Monday, 27 January 2014

How to be happy on Google+?

Is your Google+ account dead? Chances are it’s because you have let it die.

I hear often complained that G+ is dead and not worth bothering with. No one has put you in their circles, or when you share something there, no one notices. Baffled, you try to understand why anyone would want to spend any time with it, let alone find it enjoyable.

I’m one of those who like Google+. I find it an easy place to share interesting content with and from likeminded people, test ideas for feedback, learn useful things, and enjoy the fruits of other people’s imagination world over. New people add me to their circles daily, and while they are not always people I circle back, it is an indication that my account pops up regularly in G+ recommendations.

My Google+ account isn’t dead. Yours need not be either. But here’s the catch: it requires an effort from your part.

It’s easy enough to open a G+ account. There is plenty of information available on how to make it catchy too. But to grow your following – to have people including you in their circles – you have to actively circle new people, and you have to post content that will make those people want to circle you back. Only famous people can sit back and watch people flock to them simply because they are there.

G+ is a place where strangers connect.

Don’t expect your third cousin or a long lost childhood friend to try to find you there, because they won’t. Find new people instead. Any people. Choose people with similar interests or hobbies, people from your town, or from across the world where you’ve always wanted to visit. Choose people who share interesting content you want to, or need to learn. Or pick people in random.

If you don’t know where to start looking for them, join one or two of the Google+ communities. There are many to choose from; you will definitely find those you like. Check the members of those communities and circle those you find interesting. Participate actively in the community, and people will take interest in you in return.

The choices for finding people to circle are endless, because – believe it or not – there are millions of people to choose from. But the important thing is that you get to choose. So choose wisely.

The more people you circle, the more actively G+ recommends you for others too. After a while, you can sit back and watch your circles grow. But until then, you have to be active.

You have to actively post content there too. People are more likely to circle you when they know what kind of content you post. Also, Google is more likely to recommend you when your account is regularly used. Unlike on Facebook, people seldom share private or personal matters there. Instead, they post something that would interest a wider audience.

If you don’t have anything original to post, simply share other people’s posts. If you have circled interesting people, there should be enough content for you to pass forward. Pictures are always popular, be they beautiful landscapes or cute animals. Funny does well too. If you find it interesting, others are likely to find it interesting too.

It is perfectly possible to get people to pay attention to your original content just as well. You simply have to make them want to. Engage them in a conversation about your content as you post it: summarise the post – there is space for longer texts too – and ask a question or an opinion about it. Don’t just drop a link and leave. People won’t return to your G+ post once they have followed the link out from there.

The more you share other people’s content, the more likely they are to share yours. And that is important for an active account. When you share and give +1s to other people’s posts and they do the same to your posts, it creates connections between the accounts. Google monitors the sharing activity and promotes the accounts that are popular. So make it easy to share your posts. Post everything you can publicly.

In order for your G+ account not to be dead, you have to actively keep it alive. It may seem like a lot of work, but all you need to do is pay a little attention to what others do and share a post or two a day you think others would enjoy.

Don’t let your account die. You’ll miss out a lot if you do. And if you want to join me there, come add me to your circles.

Monday, 20 January 2014

By way of explanation

I’ve recently had a number of reviews for The Wolf’s Call that express annoyance at my use of the pronoun it for one of the characters, a dog named Bob. The upset doesn’t come as a surprise for me – my editor Lee Burton warned me about it already when he was editing the book, but as I had an explanation for it he accepted, the pronoun stayed. So, for those who have been upset by it, here is the explanation.

A Newfie very much like Bob.
My Two-Natured London is a world where some of the people are genetically different from regular humans. That genetic mutation manifests as a three different two-natured races: vampires, shifters, and sentients, which are my unique creation. Humans lack the means to detect the two-natured, which makes them suspicious of everyone around them. And while most humans can pretend everyone is human, the two-natured aren’t universally tolerated by the one-natured.

That applies especially to the shifters. There are cat and dog-shifters in my world too, which makes matters more confusing for humans. As the shifters have a human form, they are referred to as he or she, even in animal form. The intolerant humans insist on making the difference between natural and shifter animals by referring to their natural pets with the pronoun it. I’ve also imagined a zealot faction among humans who would use it for pets, so that no one would think they consorted with shifters, but also, as an insult, for shifters.

The practice isn’t universal among the humans of my world. But Charly, the heroine, grew up in a family that most definitely would have kept to the practice, hence her use of it. She will grow out of it eventually. Rafe, as a shifter, doesn’t have the same reason for the use of the pronoun, but because I didn’t want to confuse the readers too badly from the start, he ends up using it in the book too. In comparison, the third book that features vampires and shifters without humans does not make the same distinction between the pets and shifters.

When readers first began to note the pronoun, I considered changing it. However, since it’s logical within the world I’ve created, I decided not to. While it doesn’t work very well in the first book, I didn’t want to tie my hands for the later books. So, as it is, I simply have to bear the disgruntled reviews. Maybe one day I’ll write a book where it all becomes clear.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The shedding sanctity of books

My country’s leading newspaper ran a feature today on the future of publishing. Looking towards to 2025 – such visionaries – the industry insiders gave their opinion on what the publishing will be like in my country in a decade. Already the premise was out-dated, every person interviewed behaving as if self-publishing didn’t, or shouldn’t, exist. So needless to say, their future vision isn’t particularly remarkable.

But the details aren’t important. What caught my attention was the title of the piece that asked if the book was “shedding its sanctity”. Books have traditionally been revered here; in the absence of a glorious past, we set out to create a great future by educating and sophisticating the masses. Books played a pivotal role in that. In a way, books have been held sacred, and the future of publishing outlined in the paper reflects that.

But the reading population has changed, even here, something that the article doesn’t take into consideration. Books have become products of consumerism and mass consumption.

Have you been on a Netflix binge recently, or watched every single episode of your favourite series on DVD in one sitting? The search for instant gratification is common among the consumers of TV programmes. And the same is happening, or has already happened, among the reading population. We finish a book in our favourite series and we instantly want the next. If we’re lucky, the next book has already been published so we download it with a click of a mouse. If we’re unlucky, we’ve finished the latest one and have to wait for the next for months, or even years. When we can’t get our fix where we seek it, we turn to something similar in the hopes that it will answer our need.

One of the reasons indie authors are doing so well is because they can answer the readers’ constant need for more, as Hugh Howey recently noted. They are an answer to the consumerism of literature. Flexible in their publishing practises, indie authors are able to provide their readers with a constant stream of books, simultaneously keeping the graving in check and feeding it too. Getting a new book is easy and cheap, which is good for the consumers. But it has a flipside.

We don’t respect books the way we used to.

We don’t have leather-bound, heavy tomes with gilded letters to revere, nor do we really need such things. We have bytes that move instantly to a reading device, there to be forgotten or deleted when we run out of space. Whereas the idea that we would destroy or burn books fills many with horror, deleting e-books doesn’t cause the same reaction. We’re not even circulating the books to new readers.

As we have stopped respecting the artefact, we have stopped respecting the contents too. In a world of instant gratification, the story has value only as long as we’re consuming it. Books are valued by the satisfaction we gain from them. And as with any item of consumerism, the satisfaction fades, lasting a shorter time with every book we read, feeding the need to have a new item, a new story, to consume.

For authors trying to get their book noticed, the consumerist culture is a good thing. A market exists that already expects their next book, no matter the content, offering opportunities for an increasing number of writers. But their books are equally fast forgotten. Not because they would be worse than books written a decade ago, but because they are treated differently. Readers don’t make a difference between books based on their quality, or the manner they have been published, as long as it satisfies their needs as consumers.

Quality literature still exists and will continue to be written. It’s the readership that values quality content that is on the wane. So, in a way, books aren’t sacred anymore.

Should they be?

Monday, 6 January 2014

Happy New Year!

I’ve begun this year the same way I began the last, with a new cover for an old book. I’ve redesigned the cover for Which Way to Love? I published a year ago. Back then, the chick-lit type cover it originally had felt perfect for it, but the book never took off and I came to a conclusion that the cover was partially to blame for it.

The new cover is based on a photo – the original was a drawing – which I hope feels fresh. The colours are various shades of pink that gives it a romantic vibe. The book isn’t a romance as such though; it’s more a finding oneself type of story and I hope the cover reflects that too. But in the end, I simply hope it’s an interesting cover that catches readers’ attention.

Which Way to Love by Hannah Kane
And while I was at it, I made some changes to the cover of At Her Boss’s Command too – the one I redid this time a year ago. The cover is essentially the same, I only made the background and the fonts darker because they almost faded in the original.

Now that the covers are done, I'll return to writing. I haven’t quite decided yet whether I’ll write the sister book to At Her Boss’s Command or a fourth book to the Two-Natured London series. While I make up my mind, I’m writing a short story with a dystopian vibe to it. If it turns out any good, I may even publish it.

Happy New Year to you all!