Saturday, 10 March 2012

Some time ago, I contributed to a debate - Writing in the Digital Age - on how embracing the digital age and reaching a wide readership has involved mastering lots of new tools and techniques.

"Technology and the use of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in learning have come a long way since my research in 1999. Twelve years on and I am writing and publishing books and yes, I am negotiating the exciting avenues of resources available in this digital age in which we live, while many are nervous of even Twitter or Facebook.
So, where do I stand? How have I embraced the use of these exciting platforms to reach a wide readership? Writing is hard. Making your voice heard is harder still, requiring an enthusiasm to explore any avenue open to you.
Progressing from handwritten manuals in 1981 to typing on a simple Casio Writer in 1993 while working in a sales environment, I became the proud and excited owner of a computer in 1996. The world was now my oyster with the tools available to me. Moving into adult learning in the workplace, I wrote or collaborated on producing learning and marketing materials as the Internet and technological solutions became more commonplace.
In 2007 therefore, as I pulled together my first book, I embarked on a steep learning curve and formed a multi-pronged approach to overcoming the hurdles before me as I embraced the digital age.
I needed a Web site A Web site? Wow! Well I had used many software applications such as PowerPoint, video-editing and photo-editing software. Researching the Internet I found a hosting company in the US, which suited my needs. It was designed for those with little, if any, knowledge. The doors of my mind opened further as mastered this. A Guestbook is invaluable for feedback from readers of your work.
BookBuzzr widget On my Website and now Blog, (how I hate that word), I use interactive book covers and samples with the Book Buzzr widget. I schedule messages with a short extract of my book - a few words only.
Podcasts and short videos uploaded to Web and You Tube market my work.
Social Media used sensibly as an online marketing tool and according to the intentions of each – for each has a different focus – is a valuable tool in building an author platform.
Twitter is invaluable for making professional contacts and keeping up-to-speed with current affairs. I can:
·         Engage with like-minded people.
·         Read the links they post.
·         Re-tweet
·         See my posts re-tweeted which widens the circle.

Facebook, apart from ‘being for friends’ provides a more visual impact by uploading photos, videos and web links. Your friends can share with their friends, widening your platform.
Linked-in allows contact with ex-colleagues, school friends, and like-minded people.
Tweet Deck allows posting from Twitter, Liked-in, Facebook, and Google Buzz to name a few. One spawns the other. Using the hash tag allows topics you mention to be read by others with a similar following. My Book Buzzr messages are tweeted on a regular basis.
Scribd and Goodreads further widen awareness of you as a writer and your readership. Many are linked in to each other.
Google Books provides free samples and links to retailer sites.
On going down the self-publishing route, I was required to submit a finished perfect manuscript and prepare the elements for the book cover (unless I wanted to pay extra). I set everything up for both print and e-book formats.
Later, I realised that I could do all this myself! I had the skills and expertise to format manuscripts, create a professional book cover, and market my work with great success.
Print on Demand. Setting up my own company, I used a US/UK based Print on Demand organisation that had worldwide distribution partnerships, which fed to global retailers. I was in control and published my second biographical travel book, which had much geographical educational content. I used on-line resources for web-based submission, communication, and uploading files.
On-line stores. Data filtered through to global on-line retailers. Amazon markets your book for you.
e-books. Submission guidelines for Kindle required different formatting. It was straightforward.
I wrote the first two of a new series of Personal Development Guides. This was exciting! 
With a more technical layout for print, they required yet another approach for e-books.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) guidelines are clear. I read all I could on the Web.
Mobipocket creator converted and built the files, ready for preview in the e-reader.
Kindle previewer for Kindle, iPad, iPhone etc. further ensured accuracy. On-line community discussions on Amazon KDP and Mobipocket shed light on the jargon.
I have learned to use only those strands of Digital Technology, which are useful and are manageable – at that time – and to continue to explore new developments.

Rosalie Marsh
© 2011   

This article was originally published as part of the Writing in the Digital Age debate -Writing in Education
ISSN 1361-8539.  NAWE