The Power of Praise

Note to self number thirty: Patience is a virtue. Don’t forget it.

Remember that film, ‘Field of Dreams’? There was a great line in it somewhere that went something like, ‘build it and he will come.’ I don’t know why it has always stuck with me; I never wanted to build a sports stadium (even if I did, I couldn’t afford it) and have the ghosts of soccer legends come around for a kick-about in my back yard – even if it would be pretty cool.

In my (sometimes) tenuous way of making links, I’m equating Ray Kinsella’s baseball park to my books. Not so much build it and he will come, as, write them and they will read (especially if they are free). That’s not meant to sound as arrogant as it might come across. I just have absolute faith in my writing and my books to do a job at a certain level.

I feel strongly that what I write is not awful. That it is readable. That it works in its genre. That it’s not full of holes. I believe that it can provide an enjoyable reading experience. I don’t hope for more than that. Yet.

So, I wrote them and I put them out there (two of them at present) and I watched and I waited. And, lo, the downloads did begin to accumulate and still I waited for what I craved most – feedback (see earlier posts for why). And now that has begun to trickle in. And I was not mentally prepared for the experience of receiving them; I had not sought to ready myself for what I would feel about, how I might deal with, reading the comments of strangers regarding my creative output. I had no idea how truly moving that was going to prove. I am finding it emotionally disturbing (in a good way). Really.

There have only been a few comments – I couldn’t claim to be inundated, swamped. And people are not exactly raving psychotically about my writing; no one is nominating me for literary awards, but people are being positive, encouraging and helpful. People are commenting, saying nice things, taking the time and trouble to let me know what they think and I am just overwhelmed by that little experience. I wonder if I might be a little unstable to be thinking like that. Maybe I’ve just been working too hard lately.

I suppose that, if I’m taking something specific from this little episode in the grand scheme of my self-publishing it is that one should never underestimate the potential effect of what other people are going to say about what one does. People who say that they couldn’t care less are lying. I have had something that I already knew, but had largely forgotten about, reaffirmed: praise on any level can be deeply affecting. Believe that.

What will I do if someone pans me? How will I deal with that? Probably, what I did to the guy who took my parking space – he doesn’t park there anymore. I don’t think that he even owns a car these days. There wouldn’t be much point.

Two down, three to go.

Making a Killing JPEGToday I uploaded Making A Killing, the second in the Romney and Marsh Files, to both Smashwords and Amazon. And I’m glad to see that back of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love this book. I think it’s better than the first. But this last week I’ve read it twice, tinkered, adjusted, edited, fiddled and altered; I’ve got cross, tired and frustrated. I’ve even started dreaming about it. But I’m happy with it. I think it’s as good as I can make it so it was time to let it go.

My goal was to get it on the www for Christmas. I have this notion that millions of people are going to get e-book readers for Christmas and the first thing that they’re going to do on Boxing day is go to Smashwords outlets and Amazon and look for books to download for free. I would.

I have said for a while now that at this stage in my writing career all I’m looking for from my books is some feedback from people who’ve downloaded them. I’ve had a total of over two hundred downloads so far and one review. Yes. One review. And that was from a friend. That is disappointing. Of course, just because people are downloading it doesn’t mean that they are reading. Patience.

So, what to do now? Well, my hard-copy of Joint Enterprise is staring at me. I’ve got to go through it all again with this new title, the third Romney and Marsh. And after that I have two longer books in my other series to sort out and get on the web before I can start writing again. That’s the task that I’ve set myself. And when they’re all on the www I have to get into self-promotion in a serious way. Oh, and in between times I’ve got to sort out my entries for the Debut Dagger CWA annual competition. Busy, busy, busy.

Making A Killing – The Second Romney and Marsh File


My topsy-turvy world.


A couple of things today: a revised view of the ‘slush-pile’ and a remarkable download statistic. Excited? Me neither.

Before I decided to self-publish I tried to get a literary agent interested in my books. Actually, I tried to get about two hundred literary agents interested in my books. The only good thing that came out of that woeful and demoralising chapter of my miserable history as a writer was that, because of the high number of rejection letters I received, I didn’t need to buy toilet paper for a month.

I grew to hate literary agents. I wanted to meet one, provoke a fist-fight and beat her up really badly. I was suffering a good deal of angst and I had no outlet. Then I discovered Jesus…not really. More enlightening than Our Saviour in this case was the discovery of the Smashwords synopsis submission page. Don’t get me wrong. I like Smashwords. I love Smashwords. They might yet end up being instrumental in salvaging the rudderless ghost-ship that is my writing career. No, what their synopsis submissions page did for me (apart from making me think that I wasn’t such a bad writer after all) was create some empathy for literary agents. (I’m having a hard time believing that I just wrote that, let alone thought it. It’s testimony to how far I’ve come as a human being on this self-publishing journey.)

Let me explain. When one submits one’s submission to a literary agent for their condescension one is advised, ne warned, on each and every literary agent’s website that they typically receive up to three hundred (300) submissions a week and that from this number they ‘might’ take on three or four new authors a year. Yes, a year. Three hundred multiplied by fifty-two is over fifteen thousand. Over fifteen thousand submissions a year to sift through. In the trade I understand this to be referred to as the ‘slush-pile’. In my ignorance I found this to be a rather negative, derogatory and insulting term for the creative output of the masses when I first came across it. I damned literary agents for their arrogance. Now, having been a regular reader of the Smashwords synopsis submissions page (I really need to get a life) I think that ‘slush-pile’ is rather an elegant euphemism.

If the stuff that the postman brings everyday to dump on the desks of the publishing-deal-gate-keepers is anything like the torrent of utter crap that flows unfiltered over the Smashwords’ site like some broken raw sewage outlet then literary agents should receive our pity.

‘What about your crap?’ I hear some anonymous voice call from cyber-space. (Delete. Those dissenting voices are so easy to police and silence in the modern technologically enabled world. No one even saw it because I get to vet and approve everything. Blogging is so brilliant for control freaks.)

Is this really what people really want to read these days? ‘Erotic’ tales of bestiality and incest spanning three generations of inbred locals who then go on to slaughter each other with rusty tools from the shed at the bottom of the garden? I sure hope so because that’s basically what my latest book is all about. It’s called ‘Joint Enterprise’ and it’ll be on Smashwords within the month.

Now then, that interesting download statistic that I promised you.

I love WordPress as much as I love Smashwords. WordPress has the facility for bloggers to view a world map that is helpfully highlighted with incidents of other web users who have looked at one’s blog. Amazing and cool. This week I had someone from Outer Mongolia view my blog. Amazing and cool, again.

That kind of knowledge generates all kinds of questions for me as a writer and a thinker (the two don’t necessarily always go together. If you don’t believe me check out that Smashwords synopsis submissions page that I was banging on about earlier.) Questions like: Why? Who? Where exactly? As a writer I can envisage a Mongolian Yak farmer in a mountain hut whiling away a quiet night in some remote outpost of the country on his cutting-edge, top of the range, internet-enabled smart-phone. Maybe he thought he was safe from prying eyes up there on top of the world and so he typed in some disgusting search term into Mongle, or whatever search engine controls the back of beyond, and got a link to my blog – I’m proud to say that typing in ‘bestiality’ and ‘incest’ will do that. I tried it.

So now I have a new reader, a new follower of my blog. It doesn’t bother me that he might be whacking off to my writing. Live and let live. It doesn’t bother me that he might be downloading my books for free. I’m having a hard-time giving them away, anyway. What bothers me is that he might not get in touch.

Trashwords, anyone?

Warning: the following has content of a highly disturbing nature.

‘A girl is urged by her mother to let her brother take her virginity and become sexually active. She is ready to become sexually active but doesn’t want to give in to her mother. Her mother decides to demonstrate how good her brother is in bed and lets him take her in her daughter’s bed while her daughter watches every day for weeks causing the girl to have dreams of having sex with her brother.’  *

Well, what do you think of that as a synopsis for a novel? Me, I laughed until I stopped. And that isn’t as easy as it sounds. I think that whoever could conceive of such a ‘plot’ is quite simply unhinged or in layman’s terms seriously fucked-up. And I am no prude by any stretch of the imagination. Look at some of my blog posts if you doubt me and I just used the ‘f’ word didn’t I?

I was confronted with the above when I logged on to the Smashwords homepage for the twenty-fifth time today to check my download figures (still a healthy four. No new ones since Saturday. Maybe the Smashwords server is down.). The book to which this refers had obviously recently been uploaded because it was sitting there staring back at me (oh, so their server must be working then. Bugger.). I’m not going to name the book title that it refers to. I wouldn’t want to give the man any free publicity on my blog. I’d rather remove my own eyeballs with hot spoons, or vote Conservative.

The book has been listed under ‘erotica’ (no I wasn’t perving my way through the genre’s latest entries. Every new upload shows up on Smashwords home page) Perhaps it should have been listed under ‘sick and twisted’ or ‘in need of therapy’. (My nan used to say, ‘being a bit judgemental is better than being just mental’.)

I believe in free speech. I don’t like censorship. I know that some people want to read this stuff. I just think that perhaps Smashwords should start a partner site called Trashwords and that they should have a team of synopsis readers sifting through the influx of new material to single out the raw sewage from writing that is not written by and pandering to freaks of morality. I, for one, would be a regular subscriber to Trashwords because I haven’t laughed so much for ages. It’s not just prurient, puerile rubbish. Some of them are just plain rubbish.

It got me thinking about the brief outline – the synopsis – that one is obliged to submit with one’s offering. They are very important. They shouldn’t be underestimated as a means of encouraging readers to give writers a closer look. They should be worked on and refined (not necessarily in a moralistic way). I hope that mine works for browsers. I’ve copied and pasted a couple of others that I have selected for my own reasons and posterity. Would they ensure that you paid good money to download them to your reading device? None of these books were free to download.

‘A ballsy couple’s cozy lives are upended when the zombie apocalypse strikes Glasgow, and every day becomes a battle for survival as they team up with a band of misfits in hopes of starting civilization anew.’  That’s a no from me. Sorry.

‘The year is 2795 and after their ship was commissioned early and uncompleted to rescue a lost Confederate vessel 14,000 light years from home, the crew of the GCV Winchester have only just escaped with their lives with the dreaded Dimion. Their only hope now to return home is with help from a local race. However it is only a matter of time before the Dimion strike again. Will the crew survive.’  I’ll pass thanks.

‘Dark dreams, love, betrayal and a battle to save the world. ‘xxx’ tells the story of Cassie as she sets out, across the medieval and magical lands of Tarraneia, to prevent the terrible future she has foreseen. Is the future already set? Or can it be changed?’ A bit confusing.

‘Some are happy. Some aren’t. Yet everyday I go on with a face that is as plastic as the smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes.’ Could you rephrase that, please?

‘Ronald didn’t expect his experiment to have quite the effect that it did. When it turned him into Ronnie, she didn’t expect to be changed quite that long, but mad-science timelines have a way of changing a person’s mind. “xxx” is erotica sci-fi that is unsuitable for those under the age of 18.’ Or those with a brain.

‘Born between the sexes, Jamie must leave behind a young girl’s dreams to become the man her family expects.’  Again, please?

‘The devil in us all set loose to do wickedness at the expense of all that is pure in our hearts. Four stories where the ending is bitter sweet painful, but the sex is erotic enough to turn wood to rock hard, sweaty horny stone. Broken, teased and used as nothing more than a toy for the amusement of the evil in all of us. xxx is for the firm of heart and soul. xxx is for you.’ Actually, it really isn’t. Sorry.

I could go on all night, but a) I’ve just seen the time b) it’s all getting a little depressing c) why am I doing this anyway?

* Copyright 2011 – 2012, John Edgar Jay

The following is lifted from John’s author page and I fully acknowledge his ownership of the material. (I wouldn’t touch it with a barge-pole, mate.)

John has edited stories for other authors and offers his services to anyone who needs help. (That made me laugh a lot) Many writers have very good story lines but their work is diminished by poor sentence construction, misused words, extraneous words, missing words, lack of subject verb agreement, incorrect use of contractions–in particular confusing the possessive pronoun “your” with the contraction of you are “you’re”, confusing the possessive pronoun “its” with the contraction for it is “it’s” misuse of the verb “to lie” and other such problems. (OK, so maybe he has an understanding of the finer points of grammar, semantics and syntax; he’s just missing his morality gene and a dash of common decency. Maybe he’s writing from memory of his home-life. Maybe he’s from the deep-south of the US of A or Dungeness where that kind of thing is perfectly normal. As a school friend of mine who travelled in daily on the RHDR from Dungeness used to say, ‘At least I know who my mum is. She’s my sister.’)

Still, John’s mum must be so proud. I wonder if John has children. Does he ask friends and family to proof-read his output for him? Now I’m laughing again. Cheers, John. Thanks for brightening my day. Get some help.

On the curve of learning.


My first self-published novel has been out in cyber space for three days now – Amazon UK and Smashwords. My euphoria (relief) at finally getting it out there has now been replaced with a sense of ominous foreboding. More on that later.

Smashwords allow an author to list their book as free. Amazon do not. I have had an encouraging seventy-seven downloads on Smashwords and, as far as I can tell, zero downloads on Amazon. You do the math.

Now I will. My belief that, as an unknown, giving one’s book away for free is the only way to get people to take a chance on downloading it seems to be a fact. After all, why should people be expected to pay for a book from a total unknown when there are so many out there from good recognised writers for free, or dirt cheap? One could argue that with all the work, time and effort that has gone into one’s creation one should be entitled to ask something in return for giving someone the prospect of a read, but that, sadly, isn’t the way the world works. Not the world of self-publishing, anyway. Face up to that reality.

I’m trying a ruse with Amazon that another author claimed worked for him. It isn’t paying off for me yet, but I’ll keep going with it. Amazon have a link on the listing of any book that they are offering that gives a reader the opportunity to let them know if the book in question is available elsewhere cheaper. They say that they might try to match the price if they learn of it. I’ve told them three times already that my book is free elsewhere in the hope that they will adjust my price to match. I’m still waiting. I really hope that they let it go for free.

So, seventy-seven downloads. At least the cover art is doing its job. I wonder how many of those people are reading it. I wonder what they think of it. Did some give up after a paragraph, a page, a chapter? I wonder if any of them will review it for me. I wonder if any of them will follow the link to this blog that I provided in the book and say something – anything – on the page that I have made available. I live in hope. You see, I just want to know what people think of it. I feel like I’ve prepared a great feast (haha that’s not intended to be a metaphor for my writing) sent out the invitations and now I’m standing at my open front door in my best shirt and trousers waiting to see if anyone will turn up to my party. I have a knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach because I’m afraid of being overlooked.

I started off wanting to get rich and famous through my writing (no laughing at the back) but I realise now that all I want is feedback on it. Comment. Constructive criticism. Advice. Thought. It’s worth me repeating that I am currently living as an ex-pat in a country where English is not the native language. I have no circle of close friends or work colleagues that I can burden with reading my drafts, edits and final versions. I have had to rely solely on myself for everything and I’m not so arrogant and confident that I think that my writing is without fault. (Please, God, let there be no plot inconsistencies.) I’ve done my best. I can’t see things anymore. And it must be really bad practise to do it this way, but I’ve had no choice. I’ve had to let it go.

I went out with a few people last night. I mentioned that I’d self-published this week. They all said that they’d download it and read it. I thought, great. Now I’m thinking, shit. What if it stinks? Will they be honest with me? Will they feel that they have to damn it with that faint praise? Will I catch them exchanging looks when they talk about it? I wish that I’d kept my mouth shut and left it to people who I will never know.

If you are one of those people who I’ll never know and you have downloaded and read my book (any of it), once again, I would be most grateful for all and any comments, corrections and suggestions on the page provided – link in the menu bar.

Don’t be a can’t.


My very first blog post used this image, so I thought that it might be fitting to use it here. I’ve done it. I’m climbing the ladder to success. I have self-published my first novel. How does it feel? Anti-climactic, actually, if I’m honest. It wasn’t exactly a publisher’s launch party in a major Waterstones with the national press kicking each other for an interview with me. It was more of a, right-the-baby-has-finally-gone-to-sleep-I-might-as-well-make-a-cup-of-tea-and-upload-that-book-tonight-instead-of-waiting-for-the-weekend type thing. Still, it’s done. Done and dusted. That’s the main thing. One down, four to go. I feel a bit relieved because I can move on. It’s a bit like a divorce.

Actually self-publishing something, getting it out there as a product is what this blog has been all about (nearly) – the process. It’s been fascinating and tedious; frustrating and rewarding; costly and cheap; tiring and exciting. It’s all been a lot more intense and involving than I expected it to be when I first decided to take the self-publishing path.

Let me just remind myself of why I did it? Why I self-published? I did it because I had no realistic hope, or expectation of being able to get a literary agent interested in my books (see blog posts). I did it because I wanted people to read my books in order that I might get some feedback on them. I did it in the vain hope that I might get downloaded enough and favourably reviewed enough to maybe garner some attention – not me, the books (I have absolute faith in my writing). I also did it because otherwise I was just writing books to go in the drawer of my desk. No one else reads them. And if I got knocked down and killed by a bus tomorrow they would end up in a rubbish sack, then the dustbin and then the landfill site and all of my creative output would have been wasted and lost. (I’m not even going to try to make some crummy self-deprecating joke about that.)

I feel a little bit proud of myself and I think that I’m entitled to that.

It’s not going to make me rich. How can I be so sure? Because I made it free to download. That’s one part of my original plan that hasn’t changed. I firmly believe that if it’s free it will get downloaded. If I charge for it, it won’t. And if it gets downloaded there is more of a chance that it will get read (no guarantee, of course) and then maybe reviewed (even less of a guarantee).

The hardest part of it all has been the proof reading. I must have read the book five times in the last two weeks and every time I’ve found typos, or words to change. In the end I’ve had to stop. One has to say enough is enough and move on to the next project (why does everything remind me of divorce tonight?) which I have. I’ve already started on the second proof-reading of the third draft of the fourth edition of Making a Killing (the second Romney and Marsh File). I must be improving technically as a writer because there is a lot less red ink in the margins of this book, so far.

One other thing that I want to tell myself here: I’ve only ever mentioned and thought about self-publishing through Amazon’s Kindle page. Then the other day I discovered Smashwords and, after researching them and reading some of their blog posts and some of the things that they had to say about Amazon, was won over by them. So, I’ve put the book on Smashwords and Kindle. That way, I have the opportunity to get the title in front of a lot more people and that’s my primary aim. And if all that doesn’t work at least the cover looks pretty good. If I was looking for a detective novel to download for free and saw my cover I’d have it.

Talking of which, I might as well include a link to Smashwords here in case I want to download my book as a surprise for myself later. It might also boost my download figures, which will really please me.

Oliver Tidy’s Smashwords Author Profile:
Book page to sample or purchase Rope Enough – The First Romney and Marsh File:

This has taken me twenty minutes to write. I started it just after I’d finished uploading Rope Enough. I just looked at my Smashwords page. It’s been downloaded six times already (only four of them were me). That’s encouraging. Be a can. Don’t be a can’t.