It’s Your Unique Voice (Or Why Everyone Has the Right to Write)

 

Has the rise of self-publishing tainted the ‘purity’ of books?

Yes, that does sound pretentious.  Tell me about it.  I was going to write ‘fuck off’ under that first sentence because that’s what I really feel like saying to those who subscribe to this idea.  Believe it or not, there are sensitive souls out there who might say yes – actually it has darling, the rise of self-publishing has tainted the ‘purity’ of books.  They’ll say that the beautiful book thing has been tainted by the onslaught of commoners – the hundreds of thousands of Joe and Joanna Averages uploading their Word documents onto KDP/iTunes/Smashwords/Kobo, and calling them books.

How dare they?  How dare they call themselves authors?

I’ve seen this mentioned in a few publishing-themed articles.  Usually it’s a subtle reference, loaded with condescending intent – a little backhander designed with indie authors in mind.

Now to be fair, maybe the people who’re saying it don’t even realise they’re being patronising.  Or maybe I’m just being paranoid?

But I don’t think so.  And I certainly don’t agree with the notion that books or the publishing industry are in any way damaged by the rise of self-publishing.  If anything, books have become more fascinating, less inclusive, and unafraid.

It’s true.  Thanks to the recent evolution in the publishing industry (which came from retailers, not the traditional publishers who understandably loathe change), anyone can write and publish a book.  And sure, some of what gets published might not be up to a certain standard of technical brilliance.  Some of it might be downright shit – in your opinion.  But it’s a big world out there, and one full of readers – lots of different types of readers with all kinds of tastes.  This might come as a surprise, but not everyone wants to read somebody else’s definition of a classic.  Not everyone wants to read the Man Booker Prize winner.

That’s why the open door policy of twenty-first century publishing is a beautiful thing.  Even if it does appear messy and chaotic at times.  So what?  Authors have more opportunities to be read and readers have more books to choose from.

This sums it up for me – writing is your unique voice.  Nobody else in the world can write like you and that’s a fact.  It’s an incredible thing that you are so unique.  Whatever you have to say, whatever story you have to tell – it’s yours (unless you’re a plagiarising git!)  When you put pen to paper or finger to laptop, it’s your unique voice that comes out within those words and what’s more, you can guarantee there’s someone else out there in the world who will respond to you – even if it’s just one person who’s every bit as weird as you are.

Your unique voice.  That alone gives you the right to write.  Those who don’t like the sound of your voice, they can just stay away from what you write.

It’s that easy.  Live and let live.

When I first picked up the guitar as a teenager, I had a friend who was learning at the same time as me.  His style was kind of odd by conventional standards.  His left hand (the one fretting the notes) was pretty normal but his right hand – the strumming hand – had a mind of its own.  Instead of a traditional up-down, up-down flowing motion on the strings, it was a jerky-jerky, down-down.  Something in between punk rock and a seizure.   It was bonkers and unorthodox, but it worked.  Nobody told him to play any differently and they couldn’t because that was his unique voice coming through the guitar.  And nobody else in the world sounded like that, or ever will.

So your grammar might be a bit wonky.  Your third act might be all over the place and your punctuation may very well be pants.  Keep practicing.  I will always defend your right to write and publish your book, whichever way you see fit.  Read a lot of books, study storytelling in all its guises and absorb, absorb, absorb.  Get better, because in no way am I condoning or advocating mediocrity.  What I’m saying is that writing gives you a voice.  It’s communication.  And no matter what stage you’re at, everyone’s entitled to that.

 

 

 

 

How To Use Pop Culture In Your Alternate Histories

 

What if the Axis Powers had won the Second World War?  What if the Confederates had won the American Civil War?  What if Napoleon had won the Battle of Waterloo?  Or what if the Roman Empire was still intact?

The majority of alternate histories focus on military and political ‘what ifs?’.  And certainly, the most high profile examples, which have been turned into films and TV shows – The Man in the High Castle and Fatherland –  fall into these categories.  There are others, intricate and specialised political/military/economic ‘what ifs?’ that are nothing short of hardcore.

Whatever blows your whistle.  It’s all good.

It’s not for me however.  Pop culture is more my thing.  This too plays an important role in the majority of people’s lives and its influence is seen and felt everywhere within our society, in the way we dress, talk, and behave.  After all, kids don’t tend to grow up wanting to dress or style their hair like their favourite politician or military leader, do they?  (Although I’m sure those people are out there – somewhere!)

I’m talking about rock stars, movie stars, TV stuff, books, fashion, fads, trends, movements, music and cultural revolutions.  The possibilities for writing alternate histories around these subjects are both endless and fascinating.  It’s all about what sort of ‘what if?’ you’re asking.

So with that in mind, here are a couple of suggestions for any authors interested in doing a ‘pop culture’ alternate history.

The Dead Live

This is what I’ve been working on recently with the FAB trilogy.  Take a famous dead person and imagine – wait for it – that they’re not dead.  Not overly original but extremely interesting in terms of what to write about.  In my case it’s John Lennon. 

Who’s your favourite rock star?  Your favourite movie star? (Deceased, remember!)  Think of someone you admire or someone whose life and work you’re familiar with or that you would be interested in becoming familiar with.  It’s important that you know your subject otherwise you might as well just invent a fictional character.  

Now imagine that this person never died.  There was no car crash, no drug overdose, no plane crash, no whatever.  They’re still alive.  What sort of future do you envision for this rock star/movie star in your alternate timeline?  What are they doing?  What have they grown into over the years?  How have they fit in with subsequent eras?  (James Dean in the swinging sixties?)  Of course, what you write doesn’t have to be what you actually think would happen.  Personally, I subscribe to anything that’s entertaining.

So use your imagination.  

What really would have happened to John Lennon probably doesn’t make for good or interesting fiction.  More solo albums, perhaps even a Beatles reunion?  Cool, but not much of a story in there.  That’s where you – the writer and your imagination come in.  In FAB, I turned John Lennon inside out, envisioning him as a right-wing politician who goes after the big seat in the White House.  Along the way, he becomes corrupted and bad things happen.  Do I think that’s what would have happened to JL in the 1980s?  Not in a gazillion years.  But – alternate history is fiction remember?  Do whatever the hell you want, just make it a compelling story.

Worried about your ideas being seen as ridiculous?  Okay, if anybody says that just give them the following spiel – had OJ Simpson died in the late 70s or early 80s, he would have been remembered today as a poster boy of black/American sporting pride.  A symbol of masculinity, a hero, and all that.  Now, imagine that an author in this alternate timeline (with dead OJ) writes a story in which legendary sporting hero OJ Simpson lives on into the 80s and 90s, going on to brutally murder his wife and another man and then goes off on a crazy car chase with half the LAPD on his tail.  That author is going to get some funny looks, no?

Bottom line – we have no idea what would have happened.  So we might as well use our imaginations.

Recommendation – Check out The Rebel by Jack Dann, which imagines a world in which James Dean doesn’t die in the 1955 car crash.

Quick Word About Legal Stuff

Regarding the legality of using real people in your fiction, be cautious.  My advice would be – wherever possible – to write your stories around these people rather than feature them as central figures.  Although lots of people do it and have no problems.  Personally, I prefer to write around John Lennon in FAB.  He’s there, but he’s not always there if you know what I mean.  He’s more of a presence than a main character.  It’s entirely up to you of course, but if you’re writing about a real person always write a disclaimer at the start of your book stating that it’s a work of fiction.  And avoid slander – don’t go there or you could be in real trouble further down the line.  Generally, the more ridiculous the scenario you invent, the more obvious it is that it’s fiction, the better.  

If you’re curious about legal stuff, here’s a link to a great post with advice on using celebrities in fiction.  Be sure to go through the comments too as there’s some good stuff in there.

Backdrop

You could also write an alternate history using a particular era as your backdrop.  For example, the second FAB book (released in August) is set during the Britpop era.  For anyone who isn’t aware, Britpop was a musical phenomenon/movement/scene in the 1990s.  British guitar bands ruled the post-grunge landscape, saluting The Beatles, all things British, and the Union Jack.  Think bands like Oasis, Blur, Suede, Pulp, Elastica, and others.  I’m inserting a fictional band in here and messing about with history to serve my plot.

You could use something similar as a backdrop.  The grunge scene of the early 90s?  There was also the acid house scene of the late 1980s.  You could go further back to the early hip-hop years in the 1970s.  Or the swinging sixties when cultural revolution was at its peak.  You get the idea.  Go back to that scene, whatever it is, and change something – maybe a famous band from that period who split up stay together.  What effect will that have on the future?  A famous event/tragedy from that period never happened.  Mess about with things.  Use your imagination.

Of course it doesn’t have to have anything to do with music?  Maybe a famous celebrity couple from a particular era stayed together?  (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor?)  You could write about the impact on someone close to them – a staff member perhaps?  Or just write about the couple themselves.

Recommendation: Speaking of famous bands who split up, I recommend The Death and Life of Mal Evans by Peter Lee, in which The Beatles’ former roadie gets a second chance at life, and tries to prevent the fab four from breaking up.

What else?

This is just a brief introduction, highlighting a couple of ways to incorporate pop culture into your alternate histories.  If you’re interested in this kind of thing, here are a couple more.  Maybe they’ll fire up your imagination:

What if social media had been invented earlier?  What if it had been around in the 1980s?

What if a famous actor playing a monster in a movie turned out to be a real monster?  (I nicked this.  See Shadow of the Vampire starring Willem Dafoe)

And so on and on.

For me, alternate history is all about letting your imagination run wild.  Whatever you do, whatever you write, have fun with it.  Because if you’re having fun, it’s guaranteed that somebody else out there will too.

 

Icarus Played a Fender Stratocaster

 

Icarus Played a Fender Stratocaster

 

I walked into my uncle’s room.  This was two years before he died of a heroin overdose.

Usually his door was locked but that day it had been left ajar.

Inside, he was lying face up on the bed.  The curtains were drawn but there was some half-light seeping through the cracks and it meant that I could have a good look and see what was left of him.

There wasn’t much left of him.

His skin, once a deep hue of golden brown, had by that point faded to a sickly and brittle yellow.  His cheekbones, as sharp as razors, were on the brink of stabbing their way out of his ever-shrinking flesh in a morbid bid for freedom.

He was only twenty-five, and yet to look at him.  Jesus.  It was like looking upon the face of an Egyptian mummy. Fresh out of the sarcophagus after three thousand years, unwrapped for all to see.

And the smell.  Rotting flesh and rotten food, intermingled to become one terrible super-scent.

I was ten years old.

His lunch tray sat on the floor beside the bed, cold and untouched.  Chilli Con Carne with extra beans and for dessert, a small mountain of pancakes topped with peanut butter and syrup.  Commander-in-chief downstairs – aka my grandmother, his mother – was busy at work in the kitchen, supplying protein bombs and carb rockets three times a day.  Her mission?  To reclaim the spirit of her youngest son.  It was Apocalypse Now, junkie style, and Granny was Captain Willard sailing downriver to terminate (with extreme prejudice) the Colonel Kurtz living in her son’s head.

I said hello.  My uncle said nothing.  I said hello again.

Like something out of a horror movie, his eyes rolled back in his head and all of a sudden he was looking at me.  For a split second, his eyes lit up as if he recognised me.  But it was no more than a moment’s glance, an involuntary reaction perhaps, muscle memory, and then it was gone and I was a stranger again.

He tried to talk, but the words got stuck in his throat and he sounded like a lizard-man gargling violently with mouthwash.  He kept trying to say something, to force it out, but it only led to another one of those violent coughing fits.  Dear God.  Ever since my uncle had taken refuge in Granny’s house, those spontaneous coughing fits had become the stuff of legend.

Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. Well I say that every time a junkie coughs, a demonic motherfucker gets its wings.

Can someone die from coughing?  ‘Cos that’s what it looked like was about to happen.  His face blew up and turned purple.  I was scared.  So scared that I turned around and ran out of the room and just left him there, all alone.

Even now, I can’t handle the sound of coughing.

He’s not a bad man, is he?  I said this to my dad that night.  No son, Dad said.  He’s your uncle, and he’s just sick is all.

icarus2

His was a beautiful funeral.

It took place in an old church surrounded by acres of green pastures and rolling hills.  That morning, our car pulled up outside the church gate and as it did so, I peered through the window at the tall grass of the churchyard, swaying in the breeze to the piper’s lament.

We – the family – stepped out of the stretch limo.  There were crowds lining up everywhere on all sides of the little road that ran alongside the church grounds.  My uncle’s most devoted fans had come from all corners of the earth to say goodbye.  There were thousands of them.  It was like watching an alien invasion on a bright summer’s morning.  Aliens dressed in black, with long hair and tattoos with uncle’s lyrics inscribed upon their skin, the message passed on with the intent to forever.

Dad told me to wave back to the fans to show our appreciation.  And when we waved, the crowds burst into a spontaneous round of applause, holding their banners aloft, banners that that read ‘The King is Dead’, ‘The Day The Music Died’, and many others like that.

And they were singing his songs too.  Always, there was the singing.

The fans kept a respectful distance throughout, unlike the majority of press photographers who on several occasions had to be dragged back from the church door by security.

We – the family – were hurriedly escorted from the car into the church, with the television and press cameras bearing down on us.  Man, it was surreal but for a few seconds there I had a glimpse of how my uncle had lived the last ten years of his life.  And it was exhausting, I can tell you.  Just ten seconds of it was enough for me.

The eulogies were fitting.  He was a great singer, musician, and songwriter.  He was the spokesman of a generation.  The next Jimi Hendrix, they’d called him as a teenager, said dad with a heartbroken smile.

Dying at twenty-seven, he got that bit right.   Now he’d joined a club that not only included Hendrix, but also Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.

That’s how it was.  Friends and colleagues took to the pulpit and told happy stories about my junkie uncle. Bullshit, every last word of it.  But that’s how we do it.  We’d rather build a mythology over a rotten corpse than tell the truth.  So instead, they talked about the musical legacy and the multiple Grammy wins.  They called him Icarus and said that in life, he’d flown on melting wings.

Nobody spoke about heroin or the fact that we were celebrating a wasted life.

None of those people had smelled the air after one of his coughing fits.

But I had.

L-2011 (Sample) – Chester George vs Parliament

 

Below is a sample chapter from L-2011 (Future of London Series #1)

 

Transcript of a video uploaded to YouTube.com (posted on 11th August 2011)

Chester George is wearing the same black skull hoodie as before, zipped up over his face, with the luminous skull design leering back at the camera. He’s standing in the same room as during the last broadcast, surrounded by punk rock posters and little else.

‘Straight to Hell’ by The Clash, is playing softly in the background.

When Chester George speaks, he does so in that quiet raspy, almost snake-like voice:

***

“Mr Prime Minister and all the politicians in the Houses of Parliament.

That was a poor pretence of unity yesterday. Yet you said everything that you were expected to say.

Which wasn’t much.

I feel however, that I must add something on behalf of the people you are trying to understand – something you forgot to mention amidst your feeble efforts to put on such a united front.

You ask: why are so many of them quick to steal? It’s criminality you say. It’s the fault of our parents, you say. Or it’s our sick culture.

Sssssick.

It’s quite simple to you and all the other MPs – we’re simply rotten from within. Our communities have no morals. This is nothing you cannot comfortably classify as a revolt of the feral underclass – is it Mr Prime Minister?”

But YOU are too humble sir. You forgot to mention yesterday how much the greed and selfishness that we see in the city inspires us to be as rotten as we are.

Our conception of right and wrong comes from more than just our parents. Have you forgotten Mr Prime Minister? Just a few years back, the bankers publicly looted this country’s fortune. When they did that, they showed us that the acquisition of individual wealth is clearly a measure of success. They took millions and destroyed people’s life savings. They were caught red-handed, but very few were punished. And yet you criticise us – the Good and Honest Citizens – for taking a mobile phone or a pair of shoes?”

Chester George moves towards the camera.

“And what about all the MPs who got caught fiddling their expenses? You must remember that one Mr Prime Minister? Or how about the phone-hacking scandals?”

Chester George lets out a throaty laugh.

“If we are devils, then we learned how to be devils from the very best. You – the suits and ties – are the original looters of this country. The original gangsters.

Now of course, I understand your reasoning for trying to label us. If there are no sociological, political or economic causes for the revolution that you call the riots, then no one in authority is to blame.”

He wags a gloved finger from side to side.

“Such irresponsible behaviour from our so-called leaders.

Mr Prime Minister. The worst violence London has seen for decades is happening against the backdrop of a global economic meltdown. It’s never pretty when society wakes up, is it? But society is waking up. That’s what this is. We live in an uneven world of uneven wages and opportunities. Did you know Mr Prime Minister, that last year the combined wealth of the one thousand richest people in Britain went up by thirty per cent to over three hundred billion pounds?

Isn’t that a remarkable number?

London is now one of the most unequal cities in the developed world. You and your kind have turned it into a gigantic shopping mall. And yet you expect our kind to be satisfied with only window-shopping.

Mr Prime Minister. What you see now on the streets of London – and in other cities waking up – is the result of a society that’s been run on greed. For us – the Good and Honest Citizens – there has been little cause for optimism and opportunities have been too few and far between.

Until now that is.

Last but not least – Mr Prime Minister, let me give you a word of advice. You would do well to pay closer attention to the private activities of your MPs and to the moral implications of the bankers involved in ‘casino capitalism’. It was white-collar vandalism that brought the world to its knees – not us. Remember that, the next time you talk about ‘criminality.’

Till next time.

 

L-2011 (Future of London Series #1) is available on Amazon and iTunes.

 

 

 

Write Fast, Write Lots: Why Quantity Leads To Quality

 

The best piece of marketing advice for authors (in my humble opinion) is to write another book.  The second best piece of marketing advice is to write another book.  Yep, so keep writing, you get where it’s going.  It’s that simple and that hard.  You have to produce work and you have to do it on a consistent basis in order to keep the momentum going.

That means you have to be prolific.  And if you’re prolific, you’re writing fast.  And if you’re writing fast, you’re probably just churning out sub-standard crap, right?

Wrong.

If you think writing fast means writing crap, then take a look at the list below.  It’s a short list of novels and novellas that were written in less than six weeks.  None of which are crap.  If nothing else, this list demonstrates what writers are capable of doing in a short period of time if they truly want to.

Have a look at the list.  After that we’ll get into the quality vs quantity debate with a little help from Adam Grant, and his highly informative book, Originals.

 

***

brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark.  Spark wrote her celebrated novel in less than a month.  Yep, less than a month.  Originally published in 1961, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is based on Spark’s recollections of her own teacher, Christina Kay.

Running Man

The Running Man – Stephen King.  King knocked off The Running Man in less than a week.  Less than four days even!  Says the man himself: “The Running Man, for instance, was written during a period of seventy-two hours and published with virtually no changes.”

ACC

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens.  Dickens called this his “little Christmas book” and he started writing it in October 1843.  Six weeks later, the novella was finished in time for Christmas and from there it went on to pretty much invent the whole Christmas spirit thing.  And just in case you didn’t know – Dickens also self-published this book, overseeing every detail of publication until its release on December 19th, 1843.

ACC

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess.  Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange in three weeks.  He always dismissed this controversial novel as one of his poorer efforts and it pissed him off that out of all his books, this was the one everyone was still talking about, right up until his death in 1993.

007

The James Bond Books – Ian Fleming. It took Ian Fleming about six weeks to write each of the James Bond books.  Usually it was the same routine for the author – he’d fly down to Jamaica, set up his writing desk in Goldeneye (his private residence), and work there.  The rest of the time, I presume he had fun in the sun.  Not a bad old life Mr F.

road

The Road – Cormac McCarthy.  In 2004, Cormac McCarthy flew to Ireland for six weeks.  During his stay in the Emerald Isle, he wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road.  The project was originally inspired by a trip to El Paso with his son, but it was written during that single stint in Ireland.  As McCarthy said at the time, “It’s amazing what you can get done when there’s nothing else to do but write.”

 

***

Quantity = Quality?

Let’s go back to the matter of writing fast – of quality vs quantity.  A lot of people are under the assumption that if work is churned out quickly and regularly, then the churner-outer has little chance of producing great work.  Instead, the churner-outer is just a hack, producing inferior quality work to those ‘true artists’ who labour over a single or fewer pieces for many years.

But there’s a section in Adam Grant’s book Originals, which puts forth the idea that quantity is in fact, your best chance of producing quality.  I’m going to borrow a few passages from the book below.  Most of the information that I share comes from either David Simonton, a psychologist who has spent his career studying creative productivity, or from Grant himself.

Here are a few interesting titbits that might get you thinking.

Painting Your Masterpiece

How best to increase your odds of creating a masterpiece in any given field?  According to Simonton, “creative geniuses weren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers.  They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality.”

In plain speak for authors – that means to write, publish, and repeat (to borrow a phrase from the guys at The Self-Publishing Podcast).  But remember – you must do it without sacrificing quality.  Work fast, but work great – never release crap into the world or you risk ruining your reputation forever.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

But here’s the thing – don’t take ten years to write a novel unless your novel really needs ten years.  Ten years, five years, three years, is no assurance against writing garbage.  Time has got nothing to do with how good or bad a book turns out.

And by the way, don’t think for one second that I’m telling anyone how long it takes to write a novel or novella.  There is no set answer to that riddle.  This is aimed at those people who think it takes a long time to write a truly good book.  It doesn’t.  Quite simply, it takes however long or short it takes.

Shakespeare

The book goes on to list a few historical examples of people who produced a large body of work in their lifetime – only a fraction of which is truly memorable.  For example, there’s William Shakespeare.  Over the course of two decades he produced 37 plays and 154 sonnets.  Simonton looked at the five year window in which Shakespeare produced three of his five most popular plays – Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello – and observed that the playwright also wrote Timon of Athens and All’s Well That Ends Well in that same time period.  Simonton describes these last two as ‘among the worst of his plays…consistently slammed for unpolished prose and incomplete plot and character development.’

When we talk about excellence in creative writing we often use Shakespeare as the benchmark, even though much of what he produced wasn’t excellent at all.  Undoubtedly he achieved excellence, but this was aided by the fact that (a) he was talented and (b) he wrote and produced a large body of work.

The Composers

Some musical examples are listed in Originals:

Before dying at the age of thirty-five, Mozart had over 600 compositions to his name, but only a handful of them are considered as masterworks.

Same with Beethoven.  He produced about 650 pieces in his lifetime, but when the London Philharmonic Orchestra chose the fifty greatest pieces of classical music of all time, only five were Beethoven’s.

Three were by Bach, who composed over a thousand pieces in his lifetime.

Picasso

Picasso was crazy prolific.  In Originals, we’re informed that he created ‘more than 1,800 paintings, 1,200 sculptures, 2.800 ceramics, and 12,000 drawings, not to mention prints, rugs, and tapestries – only a fraction of which have garnered acclaim.’

Now Get To Work

There are other examples in the book – the poetry of Maya Angelou and the theories of Albert Einstein amongst them.  The point is the same.  These are talented people who increased their odds of creating something great by producing a large volume of work.

What to take from this?

Well, everybody’s different and certainly there’s no one size fits all in any given field.  But if you’re trying to write a great book, a great screenplay, paint a masterpiece, write the best song, or come up with the best ideas in whatever field you’re in – you could do a lot worse than be prolific.  Some of what you come up with will be shit, and lots of it probably worse than shit.  That’s okay.  Some of it might be alright, some of it good.  Then again, some of it might be great.

To quote ‘Originals‘ one last time.

‘It’s widely assumed that there’s a tradeoff between quantity and quality – if you want to do better work, you have to do less of it – but this turns out to be false.  In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.’

“The most important possible thing you could do,” says producer Ira Glass, “is do a lot of work.  Do a huge volume of work.”

Remember the list of books at the top of this post?  Look at what can be done in a relatively short period of time.  Truly great things.  You can work faster and better simply if you choose to.  Forget the old myth that quality means years and years of waiting.

Keep busy and produce, because apparently this increases your odds of greatness.

 

The London Riots: The Making of L-2011

 

If you’re a fan of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, then you’ll know there’s no shortage of possibilities as to how civilisation might one day pull the trigger on itself.

Nuclear disaster, plague, war, freak weather, something big from outer space crashing into Earth – and if you’re up for the supernatural too, then what about aliens, zombies and vampires?

Why not?

But there’s another trigger for the end of all things.  One that perhaps isn’t explored as much in film and literature – probably ‘cos it’s too close to the bone.

It’s the apocalypse that begins at home.  That is, destruction from within our own communities.

Riots, riots, riots.

Just like what happened in London, back in 2011.

 

The London Riots

L-2011 (Blog2)

There are some out there who’ll tell you that Mark Duggan’s death was the cause of the London riots.  In case you don’t know, 29-year-old Duggan was shot by police in Tottenham, North London, on August 4th 2011.  The details of Duggan’s last moments on Earth are sketchy, which made the circumstances of his death all the more controversial as some people wondered whether the police actually had to shoot him that day.  There’s a lot of info on this, so if you’re curious, here’s a short video with more on Duggan’s shooting.

But Duggan’s death wasn’t the real reason that people took to the streets in August 2011.  That goes way beyond the reach of a short blog post, but this much is certain – Mark Duggan’s death and the subsequent protest outside Tottenham police station two day later were inciting incidents – the sparks, but they were not the root cause.

It was just a bunch of yobs, thugs, vandals etc.  That’s what most people will say, and then they’ll leave it at that.

But it was more.  We’re talking big picture here.  It was more than just simple opportunism and the prospect of breaking into JJB Sports for a pair of fancy footwear.  A lingering frustration had been building up in these inner-city communities for many years.  After all, people don’t just wake up one day and suddenly decide to trash their own neighbourhood.

 One social commentator who was based in Brixton, South London, described these communities as ‘pressure cookers’. 

Others spoke of a longstanding resentment about the number of stop and searches conducted against black youths.

In many inner-city communities, local facilities were being shut down at an alarming rate, and whether or not you think the London rioters would otherwise have been playing ping-pong in youth clubs doesn’t matter.  By consistently closing down local facilities, the government are sending a message to the people who live in these areas.  And the message is this – they don’t care about you.  You simply don’t matter.

I’m not saying that there wasn’t opportunism and that the rioters were all working-class heroes fighting against the man.  Of course there were yobs, thugs, and scumbags aplenty during the London riots.  But you cannot leave it there, not if you’re truly searching for the ‘why?’

Anyway, I’m not here to dissect the sociology and the politics.  That’s a book you’re looking for.  If you’re interested in exploring the ‘whys’ surrounding the London riots, here are a couple of books I found useful while doing my own research for ‘L-2011’:

Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and Realities of the 2011 riotshere.

Reading the Riots: Investigating England’s Summer of Disorderhere.

Carla’s Story

So anyway – why did I end up writing an alternate history novel about the London riots?

A Facebook post.

This particular Facebook post was by a friend of mine, Carla Rees – who lived in Croydon during the riots.  One day she checked in on Facebook, but it wasn’t your average post.  She wanted to let everyone know that she was safe.  That she was in fact, still alive.  It came completely out of the blue and I remember my jaw dropping in astonishment as I read her words.

It turned out that Carla’s flat – located on London Road – had been burned down by rioters on the previous night and everything she owned was lost.  The good news?  Carla and her partner hadn’t been in the flat at the time.  The terrible news was that her two beloved cats and numerous musical instruments she used to make a living had been.  Not to mention all their other stuff.

I was shocked.  She’d lost everything and for what?  These things happen to other people, don’t they?  Not people that I actually know.  And one thing’s for sure, Carla didn’t deserve that.  She’s a lovely girl who I worked with when I was still a musician – in 2010 if I remember the year correctly.  She’s the type of girl who’d go out of her way to help anyone and this much is certain – she had nothing to do with government cuts or police harassment or any of the alleged reasons why the rioters were so pissed off back in early August 2011.

It didn’t make sense.

She just happened to live in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And that’s it.  Terrible, terrible luck.

Carla’s post made the London riots much more real to me.  And long after the rioting had actually stopped, it was still there stuck in my mind and I knew sooner or later, that I’d end up writing about it.

L-2011

L-2011 (Blog 3)

 

So here’s a quick rundown on how ‘L-2011’ (Future of London Series #1) came to be.

In 2011 (the year I began writing seriously), I wrote a post-apocalyptic short story called The Wall.  It was your typical post-apocalyptic yarn – the end of civilisation and technology and all that – and set in an unspecified and far-distant future.  Not an iPad in sight.  I used the London riots as my trigger for this post-apocalyptic/alternate history story – the trigger being, ‘what if the London riots hadn’t stopped?’

In 2013, I started converting the short story into a novel.

In 2015, I started inserting flashback scenes into the PA narrative.  By this point, I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing.

Somewhere along the way, these same flashback scenes became the story.  But the flashbacks were no longer flashbacks and instead, they turned into blogs, transcripts of news broadcasts, TV shows and YouTube videos – a 21st century epistolary novel if you like.  The PA narrative (The Wall) got sidelined and I started writing about a sixteen year old boy called Mack Walker, who along with his friend Sumo Dave, gets caught up in the London riots.  Mack and Sumo Dave’s story fitted nicely in between the 21st century epistolary bits.

My London riots story had come a long way and it was unrecognisable from the short story I started off with in 2011.  But thank God it was finally getting somewhere.

And by the way, if any of this rambling has made you interested, you can read the blurb for ‘L-2011’ here.

Streets of Oil

If nothing else, I hope the novel gets a few people talking about the London riots again.  The five year anniversary is coming up in August 2016, and it seems like nobody’s talking about the riots.

These days we’re more worried about radicalised Muslims or North Korea or Putin, or whether George RR Martin will ever finish the next book.

But it would be foolish to forget the London riots.  Dangerous too.

As Max Hastings said at the time:

“The depressing truth is that at the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. They do not have what most of use would call ‘lives’: they simply exist.”

People with nothing to lose are dangerous because to be frank, they don’t give a shit about consequences like the rest of us.  And there are thousands of them out there.  They have nothing to lose, or as sociologists might put it, they have no ‘stake in society’.

What does it all mean?  Simply put, it could happen again at any time.  As someone said after the 2011 riots, the streets of London are ‘still slicked with oil’.  And all it takes is another spark.

Fans of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, take note.

 

L-2011: The Blurb

The Revolution Will Be Televised, Retweeted And Liked.

August 2011.

The London riots – coordinated by technology and social media – have brought the city to its knees.

Historic buildings have been burned to the ground. Shops are looted, businesses and homes destroyed at random.

The politicians try to resolve the crisis, but the Houses of Parliament are no longer a match for the influence of the Internet, where two alternative leaders have emerged in an online battle for the future soul of London.

Chester George – a masked man whose real identity is unknown, uses YouTube, punk rock and fierce intellect to spread the anarchy.

Sadie Hobbs – reality TV star and blogger. Loathed and controversial, she urges ‘normal’ society to fight back against Chester George and the ‘feral rats’ destroying the city.

The fate of London hangs in the balance. And when the day of reckoning comes, hundreds of thousands of people – including sixteen-year-old Mack Walker – will descend upon the city for the final showdown – and a day that London will never forget.

L-2011 is released on May 20th.

Jesus Was A Punk/A Lament For Original Thinkers/And Other Non-SEO Friendly Titles

 

When punk rock exploded onto the music scene in the mid-seventies, anybody could smash out three chords and call themselves a band.

How cool is that?

The Ramones and The Sex Pistols turned the musical establishment upside down, flushing its fat, bloated, overindulgent head down the toilet pan.  Gone was the legend of the unattainable, mythical rock star looking down upon the little people from the heights of their lofty perch.  Suddenly it was all about those little people instead – about you and your spotty mates and what you could do to change the world.  You – yes you – could be in a band, even if you couldn’t tell one end of a Fender Stratocaster from another.  Because even if you weren’t particularly talented, you still had every right to make your voice heard.

Who’d have thought?

But that was the beauty of punk rock.  It was an original thing.  That’s why in its early days, it truly was a revolution of its own making.  It shook the world and rightly so.

But what do we mean by ‘punk’?

Is it aggressive guitar music?  A Mohican haircut?  What about safety pins, razor blade bracelets, studs, pins, badges, or any other fashion accessory for that matter?

No, that’s the ‘rock’ bit see?

Punk has nothing to do with fashion.  It has nothing to do with music either.

What is Punk?

Punk is an attitude.  It’s anti-conformity, anti-establishment and all those things.  It’s about originality and going this way when everybody else is going that way.  It’s what we all want to be.  It’s what we say we’re going to be when we’re young and idealistic, but then ‘reality’ and ‘necessity’ interfere with our lives and we give in and tragically, our inner punks slowly die of boredom.

Historical examples of punk

Guess what?  Jesus was a punk.  Yes he was.  In Mark Johnson’s book, Seditious Theology: Punk and the Ministry of Jesus, he emphasises the disdain that Jesus had for the religious leaders of the day.  He compares this to the punk rockers of the seventies and their own “confrontational anger towards the hypocrisy of the leaders of a nation and their moral bankruptcy”.  Let’s not forget that Jesus was a seriously confrontational guy.  A true original and yes, it’s hard to equate all that with the portrait of the gentle white hippy that you see splattered over church windows.

The inventor of the wheel = Punk.  Original thinking.

The early Abolitionist Movement in the 1830s.  Punks.

When Rosa Lee Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to white people on December 1st 1955, not only did she break the existing segregation laws and bolster the Civil Rights Movement – she also showed the world what a seriously bad-ass punk she was.

The young Elvis Presley was a punk.  Hips that changed the world.

This guy below – August Landmesser – refusing to salute and show allegiance to the Nazi Party in 1936.  Quite rightly he’s become the Internet poster boy for not giving a fuck.  Talk about ballsy.  Talk about original.  And talk about punk.

 

A lone man refusing to do the Nazi salute, 1936

 

Punk is not loud guitars and mohicans.  What it is, is true expression.  It’s who you are deep deep down and best of all, it’s anti-bullshit in our bullshit drenched times.

Punk is 100% authentic.  100% original.

Indie Publishing

Indie publishing – at least in the digital age – is a modern innovation that initially inherited the DIY and DIYW (Do It Your Way) spirit of punk.

Its growth was (and is) a reaction to the status quo of traditional publishing.  Just like punk rock in the mid-seventies was a reaction to the sheer wanky pretentiousness of Rod Stewart prancing around the stage in a pair of leopard skin trousers.

Likewise, the rise of indie publishing was a reaction to the limitations of traditional publishing.  Amazon unleashed KDP in 2007.  Mark Coker founded Smashwords in 2008.  Authors had the ability to offer their work directly to readers and not a handful of business people who presumed to know what readers did and did not want to read.  Writers were empowered.  Readers were empowered.

And things have never been the same since.

The Mainstream

For a while, it was truly punk.  But indie publishing isn’t punk anymore.  It’s pretty much become a mainstream pursuit these days, which isn’t a bad thing – it just means a LOT of people are publishing independently now.

Like many readers, I get a large dose of the latest book deals in my inbox every day –  99p deals, free deals, that kind of thing.  Now lot of these books are by indie authors and here’s one of the major reasons that indie isn’t punk anymore.

Far too many indie books are just pale imitations of another franchise.

Here’s one example.

There are a shitload of writers out there trying to replicate the Lee Child thing.  That is, they’re trying to do what Lee Child has done with the Jack Reacher character.  They’re writing a fast-paced thriller about the former secret services loner guy with the bad ass combat skills who moves from place to place helping people.  It seems like every other day, I see THAT cover with the former secret services loner guy with the bad ass combat skills standing in the middle of the road/desert/street or whatever.  Moody, dark, but completely unoriginal.

And don’t even start me on the gazillions of Fifty Shades erotica rip-offs out there.  Holy shit!  I’m talking about books so blatantly unoriginal that the covers are almost identical to Fifty Shades.  These books might as well be called Thirty-Eight Shades of Marigold and have done with it.

Please believe me – I’m not trying to be a dick.  You might think I am, but really I’m not.  You might say that’s what we love to write and who are you to judge us Mark – you dick!

And you’d be right!

If that’s the kind of book you absolutely love to write then do it.  If your heart tells you to do it – then do it.  You absolutely have to be happy with what you’re writing and if that’s your thing, then do your thing.  Life is too short so be happy and write what you want.

But…

I do think that too many writers out there are chasing the market.  Too many writers are caught up in trying to be smart businessmen/women and as a result of market chasing and following trends, there’s a lack of original ideas out there.  There is.  Truly, imitation and cashing in on someone else’s idea seems to be the modern way.

It’s Happening on TV!

Look at all the bland and uninspired reality TV shows constantly cropping up on network TV.  Here in Australia it’s a fucking joke and every time an advert for My Celebrity Kitchen Reality Wife Swap (or whatever they’re called) comes on, I wish – oh I wish – I could be like Elvis and shoot the TV.

Bang.

Where are all the original ideas?  Where are the twisted minds?  I know they’re out there somewhere.  Tell me where can I find a truly inspired television show like Red Dwarf these days?  Remember that?  A masterpiece with original content and top notch writing.  Where are all the great sitcoms?  Or shows like The Prisoner.  If they’re anywhere, they’re nowhere near the networks because the networks are too busy churning out the same old reality dross, which is designed to shock just for the sake of reeling viewers in.

No wonder Netflix and Amazon Prime are chewing up the networks.

And don’t even get me started on what the film industry is doing with all these 80s remakes.  Lazy unadventurous bastards cashing in on the past, instead of investing and nurturing fresh writing talent.

Back To Indies

In the case of indie authors, so many are enamoured of self-publishing success stories and riding the bandwagon of a certain genre/character/formulaic plot style.  The thinking is that because Hugh Howey or E.L. James sold millions of copies writing dystopian fiction or erotica that they will too.

For better of for worse, they’re thinking like businesspeople.  Yes, marketing your work is important, of course, but it should be the lesser part of your writing career.  The art, remember the art!  Everybody wants to sell you the secrets of book marketing, but I don’t see any Facebook ads reminding you to flex your imagination once in a while.

Authors – indie, trad or hybrid – just write a truly great story.  Write your story and not a rehash of something else (unless it’s a cool mash-up or an inspired modern take on a classic).

Here’s what I love (for what it’s worth).  I love the truly original ideas.   Perhaps it’s the reason I love alternate histories so much because here’s a genre that truly encourages the use of the author’s imagination and original thinking – what if?

The Author’s Legacy

Because when all is said and done and you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil and the money thing is irrelevant, it’s your work that will live on.  Your art is your legacy, not your marketing skills or your craftiness, or your ability to follow fleeting trends.

Even if just one person – maybe in the year 2347 – stumbles across your book long after you’re gone, it’d better be a good book.  Because with the passing of time, it’ll become obvious to Mr and Mrs Future Reader if you were just a pale imitation of another writer, writing books you thought would sell in a long since obsolete fashion…

…or whether you were a true original.

Great art outlives us.  It outlives our grandchildren too.  So of course, think about your pockets, the practicalities and the marketing side of things – nobody’s saying that isn’t important, but for God’s sake don’t just write a book to imitate fads or trends because you think you’ll strike the jackpot.

You can do better than that.   It might not make you rich – but then again, it might.  The point is, nobody really knows what they’re doing here – not one ‘indie author expert’ or ‘publishing guru’ out there has a clue what’s going to be the next big thing in the land of books.

Original ideas are what will make you immortal.  So by all means – put food on the table, but try at least to be a little bit great too, okay?

Remember you’re an artist, more so than a businessman/woman.

Be original.

Because that’s the punk spirit.  That’s what it means to be a punk.  To do something that nobody else has done and to write something that nobody else has written.  That nobody else would dare write.

To invent the wheel all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Convert More Website Visitors Using Remarketing

 

As we all know by now, being an indie author is about more than just writing books.  It’s about selling them too.  And something else we’re finding out is that marketing is way more than just popping up on social media now and then and screaming ‘BUY MY BOOK!!!!!!’

Selling books is an art in itself.  And it can be daunting to those who have little or no experience of marketing.

Writers need help.  And that’s okay.

So here’s a little help.

Posting today (and back by popular demand!) is the digital marketing expert in the family – Robert Gillespie.  This time he’s here with an introduction to remarketing and how we can use it as a strategy to convert visitors to our website and ultimately sell more books.

Hope you enjoy.

Mark

 

How To Convert More Website Visitors Using Remarketing

It’s every website owner’s dream…

…someone visits your website, they browse a few pages then take the desired action you want.

Success with Remarketing

That desired action could be the purchase of a product, signing up for your email list, registering for an event and so on…

But that’s not reality I’m afraid. For most it remains a dream.

In fact, on average around 93% of your website visitors won’t take the action you are hoping for – even if you have the best converting website on the planet.

But it’s not all bad news…help is at hand.

You see, there’s a new digital marketing superhero that’s appeared in recent years called ‘remarketing’.

And one of remarketing’s key benefits is to help convert prospects who’ve visited your website previously…

…but haven’t take the desired action you wanted them to so far.

A friendly superhero I hope you agree!

Let’s dig in and learn some more about remarketing…

What Is Remarketing and What is The Big Opportunity?

Well for most of you reading this, you will have been ‘remarketed’ to before, I’m pretty sure of that.

Have you ever thought it was just a coincidence the ads you saw in your Facebook news feed were identical to the products you were looking at only minutes earlier on Amazon?

As you’re about to find out it’s no coincidence those ads appeared in your Facebook news feed – or as a banner ad at the top or sides of millions of websites.

You see, those ads were placed there on purpose using what’s called remarketing.

And one of remarketing’s aims is to entice you back to a website you have previously visited…but this time they want you to come back and take the desired action they hoped you would have taken previously.

And when remarketing is done right, the website owner has a much better chance of achieving their objective.

Remarketing Is Powerful…

I mentioned earlier that on average 93% of visitors to your website will not take the desired action you want them to.

That doesn’t mean they never will.

Some people just need warmed up before putting their trust in you.

Realise that it’s very hard to convert a ‘cold audience’ on a first or even a second visit.

trust me

YOU MUST HAVE PATIENCE!

And just for the record I refer to a ‘cold audience’ as someone who doesn’t know or trust your business…yet.

Think about dating and marriage for a minute…

You don’t usually ask someone to marry you on the first date!

Normally you would engage with them a little, get to know them, like them, trust them…warm them up so to speak.

marryme

Only after a little while do you then ask for marriage.

I’m sure you’ll agree you have a much better chance of your marriage proposal being accepted after you’ve dated for just a little while at least!

And that’s how remarketing can help your business too…it allows you to give value to your audience first, build trust and providing value before going in for the proposal i.e. the desired action you hope they will take.

Example: Remarketing In The Travel Industry…

Say you’re looking to book a holiday in Mallorca, Spain.

You like the look of a resort called Cala d’Or which just so happens to be a personal favourite of mine 😉

Next, you decide to visit your favourite travel website and start looking around at a few hotels.

You start comparing prices, facilities and so on…the usual stuff…but you decide to leave the website to look elsewhere without completing an enquiry form or actually purchasing a holiday.

Very unhappy website! You haven’t taken the desired action that they had hoped for…

The next thing you know though, you’re on Facebook catching up with some friends and BAM

…right in the middle of your news feed you see an ad promoting the very hotel you were looking it only a few minutes ago!

Jet2 Remarketing

The image above is the remarketing ad for Jet2.com that appeared in my Facebook news feed only 2 minutes after I left their website without booking…

It’s the exact hotel I was looking at and it contains an offer to entice me to come back and book now!

And if Facebook is not your thing, the same kind of remarketing ads can also be displayed as banner ads on your favourite websites.

Again, a few minutes after leaving the Jet2.com website without booking I was browsing a sports related website I go to from time to time…and what do you think appeared in the corner of the page…

…yes you guessed it…a remarketing ad for the exact same hotel I was just looking at!

Jet2 Banner Ad

 

Now, maybe you’ll ignore the ad because you are busy, but when it appears again in a few days or even 10 days later when maybe you have the time to go back and have a look at their latest holiday deals…

…you just might take the desired action they want and book that holiday!

And that’s the big opportunity that’s available to you when using remarketing.

REMARKETING HELPS BOOST CONVERSIONS.

* * *

How Remarketing Works…

Here’s a nice graphic to visually explain how remarketing works before I give you a real life example and then show you how to set this up for yourself.

remarketing ads

Step 1 – Prospect visits your website

Step 2 – A little tracking cookie is automatically placed on your browser by the website

Step 3 – Prospect leaves without taking desired action

Step 4 – Your ad promoting your desired action is then shown to those visitors all over the web including Facebook and millions of websites

How To Set Up Remarketing In 3 Simple Steps…

 

Ok, so hopefully you see by now the big benefits to using Remarketing in your business…but how do we set this up?

In this section I’m going to show you how to do this with Facebook in 3 simple steps.

Here we go…

Step 1 – Build your audience.

When I say build your audience, this is the group of people you want to target with your remarketing ad in the future.

To do this you first need to go to the ‘Audiences’ section within your ‘Ads Manager’.

Now remember, I use the Power Editor version of Facebook Ads so your page may look slightly different to what you see below, so don’t worry. (You can learn more about Power Editor in this post I wrote)

However you manage your Facebook Ads, you will find the audiences option fairly easily one way or another.

Audiences

Once you click on ‘Audiences’ you will be taken to an option that allows you to build out your custom audience…

Custom Audiences

As you can see, it’s telling you that this action will help you connect with people who have already shown an interest in your business or product.

So click ‘Create A Custom Audience’ and you will see the following…

Create Custom Audience

Next select ‘Website Traffic’ and you will see the image below…this is where you choose how you want to build your audiences.

Web Traffic

As you can see, you can build your audiences based on those who visit a specific page on your website, or a set of specific pages on your website. The choice here is yours.

Audience Build

You then specify the page or pages in question, or just keywords from the URL’s if you use certain words on multiple URL’s. In the example below, all URL’s with the word Majorca in it would form part of my website custom audience.

URL Options

It’s advisable to build your individual audiences based on specific web pages they have visited so you can place a more targeted remarketing offer in front of that audience.

For example…

If you had a cooking related website, and a whole bunch of people had visited a page that talked about vegetarian food, you could build an audience based around them, and then remarket to them by showing an ad for a vegetarian receipe book on their Facebook news feed.

That would work much better than putting a meat based recipe book in front of them…

Get it?

So just for clarity, you would build an audience based solely on those who have visited pages specifically related to vegetarian topics.

And a great feature here is you also have a choice to decide how up to date your audience list is at any moment in time. It defaults to 30 days, which means it will keep the audience list populated based on a rolling 30 day period.

Pixel Options Timeframe

I’ll cover the importance of this time frame at the end of the post so don’t worry about it for now.

Finally name your list in a way that is memorable to you.

That’s step 1 complete.

Step 2 – Installing Your Pixel

 

After completing step 1, you will see an image similar to the one below:

Pixel Install

Basically you need to install a small piece of code onto your website. This pixel or code is what helps cookie the visitors browser so we can build our audiences.

Don’t worry about this. If you have a WordPress blog there are numerous plugins that can help you do this without any technical skills.

If you don’t have any technical skills whatsoever, go to sites like Fiverr and pay someone $5 to install it for you.

Fiverr

Don’t let technical issues stop you from starting the remarketing process.

Ok, let’s move on…

You need to go back to your main menu now and look under ‘Assets’ for the ‘Pixels’ option.

Pixels

Once you get into the pixels section you should see something like the following:

Pixel Code

As you can see, there are options to ‘View Pixel Code’ or ‘Email Pixel Code’.

If you want to install the code yourself – view the code, copy it and add it to your website.

If you want to pay someone to do it, email the code to them or just copy it from the previous steps and send it to them on Fiverr.

Job done.

***Quick tip – If you are using Google Chrome you can add a free Chrome extension called ‘Facebook Pixel Helper’ which tells you whether a specific webpage has a pixel installed and if it is working properly.***

Here’s what it looks like when I was on the Fiverr website earlier:

Pixel Success

Step 3 – Creating Your Ad

 

Now that your pixel has been installed, Facebook will automatically start building your audience(s) as visitors land on the pages you’ve designated in step 1.

All you need to do now is create the ad that will appear in front of your audience.

I’ve written about the Ad Creation process in a lot of detail before in a previous blog post, so to get the full details about Ad Creation go here

However…

…I’m going to point out one minor difference when it comes to creating a remarketing ad instead of a standard ad.

And the main change comes at this point of Ad Creation when you are selecting your audience…

Custom Audience

In the image above, the first box says ‘Custom Audiences’…in there you will type in the name of the audience you have just been building.

So for example…

…on a website I run that blogs about shaving, I’ve been building a custom website audience based on those visiting a page which talks about old fashioned safety razors…see below.

Website custom audience

As you can see my audience starts to appear as I start typing, and on the right hand side it gives me an indication of how many people are in my audience.

Just continue on with your ad creation following the steps in my other blog and you will do great.

And that’s it. You’re now a remarketer!

Now I could have finished up here, but before I go, I wanted to give you a little bonus section showing you a few tips on how to get the most out of remarketing!

Ready?

bonus

 

Bonus: 5 Ways To Use Remarketing ‘Properly’…

 

1 – Give Value First, Before Asking…

Like I touched on earlier, it’s much easier to convert people who know, like and trust you.

So even if the visitor doesn’t take the action you want them to on their first visit, as long as you’ve made a good initial impression, given value or simply educated or entertained…

…you’ll have done your job of warming up your cold audience.

Giving value first could come from an amazing article you’ve written, an entertaining video you’ve produced…or it could be via a free chapter of your book. Something that just gives without asking. And you may need to give value a few times before someone takes action.

So by the time your audience sees your remarketing ad in the future they are much more likely to pay attention to it –  and as a result they are much more likely to take the action you want them to.

2 – Your Offer Needs To Make Sense…

You want to make sure the offer you make via remarketing is congruent with the content they have been exposed to so far.

willis meme

Keep it simple.

Reference what they’ve seen already. Remember the vegetarian example earlier?

Same could apply to my shaving website.

If someone has been looking at shaving creams on my website and becomes part of my ‘Shaving Cream Audience’…I’m much more likely to remarket to them with an offer about shaving creams than shaving razors.

Here’s an example from Ebay in the image below…I was looking at these very boots on Ebay, and then a few hours later I was remarketed with a reminder to ‘Take another look!’

Ebay Remarketing

Note the perfect copy as well…

…it totally makes sense as they know I have visited this page before. If I had not visited the page before…’Take another look’ would not make sense.

3 – Allocate 10% of Your Total Budget to Remarketing…

This is a quick one…whatever your total marketing budget is for Facebook, allocate 10% of it to remarketing.

4 – Choose Your Audience Timeframe Carefully…

Remember this section from earlier when I talked about building your audience?

Pixel Options Timeframe

You might think you want to keep your audiences for as long as possible, so the numbers are bigger, but that’s not smart in reality.

You want to choose a timeframe that makes sense for your product or service.

Here’s 2 quick examples to make my point:

A – If you had a website that sold cars…

…you’d probably know the average timeframe from someone researching to purchasing a new car was say 90 days. I’m just making up numbers here!

So maybe you’d want your audience to roll for 90 days so you can still remarket to someone 84 days after they first became part of your audience as that’s when they are most likely to be making a purchasing decision.

Just so you know…

You can if you want create multiple audiences and call them ‘Car Audience 7 Days’, ‘Car Audience 14 Days’ and so on…that way you can do lot’s of sexy things with your ads and copy at different times!

B – Let’s use Ebay again as my second example…

I’ve been looking at those shoes again I showed you earlier and it’s a 14 day auction.

Clearly then, Ebay want to build smaller timeframe audiences as having a 180 day old audience is pointless as the shoes will be gone in 14 days…

So they might create a 3 day audience and a 7 day audience and maybe tweak the urgency of the copy as time moves on.

There’s lots you can do here, but I hope this gives you food for thought when it comes to choosing your audience timeframes.

5 – Just START Building An Audience…

For me it’s all about starting…you just need to start!

Even if you don’t have a remarketing offer right now, go ahead and set up a basic audience of everyone who visits your website and get that pixel installed.

That way you’ll know if everything is working and you’ll start to see your first audience being built.

For example, here’s my generic audience I’ve built for everyone who visits my website:

Web Audience

As you can see, it’s based around everyone who has visited URL’s containing my main domain name over the last 180 days.

A little bit of a tangent here…

But generally I use this audience to promote new content to instead of remarketing. So if I have a new blog post that I want past visitors to know about, I will create an ad promoting the content and show it to this audience.

Remember what I said in tip #1 about giving value a few times before asking for something in return?

Still got questions about remarketing? Unsure about the technical setup of remarketing or want to know how you can apply it in your own business or industry?

Whatever your question fire it into the comments below and I will personally respond within 24 hours!

13 Must Know Tips For A Successful Business Page

 

Further to the ‘Ten Facebook Advertising Tips For Writers‘ post that I put up a couple of months back, here’s a handy wee graphic from the folks at both Gherchic and Quill.

These days, as well as being an outstanding place to post cat photos, Facebook is an important tool for writers in the process of building their author brand.  Given the sheer popularity of Facebook, your author page (and I’m sure you have one of those) is one of the most important platforms that you can use to help build your audience.

Have a look at the graphic.  It’s got some nice reminders about the etiquette of using Facebook as a business platform.

 

Click to Enlarge Image

13 Must-Know Tips For a Successful Facebook Business Page

13 Must-Know Tips For a Successful Facebook Business Page
Infographic by Quill