Tim Lewis: The next two shows I am going to be doing, including this one, are going to be solo shows, where I talk about some shorter issues. The reason why I’m doing that is because I’m slightly pressed for time, as I’m going on a long trip to the United States of America. I’m going to go to San Diego for Social Media Marketing World. I’m going to briefly go to Wichita because I know a few people there. And I’m going to be appearing on a live Facebook Live show, hopefully on the day when this show airs. I’m also going to be going to Austin for South By Southwest. Then, very briefly, to New York.
Tim Lewis: Because that’s three and a half weeks of journeying, these shows have got to be done in the few days before I head off. I don’t really want to do a show with a guest in it when I’m away, because I can’t promote the show in the same way. I mean, it doesn’t feel fair to do shows where you’ve got a guest and you’re not doing your standard procedures, working through all the places you should be sharing the individual show.
Tim Lewis: So, I thought I’d do two shorter solo shows and have them ready for you for those two weeks. I should be back in the UK by the next show, though it’s very tight. I think I’ll be extremely jet lagged. So I’m recording this show and I’ll be recording the other show after this. Anyway, I thought I’d do a show where I actually talk about my books. It’s something that has occurred to me and is probably obviously to most of you who listen to this podcast. I very rarely actually ever talk about my books.
Tim Lewis: I think it’s a kind of variation of the impostor syndrome. I lost confidence in my books. I lost confidence in my fiction writing ability. I’ve always been confident in that I’m good at interviewing people. I’ve been confident that I can talk about marketing topics. But I lost confidence in how good my books were.
Tim Lewis: The funny thing is almost accidentally, because I had an issue with my headphones ando I couldn’t listen to any podcasts for a little while, started re-reading my own book, my first Timeshock book, I Want My Life Back. And when I was re-reading it, I was thinking, “Well, this is actually a lot better than I remember.” I’ve always been a little bit ashamed of that first book. Basically, a 25,000 word time travel eBook. There are three books in that series. I seem to have done trilogies.
Tim Lewis: In both cases, I was hoping to do long series, because it’s a rather sensible, commonly known thing, but it’s a lot easier to sell and make money from books in a long series than it is to make money from individual books. So yes, as I say, I started to re-read Timeshock: I Want My Life Back, and actually thinking, “Oh, this is quite a good book. I really enjoy reading this.
Tim Lewis: I think the biggest issue I had with that book, and that is actually, historically, by far the best performing book I’ve had. That got to number 10 in the UK Time Travel Chart. Which may not sound that impressive, but actually because time travel is such a strange category, I think I should be proud that I got to number 10 in the UK chart. I think I could have got into the US chart as well, if I hadn’t made a rather, slightly stupid mistake with my targeting, where at one point I was spending money on Facebook adverts for people in the US and then sending them accidentally to the UK Amazon store. But that’s a whole another story.
Tim Lewis: The reason why getting to number 10 in a time travel chart is good is because it is a pure action, time travel story. It appeals the of people who like the more sciencey side of time travel. It’s not at all descriptive. It’s much more in the fast-moving, paced kind of novel. There are a few little continuity and other errors in the book. Not that many, and time travel is a really hard genre to get right. The reason why it’s actually very hard to chart highly, to get to, say, to number one in Time Travel Chart, is that if you have a look at the time travel charts, and I haven’t recently, but if you do, you’ll see that there’s often a lot of time travel romance in there. And if you’re up against romance books, then you’re always going to be struggling because the market for romance is so much bigger than that for the specialist time travel area.
Tim Lewis: There are so many cases of the Outlander and that kind of story, where people go back in time and then cast a romance with some husky person from Scotland or some other place, and if you’re ever writing a time travel book, you’re going to have to compete with time travel romance stories. The other interesting facet of time travel, which again I didn’t really appreciate until I wrote a time travel book, was that in time travel there are almost a few sub-genres.
Tim Lewis: There’s a whole historical time travel, which is again, more like historical fiction. So rather than writing just a standard historical fiction book, where you go into great detail describing what all of the things look like in that particular time … I mean, I’ve got a lot of time for historical fiction, it’s not something I really want to write, though. They write in the time travel context. Again, this means that they can put it in the time travel category, and in historical fiction. That is the total opposite of my book, which is really more like a thriller set with quite a lot of time travel elements. My stories are very pure time travel. Much more of the science fiction, short story time travel, which is what I’ve read a lot of, in terms of time travel. I’ve read a lot of anthologies of short time travel stories. This was my response on the same genre.
Tim Lewis: When I was writing the first book, I suffered from a problem of wanting it to be of a particular length. If I’d just written the book as I should have written it, it would have been about 9,000 words long. But because I thought that it have to be over 20,000 for anybody to be able to buy it or read it or do anything with it, to get up to novella length, I added a whole extra weird section with aliens in the middle of it.
Tim Lewis: I think, actually, reading it again, it works okay, but I can see, and I have had bad reviews, because it starts out as a psychological and a question about realism, and then there’s a whole weird section with aliens in the middle of it. Now, the aliens actually come back in some of the later books, and I make a lot better use of that future part of it. You could say that there is no problem with time travel having both a historical and a future section to it. But I can understand why some people wouldn’t like that. I added in, purely, that section, to try and pad it out to make it up to 20,000 words. Maybe, in retrospect, I should have just finished the original book I was doing and sold it, even, at 8,000, maybe, as a short story. Because the book’s ended up as free anyway. You can go onto Amazon and look up Timeshock: I Want My Life Back, and you can download it free on Amazon. It’s basically a free first-in-series.
Tim Lewis: The other thing I would say about having free books is that while it’s great for getting people to download the book, you get an awful lot of people who will download the book and then will complain that it wasn’t what they were expecting. When, if they were actually spending money on it, they would make the effort to do things like read reviews and read the description, and rather than just complaining about it, they would have actually just not bought it, and then they’re not going to leave a bad review. So, that’s the issue with having a free book. It’s why I’ve not yet made my Magpies and Magic first book free. I probably will do, as an eBook, some stage. But I’m just worried, as it’s not got that many reviews at the moment, that I don’t want to sabotage it by making it free and then having a whole load of people saying it’s not long enough or something along those lines, or some spurious reason why they don’t like the book.
Tim Lewis: The second book in the Timeshock series is actually my favourite book in terms of those I’ve written. The first book has an awful lot of very short time jumps in it. It’s all about time travel and it can be quite confusing to some people. I mean, it was confusing to me to write it. I think if you like time travel and you like complexity, then the first book will really appeal. If you’re somebody who is expecting some sort of single time travel jump and then you want to know what’s going on, you may be confused by the first book.
Tim Lewis: The second book is longer and is basically about what happens when somebody goes back in time and changes a major aspect of history. The first book is very much more about a few people’s personal journey, when they change their own life, accidentally, in the past, while the second book is more about when somebody goes back and changes a major piece of history, and what happens there. There’s also a whole whodunit kind of theme on the second book, which may be a suggestion that maybe at some point I should write a murder mystery. Though, given my slow pace of writing a book a year, and I’m currently writing a non-fiction book, I’m not sure when I’m ever going to get round to writing a murder mystery book.
Tim Lewis: My third Timeshock book kind of finishes up the series in a reasonable way. I suppose it’s much more of a book about finishing the series. I mean, I’m struggling to remember a lot about my third Timeshock book. I know that some people like it and some people don’t like it. I think it tied up all the loose ends in the whole of the rest of the series pretty well, but what I would say is that I know some people found it a bit complicated. It’s a lot more aliens in the third book than there in any other series, but it does tie up a lot of the loose ends. In fact, it ties up all the loose ends.
Tim Lewis: I actually had a review of the third book saying that I’d clearly taken a 60,000 word book and sliced it up into three, and then moaning about that. Even though that’s not true, I didn’t, I wrote them as separate books, I actually took that as a compliment. The fact that they couldn’t tell that I had clearly been struggling to try and make the narrative make sense across the books. I actually thought, “Well, the fact that they thought that I’d written it as one book and split it up was actually an unintentional compliment.” And I found that quite amusing in a way.
Tim Lewis: So, all those three books are all eBooks. I should probably get around to doing a compendium paperback version of the Timeshock series, because it’s long enough as a whole to do a paperback, but I just haven’t done that.
Tim Lewis: Slightly on a whim, and because I thought it would be easier, I decided to switch to fantasy. Now, I think, in hindsight, switching to fantasy was a mistake. Firstly because even though I really love fantasy, I love watching fantasy TV series and fantasy film, I don’t really read that much fantasy. I find most fantasy overly long and a bit tedious to read.
Tim Lewis: So, I’ve written three fantasy comic alternative universe books that don’t really fit into any category. Most people really like them, who read them, but it’s hard to describe. I couldn’t bring across any audience I had from any of the other books, and while they’re longer, they’re all 50,000 words, and they are available as paperback, it was probably a mistake to switch to fantasy, I should have just stuck with science-fiction, at least. You kind of fool yourself, in that even though Amazon lumps together science-fiction and fantasy as one area, they are very different in terms of who reads them. I think, generally speaking, you’re going to get a lot of people who like science-fiction who like fantasy, and vice versa, but in terms of readers, very different to read space opera than epic fantasy. So that was a bit of a mistake.
Tim Lewis: The basic thrust of my Magpies and Magic series is that there’s three magpies from, basically, our universe, giving away a bit of a spoiler for the actual books here, who get transported into a world where they’re much, much bigger, relative to the humans in that world. They’re about the size of a horse in this other universe, where magic still exists, and they actually have, well, some of them have magical powers in this new universe.
Tim Lewis: It’s also based on the premise that there aren’t really heroes. There are people thrust into heroic situations. It’s all about the journey of Kolan, who’s a hero who accidentally becomes known as a mega-hero, even though he’s totally incompetent. He’s useless as a hero. And the main party of people who are on the quest that they go on, including the magpies, are actually all fairly useless, as being what you would call traditional fantasy heroes.
Tim Lewis: I also, perhaps controversially, decided to have some lesbian characters in the Magpies and Magic series. It’s not because I did this for any great political correctness reason, it was just because I’m tired of the usual fantasy trope of having a princess who has some romance with a male hero. So I decided to have a princess who has a romance with a female hero instead. I’m sure anybody who actually is a proper lesbian would say that I write all the lesbian characters terribly, and I’m not being consistent in how lesbian romance works. They’re probably exactly correct, but I actually do think … I thought there would be a lot more fuss from people about this, but honestly, I can say, that nobody seems to care. Nobody seems to care at all that I have lesbian characters in my books. I suppose that’s actually quite a good thing.
Tim Lewis: I’ve also, in all of my books, I seem to, even though I’m not particularly anti-religious or particularly religious, I always seem to end up writing about religious themes quite a lot in all of my books. Not so much that I criticise religion, but I do criticise, for example, these religions where they all go on about minor details. So in my Magpies and Magics books, one of the largest things that I talk about is that there are two sects of the same religion where they’re debating about whether the prophet wore socks or not when he’s … One of his journeys through history. And that’s the main difference between the two religions, but yet they’re always greatly fighting each other.
Tim Lewis: So, I’ve done three books in the Magpies and Magic series. That series is now complete, as well. My latest project is completely different. I did briefly describe it at the start of a previous show. What I’m going to do, and this comes back to my own experience with social media. I love social media marketing, I love social media. I’m on it way more than I should be for somebody who’s trying to sell books. I’ve not been that great at selling books through social media, but I’ve made some fantastic connections. I’ve got all sorts of people. I’ve got connections with bloggers, with thousands or even millions of people who read their stuff. I’ve connected with authors all across the world. I’ve got a job from social media, a couple of jobs from social media. Only part time ones, mind, but I’ve got a speaking gig purely from social media.
Tim Lewis: And that kind of intrigued me. So, originally I was going to write a book where I said how I think you can use social media to get ahead in your own career or your own business or find a job and this kind of thing. I was talking to one of the guests at the show, who said, “Well, if you need any case studies …” My light bulb in my head went off, and I thought, “Hmm. Case studies.” So, I put up a Facebook post in my personal profile. I’ve got a lot of friends on Facebook. Some of them are people I know well, some I’ve never met. I’m perfectly willing to say that. I’ve not got too many fake friends on Facebook, thankfully. So I put a post onto Facebook and I was expecting three or four replies. I think I had 37 replies from people volunteering to be interviewed for this book.
Tim Lewis: So, the book’s become a interview-based book. Now, I was really hoping to have got the book finished by now. I’ve done most of the interviews. There’s a few people I’m still chasing. But things come up, and conferences, and my mega-trip, but I will finish the book. I’ll finish the book probably sometime in the middle of this year. I’ll do my one book a year policy.
Tim Lewis: I have a feeling that, because of the interest in the topic, because everybody seems to be obsessed with social media for selling and for marketing, when the basic power, to me, in my mind, of social media, is the connections. It’s making those connections with people. That’s where the power is.
Tim Lewis: When I was growing up and when I started in business, if you wanted to get ahead in your job, you really had to know the right people. So you had to go down the pub and hobnob with the senior people. Or, you had to play golf with the boss, or you had to marry the boss’s daughter, or something along those lines. Now, you can use social media. You can use social media to go connect with people in your own company, connect with people at other companies at higher levels, and it’s levelled up the playing field, because much as we would like to think that if you work hard and you’re very good, you’ll get success.
Tim Lewis: There is some truth in that, but a lot of it is making people aware of that. It’s no good working really hard under a boss who doesn’t appreciate you, and expecting that to be worth something. You’ve got to be making connections with people in similar or higher levels at other similar companies, so that you’ve got somewhere to go and connections to make. You may be able to find somebody who you really click with at a different company, and they may have a job opportunity open, and you’ll be the first to know, because you’re their friend. Because you’ve made friends with them on social media.
Tim Lewis: This is kind of the crux, and there’s so many stories of people I’ve interviewed who’ve got job offers of they’ve got speaking gigs, and all because they’ve known somebody on social media. So, that’s the crux of my book, which at the moment’s going to be called The Real Social Advantage. Originally I was going to call it Social Power, but the problem was the domain name for that and also the fact that it sounds a bit naff. So at the moment, it’s going to be called The Real Social Advantage. It may change.
Tim Lewis: So that’s more or less my book-writing career. As I say, the first Timeshock book is free on Amazon if you’re looking for time travel. The first Magpies and Magic book is 99 cents, the eBook. It’s quite considerably more for the paperback, and that’s just because it costs a lot of money to actually produce the paperback. I make about as much money from the paperback sales as I make from the 99 cent eBook, which suggests how unprofitable paperbacks are, relative to eBooks.
Tim Lewis: If you follow my @StonehamPress Twitter account, you’ll see when my Real Social Advantage book is out, because I’ll be tweeting about it a lot. I’ll probably mention it on this show, just to let you know. And yes, that’s my book career. So, talk to you guys next week.
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