contact

Simon the scribe lives in Cornwall UK and loves making things, gardening food and herbs and contact with nature.

To contact simon, please email ‘simonthescribe@yahoo.co.uk’.

What is ‘the change’?

Henryk Skolimowski (born 1930 in Warsaw) is a Polish philosopher. He completed technical studies, musicology and philosophy in Warsaw. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Oxford University. Today he is considered to be the leading thinker in the field of eco-philosophy.

He was ‘Philosopher in Residence’ at Dartington Hall when I was a student there and his book,  Eco-Philosophy. Marion Boyars. 1981, influenced me greatly. In this he shows the shifting values associated with a movement from an exploitative, economics based culture to one more earth-centred and integrated with the nature of this planet.

PRESENT PHILOSOPHY ECO-PHILOSOPHY
Pursuing information Pursuing wisdom
Environmentally and ecologically oblivious Environmentally and ecologically conscious
Related to the economics of material progress Related to the economics of the quality of life
Politically indifferent Politically aware
Socially unconcerned Socially concerned
Mute about individual responsibility Vocal about individual responsibility
Intolerant to transphysical phenomena Tolerant to transphysical phenomena
Health mindless Health mindful
Language orientated Life orientated
‘Objective’ (detached) Committed
Spiritually dead Spiritually alive
Piecemeal (analytical) Comprehensive

This cultural shift involves changes for us all, whether we like it or not. But you don’t have to buy-in to the myth of austerity. We live in an infinite universe and many people are finding ways  to abundance whilst actually ‘costing the earth’ less.

The books I write and publish are about this – recognising and finding abundance, often within limited resources. A paradigm shift – a different way of seeing things.

Evaluating a visual experience

Larry Keeley, President of The Doblin Group, a US strategic planning firm, gives us a matrix which can be used to plan or evaluate any visual experience. The experience we have when confronted with media can be divided into three stages and a set of ‘attributes’ applied to each.

These attributes are: ATTRACT – ENGAGE – EXTEND – a useful creation formula for any media design.

The first stage of attraction might relate to impact or curiosity. Presumably you have a ‘target audience’ in mind for your product or communication? What method are you going to use to grab their attention from the visually rich stream of life happening around them? What are your reference points within their understanding of the world. Images of sex or death for example cause a dilation of attention in most people and are well-used strategies. Beauty works well but you need to understand the aesthetics of your target audience. Impact, something surprising or unexpected, surreal or humourous all have their place in this attraction of your target audience.

The second stage, engagement concerns how involved the viewer becomes in the experience. Once you have their attention, how are you going to draw them in and stop them pre-judging or ‘mind editing’ what you are saying? People can be quite lazy when it comes to seeing or learning new things. If they can think ‘I have seen this before’, then your message is redundant and the viewer moves on. What techniques are you going to use to involve the audience at this stage. Perhaps some text, offering them something they want, pointing them to further explanation or reward.

Extension relates to what influence the visual experience has, what actions it leads to. What is is exactly that you want your audience to do as a result of them seeing your design or communication. You need to spell this out clearly and offer them the benefits of this course of action. For example ‘ buy this book and you will enter a world of… [something rewarding for target]’.

These three attributes can be applied as a numerical value or a continuum and provide a powerful basis for both planning and examining visual experiences. Essentially Keely asks for each attribute how: defined, fresh, accessible, significant and transformative is each aspect of this journey into design? He provides a table below to manage and evaluate this process of design or evaluation.

ATTRACT ENGAGE EXTEND
DEFINED
FRESH
ACCESSIBLE
SIGNIFICANT
TRANSFORMATIVE

A matrix for evaluating visual experience

the rule of thirds

A secret of artists and designers is a derivation of the Golden Mean and is called the ‘Rule of Thirds’. The page is divided into three equal areas which are seen as segments of the page as a basis for composition. These divisions can be horizontal or vertical, even diagonal.rule of thirdsThree ‘areas’ on a page seem more pleasing to the eye than two or four. The rule of thirds can be applied to a grid shape. The page is divided into a 3 x 3 grid and the elements are introduced in proportion to the grid . The placement of key points in the communication are focused at intersections on the grid lines. Other elements in the image can be contrived to lead the eye around.

The rule of thirds can be used in visual composition. The concept of a grid which has key visual points is central to computer design work and art history can be plundered for many ideas on form and layout. An interesting visual exercise when reading a magazine is to notice how many layouts use the rule of thirds. You can check this by drawing lines on the page to reveal the underlying grid shape.

marketing your self-published book

Presently pretty much anyone can write and publish a book in any number of formats. But if you want to make money from your book, then its like any other commercial product – you need to check out some market research and work how your book is going to appeal to a specific and identified market and how you are going to reach and sell it to them – unless you get Fifty Shades of Lucky.

If you aren’t that bothered by money and want to sell to friends and family and a few people who want to hear you – that’s all well and good. In this respect, self-publishing is the best thing since Gutenberg and is part of the democraticisation of knowledge and a lovely way to share. More than usually, self-published books don’t sell more than 100-150 copies.

There are many marketing strategies. For example, one of my writing clients is a successful astrologer with a pre-existent customer list. He marketed only signed, hardback copies at £40 a copy to people who think he is brilliant (he is). He makes up for limited sales with ‘value added’ books. Another client is a stand-up comedian who takes his book to gigs and sells them there, making consistent and regular sales himself. He is also getting his self-published book to mainstream publishers in the hope that they might pick it up.

With diminishing returns in the traditional publishing industry it can seem impossible to get the attention of a publisher who will market your book for you. Some people self-publish books for this promotional purpose only. After all, there is no better way for you to show belief in your book than to publish it yourself. Books and ebooks are a brilliant way to build client lists and if you are offering ‘sell throughs’ such as courses or consultation – they can earn you customers for a decade or more.

Some of the more advanced publishers are realising the potential and adding a ‘self-publishing’ arm to their traditional publishing houses so that they can see, and pick up on, self-published books that take off through the hard work of the author or his agent – or even virally. This is a pretty risk-free method for them to pick the winners.

Many traditional publishers will only talk to you through a literary agent. Finding one of these can be just as hard as finding a mainstream publisher. They seem to want proof that you are already turning over large amounts of money through writing. After all, they want to know they are going to get their 15% of something before taking you on.

So many people turn to blogging and tweeting, which is really an extension of the same problem – not clearly identifying an audience and a market to begin with and writing for them. You still have to find your audience in these media. Unless you have something so sensationally unusual to say that it goes viral, or somehow you hit a lucky ‘zeitgeist’ nerve, you will be lucky to get many sales at all without a marketing strategy built into the book from the outset.

Key word research on the internet might get you some sales, based on what people are searching for online. For example I found that ‘make a greenhouse’ was a term quite regularly searched for online and created a site that went straight into the top ten for this. I have been making a greenhouse a year for three years now and am no closer to finishing my book on it! But soon… Amazon rule book sales online but they squeeze everything out of your profit margin – perhaps with the exception of Kindle. Kindle books now outsell paperbacks on Amazon and may well be a first choice form self publishers who fit into their prescribed ‘niches’ (categories).

One of my clients has a book based on her story of divorce which I believe, potentially has an audience. There are certainly many women out there questioning quite why they are in the relationship / marriage they are in. Yet without a large ‘women’s magazine’ marketing budget – how do you contact ‘women who are unhappy with their relationship’? It isn’t a cohesive, identifiable and easily contactable ‘group’ of people. If you set up Facebook groups for such things, people quickly cotton on the fact that they are being sold too. Social networking and selling are not easy bed-mates either from what I can see. So even if you identify a need, something that many people hold in common, it may not be a financially feasible book without that elusive marketing budget, or a very clever strategy.

The rewards of writing though, are far more than just financial. For me personally – nothing beats ‘being in the zone’ on a piece of writing, its just so exciting. I love getting a first proof and seeing all that hard work, bound up in a beautiful ribbon (I make the covers too). The books you make grow with you – a couple of mine are into their third editions with improvements and developments in the field. Finding bits of your own writing from years ago is so revealing, its like seeing a map of your mind in print!