Treasure hunting. Naval gazing.

It’s the school holidays so work on my book has stopped for a week or two while McMini and I do stuff.

Today was particularly good. We went round to some friends; mine and his. The weather was lovely, we sat on the leeward side of the house, in the warm, out of the wind, and while the kids played together we had a gossip. Then, as their house is 14th Century I thought I’d have a go with my metal detector.

Despite owning it a while, I seem to be taking a terribly long time to get the hang of actual metal detecting. All the permissions etc required take time and so far, I haven’t got round to it. This has made it tricky, well, illegal actually, for me to practise outside my own garden. And therein lies the problem. The detector does several different tones of beep for different metals. However, in my garden it usually gets all the beeps in a single sweep. It makes it rather tricky to pinpoint any of the beeps individually or work out where to dig. Added to my severe lack of experience and you have a recipe for if not disaster then, very slim pickings. All that had come to light, before this morning, was one old nail and I was cock-a-hoop to find that.

However, today I finally felt I might be getting the hang of it. Just like my garden, it was a case, not so much of failing to find anything, as finding too many signals. Three or four different tones on one swing and no obvious indication as to where to dig. The truth dawned that it is not my garden that’s full of rubbish – well it is, I’ve never dug up so much aluminium foil but I digress. Where was I? Ah yes. The truth hit me that metal detecting isn’t walk, walk walk beep, ah yes, dig here, indeed it is clear that my garden is the norm rather than the exception.

So, clearly, I realised, it might be smart to filter out some of the beeps. I played with the settings and chose ‘coins’ because that cut out about half the spectrum including iron, which, frankly, seems to be in most things. I get signals for iron off everything, even the sodding grass. Thinking that there was bound to be the odd coin lying about and at least I’d start to get the hang, not only of finding things, but also of actually digging them out.

The machine reported some coppers – it’s American so it suggested they were 1c pieces but let’s not split hairs. They were pure signals, no interference, so I was able to pinpoint them fairly quickly and dig. So have I found a gold sovereign? Have I been like the blokes at my club who turned up last week with Edward II coins, coins from the reign of King John, Saxon beads and other amazingly ancient things? Am I like the guy who arrived the month before with an Iceni gold coin?

Well… er… no.

After digging two enormous holes in her lawn I came up with well… yes, two coins. They weren’t old, they were pennies, not even pennies, one pence pieces from 1971 and 1979, respectively.

For some reason this caused both of us an insane amount of mirth. Even so, both of us admitted to feeling a slight frisson of excitement that the machine had beeped, that we’d dug and that we’d managed to get something out. Even if it was only 1p.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Success is relative. If I’d been using a metal detector for the last twenty years I’d be expecting to turn up some pretty good stuff. But I haven’t. This is the third time. I went there hoping that I might learn how to find a metal thing and successfully dig it up. So while today’s er… can I call it a haul? was laughable in most respects, I think I might actually have gained that knowledge. Job done then, right?

Food for thought.

Where does writing come in you ask? Well, here’s a short list of THINGS about my books:

  1. I’ve written two books and I’m writing another one. That’s something I never thought I’d achieve.
  2. There’s a chance they might be good books.
  3. People who have read them often like them. Some people like them a lot.
  4. People like the covers… and the merchandise.
  5. Are people buying the books? Are they buffalo?

What worries me? What do I dwell on the whole time? Number five. Because the other four, they make it look as if the K’Barthan Trilogy is a quality product that should walk off the shelves. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t. I don’t know if that’s my fault or if I’m deluded or whether it’s just a reflection of the difficulty of the market and if I think about any of that stuff I will be undone. That way madness lies.

What the metal detecting thing has taught me is that, actually, I’ve done quite well and that maybe I should concentrate on being happier with things 1-4 and on what I want to do next. In other words, I want to find something a bit more interesting than a one pence piece with my metal detector, but until I’ve gained the skill to locate one of those with a reasonable level of consistency, I probably won’t.

In short, when it comes to selling books, no-one really seems to know what works. So all an author can do is show people where to find them, or tell them – where permitted – and hope someone, somewhere will pick up on them. Because the only thing that’s really going to sell your book, ever is readers, who love it, telling their friends. So, let me leave you with the seven golden rules of happy authordom;

  1. Write, as much as you can. Write, to pick yourself up. Even if you can’t think of anything to write, write something. Because every authorholic needs authorhol, and when you’ve written it, get it edited, honed and primped until it’s the best you can possibly achieve. You owe yourself a decent product.
  2. Avoid checking your sales figures more than once a week it’ll only depress you.
  3. Avoid any places where authors who sell hundreds of books a month hang out, because you may find them complaining that their sales are piss poor almost as often as you do, that’ll make you want to weep. Also avoid the it-can-happen-to-you-too stories. It might but it probably won’t. Accept that and don’t beat yourself up.
  4. Try not to be disheartened if you discover that the only place you can persuade anyone to buy any of your books from is Amazon.
  5. Avoid going to forums to sell your book except in specifically designated areas. Go there to chat. If people like you and you’re lucky, they might buy your book eventually but nothing’s less appealing to them than a hard sell.
  6. Always remember that behind every overnight success are usually several decades of hard work.
  7. Remember that the only thing that will sell your books, ever, is readers who have loved them, banging on and on about them to their friends.

There you go.


Filed under General Wittering

17 responses to “Treasure hunting. Naval gazing.

  1. texasdruids

    MT, you’re a wise and funny lady. Good advice to think about! Congrats for finding the coins. Onward and upward, er, downward I mean. If you strike gold, don’t forget us little people who cheered you on.

  2. Absolutely true MTM. Perhaps another thing we forget is how long it took some of the greats to be noticed. We’re sold on fame ‘now’, and that has always been in short supply.

    • Yeh. I would rather not be the next J K Rowling but I have to admit that I would like it if The Pan of Hamgee was the next Harry Potter.

      • trouble is, I’m not sure that you can have one without the other.
        On the other hand, with your three books done and sorted, I suspect you’ll find they provide a very solid foundation for when McMini gives you some of your life back 🙂

      • I’m not so sure. Look at Terry Pratchett. Yes he’s very famous, yes he does, or at least did do a lot of ‘marketing’ before he got ill, he always turned up to conventions and the like, did lots of signings… but nobody pestered his children at nursery or tapped his phone. I think there is an ‘in’ crowd, even among the famous and if you choose to be obviously edgy and ‘in’, if you so much as mention your political stance or endorse any political party you’re fair game as far as the party’s opponents are concerned. Worse, by endorsing politics in any form, you tend to lose the respect of the silent, cynical majority who might otherwise have rallied to your aid.

        I think a lot of it’s luck of the draw. My stance on religion – that it’s essentially harmless but that PEOPLE who use it to do harm are not – will probably get me into a lot of trouble with the more shrill members of the Dawkins brigade but ho hum.



      • Yes, carefully watching your words becomes an art form. I wonder how many who read my blog on the death of the late PM noticed the care with which some of the comments were made 🙂

      • Yeh but that’s partly what I mean. Maggie was in politics and marmite so she’s fair game… in fact that’s more like having a debate about who loves or loathes Darth Vader than politics.



      • She passed the point of being a real person and has become a symbol which people attack or worship. The actions of the real person are perhaps lost in the ‘noise’ of the period. I’d love to read what they say about her in a century or two

      • She was great in many respects. Somebody had to do something about the unions and Scargill handed it to her on a plate. However, there are many skills we have lost in Britain because of her, just as there are other areas where we’ve done well. From the outside it struck me that she was too controlling and impatient, doing everything herself rather than allowing or waiting for others.



        On 9 April 2013 11:16, M T McGuire Authorholic

  3. Next time I run out of inspiration, I’m going to come round and blag a go on your metal detector…

    • Never underestimate it as a hobby. We have one chap who has permission off us and we see him occasionally. He suffers from depression and it is an excuse to get out there. He reckons it does him the world of good.

      • I can believe it. For starters it’s just you and the metal detector alone in a field. You have to concentrate but not so much that you miss the enjoyment of everything around you… I do need to get some permissions, arable land is the best I gather, because every time it’s ploughed more stuff crops up.



      • It is. During the period between harvest and ploughing, unless you actually go in with a JCB, you’re unlikely to do any harm.
        Beware of listed sites that you and the landowner might not actually know about, checking on the OS map first can save embarrassment 🙂

      • I can see that happening to me. Indeed, it’s more of an inevitability. Thought I’d start getting permission of the local council, which they freely give, for responsible detecting on some of the town’s country parks. Have also got the permission to detect on a beach so must find out local tides etc and have look next week.



      • I’m not sure whether anyone round here applies for permission to go on the beach to metal detect
        . Indeed it’s considered a bit boring but potentially quietly profitable. People often give rewards when you find their car keys or jewelry, and you can cover your bus fare in loose change 🙂

    • Actually, after a conversation on Twitter last night I’ve already got, if not a book title then the name of a pub in Hamgee.



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