Down a bit


I reached a milestone today – one thousand Smashwords downloads for my three books in the Romney and Marsh Files series. That seems like a lot to me, if the Smashwords stats are to be trusted, of course. I have no reason to doubt that they can be, but one never knows. When I realised that I was heading towards that particular ‘magic’ number I began to think about whether I would keep the books on the site and for how long. The three books are on there for free. (If my Amazon experience is anything to go by where my books are 77p each I doubt that I’d have a twentieth of that number of downloads if they weren’t free. Seriously.) When I put them up I just wanted people to be encouraged to download and then read and feedback. That was the main purpose of listing with Smashwords and making them free. To date, I have received less than ten comments. I’ve written before about how disappointing that is and it could be for any number of reasons, not least of which is that people do read them and don’t like them, so don’t bother commenting – that’s my policy on books that I download. If I haven’t got anything nice to say I zip my mouth. But the fact remains that my objective is not being fulfilled and therefore nor am I.

I’m seriously considering pulling my books from Smashwords and enrolling on the Amazon KDP Select programme where they insist on exclusivity. It’s not about trying to make money out of the books – I just don’t believe that I will be one of those Amazon authors – but I think that throwing everything at KDP might provide me with another avenue through which to attempt to get downloads, readers and feedback. There are promotional benefits and opportunities that the Amazon Kindle select programme can offer that can’t be had just by listing one’s output on Amazon ordinarily.

In the meantime, while I ponder this, I’m trying something else for a little while. Harper Collins run a site called Authonomy. It’s a community thing and authors who get plenty of online support from other authors can find their work being reviewed by Harper Collins. I imagine that one has to get proactive to be successful (noticed) and that there must necessarily be a good deal of mutual back-scratching. Am I ready for that? I don’t honestly know. It’s enough of an effort to reach around and scratch my own back, literally and figuratively speaking.

A stab at self-promotion.


Actually, after this brush with self-promotion I wanted to stab myself – in the eyes, so that I would never have to look at myself again.

It’s taken me a few days to build up the courage to write this blog-post. I’m still not entirely sure why I want to publicly embarrass myself. Mind you, let’s face it, there isn’t much public about blogging is there, unless you’re ‘someone’? But there was a lesson in my experience and I need to record it so that I might be able to reflect on it in order to remind myself of what I reduced myself to, so that it may never ever happen again. Also I made a promise to myself when I began blogging about trying to make it as an author that it would be a warts-an-all commitment.

Last week my son came to visit from the UK. One day we had a trip out to the cluster of little islands that sit just off the coast. Just him and me. It was a lovely day, weather-wise and for us two together. Until the trip home.

The ferry on the way back was quite empty. We are outdoor types so we put on out jackets and sat in the sun on the top exposed deck. There was one other person up there. She was a woman and she was reading something on a Kindle. Have you worked it out yet?

Kindles are quite rare where I currently live and so I took a pretty confident guess that she would be a native English speaker. I surprised her, I think, by asking her. (Maybe I could do this better through dialogue and into the bargain I can showcase my writing skills.)

‘Excuse me,’ I said, smiling disarmingly (with five days growth and my conjunctivitis flaring up again, she looked more alarmed than disarmed at being approached by a complete stranger on a deserted ferry deck; someone who could have been asking for spare change for another can of Special Brew). ‘Do you speak English?’

She looked a little afraid of me. ‘Yes.’

‘Good. I see that you’re reading on a Kindle.’

‘Yes. I am.’

‘What do you like to read on it?’ What a stupid question that felt like.

I noticed her eyes flit towards the stairs. ‘ really.’

‘Do you read crime fiction?’


‘Would you like to read my books? They’re free on Smashwords. Have you heard of Smashwords?’

‘No. Sorry.’

She suddenly looked like she might scream or burst into tears. Her hand strayed towards her bag. There might have been a rape alarm in there. Or Mace.

‘Smashwords,’ I repeated idiotically.

She just shook her head quickly.  ‘You’re a writer?’ she said. Maybe she was trying to buy some time until help arrived.

‘Yes. You can download my books for free from Smashwords. Shall I tell you my name, so that you can download my books and read them?’

She nodded to placate me. I told her my name. I repeated my surname. She didn’t write it down. I told her that my books were British police procedurals. She smiled tightly and tried to look enthusiastic but I could see in her rabbit-scared eyes that she had no interest in anything other than getting away from me and into a crowd.

I began to feel quite stupid. I waved at her, even though she was only sitting three feet away from me. I turned back to my son to resume out conversation. He had a face like thunder.

‘You idiot,’ he said.


‘How desperate do you think that looked? How retarded and pathetic?’

I turned to look at her for support, but she’d gone. I caught a glimpse of someone hurrying down the staircase at the far end of the deck.

Needless to say our day was spoiled. Walking home from the ferry port I had ample time – my son was no longer talking to me – to reflect on the exchange and the nature of what had induced me (reduced me) to plumb the depths of cringing self-promotion as I had done. It was an idiotic impulse. I might have been suffering from low blood sugar and not thinking entirely straight, or in my best interests. I would not do it again and I still reflect on the episode with a horrified sense of mystification.

I’m now done with self-promotion. I’m psychologically scarred. And it’s all my own fault. If people discover me then fine, if they don’t then I must suffer death in obscurity. I will deserve it for that.

What I hope above everything else is that she forgot my name as soon as she was off the boat. I can’t bear the thought that she is using me as a story to make her friends laugh, or get me on a register. The bad type.