Authors are always on the look-out for the right channel to engage with their readers and fans. Twenty years ago, this was easy, as publishers used the classical print media or live events for book presentations and advertising. With the birth of the internet, social media and PoD (publishing-on-demand or print-on-demand) this has changed dramatically. Authors are forced to engage on a multitude of platforms; I am using a dozen.
One of those channels is Goodreads, where my author profile has been live since 2010. At first sight, this platform should be ideal to bring readers and authors together, as it is completely focused on books and literature. This is possibly the reason that Amazon acquired Goordreads back in 2013.
But Goodreads isn’t working for me, neither in my role as an author, nor as a reader. Why is that? As one fellow author wrote:
“Goodreads Sucks and is Not Worthwhile”
“Readers aren’t given a way to judge what was wrong and writers are not given a chance to improve their work. There is no value of any kind to this method. Second, when text reviews are left, they are quite often extremely negative. Not just negative – I’ve found Goodreads reviews tend to be vicious to the extreme.”
Luckily my books have been spared the more vicious attacks by readers, but I do agree with Writing King – it is easy to notice that ratings for some books may well be positive, but the reviews are in many cases written by overtly negative people, many of whom have neither little knowledge of writing good reviews – nor what makes good literature.
Looking at the site from an author AND reader perspective there are many ways the platform could be improved.
Although it is understandable why Amazon acquired Goodreads (to draw readers to their online bookshop), they are doing very little for the benefit of their two users. For me as a reader, I am challenged to find more books to read on Goodreads – I rather use Amazon for that (not that I much at Amazon; I simply like Amazon to identify interesting products). As an author, I have uploaded all my books – but that’s it. It is very hard to then start promotions. Amazon does promotions too, but with a high-pricetag, and like any other publisher, they have a couple of favorite authors that they promote – the rest are on their own.
It seems as if functionality is removed (e.g. the connector to Facebook), not added. It should be possible to do quite exciting things with such a platform, e.g. stimulate the interaction between authors and readers. As it is now, all communication is uni-directional.
Reviews are very easy to publish, but obviously they aren’t quality checked, which is deadly for any platform that lives on reviews.
The interface looks old and stuffy. Besides books, I am great fan of movies too, and IMDB looks by far better! By the way, IMDB is also owned by Amazon, you may see a pattern emerging…
I have been a member of several Goodreads communities, which are overall bloodless. If I have a question, I may join such a community, but I leave it quickly again once I have my answer. Far too many notifications!
The site is confusing, and after using it for so many years, neither purpose nor navigation is obvious to me. Is it social media? – nah not really. Is it a catalog? – nah not really.
In short: as an author I will remain present on Goodreads, but I will continue to keep a low profile. What Goodreads needs is either a dramatic make-over… by someone who knows how to make social media attractive.
Originally I had planned an art exhibit of my work for June, and the organization of this live event was already initiated back in January, together with three other artists. But then the pandemic struck, and it became quite obvious that a live, on-site event was out of the question.
Luckily, through my previous job in business, I have experience in organizing remote events, so the decision to turn this “viral disaster” into a “virtual exhibit” was a relatively easy step to take. In the end, I managed to hand over a surprisingly high number of paintings and books through this approach. Perhaps you are interested in doing something similar, so let me share some tips and tricks on how to make this work.
Set the theme. I called my virtual event “the fundraiser against Corona” as my objective was to donate any proceeds to the WHO corona fund. This was the red tread through all communication.
Choose the timeframe. I took the month of May as the running time for the event.
Connect to your audience, I have a e-mail list with many subscribers, and emailing was centerpiece to the campaign. You can’t overwhelm people with continuous emails, so I designed just three emails: one for April with the general announcement, one for half of May, and a final closing email announcing that the event was almost over, with a final call to action.
Use a website as the central information resource. The link to that website should be simple so that it can be typed in by hand or communicated during a conversation, e.g. over the phone. Here’s mine: www.clemenssuter.com/papa.
Use all channels available. Not all people receive information through the same channel, as it turned out some customers heard about this campaign through Instagram, others through LinkedIn, and others through email. I pushed out the campaign through my website, email, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, tumblr, two sites on Facebook, YouTube… and a few others that I have in the meantime forgotten about ;-) Naturally you can also use any other way: even written letters or postcards.
Use a single, simple and unique hashtag across all social media. Check out my tag #cps_d2c. That hashtag allows all participants to find your work in their personal favorite channel, and it connects all channels.
Post and communicate continuously. Make sure to provide some piece of news every day, across many of the channels. Indicate which day it is: “today is the tenth day of the fundraiser” or “only five more days left for the fundraiser”. As an example, I shared details of a painting each day, or posted about one of my books every couple of days.
Use video. I made short movies that I posted on YouTube, telling why I was running the campaign. Even three weeks in, not all of the people that I had addressed understood what this was about, so you must keep on reiterating your goal. Vlogs are a great way to supplement blogs.
Talk about successes. If you sell your work, tell the audience about this right away. Also mention if you have successfully shipped a painting, or when it has arrived at the buyer. People will want to know that you can deliver. Also provide some guarantee that you will take the picture back if the buyer doesn’t like it. Naturally some buyers will want to look at the art too; so I organized live visits (in line with corona limitations).
Join forces with other artists. Actually, this is a call to action for YOU, if you create high quality art and literature. Imagine such a campaign with a number of artists, each with their own channels! That would lead to an impressive multiplication. If this approach interests you, contact me.
Exciting news about my new book. In case you have been wondering why I have written only a few blog posts over the last months… first, I was very busy with my fundraisers, which managed to raise more than 2500€ for charity through my paintings and books. Then, I was giving several interviews to newspapers about my books, which took up some time time. And next to that I am now working on my FOURTH NOVEL… which will be the final book in the TWO JOURNEYS Trilogy – the grand finale!
TWO JOURNEYS (2010), and the second novel in this series FIELDS OF FIRE (2015) deal with the aftermath of a corona pandemic; high-rated post-apocalyptic adventure novels. The third and final installment has the provisional title REBOUNCE, and I hope it will hit the (e)book stores before the end of 2021. Research has been taking up considerable time; I had to study the geography of the areas where the novel is situated, spanning two continents, as well as new technological developments – the Internet-of-Things/IoT, Artificial Intelligence, space travel, robotics, and more. In 2010, TWO JOURNEYS made a prediction about the danger of pandemics and corona virus. My new novel tackles the risk of artificial intelligence for mankind. I don’t want to give away too much at this stage, also as the plot is still developing – let’s see where it will end.
For all of you that can’t wait until the book is available, below is the first chapter & prologue. Mind, it still has to go through several rounds of editing, this is the raw initialtext.
Here we go… strap on your seatbelt.
REBOUNCE / Prologue
First draft. Copyright Clemens P. Suter 2021
Every beginning has its challenges. Every ending too, but at least good endings happen quickly. I stare at the paper in front of me, the handwriting contrasting black against white. A tear, which must have fallen out of my remaining eye, has deformed a written word, like a lens enlarging a crucial yet long forgotten detail. Five pages finished. If I continue writing at this speed, I will have died long before I reach the end.
Over the years I often toyed with the idea of writing down my story, which is exciting by any man’s standards. But there were numerous reasons not to do so. For one, my life left little time for scholarly work. More cynically: an author needs an audience, and is there any audience left? Who will ever read my notes?
The darkness surrounds me like a cloak, only disturbed by the flickering of the candle. I adjust the blanket around my shoulders. A fire roars in the woodburner, but it doesn’t help against the cold. Outside, a snowstorm tears at the walls of the cabin. I tilt my head to listen for sounds. It is deep in the night, early morning almost, hardly the time for any creature to be about. Did I hear something, a distant shout? I chose this hide-out on purpose, far away from any predator’s path. My many years of experience always keep me on full alert; I’ve had too many unhappy encounters with four- or two-legged hunters. I look at the dogs at my feet, but they seem unalarmed. I shrug off any fear and try to retrace the thoughts that passed through my head a few moments ago. Why did I survive so long, while so many died? All my friends and most of my enemies – long gone. The hand that holds the pen is gnarled and covered with the spots of age. I have lost weight and muscle and the hair on my scalp. My back is stooped, my joints hurt in the morning. But I am still here, going like an old clock.
The pandemic devoured humanity, the fallout sterilized the planet: but neither managed to kill me. Was I chosen? Or was I punished? I never was a religious or superstitious man, and deep inside I know that no miracle or lucky star is needed to explain my survival: it is just freak coincidence. I am like the single bacterium that has picked up resistance against an antibiotic, the last tree that remains standing after a forest fire.
For a few moments, my thoughts continue to wander, until they uncomfortably home in on the events of that singular winter, so many years ago. They always do. With all the drama of my past life, those events stick out like a sore thumb, impossible to ignore, blotting out many other memories of my eventful life.
I stand up from my chair, shrugging the blanket from my shoulders and the bad thoughts from my mind. The dogs raise their heads towards me, their eyes gleaming in the dark. Although I feel the need to write down my story, in the hope of expelling the bad taste that it leaves in my mouth, I cannot continue.
Restlessly I pace the cabin. I tilt my head to listen. Finally, I remove the bar open the door. The storm is astonishingly strong, and snow immediately sweeps in. I feel the sting of the cold as the air hits my face. Visibility is low; at the most a few meters. I cannot even sense the valley that lies in front of the cabin. The flame of the candle is blown out, and in the semi-darkness, I see how the papers from my desk are blown out of the cabin and into the white landscape. I laugh madly. The dogs cower close to my legs, tails between their legs. Together we stare into the darkness.
I listen. The wind blows loudly, but I am now convinced that I can hear a sound, far off, irregular and organic. Something is moving out there, something or someone is shouting. Friend or foe, I cannot tell. I grab for the rifle that stands against the wall and I check that is it is loaded.
I remain in the doorframe. Closing the door and putting the bar back on isn’t an option; it never is. The enemy doesn’t rest, they never give up the chase. They continuously circle, pounce, bite and kill without mercy. Likewise, friends are unceasingly in need of help, faltering and hopeless, they lose themselves in the darkness of the night. Fear or compassion; I’m forced to confront any obstacle, to handle any challenge, swiftly and if need be mercilessly.
I slip into my coat and I put on my moth-eaten woolhat and gloves. I stuff a torch into my pocket. The wind picks up speed. The darkness is now complete; no sign of a rising sun, stars nor moon.
The snow stings in my eyes as we step from the door into the wild white vortex, gun raised, dogs barking. I feel how my teeth bare themselves in a menacing grin. No matter how old I get, no matter how much these old bones hurt, by everything holy and unholy, throw it at me, life.
As long back as 2015, Bill Gates gave a famous TED talk in which he predicted a pandemic to occur “in the nearby future”. Mr. Gates is getting quite some flack for that prediction; tin-foil-hat-wearers think that Bill Gates has some dark motivation, whereas the truth is far more benign: Bill Gates simply reads a lot of books and articles; all available to all of us. And if you start reading those, you will quickly realize that it isn’t such a surprise that Bill Gates arrived at his pandemic prediction. Over the years, many scientists and authors (fiction and non-fiction) have predicted that a pandemic might occur at any time. Over-population, the massacre of the environment, climate change… all of these are favorable for more pandemics to happen.
Still not convinced? As a biologist and author, I published a novel on this topic back in2010: TWO JOURNEYS was available e.g. on iTunes or amazon.comten years before the outbreak of Covid-19. It describes the devastating impact of a CORONA VIRUS pandemic – see TWO JOURNEYS, pages 122/123 – photo below.
There was no magic or clairvoyance involved; the SARS and MERS epidemics convinced me (as a scientist) that such a scenario was bound to happen. Sure, my prediction that the pandemic was the result of a CORONA VIRUS was surprisingly spot-on. The main reason for my selection of CORONA was that I needed a culprit that could spread at top speed across the globe – CORONA viruses have a prominent ability to do so through both droplet and surface infection.
What makes TWO JOURNEYS truly special is the analysis of the psychological effects of a pandemic on the hero; and how populists will misuse such an outbreak for their own purposes. Several storylines in the book have now (alas) become reality.
So, 2010 novel TWO JOURNEYS (and its sequel FIELDS OF FIRE) indeed describes the aftermath of a CORONA pandemic. The rest is high speed, adventure fiction – but you will recognize several characters and occurrences again, e.g. the misuse of the pandemic by the villainous dictator Somerset may well remind you of some real-life political leaders – those that put fiction before the fact, and self-interest before empathy. I recently addressed this in a (yet again!) predictive blogpost, first published back in March 2020: The Corona Pandemic and How it Affects All of Us.
There it is, on page 122/123. Corona is the culprit of the pandemic that left Alan (hero of TWO JOURNEYS) stranded in Tokyo. Note the line “Corona viruses spread by droplets or surfaces” – better keep your distance, wear a mask and wash your hands.
First, I was contacted by Göran Hansson from Sweden, who expressed his enthusiasm for the Union in a direct comment beneath the blogpost. Göran emphasized the tremendous achievements that the EU has made; in the areas of peace and prosperity, but he also expressed frustration at how indifferent fellow Europeans sometimes are towards the EU. In his posts (link above) Göran is also a vocal proponent of the Europe of Regions, which I find a thrilling idea. In my reply to Göran, I expressed my believe that his efforts (as an example) are crucial to drive the discussion about the EU forward:
The EU is not just about voting every four years and, from the sidelines, watch the thing develop. We need more people to talk and exchange ideas about the EU.
And this must be done NOW: in the UK, democrats waited too long to start this conversation and left the playing field to the populists… and now the lower and middle class can feed the bill of the referendum disaster.
You are the EU. The EU is what you make out of it.
In my original blogpost (which I also cross-posted to several EU groups on facebook, e.g. #EUsolidarity Now), I compared the EU to the USA. Several readers pointed out that this is not valid, as the USA was founded by emigrants that could start a brand new state, whereas the EU is a federation of states, each with unique cultural traditions and independent histories. I agree with that view. In fact, I believe that one of the major strengths of the EU is its diversity. However, the original point that I wanted to make is that many people are critical of the EU, because the EU makes decisions that seem to be the result of a malfunctioning EU – but which are not, on closer inspection. I want to illustrate this with a few examples.
During the Corona crisis, many nations within the EU closed their borders (by the way, the Schengen agreement which allows free travel within the EU is just celebrating its 35th birthday). Within 24 hours I received an email from a friend in the US, asking whether this was “The End Of The EU?” Interestingly, the borders between individual states in the USA cannot be closed that easily; I would venture that this may actually have increased the momentum of the pandemic (China, on the other hand, had no issue with closing down the Wuhan region – no questions asked in a dictatorship). But what few people know is that on the other side of the spectrum, the border between Bavaria and Baden-Würrtemberg in Germany was de facto also closed – and although some local residents (or “pandemic deniers”) may have disagreed with that decision, nobody would consider for a second that Germany was falling apart or that Germany was failing as a nation. I truly believe that putting free travel on hold along the national borders partiallyand temporarily was the right decision to slow the spread of the virus. Note: my two sons and I live in three separate European countries, and visiting each other was thus not possible (by the way, we can easily live in three separate countries as a direct result of the many advantages that the EU provides.There is no need for visas, or other unnecessary bureaucracy bullshit – now who said that the EU was overtly bureaucratic?).
There was also a call that the pandemic response should have been an EU-wide- and not a national-response, e.g. the same social distancing rules in Italy, Spain, Estland or Ireland. But why, I wonder, is this a must-have? The EU has a size of 4,233,255.3 km2 and an estimated total population of 447 million! Regions within this huge area are going to be affected in different ways by a pandemic. Again, even within Germany, individual Bundesländer (~states) had individual pandemic guidelines.
Several commentators on my original blogpost agreed that calling the EU a fascist state (as the Kansas City taxi driver did) was way over the top. Sure, as one person pointed out:
it is crucial that a federal Europe must have a sound balance in power distribution; otherwise the fascism argument will continue, or the EU may be incapable of making decisions.
The role of the parliament must be strengthened (and not just in the Brexit negotiations with the UK). But people should also know how to use phrases such as Fascism, which is a clearly defined term and should not be used in a inflationary manner (as, for that matter, socialism, which many Trump voters do not seem to be able to grasp the meaning of).
I have been struggling with the memory of an unpleasant experience. It went like this: I visited Kansas City on business, and on the last day I had to go back to the airport by taxi. The driver was a young man, probably in his early thirties, intelligent and engaged. I always chat with the taxi and Uber drivers. The conversation was pleasant enough, until at some point the driver noticed that I was from Europe and brought the discussion to Brexit. Today, Brexit is practically over and done with, but at that time the initial discussions between the UK and the EU were in full swing; Teresa May was still Prime Minister. I indicated that these negotiations weren’t easy, as both parties naturally had wishes, at which point, this young man said (watch my lips!): “The UK has the very right to leave the EU. The EU is fascist that they want to define the rules for Brexit. The EU is a fascist state.”
I must admit that I was speechless for several seconds. I then tried to explain to him, that from my viewpoint, the EU was founded as a reaction to the terrible wars and fascism of the twentieth century. I explained that the EU is a union that focuses on economic, political and societal unification, all with the sole purpose of defending democracy and human rights – to never let fascism happen again. And the EU has been quite successful at that too, as no war within the EU territory has occurred since 1945 (note: wars have happened outside of the EU boundary over the years, but luckily many of those countries later joined the EU).
He still wasn’t please with my answer, and pointed out that it was fascist to dictate the UK the rules by which they would leave. This shocked me too, as this is the same naivety that many pro-Brexit Brits suffered from. I told him that the EU is one of the largest markets in the world, with approximately 450 million people (living in 27 countries). To get access to that market has big benefits for any third party, and the UK would need to comply to certain rules and restrictions to be rewarded that access. He still didn’t agree. I provided an example, a thought play. Let’s suppose, I said, that New Jersey would decide to leave the USA, what would happen? First of all, there is no clause in the constitution of the USA that would allow this, so the US president would send the army to force New Jersey to stay within the USA (similar as what happened during the US civil war between the north and south). In the EU, the constitution actually has such a clause. However, let’s presume that New Jersey would be allowed to leave: at that moment it would lose all its privileges. No free travel across the border to the neighboring states, no protection by the US army. Sure: no payment towards the central government, but in return also no subsidies or financial benefits from that government, so no access to other US universities, nor to healthcare services or using US insurance. Most importantly: no free trade with the remaining 49 states of the USA. New Jersey would need to negotiate this. Naturally, the USA (as it is much bigger market than New Jersey) would set the agenda in their interest, and dictate many of the rules. The UK may have 67 million citizens and a higher GPO than New Jersey, but still: the EU won’t simply give the UK access to their market for free.
Obviously, the driver rejected this idea immediately. His argumentation was simple: New Jersey was part of a country, my suggestion that it would leave the USA was ridiculous. Whereas the UK was an independent country. And independent countries are allowed to leave with all benefits, hence the EU was fascist. Well, I said, that is what many people in the UK believe, but they will have a brutal awaking.
To be honest, he did have a point, as perception drives reality. The EU (more in wikipedia) is a federation in development, the final step towards a United States of Europe has not been completed. This is illustrated by the paragraph mentioned above, which allows nations to leave the Union. In a real country such a clause is unthinkable.
People see the EU as an assembly of individual countries, but at the same time as a single unit. the view depends on what the situation is, and this is confusing as hell. Examples? The EU is seen as a single unit considering one of the best personal data protection laws in the world (GDPR) that forces all companies (such as Facebook, Google or Alibaba) to comply to if they want to do business with the EU. The EU also aggressively prosecutes monopolies by businesses. The EU has also established very strong human rights, across all nations, but this is already less tangible for the average citizen. Sure, the EU is best known for their unifying laws, such as the curve of bananas – which actually was a request from the banana producers themselves, and would have been implemented in affected countries anyway. In the USA or China, such laws exist too.
On the other extreme, sports is still the responsibility of the member states, rather than of the EU. So Olympic gold medals are counted by country. I didn’t do the math, but I suspect that the EU would blow most other countries out of the water if it comes to the number of Olympic gold medals. The EU has the best skiers through Germany, Austria and the Nordics; the best ice skaters through the Netherlands and the Nordics, the best sailors from French, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Portugal (to name a few) – and the best soccer players from practically all countries. But does anyone in the world count Olympic medals this way? Naturally not, many will say. after all, the EU isn’t a country.
What are the causes for these views within the EU itself? Even within the EU, many people do not feel like Europeans, but feel like Belgians, Italians or Austrians. Europeans still feel very national. Whereas Russians, Americans or Chinese are constantly and efficiently infused (yes: indoctrinated) with patriotism, this is largely absent on an EU level. The EU is a very fact-based organization, with little room for emotion. In addition, Europe does a poor job advertising its merits to the ordinary people.
Interestingly, many Europeans project their anti-government sentiments on the EU. This is what happened during the Brexit referendum in the UK: research has shown that the pro-Brexit voters in reality didn’t know or feel much about the EU, but they did want to punish their own (British) government. So, the more the UK government argued that the EU was the best choice in the referendum, the more the population rejected that idea, and wanted to punish them for past and present sins. This led to the 51% majority (17M of the entire population) that voted for Brexit. Not an overwhelming majority (of which, due to advanced age, apparently 6M have in the meantime died). In the USA, this mistrust of the central government is also well established (most US Americans probably do not realize that their state government plays a big legislative role too – and if not the governor, than the local mayor – somebody has to set up the playing rules).
The EU is still on its path towards full federation, and (to me) this is the best way forward. The EU lives from solidarity among the member states, and this has lead to peace, prosperity, human rights. But until the EU arrives at that point, the perception of the EU will have its ups and downs. During dramatic events such Brexit, the refugee crisis or the Corona pandemic, many people immediately ask: “will the EU survive this?” Probably if somebody sneezes in Zimbabwe, somebody, somewhere will ask “Oh, is this the end of the EU?” Nobody would ask that about the USA, China or Russia (although we actually know from history that no nation can survive forever).
The reality is that EU is going strong. Admittedly, the refugee crisis has not been resolved satisfactorily, this is where the solidarity breaks to pieces (also think: Trump’s wall). Still, I wager that the EU exited Brexit towards a stronger position. The Corona Pandemic led to more solidarity among the member states, and daring decisions for more federalization.
To the taxi driver in Kansas City: No, the EU is definitely not fascist. On the contrary.
Here’s another five star review for TWO JOURNEYS, this one is by “St. Louis Cards”. You can find it here at amazon.com: LINK.
Here’s the full text by this reader
Book Review: Two Journeys
Author: Clemens P. Suter
Publication Date: April 1, 2012 (NetGalley Archive Date: August 30, 2019)
Review Date: August 21, 2019I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.From the blurb:
“During a routine business trip to Tokyo, Alan finds himself to be the sole survivor of a global pandemic. A viral disease wipes away all of humanity… and Alan’s past life. Fearing injury, sickness and hunger, he sets out to travel back to his family in Berlin, straight across Asia and 10,000 miles of hardship and adventure.Suter combines post-apocalyptic elements with an adventurous road novel in this book about a man left alone on earth. The hardships and landscapes (the Gobi desert, Siberia) are described in all ferocity. A few other humans have survived as well, some eager to use the disaster for their own advantage. Electrifying chapters describe the encounter with Somerset, a charming yet psychotic warlord, who is assembling an army to conquer Moscow, if not the entire world.”This is a first-class apocalyptic thriller. I find most self-published books to be absolutely dreadful. The exception is often science fiction/apocalyptic thrillers and other books of this type category.Two Journeys is no exception. What a fantastic book! Better than I expected. It is written in the first person, and I often felt that I was reading a memoir of events that actually happened. Suter’s style is very easy to read; I couldn’t put the book down.
A caveat: it is a fairly long book, 551 pages. It took me 3-4 days on nonstop reading, which is much longer than it usually takes me to read a book.
The character of Alan, the protagonist, is well built, as well as the few other characters encountered during his journey. The plot is perfect; I appreciate how slowly Suter built up the story and all the details of the journey he included. The settings were well written and an important part of the book, as horrifying as they often were.
There were a few mysterious elements that added to the depth of the story.
I highly, highly recommend this book, 5 stars! The author has written a couple of sequels to this book that are available as Kindle books, for only $1.99 each, so I plan to finish out the series.
Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. Outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again. Are we prepared?