Back on Track - Kindle Publishing

11 July, 2012

The Amazon Kindle has revolutionised the publishing industry in general, and self-publishing in particular, where anyone can write a book and submit it to Kindle, set the price and wait for the $$$ to pour in.

Of course, getting your book noticed amongst the other 17 million titles on offer is a challenge, but the opportunity not to have to worry about a publisher (or as in JK Rowling's case, a number of publishers) turning you down. You write your own masterpiece, submit it and within 12 hours or less, your book is available to the world.

In my own quest to shed some light - and truths - on ADD, I have written an eBook for Kindle and it is now available at the AMAZON store: A Life Less Ordinary: Our Journey with ADD.

It is with a sense of pride that I am now the author or two published "books" and I hope that if you have any dealings with ADD/ADHD, you'll download, read, enjoy and then post a review of the eBook.

Your Feedback Is Appreciated

The Best of Times

14 June, 2012

We live in particularly exciting times as far as technology goes and how it affects our lives. In fact, the influence it has on all ages is quite profound. To the 5 year old child playing on an iPad to the 70 year old grandmother discovering old school friends on Facebook, technology has become an integral part of our daily existence.

So how does this affect writers? What I am currently involved in is a project for the Kindle (eBook) market. The explosion of the eBook has been wonderful - if you embrace technology - although for those of us on sitting on the fence, it's a bit of a tough one. Love books, of all kinds, but with the way pricing goes, Kindle books are much cheaper than the physical book and the reality of the situation is that if we want more people to read, beyond having quality literature, it must be affordable.

Some of my research into publishing has unearthed some real gems, the best of all the freebies on offer at the Amazon Kindle Store. The great thing is that if you don't find it to your liking, or it is badly written, you either wasted nothing, or else very little. There is a huge market for .99c (American) books, bargain books. Although the royalties aren't great, it's all about economy of scale. Once a book hit the Kindle Top 100, it's easier to sell with the added publicity of appearing on a best-seller list. Think New York Times Bestseller or The Oprah selection and those authors have it made. My book has a very specific target market (and hopefully I'll have more on that soon - I'm trying as hard as possible to race through to complete it to continue with another writing project I am doing) so I am not quite sure about the pricing as yet, and certainly don't hold out hope of appearing on a best-seller list, especially not with a non-fiction book.

Still, I'm having a grand old time researching and reading about what has worked for other authors, how they've marketed themselves and their work, and what it takes to be an author (mostly perspiration and, if you're very fortunate, a modicum of inspiration).

Until next time….

I see it's been a while since I last wrote, as the popular saying goes, "Life got in the way..." I'll try be here more often!

Reviewers - Good, Bad or Ugly?

20 January, 2012

Don't get me wrong, reviewers are a necessary part of our social fabric, a means for people to gauge whether a restaurant is worth visiting, a movie worth seeing or a book worth reading.

Quest for Glory enjoyed very positive reviews (read here) although there were one or two points made that I felt might be unnecessarily nit-picking - finding a minor fault in 72 000 words - but I guess that's the price one pays for putting one's self 'out there' so to speak.

The point is that many people read reviews to gain guidance on whether or not to spend their money on that meal, movie or book. More and more, Facebook and other means of social media are guiding people - don't read a manufacturer's review about how good their product is, simply ask friends what their opinion, dealings or experiences tell them about that company or its product.

So it was with some interest that I read two reviews in the local papers this week.

One was about a movie '31 Million Reasons' that I had seen (and was directed by a close childhood friend John Barker) that elicited a "for a Bollywood movie, there was no dance extravaganza" as if to stereotype any movie featuring Indian stars requiring their 'go-to' sequence.

Losing sight of the background, filming and acting in this really excellent movie that is more Pulp-Fiction-comes-to-Durban than a singing-dancing-Mumbai-special-about-love-between-castes, the reviewer does not sell himself to me at all. He goes into a movie with certain expectations and when they are not met, he is unhappy.

The second was a movie review which came out on the same day that the movie premiered. So instead of giving a first-hand account of the movie because the reviewer hadn't seen it yet, the reviewer instead quotes extensively from another source about the merits and weaknesses of the movie.

This adds value for potential movie-goers as background information, but the fact that a reviewer puts their name to a review, which then uses extracts from a third party review, is, for me, the easy way out.

If I had written a book and then quoted extensively (say 90%) from other sources - even if I credited those sources - would I be producing work of value?

I re-iterate, this is not a go at reviewers, but for me the latter especially was a case of, when presented with two choices, the reviewer took the easy road.

Plain and simple in my book: Don't review a book or movie if you haven't seen it. Because the person who sweated blood and tears to put their art together deserves more respect. Much more.

As Shaun Pollock said, "For me, it boiled down to pride of performance…"

"Sir, Do you know any wrestlers?"

6 December, 2011

I love Cape Town. We've just returned from a short trip there and it was amazing to see how clean the place is. It's already beautiful, but that beauty can be lost if the streets are dirty and filled with rubbish.

I think it's a sense of pride that Capetonians have about their city - NOT to litter - coupled with a large tax base and a very well-run municipality that could teach the others a thing or eight!

I was invited to do a few school talks, including Wynburg and SACS (the latter where Springbok great Percy Montgomery was schooled), which was very enjoyable and heart-warming to see the interest and excitement from these young boys and girls.

I love trying to help people and if they managed to take at least one message to heart, then I think it was a great success. Judging by all the questions I was asked, I think the boys really found value in the retelling of the stories and lessons from some of the stars I interviewed for the book.

About Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis's win rate at school and why he valued success, to legendary golfer Gary Player's message about "The harder I practice, the luckier I get." Shaun Pollock's lesson on delivering a performance worth being proud of also struck a chord.

I played a short video of some wonderful tries and watching Ryan Kankowski take off like a fighter jet, making 50m, had the children in fits of Oohs and Aahs!

Sadly, I couldn't provide all the answers the youngsters wanted, like one who asked me, "Sir, do you have Herschelle Gibbs' phone number" or the one who persisted with, "Sir, do you know any Liverpool players, Sir, do you know any WWE people, Sir, do you know anyone from Manchester United."

But then again, there were some wonderful questions on what my inspiration was to write, who was the most interesting person I interviewed, how long it took me to write, proving that there were not only those who want to be a sporting success, but also who can learn valuable lessons from sporting success and transfer them into other spheres like academics and their own goals to write a best-seller one day.

Winning Ways

3 November, 2011

With the Rugby World Cup and Absa Currie Cup now over, two teams victorious and loads more not, now is a good time to look back and discuss why the All Blacks are World Champs (for the next 4 years) and the Lions domestic SA champs.

The word "choker" has been bandied about for the last 24 years since the All Blacks last won the Webb Ellis Cup (in 1987). Consistently the best team in the world, except for a 6 week period every four years when they manage to lose a competition they have no right to, they finally came good under the stewardship of Graham Henry and the unconquerable Richie McCaw.

The Sharks, with seven returning Springboks, were no match for a Lions team who they had put 50 points on two weeks early. The French were more competitive against the All Blacks, but two things stand out for me in both finals.

The winner showed better team work than the vanquished, and the meaning attached by the winners determined their destiny.

Widely expected to do a lot better, even win the Rugby World Cup, the Springboks were knocked out in the quarter-finals.

Now, Bryce Lawrence has copped his fair share of criticism and while I learned at Dale Carnegie courses not to 'criticise, condemn or complain', I am hardly a fan of his. But, my feeling has always been that you can't remove the referee completely from the game, so you play him - well, this is what people do, like David Pocock who played him like the deep south kid playing duelling banjos in 'Deliverance'.

What you do make sure of when you have an opportunity (and with over 70% possession, there were plenty of opportunities) is that you close the game out. If you don't, you can't complain about a third force, even if he spoiled a perfectly good game.

But back to The Sharks, add hungry and disgruntled Springboks, an experienced team boasting 16 Internationals (13 in the starting XV alone!), a new captain intent on making his mark and earning the Man of the Match award in the semi-final, and a few really good youngsters keen to get stuck in. Finally, thrown in the most capped player of all time playing in his final game and there is plenty of meaning for The Sharks.

But the Lions eclipsed them in this department. They had last won the tournament at home in 1951, had gone 12 years without a trophy and were the no-name brands against the star-studded Sharks. Their meaning was to show people who they are and what they are capable. If they had lost, there would have not been the same kind of frenzy there was over The Sharks losing. But by winning, they showed immense character. Not that there was none present in The Sharks team, but simply put, the Lions were NOT going to let anyone steal their thunder.

And like the All Blacks, there is a place for everyone and everyone is in his place, doing his job. Again, this is not to say the French or Sharks' players did not, but it was just executed more accurately and with greater fervour.

It's all about the meaning of life. What does it mean to win or to lose?

22 September, 2011

With the Rugby World Cup now in full swing, there is plenty of hype and excitement and it's been good to see CNA promoting Quest for Glory along with all the other new rugby books hoping to cash in on South Africa's success (hopefully) in their bid to become the first team to ever successfully win back-to-back tournaments.

At the time of writing, Australia had an unexpected loss to a fired up Ireland which places Australia in the Bok's firing line for the quarters and New Zealand in the semis. A tough ask indeed!

There is also some great news on the book-writing front with something big happening involving a high-profile South African sporting personality (although it isn't a biography), although I can't say anything more than that at this juncture.

I've recently got back on the talking circuit, chatting to the boys at DPHS (Alistair Hargreaves may have gone there, being a DHS Old Boy) about sport, literacy and team work (See below), with the hope that more primary schools will be inviting me to come and talk to them. I am also planning on a trip to Cape Town to try and get some talks down at schools down there which should be exciting and enjoyable.

At DPHS, the boys really got into the subject and the questions posed were very insightful. Well done to them, a roaring success!

From DPHS:

Local author Michael Marnewick visited DPHS as part of their Literacy Week drive to talk about how sport and education are linked, using examples from his book 'Quest for Glory: Successes in South African Sport' to drive home points such as team-work, discipline, dedication and ambition. The interaction between the Grade 4-7 boys with Michael was fantastic with a range of both sporting and writing questions being asked and answered making his visit a success in terms of what it takes to be a champion sportsman or woman as well as what it takes to write a book and the value of reading.

15 April, 2011

Writing a book doesn't just finish when you hand in your manuscript. Aside from possible rewrites, edits, fighting with editors over the way a word is delivered (per cent vs percent in my case), checking, rechecking and finally seeing the book as a physical entity (yee-haaaaa!), there is the marketing, the events, the publicity and the media hounding.

In my case, I've chased interviews, reviews and and corporate speeches in an effort to market the book. My TV debut on Fanie de Villiers' show BVP was followed up by a quick review on Boots and All on Thursday 14 April, a great thrill to have some exposure on probably the biggest rugby show in South Africa. Let's just hope the sales follow!

Recently, I was invited (along with another local author, Delia Turner) by Exclusive Books La Lucia branch for a ladies book evening - to discuss the writing process and what I'm reading . Cristy Zinn was the host and she interviewed me for her website. For those interested in a quality interview covering a range of topics, click here.

Amongst other things, we discussed the inspiration behind writing Quest for Glory and the writing process itself ("The process was extremely tough and at times I had to put my health (both mental and physical) second, as well as the needs of my family. I lost 10% of my body weight working 14 hour days, seven days a week. At times, I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a wonderful new idea and hit the laptop for a few hours.")

I also spoke about finding a publisher, the people I interviewed, the challenges of combining a day job with writing a book and what it takes to actually write a book (she asked about being a successful writer - but I have yet to lay claim to that title...).

31 March, 2011

When you mess up, and do so spectacularly, infamy can follow close behind. Within the matter of a few hours, one Jacqueline Howett ensured that her name would go down in history, but not for all the right reasons.

The story went viral and even Steven Fry Tweeted about it! "Oh Dear," he said. "This is a lesson in how not to respond to criticism."

All I can say is that I was completely gobsmacked at Ms Howett's reactions to the review in question - and as someone who also relies on good media relations, I know the value of support and sometimes constructive criticism is part of the whole learning experience.

When you write a book, you are not only writing for an audience of readers, but reviewers as well, and you have to accept that the odd negative comment will slip in.

I worked the media and got mostly great reviews, but also got one or two negative comments.

These centred around the incorrect spelling of one person's name which is justifiable and something I took on the chin, although not without some disappointment that the reviewer felt inclined to point out one spelling mistake in 75 000 words. But I certainly didn't suffer any kind of emotional meltdown.

The upshot of it all is that when you write - for money ultimately - you are doing so professionally, and you will be judged accordingly.

If you can't act professionally or take constructive criticism well, you're in the wrong business.

When the reviewer pointed out that, "I think you’ll find the story compelling and interesting" - he was giving the book a thumbs-up - but he also pointed out some serious flaws which indicate minimal editing of the "finished" manuscript.

"The spelling and grammar errors, which come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant. At times, you’ll be engrossed in the story when you’ll run across a flowery description of the emotions Katy is feeling about her situation or her husband. These are numerous and sometimes very good. Chances are one of these sections originally pulled you so deeply into Katy’s world. Then you’ll run into one that doesn’t work and get derailed again. Reading shouldn’t be that hard."

The author immediately started blogging in defense of her style, saying: "Maybe its just my style and being English is what you don't get.".

This in reference to the reviewer providing evidence of her clumsy writing: "Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance."

She then went on the offensive with: "Look AL, I'm not in the mood for playing snake with you, what I read above has no flaws. My writing is fine. And please follow up now from e-mail. This is not only discusting and unprofessional on your part, but you really don't fool me AL. Who are you any way? Really who are you? What do we know about you?"

She then completely lost the plot and told him to "F### off" and thus ensuring lifelong infamy.

If you're an author hoping for rave reviews - this is what NOT to do when you don't get them: click here to read the entire transcript

16 March, 2011

Despite my best intentions to write here on a regular basis, like a mechanic who drives a broken down car, when I'm not writing for a living, I tend to neglect something like this which is a must-do!

Since my last posting, I appeared on BVP - Fanie de Villiers's cricket show with him asking me questions in Afrikaans and me answering in English - truly a cosmopolitan show! (I'm still awaiting a DVD of it and will post it here when I can).

I was also invited by ABSA to deliver a 20-minute talk on success and how team-work impacts on how people are able to achieve glory in a business world. The event was to honour award-winners and went off very well. The lessons from sport are indeed applicable to business and hopefully there will be more opportunities to do this. As a sports-mad country, sometimes thinking out the box to deliver a key message (such as sport and how it applies to business) impacts in a greater way as people take more meaning out of considering the successes of our Springboks or Proteas (or Sharks or Olympic Athletes) than perhaps economic theory.

I've been furiously still trying to get the message out there and there are opportunities cropping up. Get It Magazine (Ballito/Umhlanga/DBN North) interviewed me for their April edition and I'm looking forward to reading that insert. I also got in touch with Darren Scott and may have secured a discussion piece on Quest for Glory in "Boots and All". They don't do interviews, but if the panel talks about the book then the exposure continues.

Since I last wrote, I have also come up with two new book ideas. I just need to find the time to write . . .

18 January, 2011

It's been a fairly quiet month with other work taking over, although I managed to fit in more publicity opportunities doing an interview for Get It Magazine which will be covered in the next month or two. Fanie de Villiers has also expressed interest in interviewing me on TV for his show and I'm really looking forward to that - date TBC.

Added affirmation that I seem to be on the right track came from two different sources. One from Lewis Pugh (The Human Polar Bear) who I will be interviewing for something in the future (second edition perhaps?), it is really interesting to hear his views. "It seems to me that self belief is the most crucial element to any sporting performance," he said. The Pyramid of Success in "Quest for Glory" has SELF-CONFIDENCE at the pinnacle, suggesting he and I have the same beliefs on success.

The second from Professor Tim Noakes who I interviewed for the book. When I emailed him to find out if he had received the signed copy I sent him, he said indeed, and had finished reading it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Furthermore, he added: "By interviewing some of South Africa’s most eloquent sportsmen and women of high achievement and focusing on the “why” not the “what”, Michael has produced a work of real value.

"I do hope that his book will be widely read so that more South Africans can begin to understand how complex it is to produce champion athletes. The future of sport is in intellectualism as the stories of each of the athletes that he interviews so clearly shows.

"Congratulations on writing an excellent book."

Read more here (and make no mistake, I am using his comments in any marketing efforts I can!)

28 December, 2010

I suppose Merry Christmas wishes are belated right now, but I hope it was a good festive season enjoyed in great company.

After the hustle and bustle of a hectic month in November which comprised launches, school talks and other leg work, December quietened down somewhat although there was still work to be done.

The reviews started coming in thick and fast and I am truly grateful and honoured to have had some wonderful words spoken about the book. It's like when your children are born, people say such nice things - you just hope it's not purely diplomacy coming through...

But I do hope that all the exposure and branding means people recognised the book when they saw it in the various outlets and a few thousand sales later, I'm hoping the read was worth the purchase!

I was warned off doing book-signings by my publishers because they aren't always well-supported, unless you're the likes of John Smit of Herschelle Gibbs, and they were right. I sent a few hours at Exclus1ve Books - La Lucia Mall signing books and it was like I'd imagine working the flea-market must feel like - an almost desperate need for people to buy your wares.

Now, I don't look down on flea market vendors, but it just ain't my cup of tea and it brought home how thick-skinned one needs to be to not take it personally when people don't buy from you. But it can be a little disheartening.

Once again, it brought home how hard one has to work as an author, unless you're John Grisham or Stephen King - with a horde of dedicated fans who eagerly-await each new offering. Writing a book isn't good enough, you have to sell the book, the idea and yourself and do whatever it takes to make sure your book is in the store, prominently-displayed.

Even if that means having to ask them to move a sports book from "African Non-Fiction"....

Until next time, take care and thanks for listening!

19 November, 2010

It's been a busy month, nay, busy year! Six months of frantic writing mixed with a day job finally came to an end in May. Following that came the editing process, three or four times and a few arguments going back and forth over the correct way of presenting percent. The publishers were hell-bent on two words - per cent - while my feeling was that common usage, even if incorrect, was percent.

I finally relented in the interests of peace and not being wrong (even if I thought I was right!) and we went with 'per cent'. I should just have used the unambiguous '%' and been done with it!

The book was to hit the book stores early November which meant organising the book launches - one for the media and one for the public - and by all accounts, both went off very well. Good food, good wine, good people, great atmosphere. A winner in my book.

Early accounts were that interest from the book stores was good, initial order was approaching a third of the way to a best-seller!

Once the media start their reviews, hopefully more hype will pick up and with it, sales. I have Herschelle Gibbs' tell-all autobiography to deal with but can hardly slag the guy off considering he was a more than helpful contributor to my book. However, mine was more about his achievements rather than his indiscretions!

I've found that in South Africa – as in any country I suppose – a first time author of little significance in the grand scheme of things needs to 'get out there' to promote himself and his work (of art) rather than sit back and wait for massive royalty cheques – because they're not going to materialise. Simply put, the books aren't going to sell themselves.

Between my family, myself and my friends, the book is being re-arranged into a more prominent position on the shelves of book stores for great visibility. (If you are a book shop owner reading this, I do apologise, but if you're not going to help promote my book, it;s not going to sell is it?)

I'll try keep providing feedback on how things are going. Thanks for reading!

Quest for Glory - Anthology of the writing process

Start the process of requesting and doing interviews - mid December, 2009
Send proposal to Editor - Early January 2010
Receive news that the book idea has been accepted - 12 February
Sign contract with publishers - 20 February
Finish first draft of manuscript - and send for first edit - 20 May
Deliver Second Draft to Editor - 10 June
Second edit - 26 June
Receive cover - 29 June
Third edit - 26 July
Receive printed Manuscript + Fourth Edit - Early August
Fifth edit (minor changes) - late August
Deal signed with Amazon to sell the book online as an eBook - 25 August
Sixth Edit - 13 September
Final Cover - 2 September
Receive Preliminary Pages in PDF - 15 September
Book goes to print - 23 September
Receive first copies - 28 October. THE EAGLE HAS LANDED!!!

Quest for Glory - Events

School Talk to 1000 pupils - Hillcrest High - 8 October
School Talk to 1100 pupils - Glenwood High - 12 October
School Talk to 500 pupils - Crawford College La Lucia - 26 October
"The kids, and the staff in particular, enjoyed what you had to say," Pete Deppe.
School Talk to 450 pupils - Hilton College - 27 October
"A big thank you for having spoken to the boys at Hilton. They enjoyed it thoroughly and I am certain they all learnt from your talk," PK Ramnarain.
School Talk to 300 pupils - Kearsney College - 4 November
School Talk to 500 pupils - Westville Boys High - 25 November
School Talk to 300 pupils - Clifton College - 30 November

Book launch is scheduled for early November, 2010 with a book signing at the Official Public Book Launch at Books & Books (Kensington Square, Durban North) on 11 November.

Addressing the boys at Glenwood High

Addressing the boys at Glenwood High