My Learning Curse (curve?)

Still waiting.

Still waiting.

Before you read this blog: For anyone reading this who has commented on either of the books that I’ve published a massive thank you to you. I have taken on board your comments, suggestions and made the corrections. I’ve also read both the books again with a different coloured highlighter pen (the hard-copies now look like sketch books by someone trying to work out the division of light into its separate colours) and will shortly be uploading revised and improved versions. I found a couple more minor errors myself. Fume. I think that it is very important to continue to update and improve, although obviously bloody annoying from a self-publishing point of view. I wanted to be perfect first time that I put them out there. No one wants to read books with mistakes in. It just looks so ‘self-published’.

Disclaimer: My last post – about how getting some positive feedback made me a bit emotional – was summed up by my greatest critic (my daughter) as a ‘Pity Post’. (When I say my greatest critic, I don’t mean of my writing [harsh bark of self-pitying forced laughter] you don’t think that she’d ever dream of reading one of my books do you?) This isn’t meant to be another ‘PP’ (so, Sam, you have no need to publically ridicule me over that again, especially if you want your allowance this month. Make myself clear?) but at least I heard from her and…it follows that she must have read something that I wrote! Ha! Every cloud and all that.

The Post: When I started out blogging, the purpose was three-fold (1) to keep a record for posterity and myself (and my legions of devoted fans, of course) of my attempt (and subsequent megatastic rise to success) to make it as an author (2) to provide (yet another) self-publishing blogging resource for anyone who might be thinking of going down the same route with their work (a glimpse of my often well-hidden altruistic side) (3) to provide a link for somewhere that anyone who downloads one of my titles can visit to find out more about the other books that I’m writing, my fascinating journey, the trials and tribulations of being a best-seller. It still is all three – when I’m asleep. But as it goes on the reality that I should view blogging as essentially just a record for posterity and for myself becomes clearer, more sensible. I will attempt to explain, for posterity and myself, why I think like this these days. It might help anyone else who is thinking of blogging about their decision to self-publish to think again, unless they just want it for something to reflect on in their old age, of course.

It’s a good job that I enjoy my own writing. And I do. I like writing and I like reading my writing. (It might seem a stupid question to pose to myself, but I wonder if every author really enjoys reading and re-reading and re-reading their own work, especially when it’s out of necessity aka discovered mistakes and the (reasonable) fear of more. Would that be a litmus test or something? Whether one enjoys continually reading one’s own writing, or an indicator of something altogether more suspect? [Please, that’s a metaphor. I know what a litmus test is.]) It would be a real chore for me to have to proof-read the books again, if I minded reading them again. Actually, it is a real chore because I have other (not necessarily better) things to do, but I still enjoy reading my own stuff. That goes for the blog too. I’m not so narcissistic that I’m poring over my own entries on a daily basis, tickled pink with my witticisms and nodding sagely at my incredible insight, but occasionally I have looked back over what I’ve written here, for a bit of nostalgia, and got something out of it: a smile, a prickle of embarrassment, a sharp intake of breath, an erection.

I started blogging in September (how time flies) and so, after four months and a look at some statistics (I’m bored) I think that I’m entitled to claim an understanding of how the second and third reasons for taking up the waste-of-time (pastime) that blogging seems to be, have been justified, or not.

Reason two: to provide (yet another) self-publishing blogging resource for anyone who might be thinking of going down the same route with their work. Forget that. Every other blog seems to be about people, like me, who want to share their experiences with the world about things ranging from recovering from, well, you imagine it and it’s out there to you imagine it and it’s out there. That is, obviously, the essence of blogging: to tell people things, to share. Well, that becomes a bit of a problem if everyone is ‘talking’ at the same time. No one’s really listening. They haven’t got the time.

I suppose that everyone has different personal reasons (although there can’t be that many to manufacture) for blogging. Is blogging just another form of attention seeking made possible in the technological age? I shudder to think that that might be me. But then again, as a writer, of course, I want bloody attention. Or rather I want attention for my work, not me personally. There is a difference. To further scotch this reason for blogging, WordPress have a handy tool that enables one to view statistics of site visits to one’s blog among other things (I’ve got a kick out of this before and a blog post). After four months of blogging, I can (almost) categorically say the only time (almost) that I appear to get hits is when I publish a post. There are never that many and for the most part I would guess the majority of the hits are from people who saw the post when it was freshly printed and were so bored with their own day that they clicked on it as they happened to drop by the WordPress blog-o-sphere: a shop window of other peoples thinking. (As an amusing aside, [sorry, interruption: my current-future-ex-wife has just shouted at me from the other room to get off the laptop and stop wasting my time (oh, how truly insightful she can serendipitously be sometimes). She has tidying up to do and the baby needs watching, ‘Everywhere is in everywhere!’ What a wonderful expression, but maybe not so much when it is screeched.] … as an amusing aside I did note that I had a hit from Bulgaria recently. Interesting, I thought, until I saw the title of the blog post that (presumably) he had viewed: Female Ejaculation and Gay Men. What a disappointed fellow he must have been.) I digress. I’m a writer. It’s what we do. (Am I now a writer/author? People have downloaded, read and commented on my work. I can say I’m a writer, right?)

This leads me nicely on to reason three: to provide a link for somewhere that anyone who downloads one of my titles can visit to find out more about the other books that I’m writing. I don’t think that this is panning out. In each of the two books that I have published thus far, as well as my blog address hyperlinked on the title page, I have included a short piece at the end of the work inviting (begging really) readers who make it to the end to visit my blog space, or email address and hopefully leave a comment, or just have a mooch about.

Through Smashwords I have now had a total of four hundred and fifty downloads for my two books. Looking back over the stats of blog visits in the last week puts me in mind of a cardiogram of a dead person: one long flat line. As I’ve mused before, just because people are downloading doesn’t mean that they are reading and, if they are reading it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will be liking, or even finishing the books. But still. I’m inclined to think that, as a method of self-promotion, it isn’t paying the dividends that I hoped that it would. Sound fair? Maybe it’s why ‘real’ authors don’t blog. It doesn’t help.

This brings me onto to something else that I have increasing suspicions about: those Smashwords download stats. Maybe, my suspicions are just the product of a poisoned mind (and three broken marriages). Are those stats real? I seem to be getting downloads just about every day. Can that be right? If more people were letting me know what they thought about the books I could believe it more. I want to believe it. Is it just a general apathy on the part of downloaders not to take up an invitation to comment? Is it another illustration of our take, take, take world, our lack of manners? If someone stood out in the street with a stall of books and gave you the opportunity to browse and choose a free one, as you were passing, wouldn’t you at least say thank you. I would. I know, it’s not the same, and yet it is, you know. Mind you, if my random snap-shot of my own circle of family and friends is anything to go by then the phrase, abandon hope all ye who ask for feedback, would seem appropriate. I have a link to my Facebook page – part of that canny self-promotion – so that any time I blog all my contacts get it shoved under their noses and in their faces. Naturally, my blog posts include the publishing of my books. Has one of my family or friends read either of them, commented that they’ve downloaded a title, promised feedback? Yes, actually. Two. Thanks to them. But still, two. (This blog will not be linked to my Facebook page. I’m not completely stupid. No one likes whining, pissy, moaners.)

Well, that’s one, two, three explored a bit. For posterity. This was meant to be an objective review of the few reasons that I chose to blog. It’s not supposed to read like some self-pitying outpouring of a bitter and twisted disillusioned failure. But, in parts, it might. Maybe it is.

Ultimately, I suppose, as one Smashwords author writes on his homepage, everything he (one) writes and publishes is done for his (one’s) own amusement. He is entirely right. And that goes for blogging too. It’s worth remembering.

2 thoughts on “My Learning Curse (curve?)

  1. Entertaining reading, Oliver – I totally identify with your post pic – I’m doing round one reviisons on e-proofs right now for disappearing in plain sight and it is hell, for sure. But on the other hand, I love reading own stuff, too – so what the heck, right? I question all stats and only really believe someone has read something I wrote when they actually make a comment that indicates it is so. I like your last line in this post – something to remember. Now hurry up and get that last Romney and Marsh out in the world – I’m anxious to see how Romney is going to bug me!

  2. Thanks Francis. As always, your reply is appreciated. I suppose that when I read something that I wrote that I hate I’ll have a problem – take up knitting or something. If you found Romney irritating before, prepare yourself – he’s just become unbearable. Even I don’t like him much these days.

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