And finally …

Finally – in the ‘at last’ sense – all round this week.

First up, and briefly, I went to get my jab yesterday morning – or my jag if you’re Scottish – so I started quickly typing this before my arm went dead. In what was possibly a foolish move, McOther and I ordered a takeaway for yesterday evening from one of the town’s two Michelin starred restaurants. This is the French one that’s had a star for some years, but our other favourite restaurant, just round the corner from us, was awarded a Michelin star a couple of months ago, too, which is fab. Amazingly, there were no side effects post jab that detracted from my ability to enjoy an epic meal … not until afterwards anyway. As I sat watching telly with the boys I suddenly began to feel rather cold. I then proceeded to run a high temperature and methodically work my way through the side effects listed during the night. I even scored some of the rare ones – nausea, dizziness and stomach cramps.  Oh and a resting pulse of 110 bpm (instead of 67 ish). If that’s a few light side effects, I can’t imagine how grim Covid must feel if you get it properly. Needless to say, McOther had nothing more than a slight headache, because he is a spawny so-and-so.

The other, more significant ‘at last’ is the novel; Too Good To Be True. I had wondered if I’d be able to write a novel, ever again, and so it was fabulous when this one pretty much wrote itself in Lockdown One. I just have to write another one now. Er hem, yeh. Joanna Penn talks about starting energy and finishing energy in her podcasts. I’ve been in finishing mode for some months now, topping and tailing and generally sorting the book out. I’m looking forward to switching to ‘starting energy’ and beginning a new one, I think having the jab will help with that as ultimately it’s one source of stress removed. Priorities are to write Misfit 5 and get my finger out of my arse and do something meaningful with Space Dustmen. But the one I’m constantly drawn to is the one about how Betsy Coed’s guest house ended up becoming a brothel. It lets us in on what Trev, Gladys and Ada are really up to. The extent of their exploits is only hinted at in my published books because we always see them from the point of view of The Pan of Hamgee and he has no clue.

Finally, the penny dropped that the only way I can relate the clandestine activities that go on at the Parrot and Screwdriver is if I write a story about it in which The Pan doesn’t feature. Over the last couple of years, on and off, that’s what I’ve been doing. I am really enjoying it but I am aware that as marketable assets go, it isn’t really the project on which to concentrate. No. The one I really need to make a proper start on is Space Dustmen. That said, better make a start on Misfit 5. And there’s another K’Barthan Extra about Gladys and Ada which would do nicely as a lead in to the sprawling how-Betsy’s-Brothel-started epic that I’m writing now.

Most likely, it’ll be whichever bunch of characters manages to shout the loudest that wins. I’m looking forward to writing again. It’s always lovely, that feeling of looking out over the face of the waters of my imagination, where dark is separated from night but not much else, and turning it into some new and barking world. Yeh, rubs hands together. That’s going to be fun.

Launch update on Too Good To Be True … was it?

If K’Barth were a lava lamp. Weird and yet … cool? Er, yeh. Hopefully.

No, I think it went actually went quite well for someone with a very small fan base selling something with about as much instant appeal as a fart in a lift. Folks definitely have to live with the smell of K’Barth a little while before they begin to appreciate it … like … the scent of a rubbish dump, or perhaps, a path lab … um … like truffles. Or possibly Goojan spiced sausage.

First up, felt as if I’d got production down a bit more pat. I was slightly up against the deadline at the end there, what with Mum having a stroke, but it wasn’t too bad. Maybe I’m better at separating out my emotional and work life than I was, or at least, the work admin side – because a launch is admin, really. Creativity at times of emotional turmoil is still a bit of an ask. It’s possible I spent a bit more time sitting at my desk than was properly healthy. However, it all seemed to go reasonably smoothly. I haven’t tried using beta readers for a while and it had spectacular results. A novel that was close to four times the length of the previous book took a great deal less editing, which saved time and money so I’m chalking that one up as a win. Am I going to carry on using beta readers? You bet your arse I am! 🙂 If they’re all prepared to carry on reading my drivel. Thank you to any of those lovely beta readers reading. You are awesome.

Second, when it came to launching it … there’s a theory that you have to tell people about something three times for it to work. At the same time, I have no desire to spam people so I always have trouble with creating too much buzz around a book launch. You know how it is; sometimes a bit of buzz is good, other times it’s wasps. However, I have mentioned the book more often in the run up to the launch both here, on the blog and to my mailing list – I think I mentioned it twice in a row to them and three times to you lot. I may yet send out one more final reminder to the list though so they get two reminders about the the competition – because obviously, there’s a competition (more on that story … later). Mwahahahrgh. What was interesting about the three mentions thing was that there were sales each time, which suggests that there is something in the jog-the-memory a couple of times approach.

I’m still at the stage of clutching these to my breast and going, ‘Mine! All mine!’

That said, I didn’t really do much to launch the book as such. I’m bad a tying myself down to dates in advance. That creates pressure and pressure tends to do for creativity. No interviews, no blog tour, not even one of those things where you answer questions on Facebook. Other authors do all sorts of live stuff on line and they also set up a street team of super-fans to post about their book in all those groups where it would be spam if they posted it themselves. That’s something I want to do eventually, get people who like the books to post in the book groups they’re in, just to amplify the noise so to speak. Not sure about the tours, questions and stuff although I am wondering about rabbiting on, on video at some point. But that would just be things like this post, spoken. On the whole though, I think most of that is for writers with a bigger fan base than me.

The thing is, the standard practice for launches is that you build up a buzz, get loads of people enthused and then unleash hell in the hope that you will tip the algorithms in the stores to the point where they start recommending your book to new readers. But you need a list with about fifteen thousand people on it to do that because you need about three or four thousand people to buy the book in the first week. Because of the way my author eco-system, genre and budget work I have 2.5k people in my fan base (phnark) and that’s my mailing list so some may not be fans yet. On the up side, quite a few of them do appear to be genuinely interested. The size of my operation being what it is, the slayer tactic, for me, is always going to be about how many of the folks who sign up to my list actually open the emails, click on stuff and generally interact. Until I reach the point where something magic happens, more people join the newsletter group than leave of a month and it starts to grow in size it’s all about getting to know and engaging the folks who are on it as much as possible. I have got the open rates up from 13% to 30% so I’m getting there but these things take time. I just want to enjoy writing and bring anyone who wants to tag along on the journey with me!

Bearing all that in mind, I aim to try and make 50 sales over the course of the pre-order period and the first month.

Obviously, it’s a bit early to tell if I’ve done that yet. Total so far is – don’t laugh – 34. This is not as many as Escape From B-Movie Hell but I launched that one at 99c so I think quite a few folks took a punt on it because of the price. Also it was straight comedic sci-fi which made it a lot easier and you could make a new release more visible with the right keywords, alone, back in 2015. But with my size of operation, reducing the new book isn’t going to change anything – by catapulting it to the top of the best seller lists for example. And I’m leery of that sort of thing unless it’s going to achieve something meaningful. I’d rather discount it on my own store and give something to my regular readers that way.

Are there any differences? Yes. This time, I have sold way more books via my own web store, indeed, my web store was second biggest source of revenue after Amazon. That might be because I did discount it a bit there, but it’s lovely that folks are beginning to buy direct from as a way of supporting my efforts.

A side note, the third place for revenue was Kobo – God bless you Kobo! There was also a first in that I sold one on Barnes & Noble which was my first sale there after going direct.

Another striking difference, people haven’t just bought this book, there’s been a little blip sales for all the others in the Misfit series at the same time. People have bought K’Barthan Series books too, the box set or the first one. I guess that might have been happening over the other launches a bit but it looks as if there are more of those companion buys at this stage. Unless it’s just more noticeable now there are three other books in the series as opposed to just one or two.

The web store sales might make for a lower ranking on the retailers and less visibility with them, but unless the rank is high enough to make a serious difference – top ten at the least – it’s all just vanity metrics anyway. The lovely thing this says to me is that I am gradually managing to engage with all the folks who have signed up to receive my emails. And that’s bloody marvellous.

There are unique aspects of operating on my shoestring level which mean I kind of do the audience thing backwards.

OK, so, what normal authors do is this: they make a first in series book free on all the retailers or 99c. They advertise their free/cheap books, folks see the ads, download the books and the books start to rise in the store rankings and more people see them and download them. Some of the readers enjoy the books so much they sign up to the mailing list – usually via a link in the back.

Folks who join the mailing list like this are called organic sign ups. They’re folks who love your books because they’ve read one and decided they want to know about everything you do. They are golden.  The point is, it’s a combination of adverts and the stores that are bringing the people to the books and the books that are bringing the readers into the mailing group.  This is a brilliant strategy but works especially well if your books are hot property, or even lukewarm property, or appeal widely to Americans but I’m not quite there yet. In addition, people can just stumble on the free/cheap books on the stores and download them. Sometimes the store may promote the free book if it’s something people want, or sits well within an easily identifiable genre, mine are quite niche so that doesn’t happen. Also, the stores are gradually learning that they can skew the results. In Amazon’s case KU books are weighted in the ranking so they are more discoverable. Then authors do Amazon ads, so Amazon pays a 70% royalty and gets half of it back as advertising revenue. As far as I am aware, the only store where this isn’t particularly skewed in favour of exclusives, advertisers, trad or whatever is Google, which still works on SEO principles I’m told, so you can just put a free book on with the right keywords and people will find it.

This Google thing is something I’m testing. I have two free books on there now and hopefully, I’ve set that up so that any people reading the free books and going on to the others will be reasonably easy to spot.

Anyway. Most of these strategies involve throwing a stack of cash at promos and ads which put your book in a place where it’s visible. As a plankton level author, I haven’t enough cash to make that sort of difference so I get more bang for my buck by advertising the mailing list, which is quite odd but is how it seems to be working out. I would advertise the perma free books but they’re shorter stories so most promo sites won’t take them (note to self, write more novels). However, sign up to get a free book, read it and depending on the results, decide to stay or go, I have this weird thing where my mailing list is stuck at 2,500 and has been for five years. Most of those people are different from the ones who were on there five years ago, but not all. There are about 600 who are really enthusiastic. The way I see it, if I can get to the point where I have 2,500 people who are as enthusiastic as that 600 the compact and bijou size of the list will be less of an issue.

Why do I need a newsletter? Because, like this blog, it’s good to be able to let people know when I have a book out, share stuff I’m working on, and generally not be operating in a vacuum. I like to feel I’m doing this with people rather than doing it alone.

Which reminds me … the competition …


It’s competition time! Oh yes it is.

Bling your morning cuppa or amaze your colleagues with this K’Barthan Hamgeean Misfit Mug!

If you do end up reading and enjoying Too Good To Be True, you can use your incredible knowledge of the plot to enter a prize draw for this smashing K’Barthan mug worth a small fortune.

Oh alright then, it’s worth £15 which would be very small as fortunes go, although it was probably a decent amount of cash back in the 1600s. Er hem, yeh. Moving on.

The rules are simple. All you have to do is read the book and answer a question about the story. If your answer is correct – don’t worry, if you’ve read the book it’ll be easy – you will be entered into the draw … unless it’s illegal to enter raffles in your country, in which case, please don’t enter.

The draw will be open until the end of March. Panic not if you’ve blown your book budget already this month, Too Good To Be True should be available in many libraries across the UK, US and Oceana. You might have to ask your librarian for it though.

Click here to enter.


Filed under General Wittering

16 responses to “And finally …

  1. I’m never going to make it – your energy is astounding! If that’s what it takes, I’m doomed.

    But I am delighted for you, and hope the ball keeps rolling and accumulating little fans like Katamari Damacy, which, if you haven’t played it, is amazing fun.

    Keep it up.

    • Bless you thanks. It sounds harder than it actually is. when you’re in there head down just a little bit at a time and sort them out and then gradually somehow everything is done. But that’s why I’m rubbish at deadlines. Because I immediately get nervous that I’ll miss them.

    • The other thing is to concentrate on how much you’ve done rather than how much is left to do. 😉 But tiny jobs, one for each day so you can do them and not lose morale on a slow day.

  2. Re the mailing list click-through… I was told the other day that if people read the email in the main panel of their email app, without clicking it into opening in a new window, it doesn’t register as opened. For reference, that’s what I do (read in panel) so if you want to check whether I’ve ever opened your email… there you are.
    Re Free first in series. Yes, I’ve been told what a good thing it is, and how it gets people hooked into the whole series, and it can work…. but I know several people with the same experience as me i.e. can ‘sell’ thousands of the free book, and no take-up at all. I have a select band of people who buy each new book when it comes out (most of whom I don’t know). So after ten years, I’m not giving the first away free any more. If they won’t buy it at 99p, they’re too mean to buy the rest 🙂
    (I have taken free firsts and bought a second or third at a reasonable price, but I’m nice as well as impecunious) 🙂

    • Diana

      Oooh — I like that last word. I had no idea what impecunious meant so looked it up. If I remember it I will be trying to use it — a lot — if the situation warrants. Thanks for that.

      I also just went looking and discovered your Princes of the East sample chapters. One more book I want to read at some point. Very very intriguing so far.

    • I’ve had a similar experience. It’s not that they don’t download it, it’s that they don’t read it. The ones who do mostly read on. You are on my blog subscribers list but not my actual mailing list, or at least, if you are, not with the address you’ve given here! Mwahahahrg! But I will bear that in mind. I definitely get more chat than the reported opens would suggest. Either that or like I say, it’s just a percentage of the list who are very engaged! So long as they are enjoying my emails and bulletins it’s all that matters really. 🙂



  3. Diana

    I am more than ready to be beta reader again!
    Please ask me when you are ready.
    Thank you for all the background and explaining you do in your blogs — re writing/publishing.

    Re the vaccine — do you know which one you got? And if a two-shot one, do you know when you get shot #2?
    Where I am they are not following the recommended two-4 week time lag between shots, but seem to be going for a 4-6 month delay between the two. This does not increase my confidence in the vaccine. I am somewhat hopefully waiting for the one-shot version, but I fear that when I sign up for the shot (assuming that I do) it will be a “take what you get” sort of thing.

    Have your symptoms disappeared again yet?

    • Thanks. 🙂 I’m glad the background helps and the beta reading certainly did. I had the Astra Zeneca vaccine. They are leaving quite a gap between doses here too about . Mum had her first shot some weeks ago in early Feb but doesn’t have her second until mid April. I think that’s about 12 weeks. She had the Pfizer one. As I understand it there are worse side effects on the first jab for AstraZeneca and people get side effects more badly on the second jab with Pfizer. That’s is they’re going to get them. McOther didn’t feel a peep. Neither did my mother. I have a couple of other friends who have not had any repercussions from the AstraZeneca job either and I have friends who have already had covered who had the jab and were frightfully ill for two days so it’s the entire gamut of reactions. 🙂

      • Diana

        at least you are in good company. The friends I know who have had the vaccine have had no reported reactions — but I don’t think anyone has yet had both doses, so perhaps that is still to come.

      • I’ve only had the first but word is that with Pfizer, the reaction, if it comes, is worse after the second, and Zeneca it’s usually after the first dose.

        On Mon, 22 Mar 2021, 21:45 M T McGuire Authorholic, wrote:


  4. I loved this bit: “It’s always lovely, that feeling of looking out over the face of the waters of my imagination, where dark is separated from night but not much else, and turning it into some new and barking world.”

    Of note, I searched for “Too Good to Be True” and only found your version after putting in M. T. McGuire. Since it is a Book 4, I hate to start a series off in the wrong place. I’ll see if I can figure out what the first book is. I am assuming there is a ‘1’ somewhere in the description? Though, when people write books, do they always know there is going to be a 2, 3, and 4 later on? I wonder!

    Congrats on the dizzy success of becoming…how did you put it?…oh yes…A “Plankton Level Author.” Speaking as one who only hopes someday to rise to the level of “Bottom Feeder” it’s still damned impressing. Kudos. At least we neither are Chum, and that is no small thing!

    • Thank you for searching! One of the reasons I am plankton is because I’m a bit shit at naming books. It was only when I did it that I realised it was one of 70 books called Too Good To Be True on Kobo! It seems to be a very popular title in romance! Mwahhahrth. This time I designed this series so you can dive in anywhere but the official ‘first’ one is Small Beginnings. The thing to search for with my drivel is always the series name, in this case, Hamgeean Misfit. But in order to make things a bit more straightforward here’s a link to a page where you can find a bunch of links to Small Beginnings – which also has the benefit of being a) cheaper because it’s short and b) free on Google Play this month … if Google Play is your thing. 🙂

      Bottom feeders of the world unite! Mwahahahrgh!

      On Thu, 25 Mar 2021 at 23:50, M T McGuire Authorholic wrote:


      • Thanks for the link. I’m a bit dense in figuring out new technologies. And my library keeps changing what network they are using for digital downloads. But free download might actually encourage me to try to learn a new trick and use Google Play. Woof! (Old dog, new trick! Get it?)

      • Addendum to the above, I found it on Google Play, but they are insisting on filthy lucre to read their version. (I suspect it’s an ‘Across the Pond’ hostage negotiation issue. I bet the UK version is free. America, ironically called the Land of the Free, is anything but. We are lucky we can still breathe the air.)

        If I have to pay, I’d rather read it on my Kindle–I can lie down in bed and read it that way. Thanks again.

      • Bum. That sucks. I set it to free world wide for March. Gits! Sorry about that.

        On Mon, 29 Mar 2021, 21:22 M T McGuire Authorholic, wrote:


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