Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What IS New Media, Anyway?

In a couple of weeks, I'll be speaking at the "Pathways to Employment" event being held in San Pedro, California by the San Pedro Neighborhood Council. My topic will be New Media, which is both an exciting and challenging area to consider. 

The very definition is elusive. Ask a dozen people what "new media" means, and you'll get a dozen answers. It changes depending on rapidly developing technology. What's "new?" Something that just emerged last month? Last Year? Ten years ago? Or, does "New Media" include all emergent media platforms since movies, television and radio? 

Virtual Reality is certainly considered New Media. YouTube, at twelve years old, is considered New Media. Podcasting also falls into that definition. The New Media Institute defines it as "a 21st Century catchall term used to define all that is related to the internet and the interplay between technology, images and sound." In other words, it includes nearly every way we communicate today.

I've experimented in varying degrees with New Media. For example, I've blogged for myself and for corporate clients, I've been on YouTube, I've podcasted here and there, and I'm currently diving into Virtual Reality. I've watched with fascination how creators have built their media presence, or failed to take advantage of their unique opportunities. The one question that's always lurked in the back of my mind: how does this all work together?

One of the most fascinating chapters in his process was a series of short interviews I conducted and posted with several dozen YouTubers. Young or old, I asked them all the same question: Why do you do it? Some simply wanted to be stars, of course, but most had other reasons: friendship, building skills and opportunity, helping or inspiring others. Some were kids in their early teens, while others were retired. Most were somewhere in between.

What ever their motivation, I found that many shared an entrepreneurial spirit—a desire to see where this adventure would lead, and the willingness to put themselves out there to make it happen. I was inspired to follow their example—not to make more YouTube videos, but to focus on the core of my own passion as a storyteller. 

New Media directly inspired me to create traditional media. To date, I've written three young adult novels, which in turn are promoted and distributed and promoted across various new media platforms.

New Media isn't so much about platforms. It's about strategy and learning to use these new tools effectively for your own "bigger picture." That's a skill that most individuals and corporations are still finding elusive, and where the real opportunity lies for young creators.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Money Tap

I continued to experiment with WattPad's Tap, a creative writing app for Android and iOS devices, this time with a story based on characters I created in my book series. As in My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain, The Prank finds Alexander cautious about non-existent dangers at his school. In the chat-based world of Tap, Alexander texts his friend Anthony and explains why he's waiting for just the right moment to enter the school gate. Anthony tries to convince him that he's being unreasonable, but Alexander isn't convinced.

In this Tap-only story, Anthony conspires with Darrell and cooks up the perfect prank to teach Alexander a lesson. Alexander, though, sees the world in his own way, and things don't turn out like Anthony thinks it will.

This time, the story takes place in six separate scenes, with a total of 306 "texts" between Anthony, Darrell and their friends. I posted it a few days ago on Tap, but my little comedy is somewhat lost in the Tap world of horror, romance and fan stories.  I'm happy to say, though, that both this and my previous story, Played, will turn up if you search under my Rickflix name.

I enjoyed the on-the-go ease of creating in this format, allowing me to create at any random moment during the day.

Unfortunately, as I've discovered the pay-as-you-go scheme that Tap is using, I'm not certain if I'll continue with this platform. In the app, Tap will allow you to read my story for a couple of minutes, and then present you with a message, Are you addicted yet? and prompt you to either wait 25 minutes to continue reading any story, or "Upgrade to Tap Premium," which can cost $2.99 a week, $7.99 a month, or $39.99 for 12 months of unlimited access to all content. I wonder why I would contribute content to a site that charges readers, but doesn't offer authors compensation for creating readable content. 

If you wait the full time to read for free, you can continue reading for a short time, perhaps enough to finish reading the story and start another one, but soon a new prompt will require that you wait another 25 minutes.

To read my story, you could start at the above desktop link, but it will prompt you to download the app on your Android or iPhone, and then the Are you addicted yet? cycle will begin. Suddenly, just reading my little story becomes a chore.

Considering the wide range of free content available elsewhere, I also have to wonder if this concept will work at all. Would you pay for access to uncurated fiction? 

Tap is a promising concept, but in the current version, I wonder how much support it will find. Perhaps offering exclusive content by pro authors might encourage subscriptions, but there doesn't seem to be any compensation or reward for those who might develop popular content on the site. That will invariably turn people off.

I'd rather see an ad-based version, which seems to work well for so many other apps. Many readers and writers would support the option of purchasing an ad-free edition. I did that for Words With Friends. I wouldn't mind doing it for a creative app. 

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Experiments in Storytelling: Wattpad's "Tap"

I recently engaged in a bit of experimental storytelling using a new app called Tap. Created by the people at Wattpad, the creative writing site (and available for both Android and iOS), it also allows authors to freely create and share their work with a wider audience. What sets Tap apart, however, is that it's all about telling stories "chat" style—in other words, through the back and forth texting that dominates so much of our lives.

The opening lines of Played.
The story is told entirely through dialogue. There's no description or third person observation. The scene must be set and the story told entirely through text. Character names can be indicated as one might find in a group chat, and a background image for the chat screen can help set the scene. Also, if the story occurs in more than one setting, that background image can change to indicate a change in venue.

Finally, the author can add a book cover (in this case, a simple representative image), and add a short description and category (or multiple categories)—for example,  romantic, scary, magical or suspenseful.

My story, Played, is the tale of two young gamers planning to meet IRL (In Real Life) for the first time. Will the meeting happen—or is this all a game?

The story selection screen looks nice, but
so far, it's not possible to search anything but
  category. I haven't yet found my story. 
Played is told in a total of 177 messages. The reader will either Tap the screen (if in the App, or tap the "Tap" bar, if on a desktop) to move on to the next text.

Here's my story. You'll be guided to the desktop reader if that's where you're clicking.

I encourage you to follow the link, Tap through the story, and tell me what you think here on the blog or through my social media channels. As the App is in its early days (feature improvements are promised), I'd also appreciate if you would share it as well. Reader feedback isn't built in (yet), so

I had great fun creating this story, and I'll likely create a few more Tap experiences. It's a great stream-of-consciousness exercise and brainstorming tool, too. I'm very curious to see what readers think.

And who knows, it just might inspire my next book...

Is Alexander Right for my Kid?

All Three Books Add Lexile Text Scores

I've taken an important step in making my books student friendly by obtaining Lexile® Scores for all three books. 

Recognized as the standard for matching readers with texts, tens of millions of students worldwide receive a Lexile measure that helps them find targeted readings from the more than 100 million articles, books and websites that have been measured.

My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain has a score of 690L, Own the Scrawny is 740Land My Epic Life is 640L.

So, what does this actually mean? For comparison's sake, popular books in the same Lexile range include The Maze Runner, The Book Thief, The Giver, Wonder, Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Holes. 

Please forward this to educators and parents that might find this useful, and check out RichSamuelsAuthor.com for a list of challenging words for each book, according to the Lexile Framework. Just select Parents/Teachers  on the menu and choose "Lexile Measures."

My Epic Life is now available as a $2.99 e-book on all popular platforms. 

I've also started recording an Epic audiobook. Remember, My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain and Own the Scrawny are already available as audiobooks. You can find them on Amazon. By this summer, the entire series will be road trip ready!

I made an appearance at Barnes and Noble recently at a fundraiser for Bridgeport Elementary School, and once again attended the Santa Clarita Local Author Celebration at the Newhall Public Library.

Check out Greg Baldwin's fun behind-the-scenes video of my time at the Local Author Celebration.

Finally, here's an in-depth interview I gave on the new YouTube channel, Writing Fun.  Michelle Dunton covered everything from the origin of the Alexander books, to my evolution as a writer. She's also the latest in a line of homeschool moms who have found my books especially appealing. Watch the interview to find out why!

If you feel inspired, both of these YouTube channels would appreciate your subscription.

That's all for now! Remember, if you want these updates (about 4 a year) delivered straight to your mailbox, you can sign up here.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Random Questions and Rich

Quora, the question and answer social website that I've taken a liking to recently, is continuing to fascinate me.

As of this writing, my all-time views stand at 11,100. I'm a "Most Viewed Writer" in the categories of Bullying, School Bullying and Cyberbullying, but I answer questions in other categories as well, including Overcoming Fear, Understanding Human Behavior, Writing Advice, and History.

Here are links to some of my most popular answers. Please make sure you "upvote" on Quora if you like what you see—that's Quora's equivalent of a "like." Comments are also encouraged.

My all time most popular answer was in response to What are some cases of Extreme Bullying? Hint: Elon Musk!

I cheated on my fiance with a coworker and oddly I don't regret it. Does that make me a bad person? What should I do next? 

Why are middle school kids bullied the most (including me)?

Can a 7 year old read and understand Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn? Is the content in both the books appropriate for a 7 year old?

I'm 15, Do I have any possibility of living on Mars?

I answer at least a few questions every day. If you would like to read along, you can follow me on Quora or Twitter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Middle School and Bullying: A Look at Google Trends

Lately, as I look for opportunities to bring my Alexander Adventure books into the hands of more readers, I've been using the Google Trends tool for some insights into some of the key search terms associated with my stories. If you're not familiar with it, Google Trends allows you to track the search history for given terms, and look at historical trends for that search term going back over ten years.

By studying these trends, I'm hoping to develop a strategy and a timetable for my future Alexander efforts.

I've found some interesting results

Every September, as kids go back to school, there's a spike in searches for the phrase "middle school" as new incoming students attempt to allay their fears.
Every October, as school culture develops,  there's a spike in searches for the phrase "bullying." It's clear that some kids are maneuvering for advantage—and some are losing out.

Cyberbullying (which you will notice has little history as a search term before 2009) has a slightly different result. As with bullying, there's a spike in October, but there's also a second spike in April. We could speculate that spring vacation offered a fresh opportunity to engage in harassment. Curiously, there's no similar spike during winter vacation. Perhaps the "battle lines" aren't as clearly drawn. Or maybe everyone's just enjoying the holiday.

As I develop my plans for the fall, I'll be keeping in mind this timeline. I'll look for opportunities to talk and write about these issues during the critical months of August through October. Alexander is all about facing, overcoming and triumphing over fear. I want him to be there when kids (and their parents) are looking for answers.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Marketing to Make a Difference

If there's one thing I've learned since I've launched my Alexander series,  it's that marketing as an indie author is a long-term game. To a great extent, it's about building up my Brand. I've come to better understand the difference between a Brand and a Product. The books are my Products. Rich Samuels, the author, is the Brand. More precisely, Rich Samuels, an author who has written three books about facing, overcoming and triumphing over fear (or to be more precise exact) bullying is the brand.
Quora Logo

Bringing this a step further, because of my experience in writing about the subject, I can speak with some expertise about subjects involving fear and bullying. Drill down even further, and one could say that as a fiction writer (someone who by trade interprets human interaction) I can provide a unique perspective on the subject that is separate and distinct from (but complimentary to) counselors/therapists/psychologists who approach the issue from a more analytical perspective.

Alexander's journey is all about perception. His response to the world around him changes as his understanding of that world evolves. Fearing the worst brings out the worst in him. With growing confidence, he not only becomes a better person, but helps someone else face his own fear.

One of the steps I've taken to develop my Brand is to contribute to Quora.com, "a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users." In a few weeks time, I've become a "Most Viewed Writer on School Bullying" answering numerous questions about the nature of bullying. You can check it out here. Some questions were simple expressions of curiosity. Others, it seemed, express a real crisis.

My experience with Quora, and my evolving opportunities to publicly talk about fear and bullying has become more than simply a marketing game. It's an opportunity to reach out and make a difference.