Typecast: Street Writing in Amsterdam

Writing @ Amsterdam Oosterpark
My ultra-comfy Helinox camp chair, with the Street Writer canvas bag and the Gaston Lagaffe piggybank.
The 1955 Groma Kolibri @ Vapiano
The 1955 Olivetti Lettera 22 @ Oosterpark.
Writing examples with stickers and the Gaston Lagaffe piggy bank.
My favourite on the road machine, my 1964 Swissa Junior.

Typecast Movie Review: They Shall Not Grow Old.


Review re-written on 1964 Swissa Junior.

The draft was typed immediately after the movie on my 1937 Hermes Featherweight:


QUORA question: “What’s a collectible typewriter I should purchase on sight?”

“What is a collectible typewriter that I should purchase on sight?”

Collectible.

If you mean, a typewriter that I can easily sell off for more than I paid for it and which will probably increase in value in the coming years:

Hermes 3000:

The bulbous Swiss typewriter with the minty green keys guarded by Mingus is a 1965 Hermes 3000, an iconic typewriter and favoured by respected writers and collectors like Tom Hanks, Sam Shepard and Larry McMurtry (who thanked his H3K in his Oscar speech for ‘keeping me out of the cold clutches of the computer’). Gorgeous design, precision (Swiss!) mechanics, and loaded with innovative features, this machine is worth buying blind if you can get it for less than 100$. They sell nowadays for anywhere between 200–700$.

Seidel & Naumann Erika M:

This is part of my S&N Erika collection. While the S on the far right is my preferred typer, the M (for ‘Master Class’) on the left is considered the pinnacle of the already astounding Seidel & Naumann range of Erika portables. It has pretty much any feature you might want from a modern machine — keyset margins, keyset tabulator stops – and it has an interesting shift mechanism — in most machines either the whole carriage shifts up (called ‘carriage shift’) or the basket segment with the typebars goes down into the machine (‘basket/segment shift’), but with the Erika M, the carriage remains on the machine, only the paper-carrying platen part is lifted (‘partial/skeleton shift’). Apart from all the features, the machine types like a dream and is aesthetically gorgeous. If you can get one for less than 100$, snap it up, because a clean refurbished M goes for 250–600$.

Groma Kolibri:

This East German Cold War typewriter became famous when featured in the 2006 German movie The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen), where a dissident author writes on an unregistered Kolibri that’s flat enough to be hidden under the floorboards of his apartment.

You can see it in this trailer of the movie, when it’s delivered under a birthday cake and later typed on and hidden under the threshold.

This is my main ‘in transit’ typewriter, for when I write outside my home. Like here, @ Vapiano Oosterdokseiland while sharing a pizza with my son.

It’s super-flat and fits in most backpacks, plus it’s a snappy typer. These machines are quite rare and will fetch prices around 350–750$. I bought mine for sixty euro and I’m not going to part with it, even though I had offers far exceeding what I paid for mine.

Olivetti Valentine:

This is the only collectible that I don’t have, nor want. Iconic design typewriter that has become incredibly popular among collectors, but I typed on one and it felt like a toy, not an actual typewriter. And since I’m only interested in machines I can actually type on, I’m not really interested in owning one.

Prices fluctuate, but Valentines can fetch from 200–600$, depending on their condition.

Edited May 12th, 2019:

And here I wrote about the Olivetti Valentine: “This is the only collectible that I don’t have, nor want. […] I’m not really interested in owning one.
And today, while street-writing @ Nieuwmarkt, an elderly lady complimented me on my 1938 Seidel & Naumann Erika S, and told me she had a red typewriter that had a red box it slipped into. She was looking to sell it only to someone who really appreciated manual typewriters, would I be interested? So, that’s how i became the owner of a Valentine for forty euro.

Below are some typewriters that I think should become collectibles, because they are so, so fine:

Erika 10:

Not to be confused with the S&N Erika’s above, the 10 is a post-war German typewriter after Seidel & Naumann had been bankrupted after WWII. Made in the early 60, it is an astoundingly smooth typewriter with beautiful lines.

Swissa Junior:

Until jousted from the prime position by the Groma Kolibri, this Swissa Junior was my favourite ‘in transit’ typewriter. It’s Swiss, like the Hermes, and it types even better than the Kolibri, except that it’s bulkier and won’t fit in a daypack backpack. The type is incredibly straight, like a laser printer, and distinctive. It’s also my son’s favourite machine to write on:

If you want to know more about the Swissa Junior (and some of my other typewriters), you can find my blog article here


Typecast essay: Incorrigible.





This is not how I usually transport my typewriters!


WRITING: “Writing Fiction Is Easy”

If you ever want to piss off an author, tell them:
If I had the time, I could write a book. Easily. Anybody can write. I used to write essays and stuff. I have tons of ideas. My life is very interesting, I could fill a book with just my experiences. 
Well, if these people ever found the time, they would realise that writing a book is not just about having the time to sit down and write.
If you can write a thousand words a day, and your book is a hundred thousand words (like my books typically are), then theoretically, you only need 100 days to write that book. So why does it take me 6-9 months to write a book? Considering that I know what I want to write and I’m working on my sixth novel?
Not to mention that, once you wrote the book, you still need readers to pay for reading it.
I’m not hugely popular, but after 3.5 years and 9 publications, I sell about 3-4 books a day to complete strangers, who are willing to pay for the privilege of reading my work.
When I started off in 2012 (with 2 publications), I sold about 1-2 books a week, which can be disheartening unless you factor in the competition – 350,000 books published each year, on top of the millions of books already available. And with hardly any marketing budget (I’m on disability*), I mostly sell through word-to-mouth: readers telling other readers to read my books.
So writing is only part of the equation. I could write more books if I didn’t have to worry about taking my books to market. And it’s pretty much the same for any published author – the publisher leaves a lot of the promotion to the author, who needs to build their own fan base and organise their own book tours and blog interviews. Only the big names get the assistance of a publicist and a marketing department to help them into talkshows and book fairs.
I love writing and editing, but I still have trouble with (self-)promotion. Just writing quality books is not enough. And I can count myself lucky writing a popular genre (suspense fiction) – a friend who writes literary fiction barely sells 2-3 books a year. And his books are great, but literary fiction is always a much harder sell. Which is why I’m still smiling.
So, piss off a writer today and tell them, ‘writing fiction is easy, I could do what you do, if only I had the time’. 

*My disability has been terminated, by the way, sending my marketing budget all the way down beyond zero. So now, I’m relying even more on you, my readers, to do what I cannot do – tell others that you liked my books and help spread the word that my books are worth reading.

I thank you for your support.


FAQ: “How do you get reviews?”

There is a ratio going around that you’ll get on average one unsolicited review for every thousand books you sell. At this moment of writing, I have 115 reviews on GoodReads and 75+ reviews on Amazon. And I can assure you that I haven’t sold a 1000 books per review, more like 30-50 books. And none of these reviews is bought*.

I did a few giveaways on GoodReads that netted me some reviews, but most of my reviews are from two things:

  • I give away ARCs, which are Advance Review Copies. That means that I send reviewers my books before they are published, so they can post a review when the book is published.
  • I ‘request’ reviews from my readers by posting this message at the end of each book:

Thank you for reading the Amsterdam Assassin Series. 
For an independent author, gaining exposure relies on readers spreading the word, so if you have the time and inclination, please consider leaving a short review wherever you can.

Most readers won’t consider leaving a review, because they are not used to voicing their opinion, or because they don’t see the importance, or just because no one asks them for their opinion. That’s why the message at the end of the book is so powerful – I just remind them gently that I would appreciate if they’d tell others about this book they enjoyed, so others can enjoy the books too. And I’m serious about reminding them gently – don’t push readers into feeling obligated to review your books. And be grateful for every review, whether it’s 20 or 200 words long.


 

*Customer reviews now outnumber professional reviews, but that has also made for some underhanded practices – just as you can buy Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers, you can also buy reviews, especially through websites like Fiverr.com which trades in fake reviews that are posted through multiple accounts.

Other loathsome review practices are the ‘quid pro quo’ review circles, where authors buy each other’s books and give each other glowing reviews, and authors creating ‘sock puppet’ accounts to write their own reviews and upvote themselves (and/or downvote their competition. Most of these fake reviews are easy to spot, since they are as formulaic as the books they promote, but it’s still profitable since many readers equate having a lot of reviews with ‘a quality book’.


WRITING: “If Only I Could Find The Time…”

One of the most annoying statements people make when they hear I’m a writer, is that they’ll shake their heads and say, “I’d love to write a novel, if only I could find the time.”

To most writers, this is a seriously demeaning statement, because most of us have 24 hours in a day, juggling our work, private life, responsibilities and social activities, and yet we authors are able to find our time to write.

I’ve written several novels and short stories and I’ve had people asking me, where do you find the time to write? And I tell them, wherever I can:

  • I worked night shifts as a security officer, filling the bulk of my shifts with writing.
  • I rarely watch live television, but I pre-program my television to record what I want to see, so that I can fast-forward through commercial blocks (a two-hour movie on television contains some 30-40 minutes of commercials!).
  • I write on an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard that I take everywhere, so I can write in waiting rooms and playgrounds (where my children are running around).
  • I turn my manuscripts into e-books that I can edit on my e-reader while I’m waiting in queues at the supermarket or during rides in public transport.
  • I get up an hour before the rest of the family wakes up, so I can cram in some writing before breakfast.

And I don’t mess around when I’m writing:

  • I write in drafts so that I finish a draft before I start editing. Writing and editing require different mindsets – I used to edit while I wrote, but I don’t do that anymore, because my inner editor will stifle my creative mind. And if you spend time editing on a scene that you’ll cut anyone is wasted time.
  • I don’t worry about beginnings, endings, chapter length, opening sentences, character names, or if the right words don’t come to mind (I write the closest word and add a @, so I can find the word again when I’m editing). Most of that stuff will be decided on in the editing process. My first rough draft is not to be read by anyone but myself.
  • Formatting, like smart quotes, bold, italics, chapter names, et cetera, is decided in the late editing stage, when the story is shaping into a manuscript.

The most important thing is that rough draft. Get that story out of your mind and onto a paper or screen, so you can look at what was in your head. Two hours movies often have several hours of deleted scenes that never made the movie. A sixty minute album of music will require a week of studio time. A novel you can read in eight hours was created in twelve months from a manuscript that might take twenty-four hours to read.

When you get better at filming, you will become more efficient. You won’t need to shoot eight hours of film to produce a two-hour movie. You won’t need weeks to produce sixty minutes of music. And you won’t need to re-write your draft six times to produce a polished manuscript. With practice, you become more efficient.

Don’t fritter your time away – do something constructive and write that draft. You can thank me later.