So far, so bloody brilliant!

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Writer’s Blog: Stardate: 02.06.2013

I’m going on holiday tomorrow. I’m going back to the UK for five weeks. I heard that. Before you say anymore, I’m a teacher. I deserve it. Don’t believe me, try it for yourself, or ask someone you know in the job. Flipping energy-vampires. I’m knackered. And don’t forget I’m an author too. And a dad of a two year old with so much enthusiasm for life he makes Forest Gump look like a couch-potato.

This will be my last blog-post until I return to Istanbul in August. I’m having a break. I’m making that decision now so that I don’t have to suffer the self-imposed pressure to churn out another instalment in my spluttering attempts to be an author of note. (Yeah, I’ve cranked it up. I want to be an author of note now [whatever that means. Some other woolly term to trouble my sleep patterns.] not just an author. One thing that I’ve learned: in this day and age anyone can be an author.)

So this seems like a good and timely opportunity to look back on my first six monthish as a self-publisher. A bit of stock-taking as in taking stock. And please remember: this blog is essentially an on-line diary of my experiences as someone trying to make it as an author (now of note), so a six month review of how things have gone so far doesn’t seem too self-indulgent. If it does to you, you know where the delete button is.

It all started here https://olivertidy.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/stage-1-completeish/?preview=true&preview_id=3&preview_nonce=b4206811ff&post_format=standard

In early-December, 2012. I uploaded Rope Enough to Amazon and Smashwords. At the end of that month Making a Killing went up on both and in mid-January of this year Joint Enterprise joined them.

The following figures are only for Amazon UK. (The books just haven’t taken off at all across the pond. Perhaps British police-procedurals aren’t their thing. Perhaps Amazon was kinder to me in the UK by putting my books on some lists to get them noticed.) I’ve already established that I don’t do much self-promotion. Smashwords, as I have blogged, could not hold a cheap tallow taper to Amazon for me. I’m sure Smashwords works better for others.

So, through Amazon UK, Rope Enough has been downloaded over 56,000 times. (Before anyone gets too excited for me, over 55,900 of those were free downloads – list price for the sold copies netted me @35p an ebook. You can laugh.) Making a Killing has been downloaded over 4000 times. (A good number of those were through Amazon’s KDP free days. Not so funny.) Joint Enterprise has been downloaded over 2000 times. None of those were freebies. (Now who’s laughing?)

It’s really worth repeating that if Amazon had not price-matched Rope Enough – The First Romney and Marsh File to free then in all likelihood I would still be getting download figures each month in the tens. To illustrate that, February was a typical month for me for downloads: Rope Enough 8, Making a Killing 4, Joint Enterprise 2. March was a little more encouraging but the figures were influenced by my KDP free lisiting days for Making a Killing, which I had enrolled in KDP Select. After the price matching in April things really started happening. The vast majority of the downloads have come in the last three months.

The cover art cost me £100 a book. And that’s the only financial outlay that I’ve had to make.

I’ve got into blogging, something that I’ve really enjoyed. I’m as fond of my blog as I am any of my books. I tweet, but I’m less enthusiastic about that – too much noise. It’s like whistling in a summer dawn chorus.

I failed to win a place on the CWA Debut Dagger shortlist, something that I’m not embarrassed to admit I really wanted, had set my heart on and truly believed that I had a chance of.

I haven’t been idle. I have not been resting on my Romney and Marsh Files’ laurels. I have three other full length novels that are in various stages of the editing process. I have a hard-drive of ideas. I’m soon going to start the fourth Romney and Marsh.

WordPress stats tell me that my blog has been accessed by people from seventy five different countries, or places on earth that have their own flag. (See image above with a magnifying glass. I did my best.) That is an amazing stat. A great number of those people, I know, have either read a Romney and Marsh File or been scouring the Internet for information (let’s be honest, probably pictures or videos) on ‘Female Ejaculation and Gay Men’, one of my more popular blog-post titles. Were they disappointed? How I laugh every time I see another hit of that gem on the stats. https://olivertidy.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/female-ejaculation-and-gay-men/?preview=true&preview_id=217&preview_nonce=27aee416c5&post_format=standard

So what’s been the best thing about this good start that is my foray into self-publishing? People actually. Or more precisely readers. Or more specifically readers of the Romney and Marsh Files who have taken the time and trouble to get in touch and let me know what they think of the books. It hasn’t all been good. But it’s all been valuable and gratefully received. Amazon comments, comments on the blog and private emails. I have been truly bowled over by the number of readers who have contacted me to say something about the books. I’ve had some wonderful, meaningful, and useful exchanges. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made some virtual friends. (Anyone who actually knows me is going to think that I’m either drunk or dying after reading that. I have more in common with DI Romney’s misanthropic side than I might have previously owned up to.)

If I hadn’t taken the decision to self-publish and be damned my three Romney and Marsh books would be still be skulking in the bottom of my wardrobe, under the bag of odd-socks, and I would have denied myself one of the most truly enjoyable episodes of my life.

Regrets? Not a one. I’m looking forward to the next six months.

Here’s wishing all the Romney and Marsh Files’ readers a great summer. Thank you one and all. (Even you Suzi.)

Just Another Conspiracy Theory?

 

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 14.06.2013

I am yet to try Dan Brown. I have not given over time in my life to wonder about who was really behind the assassination of JFK. I’ve not felt the need to dwell on how come I look nothing like my father but a lot like our old milkman. I have no personal history of wanting to uncover ‘truth’. So, why am I thinking like I am? Where has the idea come from? I’m not a trouble-maker by nature.

I’ve not seen anything even suggested about it on the Internet and I’ve looked. Not a hint or a whiff regarding my wonderings. No mention in a blog-post, a tweet, a forum or an online article. I think that I could be alone, potentially joining the ranks of Felt, Tripp, Manning, Snowden. But more famous. (Is this just a cheap attempt to raise my sagging author profile and fuel downloads of my books?)

Should my worst fears be confirmed then I can only imagine that the publishing/self-publishing world will not be the same place again for a lot of people. And I don’t just mean authors. Such is my unease at the possible repercussions both personal and for Mankind of my theory turning out to having an element of ‘truth’ that I don’t even want to be associated with it. I want nothing to do with it. I don’t want to be the one remembered as bringing down ‘mother’. In…fact…I…am…using…all…my…willpower…to…stop…typing…but…I…can’t…help…myself.

I have written before about being my own worst enema.

In the film ‘The Matrix’ there is a scene where the code of the ‘fake’ world is broken and the screen of the monitor displays columns of numbers and symbols like falling green rain as ‘their’ lies are exposed and the ‘real’ world is unlocked. Sort of.

(Someone just tweeted me to, ‘Get on with it!’)

It’s about Amazon and download figures. I’m not talking about the algorithms that they employ to shuffle the runners and riders in the various charts. Although, if I’m half-right it would go some way to explaining why Amazon are so secretive about these algorithms and so reluctant to provide information surrounding sales numbers generally.

Below, I’m going to share my download figures for my book Rope Enough for the period since it became free to download. When I noticed that the book had been price-matched by Amazon to zero and downloads started mounting each other (?), I thought that it might be amusing to check and record them every day when I get up. Bloody sad too. I’ve been doing this since April 12th, which is only a day or so after things changed and approximately two months ago.

My first question that goes along with these figures is something like this: Do I find it an acceptable coincidence that the numbers of downloads per day are so similar for so long when there are literally millions of ebook readers out there regularly downloading books onto reading devices? That’s quite a long question.

My second question based on me giving the short answer ‘no’ to question one goes like this: If it is not an acceptable coincidence, is Amazon controlling and manipulating the download numbers? More on what I don’t know what I’m talking about after the figures.

(My ‘argument’ becomes slightly more valid late May onwards.)

April 12th – 784

April 13th – 971

April 14th – 1271

April 15th – 1041

April 16th – 1244

April 17th – 1522

April 18th – 1741

April 19th – 1452

April 20th – 1392

April 21st – 1952

April 22nd – 1311

April 23rd – 1093

April 24th – 966

April 25th – 1037

April 26th – 879

April 27th – 1046

April 28th – 1060

April 29th – 793

April 30th – 761

May 1st – 705

May 2nd – 705 (really)

May 3rd – 562

May 4th – 672

May 5th – 720

May 6th – 683

May 7th – 581

May 8th – 718

May 9th – 685

May 10th – 592

May 11th – 673

May 12th – 741

May 13th – 520

May 14th – 618

May 15th – 548

May 16th – 491

May 17th – 523

May 18th – 569

May 19th – 610

May 20th – 538

May 21st – 467

May 22nd – 421

May 23rd – 470

May 24th – 482

May 25th – 387

May 26th – 466

May 27th – 503

May 28th – 471

May 29th – 487

May 30th – 460

May 31st – 401

June 1st – 445

June 2nd – 538

June 3rd – 478

June 4th – 468

June 5th – 554

June 6th – 467

June 7th – 410

June 8th – 411

June 9th – 587

June 10th – 487

June 11th – 470

June 12th – 501

June 13th – 418

Okay, initially there isn’t much to get excited about, but from May 20th to now generally speaking there just doesn’t seem to be the fluctuation in daily download figures that I would expect when I consider the number of people out there with ebook reading devices. Am I wrong?

If Amazon were to be controlling and manipulating download figures, why?

Does my experience resemble the experiences of others?

Am I reading too much into these figures?

Have I become unhealthily paranoid as opposed to healthily paranoid?

Is there enough reliability and validity in the figures to make them worthy of consideration?

It’s not simply these similar figures of mine that cause me to wonder about things. As a self-publisher I look at the charts about as often as an alcoholic thinks about a quick snifter. The Amazon chart that I look at most often is the Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Police Procedurals, which is where my books are featured. There are authors that have been lingering around the top ten of this chart like flies around a turd on a hot day for months.

Now, I am not saying that they don’t deserve to be there and I do. This is not that kind of blog-post. My point is that some of these authors have been there a long time and they are not household names and they don’t have huge numbers of positive reviews for their writing, or necessarily huge numbers of reviews. Some of them are self-publishers and some of them I’ve never heard of. All of which means nothing, of course, but I can’t help wondering why any of us are where we are.

Maybe the answer is simple. Perhaps they just get enough downloads on a daily basis to keep them there whereas I get enough downloads on a daily basis to keep me where I am.

Just two more questions:

Why is my monitor screen displaying incomprehensible code that looks like falling green rain?

Who is that banging on my front door?

The following is a transcript of the conversation overhead by the missing author’s mother and not to be bothered with by anyone with a life.

Agent Smith: We meet at last.

Mr Tidy: And you are?

Agent Smith: A Smith. Agent Smith.

Mr Tidy: Bit weird.

Agent Smith: Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.

Mr Tidy: I think that you must be looking for Neo. He lives at number fourteen. This is number twelve.

Agent Smith: I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can’t stand it any longer. It’s the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I’ve somehow been infected by it.

Mr Tidy: Hang on a minute. That’s a bit strong. You can hardly hold me responsible for the bin-men being late.

Agent Smith: I’m going to enjoy watching you die.

Mr Tidy: I really think that you should leave now. MUM!

Don’t Panic!

Writers blog: Stardate: 07.06.2013

Part 1:

Because of the timing of the competition that shall not be named run by the organisation that shall remain nameless that I failed to make an impression upon, last week’s blog-post was given over to clearing the ground for my subsequent face-planting.

But I had other news. Shocking news. What I really wanted to write about last week was my discovery and consequent reaction to learning that one of my books had been pirated and was available for download on the Internet. Really. Don’t believe me? http://pehahupa.jimdo.com/2013/05/30/rope-enough-the-romney-and-marsh-files-download/

I remember that when I stopped screaming, got my reptilian brain under control and my mind rationally processing the information and the consequences of my work being pirated (I would potentially never earn another penny out of the Romney and Marsh Files. Why would anyone buy them if they could download them for free?!) I almost had a stroke (apologies to anyone who was just offended. Please don’t lecture me on how truly horrible and debilitating a stroke really is. I know. It’s just a figure of speech.)

It was really a worrying fifteen minutes. A bit like reading about the cause of Michael Douglas’ throat cancer. I shudder to think some of the places that man has had his tongue.

I first learned of the situation when I noticed that Amazon.com had started giving away Making a Killing for free again in their price-matching way of doing things. I don’t want Making a Killing or Joint Enterprise being given away for free. I’m giving away Rope Enough as it is.

Amazon would only price-match to zero if they’d been advised by a customer that the book was available for download elsewhere for free. So I searched the Internet. And found ALL my books available for download on sites that I had no knowledge of. It was about this time that my stomach felt the way it did an hour after I consumed 3kg of cherries in thirty minutes.

Everyone knows that you’ve got two hopes of getting stuff taken down from the Internet that was put up in a country that was once part of the USSR – Bob Hope and No Hope. I was a worried man.

I emailed the service provider and asked them to take it down. I emailed Amazon begging them to ignore it – it’s piracy, I said. Amazon wrote back quickly and said it’s not; it’s Sony. What? Sony? Punch in Sony ebooks author name Oliver Tidy and sure enough all three Romney and Marsh Files available for free download. I was incandescent. How the fuck? Who the fuck? When the fuck? Why the fuck? Smashwords. It must be. Smashwords didn’t tell Sony to remove MAK and JE from their catalogue when I ‘unpublished’ them from Smashwords all those weeks ago and a reader has only just noticed and notified Amazon. And then, oh shit, if someone does the same with Joint Enterprise then suddenly all my books are being given away for free by Amazon and on top of that Amazon will rap me over the knuckles because MAK is in the KDP programme and it’s not supposed to be available for download anywhere else. It would be a violation of T&C. I could go to prison. I could be colour-listed. Or I could email Smashwords.

Good news – everyone was really quick, helpful and efficient about it. Amazon acted quickly and replied promptly with friendly, helpful emails. Smashwords sorted it quickly and were friendly. Sony removed the books without much delay. Even that service provider took down that website within forty-eight hours. I was pretty impressed all round.

My Amazon.com prices reverted back to what they were. I’d given away over two-hundred copies of MAK, but funnily enough it gave a bit of a boost to downloads of the other two titles.

What about the other pirated copies being offered on the web? I hear you ask. Well, when it all kicked off I smartly checked out the Amazon forums. Another useful resource. The consensus of opinion there was, don’t worry about it. Generally this kind of pirating is just a scam to get people to part with their credit card details. And when I went back to where the books were still available, sure enough one had to sign up, log in, provide this and that information. I don’t think that I have anything to worry about. And like they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. You know what I mean.

Part 2:

Still working hard on the two Acer Sansom novels. I have some help for these and it’s all taking a little longer because of it. Good job too. If I’d sent them out when I thought that they were ready I would inevitably have had to suffer the similar valid criticisms that I have for the R&M Files regarding punkchuation, gramer and speelling errorz. I know that the books will be worth the extra wait. I haven’t had anyone asking after them, but should there be any readers keeping an eye out for publication my apologies for the delay. Other than that I can only crave your understanding.

A Matter of Opinion

 

Writer’s blog: stardate: 03.05.2013

It’s been a big month for my self-publishing – the biggest in terms of downloads. Rope Enough (The First Romney and Marsh File) was price-matched by Amazon to £0.00 on the 9th April. In the month of April it was downloaded just under 25,000 times. As I’ve highlighted before, there’s no money in that for me, just plenty of free publicity, which to my mind has been well worth it. Things have started to tail off a bit now – Rope Enough was in the top ten free downloads for most of the month, but has since slipped to fifteen.  Of course, it’s to be expected. All good things come to an end and I am essentially still a nobody in publishing terms – a yesterday’s-news-is-today’s-chip-wrapper type of author. It’s not like I have a big fan-base to rely upon.

One very welcome upshot of these downloads has been that those who have gone on to read the book and then taken the time and trouble to comment on Amazon have generally left very encouraging comments. (One gentleman did say that he found the read tedious and would not be recommending it, but at least he didn’t torpedo me completely – he still gave the book a charitable three stars.)

All writers want their work to be well-received. I would venture to say that critical acclaim is more important to an aspiring writer than money (most of us have got jobs anyway). I’m finally getting the kind of feedback that I’ve been after – objective, critical, helpful, insightful and honest. And if I’d seriously considered the possibility of that I might have been a little more anxious. Amazon readers know what they like and they are nobody’s fools.

Something that I have noticed with some bafflement on Amazon is that authors rarely respond to readers reviews and comments – one or two do, but generally these responses are made to take issue with something in what, to my way of thinking, can only end up being a counter-productive exercise.

In another life I worked at a builders’ merchants. This was thirty years ago and still I remember a poster that we had on the office wall – No-One Ever Won An Argument With A Customer. And again, I’m reminded of another similar slogan – Customers Might Not Always Be Right, But They are Always the Customer.

As nobodies, we self-published authors must seek to take every opportunity to engage with our readers positively, politely and constructively, mustn’t we? Doesn’t that just make good sense? If someone is going to take the time and trouble to read our books, more often than not pay for the privilege, and then go on to leave constructive feedback, is it not at least good manners as well as good customer relations to acknowledge what a reader has done for us? I could be wrong, but I get the idea – don’t ask me where from – that authors, even the self-published variety, have this idea that because we are providing free or cheap books for people to read, it is the readers who should be grateful to us. That’s not the way I see it.

I understand that some ‘real’ authors don’t indulge in responding to reviews. Maybe they think that with their traditional publishing deals and their huge loyal fan-bases they don’t need to. Maybe they’re right. Maybe they don’t even look at their reviews – perhaps the arrogance exists that ordinary readers’ opinions of their work, as opposed to the opinions of industry critics, don’t really count for much. Then again, maybe I’ve got that wrong. What I do know is that it counts for me. It matters to me. It matters enough for me to at least say thank you. I even found something nice to say to the guy who didn’t like my book  (I offered to include some pictures, although the artwork would have to be my own and if my humour might come across sometimes as childish you should see my drawings – think stick men).

Fortunately, in addition to seeing this opportunity for interaction as simple common-sense I am also enjoying the experience. I have already had some thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening exchanges with readers – and by no means have all these exchanges been based upon gushingly positive critiques. I’ve learned things about how readers view aspects of my writing – mostly what they don’t like, what grates – and I can take that knowledge and understanding and use it to improve my writing – be a better writer.

Something else that I’ve learned lately – if you’re going to self-publish and you can’t afford a proof-reader, you’d better be bloody thorough about it yourself.

Don’t judge a book by its author.

 

Writer’s blog: stardate: 26.04.2013

Part 1

I’ve quit my job!

I’m experiencing such a decent knock-on with sales at the moment on the back of my Amazon free listing that I have taken the plunge and quit my job – one of them, anyway.

This morning, I told the newsagent in the village to stuff his Sunday papers where the sun don’t shine – I’m not doing that paper-round ever again. Naturally, he demanded that the company vehicle be returned immediately. No problem – I was too big for that bike anyway and I hated the colour and the tinsel streamers that hung from the handlebars to dance in the breeze. I let the tyres down before I left.

I only took the crummy job to pay for luxuries for my family – things like bread and milk. But with the sales that I’m accruing in the Romney and Marsh series we’re necking gold-top till we puke and toasting sliced organic wholemeal loaves every morning for fun and frisbees.

Onwards and upwards.

­Part 2

I’m very excited about the forthcoming self-publication of my two Acer Sansom novels. I have the cover art, which I’m thrilled with. Knowing these two books very well indeed (I should do; I wrote them) I feel that the covers do a great job of simply, effectively and appropriately suggesting something of what the reader should expect from them, while also making it obvious that they are related to each other in a series. If they don’t then that’s your problem. I love them.

My over-riding concern with self-publishing these books under my own name is that people who may have read a Romney and Marsh File or three and enjoyed them enough to look out for something else from me might notice them and download them under the impression that they will be similar reads. They are not. They are so much better! Not really. But in their own way, I honestly think that if the reader will give them a chance then they won’t be disappointed, providing that said reader has some idea of what to expect. That’s where my job gets a little difficult.

I’ve got the Amazon blurb written and I like it, but I’m still not sure what category to list them under. They are sort of thrillers, but not white-knuckle, page-tearing, big-toilet-inducing thumpers. They are sort of action adventure, but not shooting up jungles of pygmies armed with blow-pipes, arrows tipped with lethal poisons. They are sort of crime novels, but not in a Romney and Marsh whodunit way.

I wonder if I should try to make all this clear on the book summary page when I list them. The very last thing I want is for people to feel miffed because they weren’t what they were looking for or expecting. Actually, the very last thing that I want is to die a slow and painful death in abject poverty surrounded by cats that are waiting to chew on my warm corpse.

Hope or train?

 

Writers blog: stardate: 19.04.2013

Ten days ago Amazon price-matched my book Rope Enough – The First Romney and Marsh File – to zero. It is now a free book and I will keep it that way – forever. Despite this book having cost me a good chunk of time and effort to create – not to mention the blood, sweat , tears and hundred quid for the cover art – I cannot think of a better  means of constant, free and easy self-promotion. I cannot think of any other means of self-promotion that would see me – an unknown, newcomer to self-publishing – get my book in front of the people who I want to get it in front of – the people that matter: ebook readers.

In the ten days that it has been a free ebook it has had over eleven-thousand downloads through Amazon.co.uk. Yesterday, it was at number three in the Kindle free-download chart for all ebooks, and in the last twenty-four hours it was downloaded over one thousand, seven hundred times. That book is now on the reading devices and in the homes of eleven-thousand readers. How else could I possibly have achieved that?

A big chunk of the people who downloaded it won’t read it; I know that. But a good number probably will at some point. Maybe not this week or this month, but it’s on their device. In a year they might give it a go. They might like it and they might look for the second in the series and that’s where I realise I have inadvertently done myself and my self-publishing venture the best turn that I could – I already have the next two in the series available for download.

If I had just one book available and I gave it away for nothing I might get thousands of people download it. But what then? Those that read it and enjoyed it and wanted to find something else by me would soon be disappointed and move onto the next free book. I would. I do. By the time that I got around to writing and publishing the next book, I would have to start all over again. I would have missed my window of opportunity.

If I had one book available and I was asking money for it as an unknown, I doubt strongly that I’d see many downloads. And again, those that enjoyed the read would have nothing to go on to by me. See above.

I’m no expert in self-publishing, but I’ve learned some things about it. And if there is one bit of advice I would give anyone who is looking to make money from self-publishing it is this: my self-publishing formula for a modicum of success – or better.

  1. Write a series in a popular genre.
  2. Get professional cover art that clearly links the books in a series and identifies their places within in it.
  3. Make the first in the series free to download. Just swallow.
  4. Have at least one more title in the series available to download for those who enjoyed the first  – three is better. (Look around – commercially successful series are like buses.)
  5. Make the second in the series attractively cheap to purchase.
  6. Make the third in the series still cheap for a novel but up the price a little.

I can’t claim to have invented this formula and, like I said, it is simply good-fortune that I had already written three in a series before I got around to self-publishing. Others are doing it, have been doing it, or something like it, and doing well out of it, for some time.

Example: Alan McDermott has his Tom Gray trilogy out at the moment. I understand that it’s been out a while. The first in the series is a free download. It has been at number one on Amazon’s free download chart ever since I’ve been looking. If I can crawl up to number three with seventeen-hundred downloads in a day, how many does he shift in a day? and how many has he shifted in the months that he’s been self-published? A conservative estimate would be hundreds of thousands. It could be more. Book two in that series is in the top one hundred Kindle downloads for paid books. Book three is just outside the top one-hundred. Take it from me; he’s selling shed-loads and he is making some serious money. Best of luck to him.

Part 2

I have finished what I feel strongly will be my penultimate edit of Dirty Business – The First Acer Sansom Novel. I shall now email this new version to Amazon and it will be almost immediately pinged back to my Kindle reading device where I shall then give it the final proof-read. I’ve blogged before about how useful I find it to read through my books in a variety of formats: computer screen, hard-copy, Kindle. Each new reading experience brings with it a novelty factor that provides me the opportunity for a fresh perspective to spot errors. It’s what my circumstances have reduced me to. And I think that I’m getting better at it. In fact I’m feeling so confident about my abilities these days that I might even offer a reward for any typos spotted. Then again, maybe I won’t.

Yesterday, Kit Foster, the nice fellow who did the covers for the three R&M’s, sent me some ideas for Dirty Business and Loose Ends. I was very happy with elements of them and he is going to combine these into a couple of covers that I think will be effective, strongly suggestive and representative of the genre and story.

I’m still not sure about where to pitch the price on these two. The three R&M’s are priced on a sliding upwards scale – free, £1.53 and £2.05 (I wanted £1.49 and £1.99 but Amazon did something to the numbers that I still don’t understand.) The three R&M’s are all around the eighty-thousand word mark. The two Sansoms are one-hundred-thousand words each. Should that extra twenty-thousand words justify a higher price?

I’m drawn to list them at £1.99 each and it’s not because of the extra bulk. I still don’t think that that is expensive for a decent read, which I have to hope people will think of them. I do. I also think that I’ve established myself to a very small degree as a half-decent story-teller – reviews, comments and feedback lend weight to this notion – and perhaps, as it could be argued that I have let my first three novels go quite cheaply, even by ebook standards, those who have read them and enjoyed them won’t begrudge me looking to net just over a pound a book. I don’t think that looking to make one pound a book is greedy or likely to price me out of a potential sale. Time will tell on that. Of course, if people start writing to tell me how awful they find them and how robbed they feel, I might have to reduce the price a bit.

With the self-publication of the Sansom’s will come more work. All the information on my various author pages relates only to the R&M books. The images on my Facebook page and blog banner are R&M covers. I’ve also got to write a couple of elevator pitch style summaries for the forthcoming Amazon listings. I’m not complaining – I like all that stuff. It makes a change and I’m doing it for me.

Making A Killing

Actually, I’m not – making a killing that is, not in the money-coming-out-of-all-orifices kind of way, like some outrageously gaudy and crude Las Vegas naked-human-shaped novelty slot-machine jackpot. But on free downloads? Crikey, I looked this morning and a little bit of wee came out. And that’s not normal for a man of my age.

Look, before I get going on this second blog in two days, please, you have to bear in mind at all times that a long time ago (in blogging terms) this blog’s main purpose became far-and-away most importantly an online record of my journey from total and, some would say, deserved literary obscurity to… well I just want to leave a mark. DC Grimes in that little-known but superior British police procedural, Joint Enterprise, that should be on every mystery reader aficionado’s bookshelf put it best, “We’re all going to die. Most of us will leave no mark of our existence behind what-so-ever. Not a stain or a smudge or a smear on the face of history. I think that’s sad.” I agree with him, even if I can now see that the punctuation sucks. I’m not perfect.

I’m blogging for me, for nostalgia, for anyone who wants to know something of the process that I went through to self-publish – there are some things to learn from – and then how that pans out. With that understood, this post should be viewed as a follow up to yesterday’s: an update on the development discussed. I’m making it because it’s important to me and it might also provide some figures that other self-publishers might like to know. There doesn’t seem to be a wealth of information out there and when I was stumbling about cyber-space at the beginning, looking for anything helpful, I was pretty disappointed.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, approximately thirty-six hours ago Amazon price-matched Rope Enough, the first book in my series of British police procedurals. They price-matched it to zero making it a free download. I was happy – see previous post. In that thirty-six hours the book has been downloaded 394 times on Amazon.com and a staggering 1431 times on Amazon.co.uk. (I wrote ‘Fucking hell!’ after that but decided to delete it.)

The immediate upshot of that is that the book currently sits at #27 in the Kindle store Best Sellers chart for free books. It was at #22 earlier. To my limited way of thinking that has got to be a positive thing. OK, I’m not making a penny out of it, but I do have two other titles that could see a knock-on from this. And I feel great.

Yeah, I know, people are just downloading a freebie; 95% of them probably won’t even read it; just ‘cos it got downloaded, doesn’t mean that it’s any good. I’m quite capable of pissing on my own chips, thanks.

There has been no discernable knock-on for sales of the other two books, yet. I’ll have to wait and see what happens.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about two days – Saturday and Sunday – where I listed the second book in my three on the KDP Select programme for £0.00 to download. I managed 351 downloads through Amazon.co.uk there. I thought that was OK. So, perhaps, it makes a little more sense just how bowled over I am by getting four times that number in less than two days.

That’s all from me to me. Now, I really should get some work done.

The Loss-Leader Strategy.

Writer’s blog: stardate: 10.04.2013

WARNING: This blog contains some big numbers to crunch.

Part 1

It’s Wednesday. It’s eleven o’clock in the morning and it’s the holidays.

Normally, for reasons explained previously, I’ve come to be a Friday-morning-blogger. So why today? Well, as mentioned, I’m on holiday and so I’ve got some time to update my self-publishing diary aka my blog. And I have an interesting development for an entry.

I say it’s the holidays but I’m at work.  My current-future-ex-wife has started to complain about me loitering around the place. I’ve only been on holiday for two days. I told her I’m on holiday – I don’t have to go to work for the week. She said that the house smells different when I’m there during the day. She implied that this was not in a good way. She suggested that if I want to write, why don’t I go to work where it will be quiet? So, I’m at work in the holidays. I’m writing and I quite like it. It’s peaceful. I can pick up a good coffee on the way in. There is still free food in the staff canteen at lunch-time. I’m living the life of a real author for a week – the kind that don’t have to juggle jobs and writing (writing doesn’t seem like a job to me, but maybe that’s because I don’t need the money.) And I can smell how I like without people complaining.

I can’t complain about the way things are going for me as a self-publisher – especially when one factors in that I have done no self-promotion worthy of the label. Since my promotional weekend with Amazon’s KDP Select programme I have noticed a marked increase in sales of all three titles. I’m still not making enough money to re-roof the dog kennel but I’m encouraged.

In the first nine days of this month’s sales figures I sold ninety-two copies of Rope Enough (The First Romney and Marsh File). That’s more than I sold in the whole of last month with the promotion. Factors of knock-on sales from said promotion and some good fortune with an Amazon sales algorithm – I doubt whether even God knows the mathematical equations involved in those – are likely reasons for this figure. The second and third books in the series are doing better than normal also. As usual I will share those figures at the end of the sales period.

Last evening I had settled down to watch Real Madrid thrash Galatasaray (good job I’m not a betting man) with one eye on the laptop when something in the Kindle download figures of my books caught my eye. It hadn’t been there an hour earlier. Kindle had made twenty-two price-match sales of Rope Enough ie given away twenty-two books for free. I checked on the Amazon.com site: thirty-four books price-matched. Initially, I was a bit peeved. Sales had been going well and I was netting 26p a download. But as I took the development on board, I became rather pleased.

I have seen it blogged by many successful self-published authors that giving away books as loss-leaders was a real boost to the spreading of the word, raising their online profile and, if they have other books available – especially in a series – good for knock-on sales.

Mindful of this, when I originally uploaded Rope Enough I tried and tried to get Amazon to list it as a free ebook – I have had it for download through Smashwords and their outlets for free since it was first published in December of last year. I notified Amazon of the availability of the book for free through B&N and Kobo et al (can you say et al for companies or is that reserved for people?) but they still wouldn’t adjust the price, so I had to plough on with it at 77p – the minimum that I could list it for.

I can only guess that now someone else, or the plural of someone else, has/have let Amazon know about a cheaper price and they have knocked it down to zero in line with their policy. I’m happy with that. It’s like having a full-time promotion going. I was only making 26p a download anyway, which is essentially nothing.

Rope Enough has finally become the loss-leader that I wanted it to be and I hope that it is going to attract attention and sales for the other two in the series. In fact I had trouble sleeping last night when I thought about this. Here’s the first reason why: in the first four hours of the change there were over two hundred downloads of the book on Amazon.co.uk and the same for Amazon.com.

Here’s the second reason why: when the book went live for free I, naturally, checked out the competition in the free category – Amazon’s top 100 chart. The book at the number one slot was called The One You Love by Paul Pilkington. I looked at his Amazon page for this book. He claims to have had over one-and-a-half-million downloads of this book since publication in July 2011. That is a shitload of downloads by anyone’s standards. And looking at the reviews a lot of people think that it’s shit (fitting). He has a sequel for sale. It’s a thirty thousand word novella (probably falling over himself to try to get something else published to capitalise on his fifteen minutes of fame before the freeloaders forgot who he was). It’s listed at £1.92. If he is on the 70% royalty scheme then he is netting @ £1.30 per download for that second title. If just ten percent of the people who downloaded his free book pay for the download of the second – and let’s face it, why wouldn’t they if they were happy with book one? – he is making a shitload of money (double-fitting). Good luck to him.

If Rope Enough can get one tenth of the downloads he got for his first book and then one tenth of those people go on to part with the meagre sum of £1.53 and £2.05 for the other two books in the series – both of which are better than the first (I would say that wouldn’t I?) then I might be able to give up my evening job at the petrol station – at least. Maybe even re-roof the dog kennel.

See why I’m in a fairly good mood today? That’s right – I’m a dreamer.

Part 2

This week, I’m really getting stuck into my two Sansom books. I’m editing like a battlefield surgeon in the Crimean War. I feel that there are a couple of half-decent stories in these books somewhere if I can tease them out. I’ve emailed the guy who did my book covers for the R&M trio and I’m waiting for his thoughts.

When these are done and out there I’m going to write the third in that series. It’s going to be focussed on Iran and their nuclear weapons programme. I have never been to Iran (I’m not likely to either) and I don’t know anything about plutonium enrichment, so, this is going to have to be a book that I need to do some research on before writing. That will be a novelty. I might even try planning the book beforehand for a change, just to see what that’s like. Another novelty.

The knock-on.

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 29.03.2013

Friday morning is turning out to be a good time of the week for me to write a blog-post. It’s usually quiet here in the Istanbul City Zoo monkey enclosure: all the week’s cleaning gets done by Thursday, the resident vet has paid her weekly visit, fresh straw has been laid for the weekend and the manager sees his mistress on Thursday nights and doesn’t often pitch up to work until just before lunch.

The sun is shining and it’s quite warm here already. It has been suggested that the temperature might get up to seventeen degrees tomorrow. If that were not indicative enough of spring approaching the males are eyeing up the females with a primate’s hint of a leer.

On Monday I blogged of my weekend’s free listing experience regarding one of my titles with Amazon’s KDP Select programme (see two posts previously for details. I’m not doing it all again.)

One of the things that I was interested to learn from this exercise was whether the two days of giving my book away for free would have any discernable impact on subsequent sales of the other two titles that I have listed with Amazon that are in the same series.

At the end of the promotion my figures were as below:

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough – 36

Making a Killing – 5 sold (351 free downloads)

Joint Enterprise – 7

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 8

Making a Killing – 3 sold (219 free downloads)

Joint Enterprise – 5

Currently, Friday morning 10.20 (GMT + 2), my sales figures are as below:

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough – 63

Making a Killing – 13 (2 units borrowed through KDP select programme).

Joint Enterprise – 8

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 11

Making a Killing – 3 (0 units borrowed through KDP select programme)

Joint Enterprise – 7

I like these figures – the UK ones. I don’t have the statistics for previous months’ sales (of course I could look then up but it isn’t really necessary) however, I can say that the number of copies of Rope Enough that have been sold since Monday morning – essentially only four days ago – is probably more than I have sold in total in the three months or so that it has been available. And there is the curious figure of eight copies sold of Making A Killing in the same time frame – a very healthy number when compared to previous month’s sales. As well as that book having been free last weekend I did increase the price of it from £0.77 to £1.53 last week.

No noticeable effect on sales in the US market. Again, this is a little odd as over the months my US sales have always topped the UK sales. But then again, as far as I’m aware, Rope Enough did not stray into any charts this week on the Amazon.com site (see below).

Since the promotion I have slipped in and out of Amazon.co.uk’s top hundred rankings with Rope Enough in the crime, police procedural category. And when one hovers on the periphery of this, two or three quick sales can see a book move several places (up to seventy-nine for a short while). I only mention this because it seems reasonable to venture that at this end of the top hundred rankings it really is only a matter of a few odd sales that can make a difference, not dozens or hundreds. Something that I didn’t know.

On a personal note, yesterday I finished my second edit of Bad Sons, my latest crime/thriller novel. In two read-throughs I have changed very little – nothing of the structure or the plot; really, just vocabulary, punctuation and fleshing out some details. I’m not sure what to make of that. I have the same positive feelings about the overall story, its telling and unfolding as I did with each of the R&M books and I take encouragement from that. They didn’t turn out to be so bad in my opinion and the opinions of a good many people who generously left feedback.

I have a bit of a dilemma with this book now. Do I ignore it for a couple of months then come back to it and see how it reads, as per general perceived wisdom, or do I just go ahead and add it to my self-publishing portfolio? My heart says publish, my head says wait.