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 reblog from Tin Larrick’s blog

DEVIL'S CHIMNEY COVER[C]
This is my first reblog of a fellow self-publishing author’s post. I’ve had some communication with Tin after I noticed that he was also writing police-procedurals set in the south-east of England. Eastbourne to be precise – next county along from Kent where the Romney and Marsh books are set. I think that Peter James is his closest geographical competition. Yikes!
Anyway, Tin sent me a link to this post of his during conversation and I felt that it would make interesting reading for anyone in the same position i.e. trying to make it as an author. (Incidentally, that’s been my tag-line on this blog since day one and the longer things go on the less I understand what I continue to mean by that phrase. Could be a blog-post in that one day when I can work it out.)
Of course, my first reblog wasn’t going got be easy was it? We blog on different sites and after a little research I understand that the only way that I can reblog his blog is to copy and paste it to mine. How amateurish of me. The original post can be found here: http://tinlarrick.blogspot.com/2012/02/devils-chimney-ebook-launch-or-why-jaws.html The rest of his blog is worth reading too in my humble opinion.
Finally, for anyone who is interested in these things, I have sought Tin’s permission before copying his words and the image above. He might also like me to let you know that his books are going to be free to download at Amazon this coming weekend. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tin-Larrick/e/B007S9VWW6/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1 The reviews are very encouraging. I shall be downloading them myself.
The post: With trembling hand and churning gut flora I click SAVE AND PUBLISH, and DEVIL’S CHIMNEY the eBook becomes a cold hard (well, virtual) reality available for purchase on Amazon’s Kindle store. Almost, anyway. It has to be approved by Amazon’s Kindle Operations Team to make sure it isn’t breaching the Obscene Publications Act, the Public Order Act or the Official Secrets Act (or something). 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, I suppose.
I was hoping for a curiously existential experience as I clicked the button, and it was – sort of. From all the highly illogical variables, high hopes and dashed dreams of the print publishing world to becoming master of my own destiny made me feel like all the little bits of me that have been propping up slush piles throughout London have come home to roost.
So, why the eBook route? To some the answer is probably patently obvious, but, let’s be honest, we’ve all read those rags-to-riches vignettes in the Writers’ Yearbook and similar, and have all dreamed of the letter from the publisher or the phone call from the agent that signifies that we might be one step closer to the dream.
I got halfway down that road. In 2010 three agents made some very enthusiastic noises about DEVIL’S CHIMNEY. Two of them offered to represent me, and I really believed my ship had come in. I signed with one of said agents (and Gawd bless her she still has faith in me – I think). In most of the aforementioned vignettes, signing with an agent was followed some weeks later by a multi-book contract and stick-in-your-throat advance from a major publisher. It was, I used to think, the natural progression of things.
However, 18 months and a LOT of rewrites later, the feelings about DEVIL’S CHIMNEY were rather more tepid. It won’t sell, they said. The market for police procedurals has cooled off, they said. The print world is changing, they said. The global economy has crushed all the little and not-so-little bookshops (Borders, Barnes & Noble) under the weight of its collapse, and if you can’t get stocked by a supermarket (who only stock big, minimum sales-return-guaranteed authors) then forget it. Ten years ago, a publisher would have picked up and run with DEVIL’S CHIMNEY, nurtured my career or something, but not today. Chalk DEVIL’S CHIMNEY up to experience, they said.
I was crushed, the words of one commissioning editor reverberating around my brain. (I couldn’t focus on the GOOD things that were said, naturally, only the BAD). This bit is wooden, this character doesn’t work, this bit is far-fetched. Also, THIS, THIS and THIS would not happen in real life. (I had hoped that my 15 years as a cop would lend some realism to the procedural aspects of the novel, but it seemed to pale into insignificance where this particular commissioning editor was concerned – there’s procedure, and then there’s procedure that sells. Ah well, being an ex-cop is still kudos for the CV, I guess, and maybe something to wax poncy about at [publishing] parties – maybe one day).
Why not publish it as an eBook, my agent said. Ebooks are 20% of the market and climbing. I didn’t want to, really. Like many, I wanted that magical phone call, that won-the-jackpot feeling of elation. And I wanted the tangible, real THING of a book in my hand with my name on it.
So I had to be scientific about it:
CONS:
  • It’s not a ‘real’ book.
  • As a consequence I don’t feel QUITE the same feeling of arrival I would have were I holding a book in my hand with my name on it. To frame this slightly nebulous notion, let me say that I WOULD rush to show friends and family a ‘real’ book; with an eBook, I might just drop it into conversation.
  • Similarly, I don’t feel like a professional. I wouldn’t put ‘author’ in the ‘occupation’ field of an application form just because I’ve published an eBook. I might if it had been a ‘real’ book, just to try it out.
  • It is, after all, self-publishing, which doesn’t have quite the same kudos as being offered a real deal.
  • I won’t be giving up work any time soon.
  • I don’t get to use my real name (Tin Larrick, in case you hadn’t guessed, is a pseudonym). This was on the strong advice of my agent – I’m still not sure why.

PROS:

  • I have complete control, I say when, I say where, I say how. I decide the price, the layout, everything. No longer do I have to await the rejection letters with dread, the ones that may (or may not) be sent out on a whim. I’ve even made up a publishing company for the purpose of e-publishing – The Obscure Cranny Press. Annual turnover – about 37p.
  • It seems strange, but people are more likely to take a chance on a book that costs one pound rather than seven (provided you can get it out there).
  • Similarly, people are more likely to take a punt on a book they can access instantly, without having to wait for mail order or drive to the shops.
  • I’m rolling with the times. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that says print books will one day become extinct, but the eBook industry can only grow.
  • The thing is out there. It’s not languishing with what’s left of my optimism in a bottom drawer. (I could be wrong, but I do honestly believe DEVIL’S CHIMNEY is now as good as it can be – one of the cardinal rules.) It’s out there, and the readers can decide for themselves. You never know, you just never know.
But the thing that swung it for me? JAWS: THE REVENGE. It was on telly a few weeks ago. It’s a few years since I’ve had the misfortune of watching it, and it hasn’t got any better since then (even Lance Guest can’t save it). The plot is non-existent, the characters two-dimensional, and the effects cringeworthy. (The shark roars like a T-Rex, for Gawd’s sake – even my titchy son knows sharks don’t have vocal cords.)
So why make it at all? Because it was wringing the last drop of out of the cash cow that was the original JAWS. Because the box office receipts superseded the need for quality control (or the ‘art’ side of it, if you will). Despite all its flaws, someone in the biz thought it was ok to release it, because it might make them some money.
Which made me think again – who, in the entertainment business, really knows 100% what will work and what won’t? Who has the integrity to put something back on the shelf that needs further work, even though as it stands it will make a few quid?
It brought me back to the words of the commissioning editor – 10% of what the CE said was right, 10% was wrong (but I could never articulate it, however reasonable, because it would only ever sound like sour grapes), and 80% was entirely subjective.
So I took the plunge. I sorted out a cover, I uploaded it to KDP and I clicked SAVE AND PUBLISH. Easy – if you’ve done the graft. But I shouldn’t have worried so long about whether or not it was a good thing – ten years ago such a thing could not have happened.
Now just got to get out and market the damn thing.
That’s it. If anyone wants to take issue with anything in that please contact Tin directly. I have enough trouble in my life.

The Penitent Writer

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 10.05.2013

 

If one is serious about being taken seriously as a serious writer, one must be seriously meticulous about one’s work – even more so as a self-publisher because a) one is starting at the back of the grid and b) when one is finally ready to press upload, presumably satisfied with the quality of what one has produced, there are no further regulators, filters or quality-control systems to correct any errors.

When my finger hovers over the Amazon submit-your-manuscript button, I feel a little like I would imagine the guy with his finger on the red button that will start the end of the world must feel – wondering if I’m about to make a big mistake; perhaps I should just check the situation one more time before launching a nuclear strike, or in this case my book on humanity. Actually, maybe I should experience a greater sense of anxiety – when I press upload my book can reach every continent on Earth. My reach is greater than the bloke in the bunker. I can only hope that my writing is not as damaging.

Despite rigorous proof-readings, scrupulous read-throughs, ruthless edits and regular prayer, however, mistakes are inevitably going to occur – be doing impressions of sore-thumbs, risking ruining the flow of the writing, exposing one for the amateur that one is and turning people off. It’s like getting all your new clobber on to go to the party and walking to the bus-stop thinking that everyone’s looking at you because you are obviously so cool when really they’re staring and sniggering at the big red 50% discount price tag that you left on that shirt you bought in the sale and it’s flapping in the breeze of your swagger behind you. Fail.

As a self-publisher, attention to detail is imperative. One very kind reviewer did mention in her comment that she hoped that I will be picked up by an editor soon. At the time it was my hope that the lady in question had made a simple slip and had meant agent/publisher. Now, I have to wonder if she meant what she wrote.

I’ve had enough feedback of my three books to understand that I have made mistakes. The misuse of homophones has begun to deprive me of sleep (style/stile, draw/drawer, banded/bandied, peace/piece; role-call, roll-call are examples that revolve and flash around behind my eye-lids in the darkness. Several readers have pointed out my mistaken use of ‘should of’, ‘would of’ and ‘could of’ instead of ‘should have’, ‘would have’, and ‘could have’. Bad mistakes from someone whose dad was Head of English. Father must be kicking up a veritable dust-cloud in that box on my mum’s mantel-piece every time that particular one is mentioned. I made two attempts at French in three books and got one wrong. Cretin. (And I even looked it up on the internet to be sure because I wasn’t. I spelt the French swear-word correctly, naturally, and then cocked up déjà-vous – a school-boy error.

But I have made one mistake in Making a Killing that two reviewers have kindly brought to my attention. And it is unforgivable. It is to do with measures to be taken to counter a diabetic-hypo. I wrote that the character in question should have taken insulin to bring them out of it when in fact that would not have helped at all – what the man in question needed was a quick and concentrated sugar intake. I didn’t check this. And I didn’t check this because I ‘knew’ that I didn’t have to. I ‘knew’ that I didn’t have to check because my dad lived with type-one-diabetes most of his life, so, naturally, I ‘knew’ all about it. Check. Check. Check. And to think that I toyed with the idea of having something terrifically important hang on the character’s diabetic turn. It makes me go cold. Lesson learned. When DI Romney contracts a nasty STD in the next Romney and Marsh File I will not rely on my memory for his treatment; I will head straight to the font of a knowledge and that most invaluable of writers’ resources – Wikipedia. They never get anything wrong.

Apart from the unforgivable medical error, I’m not going to be too hard on myself for the above. There’s no point and things can be corrected in new editions – which, incidentally, I will have to submit as a matter of urgency because one reader complained to Amazon that ‘Rope Enough’ has no table of contents – none of the books does – and Amazon sent me an email. Crap. I’ll have to make time for that now in case Amazon remove all my books for it.

Still, I suppose that over approximately 250,000 words I’ve not done too badly. And while I haven’t actually hurt anyone – except myself – I do think that some form of atonement is in order – crime and punishment (No, I’m not going to read it. My errors are not that bad.) So, for today and the weekend, I have rooted out my last birthday present from my current-future-ex-wife (that’s a picture of it at the top) and I am going to wear it as a penance. Just my luck that a warm-front is moving in from the south – that’s not another reference to my spouse by the way. (Warm! Ha!)

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.

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.

An instance of KDP Select versus Smashwords

Two Sundays ago I enrolled Making a Killing (The Second Romney and Marsh File) in the Amazon KDP Select scheme. The weekend just gone I took advantage of two of the allotted five promotional days where Amazon allows one to list one’s book for free within the 90 day period of said scheme. It was an interesting and thought provoking experience.

I am happy to provide some figures and observations here for those who are looking for information and numbers to crunch regarding the whole KDP Select initiative. Regardless of some dubious aspects of validity and reliability involved in this little sales episode I still think that some patterns are suggested.

I have three ebooks available with Amazon. They are all in a series of British police procedurals. Not exactly mainstream fiction. Making a Killing is the second book in the series.

My Reasons for trying KDP Select

I was interested to discover four things.

1) How many consumers would a free download promotion attract for the book in question?

2) Whether I might experience a knock-on effect with sales of the other two books in the series (these are priced a £0.77 (the 1st) and £2.05 (the 3rd).

3) How the numbers would compare to my download history through the Smashwords outlet and their partner sites where the three books have all been free to download for a few months.

4) Will there be any discernable long-term effects on sales from this free promotion.

The Numbers

Coming into the promotional forty-eight hours my download figures for this sales period stood like this for the three ebooks:

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough (1st in series) – 11 (1 copy sold in the week leading up to the promotion)

Making a Killing (2nd in series) – 5 (0 copies sold in the week leading up to the promotion)

Joint Enterprise (3rd in series) – 4 (0 copies sold in the week leading up to the promotion)

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 3 (0 copies sold in the week leading up to the promotion)

Making a Killing – 3 (1 copy sold in the week leading up to the promotion)

Joint Enterprise – 2 (0 copies sold in the week leading up to the promotion)

After the promotion had ended the figures looked like this:

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough – 36

Making a Killing – 351 free downloads

Joint Enterprise – 7

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 8

Making a Killing – 219 free downloads

Joint Enterprise – 5

An unexpected result of the promotion was that I also got downloads from other Amazon sites, but only for the free book.

Amazon.de – 12

Amazon.fr – 5

Amazon.es – 2

Amazon.ca – 4

Total downloads across all Amazon sites for Making A Killing – 593

I did no self-promotion prior to this give-away period. I understand that people do and I wonder if creating some awareness through the limited outlets available might have increased downloads. Perhaps next time I do this I will experiment with that option and opportunity.

Amazon V Smashwords

Making A Killing was available for free through Smashwords and its partner sites between 23.12.2012 – 12.03.2013 (thirteen weeks). It achieved a total of 367 downloads. One weekend on Amazon and it had a total of 593.

If my experience is typical, the figures show that, despite Smashwords valiant efforts (and I do admire Mr Coker and what he is doing), Amazon is still far and away the leading outlet for authors looking for downloads and exposure.

Bestsellers Rankings

This was something that I hadn’t thought about prior to the weekend but when things were active it became something to take some amusement from. Before I went to bed, Making A Killing reached the dizzy heights of:

The knock-on that Rope Enough sales got saw this title break into the top 100 paid for Police Procedurals… for about one hour. It got to number 97 when an Ian Rankin title was at 99. I thought that I was about to hit the big time. Next hour, Rankin was at number 14 and I had disappeared without a trace. Pfffttt. (I bet DI Romney could have Rebus in a fist fight.)

When I was keeping my eye on how the books were doing in the charts (see above) I noticed that the other titles around mine predominantly had dozens of reviews. This made me think that perhaps these books had been trotted out before on promotional days, had hundreds of downloads from readers who took advantage of a freebie, a number of whom then went on to feedback on the reading experience. I could be wrong about this, of course. But if I am right then it suggests that when one enrols in the 90 day KDP select programme it is wise to space one’s promotions well apart – probably at the beginning, like I have, to give people a chance to actually read the books and then leave a review – and then towards the end of the promotional period for a final push when there are a good number of reviews in place to attract the confidence of the bargain ebook hunter.

I could be alone in this but I think that even when books are free people are more attracted to books with a good number of reviews already in the bank (providing they aren’t all one and two star of course) rather than taking a chance on a book with a handful of reviews obviously written by friends and family. I have seen many reviews from people who have taken a chance on a free book and wished that they hadn’t wasted their time on it. Free books of self-publishers seem to have something of a tainted reputation – certainly the work has got to be top drawer in all respects to avoid the tar-brush. If readers can see that many others have gone before them to try out a new and unknown author and not hated the experience, even rated the offering favourably, then to my mind it is more likely that the casual and increasingly discerning downloader will stand a better chance of being tempted. Let’s face it there are hundreds of books being offered for free at any one time and that number is only likely to increase.

I will be very interested to see whether Amazon readers are more inclined to leave a review than downloaders of Smashwords and their partners. I will obviously have to leave that a while before I can pass judgement.

The big and pleasant surprise here is the number of Rope Enough downloads. Perhaps that will, in good time, lead to some more Joint Enterprise downloads and/or some reviews and attention.

Like I said, all in all it’s all been an interesting and thought provoking experience. I hope that you might get something out of this.

Just the beginning.

 

Writer’s blog: stardate: 20.03.2013

Further to my post of last weekend detailing my change of tack regarding what can be done to offload (surely, strategically increase the sales dynamic of) as many ebook copies of the Romney and Marsh Files in the quickest time possible, I have selected Saturday and Sunday of the forthcoming weekend as free promotional days for Making a Killing (The Second Romney and Marsh File), which some of you may remember I have enrolled in the KDP Select programme. It is hoped that this gentle shove will see a marked increase in sales of the other two books that I am still asking some recompense for writing (The First and Third Romney and Marsh Files).

It is timely, then, I think – nay possibly a sign – to be pleasantly surprised with an email from my literary agent (Amazon) this evening providing forward notification of royalties to be paid to me later this month. £1014 for sales so far accrued. It really is most encouraging and the blood, sweat and tears are starting to look like they might have all been worth it.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a massive RomneyandMarshFiles thank you to all those wonderful people who took a chance on an unknown and parted with their hard-earned cash to further my ambitions of one day becoming a full-time writer.

Amendment: Sorry, I missed out the decimal point in the figure above. It should read £10.14. Another seven years, three months like that and I will have recouped the cover art investment. (Cue malfunctioning firework.)

Time for a change.

 

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 17.03.2013

I’ve been a bit impulsive this week. Twice to be precise.

First impulse: Tuesday, I decided to pull the 2nd and 3rd Romney and Marsh books from Smashwords and the outlets that they supply. All three books have been available at no charge through Smashwords since I published them. I have explained why in previous posts but for the sake of clarity here it boiled down to one reason: encouraging people to read them and let me know what they thought of them.

It worked to a degree that I must be satisfied with. Rope Enough was published 05.12.2012 and has encouraged 538 downloads to date. (That’s still available for free through Smashwords and related outlets.). Making a Killing was published 23.12.2012 and has had 367 downloads. Joint Enterprise was published 13.01.2013 and has managed 234 downloads. How those stats relate to other people’s experiences I have no idea. They are what they are. I have received enough reviews and comments through the channels of communication that I made available to understand that the books have been generally well received and are without horrible errors and plot holes. (See Romney and Marsh Comments page here.) Job done, I suppose.

In the same period on Amazon, where I have had all three books selling for £0.77 and the $ equivalent, I have had significantly less than a tenth of the total number of downloads that I have through Smashwords. The reasons are obvious and not worth going into here.

On Tuesday, after pulling the 2nd and 3rd books I bumped their prices up on Amazon and changed from 35% royalty scheme to 70% royalty scheme. Regardless of what I typed into the price boxes, Making a Killing is now £1.53 and Joint Enterprise is now £2.05. Rope Enough stays at £0.77.

Second impulse: Today, Sunday, I have grasped the nettle and, now that the 2nd and 3rd books have had a chance to be removed from the Smashwords’ outlets, I have enrolled Making a Killing, The Second Romney and Marsh File, into the Amazon KDP Select programme. I’m waiting for that to go live.

I am interested to see how enrolment in that scheme might affect downloads of that title and influence downloads of the other two titles. For reference, so far in this sales period my current download stats for Amazon are as below. Since I bumped the prices of the 2nd and 3rd titles I have received a total of one download of those two books between the two sites.

I will now have to give some thought to using my free download days to my best advantage.

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 3

Making a Killing – 2

Joint Enterprise – 2

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough – 10

Making a Killing – 5

Joint Enterprise – 4

 

The Last Rites

 

I learned something sobering today. I have quite possibly ruined my one-in-three-hundred-and-forty-seven-million chances of getting my Romney and Marsh books properly published.

I was engaged in conversation with a fellow blogger who informed me about the concept of ‘first rights’ in the publishing world. Basically, this refers to the first publishing rights that a book can enjoy. If one self-publishes one’s book, then the first rights have gone and literary agents and/or publishers will not entertain touching one with the proverbial barge pole because of something to do with the first rights of the book in question having been already exploited and that is what they are interested in. After half a bottle of the local grape juice, it’s a little difficult to describe it, as well as piss straight. I wonder if the concept of virginity lends itself to an appropriate analogy – first rites are a bit like virginity. You can only lose it once and when it’s gone you’re officially screwed.

But wait! I blogged here about James Oswald (free publicity that was not reciprocated) and his securing of a publishing deal after he had notable ebook success with his detective novels. And there are others that spring to mind: Eragon, Wool …er …Wool, Eragon, for examples, that started out as self-published novels and have gone on to make it big with proper publishers. The Highfield Mole. That’s another one. There must be many. But as my learned blogger friend pointed out, the exceptions are those who make it super big. And I suppose that they prove the rule.

So am I devastated? Not really. But I won’t be self-publishing anything else until I’ve had the customary round of rejections and some clarification on this.

Funnily enough I received a comment on my R&M comments page today that altered my whole perspective on my self-publishing venture and made the lack of fame and fortune seem fleetingly worthwhile. Here it is. Copied and pasted.

I am not an avid reader,i had not really read a book in like 20 years.My wife loves to read and gave me her old nook.i downloaded your book (making a killing)and i could not put it down.i can’t wait to read the other ones.thank you for opening a whole new world to me that i had lost.

Would I trade that kind of humbling recognition, that overwhelming sense of self-worth, that unique and swamping feeling of having finally done something decent and good in my life, for a tepid approach from a tuppenny-ha’penny literary agent? I’m a writer. What do you think?