So far, so bloody brilliant!

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Writer’s Blog: Stardate: 02.06.2013

I’m going on holiday tomorrow. I’m going back to the UK for five weeks. I heard that. Before you say anymore, I’m a teacher. I deserve it. Don’t believe me, try it for yourself, or ask someone you know in the job. Flipping energy-vampires. I’m knackered. And don’t forget I’m an author too. And a dad of a two year old with so much enthusiasm for life he makes Forest Gump look like a couch-potato.

This will be my last blog-post until I return to Istanbul in August. I’m having a break. I’m making that decision now so that I don’t have to suffer the self-imposed pressure to churn out another instalment in my spluttering attempts to be an author of note. (Yeah, I’ve cranked it up. I want to be an author of note now [whatever that means. Some other woolly term to trouble my sleep patterns.] not just an author. One thing that I’ve learned: in this day and age anyone can be an author.)

So this seems like a good and timely opportunity to look back on my first six monthish as a self-publisher. A bit of stock-taking as in taking stock. And please remember: this blog is essentially an on-line diary of my experiences as someone trying to make it as an author (now of note), so a six month review of how things have gone so far doesn’t seem too self-indulgent. If it does to you, you know where the delete button is.

It all started here

In early-December, 2012. I uploaded Rope Enough to Amazon and Smashwords. At the end of that month Making a Killing went up on both and in mid-January of this year Joint Enterprise joined them.

The following figures are only for Amazon UK. (The books just haven’t taken off at all across the pond. Perhaps British police-procedurals aren’t their thing. Perhaps Amazon was kinder to me in the UK by putting my books on some lists to get them noticed.) I’ve already established that I don’t do much self-promotion. Smashwords, as I have blogged, could not hold a cheap tallow taper to Amazon for me. I’m sure Smashwords works better for others.

So, through Amazon UK, Rope Enough has been downloaded over 56,000 times. (Before anyone gets too excited for me, over 55,900 of those were free downloads – list price for the sold copies netted me @35p an ebook. You can laugh.) Making a Killing has been downloaded over 4000 times. (A good number of those were through Amazon’s KDP free days. Not so funny.) Joint Enterprise has been downloaded over 2000 times. None of those were freebies. (Now who’s laughing?)

It’s really worth repeating that if Amazon had not price-matched Rope Enough – The First Romney and Marsh File to free then in all likelihood I would still be getting download figures each month in the tens. To illustrate that, February was a typical month for me for downloads: Rope Enough 8, Making a Killing 4, Joint Enterprise 2. March was a little more encouraging but the figures were influenced by my KDP free lisiting days for Making a Killing, which I had enrolled in KDP Select. After the price matching in April things really started happening. The vast majority of the downloads have come in the last three months.

The cover art cost me £100 a book. And that’s the only financial outlay that I’ve had to make.

I’ve got into blogging, something that I’ve really enjoyed. I’m as fond of my blog as I am any of my books. I tweet, but I’m less enthusiastic about that – too much noise. It’s like whistling in a summer dawn chorus.

I failed to win a place on the CWA Debut Dagger shortlist, something that I’m not embarrassed to admit I really wanted, had set my heart on and truly believed that I had a chance of.

I haven’t been idle. I have not been resting on my Romney and Marsh Files’ laurels. I have three other full length novels that are in various stages of the editing process. I have a hard-drive of ideas. I’m soon going to start the fourth Romney and Marsh.

WordPress stats tell me that my blog has been accessed by people from seventy five different countries, or places on earth that have their own flag. (See image above with a magnifying glass. I did my best.) That is an amazing stat. A great number of those people, I know, have either read a Romney and Marsh File or been scouring the Internet for information (let’s be honest, probably pictures or videos) on ‘Female Ejaculation and Gay Men’, one of my more popular blog-post titles. Were they disappointed? How I laugh every time I see another hit of that gem on the stats.

So what’s been the best thing about this good start that is my foray into self-publishing? People actually. Or more precisely readers. Or more specifically readers of the Romney and Marsh Files who have taken the time and trouble to get in touch and let me know what they think of the books. It hasn’t all been good. But it’s all been valuable and gratefully received. Amazon comments, comments on the blog and private emails. I have been truly bowled over by the number of readers who have contacted me to say something about the books. I’ve had some wonderful, meaningful, and useful exchanges. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made some virtual friends. (Anyone who actually knows me is going to think that I’m either drunk or dying after reading that. I have more in common with DI Romney’s misanthropic side than I might have previously owned up to.)

If I hadn’t taken the decision to self-publish and be damned my three Romney and Marsh books would be still be skulking in the bottom of my wardrobe, under the bag of odd-socks, and I would have denied myself one of the most truly enjoyable episodes of my life.

Regrets? Not a one. I’m looking forward to the next six months.

Here’s wishing all the Romney and Marsh Files’ readers a great summer. Thank you one and all. (Even you Suzi.)

Tweets and Twits.

(Warning: This post contains some fucking bad language at the end.)

Writer’s blog: stardate: 17.05.2013

Part 1:

Self-publishing has dragged me, if not kicking and screaming exactly then somewhat reluctantly into the modern technological age. As well as the computer skills that I have had to master – things like formatting the text of a novel, constructing a table of contents, uploading files and the like I have had to get into social-networking. (As an anti-social misery-guts, just the term social-networking makes me want to punch someone. I feel like such a shameless, hypocritical fraud sometimes, even though I have to admit that I’m enjoying myself immensely. But how it eats up the time. Take this blog-post, for example. I wrote it last night and I’ve proof-read and edited it at least five times. Why? Because it’s important. [I bet that there are still mistakes that I will find after I press publish.])

I’ve had a Facebook profile for a few years but it’s not something that I’ve wasted much time with. It was only created so that my two grown-up children and I could keep abreast of each others’ lives and in touch as we moved apart geographically. Quite ironic really then that almost as soon as I upped sticks and moved abroad they both blocked me from having access to their profiles.

With the decision to self-publish came the pressure from all good sources to create and maintain an online presence: a poor-man’s website, aka a WordPress blog. I really wasn’t keen. What on earth would I write about? Who the hell would be interested? How does it work? What does that button do? (Oh, crap. I just deleted my account.) But I have come to love my blog as much as any of my books. I am in the habit of writing once a week on my self-publishing adventure and when I look back on it, it really does remind me of things that I might otherwise forget. And that would be a shame. I’ve written over fifty posts. Each is a good few hundred words and I feel like I have a lot more to say.

I believed and hoped that that would be it – that a blog would be enough. But it isn’t. I’m already feeling that blogs are becoming somewhat passé. These days anyone who is serious about getting noticed for anything must have a Twitter account. I swore I’d never have one. I couldn’t see the point of ‘tweeting’ and being restricted to a hundred and forty characters. What could anyone say that was worthwhile in such a limited number of taps of the keypad?

A very kind and helpful reader of my books suggested that I should get a Twitter account and then get using it. So I have. And I think that, like most things in the right hands, it has the potential to be a brilliant tool. Essentially, I’m still ‘tweeting’ to myself, like in the beginning I was blogging to myself, but these days I get regular daily traffic on my blog from all over the world (incidentally, I find that quite fantastic). I can see the potential that Twitter offers if one should want to get heavily proactive (I haven’t yet) or followed by a few influential ‘tweeters’.

I see Twitter as a reflection of the short-attention-span-generation: little gobbets of information being pinged about (tweeted and retweeted), everyone in a hurry, quick remark and on to the next. I write a blog-post and it’s there for a week in pole position. I ‘tweet’ something and in an hour its old-news, superseded and buried in an avalanche of ‘tweets’. But the instant reach of the ‘tweet’ is not to be underestimated as a tool to garner attention and links and contacts and to generate interest. I just need to break into some of the cliquey (?) circles. (Will that be a chicken and egg thing? What comes first, success as an author and then a Twitter following, or success as a Twitterer and then an author following? [There’s something wrong with that sentence, but I can’t work it out. Still, I’m sure that you know what I mean.])

The biggest challenge that I’m finding with all this extra interest is where to find the time it takes, or rather the time I’m spending on it all. Every day there are things to check. As well as emails, I now have my blog comments and stats, my Twitter account, my Amazon download figures and comments on the books on Amazon and my Smashwords account. If someone’s got in touch then I respond (strangely not because I feel that I have to, but because I want to [see previous post]). I’m getting up half-an-hour earlier just to see to it all and sometimes that’s not enough. I ‘tweeted’ this this week and it’s true: Q: How do I split my free-time between self-promotion of self-published #RomneyandMarshFiles and new writing? A: Work twice as hard.

I need to become more disciplined. At the moment, every time I find myself near a computer it’s all of Lombard Street to a China orange that I won’t be able to resist logging on to all of the above – getting a quick fix and then getting cross with myself for my vanity, my weakness and my lack of self-discipline. I might as well be smoking again.

I hope that next week there isn’t something new to get my head around.

Part 2:

I had my first 2* comment this week. It was for Rope Enough – my free download. It didn’t make me happy. I really could accept a 2* comment with good grace if the person who left it provided an intelligent and valid reason for it – something to do with my writing. It still wouldn’t make me happy, but I could deal with it like a man. The reader in question downloaded the book, read it (?) and discovered it wasn’t what she expected.

‘Thought I would like this coming from Romney Marsh, but it’s not really what I was hoping for. I don’t recommend it.’

I wonder if you can hear my teeth grinding at that. I wonder if Christopher Fowler has to suffer comments like that for his Bryant and May series.

‘Thought I would like this having worked in a match factory….’

Maybe Colin Dexter has had to deal with his fair share of misguided comments for his Morse books.

‘Thought I would like this seeing as I used to work in the Signal Corps…’

Doubtless, Tom Selleck has had to deal with communications from angry viewers who tuned in to watch a programme about fucking ice-creams to be confronted with a fucking Private Investigator masquerading as a fucking seventies porn-star.

Just to be clear for anyone who might have sensed a bit of a tone here: Romney Marsh is the name of a little corner of Kent in England (see map above). It is a place and not to be confused with Romney AND Marsh who are fictional characters working out of Dover as quite fucking clearly stated in the fucking blurb of the fucking book.

Serves me right for trying to be clever, I suppose.