Happy Christmas!

 

Just a reminder that Smoke and Mirrors should be free to download from Amazon today from the following links. (I do hope I set it up properly.)

Also, please bear in mind that from experience Amazon doesn’t reduce the price to zero on promotion days until late morningish.

I wish all my regulars a Happy Christmas and a great 2015.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Smoke-Mirrors-Acer-Sansom-Novels-ebook/dp/B00R6PLMAY/ref=asap_B00AZIGMWW?ie=UTF8

http://www.amazon.com/Smoke-Mirrors-Acer-Sansom-Novels-ebook/dp/B00R6PLMAY/ref=pd_sim_kstore_6?ie=UTF8&refRID=0N2CZGN5PD0BN36P6EVX

 

A slow news week.

 Get it?


Get it?

This is my writer’s diary. Because it’s a diary I have to make weekly entries. It’s that kind of diary. The entries must have something to do with my second life as a writer. Sometimes there is not much to report to myself.

I have been working on the first draft of Booker & Cash #2. I reported last week that I’d ‘finished’ the story and now I’ve gone back to the beginning. Reading and pruning.

I’ve blogged about my new commute ad nauseum. It’s funny what you get used to. I suppose that’s one of the things that makes the human race so successful. We can get used to pretty much anything and life goes on; we adapt and get on with it. I’ve been using the hour and a bit each way to do some reading on my Kindle. Naturally, being a tight git, I downloaded as many free titles as I thought would appeal to me. Verdict? A mixed bag. I’ve had some good reads but several of them I’ve only given about 10%, and that includes all the necessary guff before the opening chapter. It’s given me a lesson though. In the ebook era when 1000s of titles can be stored on a device it is crucial to hook the reader early. It’s just too easy for people with short attention spans, like me, or too little reading time in their lives, like me, or a virtual mountain of ebooks waiting to be read, like me, to tap a button and move on the next freebie in search of something… sufficiently engaging. I wonder if I would be so intolerant if I only had physical books to read. Probably not. Probably I’d give the books more of a chance.

I did read one brilliant book this last week: 1984 by George Orwell. I’ve been meaning to read it for years and found it online as a PDF document being offered for free. The guy was a prophet. But more than that (and the man’s creative genius of aside), based on the evidence of this book, he was, in my humble opinion, simply a brilliant writer. Full stop. Loved it.

Something else I’ve been doing over the last few weeks is some research for a new series of books I think I might move on to next. I brought half a dozen reference books back from the UK after the holiday and I’ve been working my way through them. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, although I often enjoy it when I do. To be reading books in the name of research for a fiction book I want to write has brought an extra tickle to the reading experience. I think that as soon as I have He Made Me how how I want it, I might make a start. I have the opening scene in my head.

Oh, and this week I got in touch with the nice man who does my covers asking for one for He Made Me. Looking forward to seeing how he realises the fairly scant information I provided for this one.

Interesting statistic for the week: as I write, Rope Enough has 666 reviews on Amazon.co.uk. Ominous?

Best wishes to all.

 

 

Amazon: love me, love me not.

 

Writer’s diary: 29.05.2015

I tried something a couple of weeks ago to boost flagging download figures for my free book, Rope Enough. It didn’t work and it added further weight to my already strong feeling that the only way for an author like me to increase download figures is if Amazon loves me. And there’s not really a lot I can do about that. (Other than continue to send them flowers, chocolates and pictures of me in the shower…maybe that’s where I’m going wrong.) So unless you’re with Amazon’s own publishing company, Thomas & Mercer – where you are guaranteed an unfair advantage in the publicity stakes (allegedly) or you’re already a household name as opposed to something to be whispered in the garden shed – it’s all down to luck regarding whether you get on the kinds of lists that can lead to an increase in numbers of downloads. Or maybe it’s not. I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that.

After not bothering too much with Twitter other than to tweet announcements of my weekly blog-posts and retweet the odd thing, I thought I’d try tweeting loads of Twitter outlets that exist to promote free-giveaways with news of my…er… free-giveaway. Several of them were decent enough to retweet to their, literally, tens of thousands of followers my message and the .com or .co.uk link to the book, and I didn’t see any difference in download figures. I know that the reliability and validity of this ‘experiment’ is questionable. I was after a snap-shot indication. I think I got one, but I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that.

Probably you’ve got to do that sort of thing over and over again, week after week. But who really reads all those tweets and retweets for authors’ books? I don’t. Do you? And even if I do, I don’t go and download them. It’s verging on policy to ignore them out of spite for the brazen self-promotion. Does anyone other than Katie Price enjoy having things rammed down their throat?

OK, sure you have to let readers know. I’m talking about overkill. Perhaps, I’m missing the point. Perhaps, my download figures are the embodiment of my lack of engagement with that sort of thing. (Hey! maybe that’s why no one downloaded my book after my twitter ‘storm’ – too many people think like I do.) Does that make me a self-fulfilling prophecy, or simply a moaning old git? I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that. (But not from my children or ex-spouses. It gets boring after a while, guys.)

I don’t know. I’m just guessing. I think the list you really want to be on is Amazon’s recommendation list. The one where Amazon recommends your book/s to prospective readers who’ve enjoyed others in the genre you write in. It strikes me as a Catch-22 situation: you can’t get really decent download figures if you’re not on that list and you can’t get on that list if you’re not getting really great download figures. Or unless Amazon wants a fling with you. I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that.

Amazon had the self-publisher’s equivalent of a brief encounter with me, I think. (Of course, I don’t know, but it felt like that – a bit superficial, a bit meaningless. Like I’d been chatted up at the bar, been used, abused and cast aside like a soiled conquest.) Why am I even talking like that? I had a great time, too. But Amazon seems to have lost interest in me these days. Amazon won’t make eye contact with me anymore at work. Amazon avoids me in the dinner hall. Amazon turns around and walks the other way when it sees me in the corridors.

Since being reborn as a self-publisher, I’ve been weaned on the idea that social networking is the way to promote yourself and to turn yourself into an C-list author in terms of download figures. There must be something in it. But I haven’t got the time or energy to divert to it and, as I said up there, I honestly believe that the whim of Amazon, like the grace and favour of a powerful monarch, is what counts. The age old story of who you know. I’m open to argument/enlightenment on that.

After all that navel-gazing, I’d like to sign off this week with a funny story, to share one thing on my own writing front. It gave me, and probably my friend, a good laugh. I sent Acer #3 to my ‘gentleman friend’ for a perusal before I get too busy with it. Just looking for some feedback from a trusted, objective source. One thing he highlighted for attention was this sentence: Then he went back to his seat at the window and watched the dessert go by as the sun went down. That was two days ago and I’m still chuckling.

Time Files.

Rope Enough Final JPEG 1205

Writer’s diary: Stardate: 13.12 2013

It’s now been a year since the self-publication of Rope Enough (The First Romney and Marsh File). How time flies. Rope Enough is the first book I self-published and as such was the start of something rather important to me. I feel I should really mark the occasion with a blog-post. So guess what?

When I wrote the book I had no plans to write a series of police procedural novels. I actually got the basic idea from Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. I find it quite incredible that in over four hundred and fifty comments on Amazon for this title only one reader has mentioned that they saw a connection to the film.

Until I figured out how to get Amazon to list the book for free I had it priced at 75p. This was the lowest price I could list it at. (Something to do with the dollar. Isn’t it always?) In the first month of publication I shifted six copies and felt chuffed. In January I sold eleven copies and felt disappointed. In February, eight and felt miserable. In March, eighty four and felt encouraged. In April, over twenty four thousand and felt several contending emotions: gutted that they were all free downloads, awfully excited that so many people might end up reading me, staggered at the figures.

It was at the beginning of April that Amazon price matched the book to zero because someone had told them it was free with B&N and Sony and ibooks. Better late than never. Ever since then it’s been mostly free and it’s been downloaded over eighty thousand times. As a freebie it got into the top twenty of the Amazon free books chart. That was amazing. Since it went back to having a price (77p) it’s always been in the police procedural for sale chart. At the time of writing it’s number fifty-seven. I don’t feel that I really cracked Amazon with it yet. But one day when I get my self-promotion into gear I hope for better things. There must still be millions of Kindles with room on them for Romney and Marsh.

Rope Enough has not made me rich but it’s got me read. It’s encouraged people to go onto to the others. And the knock on from all those downloads is that I’ve had some fairly healthy sales for the other two books in the series. I’ve also had some great communication with people. Generally the comments I’ve received by email, through Amazon and on the blog have been very encouraging.

I’m involved with doing an edit of the book at the moment. That effort has stuttered because I had an idea for another book and I’d always rather be writing something new than raking over old ground, even if it is important. Reading the book again for the first time in a year I don’t hate it. I actually quite like it. A few things have made me wince. Probably the greatest sin I committed was to have a minor character with two different first names. That was bad. Worse than the homophone mistakes and the ‘could of’ error.

I say the book went back to having a price. That’s because I made a mistake elsewhere and then had to withdraw the book from Smashwords and so it was no longer free around the web and so Amazon no longer felt obliged to price match it to zero. On the eighteenth of this month my KDP Select contract expires and so I will look again at relisting it on Smashwords so that I can once again have it price matched for free by Amazon. Having a free book is the best publicity for an unknown.

All in all a good year for Rope Enough. I’m happy with the way it’s gone. And it certainly has gone quickly.

PS Time Files is deliberate. I just know someone is going to call me on it.

The price of free publicity.

 

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 26.09.2013

Tuesday

Last Friday I decided, pretty much off the cuff, to enrol my books in the Amazon KDP Select lending programme. Sales of the R&M books have looked stale for a while and I couldn’t see why I shouldn’t try something to inject a bit of interest into the books and maybe provide a boost to sales and, of course, it gives one a few days in the ninety day enrolment period to give one’s books away for free (if one can). I also thought that the initiative would be an opportunity to give the Acer Sansom novels a boot up the backside. I keep abreast of a few of the big selling ebook authors and I’ve noticed that several have all their books enrolled. They must know what they’re doing, right?

I didn’t sign up in the expectation of earning trillions from Amazon’s monthly fund, but rather in the fumbling-around-in-the-dark sort of hope that, like a generous omniscient deity, Amazon, the all seeing and all powerful one true god of ebooks – peace be upon it – would see my act of giving – not to mention the benefit to them (like me joining in with a give-away programme) – and then there might be algorithm benefits – crumbs from the table, looking after their own, a bit of mutual back scratching. What’s the worst that can happen? I thought.

I scheduled Sunday for a day of give-aways. Strike while the iron is relatively warm, I thought, and before I had a chance to think the whole thing through and wonder what the hell I was doing. I harboured fantasies that these give-aways might also have some relevance vis-a-vis those algorithms – you know, Amazon gives some credit to the author in the form of a positive influence on the book’s ranking. (I have noticed that everything I seem to do lately has an ulterior motive, which ultimately has my selfish interest at heart. Like there’s no ‘i’ in team, there’s no ‘I’m-gonna-get-double-rich-and-double-famous-in-double-quick-time’ in altruistic.)

Well, it certainly had an influence on my rankings. But it wasn’t the one I’d hoped for. When Sunday’s promotion came to an end my title, Making a Killing (The Second Romney and Marsh File), had dropped out of the top 100 chart of the sub-category: fiction – crime/mystery/thrillers – police procedurals – British – set in Kent – without pictures – occasional swear words – between 230 and 240 pages long, where it had been languishing in the late nineties for a couple of weeks. On top of this Dirty Business (The First Acer Sansom Novel), which had been clawing its way up to the low thousands in the sales rank had, like the unfortunate climber whose grip fails him, fallen off the face of the rankings cliff to disappear without trace into the ebook abyss below. This must have been because I had been busy giving away my books instead of selling them. Why does that seem unfair to me?

On the free day I gave away over 900 copies of Making a Killing. I’ve spent much of this week trying to convince myself that I wouldn’t have sold them, would I?; that I haven’t just done myself out of £900, have I?. Oh Amazon, I haven’t have I? What was I thinking?

I made two (other) mistakes regarding the promotional day that I am regretful of: 1) I neglected to mention it on any of my social networking sites – doh! 2) I forgot to download copies for myself – double doh! I really wanted to see my covers on my Kindle fire, but I’m not buying my books for the privilege.  I’ve got better things to spend my hard-earned on.

One other awkward mistake I made in the whole initiative was to register Rope Enough (The First Romney and Marsh File) with KDP Select when it was still available through Smashwords. In doing this I have fallen foul of Amazon. They don’t miss anything. The warning email wasn’t long in coming. Sort it out or we’ll send the boys round. So then I had another decision to make: leave it on Smashwords where it had been listed on Barnes and Noble and ibooks, for two examples, in the hope of reaching a wider audience, or unpublish it from there and throw my lot in completely with Amazon by providing them with the exclusivity they demand.

Since December, 2012, when I first made Rope Enough available for free on Smashwords it has been downloaded through all the available outlet’s stores a total of 839 times. On Sunday as part of the free promotion (yes, it has also been free on Amazon since they price-matched it to zero, but registering it in the KDP Select programme came with free days so I thought I’d use a free listing day for my already free book and see what happened) it was downloaded nearly 1500 times. [Go figure.] Another no-brainer. I cut my ties with Smashwords. (And I have just this instant, while typing this post, realised that in doing that the book will no longer be listed as free on Amazon’s competition sites and so Amazon will no longer feel obliged to price-match to zero and Rope Enough will no doubt very shortly revert back to £0.77 on Amazon.) Swings and roundabouts.

Now I suppose I just have to wait patiently to see if there are actually any benefits from free give-aways and enrolling in KDP Select. Early days.

Thursday

Thought I’d update the bigger picture now that some of the dust has settled. Rope Enough jumped twenty places up the free chart for a couple of days and has now gone back to roughly where it was before the promotion. (This represents an obvious increase in downloads that might see readers look to download another in the series.) At the time of writing, Making a Killing is up to number twenty-four in the police procedural sub-category (it hasn’t been that high for a long time) which obviously represents an increase in downloads. Joint Enterprise (The third Romney and Marsh File) has not seen any significant knock-on (more early days). Both the Sansoms are higher in the ranking than at any time since their release, which is encouraging. Loose Ends (The Second Acer Sansom Novel) even broke into the Action Adventure chart for a short while.

It’s all pretty inconclusive really. I’m just relating for posterity what I’ve been up to. But I seek comfort in my belief that my give-aways will turn up on ‘Customers who bought this item also bought…’ types of list and so that’s a bit of publicity. And you know what they say about publicity.

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.

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.