Targeted Following

All of us know that we get followers who are not really followers. They are trying to sell stuff.

This is getting worse, at least as far as my blog is concerned. Here are a few examples. I have not included links to their blogs, as I refuse to give them any publicity.

1) I write a post about acne in old age. It was a reblog from years ago, and I don’t have it any longer.

Next thing I know, I have two new followers. Neither of the blog names suggest anything remotely concerning selling, so I check them out.
One is selling ‘remedies’ for acne, and the other selling miracle cures for any skin complaint. These are 21st century snake oil salesmen.

2) I write a post about my wife having tests to see if she has breast cancer. I get an email from a new follower urging me to check out his site. It concerns the sale of some magical formula made from something like mushrooms. You can bet I spammed the blog comment they tried to leave too.

3) In my alphabet series, I wrote about how much I am disgusted by most forms of hunting, especially trophy hunting.
Tonight, I get a new ‘follower’ whose site is advertising the latest in telescopic sights for hunting rifles, slings to carry them with, and cases to keep them in.

This is the bad side of blogging, and I really don’t like it.

I won’t put ‘Followers’ on my list of things I don’t like though, as most of you are wonderful of course!

Self-Publishing Basics

More essential advice for anyone thinking of publishing their own book. This is clearly explained, and offers free tips in the correct sequence.

Read carefully! 🙂

Nicholas C. Rossis

Linda Cartwright | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's bookThis is a guest post by Linda Cartwright. Linda is an educator and a writer on the verge of coming out as an independent author after years of freelancing and ghost-writing. Her darkest secret is that writing is only her second favorite thing to do… after reading. You can follow Linda on Twitter.

In preparation for her own book launch, Linda has been studying self-publishing basics. She’s sharing here what she’s discovered so far, from choosing the right publishing platform to creating a killer book cover.

Self-Publishing Basics

Writing | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

We shall come from a presumption that your book is great. You thought of a good story, you were tenacious enough to write it, this baby is ready to see the world. We are not talking about writing a book worth reading, we are talking about how to self-publish it in a way that people will want to read it.

Also, since…

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The Internet: Compulsive Buying

I almost bought something I didn’t need this morning. It was on my Amazon Wish List, and they sent me a suggestion email, that I might like to go ahead with the purchase,

Perhaps like many other people, I frequently add things to my wish list on Amazon, just to remind myself that I like those items, and may wish to buy them in the future. Unfortunately, Amazon is a marketing wonder, so constantly reminds me about items I have added, especially if they have sightly reduced in price.

I was almost mesmerised into adding the item to ‘My basket’, when I remembered that I would have to spend £20, to qualify for ‘Free delivery’. That in itself is misleading of course, as I have no doubt that Amazon has already factored any delivery costs into their pricing plan. But to add something extra in order to reach that magical £20 mark is indeed compulsive.

Buying with ‘One Click’ with Amazon online is so easy now. They have my account details, my delivery address details, and my payment details. Just click ‘Buy Now’, and the transaction happens so seamlessly, the confirmation email has already arrived in my inbox. I can actually feel ‘happy’, that the sale has gone though without a hitch. How crazy is that?

The end result, is that by my own admission, I constantly buy stuff that I do not need. DVD films to add to a pile that I might never watch, Kindle books added to a list that I can hardly keep up with already. Then there are the home and kitchen gadgets, that look so effective in the short videos. In reality, I could do most of those tasks with a sharp kitchen knife. But Amazon is very clever. Much cleverer than I am. They make it look not only easy, but essential. Amazon has me enthralled and captivated.

On the plus side, I am aware of this mercantile snake charmer, so unlikely to be seduced.

So why does it keep happening, I wonder?

It’s starting already

As everyone knows, yesterday was the first of October.

Of course, it immediately started with a vengeance. I received emails for Halloween ‘specials’. A flyer came through the door, advertising a local supermarket. Pumpkins were on sale, and already reduced.

Some bloggers were starting early too, mentioning special ‘scary’ film posts, building up to the supposed wonder of Halloween.

Then I went out late afternoon, to do my usual ‘big shop’. I could have been very confused. I may well have believed it was already the 30th, not the 1st. Costumes on sale, alongside socks with pumpkins on them, tights with skulls printed on them; witches’ hats, plastic brooms, and tubs of sweets for trick or treat. Once I got to the food aisles, I discovered a new phenomenon, ‘Halloween Food’. It seems that multi-packs of sausages, large boxes of oven-ready nibbles, and various designs of chicken bites, are all now required eating on the 31st.

The long confectionery section was also laden with ‘special’ boxes and packets. The same old sweets and biscuits, their wrappers in fancy dress, to cash in on Halloween. Obviously, a chocolate wafer biscuit is more appealing if it has a cartoon pumpkin on the wrapper, dressed as a witch. That makes them taste better, I’m sure.

OK, I am an old grump, and I hate Halloween. For someone of my age, in England, it is relatively new, and did not feature here at all, until I was in my late thirties.
But come on, consumers. Are you really going to keep falling for this crap every year?

Sadly, I suspect you are.

Black Rubbish

Unless you don’t have a computer or a TV, or perhaps you are a hermit living in a cave, then you will know that tomorrow is ‘Black Friday’. I was also told today that it is ‘Grey Thursday’, and we all know that next Monday is going to be referred to as ‘Cyber Monday’.

So what is all of this nonsense about? It is another unwanted and unnecessary import from the USA, driven by online retail companies, and later picked up by shops and stores all over the country. Lauded as the days of the best possible discount shopping all year, we are seeing advertised bargains stated to be as much as 75% less than the price of the same item yesterday.

But please don’t be fooled. Many of these ‘must-have items’ are in fact different models to the ones you may well have been thinking about buying. Last year’s model, outdated and superseded. Old stock from warehouses, goods unsold on shop floors, and unpopular items bought in to take advantage of the buying frenzy. Even most of the genuine items are not actually cheaper. Which Magazine, the consumer’s friend, has revealed that over 60% of advertised ‘Black Friday Deals’ were actually cheaper in the weeks leading up to the promotion.

People who have perfectly serviceable goods, working televisions, and recent model washing machines, will be tempted to buy new ones, based on these apparently fantastic bargains. That will leave tens of thousands of unwanted items destined for scrap or landfill, adding to the mountains of non-recyclable rubbish this country is already sinking under.

Please, please, don’t fall for it. Just keep your cards in their wallets or purses, and resist the urge to click ‘Add to basket’ online. It’s a hype, a con, a marketing ploy, and it just isn’t true. All it will succeed in doing is getting those who can least afford it into more debt, and adding a huge pile of garbage to the existing mountains of the stuff.

Remember, Black Friday = Black Rubbish. Be strong, and refuse to be fooled.

Internet marketing: More evidence

We must have all seen it. Make any search online, and pretty soon those pop-up advertisements will appear on your email sidebars, or on other websites that you frequent. You will likely receive emails from suppliers of those products too, as well as all those ‘buying suggestions’ from the likes of Amazon.

There has been a lot of discussion about the topic of Internet Privacy recently. I think it is safe to assume that there has never been any. The ubiquitous ‘Cookies’ know their stuff, and everything we do is tracked, down to the most obscure search. Have a look at your Spam folder on WordPress, for example. When I bought some toys for our grandson, the Spam started to include offers for things like stair gates. After I searched online for wood stain to be used on exterior woodwork, I received many Spam emails about new fencing, garden gates, and spray-painting devices.

I suppose it comes down to the old adage that if you are doing nothing wrong, then you have nothing to fear. The problem is, what is considered to be wrong? When I do research on ISIS or other organisations for a blog post, does that flag me as a terrorist suspect? If I look into the rise of Nazi Germany to get background for a short story, do I become associated with the Far Right? Once we log on to our computers, write emails, blog posts, or do any Internet searches at all, we open up the inner workings of our minds to anyone who cares to look, or to buy that information from others.

Some people believe that by using complicated software, they can conceal their activities from the ‘seekers’. They also use non-Microsoft platforms, and never use search engines like Google. They have ‘encrypted’ emails, and even go so far as to subscribe to redirected servers, in the hope of hiding their location. Trouble is, we all need one basic tool to access the Web. A phone line. Once you plug that into the back of your router, you have no control over what is monitored on it.

So, stop worrying about it, I suppose. It is intrusive, it can be annoying, and not unlike someone being able to have installed an implant in your head. The only way to avoid it is to unplug your computer, and throw it away. And it doesn’t seem likely that we are going to do that, does it?

On a lighter note, you may recall the two posts I published earlier about The Beetley Bra?
If any of you doubt that the Internet is monitored, look no further than the email I received today.

Free books, and marketing

As I have said before, I like to consider myself to be a ‘committed’ blogger. When I can, I post tips and advice for new bloggers, and hopefully add to the wealth of information provided free of charge by so many others. In return, I have access to countless other similar posts, as well as receiving some useful advice and instructional details by email.

I have always thought that it is important to support other bloggers too. I have donated to charities, given to causes and fund-raisers, and I have also bought quite a few e-books written by people I follow. If anyone seeks advice, I will throw my hat into the ring to try to help them, even if I am not always able to provide the right answers. OK, enough about me, what am I on about then?

I recently took up the offer of a free e-book. This was featured on another blog, by way of a re-blog, and was a general promotion of a new novel from a prolific writer. When it arrived, it wasn’t really my sort of thing. I started to read it, then decided that I was unlikely to finish it, or to be able to give a positive review. There was nothing wrong with the content or style, it was just not a genre that appeals to me. Fair enough then. Some you win, some you lose. No harm done. I did it to help, so I believed.

However, since agreeing to take that free book from one author, I have been inundated with emails (well, three or four a day at least) from all sorts of writers I have never heard of. They offer me more free books in the same genre, and discounted books in other weird and wonderful genres. When I don’t take the offers advertised, they email me to ask why I haven’t done so. I feel that I have stepped into some sort of book-marketing machine that refuses to release me from its grip.

Now before you all reply, telling me that I have the option to unsubscribe, I already know.

I suppose what I am saying to authors, is that by bombarding helpful bloggers with endless emails and promotional blurbs, you are merely serving to alienate a potential audience, at least in my case. If I have not reviewed a book, it might just be because I didn’t like it. I could take the other route, and give it a bad review based on personal preferences, but I am not that sort of person. So I will be unsubscribing, and thinking twice before taking any such free offers in the future.

I still wish you luck with your writing, and success too of course.

Nicholas Rossis: His new site

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Nicholas Rossis is a very nice guy. Good looking too, as you can see from his photo above. He is now based back in his home city of Athens, but spent some time in the UK, so his command of English is second to none. He is a published author, and has won awards too. His science fiction sagas have a legion of fans, and his short story collections make for great reading. As well as writing and blogging, he goes out of his way to promote new work by other authors on the Internet, and provides the readers of his blog with numerous tips about publishing and marketing.

He has now branched out, and has a great new website. As well as all the previously mentioned goodies, he can now professionally publish your work, for a reasonable fee, or help you set up that cool website you have always dreamed of. Other than as a fellow-blogger, and a considerate gentleman, I have no personal connection to Nicholas. But I unreservedly recommend both his writing and his new professional services to anyone remotely interested in getting the best from blogging or publishing.
Here is a taster of his new website, and I have added a link, so that you can view it in all its glory.

New Website, Web Design Services and Other News
Sep 7, 2016 | My Work
It’s alive | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children’s books
I hope you like my blog’s new design, which aims to be more user-friendly and accessible on various devices. Without going into any design details, its main advantage is offering content a wider space. It uses Elegant Theme’s popular Divi theme, which comes with a number of goodies that you and I will discover together in due course.
Another goal of the redesign was to introduce you to the web design services offered by my company, Istomedia. Founded in 1995 in Edinburgh, it has since developed over 450 websites throughout the world, including the US and various European countries. One of our publishing-specific websites is JS Marx, which offers a variety of author services. You can check out Istomedia’s experience on the company website.

Istomedia Publishing

You may also notice another logo there; that of Istomedia Publishing. Istomedia specializes in web development, but I have also formed Istomedia Publishing as a publishing house through which to publish my own works. Although this was done at first primarily for tax reasons, I also enjoy the professionalism of this approach.
So, when my author friend MM Jaye asked if I’d be interested in publishing her latest book, I agreed. This got me thinking, that here may be others who are looking for a similar service, which means I’m open to discussing it with anyone interested in such a collaboration.

Book Marketing Advice

As you know, I have always made all of my tips and discoveries relating to book marketing available for free on this blog, and I promise to continue doing so. However, some of you need some extra help. For example, you may have your hands full and lack the time to organize an ad campaign. You may be overwhelmed by book marketing in general. Or you may be simply looking for a friendly chat with someone who can help you clear things in your head and organize your next move.
Whichever your need, feel free to contact me to arrange one-to-one consultation via Skype or Facebook chat. Please keep in mind that this will be a paid service priced at $30 per hour, as I sadly lack the time to do this for free (and Mary-Nathalie goes through diapers at an alarming rate).
Other News

In other news, I am about to publish two books in the coming days: my fourth collection of short stories titled You’re in for a Ride, and Emotional Beats (which you may remember from this post). If anyone is interested in a free review copy, just let me know and I’ll be more than happy to send you one along your way!

New Website, Web Design Services and Other News

Halloween- Scmalloween

What is all this fuss about Halloween? Does anybody remember when it all started here? Shops full of pumpkins, devil-suits, and tridents; parties with fancy-dress themes, gangs of kids wandering about, begging for sweets. I certainly have no memory of it, in London at least, until about 1990. It is yet another unwanted American import, alongside baseball caps, (Who knows the rules? Come on, tell me.) rap music, and McDonald’s. Driven by the Marketing Men, Supermarkets, and Television, desperate to fill the gap between Summer holidays, and Christmas.

Why do we always fall for this rubbish so easily?  Is there no tradition that cannot be sold on, re-packaged for British taste, and successfully marketed, until nobody remembers a time before it existed? What’s next, Thanksgiving? That would fit nicely into the space before Yuletide, and would increase turkey sales even more. We could all wear stove-pipe hats, and big Puritan collars, trying to pretend it was OK to swindle the Red Indians out of their lands for a few beads and trinkets. It wouldn’t matter that there were no Red Indians here, we could just make that bit up. Or maybe we could call them ‘Native Americans’, to make us feel even less guilty.

Nothing has value anymore. There is no special time left. Hot Cross Buns are available all year, pancakes can be bought anytime, then microwaved, to save the effort in making them. Tangerines are no longer a Christmas treat, any Tesco will have them in, anytime you want. We have slowly removed everything that we ever had occasion to anticipate excitedly, and to look forward to, as the seasons changed. Once we had lost all that, we had to search elsewhere for something to plan for, and along came Halloween. We can now arrange parties, or the appalling ‘Trick or Treat’ parades (Ask them for a trick is my tip!), and have everything from themed burgers, to pumpkin socks. How did we ever cope before?

I would love to take you back in a Time Machine. You would relish the prospect of Buns at Easter, delight at trying to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, and be unable to sleep on the night before Christmas. You would never have heard of ‘Grand-Parents’ Day’, and Halloween would be something that was ‘done’ in America.  Brazil nuts and tangerines would appear in December, be enjoyed briefly, and would not be seen again, until that time the following year. Baseball caps would be worn by baseball players, and some other people in The Americas, but not in England. If you wanted a snack, you would be happy with fish and chips, or pie and mash.

There is nothing wrong with American cultural celebrations. They even keep some of ours, like Christmas. But the newer ones should stay on that side of the Atlantic, along with their terrible fast food. That way, those that seek it, can travel there to enjoy it, and celebrate the differences in our societies and customs. We might even tell them that we used to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve as part of the Harvest Festival, and that Halloween is a Scottish corruption of that phrase. That would make it ours then, not American at all. Like most things, including many we have since discarded, they were taken to America by settlers. America does not have a culture as such, just an amalgamation of many of the cultures of its numerous settlers, and more recent immigrant populations. However, it is doing a fantastic job of re-exporting those traditions, whether we need them back, or not.

Surely it is enough to celebrate the difference in the various traditions and cultures of the many countries and societies in The World, without having to assimilate everything? As the French say- ‘Vive la difference’.