Funny way to write a book!

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As the late, great Samuel Johnson once said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” It’s all well and good writing a book, how the dickens are you going to get anybody to read it? More to the point how are you going to get them to pay for the undoubted privilege?

At this point I confess that if I was forced to live on my earnings as a writer, I would be writing this from shanty made from pallets and cardboard, situated nicely overlooking a rubbish tip. This is not the blog of somebody who is offering to show you how I made my first million. Indeed looking at my sales, it might well be worth reading this blog only to know what not to do.

Strangely enough I have tended to avoid spending money on promoting my books. This is not merely because I am congenitally mean, but because I do my research. When I see a website offering to ensure I sell thousands of books, I just go onto Amazon and look at one of the books they are promoting. On Amazon every book has an “Amazon Bestsellers Rank.” I merely watch that rank. To be brutal about it, on Amazon.co.uk it takes one book sale to lift the book from 220,000 up to 60,000. So if the book the website claims to be promoting doesn’t have a rank above 10,000, they’re a waste of time.

I went down another track, I decided to blog. Now this blog, the Jim Webster, books and stuff one, started off as somewhere to promote books. I will tell you something for free here, nobody cares. But if I write about my experiences with cattle, sheep and border collies, people are interesting. So actually I rarely do book stuff here. On the other hand, I accidentally created a character, Tallis Steelyard, a poet. As he is a writer, then obviously he has to have a blog. His blog I do differently, each blog post is a Tallis Steelyard short story/anecdote.

Now there’s a lot of writing there, so every so often I collect up blog posts and publish them. So far there are three novella sized ebooks about dogs, quads and livestock. With the Tallis Steelyard blog, there are eight novella sized collections. These always have, ‘and other stories’ in the title so you can recognise them. This way I can just about justify the sheer amount of writing time that goes into blogging.

 

But what about promoting these books when they’re published? Well obviously I mention them on Goodreads and Facebook. You might have noticed me, one of the tens if not hundreds of thousands of writers trying to get noticed. I decided this wasn’t a particularly successful strategy.

Then I discovered the blog tour. I did a couple in a conventional format, where you as the writer answer a number of questions so the person reading the blog feels they know you. But to be honest, if I do too many of these, I get bored. I shudder to think how the reader must feel. So I decided to do something different.

Because with the Tallis Steelyard blog I had a number of bloggers who liked my work, (I knew this because they would comment on the various stories, reblogged them on their blogs, and bought the books.) I decided it might be fun to work with them.

So I contacted each of them and offered to write a Tallis story for their blog. Quite a lot of bloggers jumped at this opportunity. As any blogger knows, the blog is a maw you are doomed to feed for all eternity, and if somebody offers to feed it for a day, then that’s an offer you struggle to refuse. As an aside, even when I’m not running a blog tour, I’m always happy to write a story for a blogger. Obviously two or three years later the story will inevitably wash up in one of the collections of stories, but it’s for their blog, and whilst I’ll reblog it, I do it from their blog to give them the publicity. Indeed for those bloggers who do like to give writers questions, answering as Tallis Steelyard can be fun, because I can always have him work one of his stories into the conversation.

So I did a few tours like this and they went pretty well. Normally a tour is somewhere from a dozen to fifteen blogs. What I realised is that one of the Tallis Steelyard story collections normally contains somewhere from twenty-four to thirty stories. So every two blog tours I do in effect writes another story collection.

Once things were going well, obviously I had to tinker with it. One or two of the blog tours had a theme. In one, the stories followed Tallis as he was temporarily exiled from the city of Port Naain. Each was a standalone story but they were in some sort of order. Actually it didn’t matter if you missed one or read them out of order, but the theme brought the tour a sense of unity.

Then being grossly overambitious it struck me that actually a novella has about a dozen chapters. So why not write a novella and use it as a blog tour (to promote another novella) and at the end of the tour, you’ve published two books.

Trust me, this way madness lies. But fortunately I was very lucky in my bloggers. I asked people, not because they were ‘important’ (although some of them have an awful lot of readers, whilst others are just starting out) but because they loved Tallis.

So they’re willing to put up with the fact I’m not the most organised of people. In spite of me, we managed to put out a novella and all the chapters came out in the right order!

Since then I’ve done it a couple of times, and people have asked me how I do it. Well the writing of the book is different. You’ve got to tackle it differently. Each chapter will be a blog post. So each chapter has to make sense if read on its own. Not only that but each chapter has to have a natural ending. I know a lot of people who feel cheated by stories ending in cliff-hangers, which mean you have to buy the next exciting episode. So I try to avoid cliff-hanger endings, but somehow want to ensure that whilst the reader is satisfied with the chapter, they do want to read the next bit.

The other thing you have to ensure is that something interesting happens in each chapter. It’s a bit unfair to a blogger to give them a story that consists entirely of plot exposition or back story.

 

Anyway, it’s really up to you to decide if I was successful or not. Here is ‘Tallis Steelyard, enemies and how to make them.’

This appeared, in its entirety, as a blog tour. (Which has just finished.)

 
Another novella which first appeared as a blog tour was ‘A measured response.’

 

This novella is interesting in that it had two endings. One where the blog tour ended, and Benor the protagonist has seen the villain arrested. But then I added a couple of extra chapters after the tour was over that appear only in the novella, which take things a little further as it is discovered that they’d arrested the wrong person and Benor has to help catch the right one.

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44 thoughts on “Funny way to write a book!

  1. LucciaGray November 23, 2019 at 10:04 am Reply

    This is a really interesting post, Jim. I’ve never written a novella, although I do a lot of flash fiction and poetry. Yours sounds like a good strategy. Every writer works in a different way, the nirvana I’d say is finding out what works for you and your readers, before giving up!

    • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 11:26 am Reply

      Certainly with flash fiction and poetry you’re somebody who might find the novella form, or novella sized collection, something to conjure with:-)
      20,000 to 30,000 words is a nice size

  2. mike2all November 23, 2019 at 10:15 am Reply

    I am reading this as I like to consider myself a writer. I sometimes wonder if anyone is able to apply that term to themselves if they have not sold thousands. I have not sold thousands. I suppose that I am more of a prospector, hoping that my books will unearth a new and bigger readership. Like you, I have not invested in publicity. Unfortunately, publicity has not invested in me. Literary agents have responded with the ‘not really my stuff’ stuff. But like the truly deluded, I continue.

    • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 11:25 am Reply

      If you don’t continue on the journey, you cannot reach the destination 🙂
      Stick with it and I hope it pans out for you

      • mike2all November 23, 2019 at 11:28 am

        Many thanks. There is truly no possibility of me not sticking with it as I have too many pans.

  3. M T McGuire November 23, 2019 at 5:51 pm Reply

    You would believe how many people follow your blog about whom you are never aware. There’s a lovely guy who always comes to see me at the Christmas Fayre and buys any new release I have. He told me he’d missed seeing me these last three years and I explained that I’d had a hard time and there’d been no new releases anyway.

    ‘I know,’ he said. ‘I read your blog.’

    Other folks have mentioned my blog to me recently. People who leave no footprint but who, nonetheless, read all the stuff about dementia, books, life … I think you have to enjoy blogging to do it, but it is definitely a lot more effective than we realise, certainly, I feel as if I’ve had a bit of a quiet awakening about mine recently.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 7:40 pm Reply

      Because we’re bloggers and are therefore ‘perpetually signed in’ I think we forget about those who don’t blog and therefore aren’t signed in to comment.
      Certainly I know a number of people I’ve pointed to your blog because of the issues they have and they’ll never leave a mark because they barely use social media, never mind blogs

      • M T McGuire November 23, 2019 at 8:12 pm

        Yeh I guess so. It’s definitely a much bigger footprint than I thought. I’m beginning to understand that …

      • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 8:14 pm

        And yet somebody who’s sort of known me in the real world for a couple of years and has been a facebook friend for a year suddenly realised I’m a writer 🙂

      • M T McGuire November 23, 2019 at 8:16 pm

        The day I’m waiting for is when someone says, ‘ you’re THAT McGuire?!’ And I get to say, ‘Yeh, I am.’

      • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 8:33 pm

        Somebody did ask if I was ‘the’ Jim Webster and I got to use the Hitchhiker’s line. “No just a Jim Webster, we come in six packs” 🙂

        Note, sadly they weren’t asking because of my writing

      • M T McGuire November 23, 2019 at 8:41 pm

        Still cool. 🙂

      • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 8:44 pm

        At least they weren’t holding a shotgun 🙂

      • M T McGuire November 23, 2019 at 8:48 pm

        🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  4. jenanita01 November 23, 2019 at 6:52 pm Reply

    I never imagined anyone would visit our blog, let alone enjoy what they find there… This encourages us to bigger and better things. And the friends we meet along the xway!

    • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 7:38 pm Reply

      Yes. It never ceases to amaze me as well, the people who wander in here 🙂

  5. jenanita01 November 23, 2019 at 6:52 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

    • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 7:37 pm Reply

      As I said, Tallis appears in only the very finest of blogs 🙂

      • jenanita01 November 24, 2019 at 10:34 am

        But of course!

      • jwebster2 November 24, 2019 at 12:36 pm

        Obviously he wouldn’t be found anywhere else!

  6. ambroseandelsie November 23, 2019 at 7:30 pm Reply

    “Indeed for those bloggers who do like to give writers questions, answering as Tallis Steelyard can be fun, because I can always have him work one of his stories into the conversation.” What a great idea! I imagine it’s liberating to answer questions from someone else’s mindset/point of view. 😀

    • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 7:35 pm Reply

      Trust me it is 🙂
      Some of my readers seem to think that we’re very similar, but Tallis can say things I cannot 😉

      • ambroseandelsie November 23, 2019 at 7:38 pm

        “…but Tallis can say things I cannot.” I love writing characters like that, even if they do shock me with what they choose to say. 😆

      • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 7:42 pm

        And you ought to meet his friends. One lady, Maljie, has taken the world by storm and has a book of anecdotes that Tallis has written about her. She’s a ‘spin-off’s spin-off’ 🙂

      • ambroseandelsie November 23, 2019 at 7:50 pm

        She sounds like an absolute riot! 😀

      • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 7:59 pm

        Trust me, she is 🙂

        Here’s one of the stories that hasn’t found it’s way into a book 🙂

        https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/2019/11/03/something-spicy-this-way-comes/

  7. acflory November 23, 2019 at 8:25 pm Reply

    -grin- one thing you missed, ‘and I enjoy myself’. My blogging journey has been eerily similar to yours, at least in the ‘big picture’, but I know I would have given up long ago if not for the amazing community of readers and writers I met along the way. Having fun may not lead to sales, but it helps to keep a blog chugging along. 🙂

    • jwebster2 November 23, 2019 at 8:32 pm Reply

      Yes there are days when I sit at the computer and ask myself what the hell I’m going to write so just start writing to see what happens

      Strangely enough they’re the blogs which get the most likes 🙂

      But yes, it can be fun, but I’ve definitely met a lot of fun people

      • acflory November 23, 2019 at 11:06 pm

        lol – totally agree. I have types of posts – music, how-tos, rants, beautiful thing – but generally I leave the choice up to my muse. Then it’s just a case of waiting to see if anyone else shares that particular passion. 🙂

      • jwebster2 November 24, 2019 at 6:38 am

        And passion is contagious. I have a friend who loves film and when he writes a review the passion comes though and I enjoy the review even if I will never watch that film because it’s not my thing 🙂

      • acflory November 24, 2019 at 10:58 am

        Yes! There’s something about a post written from the heart that can brighten the day of a complete stranger. Kind of like how one person smiling can start a chain reaction. 🙂

      • jwebster2 November 24, 2019 at 12:35 pm

        🙂

  8. petespringerauthor November 24, 2019 at 2:57 am Reply

    As a guy just messing around and having fun with the whole thing, it’s interesting to read about someone else’s journey. I appreciate you sharing.

    • jwebster2 November 24, 2019 at 6:37 am Reply

      Messing about and having fun with the whole thing is about as good as it gets 🙂
      It’s once you start taking yourself too seriously that things get out of hand

  9. V.M.Sang November 24, 2019 at 2:35 pm Reply

    I found this fascinating. It’s good to know the ‘other’ (or perhaps real would be a better word) persona of Tallis Steelyard. What good ideas.

    • jwebster2 November 24, 2019 at 5:38 pm Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it, whether the ideas are good is doubtless something that time will determine 🙂

  10. […] Continue reading at Jim Webster […]

    • jwebster2 November 24, 2019 at 9:07 pm Reply

      Of course, it’s the quality of the blogs you appear on which really matters 😉

  11. eloisedesousa November 24, 2019 at 10:57 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Thoughts by Mello-Elo.

    • jwebster2 November 25, 2019 at 5:53 am Reply

      As long as you remember the advice might be worth what you paid for it 🙂

  12. Rebecca Douglass November 25, 2019 at 5:46 pm Reply

    You have done what i keep thinking about. For several years i posted flash fiction every Friday. I have the makings of several great anthologies, just haven’t stopped novelling enough to do it. (Thanks to the Story-Reading Ape for pointing me here!).

    • jwebster2 November 28, 2019 at 6:25 am Reply

      Chris is a gentleman who does an awful lot to help a lot of people by bringing people together. I’ve learned a lot from people he’s directed me to, so I’m glad if I’ve somehow given somebody else an idea
      If you’ve got this great resource then it seems only sensible that you gather it up and publish it

  13. Stevie Turner November 25, 2019 at 5:52 pm Reply

    I also tend to avoid spending money on promoting books. Sometimes though I’ll enter a story into a writing competition. I’ve had a couple of modest successes that way, but hey, it’s all a learning curve. I enjoy both your blogs about the farm and about Tallis, Jim.

    • jwebster2 November 28, 2019 at 6:23 am Reply

      Glad you like them, I suspect they’re unlikely to win many prizes, but they do have their fans 🙂

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