Saturday, 30 July 2011

There is nothing like performing to an audience of four!

Diary of a stand-up comedian, no audience
Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #30
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I was asked back to perform at another charity event at The Horse in Lambeth North last night where I performed in front of four audience members! It wasn't so much awful as it was comical! It is a bit like trying to tell your jokes to a few people at a bus stop who would rather you shut the hell up so they can wait for their bus in peace.

Oh, and it cost a fiver to get in! Shocker!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Advice for Indie Authors: Edit, re-edit, and edit again!

Advice for Indie Authors: Edit, re-edit, and edit again!
This week has been busy and productive, and things are now starting to pick up some real pace. Two days ago I approved my final edited manuscript to be sent to press. Within a week I will receive the first hard copies of my novel, The Drought.

There is a real air of excitement now. For the last two weeks I have been spending pretty much every spare minute I have reading, checking, and re-reading my manuscript, to make sure all mistakes are ironed out. I have been working with a brilliant editor at Pen Press, who has been helping me every step of the way.

I can’t stress how important the re-editing stage has been. Over the last two years I have lost count of the amount of times I have re-read my work, edited it, changed things, added new characters, deleted chunks of text, re-written whole chapters, and somehow inserted an extra 10,000 words worth of new content.

When I completed that first draft back in September 2009, the most difficult thing I found was to sit back and be self-critical. I knew I would have to make the odd spelling and grammar correction, but in my eyes all of the effort I had put in already was enough.

But you have to be open minded to realise that there is always lots of room for improvement. I tried looking at my work through a different set of eyes. It never ceased to amaze me the amount of errors I had missed, or how much of the content I decided to change, each time I re-read the manuscript.

I started to scrutinise every minor detail, but in doing that I gradually fell into the trap of being overly critical, obsessed with making it as perfect as possible, and sometimes making changes for the sake of making changes. A comma here or an extra word there; I think I drove my poor editor, Claire, mad with all of the little last minute tweaks I insisted on making towards the end!

I’m confident all the changes and the time putting into the editing stage will all be worth it in the end, but as Claire said to me: “You have to learn to listen to that instinctive voice inside that tells you when it's done and to step away from the canvas.”

And that is what I did in the end – I listened to myself.

The rest of my week has been spent looking at designs for my marketing material. As I mentioned in a previous blog, social media is a fantastic tool, but nothing still quite does it like good old fashioned print.

Through Pen Press, I was put in contact with a company called Author Essentials who specialise in marketing and promotional services for authors. I have opted for flyers, bookmarks, postcards, A3 sized posters, and business cards, and I plan to use them all in various different ways. But perhaps the most useful way will be off-the-cuff conversations I have with people who take an interest, and I will be able to physically hand them a piece of marketing material related to my book. The power of print…

The next step of the process is now in the hands of Pen Press, who are taking care of registering the book and uploading information (ISBN, price, dimensions, genre and description). As per national legal requirement, all books are registered with and copies sent to The British Library and Neilsen BookData.

Nielsen's supply information to the majority of the book trade, and is where all reputable book sellers get information on books so that they can sell it. It is important to give an advance release date when registering. It takes six to eight weeks for booksellers to upload their information for PODs and three months for full, traditional published books.

Once that has been complete, I will be a published author. Writing the book in the first place was by far the hardest part, but the guidance I have received from Pen Press since April to get to this point has been invaluable. I’m already looking forward to the next chapter in this process.

This blog was originally posted on

Thursday, 28 July 2011

July 20-26 comedy round-up...

July 2011 calendar
Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #29
Just a quick round-up of what I've been up to in the last week. I had another couple of Comedy Bin gigs at The Alchemist and The Bowery, and then yesterday I performed at East Meets Jest at Belushi's in Covent Garden for the first time.

Not much else to add!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Advice for Indie Authors: The social media opportunity

Advice for Indie Authors: The social media opportunity
At the start of this year a story appeared on about Bristol printer Business Forms Express (BFE), who had made the bold move to drop their own website in favour of a Facebook page. At the time, managing director Colin Roberts, said the company was “moving with the times”. I’m not too sure how that move has worked out for BFE, but it certainly highlights just how much social media is regarded as a marketing and business tool.

No one could have predicted the growth and strength of Facebook when it was launched in 2004. After all, it was originally designed for horny college students to track down girls. Fast forward seven years and it is now worth $50 billion, and as of July 2011 it has 750 million users. And whether you are an indie author like me, or a printer based in Bristol, the great thing about social media sites is that they are absolutely free to use. Self-publishing my novel, The Drought, means I am solely responsible for all of the marketing.

“Conventionally published books previously held the public eye, funded by publishers with vast marketing budgets and contacts in high places,” Sarah Juckes, Head of Company Marketing at self-publishing house Pen Press, explains. “But now, the balance has shifted, giving the indie author the chance to reach a mass audience that was previously unavailable without huge funding. Twitter, Facebook, websites and blogs have become must-have marketing tools for every author.”

But the real challenge with social media is that you are competing with millions of people all trying to promote one thing or another; whether it is a business or simply someone who is willing to shave their hair off if they get one million people to 'Like' their group. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have on Facebook, you cannot simply rely on these people to be your customers. You need to expand. Like any marketing strategy, the key is to plan your attack on this huge audience. My book should be published in August, but my digital and social media marketing campaign started over eight months ago. I wanted to build up some momentum so when I had a publication date, I would already have started to raise awareness.

Personally I believe a website is just as important as any social media tools available, because I use it as the central hub that points at everything that I do. I specifically planned to have my website created at the start of the year because I found out that it can take up to six months before search engines like Google start to trust your content and therefore improve your search engine optimization (SEO) ranking. I had my site created by a fantastic small web design company called Advanced Web Creations who specialise in websites for small to medium local businesses. They were extremely accommodating, professional, and perhaps most importantly – great value for money.

Content is key when it comes to a website, as you want as much related content to your product as possible in order to appear high in the natural search. This is one of the main reasons I started performing at open mic stand-up comedy nights. My book is a comedy novel, so I was able to film my stand-up comedy shows and upload them to YouTube as well as my own website.

Anyone searching for "comedy" could now potentially stumble across my website. I am now tapping into the video-sharing community, as well as getting my name out there as a comedian and raising my profile. If people like my comedy, then hopefully they will take an interest in the book. Keeping with the comedy theme, I also started to blog about my experience on the stand-up circuit, and linked everything back to my website. I was slowly starting to build my online “brand” across various different websites, and increasing my SEO presence across different platforms.

These rules apply to any type of business, whereby you upload content about your products and services, and that is the mindset I am trying to get into - an indie author is a business.

LinkedIn is undoubtedly a fantastic business tool, but how could I use this as an independent author? This is where you have to start mixing and matching your social media activities. I have been blogging on about my experience of self-publishing with Pen Press since April, so I found relevant self-publishing groups on LinkedIn and posted the URL to my blogs in these groups, as well as in any self-publishing forums I could fine online. This has produced feedback from other authors and those working in the publishing sector across the globe, and has made my name aware to people I never normally would have gotten the chance to put myself in front of.

So now I have the website, the YouTube videos, and the blogs. It was time to unleash this content on to the big boys of the social media world – namely Facebook and Twitter. I have had an account on Twitter for a couple of years, without really doing anything with it other than informing my 9 followers what I was having for dinner. But since using my tweets to promote both my stand-up comedy and the upcoming release of my novel, my followers have grown to 174.

“Twitter allows the author to set up a voice among the millions, following and engaging with his/her targeted readership,” Sarah Juckes told me. “The author can tweet about the book’s themes, characters, plot etc, and cause a stir that could quite literally spread to the masses. Every tweet has the ability to cause worldwide interest.”

But how?

“It isn’t enough to tweet to an empty room – Twitter, like everything, takes work,” Sarah continues. “The author must engage - using tools like the hashtag (#) to tap into discussions, Direct Messaging and @ing individuals to build up a reputation as being someone worth following. Once they have a follow base of readers, the author can start selling, directing the masses to the book on Amazon, the blog with free snippets of the book, perhaps even to the free eBook downloads as rewards for those who help spread the word.”

“Once Twitter has them hooked, Facebook can keep them in the boat. A ‘like’ of the author/book page means that person will see updates and giveaways amongst their friends’ personal updates every time they log in. Facebook is for friends – it is more intimate. This is how you can get a casual follower to become a guaranteed book buyer – perfect for those sequels.”

Creating a Facebook page has been the most recent piece of my social media marketing puzzle. For someone to “Like” you on Facebook, there needs to be a good reason. My stand-up comedy gave me a reason to develop a page and 105 likes later, I now have a decent sized audience, who have bought into my brand of comedy from my open mic performances, that I will be able to promote my book to.

“Of course, this just the tip of the iceberg,” Sarah says of the social media opportunities. “YouTube and the boom of the book trailer is a great way of directing people to your book – giving them a feel in pictures and sound rather than tweet after tweet saying the same thing. Goodreads and Shelfari allow the author to tap directly into a book-buying demographic. The blogs of others generate discussions the author can involve themselves in, and their own blog will normally allow readers to subscribe to the blog and updates.”

Social media can be as much about research as it is anything else. Whatever type of business you are in, take the time to do your homework before launching into a social media marketing plan. Could you really imagine creating your own video advertisement 10 years ago to promote one of your products? Social media has opened up that door to the masses. Use it in the right way, and you will get results.

I am not suggesting that social media is the only tool you will need. Printed marketing material is just as important as digital, and that is why I contacted Authors Essentials who specialise in various book marketing needs from eBooks to websites to printed material. They are also currently promoting a short story competition with the prize being a Bronze publishing package with Pen Press. (Competition closes August 20 - check out link for more details). But this is a story for another blog...

I’m off now to film my book trailer – Hollywood here I come. Well, sort of.

This blog was originally posted on

Golden Jester quarter final date announced

Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #28
My quarter-final of the Golden Jester will take place on October 4 at the Holiday Inn in Sutton. There was also a slight mix-up with the scores on the night, and I actually came fourth overall with Sarah Callaghan third, and Raphael Perahia in second spot behind India MacLeod in top spot.

I was voted by the audience to have very good stage presence, and in my quarter final I will be going up against Sarah Archer, James Alderson, Darren Walsh, Vahid Jahangard, Palan Ns, James Loveridge, Hannah Deasy, James Gill, Sarah Callaghan, Ben Jay, Mark Jeary, Sophie Richardson, and Ean Luckhurst.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I am into the quarter-finals of the Golden Jester!

Last night was my first ever comedy competition and I am pleased to announce that I have progressed into the quarter finals of the Golden Jester, coming third on the night overall against some very tough competition.

It was an evening of girl power as India MacLeod and Sarah Callaghan both took the number one and two spots respectively. India in particular, was outstanding. My comedy buddy Raphael Perahia also took part and finished fourth and advances into the next round too, along with Mark Jeary, Ben Jay, and Chris Blackmore. The night was judged by the audience and I will be receiving details of my final score in the next few days!

Friday, 8 July 2011

This is why we do comedy!

Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #26
What a cracking night! Just got in from my gig down in North London at the Camden Head in Islington and I am still buzzing! I have said it once and I will say it again - there is nothing like having a room full of people just up for a good time! I take my hats off to the guys at Five Minutes of Fame for such a fantastic venue.

Camden Head in Islington - a great venue for open mic comedy!

The gig could not have gone better, including an absolute belter of an audience member called Dean, who was wearing the shiniest pair of shoes you have ever seen in your life! Imagine a cross between Pete Doherty and Donny Tourette, and then you have the boy Dean - the self-confessed biggest Beatles fan in the world.

To start with Dean decided to have a chat with anyone who was up on stage, which made him pure gold to every stand-up, and by the end of it Dean was practically sobbing into his girlfriends chest asking why everyone was picking on him!

Dean - I salute you, we all salute you!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Apple should use this in their iPhone 4 advertising campaign!

Gatis Kandis: The new face
of iPhone 4?
Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #25
Another night, another gig! I was back at the Old School Yard last night. I was happy with my performance but I was a little star-struck on the nigth as none other than Gatis Kandis was on the line-up!

What do you mean who is Gatis Kandis?! Come on now, howe many Gatis Kandis' do you know? I'm talking about the Gatis Kandis from Britain's Got Talent fame. Yes, that Gatis Kandis - the Latvian rapper! And last night Gatis delivered another rap and I reckon Apple could do a lot worse than checking this bad boy out for their next advertising campaign!

Friday, 1 July 2011

New Material at Touching Cloth

Touching Cloth at Dirty Dicks
Diary of a stand-up comedian Entry #24
Back to Dirty Dicks last night for a second time and another video clip. It wasn't too bad, but could have gone a lot better. It wasn't made any easier by the fact that the whole front row disappeared after the first interval and they were the ones who were providing the biggest laughs...

... I thought I'd get the excuse in early before you watch the clip!