Strategic Thinking in Building Author Platform and Finding an Audience

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Three months ago I ranted about my confusion and dilemma when confronting head-on all the social media options out here to help an indie, self-publisher author to market her work and reach her potential fans/readers (A New Author’s Reflection and Dilemma in Promoting Books (https://junyingkirk.wordpress.com/2011/03/). Now still relatively new on the scene but with two full length novels on Amazon Kindle, and a contribution to a short story collection, I feel I am on more solid ground and no longer as disorientated and overwhelmed. The newly acquired confidence partly comes from picking my way through the giant maze of options, hence a massive learning curve, partly derived from the generous support of fellow writers I’ve come to know, respect and learn from.

Through Facebook and Twitter I’ve met many individuals who are in a similar position to myself.   For the last few years since I opened my Facebook account, my circle of friends had remained around 30 with whom I had maintained regular contact and face to face interactions at some stage of my life, now three months after my ‘status’ changed from a normal human being to a ‘published author’, the numbers of my Facebook friends have doubled many times over, and will continue to grow no doubt. These new faces are, guess who? … all published authors of one form or another. While some have been in the game for ever, others are just starting out or have yet to publish their debut novels. If back in March I was pushed into the water trying not to sink in the oceans of writers, in June I have learnt to do the basic doggy-paddle and take a much needed breath above water.

I enjoyed being a member of GoodReads, where I was just a regular reader for a couple of months before I realised that I could actually have an author’s page there with details of my books on. It was a wonderful place for book lovers to share their enthusiasm and passion for literature and movies. I have made the acquaintance of quite a few avid readers who have similar tastes to mine, and I was glad to be able to write reviews on the books I truly loved.

The important lessons I have learnt from my readings and navigating my way through these networks have been: I need to know who and where my audience are and what they can get from me? Based on this premise, I am in the middle of building my unique author platform with the grand plan of reaching millions of my readers/fans out there on this planet Earth. Well, maybe not quite in its millions, as that sounds a bit ambitious and perhaps grandiose. But at least a few years down the road, I hope that I would have reached more than just my family and Facebook friends :-).

Thanks for checking in and do leave a comment if you have learnt anything useful from this week’s blog.

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Posted in Social Media, Writing | 9 Comments

My Favourite Films

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog on The Changing Face and Place of Films, when I promised to share with my readers my best loved films, so here is the moment of truth.

As a long-term film fan of many different genres and from different eras and countries, it is not an easy task to give a full list of those truly wonderful and unforgettable films I have watched in my life, but I shall make an attempt to give you a flavor of the kind of films that have made a lasting impact in my memory.

For starters, these are the top five films I’ve named on my Facebook: Escape to Victory, Spartacus, The Sound of Music, Life Is Beautiful and American Beauty. I watched the first three films while still in China many years ago, and I remember them so clearly.

Escape to Victory was set in the Second World War. It was not so much the amazing football, including the legendary Pele, it was the spirit and the message from the film that moved me and make it memorable. It also had a wonderful cast. I loved Spartacus for the same reason. I love strong heros who, no matter what their origin, stand up and fight for freedom. Similar films that appeal to me include Braveheart, Schindler’s list, Saving Private Ryan, The Pianist,The Great Escape and Life is Beautiful.

Apart from good war films, I am a huge fan of action blockbusters, such as The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Mission Impossible, Jason Bourne, Terminators and X-men. I am always up  for a treat. There are few things better than going to cinema with a friend on a night out, or simply sitting on my sofa and taking a ride in those amazing James Bond cars.

You would think that I am a war-like action hero-worship movie freak if you’ve read this far, but I do like a lot of other films, which are lighted-hearted and great fun. Not only good musicals like The Sound Of Music, The Wizard of Oz and Chicago are wonderfully entertaining, I also enjoy some well-written, well-acted rom-coms. Off the top of my head, these include The 40 Year Old Virgin, some Charlie Chaplin comedies, and more recently Meet The Fockers.

Having said that, if given a mindless silly fun or a more gritty realistic take on life, I’ll probably go for the latter. I don’t care too much for horror or supernatural, but a violent and bloody dose of reality does not put me off.

Some of my favorite films were adapted from my favorite books. For example, Jane Eyre and its many versions over the years. Wuthering Heights is another, and Atonement, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, and many more.

I have not listed any Chinese films here, or low-budget British or foreign languages films, but I’d love to know what films you love and why. Thank you for stopping by my blog.

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No More Heroes

I remember the moment. Etched in my memory as if in the granite mountain behind them, Lance Armstrong and German Jan Ullrich climbing a massive hill in the Alps , far ahead of the peloton. Lance looked over at Jan, not once but three times, checking to see what he had left in the tank. This was one of their many private battles.

Armstrong had seen enough; he knew from the look in Ullrich’s eyes that he had nothing left. He was just hanging on doggedly, his heart rate already in the red zone. Armstrong pounced and stood up on the bike, dancing on the pedals for a devastating  attack that left Ullrich for dead.

This pattern was to be repeated for several years until Armstrong had amassed a record number of Tour de France wins. He had reached an almost mythical standing in the sport and in the wider world. Cycling fans either loved or hated him. Some hated him for being so American, so brash so uncompromising, for refusing to give interviews in anything but English.

Others were always suspicious of the way he could just leave people behind when he chose to. The way he could smash the challenge of other World class atheletes in the race. The way he only entered the Tour de France. The single minded concentration on that one great prize.

He had his attack dogs, who would weaken the others with constant bursts of acceleration, waging psychological warfare on men and teams with less money than US Postal.

In equal measure, fans respected his non-nonsense Texan approach to this most European of sports. They chose to ignore or not to care about the rumours of doping, of drug abuse, of blood transfusions. None of these fitted the mythology of Armstrong. Livestrong. The man who beat cancer. I read his book, as did millions of others and was inspired to get back on my bike.

Today I watched the 60 minutes programme on CBS which spoke at length to one of his team mates and Olympic gold medallist, Tyler Hamilton.  The dream and the myth are over. Even George Hincapie, Armstrong’s best friend on a bike has indicated that the accusations of EPO abuse and blood transfusions are true.

So what are fans left with? A very sour taste in the mouth. The removal of those files of pleasure in the brain, the tarnishing of those great moments in time trials and on the high mountains of the Alps where Armstrong reigned supreme for a decade  On whom should we now pins our fantasies of man and superman. Alberto Contador ? Three times winner of the Tour de France is being investigated for drug abuse. Another phenomenal hill climber who can dance on the pedals while others are fighting for breath. I don’t think so. He looks like he will win the Giro d’Italia, in many ways tougher than the Tour de France, but risks being stripped of the title if he loses the forthcoming court case.

John Kirk

I am grateful to John for his contribution to my very first guest blog. Please read and comment, and thank you for visiting!

Posted in Sports & Wellbeing, True Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On the Changing Face and Place of Films

Last week I did my blog on Reading and how much I love doing it. This week I’m turning my attention to another of my greatest hobbies, watching movies. Yes, most of us have been to the cinema, and even more of us have watched TV for many years, and with the invention of videos, DVDs and now downloads on our PCs or iMacs, Iphones, and some of us even make home movies and upload them on YouTubes and other websites. Never before have films and entertainment become so easily accessible and they are virtually everywhere in our everyday lives.

For some of us who have lived for a few decades, we bear witness to an amazing change and transformation in our relatively short lifetime. I remember there was a time back in China when we crammed into an outdoor square or a make-do platform and eagerly waited for the showing of a black and white film. There were times when we queued patiently for a cinema ticket and went in excitedly, watching a foreign film with bated breath. Often we brought our own chairs or just sat on the hard and dusty ground.

I don’t remember the first time I ever watched a movie, but I do remember back in the early 1970s when television became available but not every family could afford one, there were organised showings at a designated place. There were not many good Chinese films due to the straight-jacketing of the  notorious Cultural Revolution, but there were quite a lot of foreign language films which were dubbed so the Chinese audiences could enjoy them. Depending on which countries China was friendly with at the time, we would be shown the films from our ‘friends’.

In my memory, I watched quite a few Northern Korean films and I remember one particularly well, and it was called The Girl Who Sells Flowers. It was a story about two sisters separated after the war, one in the South and one in the North. Of course, the one in the South suffered terribly. It was a heart-wrenching story and I cried almost non-stop and nearly passed out when the film came to an end. Now on reflection, I think the Koreans are good at making heartbreaking movies, as a few of the modern South Korean ones I have watched in recent years also made me tearful. Perhaps I just had a very soft spot somewhere or my emotions are easily stirred.

In the 1970s and 1980s while I was still in China, going to the cinema was a huge treat for me, and I went as much as I could. I saw films from Albania, the former Yugoslavia, India, Japan, Pakistan, Egypt, and later on films from our former arch enemies such as UK, France, Germany and America. We had wonderful dub voice actors, some of whom were so famous that they were household names. A few years ago I was saddened to learn that those once famous dub actors were struggling to get work, as many of them were laid off by their employers, the film studios across the country.

My passion for films started early in life, but it was further nurtured and intensified after I arrived in the UK.  Going to cinema is still a wonderful treat and sitting on the comfy sofa and indulging in a great movie is a pastime hard to beat. In the past two decades, it was impossible to calculate how many films I have watched in both cinemas and on Video/DVDs. I guess on the basis of between 2 to 10 movies per week, the number would be quite staggering. I have watched so many good to great movies, again it is not possible to name them all.

In the past year or so, my knowledge of films have become more intimate. In the Autumn of 2009, when my husband and I visited Malaysia, John’s film director friend Razak was making a Bollywood type of movie called Ratu, meaning The Beauty Queen in English. Razak was doing an audition for the leading lady, and I was lucky enough to be present, watching beautiful girls strutting their dance and acting routine to win the part.

A week ago, we went to the Screening of The Insatiable Moon in the Midlands Arts Centre, and we heard the producers talking about the process leading to the filming and during the filming. John knows the producer well and we have watched his films before.

Only a couple of days ago, I signed up a wonderful Chinese director Lu Chuan on my Facebook. To be honest, to say that I was thrilled was an understatement. He is by far the most famous person on my Facebook. I have watched all his three films to date and they were all amazing films in very different ways. His most recent film is The City of Life and Death, about the horrendous war crime that Japanese committed against the Chinese, the Massacre of Nanjing in 1937. This film has received rave reviews from critics in America, and worldwide.

John returned from Malaysia early this morning and greeted me with a bit of news on the side: he played a hospital doctor in Razak’s new romantic comedy, so now I can claim that I married a film star :-).

One day, I hope that my books will be made into films or at least a TV series. Aren’t I a dreamer? We live and we dream!

What are your all time favorite movies? I’d love to hear from you, and I look forward to sharing with you my best-loved films in my next blog.

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On Reading

I am writing this week’s blog on something most of us enjoy and do on a regular basis: Reading. Yes, some of us do it more often than others, and most of us want to have more time for it. I, for one, have always loved reading. I have lost count how many books I’ve read in my life, but judging from the over 1000 books on my bookshelves in the UK (may I add that they are not for decoration and I actually read most of them, as well as giving a lot to charity shops after a regular sort-out), and the hundreds I’ve left behind in China, not to mention all the books I had read in various libraries and the newly acquired e-books on my Kindle, the number must be in the thousands. So I can safely claim that I am an avid reader and will remain so for the rest of my life.

I don’t remember exactly when I started reading, and there weren’t that many good books available when I was growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. But I do remember being able to read before the normal school age, because we started learning to read and write at nursery school. With the complications of Chinese characters I guess we have to start a little earlier than the rest of the World! Then there was of course the compulsive reading of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Books, and many revolutionary story books about heros and heroines who sacrificed and died for us, for the New China.

On reflection, I began reading seriously and in ernest while at school in the 1970s. Even before the Cultural Revolution officially ended, there were banned books to lay my hands on, to read under the bedcovers at night with only a torch, from Chinese classical literature to more modern romantic fiction. The risk here was encountering the furious rage of my severe Communist Mother.

I consider myself extremely lucky that I was able to go to University and my first degree was no other than the wonderful English Literature. From then onwards, I no longer had to depend on translations and my love for world literature thrived, growing year by year. I read whatever I could find and that passion for written words never stopped. Because I was starved as a child, of the spiritual food more than anything else, the fear of not feeding myself properly is so deeply embedded in my consciousness that the hunger stayed with me and compelled me constantly seek for more.

My first and foremost love is fiction, especially English and the World literature of note. It’s a never ending love affair which has been reinforced by time and experience. I am in love with many classical masters, including Dickens, Hardy, The Bronte sisters, the creators of the War and Peace, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, just to mention a few in my long list.

I can go on and on about the great literary works I have come across over the years, and while some of them do slip through our somewhat faulty, sieve-like memories, others stay with us for as long as we remain sane and sober. I must admit that there are books that I began but never finished, and occasionally never went past the first page, others simply grabbed me so instantly and tightly that they wouldn’t let you go until you came to the very last page, and even then I pined for more. In my time, I have the fortune to devour quite a few of them.

I won’t be going into details on each of these unforgettable books right here and now, but I want to direct the last part of this blog to a book I have just finished, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Although I had it on my shelf for about a year, I started it due to a ‘casual’ conversation on my Facebook with fellow author Kate Bower. Since she finished it in one day a year ago, I thought I’d have a contest with her, to see if I could manage it in two days (Who can say that I am competitive?).

It proved one of these books that you just can’t put down. I raced through it and managed it in about eight hours,finishing at 2-30 am! What a feast and a fabulous trip into the past. I won’t be revealing any of the plot here in case I spoil it for other potential readers, suffice to say that it has made me laugh and cry in equal measure. I learnt something I did not know before, and I loved the writing style and its pace. I have been to Jersey but I surely now have Guernsey in my sights, all thanks to this wonderful book.

To be a proper critic, my only negative comment would be that I wish that it did not remind me so much of Pride and Prejudice in the end, but I guess for so many other ardent Jane Austen lovers, that would have been the genius touch.

I hope you enjoyed my blog and please leave a comment if you feel so inclined to. Thank you!

Posted in Books, Reading, Writing | 2 Comments