to match.

Audiobook requires a lot of learning of new and sometimes alien skills!

Changing covers is one thing, changing the text is another. Self-publishing is flexible, which means you can even alter the text in your book at any time, even after publication. However, making your own audiobook means the text has to become more or less fixed.

My audio recording set up.

Recording your own audiobook does make the editing much sharper, not just because you are looking to finalise the words, but also because if you are self-narrating, you spot the tongue-twisters and where the dialogue sounds unnatural when it leaves the page.

Narrating, editing and mastering – there’s a lot to learn.

Like the cover designs being easier to do four at a time (you’ve got to grips with Photoshop at this moment), so the recording of the audiobooks is the same. You have consistency with the equipment, your voice and the mastering process. However skilled or unskilled you believe you are, if you are lucky enough to get listeners, they will appreciate a whole series having the same overall feel.

Recording brings a new round of editing.

I didn’t plan it that way, but I’m glad I didn’t write and publish the first book immediately. Even as I was writing Book Four, there were still plot-lines I needed to amend through the previous books.

New Reform is out now on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. The ODC is released in February 2020. Books three and four will be released in August 2020 and February 2021 respectively.

Links will be available on jimlowewriting.com but also, search Amazon for the New Reform Quartet, and they should magically appear.

Dove Winters Interview With Jim Lowe

DOVE WINTERS

“Questions That Matter” Author Interviews

Questions that Matter with Jim Lowe

NOVEMBER 8, 2019 ~ DOVEWINTERS

NEW REFORM: Book One of the New Reform Quartet by [Lowe, Jim]

I asked the questions that matter of Jim Lowe! But first, the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07VY5NZ1X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Now, let’s get to know Jim!

Come on down, Jim! What would you tell your younger self?

You’ve got it all wrong – you don’t know it – but you have.

You will keep looking toward the next landmark birthday thinking that life probably ends at that point, but every time you reach that big birthday, you keep finding something new to get into.

You don’t have to be so opinionated about EVERYTHING.

Here, here! Which Beatles song describes you?

The Fool on the Hill

I feel that I’ve never been at the centre of things – I’ve always been on the fringes. I’ve seen some very dubious behaviour.

At the time, I didn’t realise that I was taking thousands of mental notes for ideas for writing in the future.

A man of a thousand voices! Do you know what your name means?

I was concerned about what the name Lowe would mean – for obvious reasons!

In the end, it meant, small hill – not very inspiring. European countries have it originating from wolf or lion – I can live with that.

Fool on the (small) hill! Which is your favourite way to dance: with others or alone?

Alone – definitely! If a piece of music absolutely reaches me, then I’ll happily freak out to it in my bedroom (that’s where the hi-fi is), but it can become embarrassing when my wife pops her head around the door and asks me what I’m doing.

Never apologize for dancing! What is one of your favourite quotes?

Frank Zappa was asked, during a loss-making tour, why he continued to take an orchestra with him:

‘Some of my contemporaries like to stick their money up their nose. I prefer to stick mine in my ears.”

Excellent quote! Name five things you would take with you during a zombie outbreak?

A phone with a lot of memory, charger and power banks. I only want it for the music player, everything else will stop working anyway.

Deodorant – I don’t want to smell bad, for that matter, I’ll pack a change of underwear!

Comfortable shoes – I’m likely to be doing a lot of running around.

A Guidebook, maybe, the Rough Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. I’ll order it on Amazon before all the workers are eaten.

Stationery – I will be first on the market with ‘How I Survived the Zombie Apocalypse’ in the post-apocalyptic era – I’m sure my optimism will see me through.

I’m sure Amazon will have workers even during the apocalypse. Where else would we get our machetes and zombie-repellent? You’re on the team! What is the meaning of life?

Aiming low, and always being pleasantly surprised when you achieve it.

I agree with that! Thank you, Jim, for taking this quirky journey! Support Jim by checking out the links below. Then, ask the fool on the hill for directions and join us for another new author!

https://jimlowewriting.com/

https://www.facebook.com/jimlowewriting

https://www.instagram.com/jimlowe142/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/580364.Jim_Lowe

Twitter: @Jameslowe05

Happy reading! 🙂

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Questions That Matter Interview By Dove Winters with Jim Lowe

Here is a deliberately light-hearted and quirky interview I had with Dove Winters.

https://dovewinters.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/questions-that-matter-with-jim-lowe/

How Do Writers Come Up with Ideas?

Whenever somebody creates something, out of nothing, whether that be an artist, musician or writer, the most common question they will be asked is ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

How Do Writers Come Up with Ideas?

man looking up with idea light bulb above head

Whenever somebody creates something, out of nothing, whether that be an artist, musician or writer, the most common question they will be asked is ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

Experienced and famous creatives, will have been asked this question so often, that this cliché would be greeted with some inward eye-rolling, before answering with something along the lines of, ‘Oh, it just comes to me.’

I’m new to the marketing games we self-published authors we have to play. However, when I was first asked, ‘Where do I get my ideas from?’ Initially, I was delighted – someone was interested in my writing – great! I wasn’t famous, I had time to give this simple question a thoroughly thought out and insightful answer, but I struggled to come up with anything to add to the answer above.

But it did make me think.

In those frustrating hours in the dead of night, when I should be getting a good night sleep ahead of a hard day’s work that waited for me. All my mind wanted to do was figure out the pathways back to the first seeds of an idea.

The trouble was, whereas before, I had an answer that was too brief, maybe, even a little glib, now I had an answer that I could never use in polite company because it was far too long, and would have given the poor questioner the impression that they were talking to a man on the edge of madness.

I wanted to do something to make the lost night’s sleep worthwhile, so I thought I would write it down. I went into this believing that ideas were created in the here and now – the thunderbolt, or light bulb moment. What I discovered, for me, at least, was different. My ideas were in a pool of long-forgotten moments, that were always there, they were just waiting for me to fish them out.

The first fish I caught was a trout.

The idea I chose to explore was a mysterious thread through the New Reform series of books of the number 142. I published the first novel in August of 2019, and yet this idea went back to December 2011. Not only was this, eight years, before publication, but three years before I even considered writing a novel at all.

I was a big fan of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Also, I devoured music biographies, and was utterly engrossed by the memoir by the drummer of the band – he was so much more than just the drummer – Through the Eyes of Magic by John Drumbo French.

A lot of music biographies leave me cold, once they move into the I’m now a big star phase – you know, the groupies, the drugs, the trashing of hotel rooms and ‘Oh, did I tell you how I met, Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan (delete where applicable), but this was different. With John French’s memoir, I had found the Dead Sea Scrolls of music writing.

The 864 pages of smallish print went into infinite detail of not only the cult conditions he was enduring, but also, the inspiration, and the construction of every single track the band made. I read music biographies to find nuggets of inspiration, with this book I hit the motherlode.

John “Drumbo” French on his experiences of living with the cult-like conditions, with Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart.

I was already absorbed in the book, but then on page 805 I came upon the track notes to My Human Gets Me Blues from the legendary Trout Mask Replica album. I’m not a musician trained in musical notation, but I was intrigued by his description of the musical interplay between the musicians at 1:24 minutes into the track.

He described how the band members were all playing in different time signatures, but how they intricately locked to give the impression of being on a roundabout, with the slower rhythms at the centre and the faster ones flying around the outer circles.

I realise that this is 1:24 and not 1:42, but events seem to lead up to an idea.

I played the track repeatedly, in much the same way as I used to try and view those old Magic Eye pictures, where if you looked long enough, kinda sideways, an image would appear in 3D, as if you were looking through the eyes of magic – you did see what I did there?

Over and over, I played the track but then the section just after this, at about 1:42 – this would eventually embed itself in my brain at exactly 1:42 – fiction is not fact – fact!

This 1:42 lyric stated: You were afraid you’d be the Devil’s Red Wife.

I thought, ‘Who on Earth is the Devil’s Red Wife?’

I picked up my diary and decided I needed to do some research. Even the internet back in 2011 had very little, so I began digging more in-depth, and the obsession was forming. I found something about an eastern European folk tale about an old woman gazing upon a pair of red shoes, in a shop window, when Satan offered her a bargain. If she could break up a young couple who were obviously so in love with each other, then he would buy her the red shoes. She went to work and succeeded in splitting up the lovebirds. But the ease in which she did it, made even the Dark Lord himself afraid of this old woman.

My thought was, ‘How did Don Van Vliet, a musician from near the Mojave Desert have this kind of knowledge?’ My mind was utterly blown!

142 was now a number my mind was seeking out in every variation. It was a made-up obsession to test out my subconscious and unconscious mind. I started to notice the number in some bizarre places.

Holy cow! Where did that come from? I bet I was the only guy on the planet compelled to take a photo of a cow on Sky News!

I decided that this was my art number and began to put it into stuff I was working on. The strapline for my YouTube channel became, what you lose on the roundabouts, you gain on 142 swings to the left.

I got into YouTubing by accident – always seems to happen to me. My youngest daughter had her very first gig at the Spread Eagle open-mic night in Hereford. My wife had taken her camera and camcorder along to film this for the family when she decided she couldn’t do both. She passed the camcorder to me. I was, like, ‘Where’s the power on button? How do I use the zoom?’ Over the next five years, I filmed over 200 local bands with 1300+ videos with nearly 300,000 views.

During this period, I conducted a series of interviews for the my channel called, On the Record. I wanted to capture all the different professionals, musicians, enthusiasts and audience supporters. The people who make it happen and help it to thrive.

One of these interviews was with James Gwynne, a singer-songwriter and local promoter. He mentioned how he loved the YouTube channels that promoted quiet acoustic music within an overall theme. He discussed a channel called the Mahogany Sessions, and I said that we should try and do the same and collaborate on the 142 Sessions. I would be the filmmaker, and he could arrange the performers and the venue.

The 142 Sessions would have visual references within this working-class pub, the darts would score 142 on the dartboard, the clock would be stopped at 1:42, and the performers would take a book – there for decorative purposes, probably from a car boot sale – and read aloud whatever was on page 142, before performing two original songs of their choice.

The only exception to the original songs, was where I tasked my daughter with learning My Human Gets Me Blues and that the only time I wanted her to turn to face the camera was when she sang the line, you were afraid you’d be the Devil’s Red Wife.

BBC Introducing gave the show a lot of coverage, with an interview with myself, and many of the acts had their songs played.

I needed something new to get stuck into. I re-visited the dark poetry I wrote between the ages of 17 and 23. I thought that decoding them of their deeply personal, private and deliberately obscure words, would keep me occupied for a while – there was lots of this stuff. I gave up poetry after the final book had worked through the confusion and grief of my father’s suicide.

I was in a good place – I can deal with this now, after all, I’m a different man nowadays.

I recalled why I wrote poetry back then. I equated this with my sportiness – I played football and trained hard, I could make the sprint across the pitch, and walk back forever – no problem, but ask me to run long-distances – no chance. Poetry was a sprint, novels were long-distance.

The old poetry stirred up the old waters, and new fish began to appear, and then I had an epiphany, I could write a novel, if I thought of them as being a series of sprints, rather than a marathon.

It goes without saying, that one of the threads had to be on the theme of 142. This is not a plot spoiler, it’s merely the seasoning, but it does run through the whole series of the New Reform Quartet.

You’d have guessed that a character called the Red Wife would be in the book – and you’d be right. However, she didn’t come to me until I’d written two thirds of the first book. This demonstrated to me, that my mind was closed off to her, until she was fully formed enough for it to send her up to the surface.

Available from Amazon and Audible

https://tinyurl.com/y46f3ag3

https://tinyurl.com/yygv8zvs

If you were talking to me in a kitchen, at what point would you have made your excuses and left? Answers, on a postcard…

If you’d have stayed this far – maybe you were avoiding somebody in the living room – then I’m guessing by now that you’d want me to come to some kind of conclusion, about where writers get their ideas from?

Well, I think that other well-known writer’s advice cliché comes into play, write what you know and what you know better than anything is yourself.

I don’t go to the blank page and hope for ideas for creative writing because the blank page has nothing inspiring on it. The best ideas are probably in my past, but I wasn’t paying attention.

I believe, the ideas pool of the mind is unfathomably deep, I now peer into the water, and wait for something to surface. When it does, I pop it into my net, and if I think I’ve caught it before, and thrown it back in, I take another look, as it might have grown since then.

Finger touches surface of mountain lake