Metal detecting, and its relation to my hopes as an #indie #writer

This week, I’m unsure how to go about my blog post. TI have several things to say so bear with me as I try to work out a way to jemmy them all in at once.

Ever in pursuit of the elusive hammered coin or interesting… thing, I went out metal detecting yesterday. I learned three things.

  • First that no matter how many smashing Saxon artifacts other people are digging up you have to walk over one to find it.
  • Second, I learned that my waterproofs are not waterproof any more. This lesson delivered as I was the wrong end of a field, about half a mile from the car, in a deluge. More waterproofs required, I think. The manner of my learning this rather sums up my day.
  • Third, on returning home, after steeping in a hot bath, I learned that basically, I’m doing setting the detector up right, choosing sensible places to detect and doing the right thing. I am finding tiny things as well as big things, I am finding things made out of metals and alloys that mirror the good stuff but unfortunately, they are bits of tractor and modern stuff rather than interesting finds. I’m finding miniscule things the size of a quartered silver coin, but they’re tiny pieces of metal. All are things which, in happier circumstances, could be good stuff. My point is that, for the most part, I’m doing it right, it’s just that the artifact gods are not smiling as benignly upon me as sometimes.

In a sop to my efforts, they (the Small Gods of Lost Things) did throw me this fantastic fossil of half a sea urchin. It holds a level of detail I’ve not seen outside the real thing so my day wasn’t wasted.


That white discolouration on the flat side means it broke in half several million years ago.

Onwards and upwards. There’s another dig next week.

Which kind of brings me onto the second thing. As you know, I’ve been a bit worried about my book sales recently. This is because I’ve been doing that fatal thing, comparing myself to other people. Really I should know better.

In order to feel some semblance of control, and in pursuit of social media savviness, I bought and read two Rayne Hall books: Twitter for Authors, and Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes (Writer’s Craft).

OK, if I can go off at a bit of a tangent here… I cannot recommend these books highly enough. I’ve always wondered how to interact with people on Twitter, Rayne Hall gives the answer. If the worst comes to the worst just go to her feed, eavesdrop on some conversations and have a chat. Her advice has definitely worked really well for me. Even in a week I’m having conversations and enjoying Twitter the way I wanted to but hadn’t. She also has what I consider to be an excellent attitude to social media, ie that it is social and that the more social and less of a book seller you are, the more likely you are to achieve book sales. This advice has been borne out by my own experience.

Likewise, while I’d got more of my book production performance in line with Rayne Hall’s there are still plenty of things inย Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes (Writer’s Craft) that I can apply to my own books.

However, what I have learned from these two books, above all, is that for the most part, and barring a few tweaks, I’m doing the right thing.

My book sales are not lighting up the sky, though. Perhaps, like my efforts at metal detecting, the small percentage of fairy dust required is just absent from that part of my life at present. Perhaps. But if I’ve learned anything from metal detecting, it’s that perseverance pays off. If you keep believing and keep digging you will find interesting things. The law of averages demands it. You can’t find nothing but crap. Sure a big part of your detector finds may be but they can’t all be. And they aren’t. Not even for me.

Which begs a question.

Am I simply lacking fairy dust. Or are my book sales better than I think?

Comparatively I mean.

You see, it may be that for someone who has written a book that is, as a friend who works in magazine publishing put it, “Absolutely wonderful, but a very hard sell. I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole if it was submitted to me,” I’m actually doing better than I think.

Usually, a handful of people download my free book each day. Since it went free, in February, I’ve seen a sudden increase in sales of the second book after which, in June and July, I definitely saw an increase in sales of books 3 and 4. From selling a couple of books a month if I’m lucky and shifting a couple of my, admittedly, dodgy free shorts a month, there are now only a couple of days each month when nobody downloads anything.

Don’t get too excited. I’m not ready to make one of those gushing, “I can’t believe that my book is number one on Amazon!” posts on Kindleboards. I’m not even ready to make one of those “my sales have plummeted! I’m only selling 500 books a month” posts either. Mwah hahahargh! I dream of selling 500 books a month.

However, it’s all relative. This time last year I’d failed to sell a single book in three months straight. This year, to my eternal delight, even Kobo users are buying them. The Amazon stats are showing international sales. For the first time, people in France, Italy, Canada and Australia are buying them. For the first time since 2010 I am achieving monthly book sales that go into double figures.

The free book, Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Series: Part 1 is even being downloaded from Google books – although I’m not sure what’s happening there because nobody has bought the others, I’m not even sure if Google is selling them or just pointing people to the vendors links on my website, but it’s a start.

And it brings me back to a piece of advice that has probably kept me sane in periods of recovery from my various knee injuries. Nevertheless, despite the fact I’ve been happily doling it out left right and centre this month it’s one I’d forgotten to apply to myself until now. It’s this:

Forget about how far you have to go, instead see how far you’ve come. Trust me. The answer to that question is always going to be, a lot further than you think. Which is kind of where I am about now.

So, am I earning much? No. The people around me, the authors I chat to from day to day, are earning far more.

Am I successful? No. My literary mates are, for the most part, several orders of magnitude more successful then me.

Am I doing better than last year? You bet your arse I am!

See how it works?

Yes, sure, as flat figures, my book sales are risible. But as a percentage increase on previous efforts they are flying. It’s all a question of how you view it. Sure, in the order of publishing species I’m so low on the scale that I’m aspiring to be a molecule – BUT, and here’s the rub, things might be different next year.

Onwards and upwards.

Coming next week… news of my latest story, out November 1st.


Filed under General Wittering

25 responses to “Metal detecting, and its relation to my hopes as an #indie #writer

  1. Seeing how far you’ve come is great advice. It’s what keeps me going. Just wish I could get everyone else around the house to go along with it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Congrats on the progress and the sea urchin.

    • I have to admit, Real Life took a back seat while I ‘raced’ to finish the K’Barthan Series over 4 years. I’ve had to ditch a lot of the writing time, now, to deal with the backlog of stuff I put off over that time. Hoping to get started on the next book in a couple of weeks.



      • I can tell you that finding a writing/real life balance can be more exhausting than actually doing one or the other. Some days I just want to curl up and sleep for a week.

  2. This was a great post. I’ve played with metal detectors before, and they’re great fun. All I ever found was nails, and pop tops. (Remember those)

    My sales are dismal, but I only have myself to blame. I did almost zero promotion on my older works. 2014 was all about making the older pieces available. As I move into a newer era, I am going to step up my game. With your advice, looking back is a good idea. I’ve traveled quite a distance.

    • I find a fair few pop tops myself! I have it on good authority that nothing much will happen to your sales until you have 6 books out. Apparently it then creeps up with each one you write. Then again, it was four when I started and will probably be eight by the time I’ve managed six!

      I haven’t done much over the last month and now I’m trying a more low key approach. I can’t wait to get writing again though.



      • Me too. Between work trips, and visitors, I’m not going to get much done for a few weeks. I have some vacation time in the middle and that will make me feel better about it.

  3. Looking back is more fun, most days, than looking ahead. Not least because I’m now going to be looking ahead impatiently to your next book….

    • I should manage this one in a year…. Famous last words… ๐Ÿ™‚ There’s an anthology coming out on 1st November with one of my shorts in it.



  4. I could definitely have written this! It’s dangerous comparing yourself and forever moving the goal posts. I feel the same with my blog and my books but, really, I don’t do much promotion so any visits or downloads in a week (mostly Kindle Unlimited these days and I don’t even know if I get paid for those!) is marvellous. Six years ago I’d done no creative writing since GCSE English (a LONG time ago) and now I’m revising my fifth novel. Regardless of paltry sales and one star reviews that’s still some achievement for someone who was told they didn’t have the imagination or writing flair to write fiction.
    When I was travelling I used to worry that I wasn’t a ‘real’ backpacker because I’d never slept under the stars or hitch-hiked or any of those things. A good friend said, ‘stop comparing yourself to the people around you who are there doing what you’re doing; if you must compare, do it against those who have never left home’. If you must compare book sales, do it against all those people who say to you, ‘I’d just love to write a novel…’ and know that you did. Not just one, but four! (All awesome)

  5. Great post. I too get a bit glum when I look at certain figures or where I am in what I wanted to be a big writing career and feel it is not yet enough… but really, in comparison to where I have come from, it is actually quite far. I am not setting the world on fire with book sales, but I have written books and they are out there regardless of how many people read them, so really that is actually a win! I just forget to see it like that. Great advice given too ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  6. Loved your comparisons and yes, very true. Going to take a leaf out of your book and measure my progress like that too – not just with book sales but with other things too. When I look back on the last year, I have done quite a bit – no wonder I’m wrecked!
    I hadnt heard of Rayne Hall – following her now.
    I bet there are lots of people (like me) who are planning to get book 3 and 4 for Xmas and just haven’t got around to getting them yet – you wait and see. Hope you have a good weekend, L

    • Glad it resonated and thank you for the encouragement. I think nearly everyone I know on the cyber scene is going flat out. I think I might try nano wimp this year… I’ll see.

  7. As a fellow ‘Glacial Gal’, i.e VERY slow writer, I LOVE your upbeat optimism sweetie, it’s totally infectious! Yes, onward and upward for both of us! And who knows? YOU may be the next person to uncover a great Saxon horde! ๐Ÿ˜€ xx

    • Too chuffing right! I found a hammered coin from the reign of either King John, Richard 1st or a Henry yesterday… not valuable but over 800 years old… which is nice! Phnark.

  8. Jemima Pett

    Your post resonates with 99.999% of people with books on Amazon, I’m sure. We’ve sold a few, we’ve given a lot away, and that’s why we’re in the top 2,000,000 writers rather than the 8,000,000 behind us.

    When we started, (I think you’re six months ahead of me, Lindsay Buroker is a year ahead ) to be #2million (those 0s are doing my eyes in) was at the bottom of the heap. It isn’t now. We’ve sold books, we’re successful!

    Of course, you should be even more successful, since Few Are Chosen is BRILLIANT and I’ll be posting my review of it on 15th November. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you very much for being so nice about Few Are Chosen. I’m looking forward to reading your books too. It makes me feel very guilty though because I’m so far behind with the books I’d like to read. It does feel like a lot of work to stay in the same place though. Still onwards and upwards. ๐Ÿ™‚



      On 21 October 2014 17:16, M T McGuire Authorholic wrote:


      • Jemima Pett

        Books I want to read..oh, gosh!. I’m just short of my target of 60 for the year and my To Read list is 60 more than it was at the start of the year (now over 300).
        Next year my target is going back to 50. The writing projects have slipped…

      • Wow that’s impressive. I read 10 books a year if I’m lucky. There’s so little time.

      • Jemima Pett

        Yeah, I decided to push myself this year. Mistake.

  9. Kev

    That is soooo coool! I liked that info on the rock breakage. What was the first clue that your waterproofs were no longer waterproof? ๐Ÿ˜›

  10. Stay strong and keep at it MT! You were absolutely right when you talked about the dangers of comparing ourselves to others. There’s a great comic (that I can’t find now) that mentions how humans can never be happy with what they have, only by what they have in comparison of what they expected to have, or what others have. Sounds like things are picking up and your long game approach is starting to pay off. Keep on it! Grow where you can but keep writing. I actually wrote about this same topic ( Take care, hope all is well!

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