How I write a novel – idea to self-publication.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 20.12.2013

It occurred to me this week that as this blog is essentially an online diary recounting my efforts as an author-publisher it might be worth recording for posterity the process I go through to write and publish a novel – start to finish. Who knows, The Paris Review might want to do a piece on me one day (probably when I’m dead. Typical that would be.) and so if I have the material available in the public domain they won’t have to make it up, will they?

I’m essentially talking about the physical process of churning out the finished article here not the generation of ideas. It’s obvious that every novel must start with an idea. I know that writers have different ways about growing their ideas and exploring them. Some plan meticulously with diagrams and post-its and notepads of jottings. That’s not me. Sometimes I write something down if I think I’m going to forget it. I did start carrying a mini digital voice recorder around with me to capture ideas quickly on the hoof, so to speak. This can work well for me because my walk to work and back is when I have most of my best ideas. (Annoying when the batteries run out though.) I get some conversational material this way that I can record as I walk along. And I don’t look mad because just about everyone else I pass is talking on their phones. I’m just talking to myself. Out loud. And recording it. Is that mad?

As for the development of a narrative I’m firmly in the same school as Ray Bradbury, though sadly not in the same class. I’m mostly a make it up as I go along kind of writer. But because I’m always thinking about the story I’m engaged in if something occurs to me when I’m away from the laptop, as I said,  I’ll try to make a note.

Take this new novel I’m working on. It’s the second in the Booker and Cash series. I’m not getting to sit down at the keyboard as much as I’d like to these days so I tried to save a bit of time by taking opportunities when I have some thinking time to plan what’s coming next. But it doesn’t work for me. I can’t work/write like that. I never get anywhere. However, as soon as I sit down at the keyboard it’s the characters who take the threads and run with them.

(Fantastic insight into Bradbury’s writing process and thinking and life here. http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6012/the-art-of-fiction-no-203-ray-bradbury

Well worth a look as are all of the interviews with other authors there. Great resource. The following quote from Bradbury struck a particularly resonant chord with me: I’ve always believed that you should do very little reading in your own field once you’re into it. That’s how I feel. Sadly, Ray doesn’t elaborate on this thinking. I’d like to have known more. (I have my own reasons.)

So, where was I?

1) With my general idea, settle at my laptop. Open three new word documents. One for the book, one for brief chapter summaries and one for character names.

2) Start typing. I always try to leave my writing with something left to do that I’ve already thought of. I mull this over when I’m away from the computer and when I next sit down I can pick up the thread and get straight into it rather than sit and stare at the screen wondering what’s going to happen next.

3) I usually start my writing sessions off by reading the previous chapter. I always make alterations. It helps get my mind into the narrative.

4) When the novel is finished (What? Finished? What happens between the start and the end? Answer: life, thinking about the story, writing, being part of a family, thinking about the story, writing, working, thinking about the story, writing, thinking about the story, eating, writing, thinking about the story, sleeping, writing, thinking about the story, ablutions, writing, thinking about the story, time passes but I’m always thinking about the story and adding to it.)

I write everything on my laptop. At home I write either at the dining room table or sitting on a chair in the bedroom with the laptop on a tray – depends who’s at home and how noisy they are. I carry my laptop to work with me every day and, subject to work commitments, I write at my desk in the staffroom before school starts, during break-times, dinner times, during free periods and after school.

When it’s ‘finished’ I read it through on the computer at least twice. I do a lot of alterations and editing in this phase. The further I get into the books the harder it gets to keep it all in mind, different threads and developments. It can end up a real jigsaw, a puzzle that needs bits moving around for the best effect. A mystery that needs solving.

5) When I’m fairly happy that I have a good draft, I then print it off with a cover page, take it to the shop round the corner and have spiral spine and plastic covers fitted. This makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I have written a book. I usually then go for coffee and cake and walk around with the physical manuscript under my arm and a smile on my face for the day pretending that I’m a successful writer who’s carrying a best-selling book in manuscript form under his arm.

6) Leave it alone for a few weeks.

7) Read manuscript with coloured highlighter pen. Then update word document.

8) Reread manuscript with different coloured highlighter pen. Then update word document.

9) Reread manuscript with different coloured highlighter pen. Then update word document.

10) If I’m happy at this stage I’ll go to (11). If not I’ll repeat the process in 7,8&9 as many times as feels right.

11) Send edited and formatted word document to my Amazon Kindle account. The document comes straight back as something I can read on my Kindle.

12) Read the Kindle version with the original hard-copy within reach. Use a different coloured pen to make further alterations. (That’s three mediums I’ve used to read the book. I find viewing the text in different physical ways brings a new perspective to the experience. I see different things and things differently.)

13) Feel pleased with myself.

14) Send word document to Martin.

15) Martin works on what needs doing regarding proofreading and editing suggestions.

16) Martin sends me two files back. One that is the ‘clean’ revision he’s done and one that is the original I sent him with a markup reading pane at the side showing all annotated changes and suggestions. The text can end up looking like my hard-copy with all the highlighter over it.

16) I read through the clean copy to see how it grabs me. Then I read through the annotated copy to see what Martin’s changed.

17) We might exchange comments, insults and further suggestions.

18) When I’m as happy as I can be with the final copy I submit it to Amazon.

19) Celebrate.

20) Wake up in a ditch or a cold and smelly bus shelter three days later, quite a bit poorer, covered in the evidence of my over-doing it and often semi-naked (a bit like a crime scene from a R&M File) and wishing I hadn’t celebrated.

Somewhere in the process I get to thinking about the cover art and the title. That can happen at any time. I’ll often go through a few titles until I find one that I’m really happy with.

Regarding cover art, I work with Kit Foster. He’s done them all and I’m still very happy with them all. I usually have some strong ideas of what I want to see on the cover and Kit always manages to combine them and come up with something that really does it for me.

So there we have it. Whole process for me to write an 80,000 – 100,000 word novel typically takes between three and four months with work and life in the mix. If I didn’t have to work I reckon I could knock out four books a year. This year I’ve managed two (but I did do a lot of work on the Acer Sansoms and got them out there). All my R&Ms are 80,000 – 85,000 words. The Acers are 100,000 words each. The new novel – Bad Sons – is 85,000 words.

Interfering with my offspring.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 06.12.2013

Last week I got a bit sticky over completing a decent draft of the fourth Romney and Marsh File. I got it printed off at a ‘friend’s’ and now have it in hard-copy form awaiting all that lovely highlighting of stage 2. But I need a week or two away from it. Bring a refreshed perspective to the reading of it. Bad Sons is with Martin. I could crack on with another book but I’ve got something else to do. It’s something that’s been hanging over me for months. Literally. A year, actually. Literally. I have got to produce new editions of the three Romney and Marsh Files that are already out there. Literally.

I self-published the three R&M Files last December and January. I invited readers who felt so inclined to point out mistakes regarding spelling, punctuation and grammar and (heaven forbid) plot. I invited that on Amazon and on my blog and at the back of each ebook. Many readers took the time and trouble to get in touch and let me know about errors they had found in the books. (That sounds worse than the reality). I am eternally grateful to each and every one who did that. It’s been a great help. Honestly. And now, with the first year’s anniversary of my self-publication of Rope Enough looming on the horizon, I feel it is a good time to do something about it all. I imagine that all the mistakes have now been pointed out to me (I haven’t received any new suggestions for some time) and I’m sort of between books. Also, because I have the fourth R&M coming along nicely, I’m determined to have the first three updated with corrections before I self-publish this one.

I started this task last weekend. I wasn’t looking forward to it. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting it off. I knew it would depress me. I knew I’d writhe and cringe and lament all the copies that are out there with silly mistakes in and what readers would think of my ‘professionalism’ for them. I remember that when I waved bye, bye to them I was confident there weren’t any errors. I’d read each title at least ten times.

One of the starkest lessons I’ve learned with self-publishing is that you cannot do your own proof-reading. You just can’t. After a while you stop seeing things. You read what you want to read not what’s there. Give me an English test and I’m confident I’d get most if not all of these mistakes right. I think I’d have got them right last year. I know them but I just didn’t see them because I developed a form of text blindness.

Another lesson learned is that I should have noted each and every correction and suggestion as they came into me, but I didn’t. Consequently, I had to spend most of my weekend writing time going through my email inboxes and blog pages seeking out all the changes I need to make. It wasn’t actually as painful as I expected it to be. I got my lists out of it and with the spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors I was able to quickly make the necessary alterations in all three books. I find it hard to communicate exactly how wonderful it was to correct the grammatical error of ‘would of’ and ‘he’d of’ which are among the most oft remarked upon.

So that was the easy part. Now I’m reading through them again and seeing if a year away has done anything to give me a new perspective on my writing style. I’m only part way through Rope Enough but I’m seeing things I missed all the times I read it before. I’m also changing a few sentences around that don’t read as well as I now think they might. I’m not going to drastically rewrite any of the books or do a hatchet job on any of them. That would be silly because generally readers who have expressed an opinion for the books have liked them as they are. And these books are part of my publishing history, something of my journey that I don’t want to disturb too much – think sympathetic renovation work of a listed building. They represent the ‘green’ me, the ‘naive’ me and I find a certain appeal in them as they are. Is that weird? If I hadn’t published them already, I’m sure I really would go to town on them. But I have. With the books largely unmolested, readers are also able to get a sense of progress (hopefully) in my writing style and expression. They have a sort of rough diamond unpolished charm. Or am I just being stupidly sentimental? Another good thing about self-publishing – ultimately all that is my decision. And the fact that I can do all this so easily is another bonus of self-publishing and its dynamics that I appreciate.

Close, but no cigar.

Best seller charts 3

Writer’s diary: 29.11.2013

Good job we’ve got a ‘special’ day off work today. I’ve got so much to do: extended blog-post to write (no groaning at the back), third draft of the fourth Romney and Marsh File to work on and a CV to dust off and make impressive, attention-grabbing things up for.

Let’s start with the bad news – I’m looking for a new place of work. I hate looking for jobs. I hate CVs. I hate applying. I hate interviews. I hate rejection. I hate starting somewhere new. But it’s got to be done. Every self-respecting professional has a line in the sand over which they will not cross when it comes to work. Well, I do anyway. I’m self-respecting. I’ve been shuffling towards my line for four years and this week I looked down to find it under the steel toe caps of my crowd control boots. (Did I mention I’m a primary school teacher?)

What’s this got to do with my writing diary? I hear myself ask. I would think that certain implications are obvious. However, there is one very big one that isn’t. I find it a little exciting to contemplate. I’ll save it for another blog-post when I’m surer of things and I’ve run out of stuff to write about.

(Interlude. One of my definitions for being a writer of fiction is that one can take the smallest crumb of an idea and be swept up with it in a matter of seconds until it has snowballed into a plot outline for a story. Example: Just as I typed the full-stop of the previous paragraph my imagination swooped on the suggestion of something, like a hawk falls on a small mammal. I couldn’t stop my imagination gambolling about with it for a bit (I know hawks don’t gambol – that’s lambs) and before I knew where I was I had a plot-line for a story that I would like the time to write – if I can’t find another job, I might have to. Here it is in a nutshell: man loses job, man has some savings, man lies to wife that he has new job, man goes out to ‘work’ every day, every week man gives ‘wages’ to wife for housekeeping and bills. [Wife would not like it if he were not working. Sometimes it’s just easier to lie to wives. That’s my experience of marriage anyway. Might have something to do with the reason I’m on my third.] Man isn’t going to work. Man wants to write – man doesn’t want to lie on his deathbed regretting that he never had a proper concentrated go when he has faith in his ability and some small success from self-publishing his stories. Man goes to cafe everyday to write. [So far this is just a summing up next year’s plan if you hadn’t guessed. And don’t worry on my account, she doesn’t read this.] Man overhears something in cafe. A crime to be committed. A heist. Big money involved. Cash. He sees an opportunity to rob the robbers. He follows them. He watches them. He waits for them to pull off their dirty deed and then…can I just remind readers about the law surrounding intellectual copyright and yes, I’ve seen LS&TSB. And don’t think I’m going to be giving away my twist.)

My good news this week is that I have a comprehensive draft of the fourth Romney and Marsh File finished. I’ve gone through it a couple of times and I’m happy that it’s all there. Now I just need to get ‘jiggy’ with it!

I feel a weight of expectation for this book that I haven’t felt with writing any of the others. The first three R&Ms were all written before I took the decision to self-publish and be damned. I had no idea if they would be read or how they would be received. I just put them out there. Now I know, and I believe that readers who have stuck with the series will want to try the next. There will be expectation and I feel it. I have to hope that I can live up to it.

This book has had two working titles, neither of which I was very happy about. The first, Money Talks lost its relevance as the story I initially had in mind turned out to be not the story my imagination wanted to run with. The second Hair of the Dog was too long and I couldn’t see how I could get the cover image trademark feature of this series (one of the letters of the title substituted by something relevant to the story) into the typography. Last night was one of those sleepless ones. Probably something to do with my impending work situation or it could have been the disturbance that my two year old son causes my sleep patterns because he insists on sleeping in the bed with us and lying across my head to get comfortable. (It’s either that or he screams the apartment building down.) I hope he grows out of this before he becomes a teenager. During my small hours wakefulness I decided to kick around a few ideas for a new title and finally something occurred to me that is a) relevant to the story b) something that I can fit in that trademark feature I was on about and c) longer than anything else I’ve come up with (oh well, as Meatloaf crooned) New title: Matters of Life & Death. I’ll give it a couple of weeks before I commission the cover art. Make sure I still like it.

Finally this week. It was with some surprise that I noticed on Amazon that Dirty Business and Loose Ends were both in the top five of an Amazon chart. I’m not lying. See screen shot above. One of my great ambitions as an author was almost achieved – I almost made best-seller status. They are still hanging around up there but I can’t see them displacing the big guys. Perhaps I shouldn’t get too carried away by the achievement of almost being a chart-topper. After all, the chart: Kindle store > Books > Crime, Thriller, Mystery > Thrillers > Assassinations, is the fiction equivalent of the non-fiction chart: Kindle Store > Books > Cookery > Meals on a Budget  > Vegetarian > Ethnic Minority Cuisine > Gluten Free. Still, it was a bit of a buzz for a while. It would have been something, if not for my CV as a teacher, then for my headstone in the graveyard: RIP Oliver Tidy – Best-selling novelist. Somewhere for the legions of heart-broken fans of the R&M Files and the Acer Sansom novels to flock to and pay homage. Maybe lean a red rose against or sob their way through a short reading beside.

Right, talking of CVs…

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.

Keywords!?!

 

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 19.09.2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hell hath no fury like a reader challenged.

Should this book be banned?

Should this book be banned?

Part 1:

Three posts in five days? What’s got in to him? What does he want now? Money? Votes? More of my time valuable?

It’s nothing like that. It’s just something worth sharing with those who I understand make time in their busy schedules to keep up to date with developments in my journey. That and I’m on holiday.

I’m an atheist. But just for the duration of this post, I’m so tempted to wonder if I could be wrong. Sometimes I have to consider whether some bored deity is having fun with me for my lack of faith.

Take the last five days for example. I wrote a blog-post on Friday chiefly concerned with my policy as an author of commenting on comments on Amazon. And what do I find today? I have my first 1* comment.

But it’s more interesting than that. The reviewer in question originally left a comment and a 2* review of Rope Enough (The First Romney and Marsh File) at the end of May. Naturally, I commented on her comment. Today the female in question has edited her comment and downgraded her rating from 2* to 1*. She gives her reasons for this as you will see should you wish to check the exchange out here. You can link to my comment, which I haven’t altered, from hers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B00AIZ5ME6/ref=cm_cr_dp_hist_one?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addOneStar&showViewpoints=0

I’m quite sure that the revision of her perspective and downgrading had nothing to do with her logging on to her Amazon account, seeing that I’d left a comment on her comment and then feeling the overwhelming urge to ‘teach that facetious git a lesson.’

Will it stop me from continuing my practice my way? No. Does it bother me? Given the motives that I suspect are behind her actions, no. Really. I find it quite amusing. What’s more, I honestly feel that I don’t have to respond or make a fuss or take it personally. At the time of writing this Rope Enough has 206 reviews. They are split thus: 119 – 5*, 70 – 4*, 14 – 3*, 2 – 2* and now 1 – 1*.

I don’t feel the need to get funny with her. I am happy to let other readers’ feedback speak for the book.

Part 2:

While I’m here, I’d like to take the opportunity to offer my heartfelt thanks to all those who responded to my plea for support for the Romney and Marsh Files yesterday. I have to admit to approaching feelings of a sentimental nature. And that would not do.
Have a good day everyone.

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!