Keywords!?!

 

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 19.09.2013

I don’t make up many jokes so when I do it’s a bit of a personal event. I thought I’d begin this post with one that came to me while walking to work this week.

Did you hear the one about the Turkish driver who knocked down and killed two pedestrians on a crossing? When the police asked him what happened, he shrugged and said, ‘They’d only just gone red.’

When I opened last week’s blog post with that rather glib song quote (Back to life. Back to reality.) I had no idea just how utterly depressing returning to real life, aka reality, after a lengthy lay-off was going to prove. Having been on holiday for about two months (did I just lose you?) I had got in the way of feeling out of the rat race. I had become a smug observer on the side lines. And I liked it. After only a week back doing what they pay me for I’m finding things more than a little…trying. I feel like I don’t belong to this life anymore (I’m not dying [touch wood]). I’m the proverbial square peg. I feel more like an author than I ever have (I have five books self-published another one awaiting proofreading and another one started). I’ve done my time with the struggle as tradition demands – the balancing of day-job and family and screaming teething baby and writing into the small hours because those were the only hours I had. (I often remember my dad telling me about the author Henry Williamson. He said that Williamson would sometimes have to write with a baby on his shoulder. Now that is what I call suffering for one’s art. That’s commitment. That’s belief and dedication and passion. I like to think of that kind of trial as a rite of passage I have trodden in my own way. And Williamson didn’t have to social network. Mind you he didn’t have a laptop either. If I had to smash out a book on a typewriter or – the thought makes me want to lie down with a damp flannel on my forehead – with a pencil and paper [or quill and ink]..well, let’s just say that the Romney and Marsh Files and the Acer Sansom books would have remained the fantastical meanderings of a frustrated mind.) I can’t help feeling that if ever there was going to be a time in my life when an email came out of the blue offering rather a lot of money for the rights to my back catalogue, now would be as good as any. The way I’m feeling I’d probably contemplate selling the rights to my back passage if I honestly thought it would get me out of working for a living. Sigh

A couple of lumps of good advice to impart to myself for posterity this week.

1) When returning to a series to write another instalment – the last one of which was written a year ago – one should probably make time to read the rest of the series again first. This could be particularly tiresome if your pseudonym is, for example, Lee Child. That would make quite a number of books to wade through – I only read the first one of his and you’d have to pay me to read it again. A lot. Alternatively, if one thinks that there is the remotest possibility that one’s little book idea might lead to three, four or five involving the same characters it might be a good idea to keep some notes on the personal lives of the main players for future reference. A couple of sheets of A4 in a drawer would probably suffice. The read-em-again-athon could then be avoided. Why am I talking about this? Because I have started the fourth Romney and Marsh File and my memory is proving a little sketchy regarding aspects of Romney’s, Marsh’s and Grimes’ personal lives. Maybe I should have left Romney to die on the cold tiled kitchen floor of the Greek restaurant. Maybe I should have killed off all three and introduced new people. But then how could I continue to call it the Romney and Marsh Files? Problems, problems.

2) Keywords – the importance of. Last week I uploaded my two Acer Sansom novels to Amazon. As per the drill, for each I selected the maximum number of categories that one can list a new title in: two (2). I ignored the box underneath this part of the process – or just didn’t see it – titled Keywords. In this box one can write up to seven (7) keywords that will help one’s book find its way into, amongst other things, sub-categories in Amazon’s list of main categories – providing the book meets certain criteria, of course. The significance and importance of entering keywords never really occurred to me. I don’t think that Amazon make it particularly obvious how important these can be to a self-publisher (maybe they do). I must have sold a quick half-dozen or so of Dirty Business and for an hour the book enjoyed a sales rank of 3489 (or there abouts). From experience I know that this ranking can see a book into the top one hundred of an obscure sub-category (remember Maureen Lipman and that BT ad? You got an ‘ology? Well obscure sub-categories are the publishing equivalent of an ‘ology) and then the book becomes particularly visible to potential readers. So why was my book not showing in any categories, main or obscure sub? What was wrong? After a scour around I ‘understood’ that because I hadn’t submitted any keywords my book wouldn’t get into any of the sub-categories I was hoping for and that the sub-categories are associated with. Shitty death! Idiot! What could I do to rectify the situation? Sign in to Amazon, go to Bookshelf, choose title, access listing info, insert keywords (I’ve since discovered Amazon do have a useful page that provides suggestions of vocabulary that, if used as keywords, will help get books with the right ‘qualifications’ [more on that in a moment] into the sub-categories and visible) submit changes, press save-and-publish…and get a message saying the changes will take effect in about twelve hours if you’re lucky. NOOOOOO! The book probably will have slipped away by then. My chance to sit at the big table rubbing shoulders with household names would be lost.

As it happened, Amazon sorted it quite quickly and it still didn’t make the charts of the sub-categories despite having a higher sales rank listing than a few other titles that did get in the charts. Back to those pesky Amazon algorithms me thinks. There’s obviously more to getting into the charts than just selling books. It’s never going to be that simple is it? Qualifications and criteria.

Back to life. Back to reality. (ad nauseum). I’m laying down my pen and preparing myself mentally for reading the three R&M Files in quick succession. I’m not looking forward to this for two reasons. 1) I’m afraid that all those errors readers have told me about are going to leap off the pages at me and I’ll have to cringe it up because the books are still out there and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about all those downloads that have gone to good homes. 2) I’ve just finished two really good books – the second Travis McGee, Nightmare in Pink, and Zoo Station by David Downing. The R&M Files are going to be hard going after those two gems. (Maybe I should find some time to squeeze in some reading of real crap to make myself feel better about my own books – where did I put that copy of Killing Floor?)

Finally, my sincere thanks to those who splashed out on one or both of the Sansoms. As always, your support is much appreciated. Sales for the first week are encouraging. It’s a start.

There. That’s twelve hundred disposable words and two hours of precious time I could have invested in the fourth R&M. Now I’ve got to social network: ‘post’ ‘tweet’ ‘FB link’. Babies on shoulders? Pah! Williamson didn’t know he was born.

Calling all Romney & Marsh fans!

Hello all,

This is me trying a bit more self-promotion. It’s bound to come across as desperate because I am.

Here is a link to a regular feature that The Guardian is running about self-published authors.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/20/self-published-author-series?CMP=twt_gu

If anyone who has read and enjoyed the R&M Files and has five minutes on their hands would care to give me a shot at a potential boost, I would be extremely grateful.

Thanks in advance. And if you’re going to do it, please do it quickly before approximately ten million other self-pubbers see this and get the same idea 🙂

Also, in my last blog-post titled ‘No Comment?’ I regret not including that I wanted to hear from readers about how they feel regarding authors like me commenting on their comments on Amazon. Please, feel free to chip in. All contributions valued. But not till you’ve filled out that on-line form. Please!

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 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.