Busy old week. Lots of work - including a day at the LBF meeting customers - flogging books as usual. So busy in fact that the short story I’m trying to write didn’t get a look-in. Which is a great shame seeing as it started so well a couple of weeks ago.
So why am I sitting here trying to knock together a blog when I have better things to do? Two blogs in fact.
The second of these will be something for a wordpress site I’m designing, but the first will be this rather rambling entry for the wkj blog page.
The subject matter will inevitably stray towards the misery of two days running when google analytics revealed a 100% bounce rate from my home page. 100%!
- It’s the monkey that does it – or maybe the pirate hat – or perhaps the image doesn’t match the content of the site. It certainly matches my personality, but that’s another thing. Or is it? Perhaps it’s the revealed personality that’s proving to be the turn-off.
It will undoubtedly reveal my impatience with the world in general and with the process of publishing in particular
-And here we’ll be talking about how, because of a couple of forgivable, honest mistakes (hell I only spelled the guy’s name wrong) and the fact that my broadband went down mid send resulting in some fairly frantic efforts to re-establish contact, and yes because of my supposed lack of proper preparation (it was only the one page outline that was missing for God’s sake: A One Page
Outline!) my submission to a particular agency went so pear-shaped they now no doubt think I’m completely insane and a liability to be avoided at all costs – though maybe it was actually the threatening letters that did it.
Joke. What kind of person do you think I am?
and then it’ll move on to show how difficult I find it to erm... move on from disappointments.
- you know, on second thoughts, there is just the possibility they simply didn’t like my book and are clearly far too busy to reply to everyone. Let’s face it, the pair of them are so good at what they do that every fantasy writer on the planet is trying to get on their books. I was so much in awe of them I wanted to put a link to their site on these pages for the benefit of fellow strugglers. I asked terribly politely if that would be ok – but as I said, most likely they’re too busy to get through all their e-mails.
And maybe they really do think I’m bonkers.
After that, most likely, I’ll attempt to draw together the two themes, reach some sort of conclusion and, if possible, throw in a witticism or wry comment of some sort to finish it off.
- You know, honestly, I’m beginning to doubt myself. Look at the evidence. My web site, and this blog entry in particular, presents a personality straying towards the psychotic. My correspondence with the fantasy boys must surely be categorised as flaky, if nothing worse. Maybe they’re right to be wary.
And there was me thinking I was just an ordinary, self-deprecating but straightforward English bloke who can write a bit. Now I’ll have to add in self-deluded and obsessive and possibly even dangerous. Wilf Dangerous Jones. Mad, bad and cliché ridden. Maybe I’m
On the other hand, as with many pieces I have attempted over the years, this entry may fail completely at all points.
Luckily some of the above is utter nonsense.
Tweetle Me Dumb!
Do you know what? Yes - I’ve signed up for a Twitter account.
Motivation? Because I feel the need to be constantly in touch with people I would never normally meet? Because I want to know what’s going on in the world of fantasy, the world of poetry, of books, of publishing? Because I need to have Peter Serafinowicz say “Good Morning” to me every day, and Neil Gaiman to tell me about his broken boiler. Or, looking at it from the other end of things, maybe I joined because I have so many important messages and observations to impart to the world.
Well I’m not going to deny all of the above - there is entertainment to be had, news to be consumed, curiosities to discover. Today, for example I learned about the Dunning-Kruger effect http://bit.ly/eGRlLs courtesy of Mr Gaiman. He was referring to the author at the centre of the viral “author responds badly to review” hoo-haa. Sounds like nonsense? Check out the page that started it all: http://bit.ly/hEp5LI - you need to read through to the author’s reply before the fireworks start.
However, I cannot tell a lie - well I can, but just now I’m not going to - actually I signed up because someone said to me: “If you want to promote your web site, or anything in fact, you have to be on Twitter.” Problem is, now that I’m signed up and all, I still don’t really see how it’s going to help. Seems to me that mostly you can only benefit from this social network IF you’ve already made it and already have followers just gagging for your posts. Is it possible I wonder for a Mr A Nonymous to gradually build up any sort of sizeable following? Apparently the answer is yes, but the trick is - and here you see just how different Twitter really is (not) - that to be ‘successful’, for your thoughts to be constantly in demand, you have to have something to sell that people want to buy.
No doubt what I need is some sort of book or web site that can teach me how to make the most of the medium, that has tips and wrinkles on how to attract new followers, how to use the medium to market and promote my stuff - how to make money, even. Perhaps I need to follow some hot “social marketing” gurus. They’ll put me straight.
Or I could go and do some proper writing...
Give it another three weeks and either I’ll be a total fan or my head will have exploded.
SITE STUFF: Reality hits in
NOTE: Among other things this blog is intended to record the ins and outs of creating, maintaining and promoting this web site. This is partly for my own benefit - I’ll forget never to do it again without something here to remind me - but offered also for the benefit of anyone thinking of setting off along a similar path.
This, of course, will be boring to many people. From now on I will mark these pieces as SITE STUFF so that you can skip them if so inclined. For instance, just now you may find it more interesting to skip to TIDE
So here we are: three weeks in and already rather disheartened. Why? Because the future of the site looks obvious.
First of all you send the link to as many friends as possible hoping two things will happen: that they’ll like the site and that they’ll pass the link on to others. On point one you quickly realize that finding people who like what you write, even among your friends, is going to be tough work. Most of my friends wouldn’t normally even look at either fantasy or poetry. Something of a stumbling block. And of course even if they do, there is the strong possibility that they won’t particularly like my fantasy or poetry.
Astonishingly other people do not appear as obsessed by the site as I am.
Our lives are mostly work. Free time is precious. Why should people want to spend time clicking through the gaudy pages of my imagination? The world is jam-packed with stuff they’re actually interested in.
And so I’m amazed that anyone has so far clicked beyond my home page. Grateful but amazed.
However perusing my pages is not the same as liking them. So far 5 people have clicked that lovely little Like button. And one Tweet - which was in fact a friend checking to see if the button actually worked. That’s not so bad a response you might think: just less than 10% of my “unique visitors.” Have a sneaky feeling there won’t be too many more. The stats reveal all.
I really do try to ignore the site - to let it lie - and yet everyday, at some point or other, I will open that control panel, I will click through to the stats page and then, in a lottery numbers checking way - you’ve all felt that frisson of quickly dashed hope - I’ll zoom in on the visitor numbers. Most likely my obsession with the whole thing will diminish over coming months but for now the visitor count seems all important.
The stats reveal:
56 Unique Visitors - of which four were me from different IP addresses - 52 then.
110 visits - but more likely 52 after my maintenance visits are taken out.
456 pages viewed (after my page views are removed)
17 visitors viewing four or more pages
But they indicate an already declining visit rate; that most people exit from the home page - ie they open it and then close it; that people have visited from only 7 countries - Norway, the UK, USA, Finland, Sweden, ‘European Country’ and Canada - the last of these being the home of visitor no. 56, who dropped in, clicked on two pages and then hightailed it out of there.
The most significant statistic, of course, is that there is not yet enough data to draw any sensible conclusion - and yet it all seems clear. The first month will be all about friends visiting because they’re friends who are curious to see what I’m up to. The second month will not have the advantage of that friendly curiosity. Google searches will be the main point of entry - not for people actually seeking me out, but browsers looking for relatives called Wilf, or fantasy gamers, or decent fine sensitive people looking for the superb poems of Wilfred Owen.
So what have learned from all this? I know that if I want the site to be successful I’ll have to market the damn thing. And what have I not learned? Just how precisely I’m going to do that.
Early days. We’ll see.
It was just not possible to concentrate on packing.
BBC World kept running the pictures over and again: the flood racing across the fields, the unwitting drivers on the road above, their radios tuned to traffic jams or cocoons of music, and yet only seconds away from certain death. And then we skip to an impossible
sight, some science fiction dream ... I’m really struggling for a non fatuous description ... it was as if the Amazon had been transported into the middle of a city. A flotsam of cars and trucks on its surface, the ungoverned boats and minor ships, still right way up and floating but holed and battered, the burger bars and kiosks and newspaper stalls of mangled struts and boards and ad banners, all souped together in a slurry of yesterday’s news. A different day’s news, a day when trouble was far away in Africa, and the road to work was only niggles and obstructions and the sidewalk queue for coffee and pastries.
Unseen for now were the corpses. Confined by airtight, watertight doors, gathered in cabins thought safe, or already free and sinking into the depths, they were below the surface. The scale of the flood was too great to look beneath.
Two people on a bridge stood astonished, as though they’d gazed over this suicide drop
a thousand times before, safe from the temptation in their comfortable relationships, but now death was rising up to greet them. They take refuge in a silly, deadly game of pooh-sticks: they watch and point as the aerials and sonar tower of a police frigate are smashed under the solid earthquake-proof arches, and then they skip to the opposite side to see which of the pieces will come through first.
The picture flickers back to the beginning of the loop: the doomed drivers, the collapsing structures of human life.
I packed my case. Checked out. Though the foyer TV screens were relentless in their portrayal, not a word was spoken, over the receipts and the credit cards, about this disaster in process on the other side of the world. It was all: “Did you enjoy your stay?” and “Wilkommen tilbake!”
Time was moving on. I had work to do, appointments to keep.
It was snowing. Not too cold. As I crossed the road I saw the number 2 emerging from a junction ahead. The bus stop was on the other side of the junction so I ran. Typical! Whenever you need a big queue they’ve all gone absent. The two people at the stop almost leapt onto the bus, so keen to get out of the weather. I kept on running, and getting close I waved and flapped trying to attract the driver’s attention. The scale was probably all wrong. I was invisible to his mirrors - if you can’t see me, I can’t see you. He
was a blur in his cab, I was a blur in the precipitation. The doors closed and he moved on without me.
As I came to a halt, puffing a little, slightly niggled, and glaring at the accelerating bus, I was reminded by the logo on the back that the bus company was called Tide - pronounced tee-duh - the logo was a graphic of the name swamped by carefully controlled waves.
Banging in my head was a stupid wordy joke: time and tide, I thought, wait for no man! And then I cringed.
We just do it, don’t we? The immediate, the events that affect us personally, the daily, hourly annoyances or pleasures, the moments of achievement or failure - catching a bus or missing it - these things become and are our lives. Our horror in the Tsunami is because of the destruction of those millions of small moments - those lives which could have been ours. Those deaths. It’s not because we are unkind, or unfeeling or utterly self-centred. It’s because that’s what we are and what we do, and what we have to do.
So why today was I so annoyed by the woman in the supermarket checkout behind me? She was showing her daughter a picture of the ruin on the front of the Mail. “Look at that. Would have been just typical if we’d got those tickets sorted - wouldn’t have been much of a holiday.” Her pathetically minor disaster hadn’t even occurred.
Occasionally I wish I was religious and could pray. You feel that something extra should be said for all those people and all those moments lost - something that could go beyond regret and fellow feeling.
The phrase that immediately comes to mind is “I am not a number - I am a free man.” Some people think with the explosion of communications technology and the tyranny of hand-held-devices (i pod / Phone / pad / kindle and so on) claiming our every waking thought, that we have made for ourselves an inescapable prison .
This is of course nonsense. You can see where they are going with the idea, but the last time I looked free will was still coming on strong. The free will to organize on twitter demonstrations against a corrupt government; the free will to switch everything off and go walking in the hills; the free will, whatever the law says, to help a loved one end their life, using information found online. All human life is here. And we’re all free. Ultimately.
But it is undeniably true that I have now been indexed. Rather like some specimen being catalogued, pinned to a board and locked away in a box, except in this case the specimen is supposed to benefit from such attention.
I brought it on myself.
Went out (cyber-wise of course) and got me a sitemapper. (In fact I found several but most of them didn’t work properly, and in the end I used A1 Sitemap Generator .) I stuck in my site URL, as required, clicked scan etc and soon clutched in my sweaty little paw the golden ticket to internet riches - a perfectly formed sitemap.xml file.
What’s it for? Well normally if you just let Google know your URL they will eventually send out their little robots to crawl and spider your website, indexing as they go. Until you’re indexed the only thing that will get anyone near your site is the exact URL pasted into the browser address bar. But when you’re indexed, theoretically you stick in keywords from your home page and without any more fuss, you’re in business. Up you pop like a ferret from drainpipe - right at the top of search results page 1.
What’s that? You don’t believe me. What wise people you are.
Anyhow, the trick with the sitemap is that if you tell the search engines where to find it, they will download the file and index your site pretty much within four or five hours - . instead of two months.
A result then: I positively invited those robots in to take tea with me, and now I exist. Or rather my site exists and is visible to anyone who manages to enter any of the following terms - fantasy, poet, Song of Ages, Ministry Rat etc TOGETHER WITH two of the three elements of my name.
Yes, it all still depends on the name. Which means that people who do not know my name will NEVER find the site. People who do know my name probably know enough to keep well clear.
So, there you are: I’m indexed but invisible still. Sure it’ll all be worth it - one day.
The moral for the novice site builder is: learn how to optimize your site properly right from the off. And don’t expect miracles