Wednesday, 25 June 2014

How to Get Book Reviews on Amazon

Getting authentic customer book reviews is, in my view, more difficult than writing the novel. Need an honest view of how to get customer reviews for your books? Well, the reality is, some seemingly infallible strategies simply don’t work. My personal experience has yielded the following results from trying many different strategies at getting book reviews.

Put a Note in Your Book Asking the Reader to Post a Review after Reading

Asking for Reviews at
the End of Your Book
I left a note in the back of my book asking for a book review, but as other authors are likely doing the same thing, the person who purchased your book is likely to turn a blind eye, and so far has yielded no reviews.

Email Customers on Amazon who Read your Genre

I went through Amazon reviewers who leave copious book reviews. I am careful to find a fan of the genre that I write in (ie, thrillers). I also looked for customers who posted reviews on a book that exhibits my book under ‘people who brought this book also brought...’

For every fifty emails put out, I got two responses. I was lucky one of the responses resulted in a book review. Most book reviewers are busy and get inundated with requests for book reviews. Care is needed here that you do not spam.

Send Free Copies of Your Book to Book Review Magazines, Newspapers or Magazines Dealing with Issues in Your Book

I sent my books to several book review magazines with the possibility of getting a book review. None resulted. I also sent a copy to the local papers. The book reviewer, after promising to take a look, decided he was suddenly too busy.

I emailed magazines that deal with issues in my book. A Hard Lesson for example, features a dyslexic pupil. I emailed PATOSS, a magazine that focuses on learning difficulties. They are going to do a mention of my book in the back of their magazine. I also emailed psychology magazines asking for a review on the Shuttered Room, inspired in part by Eric Berne’s Games People Play, a psychological textbook. Results are pending.

Do a Free Book Giveaway on Goodreads

I sent about 20 hard copies of my books to winners of Goodreads giveaways and have garnered around 4 reviews from the giveaways. Some of the winners may not read your genre, so there is the risk of readers being mismatched with the genre of your book. However, Goodreads has proved a more successful method of getting book reviews, although it is costly in ordering and despatching hardcopies.

Do a Free Ebook Giveaway Promo on Amazon

This has proved to be the worst strategy for getting reviews. After giving away thousands of books, I have received 2 honest reviews. A third review was given by someone who obviously hadn’t read the book as he/she uploaded within hours of posting and left several other reviews within hours. Dishing out novels on free giveaways may not attract the serious readership of paying customers.

But the Biggest problem with Amazon’s giveaways is that the Kindle device does not allow the posting of reviews on Amazon, only a star rating on Goodreads. For this reason, I would never do a free promo on Amazon again. Potential paid uploads of my ebook have been sacrificed in free uploads.

Do a Countdown Deal on Amazon

I did a countdown promotion of one of my thrillers. Sadly, only one giveaway is permitted on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk per 90 days. Again, no reviews but at least I received some royalties on uploads. Again, text reviews cannot be posted directly from the Kindle. Purchasers are likely to be averse to sign in to their Amazon account to leave a review from a laptop or tablet after uploading a book on a countdown deal.

Put an Ad in the Newspaper Telling People about Your Free Book Promotion

I put an ad in the local paper, appealing for book reviews. Although I got some uploads, no reviews resulted. This might be due to the fact, again, the Kindle does not permit the posting of reviews on Amazon, only a star rating on Goodreads.

Sell Your Books on Ebay

I sold a few copies of my thrillers on Ebay with a note asking for book reviews, but no reviews have resulted.

Sell Your Books on a Market Stall or Car Boot

Again, I have sold a few copies of my thrillers at car boots and stalls. Got some pledges from customers to leave a book review, but again, no reviews have resulted from this.

Give Copies of Your Book to Charity Shops

I have given numerous free books to my local charity shops. No reviews have resulted so far.

Give Copies of Your Book to Libraries

I have donated copies of my books to my local library. They have been on loan a few times. Early days yet, but no reviews so far.

Give Your Book Away from Your Blog

I have posted an article on this blog enabling people to receive my novels free via email in whatever format they prefer. I have posted this link on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Amazon. Early days yet, will get back with results.

Doing an Author Talk Might
Garner Book Reviews
Conduct a Book Talk

I am doing a book talk on Tuesday July 8 at Coventry Central Library. Will get back with the results.

Give your Ebooks Away on LibraryThing

I haven’t done this yet, as I don't meet the criteria, but you can email recipients free digital copies of your book in their preferred format.

Conclusion of Getting Book Reviews on Amazon or Other

I have published books for 3 years and getting book reviews has proved extremely difficult. So far, I have a handful of book reviews on my thrillers after giving away thousands of books. The worst strategy in my experience is doing free promos on Amazon. The Kindle does not permit the posting of a text review onto Amazon itself, only a star rating on Goodreads. Most people don’t want the rigmarole of signing into their Amazon account via computer or tablet and writing a book review. It is understandable.

Selling book on carboots, Ebay and market stalls has again been unsuccessful, as has sending copies to magazines and newspapers. Goodreads giveaways has been the most fruitful so far, but some Goodreads members may not leave a review on Amazon itself. Emailing avid readers on Amazon who possess a reading profile similar to your genre has yielded a review, but is very time consuming. As to my book talk, I will get back with the results.

Ways of Getting Book Reviews

There are many other strategies for getting book reviews and will try others in the future. Waiting for book reviews is like waiting for the kettle to boil. Don’t watch it for a while and reviews may miraculously appear. To date, reviews have been few and far between.

This is not to say that trying these strategies at getting book reviews will result in the small success described here. All it takes is the issue of the book to the right person. Sometimes, it seems to be down to sheer luck. In my case, hope must spring eternal.

A Final Thought on Getting Book Reviews

You can pay for book reviews, such as Kirkus Reviews and high profile book blogs, but I am against paying for reviews for books. For this reason, I have not tried this strategy and therefore cannot provide feedback on this avenue.

Other Articles Relating to Self Publishing

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Can Changing your Book Cover Design Affect Book Sales?

Can book cover design really make a difference to book sales? Color and fonts can have massive impact upon the sale of your book, according to reliable sources on book publishing. But I wanted to find out for myself. I decided to conduct an experiment on book cover design to see if book sales increased (or reduced). The focus of this article is on fiction books.

Tips on Color Theme for Book Sales

The colors used on your book cover should inform on the type and genre of book it is. Primary colors against dark or black are powerful, and are often seen on political or crime thrillers; soft blues and mauves can be seen on contemporary women’s fiction, yellows and greens on humor. However, every color should be considered when designing a book cover.

Fonts for High Selling Books

Simple, large fonts are best, so that the title of the book can be read when the book cover is on thumbnail view. I stretch my fonts as large as the book cover will allow, retaining a portion of the cover for a compelling image. As I write psychological thrillers, I aim to convey a similar mood on all my novels, although the images used are different.

Horrible Book Cover Design to Avoid

Before explaining my book cover experiment, here are some mistakes to avoid in book cover design:
  • Wrong dimensions. Don’t upload a square image on your book product page, as your book could look like a CD. Watch out for dimensions too narrow as well, as this could look unattractive. A ration of around 1:6 is recommended. Amazon recommends a minimum of 625 pixels on the shortest side and 1000 pixels on the longest side.
  • Watch out for low resolutions. Zooming in a little may reveal grainy or pixilated images. For best quality, your image would be 2820 pixels on the shortest side and 4500 pixels on the longest side.
  • Some book covers just smack of cheapness. Beware of badly-composed images (too high, low or lopsided on the image). Fonts fluorescent in bright colors. Image too bright or too dark, and fonts that are too small to read.
  • Avoid using pictures that are obviously a stock image or clip art.
  • If you can afford it, use original images and employ a book designer. As I love experimenting with visual elements, I design my own book covers.
Experiment in Book Cover Design

Experiment in Book Design
The Old Cover
I decided to conduct my own experiment on book cover design to see if this affected book sales. After two years I thought my book cover design needed a revamp. My thriller, the Shuttered Room is the focus of this experiment. I was pleased with the existing cover, but felt it needed added dynamism. As can be seen from the image, subdued hues where used.

I decided to use a simple and dynamic image: wrists bound in rope. This image informed on the story of kidnapping and a key scene within. The reader can immediately garner the mood of the book and decide whether to purchase.

Book Tips for Compelling Images

The rope had to be thick, exhibiting cords and textures. The hands had to be shot in sunshine, to reveal contours. Deep shadows can be seen beneath the hands, conveying a sinister feel to the book. The image, before editing appeared prosaic and ordinary. This was fixed by shifting the color balance and contrast. I aimed for a metallic blue-green cast with high contrast. I then degraded the image slightly with artistic effect that suggested soft putty. This also injected an abstract quality to the image.

Book Designs that Look Good for Thumbnail Image

Increase Book Sales
My New Cover
I stretched the book title across the entire width of the book cover. I liked the difference in size between the words ‘Shuttered’ and ‘Room,’ adding emphasis to the latter. This created a staggered feel to the book title. I graded out the letters to make them appear to melt into the background. A soft, black border was added to make the book cover stand out against the white background of the book product page.

Increase Sale with Book Design

Now it was just a matter of waiting to see what happens. As can be seen from the before and after there is quite a difference in the look and feel of the book cover. The font used is larger and bolder. This makes the title easily read in thumbnail view. The color balance is sharper, more metallic and sinister. The main image has changed too, no longer an eye, but hands bound in rope. The black edging to the book added punch.

How to Experiment with Book Design

Never settle for a book cover if it can be improved upon. Niggles will continue to do so while the book cover remains. I will tweak even the smallest thing if I feel necessary. Never settle for second best and start from scratch if necessary. Will come back to this article in a few months time to report of the results.

Update on Book Sales After Changing my Book Cover

Sales remained much the same for about two months. And then sales started to increase just after Christmas by 15%. Popularity seemed to breed popularity. As book sales increased, so did the likelihood of my book cover catching the potential customer's eye. The 'customers who bought this book also bought,,,' kicked off and sales increased by a further 5% into summer. With a few dips here and there, my book sales has increased overall and is remaining steady to this day. I have since made some small modifications to the font, but am disinclined to change the cover again, as I really like it and have used it on my favicon. If it ain't broken, why fix it?

Tips for Self Publishing

Friday, 20 June 2014

Easy Way of Creating EPUB: Why the Self Published Write Cannot do Without Callibre

Not so long ago, I did not know what an Epub was, and did not know how to create an Epub of a book. Epub is now widely used in epublishing and has become a vital part of formatting files for indie writers.

What is an Epub?

EPUB stands for Electronic Publication. The International Digital Published Forum (IDPF) demands that e-books are created to this format. The file will possess the extension, ‘.epub.’ For example, mynovel.EPUB. Epubs possess particular characteristics in that:

The text is free-flowing meaning that the text will fit on the screen of any device, unlike PDF, which is a static document. Epubs can possess metadata about the book, a book cover and a live table of contents that can be displayed alongside your book (known as NCX explained in a moment). Epub books can also contain raster and vector images within the book.

The Best Format for Uploading Books

Books can be uploaded via various formats, such as web page filtered and inserted in a zip file (I use JZIP). It can also be uploaded as a simple Word document (as in the case of Smashwords) or as a Mobi file (the format for Kindle). However, Epub can be read by most publishing platforms, including Google Books and KDP Amazon.

How to Create an Epub of your Book

Using Callibre to Creat EPUB
Creating an EPUB file is easy if you know how. First you will need to install Callibre E-book Management, a free book conversion software.

Once this publishing software has been installed, you will be presented with a screenshot like the one shown. As can be seen, you can add books to a library, add book covers, author name, metadata, tags and a table of contents.

How to Create an Book Epub File

Once installed, you will have to add your book file to Callibre. Callibre doesn’t read Word docs, so I had to convert my book into Webpage filtered first. Webpage filtered can be found when clicking ‘Save as’ and Word will present a number of file formats you can save your file as. The original file will remain intact. A second file will be created. If the book contains images, webpage filtered will automatically create a second file containing the images.

In order to insert the images into the file, you will need to create a zip file. JZip is a free file compression software, great for compressing files and inserting images into folders. Once the webpage filtered file (or Zip file) has been created, simply add to Callibre by clicking on ‘add books’.

Creating Books for Epub

Add Book Cover and Metadata to your Book
Once the book has been added to Callibre, you have the choice of converting the book into a number of formats, as can be seen on the image. This includes MOBI, EPUB, HTML and PDF. Click EPUB.

Once the book has been converted, you will have prompts to add the book cover (browse and add from Pictures, if you have created a book cover.) More about creating book covers has been covered in another article on this blog. You can also add book title, author name, blurb and tags. Incidentally, it is pointless to add a cover image if the EPUB is to be uploaded onto Smashwords or KDP Amazon, as the cover image will be added via these publishing platforms. The result might be 2 duplicate book covers.

The Metadata of Your Book in Epub

Metadata simply means any information about your book. This can include book title, author name, the blurb, the price and tags that help customers find your book. Tags can be proper nouns, genre, situations or anything that describes your book. The second screenshot shows my book cover, blurb, tags and other info on my book.

Look and Feel of the Book in EPUB

Callibre Creates Table of Contents
Known as NCX
In Callibre, you have a number of options where you can tweak the look and feel of the book, but I do this on Word before uploading onto Callibre. I also create a table of contents by creating internal links and bookmarking them on Word. More about creating a ToC in your book is covered in another article. Here, we can see the Callibre has detected a contents page and created live links to chapters within the book. The live links are arranged as a list to the left of the book, for ease of navigation.

This element of an EPUB is known as NCX (which stands for Navigation Control File) and is covered in another article on this blog.

Create an Epub Easily for Publishing

Once the book is complete, save the Epub file. Callibre will save the EPUB file under downloads of your computer. You can then browse to your Epub book when ready to be uploaded onto KDP Amazon, Google Books or elsewhere.

Articles on Creating EPUB File for Epublishing

JZIP a free compression software for your books
How to design great books covers for free
Help my book won't format properly

Running a Free Promotion on Amazon is Disastrous If

Polar views exists on whether the indie book should be given away on a free promotion on Amazon. There are many pros and cons of freebies. Having self published books for some years now, can see both sides, but the focus of this article is when to think twice before running a free promo of your book on Amazon.

Why Not Run a Book Giveaway for Getting Reviews

Few could argue that running a free promotion of a book will cast spotlight on the novel for a day or so. If the writer is lucky, the free promo may spark a few sales on the tail end of the promo day, but in my experience, is rarely sustained.

A free promo is also good for a series of books. The first part of the series is given away to whet the appetite of potential customers, and if liked, may pay to upload others.

Pitfalls of Promoting Book Giveaways

You Can't Post Reviews on Amazon
from Kindle
Of course, the author has to commit his/her books to Amazon for 90 days on KDP Select in order to run free promos, which means digital versions of your book cannot be available anywhere else. The author can run up to 5 promo days per 90 day period. If the writer is lucky, honest and well-thought out book reviews may appear.

After all, the purpose of a free promo is to get book reviews…isn’t it?

And here lies the crux of this article. Here are a few reasons NOT to run a promotion of your book.

It is Impossible to Post Text Review from Kindle Devices at Present

The situation may change in the future, but posting text reviews are not possible from Kindle devices at present. This is because of technical issues to do with the size of the device. It’s too ‘fiddly’ for a keypad. This can be seen from the images.

Kindle Paperwhite Permits
Star Rating on Goodreads
only
Reports are that the Paperwhite Kindle permits a star rating only. This star rating will only show up on Goodreads (if the reader has an account there). Many fiction lovers don’t have a Goodreads account and so are unable to leave a review via the Kindle. The reader is loathe to log onto a computer or tablet and post a review after signing into their designated Amazon account. I wouldn’t blame them, it’s too much hassle.

I am unsure about the other Kindles but welcome input here to correct me on certain points. But after contacting Amazon itself, am told that Kindle users cannot post text reviews from Kindle devices onto Amazon at present and star ratings of certain Kindles will show up only on Goodreads.

Kindle Devices do Not Permit Post Text Reviews on Amazon

So, when one considers that free promos are aimed at Kindle books, it seems illogical to hope for reviews from a free promo when the books are uploaded on devices that do not permit the posting of reviews on Amazon. Furthermore, star ratings cannot at present be posted on Amazon without a text review. The purpose of promos is…to garner reviews. Isn’t it?

The reality is that it doesn’t. I have given away thousands of books and have had the grand total of…wait for it…3 genuine, well-thought out customer reviews. Yes, just 3.

But the drawbacks do not end there.

Anyone Can Say What They Like About Your Book under Verified Purchase Badge

Reviews from Free Books shows as Verified Purchase
Your book can be uploaded for free and resultant reviews will show up as ‘Verified Purchase’. I feel this is wrong. A free book should not show as ‘verified purchase’ for it is not the same as paying for something. Consider that anyone can upload your book and say anything they like about it for FREE under the verified purchase badge.

When Verified Purchase Badge Reviews are Worthless

Reviews can be left on your book under ‘verified purchase’ after a free upload. The ‘verified purchase’ would seem to add credence to the review. Your book is open to any review, whether your book is read or not, and the review will show up as ‘verified purchase’. Amazon will not remove the review, despite the book obviously not being read.

Reports abound of such reviews appearing within hours of uploading a free full-length ebook during a free promo. Multiple reviews from single reviewers have also been known to appear within hours of a free upload. Free promos open authors up to abuse from those seeking out free promos to post unfair reviews under the ‘verified purchase guise.’

How Not to Get Book Reviews

My feelings are that when a customer pays for a product, the review is likely to be genuine, as the customer had parted with cash to obtain it. Free uploads are a different matter. Psychologically, ‘free’ is throwaway. For some, the author is sending out a message that this book is being given away as though a worthless item on a market stall.

Someone can upload a freebie book and say anything under verified purchase. Such reviews should not be placed on the same platform as reviews left by paying customers, some of which pay over $5 for an ebook.

Why Not Run a Free Promo of Your Book to Get Reviews

Only recently did I realize that customers are at present unable to post text reviews onto Amazon from their Kindle devices. This makes free promos for the sake of garnering reviews illogical. Authors need also be aware of opening their books to abuse from those uploading freebies to receive scathing reviews under ‘verified purchase’ badge. In some of these cases, it is obvious the reviewer has not read the book, but posted a generally scathing review, claiming the book contains typos and editorial issues when there aren’t any. Several reviews have been known to appear within hours of uploading the freebie.

For these reasons, authors should consider very carefully before running a free promo of their book(s) for the sake of garnering reviews.

Articles on Self Publishing

Get traffic to your book via keywords
Creating a NCX File on your book
Guide to creating an EPUB from Callibre
The scourge of planted book reviews

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

How to Make the Table of Contents go Live on the Kindle Reader

Formatting table of contents links to make a book easy to navigate around may appear fine when viewed on Word and on the look inside preview on Amazon. However, the TOC may not be live within the kindle reader. How can the publisher create a NCX File to make these links live? Here's how.

How to Make TOC Live in the Ereader

Table of Contents in Kindle Aren't Live
Creating a table of contents by creating links within the document via the use ofbookmarks is covered in another article within this blog. This article focuses upon how to make the table of contents live within the Kindle so that the reader is able to navigate to any chapter without having to scroll to the contents page.

What is the NXS File in Epub Books?

Here we can see the Kindle has merely created links to the cover of the book, the beginning and end,. The contents appears greyed out (arrowed). This basic navigation is insufficient for the Kindle user who wants to be able to navigate to chapters without having to find the contents page.

This contents element of the book is known as NCX which stands for Navigation Control file for XML. It appears as a list of links that sits next to the Epub version of your book, each link pointing to a particular chapter.

Creating Table of Contents for Easy Navigation

This meant that the person reading would have to keep scrolling to the contents page to find a particular chapter. In order to ensure the Kindle recognizes the table of contents, I had to process the book document so that the Kindle automatically reads the NCX file and creates the chapter links.

Tips for Creating Contents Links for Epublishing

NXS is Read by Kindle Creating Live Links
This second screenshot (right) shows, after I had solved the problem, the Kindle reader has automatically created links to the chapters within the book. Here’s how I solved the problem.

Create Live Contents in the Kindle Reader for your Book

Firstly, follow the steps outlined in another article on this blog, on how to createlinks to chapters within the book. The contents within any ebook should be located near the beginning. There should be no page numbers, as these are meaningless in an ebook.

To make the Kindle automatically create live links within the Kindle reader, save the document (likely to be Word). There are several ways of making the TOC go live within the Kindle, but I have found this the simplest.

Create NXS File for Epub Step by Step

Callibre Screenshot. Convert Books to Epub
1 Before closing, save your book document as ‘webpage filtered.’
2 Upload Callibre, a free ebook converter software. Every epublisher needs Callibre.
3 Once Callibre software is uploaded to your computer, add you book to the library. Callibre give options for adding your book cover, tags and other metadata about your book. It's pretty self-explanatory.
4 Once the metadata of your book is done, convert the file to EPUB (there are a number of options you can choose from, including MOBI). You can see conversion options on the top right of the screen once your book is added.
5 Callibre will convert your book to Epub. You can then downloads the Epub file onto your computer.
6 Now go into Amazon KDP to upload the epub file of your book to Amazon's publishing platform.
7 Don’t use Amazon’s online previewer, as this won’t reveal if the NCX file of your book are live. I uploaded 8 Amazon’s Kindle for PC. A free download that simply enables you to read books as a Kindle on your computer.
9 Use the download option on Amazon’s KDP to preview your book.

As can be seen on the second screenshot, the Kindle previewer has automatically recognized the NXS file and created a list of links, where the person reading the book can easily navigate around.

Create Live Contents via NXS File in Epub for Publishing

Unless you create a table of contents and save your book file as Epub, the Kindle previewer won’t recognize there is a TOC in your book and it will be more difficult to navigate. To make your book easy to navigate around, create a table of contents as described in another article on this blog.

Once your book has been converted into an Epub, generating an NCX file, the Kindle won’t recognize it, and the table of contents won’t appear live on the Kindle. This could make navigation difficult for the person reading your book on the Kindle. By uploading Callibre and converting your book into Epub, the NCX element will readable by the Kindle device, enabling the customer to easily navigate around your book.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Thriller Writer Charles J Harwood Book Talk at Coventry Library July 8 2014

A book talk has been arranged for me at Coventry Central Library in the West Midlands on Tuesday 8 July 2014 at 10.30 – 11.30 am. Coventry Library is located centrally within the Shopping Centre not far from West Orchards, perfect for a pop in for a listen.

A Book Talk on Thrillers at Coventry Library

Charles J Harwood Book Talk
At Coventry Library
I plan to provide copies of my thrillers, The Shuttered Room, Falling Awake, A Hard Lesson and Nora. It is always difficult to gauge how many books to supply for these occasions, as the size of the crowd cannot be anticipated. Hopefully, there won’t be enough books!

I have just completed a light edit of all my books and plan to do a reading from one of them (yet to be decided). Incidentally, all my books take place in locations not far from Coventry, including Coventry itself (the Godiva Statue gets a mention in Nora). Locations include fictional villages in Warwick, Solihull, Bedworth and Lichfield. All thrillers are set in the modern day. The murky side of human nature provides the theme, including gambling addiction, voyeurism, peer pressure and abduction.

A Talk on Deeply Psychological Thrillers

None of my books would have been written without some sort of risk. The result I feel are quirky English thrillers that is heavy on the irony and peppered with disparate elements. My aim? To make the read memorable. I do not want the reader to put the book down, although must accept this will not occur on every occasion. All my novels are deeply psychological.

Book Talk in Coventry

Get Signed  Copies of
Charles J Harwood Books
at Coventry Library
I plan to also inform on the business of publishing thrillers as well as screenplays. As I anticipate the audience to be mostly fiction readers, will retain focus upon this area, but my book talk will also include a little about my art instruction books, written under my real name.

Charles J Harwood Books for Sale

Signed copies of my novels will be available for £6 each. I can accept only cash or cheques. I will also have for sale copies of one of my art instruction books Oil Paintings from Your Garden for just £2 each. Light refreshments will be available.

I plan the event to have an informal feel, where visitors are free to chat and ask questions. As this will be my first books talk of this kind, anticipate it will be an exciting experience.

Hope to see you there.

Win the Shuttered Room on Goodreads (valid until July 16)
An overview of all my novels

Neurosis of Fictional Characters in the Shuttered Room: What Would the Gremlins Say?

An understanding in psychology is likely to endow the writer with the ability to create fictional characters with depth and emotions. Having had interest in psychology, found this an asset in fiction writing. Freud’s Ego States is perhaps the most well known psychological theory, but what about Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis? His book Games People Play helped validate my idea for my novel, The Shuttered Room.

How Transactional Analysis Was Used in the Charles J Harwood Thriller

Thriller about BeingTrapped
Berne proposed that childhood issues can cause a person to play out a behavioral pattern over and over for a hidden payoff (which might be approval, sympathy or vindication). These ‘games’ can be destructive or offer a comfort blanket for the individual against facing psychological truths.

Freud’s Ego States in Fiction Thrillers

Freud’s ‘adult’ (our high reasoning) becomes trapped within the damaged child/parent of the person’s psyche. So these games can be played out between the damaged ego of one person, with another. The intervention of the adult reasoning from any one individual will cause the game to flounder or fall down. An example of one of Berne’s games will help to elucidate these life games.

An Example of a Life Game Wooden Leg Identified by Berne

Wooden Leg Here, the ‘wooden leg,’ is a symbol of being helpless. This maintains the victim role for the player with the affliction, so he/she appears helpless to get out of doing an unsavory task. The script goes thus:
Student: ‘I couldn’t do my homework because my laptop played up.’
Teacher: ‘Why don’t you pop to the library to do the research?’
Student: ‘I couldn’t because it was raining.’
Teacher: ‘Why didn’t you put your raincoat on?’
Student: ‘There’s a hole in the hood and I would have got wet.’

As can be seen, other (unwary players – in this case, the teacher) must play to reinforce the game. The unwary player may come away feeling used or manipulated without being able to pinpoint the reason.

Some games are closely related, such as Why does this Always Happen to Me? This is the victim role who doesn’t want a cure. ‘My misfortunes are better than yours.’ This keeps people close by via guilt, gaining sympathy or offers of help.

And Kick Me where the victim subconsciously puts out the signal Don’t Kick Me. The urge for some of course, is to kick. The ‘Kick Me’ victim, can lament, ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ The culprit might be a string of ‘using’ boyfriends or always getting into debt with rotten moneylenders!

Transactional Analysis in Fiction

Humans basically need to ‘transact,’ and will wither without some sort of discourse, even if it is a simple ‘hello’. This means these life games are used to gain something, anything. But how does this relate to my book? Well, I had the notion we all have a unique inner voice that (if from trauma) may cause one person to develop anorexia or another to become narcissistic. Berne’s book helped validate my idea for a thriller.

Inner Toads of People What Would The Gremlins Say?

In my book, the Shuttered Room, Jess is taken hostage and held in an upstairs room by three thugs for ransom. But in lonely childhood, Jess used to broadcast perceived inner voices of what people might be thinking as they went about their business. She does it for private entertainment, not in the belief she can actually read people. That is until this obsession takes a grip as she spies upon her captors from a hole in the floor.

Horrible Neurosis of People

As Jess gets wrapped up in broadcasting these inner voices, she starts to hallucinate creatures that might spout such mantras, some of which appear ‘toady’ or reptilian. Keeping in mind Berne’s life games, I conjured the vernacular of these inner voices and what they might look like. Jess notes the voices are needy, whiny, peppered with expletives and bad grammar, mixing first with the second person.

Look How Hard I Try Life Game

Jess’s husband, Harvey is afflicted with the life game, Look How Hard I Try. Jess conjures forth his inner vernacular with the following: ‘Look at me, look how hard I try. Let the world see my resolve, my precious efforts. Righteousness is my food and you are just a morsel in my need. I will cloak myself in blamelessness so that no one can see my guilt.’

Here we can see he wants to appear the victim of terrible responsibilities but this game is borne from guilt and fear of intimacy.

A Deeply Psychological Thriller by Charles J Harwood

I assigned a life game to each character within my novel, but also made up a few of my own. Here is a character list with the life game afflicting each.

Jess’s Husband, Harvey: plays Look How Hard I Try (explained earlier). He also plays ‘Alcoholic’ The so-called affliction-sufferer may not be alcoholism, but some other that makes his life a misery. A rescuer will come to his aid and someone else will persecute, but the alcoholic will always suffer a relapse.
Justin, one of Jess’s captors: has delusions of grandeur made lurid by Kick Me that turns rancid when Perversion rears its ugly head later in the book.
Kia, one of Jess’s captors: plays Rapo, a flirtation game where a woman gets a payoff from rebuffing a man’s advances. She sees herself as the Princess who needs pampering and likes to be sexually pursued. However, this causes her to be sexually used. Rapo's worst version is when a woman falsely cries rape.
Jess’s Dad Now I’ve Got you You Son of a Bitch and serial Sweetheart. He criticizes his wife, but sugar-coats it in 'sweetheart.' She does the same to him.
Jess’s Mum As well as Sweetheart, Ain’t it Awful? A sort of idle gossip at social gatherings.
Jess’s stay in hospital reveal staff with: Harried, Wooden Leg; Kick Me; Now I’ve got you, you Son of a Bitch; Why does this Always Happen to Me? Why don’t You, Yes, But; Rapo; I’m Only Trying to Help You.
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Pippa (Jess’s Work Colleague) and Mel (Justin’s girlfriend): plays approval-seeking Please Like Me so I Can Like Myself, a game I thought up. This mantra reinforces a hanger-on, an insecure social sheep who needs some sort of acknowledgment or token.
Jess’s Teachers: betray voices that nurture anorexia, narcissism, controlling personalities and fear of chaos. Jess uses the tags the Greenhorn, the Narcissist, the Peacock and the Man Eater (Rapo).

The 2 Main Characters Jess and Jake: cannot be revealed, as it would ruin the plot twist of the story.

Psychological Twist in my Thriller: The Shuttered Room by Charles J Harwood

An idea about the voices of our inner neuroses kept nagging at me until I began writing. I imagined what sort of inner dialogue would foster anorexia, a need to be needed or for someone to kidnap someone? The disturbing notion of what would nurture the psychopath became a central strand of my novel. Since coming across Eric Berne Games People Play, my idea came clearer to me and I could conjure the sort of mantras of certain people with damaged egos. Jess spies upon her captors below but finds some nasty, twisted mantras within her captors.

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