A Dog’s Life (part 3)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom...

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom…

Writer’s diary: stardate: 21.03.2014

I thought I’d kick off this week by sharing a true story.

As part of my job, teaching English as a foreign language to young learners, I do a phonics lesson each week. This week it was the ‘ch’ sound.

When I teach a phoneme I like to complement my lesson with a Power Point presentation using appropriate and useful vocabulary and pictures to inform and consolidate understanding. In my experience, using PPT also acts as something of a technological sedative for the little blighters. Great when they come in from killing each other for fifteen minutes at break-time.

As part of this week’s vocabulary bank I chose the word ‘rich’. I accompanied the word on the PPT slide with a Google image of piles of cash. I explained as best I could that having lots of money is one way of being ‘rich’. (No good talking to this lot about how having great friends and cultural interests makes one ‘rich’. Just appeal to their basic interests.) I joked with them about how rich I am thanks to the money their parents give me each week for teaching them. Just a little harmless banter I thought. Until this seven year old girl, who is normally so sweet and respectful, sprang up out of her chair, pointed at me and shouted ‘Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!’

I was quite taken aback by this outburst. I was also quite disappointed to note that several of her colleagues started laughing and took up the chanting and pointing. ‘Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!’

What was I to do? I couldn’t ignore it. I mean, where would we all be? This is the kind of thing I left my kindergarten job in the UK over.

Sensing that my authority was being challenged and that to let it go would see my reputation as ‘school tough guy’ irrecoverably damaged, I acted. I was also a bit cross. I had her out of the chair by her pigtails and on the tips of her toes down to the Vice-Principal’s office quick enough to make her cry. Good. One to me. I thumped on the VP’s door. Two minutes later she opened it wiping the sleep from her eyes with one hand and smoothing down her bed-hair with the other. (A quick scan of the interior showed the tell-tale signs of recent horizontal occupation of her ‘meeting sofa’.)

I propelled the girl into the office and proceeded to explain events that had led us to this point.

A flurry of gabbled Turkish followed, of which I understood nothing. Par for the course. (It’s only been five years. These things take time.) A few more tears. And the girl was dismissed. The VP shut the door and turned to me. She then patiently explained to me that ‘fakir’ in Turkish, which sounds very much like ‘fuck you’ when pronounced by a native, means ‘poor’ as in the opposite to ‘rich’. The little girl had been calling me ‘poor’ for a joke, not inviting me to go and fuck myself, she said.

Live and learn.

I always thought build-ups to a book’s publication day were supposed to create a buzz of positive excitement and feverish anticipation. Churn out a couple of titillating blog-posts, engage in a Facebook frenzy, tweet like a summer dawn chorus and readers will be queuing round the virtual block with all their mates to snap up a copy. All I’ve got this week is grief – messages telling me to stop idling, pull my finger out, bloody well get on with it and release the thing.

I came across an interesting gimmick this week for increasing revenue via a new book release. Chap called Andrew Gross released his thriller in three parts on to Amazon. He might have even pulled this stroke more than once. Readers had to pay for each instalment. At first I thought that was a bit too cheeky of him. Then I realised it’s nothing new – Dickens and Conan Doyle, to mention but two, sold stories in instalments in weekly newspapers. And more recently, Stephen King did something virtually similar (or should that be similarly virtual?) with his story The Plant. I began to toy with the idea of releasing A Dog’s Life chapter by chapter to be made available weekly on Amazon as a download. There are twenty-one chapters in the book. I thought I could release them one a week at a mere £0.77 per chapter. That would net me an incredible £5.25 in Amazon royalties per whole book sold. I distinctly remember licking my lips at this realisation. I remember thinking that if I could shift ten copies that way it would pay for me to go out on the lash for the evening. Then I realised I’d have to wait twenty-one weeks to see the full profit from such a scam (surely business initiative? Ed) actually make that eighty weeks – Amazon don’t see monthly royalty payments as something to fall over themselves about.

Then I thought to have a look at Mr Gross’s feedback on Amazon, see how things went for him. And I quickly abandoned the idea. Readers were not impressed with his jolly japes. I almost felt sorry for him. He’s probably changed his name and has had cosmetic surgery by now. A Dog’s Life will be released in its entirety at the ridiculously low price of £1.99.

Every now and again, I manage to claw my way up the Amazon free charts with Rope Enough and just when I feel on the cusp of a whiff of an inkling of breaking into the Amazon top one hundred free books chart  (the promised land for self-published authors) Amazon go and make the book £1.99. I think they do it deliberately. No rhyme or reason for it. It’s like playing snakes and ladders and getting to ninety-nine and finding myself on a snake’s head whose tail is on two. Two days later they put it back to free and there I am teetering around the ten thousand mark in the  free charts once again.

I’m writing Acer #3. It’s not easy. When I write, I like to sit and let the bilge flow through my fingertips, but I’m spending more time on Google maps, Google satellite, Google images and Google normal than I am writing. It’s killing my creativity. I haven’t sworn on this blog for a while but fucking hell…Iran…what was I fucking thinking? If it wasn’t Iran, I’d go there and try to soak up some of the ambience of the place. Maybe take a week to go where Acer has to go so that I get it right. Actually, no I wouldn’t because it’s not like I’d ever even make the bus fare back in sales. I’ve got half a mind to make it a short story and have Acer stoned to death by an angry mob. The End. Move on. Get back to a location that I have a vague idea about.

Acer#3 – Page 2:

The UN inspectors’ convoy came to an abrupt halt on the outskirts of Tehran. They were still lost. ‘Fuck this shit,’ said Acer. He adjusted his Raybans, stepped out of the vehicle and hailed a gaggle of old men taking their ease in the shade of a cafe awning. ‘Oi, where do you hide your WMDs?’

‘Didn’t you lot learn anything from Iraq?’ answered one of them who, judging from his accent, had been educated at an English private school. His cronies laughed. Maybe they were all old Etonians.

A nearby group of young men in traditional Iranian dress turned their attention to the exchange. Sensing a rare opportunity to strike a blow for his country, one of them bent down to pick up a pebble. He weighed it in his hand, never taking his eyes off the white man who had come as part of an international delegation to discredit the country that he would give his life for…I’d better stop now. I’m beginning to like the idea too much.

Oh yeah, I’m aiming for a release date of April 1st for A Dog’s Life. Is that symbolic? Time will tell.

The Price is Slight!

Writer’s diary: stardate: 28.02.2014

In January of this year I aligned the prices of my books to £1.99 each. A brave step? An arrogant leap? A hopeful bound? A foolish jump (to be quickly followed by a plunge into oblivion)?

When I first introduced my brood to the world I went into the market place like 633 Squadron (look what happened to them: crashed and burned, shot to bits, disappeared without trace, forgotten, bright young lives cut short. Ok, perhaps, the implied comparison is a little…dramatic? But I had to wonder: would that be me? Anyone craving a shot of classic British war film, nostalgic, iconic, movie soundtrack, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRVu18h2mfA – give it twenty seconds). Where was I? Oh yeah, low and fast all guns blazing, and screaming manically (one of the neighbours called the police). In equal measure, I was brimming with confidence at my invincibility, mumbling to a god I can’t believe in, shitting in my flying pants in case I’d got my approach all wrong, it went tits up, and I was spread all over the ebook battlefield like the contents of a jar of Robertson’s finest conserve.

I am a keen observer of the charts (every morning I spring out of my basket beside the bed [the bed I have been displaced from; the bed I used to get half a good night’s sleep in before the Halfling decided he’d outgrown his crib and wanted to move up the wooden hill and Bedfordshire’s property ladder to something a little ‘roomier’] skip to the computer while the house slumbers on, and with heart thumping like a hopeful Lotto ticket holder checking last week’s numbers after having been shit on by a bird in the street [that’s supposed to be good luck. The world is full of loonies.] I check my position in the only chart that really matters – Books>Kindle Books>Fiction>Crime, Mystery, Thrillers>British>England>Kent>Romney Marsh>Police Procedural>Contemporary>Silly Detectives’ Names. In short, I like to see how the books are doing.

When my books first went onto Amazon I priced them as cheaply as I could, as cheaply as Amazon would allow. For those of you who don’t know, the cheapest that Amazon will allow one to list a book is the British pound equivalent of $0.99, which back then was £0.77. The only way I know of that one can get one’s book’s price lower than that is to have one’s books listed as cheaper to purchase through other recognised ebook outlets and then for Amazon to be informed of such and then for Amazon to feel like matching that price.

In my initial desperation to get my books read, I gave them away for free through Smashwords. All three of the R&M Files could be had for nothing. Like I said, and I do think it’s worth repeating, I was desperate just to be read, to get some reaction.

In time Amazon price matched Rope Enough to £0.00 and that was my wake-up call to form a marketing strategy. I’d had some positive feedback, some helpful criticism and some encouraging comments. I dropped the second and third books from Smashwords (living outside the UK and the US and without a credit card I was unable to set up a payment system) and as I was giving away my first I then took a leaf out of other self-publishers books (sorry) and introduced an incremental purchase price scheme – first book free, second book, £1.50, third book £2.

Next out were my two Acer Sansom novels. Again I thought that the best chance I had of getting these read, getting some feedback and getting them into those all important charts was to make them available to download for the cheapest price I could: £0.77 again. That worked. I had a good number of downloads and the books were visible in a couple of obscure charts.

Then I brought out Bad Sons and I felt it was time for change.

I’ve been self-publishing for a little over a year and my opinion on pricing has changed (I want to say matured but I’m not sure that’s quite right). When I was new and unknown, I felt I had to do something special to attract readers to my books. And it’s my belief that the best way to do that is good covers and cheap prices. If I had to choose between the two, I’d say cheap price is the single most important factor in encouraging a prospective reader to click download.

A year on and I don’t feel quite so unknown (I’m still not remotely well-known but I do have a foot [OK maybe a pointed-winkle-picker-toe-cap] in the door that opens out onto the promised land of ebook  world. I don’t feel so desperate. I no longer feel the need to (yes, it’s time for something rude) offer myself to the customer like some backstreet harlot, spread on her filthy, stained mattress under a plastic awning while people line up round the block to exploit my talent. To continue the analogy, I’ve not decided to install myself in a suite of rooms in The Ritz either: there are some ebooks being touted for over a tenner (for a computer file hahahaha) and they’re in the charts. That’s high class hooking.

When I think of myself as a prostitute (not something I often do, I hasten to add, but I seem to have caught my stiletto in the fishnet stocking of this extended metaphor) I prefer to think of myself as having my own room in a quiet and respectable part of the neighbourhood. I think I’m charging a fair price for a fair service/product. I like to think I’ve gone up in the world. Gone are the days of £0.77 knee-tremblers in darkened recesses at kicking out time. I’ve made myself a little more dignified. Perhaps, I’ve also given myself a few airs and graces.

All this brings me nicely onto that time worn topic of conversation: what is a fair price for an ebook? Think of everything that goes into an ebook, the promise behind that thumbnail image stuck on the screen in front of readers like some obscure stamp in a philately catalogue. Hard work: months of time, effort, consternation, desperation, late nights, early mornings, sacrifices (I’ve gone through a number white chickens), intellectual property sharing, blood, sweat and tears. Money: the price of a good cover, editorial services, maybe the services of a publicist, a website and a website designer.

What does an ebook offer a reader? Escapism, entertainment, an opportunity to get in touch with their emotions, a laugh, a cry, some learning, some diversion, something to do.

What else will £1.99 buy you? Half a pint of lager in a pub; a cheap coffee in Starbucks, a BLT sandwich from a high street name; a pack of three own brand condoms; half a dozen free range eggs; a King of the Day Burger (T&C apply); 6 pints of semi-skimmed milk or a 200g tin of corned beef, for examples.

And then there’s the lasting effect dynamic of whatever one is spending one’s hard-earned two quid on to factor in to the equation. The memory of a good book will stay with a reader long after he or she has pissed out the beverage, pooped out the sarny, beaten the eggs or choked on the bully beef. Granted a pack of three can also provide escapism, entertainment, an opportunity to get in touch with one’s emotions, a laugh, a cry, some learning, some diversion, something to do, but you’ve got to put some effort in, you can’t just lie back and enjoy it like you can an ebook…actually…anyway, where was I? And in my experience it costs a lot more than the price of a condom to get to the position in a relationship where it can fulfil its intended purpose and then there’s often a hell of a price to pay afterwards: hidden costs. Those cut price condoms have cost me two houses already! I should have just bought a couple of ebooks. (Sorry. It is a bit funny.)

An ebook that sells for £0.77 on Amazon nets the author @ £0.27 – four downloads to make a pound. That no longer seems right to me. I think we’re all entitled to look for something a bit ‘fairer’ than that for what we do, for what we’ve put in. Time will tell whether that decision has been the right one for my books. Initial evidence shows that what shoving the price up has done is push me to the arse end of those all important download charts. Still at least I only have to sell one book to make a pound these days instead of four. Swings and roundabouts.

So, what do you think? Will you come on down(load) ‘cos the price is right! (Did anyone groan at that?)

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!

Hope or train?

 

Writers blog: stardate: 19.04.2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

Making A Killing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Loss-Leader Strategy.

Writer’s blog: stardate: 10.04.2013

WARNING: This blog contains some big numbers to crunch.

Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2

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

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

The snowball effect.

 

Writer’s blog: stardate: 05.04.2013

Part 1

Two weeks on from my KDP Select programme promotional weekend. (See earlier posts for details). In those two weeks the month changed and so a new month’s sales record was started. In those two weeks I have seen a steady and encouraging increase of sales for all three of the books in my R&M series.

Rope Enough has performed and continues to perform well. It has only fleetingly been out of the paid  top 100 for its Amazon category since the promotion. As mentioned previously, there could be knock-on reasons from the promotion for this but I am more inclined to believe that the book’s presence in that top 100, its visibility, is responsible. It’s also cheap at only £0.77.

Last month – the month of the promotion – with Amazon.co.uk I had 84 downloads of Rope Enough. April is not five full days old yet and already I have made 43 sales. Making a Killing has sold 9 and Joint Enterprise 4.

I do no self-promotion.

Amazon.com has seen no sales of any of the titles, yet.

For anyone who is interested in these things I have collated total sales of the three books on the two Amazon sites below. No doubt in my mind that the KDP Select promotion has been a boost.

Amazon Sales Record

December

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough – 6

Making a Killing – 4

Joint Enterprise – NA

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 10

Making a Killing – 5

Joint Enterprise – NA

January

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough – 11

Making a Killing – 13

Joint Enterprise – 5

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 14

Making a Killing – 10

Joint Enterprise – 3

February

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough – 8

Making a Killing – 4

Joint Enterprise – 2

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 11

Making a Killing – 9

Joint Enterprise – 7

March

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough – 84

Making a Killing – 20 (351 through free promotion)

Joint Enterprise – 14

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 11

Making a Killing – 3 (219 through free promotion)

Joint Enterprise – 7

April (up until today – 5th of the month)

Amazon.co.uk

Rope Enough – 43

Making a Killing – 9

Joint Enterprise – 4

Amazon.com

Rope Enough – 0

Making a Killing – 0

Joint Enterprise – 0

Part 2

I am looking again at the first book that I ever wrote. It is a thriller. I wrote it about three years ago and it has been resting in a drawer at home waiting for the right time for me to sort it out. I am glad that I have waited. The overall plot, characters and progression, I don’t find particularly horrible to experience again, but the writing needs a substantial amount of attention. Reading it has demonstrated to me just how much, to my own way of thinking, I have grown as a writer – I want to write improved.

I am reading it on the computer and changing things around as I go. It’s quite nice to get reacquainted with the characters. It’s quite embarrassing to read some of my sentence structures and clichéd descriptions. It’s quite a relief that I waited before doing anything with it.

I have also written the sequel to this book, which I will go onto next. Both are around 100,000 words. Then I think that I will self-publish them.

I have posted before about the difficulty of finding titles for books and this first book has been the bane of my output to date. I have gone through at least a dozen titles that I have been temporarily keen on only to find that after a week or two, a month or two, they just don’t do it for me anymore. I have even toyed with the idea of changing the central character’s name so that I could utilise it (cleverly) in a series of titles as seems to be the fashion. I was going to change him from Sansom to Double. Then Sansom to Counter. Both words combine with others to provide a wealth of opportunities for snappy titles. But he isn’t Mr Double and he isn’t Mr Counter. He is Sansom. The character of Sansom has been a part of my life and as well as liking the name I can’t be so mercenary with it. I have an association with this character that I don’t want to corrupt; I wouldn’t be comfortable selling him out. Is that stupid, I wonder?

Anyway, the read-through has now given me a title that I like a lot, for now. I am going to call this book, Dirty Business. It’s a good fit. It’s short and suggestive. I hope that I still like it in a week. Also it will allow me to keep the title of the sequel, which I have – surprisingly – kept since writing it, Loose Ends. I need to commission the cover art soon, so I have to be sure. I’ll give it another month. By then I hope to have both books ready to go out.