87, Not Out.

Happy 87th Birthday to my Father.

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My father was born on November 17, 1931.

Just for context, the world was still in the grip of the Great Depression, Hitler had not yet risen to power in Germany, Thomas Edison had just passed away, and Al Capone had just been sent to prison for tax evasion. Don Bradman was playing cricket for Australia and Phar Lap had won

My father grew up in Rotterdam in The Netherlands before moving to Australia with his parents and sisters. Life was certainly different after WWII, and even more different on the other side of the world where the seasons were back to front, everyone spoke English, and water swirled down the drain in the opposite direction.

If someone had told Dad in 1951 that those were not the biggest changes he would encounter in his life, he probably wouldn’t have believed them. There was, however, so much more to come, such as:

Marriage. Dad and Mum married in 1953 and enjoyed almost 58 years together.

December 19, 1953.

Four amazing and incredibly talented kids.

Yep, that’s me giving the photographer the stink eye. Cute, eh?

Colour TV.
Electric typewriters.
A change of career from industrial chemistry to bookstore owner.
Computers.
The CD.
Mobile phones.
The Internet.
Smart phones.
Digital books and music.
Studying online.

Dad has taken it all in his stride. He hasn’t let new things scare him off or make him feel obsolete. Time after time, he has shown his willingness and aptitude to give something new a red hot shot.

He hasn’t always found new technology easy, but once he’s got the hang of it, he’s proven that he can send a text or an email, make a call, and waste time on Facebook and Instagram as effectively as anyone can. He has been studying Biblical Hebrew online. He has the Kindle app on his iPad, on which he reads the books his daughter has written, which he has purchased online from Amazon. He also uses the iPad to listen to his son’s sermons and keep in touch with his relatives around the world. His grandchildren send him pictures of their kids via instant message, and he saves them on his phone to look at them again later.

I’m proud of my dad. Things aren’t always easy for him now, especially health-wise, but he’s still going and he’s still doing his best to enjoy all those things that make his life interesting and entertaining.

At the age of 87, he is not only the father of four but also grandfather of seven and great-grandfather to six.

He’s had a quiet day today, but he has been spoilt with a few special treats and received some phone calls from friends and family that he has really enjoyed. We’ve enjoyed some time together, too, and I treasure the moments where we can still just hang out and enjoy each other’s company.

I know it won’t last forever. Nothing does.
But my dad is still on the wicket with a score of 87, not out. Howzat?

Lots of Books, Bub.

Adding book reviews on BookBub is helpful for authors and readers alike.

 

Bookbub

I have begun the mammoth task of adding all my book reviews and recommendations to BookBub. My plan is to work systematically through my list, doing a few at a time, until I get them all done.

I made a start yesterday with ‘The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce’ by J.S Frankel and ‘Robin Hood: Wolf’s Head’ by Eric Tanafon, both excellent books.

Some might ask why I bother – aren’t all my reviews on Amazon, anyway? Yes, they are. And they’re on Goodreads.

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They’re also on my Book Squirrel blog, which I do hope you’re following.

 

There are some good reasons for doing it, though.

  1. Not all readers use Amazon. I know, it’s hard to believe, because they’ve really got Indie authors in particular thinking they’re the only vendor out there. They may be the dominant vendor at the moment, but Kobo is building its business worldwide and we mustn’t forget other contenders like Nook and iBooks.
  2. Amazon have a very nasty habit of deleting reviews. I know many authors who have had a review removed for whatever reason Amazon deemed appropriate, and that hurts. If my reviews and recommendations can be plastered all over the internet, maybe it will do less damage to the author concerned if Amazon decides to pull one – or more – of mine.
  3. BookBub is gaining popularity to the point where some see it as the place to go to check out books, much like Goodreads used to be before it was bought out and things got much more Amazon-like over there.
  4. It can’t hurt to add reviews for Indie authors in another place where they are building a presence and a market force in competition with traditionally published authors.

So because I have nothing else to do in between writing, teaching, planning, grading papers, reading and reviewing books, and maintaining three blogs, this has become a project of importance to me.

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You’re most welcome to follow my progress.

See you there!

The Hashtag Challenge

Will you take up the Hashtag Challenge?

new-twitter-bird-squareI enjoy using Twitter to share great content. It’s pretty straightforward, without the ever-changing parade of increasingly ridiculous rules that seem to accompany Facebook.

There’s really only one thing you need to avoid with Twitter, and that’s posting the same tweet over and over. That will get you suspended.

In reality, that’s a pretty decent rule. Who of us wants to see the same post time and time again? We all appreciate a little variety, and it’s not that hard to change your tweets up.

It’s important to use trending hashtags that people are using for their searches. We need to use hashtags that people are familiar with, and learn to look for, because that is the key way to attract new people to our content.

Hashtag_example

Some of the best ones that I seem to use over and over include:

#BookReview
#BookRecommendations
#WhatToRead
#greatreads
#shortreads

I do wish, though, that certain hashtags were a lot more popular. I’d love to see some of these as popular as #WhatToRead and #BookReview

#LeaveAReview
#SupportAnAuthor
#ReadThis
#ReadABook
#WorthReading

So, I’ve decided I’m going to do something about it and try to make it happen. This is what I’m calling “The Hashtag Challenge”.

I don’t propose that we try to make all of those tags develop a life of their own at the same time. Starting one by one is probably a smarter way to go.

As of today, I’m going to start using #WorthReading in conjunction with high-trending tags like #Authors, #greatreads, #BookReview, #BookRecommendations and #WhatToRead

Maybe if a bunch of us start doing that, we just might achieve something great.
Are you with me?

 

Follow me on Twitter.

The Story of My Life.

If a book were to be written of your life, what would the title be?

This question was asked recently in one of the authors’ groups I belong to on Facebook:

Slip Wrong Error Oops Accidental Slip Mistake

The answer came to me in a blinding flash of little-appreciated genius.

Slip Wrong Error Oops Accidental Slip Mistake

Alternate title: Crap That Wasn’t Meant To Happen.

Precis: A woman goes through life generally trying to do the right thing, but situations and people keep backfiring on her. This is further complicated by her own big mouth and her failure to learn the basics of human nature.

Tone: Initially comical, tending toward darkness and cynicism as the story progresses.

Chapter titles:

  1. How Not To Fit In… Ever
  2. How To Lose A Friend, Simply By Being Yourself
  3. Dairy Farming: The Idyllic Life
  4. How To Injure Both Hands At The Same Time
  5. How To Lose A Friend By Standing Up For What You Believe In
  6. Be A Teacher: They Only Work From 8.30 to 4, And Get All Those Holidays!
  7. The Sneaky Ways Awful People Conceal What They Really Are
  8. Apparently, I’m A Slow Learner
  9. How To Get A Tropical Disease 2500km South Of The Tropics
  10. Fibromyalgia: The Gift That Keeps On Giving
  11. No, They Will Never Understand That ‘Introvert’ and ‘Shy’ Are Different Things
  12. A Published Author: How Nice! You Must Be Rich.
  13. Oh, You’re An Author? I Don’t Read.
  14. Needles In The Haystack: There Are Actually Nice People Out There
  15. ‘One In A Million’: A Ridiculously Optimistic Ratio
  16. How To Get A Knife Out Of Your Back
  17. Why You Should Never Give That Knife To Someone Else
  18. When Adding Extended Family On Social Media Backfires
  19. Old Friends Can Turn On You, Too!
  20. Why They Can Post Whatever They Want To On Facebook, But You Can’t
  21. Why Doing Something Nice For Someone Is Often A Really Bad Idea
  22. The Block Function: How To Slam That Door Well And Truly Shut
  23. How To Offend Your Family And Friends By Succeeding
  24. Why You Should Never Assume That People Are As Sincere As You Are
  25. Vulnerability Explained: Discovering You Are An Empath
  26. The Achilles Tendon: ‘Heel’ and ‘Heal’ Are Not The Same Thing
  27. Still Hobbling? There Goes Your Other Ankle.

I know. It will never sell.

Marketing that kind of stuff is exhausting – I should know.  It is, after all, the story of my life.

Reciprocity: Magic or Myth?

A short lesson in how to be a positive and encouraging person.

I want to start by saying that the intention of this post is not to present myself as some icon of virtue or being any better than anyone else: I am definitely neither. But there are some things I am good at, and one of those things is supporting and encouraging other Indie authors.

I have always been very clear about the fact that nothing I do in the Indie Author community is done with the hope of receiving anything in return. I am more than happy to buy and review the books I do, share posts, help answer questions, and encourage others as much as I can.

You might be tempted to assume that, as a result, I have a veritable army of people ready to fall over themselves to do similar things for me. Well, that would be nice!

In fact, that’s very rarely how it works. More often than not, those who are generous with their time and energy receive very little in return. That’s life: I accept that, as do others I know in the same situation, and keep going.

There seems to be a groundswell of folk, however, who have taken it upon themselves to resent others that they perceive as being “more successful” or “more popular” than them, and to insist that they’re not going to do anything for anyone who hasn’t done anything for them.

Just last week there was a situation where a friend tagged some people in a Facebook post to ensure that her post was seen, and didn’t some of those tag-ees complain! One of them took the opportunity to launch a personal attack and completely degraded the conversation into a most hurtful state of affairs. Another had plenty of very demeaning things to say, not just about the friend in question but also those who sprang to her defence.

Well, isn’t it a good thing we don’t all work that way? What sort of a world would that be. where we all carried on like six-year-olds in the playground?

2015-11-29 12.46.29 disappointments

Folks, that is not how we Indie.

Assuming that someone will share your post because you shared theirs will sometimes work out that way, but often not. Hoping that someone will buy your book because you bought theirs is not at all realistic.

There’s one thing you can be sure of, though: If an author – or anyone else, for that matter – is horrible to people, those on the receiving end are not going to forget that. There is absolutely zero chance that they will share the post, buy the book, or attend a Facebook event for someone who has abused or belittled them. In addition, the chances of their friends doing any of those things are remote. Tearing someone else down on social media— or anywhere— is entirely counterproductive.

As Indie authors, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all trying to find readers, sell books, write the next number one bestseller, and get noticed by the universe. We’re all tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking, blogging and whatever-else-ing we can in the hope of putting our books, or whatever it is we’re doing to make our way in the world, in front of appreciative eyes who want what we’ve got to offer. We’d all like to be able to quit our jobs and pay the bills with our royalties.

2015-11-27 10.51.43 Choose The PositiveBut here’s the thing: this isn’t a competition. Readers will always be interested in another book, another genre, another great read. There is absolutely no need to snuff out someone else’s candle so that yours can burn. We make more light and warmth together than we can on our own. This is something that my friends, especially the Indie Fabs, and I have experienced and proven time and time again.

Encouragement costs nothing. It doesn’t even take much time or energy. If someone asks you for one or two clicks of a mouse button that doesn’t end in costing you money, where’s the harm? If someone does something praiseworthy, commend them. If someone has a great cover, or hits the bestseller list, or writes a great book, congratulate them… and then go one step further by telling others. Who knows? You may even find that they do return a favour one day, or you might discover that someone has done something for you out of the blue, just because they can.

Reciprocity as most people perceive it is a myth. But initiating goodwill by being positive and encouraging? That’s magic. And that is how we Indie.

Indie and Proud!

Indie Pride Day 2018: A Fantastic Way To Celebrate Being Indie!

July 1 was Indie Pride Day, on which Indie authors  worldwide posted selfies with their books to show the world what we have achieved. Posts were made with key hashtags to get those tags trending and get attention across all social media platforms.

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It’s just one way we can stand up and say “we’re here!” to a world that still focuses on traditional publishing and looks down its nose at Indie authors, even though Indie artists and musicians are almost revered as  artistic heroes – which, of course, they are.

The encouragement I’ve received from other Indie authors today has been incredible. I’ve seen people following other writers on social media, sharing other authors’ pictures, leaving encouraging comments, and cheering one another on. It has been an enormous wave of positive reinforcement, friendship and camaraderie that any other industry would, and should, envy.

So, while my social media posts for Indie Pride Day  may at first glance appear as though I’m trying to sell my books, that’s not my intention. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think putting my face beside anything is going to help sell it.  Those pictures of me with my books are intended to be an encouragement to others to be loud and proud about what we do, and to encourage writers to embrace Indie as a viable and legitimate route toward getting their work read by audiences worldwide.

It’s also fair to say that, having made a mission of going out to take themed photos, I had quite a bit of fun doing it. These shots didn’t make the final cut, but they’re actually some of the ones I like best.

And all you readers out there? If you choose to bypass books because they’re Indie, you’re missing out on some truly excellent reads.

Friday the 13th 99c Ebook Sale

Don’t miss this fabulous little sale on Friday the 13th. 

A group of very generous authors have put together a collection of great books that are either on sale for 99c or free for Friday 13th.

It’s not just horror – there are mysteries, sci fi humour, YA adventures, poetry and flash fiction included. There really is something for everyone!

If you’re looking for a good new read for the weekend, or always up for a bargain, head over to visit Book Squirrel and see what’s on offer.

Friday 13th 99c sale

 

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If you love reading, you should definitely follow Book Squirrel’s blog for book reviews, new release updates, and author interviews.

The Thrill of the Chase.

This week, I did something I haven’t done in quite some time: I put an item I really wanted on my “watch list” on eBay. That set in motion the next chain of events: checking in daily– or more often, as the end drew nearer– to see if anyone had placed a bid, choosing the precise time at which I would place my first bid so that nobody else could click the “Buy It Now” button, waiting with anticipation as time ticked away, and then moaning about how slowly time moves in that last half hour.

Honestly, that last half hour of an auction for an item you really want is like walking through glue. After a whole week of saying, “Far out! How is it 4pm already?”, yesterday afternoon d r a g g e d like you wouldn’t believe.

By the time there were just ten minutes left, I was poised like a cat watching the proverbial mouse. I was ready to bid if someone else outbid me. I was prepared for that battle of one-upmanship that often happens in the last five minutes, yet still breathing the mantra “nobody see this… please, nobody else see this.” The tension gripped my shoulders and I had to work to keep my breathing steady. When the auction finished without anyone else bidding, relief washed over me like a wave, right before the excitement of winning put me on a high for the rest of the day.

You may think I’m exaggerating, but this is a scene that is all-too-familiar to people accustomed to buying things on eBay and similar auction sites. It’s the thrill of the chase and a cat-and-mouse game, without even leaving the room. It can be quite addictive, although I only indulge occasionally.

Sure, I use eBay now and then for everyday items that my local stores don’t carry. Most of those, you can just buy casually because they always have more than one set of stainless steel drinking straws, for example. What I’m talking about here is the one-off item that you don’t want to miss out on.

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The last big thing I bought like this was a set of antique books – a complete set of Charles Dickens novels published in 1911, that I snapped up for $76. I’m pretty sure that whoever sold it didn’t know what they were selling, or how to list it properly, because that was an absolute steal. But hey – there it was, and there I was… what’s a book-loving girl to do?

Yesterday, the item in question was an out-of-production collectable teddy bear by Charlie Bears, a UK firm who make the most adorable bears ever. Their faces are ever so expressive, and every bear is just a little bit individual.

percival-2.jpg

I have a number of these bears already, but there’s always room for one more. As my husband says, “Some women buy shoes. Some women gamble. For Jo, it’s books and bears.”

This is Percival. He is super cute, and was listed for about a third of the retail price. Again, what’s a bear-loving girl to do? It just wouldn’t be right to leave a poor little bear all homeless and alone, would it? Just think of me as one of those altruistic animal rescuers, giving otherwise miserable bears a new chance at life in a sanctuary with others of their own kind.

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, you will most likely have seen some of my bears posing with my books. It’s a marketing angle I’m trying out since Facebook and Instagram in particular seem to favour posts that major on visual appeal rather than advertising value. In a social media world where everyone needs to find their own niche for marketing, “A Book and A Bear” is mine. People seem to enjoy the posts and respond very favourably, so I’m running with it.

 

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Now that the auction is over, the next phase begins.
We just have to be patient and wait for Percival to arrive. It’s fair to say that Diesel is as excited as I am.

 

 

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How To Avoid Blocked Hashtags On Instagram

Did you know that you aren’t allowed to use the hashtag #books on Instagram?
Until today, I certainly didn’t.

Instagram have been blocking some terms – mostly to do with sexism, sexual content, body shaming and bullying, or so I thought. It’s called a shadowban: posts using blocked tags are less visible than others, and repeated use can result in more definite blocking of posts or accounts.

Surely there’s nothing offensive about #books though? Yet it’s one of the hashtags that will cause your posts to drift into obscurity.

As an author, reader, book reviewer and all-round book nerd, that’s a trap I’ve fallen into more than once, but thankfully my love for tags like #bookstagram and #booklover has been saving my bookish hide more often than I ever realised.

I did find a rather extensive list of hashtags banned by Instagram, courtesy of the great people over at Instavast.com, but I don’t really want to go and consult another site and spend my valuable time reading through horrible words – and some of them are horrible – in order to find out if something relatively innocent is also blocked.

I’d rather be able to check quickly and easily inside the app itself. And that is quite do-able, even if you’re a novice.

Follow these handy and simple instructions to discover if a term you want to use is acceptable without consulting a long list somewhere that may even be out of date by now.

1. When you’re using the Instagram app, click on the search icon. It’s the one that looks like a magnifying glass.

2. Type in the hashtag you want to use. A list of possible tags will come up. So far, it looks like #books is okay.

3. Next, click on the Tags tab of the search window. #books is still there and still looks alright. However…

4. Tap on that tag in the list and scroll down, you will find only a few images, followed by a message that says the tag has been banned because reports have been made regarding inappropriate content.


If you go ahead and use the tag, nobody will see your tag because they can’t find posts using that tag, either. And your other tags might also end up being blocked. So might your account.

Nobody wants to end up there.

So, as authors and book lovers, we need to tag our posts differently so that other book lovers will find our posts.ScreenHunter_439 Mar. 13 19.13

When you click on a tag that is not blocked, you’ll see some further “related” tags that you could use in your posts. Notice, though, that this does not exist for #books.

I’ve slogged through a whole bunch of these “related tags” to find some great hashtags with good popularity that you can use safely – for now, anyway.

Try some of these great tags for your bookish posts:
#bookstagram
#booksofinstagram
#bookworm
#book
#booklover
#booklove
#instabooks
#booklife
#bookish
#instaread
#bookblogger
#bookaddict
#bookphoto
#booknerd
#booknerdigans
#bookstagrammer

If you’re posting images or reviews of books you’ve enjoyed, consider some of these:
#ilovereading
#epicreads
#amreading
#bibliophile
#lovetoread
#bookaddiction
#readingbooks
#readabook
#igreads

My final piece of good news is that if you have been using a blocked hashtag, you can rescue your posts and make them fully visible again.

1. For each post, click on the three dots to the right of your username.

2. Choose edit from the menu.

3. Scroll to your hashtags and change or remove the banned one.

4. Click on ‘done’ and your post will be back to full visibility.

 

Handy hint: if you “like” your own post once you’ve changed it, your post will re-enter the general Instagram feed.
It’s a good idea to do this one or two posts at a time, not all at once, so you don’t flood your followers’ feeds.

Branded Short Links.

Branded short links make your posts instantly recognisable as yours.

Promo Seal of Approval Fur Real Nova TPOTNShort links like bit.ly/whatever and buff.ly/something are becoming more and more popular. I’ve been using bit.ly as a link shortening service for my social media posts for some time, and have loved the convenience and the ability to personalise links for myself.

Last week, though, I made a significant discovery: I could have my very own short link domain, and use my own branded short links across all my social media. This makes my posts and products more immediately recognisable. It gives me consistent and affordable branding. And it means the short link I want for a particular book or post is never going to have been taken by someone else!

I read a few blogs and website articles about it to make sure it was something that I understood before I signed up, but it’s really not that complicated. I explored a few different sites to see which ones offered the best service, and although they’re all quite similar to one another, I settled on Rebrandly because it’s very simply laid out and easy to use.

Getting hold of my own short domain name was easy. I clicked on the “domains” tab and then on the “New Domain” button. That took me to a page where I could browse domain names relevant to my branding – jvlpoet – so that I could choose whichever one I liked best. There’s a range of prices, and plenty for $2 for the first year. I chose jvlpoet.link for my branded short domain because it seemed the most straightforward, and it’s easy to remember.

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The slashtag is whatever comes after that link. I can use that short domain name and then the slashtag of my choice, which I set up at Rebrandly on the “links” tab. So, jvlpoet.link/nova is the branded short link for the universal link to my book, Nova, in all digital stores. It’s much more personal, and recognisable as mine, than www.books2read.com/jvlnova.

Now that I have set up my branded short links, Rebrandly keeps track of how many clicks each link has received, and when, so I can see how effectively each one is working.

They also offer a range of apps which enable me to synchronise my links on Rebrandly on my phone and tablet, and in conjunction with bit.ly, goo.gl, Clickmeter, Chrome, and all sorts of other services.

This gives me a tightly coordinated approach to branding and publicising my posts across social media, websites, blogs… everywhere. And thus far, all it’s cost me is $2. Even when my domain costs me $14 for the following year, it’s still a bargain for that level of visibility and recognition.

 

The links I’ve created with bit.ly still work, so I don’t have to rebrand the images or posts I’ve already made. They’re all still great, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with bit.ly’s service. I just like having my name there instead of theirs.

 

Author’s note: This post is not affiliated with Rebrandly or any of the other services I’ve mentioned. It’s simply my account of my choices and the steps I’ve made in achieving the desired outcome.