I had an old-timer friend round on Thursday for what turned out to be virtually an update on modern living. I say ‘old-timer’, but actually he’s only sixty, yet he must have dozed off in the mid-to-late 1980s or something, and only woke up recently.
In fact, I think it was on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday that he decided to finally wake up and tackle the modern world again. Turning sixty hit him hard.
He’s an author, and obviously a good writer, with two books published, but that was a long time ago. Since then he’s continued to draft various novels, but with only an occasional sniff of interest from publishers. There’s currently a possible publishing deal on the cards, but he’s afraid that it may all fall through. That realisation, and the shock of getting his bus pass, motivated him to put one of his books on Kindle and get Blind Dave to act as his agent. Unfortunately, Blind Dave has been getting some health treatment lately, and hasn’t been feeling well enough to do much.
Although there have been a handfull of sales of the Kindle book, there haven’t been enough to set the heather alight or even get it smouldering. After finding out that Allan Guthrie had gone from 5 Kindle sales of Bye Bye Baby in November, to 12,000 sales in February and on to the UK Kindle Store Top Ten Bestseller list, and having seen Guthrie’s super website and also his excellent eBooks That Sell blog, my friend finally realised that it’s not enough, nowadays, to just write something and then sit back and wait for the royalties. If you do that, you’ll end up with nothing more than loose change. You have to promote yourself on the Internet as well, on blogs, Twitter and elsewhere, and actively network yourself.
So, a few weeks ago he showed me the new writer’s blog he’d started, and I don’t want to be harsh, but I have to say that it looked like a dog’s breakfast. Font changes half-way through sentences, typos, line-breaks where there shouldn’t be any, random spaces in the middle of paragraphs, and instead of links from words, he’d spell out the http and write things like:
“And my book is available ºn Κindle at http://…”
He’d also chosen the most boring possible Blogspot design, had no widgets, and had awful graphics and pictures. But, he did agree to come round to see what we could do to improve it.
Shortly after he arrived, I turned on the radio for some background music, and by way of conversation, said, “Quite a nice digital radio, eh?”
His response was, “What? Digital radio? Is that something new? My goodness, what will they invent next!”
When I showed him my Garmin nüvi 1490TV Sat Nav with built-in TV, he said, “Strewth! And I thought 625 lines was good.”
I began to realise that it was going to be a long haul, and I felt like getting him to stand up, wave his arms around with me and chant, “I’m not really an old person…and I want to join the modern world.”
Even worse followed when we sat down at the laptop and I saw him in action on the computer. Why do many older people type something into the Google search box, pick up the mouse, move the cursor over to ‘Search’ and then click on it? Why not just avoid RSI and press the Enter key? Why do some older people think that there is only one way to scroll down a page – by finding the tiny down arrow with the cursor and continuously clicking the left button?
So, the first thing was to teach some basic skills. The purpose of the mouse scroll wheel, clicking on the scroll bar, etc. We also covered double-clicking to select a word, triple-clicking to select a paragraph, triple-clicking in the margin to select an entire document in Word, clicking at the beginning of selected text and then pressing the Shift key and clicking again at the end of selected text, plus the use of shortcuts such as Ctrl+v, Ctrl+z, Ctrl+c, etc.
Amazingly, this was all new to him, yet he actually picked it all up pretty quickly, apart from using Enter. Some people simply have a hatred of the Enter key, and a death-wish for RSI.
We spent two hours editing his blog, tidying it up, getting rid of spaces and different fonts. We went through some simple HTML code removal and how it got there in the first place (copy and pasting from Word into Blogspot). We covered how to insert a link, how to get some widgets and a half-decent blog design. I couldn’t persuade him to not indent every paragraph with ten spaces, though.
There’s still quite a lot to do, such as improvements to the graphics and pictures, and I think covering Twitter will necessitate another session, but in the meantime…welcome to the modern world…author of future Kindle bestsellers…John McKenzie!