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.

Fantastic Fiction?

Rubbish? Or how exploitation of Amazon category choice made me a best seller.

Rubbish? Or how exploitation of Amazon category choice made me a best seller.

Writer’s diary: 16.05.2014

The tag line for my wordpress site has always been ‘on trying to make it as an author of note.’ I have often wondered what the hell I meant by that, and how I would know if it ever happened. I sometimes wish I had chosen something more clearly definable, more transparently achievable.

I’ve had two things happen since last week’s blog-post that make me feel I might be a bit closer to whatever it is I’m after that I don’t understand and wouldn’t know if I fell over it.

1) Amazon chart positions: Last Saturday books two, three and four in the R&M Files were all in the Amazon top 20 for the paid chart British Detectives. It was only for about half a day but it was special enough for me to give myself the afternoon off and buy the family an ice-cream at the park. (It wasn’t my fault that they weren’t there and I had to eat three.) Little successes must be celebrated, I think, as much as the big successes.

No one outside of Amazon knows how chart rankings are calculated (I wonder if Amazon do) but I’m pretty sure that while one could get one book in the top 20 of a chart by some random algorithm there is a bit more than luck and randomness involved to get three books in it. People must be downloading them and they wouldn’t be downloading them if they weren’t enjoying the series after and including book one which is my free try-before-you-by initiative. (For the record it should be noted that the British Detective category is an Amazon category and not one of those obscure ones I made up in order to get Amazon to list me in it so that I could manipulate chart positions and look like a best seller. See below.)

(As I was writing this post on Monday morning Dirty Business made it to #1 spot in Amazon.co.uk Best Seller list: Kindle Store > Books > Crime, Thriller & Mystery > Suspense > Political (see above) and Loose Ends was there in silver medal position. By Monday evening they’d swapped places (see below). OK, so that’s a bit of a remote category but it’s a chart with a top 100 and you have to pay for them. So I think I can rightly refer to myself as a double best seller. (Three more ice-creams later.)

Acerrrrr2

[Acer’s rubbish is he? Grrrrr…..]

Before we all get carried away with my roaring success and start ordering Rolex watches let’s give that some perspective. Up until lunch time 12.05.2014 the books had had the following numbers of downloads on Amazon.co.uk. Dirty Business: 68 sales and 3 borrows. Loose Ends: 58 sales and 3 borrows.(That’s twelve days remember. Best seller in name only, I’d say.)

2) Recognition: I now have an entry on the Fantastic Fiction database, which I consider to be the fiction reference equivalent of ‘Who’s Who’. I did not pay for it. I did not write begging for it. It just happened and I couldn’t have been made happier if all my books were in the Amazon top 10 Kindle books best sellers list.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/t/oliver-tidy/

I have used Fantastic Fiction as a reference point for years as a reader. When I started my self-publishing journey I dreamed about getting on it. And now I am. I have no idea how one gets on there and I don’t care. I’m just thrilled to be there. But I do wish I’d used a better profile picture for all my social media outlets. Me in a bow tie just looks so… For anyone who ever wonders, it’s from my last wedding. (When I say last I mean the one before the next.) To be honest I think I look more like one of the waiters than a groom.

This week it really feels like I have edged towards becoming an author of note as opposed to an author of ‘rubbish’. (Is he still banging on about that? Get over it, will you?) There, I said it so my daughter doesn’t have to.

A Dog’s Life (part 2)

Yes, it's the same image as last week's blog, but I am trying sell a book here.

Yes, it’s the same image as last week’s blog, but I am trying sell a book here.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 14.03.2014

Did I mention that A Dog’s Life (The Fourth Romney and Marsh File) is on its way? I have the smell of the expectant first time father about me. The chemical cocktail of hopeful anticipation, anxiety, fretfulness, worry, concern (not much positivity is there?) is seeping out of my pores to coat me with a fragrant musky scent. People who’ve strayed into my orbit this week have been wrinkling their noses.

I’ve got the Amazon blurb ready, which I see no harm in sharing here.

He’s alive! Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!

Contrary to vicious Internet rumours, DI Romney is not dead. He returns in this, the fourth Romney and Marsh File, to lead his team of Dover detectives in the hunt for doers of dastardly deeds. He’s also looking for answers to more personal mysteries.

The wind of change is blowing through this town. Whether we like it or not, this growth of local crime is a complete fiction.

Broken homes, broken dreams and broken bodies are just some of the cheerier aspects of the R&M File that goes to show it’s a dog’s life.

Full money back guarantee if you don’t enjoy this book. (T&C Apply)

A few of you might wonder at my exceedingly generous offer to refund the purchase price in the event readers are disappointed with this offering. Lots of the big guns have done something similar over the years. It’s a sales gimmick, of course, but it just might encourage a few fence-sitters to topple my way.

I’m reminded of a despicable episode from my book-buying past. I will share it here by way of seeking absolution through my confession. I would one day like to be able to express my sincerest apologies to the author in question.

When Karin Slaughter brought out her debut novel Indelible it came with a wrap around band offering the reader that if you didn’t enjoy the book simply return the till receipt to a given address and you’ll get your money back. I reckon there was probably more than just me who did this (I did it at least three times in various family names) because the next time I saw a similar offer they wanted the book back as well. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the book. I still haven’t read it. It’s that I was then well into my book-collecting phase and the chance of getting debut crime novels (first editions, first impressions in mint condition) for nothing was just too tempting for a bibliophile with a problem and not much disposable income.

I have wondered over the years whether my cheapness had any real effect on Ms Slaughter’s writing career. I’m a bit ashamed of myself for what I did.

Anyway, stable doors and all that. I too have learned from her publisher’s rather rash (IMHO) offer. Yes, I will offer to refund the purchase price but you’ll notice I have bracketed those pesky T&Cs.

I need to formalise and finalise these, but roughly speaking they’ll be as follows:

1) Call at my home for a cash refund. (That’s my Istanbul home). There is no postal/electronic payment alternative.

2) Refunds will be given in Turkish lire calculated at that day’s rate of exchange.

3) Proof of purchase must be provided.

That’s it.

There is just one piece of advice I’ll offer those who travel here to take me up on my offer: make sure you’re wearing running shoes ‘cos my Dobermans are quite quick. (I keep them hungry). And it’s a long way from my front door to my ten foot, razor-wire topped entrance gates, which I can close remotely from the house (oh and they’re usually electrified).

A Dog’s Life – The Fourth Romney and Marsh File – is coming soon to a Kindle near you.

Delusions of author.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 14.02.2014ish.

I meant to say in my last blog-post that I’d be missing in inaction for the following two Fridays – my usual day of the week for flogging the blog. We’ve just had the fortnight’s holiday that falls between the two semesters which make up the Turkish school year. I went home. To England. On my own. For ten days. My dear Turkish wife didn’t fancy the kind of weather that Blighty was drowning in and she wasn’t going to entrust the care of the Halfling to me for the duration. But I wasn’t going home for the weather. I had things to do and family to see.

I must confess to feeling a little like David Booker as TK1965 accelerated up the pitted and rutted concrete strip that passes for a runway at Sebiha Gocken, (Istanbul’s second airport) dodging discarded wheelbarrows and stray dogs in pursuit of airborne status. (If you haven’t read Bad Sons, I’ve just lost you.) But it wasn’t all doom and gloom that I had to look forward to on my return to Turkey. Unlike DB, life’s pretty good for me out here. Didn’t stop me hailing the complementary drinks trolley to a stop as soon as it started rattling up the aisle, though. I love Turkish Airlines.

It wasn’t a busy flight and I had three seats to myself. I pretended I was flying business class. You can do that when you’ve got three seats to yourself and unlimited drinks. After the first couple of large ones have hit your empty stomach you can pretty much pretend anything you want so long as it doesn’t involve the words ‘hijacker’ or ‘terrorist’.

For company I’d taken along my first hardcopy draft of the fourth Romney and Marsh File and a red pen. I’d been itching to get stuck into the first ‘proper’ edit. With hindsight it probably wasn’t too professional of me to start the very important task of editing with a free drinks trolley doing shuttle runs on a half-empty four hour flight. With hindsight it’s also a good job I didn’t rent a car from the airport. That couldn’t have gone well.

Oddly, I really felt like an author on the flight. I made believe I was paying a quick visit to the UK to see my ‘agent’ about something to do with the bidding war that wasn’t going on for my back catalogue or maybe it was something to do with the option to Acer’s film rights that Ronnie Corbett hadn’t got in touch over. (I blame that particularly good French red they were serving rather liberally.) I read and scribbled and laughed a lot. (Again, possibly the wine and my sense of temporary liberation and freedom – think demob sponsored by Merlot.) I imagined another passenger maybe looking over and asking me what was so funny and I’d have had to tell them something like, ‘Oh, nothing. It’s just my latest book. Maybe you’ve heard of me? Oliver Tidy? No? The Romney and Marsh Files? No? Acer Sansom? No? Booker and Cash, perhaps? No? Do you own an ereader? An E…READER. Never mind. (Presses red button to attract attention of cabin crew.) All that happened was that a man who looked suspiciously like the Turkish equivalent of a US sky marshal came to occupy a seat in the empty three adjacent to me. He kept talking into his sleeve (another nut-case) and he looked in my direction a lot. I don’t think he was interested in what I was reading.

As soon as I touched down in UK I felt like somebody. Really, I did. I’ve never felt it before. Normally I just feel completely anonymous. And it was all to do with my books. I know that quite a good number of people have downloaded at least one of my books. I seriously wondered whether I was sharing space with any of them as I fought to retrieve my clothes from my broken suitcase as they made their way around the baggage carrousel in the airport; as I was shoved and elbowed on the escalator; as I stood squashed in with all the other tinned commuters on the overcrowded train (one on which I believed I’d paid for a seat). I felt something and it felt good.

James Oswald has recently recalled how he felt seeing one of his books being read opposite him on a train journey (seeing one in the wild as he so humorously put it). Sensibly, he says he was cautiously optimistic – no point revealing yourself if there is a chance the reader is hating every page. But he must have felt effing brilliant about himself. I was looking around expecting at least every other passenger on the slow train from Gatwick to Ashford International to be reading on a Kindle. Maybe I could have struck up a conversation, although remembering my one and only other attempt at such shameless self-promotion maybe it’s just as well absolutely no one was. Where are they all? I was under the impression that everyone in the UK owned an ereader and read voraciously on them.

I so wanted to be stopped in customs (I’ve never been stopped in customs in my life) and I wanted the pompous, bespectacled, tubby official to ask me if I had anything to declare. Thanks to Oscar Wilde I had my line ready. (Probably a good job there was absolutely no one official-looking in the customs hall. Doubtless all on a tea break while the world’s smugglers were hard at it. I imagine they hear Oscar’s line all the time from drunk twats suffering with delusions of grandeur and they probably have a good time exercising their body-search rights as some form of mocking retribution. Maybe that’s where they all were – some other pretentious self-publisher high on self-delusion and free spirits got in there just before me.)

For the record, it was four days later that anyone mentioned any of my books. That includes family. My eldest son was after a loan for a car. It occurred to him that if I was selling books he might be able to touch me for a few quid. I have the measure of him. I told him that if he’d care to read one, just one, and let me know what he thought, we could discuss the matter further. He pulled a face, got up off his knees and told me how bad things would have to be in his life for something like that to be likely before wheeling away and muttering under his breath. I can read him like the back of my strong hand.

In one of those short intervals where it stopped raining I took myself out for a walk around the village to which I am no stranger. We’re talking Booker and Cash country. I allowed myself to be seen. I waited for some kind of recognition, just a pointed finger, a bit of whispering or a quizzical look would have been nice. An autograph hunter could have made my holiday. Bugger all. Still, it’s only been out a couple of weeks and my trip home did happen to coincide (unwittingly, I can assure all) with the Romney Marsh Sheep Winter Olympics (a festival in which specially trained ewes and rams of the locality are encouraged to ape (!) the sporting endeavours of their more famous human Olympian counterparts currently disgracing themselves through their participation in and thereby support of the shenanigans of an oppressive, homophobic, intolerant and bigoted regime somewhere very cold and dangerous) so locals were understandably distracted. (Talking of cold and dangerous, I stayed out of Dungeness. I came home seeking accolade, admiration, appreciation, not to get my head kicked in. Think The Hills Have Eyes with shingle.)

On the one fine and dry day of my stay, I visited Dover cliffs with some immediate family (I was ever vigilant that son-number-one was between me and the cliff edge at all times.) We walked from Dover to St Margarets Bay in the brilliant sunshine and a gusting wind. We had a good dinner and a good couple of pints in the pub on the front there.

Dover cliffs are the setting for the denouement of the first of the Romney and Marsh Files, Rope Enough. I haven’t been up there in years. It was wonderful to visit and relive some fond real memories as well as some virtual ones. It was something of a relief to discover that I’d got the geography and features of the area about right. The old war time anti-aircraft installation is a bit further on than I remembered and now fenced off because it is teetering precariously on the crumbling cliff edge – didn’t stop me getting in though. I had to. It was that important to me. The whole day was and it was all because of that book. I felt proprietorial. I felt I had rights. I’d have looked pretty stupid if the relic from the last war had decided to plunge into the English Channel on that particular day. (At least I would have been remembered for something and perhaps books sales might have seen a spike.)

Thanks to family I had a good time in the UK. I missed my writing and I missed my two year old son with a weighty longing that cast a pall over my time away. (It would have greatly helped alleviate my anguished mental state had my dear Turkish wife remembered to inform me before I left Istanbul that she was moving flats while I was away and would have no Internet or phone for a while. I’m sure she didn’t do it on purpose. It must have just slipped her mind in all the confusion and feverish activity involved in moving lock, stock and barrel at short notice. It’s a good job the new people in our old flat could tell me where she’d moved too when they caught me fumbling with a key that no longer fitted the lock to my old front door at two o’clock in the morning. That was after we’d cleared up the understandable confusion that arose. Thanks to the Pidgin English speaker in the building’s armed security response team for that. No hard feelings. Those jeans were due to be thrown out anyway.)

I couldn’t write while I was away; I didn’t take my laptop. But I was mentally productive. From nowhere I came up with storylines for both the third and the fourth Acer Sansom. I’m glad of it. I’m pretty keen to get back in touch with Acer but I just hadn’t worked out a way in. I feel that if someone paid me to stay home for six months I could finish the next two in his life. (Offers by email.) And they’d be worth it. I also had a good idea for something to incorporate into a future Booker and Cash – thanks to the Dymchurch Art Appreciation Society for that. (I went along to the village hall with mum on a very wet Wednesday afternoon and really enjoyed the talk on Vermeer. He could paint. One wonders where he found the time what with all that work providing pretty shiny surfaces for antique furniture.)

I got through the fourth R&M and like it a lot. I think I’ll title it, A Dog’s Life.

I want to say a big thank you to all who have downloaded, read and then commented on Bad Sons here, on Amazon, by email and on Goodreads. It wasn’t a condition of downloading it for free that you had to say something nice about it, but many of you have and I’m very grateful. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

So, I’m back in Istanbul. Back in the bosom of my Turkish family (the wife’s unaccountably frosty, like someone who sees a great plan unaccountably fall apart [think anyone who has tried to invade Russia in winter] but the Halfling seems pleased to see me). Back to my laptop (think The Simpsons and their television set). Back to R&M 4 (where did all those red wine stains come from?). Back to my day job (brave face). Back to job hunting for next year’s day job (hopeful/pleading face). Back, as they say, to (crushing) reality.

A brief encounter with my annus mirabilis.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 03.01.2014

It seems like only last week was last year.

It appears to be something of a custom in the blogosphere at this time of year for bloggers to look back on their previous annus (sorry to disappoint my legions of mucky-thoughted followers – no more bum jokes): reflect, sum things up and make lists. I have decided not to subject anyone to that other than to say…

What an amazing year it’s been for me as an author-publisher! I’ve had a positively annus mirabilis. (Sounds uncomfortable, I know, but I’m assured it means something good.) It was December 2012 – just twelve short months ago – that I uploaded my first book to Amazon. I now have five on there and two finished and in the editing pipeline.

Like the famous Mrs Pig of traditional story fame I sent my three little pigs (my three R&M Files) out into the big wide world to fend for themselves. They have managed to support themselves, garner some appreciation and even send a little cash back home to papa like all dutiful absent children should. (The fruit of my loins could do with reading that. In my opinion they have completely the wrong idea about which way money should be travelling in the parent/offspring relationship.)

Generally, the five books (three R&Ms and two Acer Sansoms) have been well received. Comments are overwhelmingly (in both senses of the word) positive and encouraging. I’ve had a few duffers, of course, but you can’t please all the people all the time.  (That’s one of the top five things I’ve learned to accept this year.)

In the books, on the blog and on my Amazon author page I asked readers, who wouldn’t mind doing so, to point out any errors that they came across. (Another thing in my top five of things learned the hard way: the services of a proofreader are essential to any aspiring author.) Readers have been wonderfully helpful and constructive. A huge thank you to all of you who participated and helped me. For the record I am now ‘fixing’ all the errors highlighted. Rope Enough is done. Making a Killing is halfway there. I want to put all the new versions on together before I submit another book.

I’ve been an active social networker. I’ve blogged once a week. I find Twitter and the rest of it a bit dull in comparison. One thing I do have to work on is some proper and effective self-promotion. (Another of this year’s critical lessons. See below.)

I’ve worked bloody hard. I’m always working at something to do with the books. It’s like a second job in nature, only more enjoyable. You’ve got to love it or you’re screwed as an author-publisher.

I started out craving a traditional publishing deal, like a fat person craves cake. I wanted to be ‘discovered’, coaxed, fed from the palm of a kindly literary agent and tamed as a raw talent. Nurtured, pandered to and cultivated. It would still be nice but I’m more realistic about things these days. I’m also more appreciative of the whole self-publishing deal. Self-publishing is not the sad and desperate last throw of the dice by sad and desperate writers. It’s liberating and empowering and it’s also quite groovy.

I’m looking forward to 2014.

So, because I’m in danger of boring myself, on to the top five things learned this year in no particular order:

1) The services of a decent proofreader are essential.

2) You can’t please all the people all the time, so stop worrying about duff reviews. (unless you are getting loads, of course, and then there is probably something wrong with your work).

3) Writing something half-decent is only half of it. In order to maximise success an author-publisher must wear many hats and often. One has to get stuck into self-promotion in a big way if one wants to be big. You don’t even have to be a great writer, it appears. If you are the type of person who can sell snow to Eskimos, write a turd of a book, sprinkle some glitter on it (ie splash out on a great cover) and get promoting.

4) It’s all about commitment. One must have a driving passion for being an author-publisher. Being an author-publisher is like having a second full-time job. Because one must write, correspond, write, promote, write, network often – daily ideally. I know I’m cut out for this life because I enjoy all aspects of the ‘job’.

5) Don’t stop dreaming about success and believing in your ability to experience it. But keep a lid on it. I am reminded of a line in an oft misquoted poem…If you can dream – and not make dreams your master…

Oh, look, I had a summing up and made a list after all.

Finally, two really good blog-posts I would like to share. If you are in involved in writing and self-publishing in any way, shape or form they are worth looking at. One from the legendary Joe Konrath is the practical one and one from a guy who I envy, admire and hate in equal measure, James Oswald, is there to feed the dreams. He is living the dream – my dream. I shouldn’t resent him for it and I don’t, really. Much. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: bloody good luck to the man.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/konraths-publishing-predictions-2014.html

http://jamesoswald.co.uk/?tag=2013

This time last year I was a self-publishing nobody. And now I’m a couple of rungs up the ladder. It looks like a big ladder. I can’t see the top. There are people climbing over me in a frantic rush. There are people above me losing their grip to plummet to Earth. My knuckles are white and my knees are strong. I’m pacing myself. Upward and onward. I’d like to lead everyone in a couple of verses of that traditional yuletide ditty, What the Fuck by the seasonally appropriately named Sak Noel.  (Does anyone know if that translates to Santa’s scotum?) The title, at least, totally sums up my surprise at the way things went for me in 2013.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBlY53fgN-k

­Talking of poetry, here is a less well known verse than last week’s but no less meaningful for all that. It’s certainly appropriate.

Annus Mirabilis not by Philip Larkin

Self-publishing began
In twenty, nine plus three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of middle age
And my impending RIP.

Up to then there’d only been
A sort of wistful scribbling,
A writing for the fun of it,
A shame that started at fifty
And not before.

Then all at once the penny dropped:
Everyone felt the same,
We sold our souls to Amazon
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

I dream life will be better than
In twenty, ten plus three
(And not too late for me) –
Between the end of middle age
And my impending obituary.

You can see the original here

http://www.wussu.com/poems/plam.htm

Happy New Year and sincere thanks to everyone who has supported me.

Immortality Anyone?

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 10.10.2013

As Jimmy Durante might have been moved to type, had he been a writer instead of a whatever he was, sitting at my computer the other day a bolt from the blue struck me clean between the eyes – a laser beam of inspiration. It left me dazed and reeling and then excited beyond words with its potential for furthering my career as a best-selling author of note and making me quite wealthy. I haven’t felt so enlivened about an idea since my brainwave at fourteen that my dad should try to cross the Atlantic by pedalo to get famous and rich. I still have an old black and white photograph of him going into the water off the Cornish coast. I hope he made it. He never writes.

It is quite possible that this is not an original idea. There is little originality in the world anymore – even less so in writing and self-promotion/self-publishing/self-prostitution. But I haven’t stolen it from anyone. Any similarities to anything existing are purely accidental and coincidental. (My lawyer said I have to write that bit.)

My big idea concerns generating interest and money (in advance) regarding my next Romney and Marsh File. It suggests to me the possibility of making a lot of easy money and generating a media frenzy to rival Savilegate. Perhaps I could, just for a day, an hour, be what’s become all-too-commonly known as ‘an Internet sensation’.

So, here it is: I’m going to sell off the names of new characters introduced to the literary experience that is The Romney and Marsh Files. For a trial period of one book only, ordinary mortals (readers) can gain immortality through the pages of the next ebook instalment of this hugely popular contemporary mystery/crime/thriller/police procedural series. Think about it. The ebook will never be out of print. For as long as the planet manages to generate electricity your name will, like the love in the theme tune to Titanic, go on and on. Generations of your ancestors will be able to share with friends, family and colleagues your foresight, your famousness – you will be remembered for eternity on Earth (and maybe on a spaceship heading to far off galaxies). And when the TV rights get purchased…

Why stop there? My head is now literally splitting with my body’s physiological inability to contain my enthusiasm for the natural progression of this idea and it does hurt. Crimson rivulets seep from the torn seams of my cranial flesh as the joins of my skull succumb to and expand with the internal pressure of original thought. There’s something else there too, something clear and sticky to spatter my clothing, laptop and desk. I can sell the title! Romney and Marsh and the Case of the Missing (insert brand name here) Tomato Ketchup. So what if there isn’t any ketchup in the story. Who would care? Merchants, think about readers scanning thumbnail images in Amazon’s crime fiction department – Death to All, Everyone Must Die, No Survivors, Massacre and Mayhem, The Case of the Missing (insert brand name here) Tomato Ketchup (Brand name and instantly recognisable product logo over-sized).

I can approach leading brands for product placement rights within the story.

DI Romney sat down heavily and proceeded to drink noisily and thirstily from his cold and highly refreshing tin of Diet Coka-Cola (deliberate typo. No one has paid anything yet) ‘Oh God, DS Marsh that tastes so good. I’m so glad I choose this brand over all others because it really hits the spot and quenches my thirst in ways that no other cola comes close to and I’m sure my libido and sexual stamina are increased by my daily consumption of Tescbury’s own brand fair trade rich dark chocolate which is on special offer at participating stores this month if you just mention my name (DI Romney) and the promotional code number 48839.’

‘Really, sir? I’ll definitely be giving those two products a try next time I visit Dover’s Castle Wharf Shopping Arcade which has free parking on Thursday nights between seven and nine. And a carvery.’

DC Grimes pushed through the double doors into the inner sanctum of CID.

‘Hey, Peter. Your hair has got a real shine these days. What conditioner are you using on it?’

‘Morning serge. The wife discovered this amazing brand of two in one shampoo and conditioner which saves me time in the shower and gives my hair this healthy glow. It’s called Wash and Run and it’s really cheap. But never mind that now. Have you tried the new bog paper from Morristrose? So soft and absorbent. One wipe and just about everything comes off clean and fresh. You wanna look?’ Grimes’ hand went to his belt.

Yes, we all mention brands in our books from time to time, but for effect rather than profit. In my first Acer Sansoms I had the villains driving around Istanbul in Audis. Maybe I should contact Audi and threaten to change the Audis to Range Rovers if they don’t provide me with an Audi TT or a cash alternative.

But what I’m really talking about here is proactively seeking sponsors for product placement and not just a bit of name dropping. Example: DI Romney pulled up to the petrol pump in his new Ford. This could become: DI Romney pulled up to the petrol pumps in his new Ford Mondeo 16V Cosworth in Air Force Blue with Recaro seats and the alloy wheels optional extras. He’d bought it on the strength of it being voted Which Magazine’s best value family sports saloon for the second year running. He’d been particularly fortunate with his purchase – Ford were operating a 0% finance package over five years for anyone quoting the promotional code: RomneyandMarshCosworthOffer.

Maybe I could forget writing and become an agent. I could set up deals between authors and advertisers. Have a website – a proper one not a blog pretending to be one. I could take a commission. I could become rich and infamous.

So where was I? Right, selling names of characters in the book. I think I should create a sliding scale of fees that matches a character’s involvement in the story. So far we have:

Main murderer – £500

Murder victim 1 (non speaking part) – £100

Murder victim 2 (speaking part and lots of screaming) – £250

Postman (non speaking part) – £100

Alien that DI Romney finds in his garage (speaking part but you can’t understand a word it says) – £250

Man masturbating in lift (non speaking part but plenty of strange noises) – £100

Mad woman who drowns kittens in bucket of her own urine (speaking apart) – £250

Maybe I need to go back and write in some more characters. Maybe a few of them should be more appealing to be identified with by potential investors craving immortality. Let’s face it if you’re going to be immortal you want to spend eternity as someone cool, not a wanker in a lift (literally). Or maybe I should auction off the roles. Dutch or normal. The sky’s the limit for this shizzle. The opportunities are limitless.

I’m half-way through the book so plenty of time for interested parties to contact me with offers regarding opportunities to prostitute myself, my art and the holy sanctity of the written word for economic gain.

I know what you’re thinking but look what’s happened to TV. The haunted fish tank has product placement all over. Everyone’s selling out, leaping aboard the gravy train, claiming their spot at the trough. My mum told me about Jamie Oliver. If the squeaky clean Golden Boy of cookery can bend over to take it from the corporate advertising gang-bangers there must be a fortune to be made. Why else would he do it? In fact why did he do it? Surely, he doesn’t need the money. Silly me. Money’s addictive. Obviously.

Maybe Romney and Marsh could get fed up with being confused with that corner of Kent and change their names by deed poll to Rolls and Royce (big money in that one) or Benson and Hedges (controversial but with the muzzle on cigarette advertising these days I reckon they’d jump at it. I could have all the covers re-deigned to look like fag packets (great thumbnail images). Romney is well known for his filthy habit but I’ve never named his brand. I could. For a regular standing order into my off-shore account.) Oh, hang on. What did I say about original thought? Someone’s ahead of me with that one – Bryant and May. (Break for belly full of scorinish laughter.) What was he thinking? What can they offer him? There’re only so many free boxes of matches one can use in a lifetime. Maybe DI Benson and DS Hedges could bump into Bryant and May in a book. Think of the laughs and in jokes. (If you do let me know because they escape me.)

So, immortality anyone? Sort of.

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!