We must be innovative and inventive and pioneering…

I’m only writing this blog-post because I feel the desperate need for some original thought, some new ground. I just must oil the old grey matter with my creative juices. All week I’ve been going over the first two R&M Files: reading, revising, touching up, interfering with, adjusting, tinkering – language, punctuation, grammar, structure, meaning… To be honest it’s not been a lot of fun. I just want to finish it. It’s become a chore. Two down and uploaded to Amazon with revised Amazon summaries. One to go.

It’s been a bit like how I would imagine Christmas would be if I rented a castle somewhere and invited all my immediate family to spend the week together. And they all came. And it snowed heavily. And we were snowbound. And the telly broke. And there were no books. And we ran out of booze. For a couple of days it would be great to meet them all again and catch up. By the end of the week, I could see it as a patsiche of The Shining, as imagined by Roman Polanski.

So, because there’s not much been going on with my writing life this week I’m going to fall back on something I put in the blog-post cupboard for a rainy day.

A couple of months ago I had what I thought was a good idea. I still think it’s a good idea. I think it’s a good idea for me, for my books, for readers and for a certain High Street retail outlet. (Of course, I’m biased.) Here it is.

Actually, maybe it would be best if I just copied and pasted the email I sent to James Daunt the CEO of Waterstones. What prompted me to send the email was that I’d seen an online article in which he’d been interviewed and banged the we must be innovative and inventive and pioneering if we are to survive drum. I thought that my business idea fitted the bill nicely. A win/win for everyone.

Buoyed with my naive and childish enthusiasm I typed.

Dear Mr Daunt

I am writing to you with a business proposition. Books are your business. Books are my business.

You will know as well as anyone how the High Street book-selling trade needs to find and embrace new initiatives in order to continue to survive and thrive. I believe I have such an initiative and I would be grateful for your consideration of it.

I am a successful self-published author. I sell my books exclusively through Amazon. Importantly, with regard to my business proposition, I only sell my books as digital files; no physical copy of any of my books has ever been printed.

My business proposition is this: let Waterstones partner me in bringing my books to their physical form.

My books have received many hundreds of favourable reviews and ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. (I do not use sock-puppet accounts neither do I pay for reviews. The reviews are genuine readers’ comments.) I write three series, the most popular of which is a British police-procedural series set in Dover, Kent. Currently, I have five books available in this series with another two on the way.

The main selling points, if you will, that I feel apply to my initiative are as follows and in no particular order.

1) Waterstones would have the exclusive rights to sell my physical books in any or all of its stores.

2) Because no publisher would be involved we can work together to create, print and promote my books without the interference of a third party.

3) Because no publisher would be involved the retail price of the books could be kept down while still maintaining the same profit margins.

4) I would work with Waterstones to promote my books at Waterstones stores.

5) Attention that a well publicised and highly original initiative such as this would garner could significantly benefit sales of the books, not to mention bring attention for Waterstones in other positive ways.

I would be very happy to discuss my proposal further should you so wish. I would like to emphasise that my books have proven themselves to be popular with a wide range of readers. You can find evidence of this at the web links below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Oliver Tidy

That was over three months ago. There has been no response. I sent an email to his personal Waterstones email address and a general company one. I think it’s safe to say they are not interested in my kind of innovative thinking. (Or maybe they were and then read one of my books.)

Next week: how I signed a six-figure publishing deal with WHSmiths…

A Load of CWAP

On identity. Most of us want to belong to a group of some sort. We want to be part of a bigger body – social or business – with other like-minded souls. The reasons are myriad.

Since I have been self-publishing my books, I have given occasional thought to the group that I now consider myself belonging to: people who write crime fiction books and self-publish them.

One of the first and, arguably, most important early steps in the formation of a group is the label given to it. Catchy titles and clever acronyms abound.

I used to refer to myself as a self-publisher, but that seems out of vogue these days, and the term is oft tainted with something that will lead a lot of people to treat it and anyone who claims to be ‘it’ with disdain.

I recently moved on to referring to myself as an ‘indie’. But I find this term often needs explaining and clarification – people don’t always get it because it’s a bit vague. I realised I needed something different, something more precise, something accurate and unequivocal.

Sitting at breakfast in my local cafe this morning, I was struck with an idea. I think it must be a good one because it caused me to choke on my simit.

What am I? I am a crime writing author publisher. I am a CWAP.

What really tickled me about this epiphany was when my train of thought steamed ahead and took me to a place in the future where I am attending a festival dedicated to writers of crime fiction and who self-publish their work. (It will come. I hope I’m alive to see it. There are many brilliant self-published writers of crime fiction out there right now who could, given the right circumstances, come together to put on a festival that would be a serious contemporary for any of the others that take place across the UK. I have no doubt about that.)

But what really tickled me about this idea would be the hope that the label Crime Writing Author Publisher could be universally adopted by those involved. Our identity. Our social/professional group tag.

But what really, really, tickled me about this was the idea that the conference/festival could be called A Load of CWAP and that people would book and pay for tickets for A Load of CWAP. That posters and flyers and media articles would all be informing the public about A Load of CWAP.

Brothers and sisters let us join together. Let us stand as one united body. Lets each and every one of us be proud to be a CWAP.

Going back to my (R&M) roots.

 

Three Short Blasts  (Medium)

Just sharing the cover for the forthcoming short story collection. Another cover I really like. I’m excited about this project.

I dithered about writing a blog-post this week. Because time is really stacked against me for reaching my targets before my Turkey time is up. And I didn’t help myself this week by adding significantly to my workload. But the blog is important and it’s my writer’s diary. So here goes with a brief entry.

In no particular order:

This week I read a non-fiction book that I would recommend to anyone who is writing or thinking of writing. It’s called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Great read. Entertaining, too. We think so much alike on so many aspects of writing, Steve and I. I now want to meet this guy and shake his hand. Awesome. (One thing we don’t agree on is listening to music while writing. SK says he listens to it; I can’t listen to music when I’m thinking and trying to write, not even classical. I can’t work with the distraction.)

Unhappy Families is still doing well. And it’s had over fifty reviews/comments on Amazon UK already. It’s not been out a month yet. Thanks to all involved anywhere with making this book a success.

Last Monday I started a writing job I’ve been putting off and putting off for over a year. And now I’m on it. Feelings-wise it’s been a mixed bag for me. Some good, some bad. I’m performing edits and overhauls of the first three R&M Files. It’s needed doing. And I’m doing it. But it’s going to take going on a month out of the time I’ve got left here.

I’ve been through Rope Enough twice, already. I’ve changed some stuff in line with general reader feeling for aspects of that read. There were two things in particular that I’ve had more negative feedback concerning than anything else: Romney’s apparent misogyny and the sex. I’ve addressed both. Toned one down and been less explicit on the other. Why? Because I’ve come to realise that these aspects of the book did not appeal to a certain reader demographic and the last thing I should be doing is putting people off my writing when what’s putting them off isn’t essential to the book or my writing or how I feel about my writing. I’ve written before that Rope Enough has always felt like a bit of a cuckoo in the Romney and Marsh Files’ nest. I feel less so about it now. That makes me happy. (Don’t worry: Romney is still Romney.) (On Romney – this week a reader got in touch and mentioned that Martin Shaw the actor would have made a good Romney. In his day I think he could have been perfect. Too old now. He’s seventy!!!!!!)

Romney remains stiff towards Marsh in book one but from book two he is now calling her Joy and not Sergeant Marsh all the time, which has been embarrassing to read. In fact first names are being used a lot more now (but not Romney’s. He remains ‘sir’ to his subordinates or ‘guv’. That’s the way that it is.) And in books one and two I kept referring to Romney as ‘the DI’ (it seems so… TV show cop-drama). Dumb and cringeworthy. He’s now just Romney. Romney, Romney, Romney. And why, oh, why, in Rope Enough did I keep referring to CID as ‘the squad room’? (Hot flush creeps up neck.)

I’ve been embarrassed by other things in these read-throughs. (A reason I’ve been putting it off. I knew I would.) To cut a long, self-critical story short, let’s just say that I feel I’ve improved quite a bit as a writer over the few years I’ve been at it. I needed to. Looking back at these early texts I’ve been spotting all sorts of mistakes: grammar, language, sense, punctuation, structure, tense… get the picture? (Not spelling because readers helped me a lot with those errors and I fixed those a while back.)

I gave myself a crash course in the use of commas before I got going. (Better late than never.) I’ve got the six main rules on Post-its above my desk. Applying those rules as best as I can over these three books is proving quite an intense, concentrated and educational exercise. But I’ll tell you what: knowing something about commas makes you look at your writing differently. Understanding a comma rule can unlock vision in sentence structure, for example. I’ve changed a number of sentences about to make them better in several regards, simply because I understood them better because of my new knowledge and insight. (I know what I’m talking about and that’s what matters.)

I’ve also increased the number of chapters in each of the books and cut down on the word count. Example: Rope Enough was 80,000 words. It’s now just under 77,000 words. (That wasn’t all Romney being horrible about women and having sex.) It was 16 chapters. It’s now 46! (Shorter chapter length, like shorter senence length, gives an idea of increased pace. It works.)

I’m still working on the other two books Making a Killing and Joint Enterprise but they are following similar patterns.

The positives? Despite doing a lot of cringing and tutting and punching myself in the face from time to time, I get one thing about these books that has pleased me. They are each good stories. I’m basically enjoying reading them again – getting back to my Romney and Marsh roots. I think that a yardstick of my reflected feelings is that even with all the English errors, and misogyny and objectionable explicit sex and overlong chapters and wooly sentences in Rope Enough it’s still had a lot of good reviews and ratings.

I strongly believe I’m making these books better reads.

One of the two reasons that I’ve never commissioned print on demand books for the R&M Files is because I’ve always known that the early ones needed work. Probably still do. I’m so glad I hung on. I’d feel particularly bad if I thought that there were physical copies of these books out there with all these errors in that could never be changed. I’d be hunting them down and burning them. The beauty of epublishing is that you can change your work every day if you want to and then readers can simply upload the updated version if they choose to. (I think.)

I haven’t uploaded any revised versions yet. I’m going to finish doing all three books and then read them all again back-to-back. Then I’ll upload. I’ve also got to update front and back matter and blurbs for all of my books with links and stuff. I want them all to be as good (make that correct) as I can make them before I push off ‘cos when I get back to the UK I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to write and do all of this shizzle.

Oh yeah, something that is really cheesing me off at the moment is my aging laptop. I think it’s ill. When I’m halfway through typing a sentence it keeps changing lines so that half the sentence is on the right line and half of it is in the middle of a line up the page. Lots of messing around and frustration with that. I’m saving for a new one.

Finally, apologies for all the spelling, punctuation and other errors in this post. I’m in a rush.

Eleven weeks and counting! Holy crap.!

Opportunity knocks.

 

This week I have been working on Three Short Blasts my collection of three short stories – one in each of my three series that I will put out in one book. I really like them all. I’m pretty excited about my little project. I also think that I’m about as happy as I can be technically with each of them. I think they are about ready to go down the line.

With Three Short Blasts put to one side I felt it was time for another look at A White-Knuckle Christmas (Romney and Marsh File #7). After another read through and a few small alterations I can see that I’ll soon be ready to hand this one over to my gentleman friend too. One more read through should do it but I need a week or two away from it before that.

Then I went back to Booker & Cash #3 to familiarise myself with the story so far and give thought to where it can go. Just as I was getting into a B&C frame of mind I got sidetracked with something I saw on my Amazon author page.

Anyone heard of Kindle Scout? I hadn’t. I know about it now though having spent a couple of hours reading up on it and checking out what others had to say about it on independent websites.

Kindle Scout has been going for a while in the US. Late in 2015 Amazon introduced it to the UK. What it boils down to in Amazon’s words is this:

Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.

To see more about Kindle Scout click the link. Please have a look. It’s very reader friendly.

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/about

I’m a bit excited about Kindle Scout and the possibilities that getting chosen could bring to my writing. I’m not fixated on that advance. I’m looking at the bigger picture that would come with being selected by Kindle Scout and when I look at the bigger picture this is what I see:

1) An Amazon interest in the writing, which means Amazon promoting and helping to sell books. It’s what they do best.

2) Amazon say it’s OK to submit a book in a series, just so long as it’s never been made for sale anywhere else.

It so happens that I have a book coming back to me in the not too distant future from my gentleman friend. It’s a book that meets all the criteria of the submissions page for Amazon Scout. It’s the fourth book in my Acer Sansom series. I think it’s pretty good. I certainly think that the first five-thousand words that can be read as a sample are good enough to encourage readers who like the genre to consider voting for it. I’m seriously thinking about submitting it.

It’s an opportunity. And I realise that I must pursue them. Sales of the Acer books stagnated a long time ago. Probably my own fault. I haven’t done any promotional work yet. If, I say if, Deep State Acer #4 were selected for the Kindle Scout programme then it could potentially bring significant attention in the form of sales to the other Acer books. That would be great news for me the writer.

I quite like the look of the process for Kindle Scout. It’s all over in forty-five days, so not too tortuous for all concerned. I can see how it could be open to abuse though. All a vote takes is someone with an Amazon account to click a button. If a participant has access to thousands of qualifying ‘supporters’ who can be encouraged to click the link then that’s what will count at tallying up time.

I’m seriously considering entering Acer #4 and then hounding the hell out of everyone I know on social-media to vote for it. What do you think?

I will take a quick paragraph here to say that I know there are a few readers who are eagerly anticipating the next Acer and if I enter it in the Kindle Scout programme that will naturally delay publication. I wouldn’t enjoy disappointing those of you who are looking forward to the next installment. I wouldn’t want you to think I would take the decision to enter the book in Kindle Scout lightly, because I don’t give a stuff for your feelings. You know I do. But I would hope that you would approve of my decision and offer your support. (If I’m unsuccessful then the delay is only forty-five days. If I was to be successful and you had voted for the book you would get a free copy from Amazon in thanks!)

Anyway. Still thinking about it. I mean that most sincerely folks! (You didn’t really think I could have a picture of Hughie Green up there and not use his catchphrase, did you?)

A masterclass in marketing masterstrokes?

 

This week at least a couple of the broadsheets back home have carried reports of claims of a sustained campaign of online cyber-bullying by one author of two other authors. It’s not new news; the story has been running off and on since 2012. I won’t rehash it here. But I will include a couple of this week’s links for anyone who is interested.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/stephen-leather-accused-of-running-online-sockpuppet-smear-campaign-against-fellow-thriller-writers-a6806696.html

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jan/12/stephen-leather-cyberbullying-steve-mosby-jeremy-duns

Hachette, the publishing group that the alleged offender and one of the victims are published by, has been moved to respond.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/hachette-responds-to-cyber-bullying-accusations-319945

Interesting stuff for all of us in the business of writing, reading and reviewing.

My reaction is this: congratulations Jeremy Duns (one of the victims).

Why? I don’t doubt any of his reporting of the incidents but his timing with releasing an update on the world AND managing to get at least two broadsheets to run with it AND getting Hachette involved to crank up the story’s newsworthiness seems, to my mind, something of a marketing masterstroke.

Guess who has a new book out tomorrow? Mr Duns.

I’m serious: brilliant timing. All that media and public attention in the week leading up to the new book’s release. I won’t say ‘free attention’ because it sounds like the man has earned it.

Mr Duns, my hat is off to you.

A milestone to celebrate.

RE900

I think that milestones should be celebrated. Today, Rope Enough (Romney and Marsh File #1) received its 900th comment/review on Amazon UK. I have no idea how many times it’s been downloaded but it must be in the tens of thousands. (Don’t forget it’s free.)

(I’m both pleased and relieved that the 900th comment was a positive one. A 1* full of loathing for my alter ego could have spoiled things.)

A good week.

UF3

This blog is essentially my writer’s diary. As such I like to record noteworthy events, like the above. Amazon’s British Detective chart is just a sub-genre of a sub-genre… but, as Maureen Lipman might be moved to say, it’s a sub-genre! (I wonder if anyone will actually get that reference or is it just too obscure? [Reading through this prior to clicking publish I thought I’d relive my youth by looking up the Lipman reference I’ve just mentioned. And I had to include a link here. It is very, very funny. Hang on for the last thing she says. Priceless. An ology! The Internet truly is wonderful sometimes. And credit to whoever was behind that ad – decades later I still remember it.]) and for a brief spell this week Unhappy Families (R&M File#6) edged its way up to #3! Many thanks to all involved. You know who you are.

On the subject of Unhappy Families I’ve had lots of positive feedback, which I am very grateful for. I’m not in the habit of quoting feedback on my social-media sites but this week I was tagged in two Tweets that just about summed up what I hoped to encourage readers to feel when they read this book.

The first said: Started reading the latest yesterday couldn’t stop laughing. Should I find it funny??

Definitely, yes.

The second said: I’ve just finished the latest . It had me in floods in places. His best yet.

I’m thrilled to hear it.

*

With Acer #4 Deep State with my gentleman friend for proofreading etc I have been free this week to continue working on my latest project.

Last week I reported that I was currently engaged in writing a Booker & Cash short story to go into a compilation of three short stories (one in each of my series) I was intending to put together.

It was going well. In fact it went a little too well. I got to ten thousand words and realised that actually there could be a full-length story in it. That was both good and bad news. Good because I’ve got ten thousand words of another story – a good start. Bad because then I had to start again with another Booker & Cash short story.

So I did. And Thursday evening I finished the first draft. Its eleven thousand words – about forty pages of a paperback. I’m happy with it. Very happy.

So that’s my three short stories written in their first drafts. And I have a title for the book, Three Short Blasts, and I’ve ordered the cover and I’ve written a rationale for the compilation – something to go in the front of the book to, hopefully, engage readers.

I feel that it’s been a very productive writing week. I am feeling good about this project.