In brief …

Life is feeling a bit like this at the moment …

Just briefly, some writing news this week. It’s the end of term there’s loads of stuff on at the school, sports day, for example, but because of Covid it’s been split over two days, an afternoon and a morning. I also appear to be completely and utterly knackered in that I have slept through my alarm for two days running. Ugh.

I have also got a bit down with the marketing. Slowly but surely, I am cobbling together a box set of funny books from seven authors. However, I am making very slow progress and at some stage I have to bite the bullet and appreciate that I am going to have to stump up ready money for a cover. This is why I haven’t done one before, of course. The cover. Because if we’re clubbing together to make a free book, I don’t want to charge anyone anything. But the folks I know who have done this are able to design proper, professional standard covers as well.

There’s also a conundrum with the name. I have what I thought was a great name but one of the authors dislikes it intensely and it would be useful if I could come up with something we all agree on. It’s funny fantasy and sci-fi first in series books. Originally I thought of calling it The Light Fluffstastic, in a play on 1990s comedy shows, Terry Pratchett and the fact they are comedy stories. One of the bigger names hates that so I’m trying to think of something else, but of course, I can’t get the light flufftastic out of my head now.

All the other marketing is going rather badly. I’ve tried having a book on 99c special this month, and as it’s Pride month Escape From B-Movie Hell, with it’s gay heroine, seemed like a good one. I’ve sold 10 copies so far, although it has been mentioned in the Ebookaroo newsletter today fingers and toes crossed there may be a handful more. Other authors, most of the ones I hang out with, run sales and give aways at the stores to gain visibility. That is not an avenue of expansion that is open to me because those 10 copies are actually a fantastic result.

How to get my books in front of the people who’d like them then. Hmm. Therein lies the million dollar question.

If only it was this neat in my head …

Advertising is very expensive at the moment. Unless I spend $5 or more a day, my Facebook ads never seem to get out of the learning stage and worse, the ones that had have gone back in! Yeek! This is to advertise books that make me $200 a month maximum. And of course it’s 3 months until I get any of the money from sales via retailers. Bookbub ads … ugh. I spent ages doing one yesterday, only to discover the ruddy thing had signed me out at some point in the process so when I clicked save, it all disappeared. Can I remember what it said? Can I buffalo? But even when I manage one, I can’t get the things to deliver. I’m begging them to spend my money but nothing’s happening. I guess I need to spend $5 a day plus there, too. Then there’s the fact I have more readers on Amazon than anywhere else but that isn’t where I want them. Amazon is volatile and hissy with its suppliers. I don’t want 80% of my income coming from the least reliable of all my outlets. I need to expand my readership to the other platforms but … ugh. Again. How?

Making a book free isn’t working – not enough downloads so it remains invisible, and even where it isn’t there is zero read through, which is a bit of a bummer. Google play, I get stacks of downloads for my free shorts in places like India and the Phillipines. I have reduced my prices in those countries accordingly (I am making 6p on each sale) but there is still no read through. Bit pants really. I suppose that’s why my marketing efforts tend to be quite basic. I get discouraged. And of course, there’s no time to have it running on more than tick over.

Since my marketing efforts at the moment are having such piss poor results, I’ve decided to concentrate on getting the box set finished and writing.

At the moment it’s all a bit like this.

As a result I wrote just under 1.5k yesterday. Was dead cuffed with that. This is a new series and I intend to have written three or four books before I bother publishing the first one. The world is still building itself right now so it’s taking a while but it’s only by beginning to write more of it that I can solve these conundrums … you know … does the station run on fuel cells that synthesise power from wee (actual existing thing) or is it the ship that runs on wee? Stuff like that.

It’s all a bit amorphous still but there’s definitely enough going on to start writing, and my curiosity is aroused enough to work on it regularly, which helps. I began it before and got 40k in but it was more of a sweeping epic, the baddie was bad, the stakes were high and there was a definite arc across the series that lasted about four books.

Right now I need to do things I can write in shorter instalments so while the sweeping epic was happening, it wasn’t happening very fast. Also, I know they don’t sell, or at least, not mine. Reading comedy books from people who do manage to sell them, it seems that they are a) a lot more slapstick and less sophisticated, b) the plots are simpler. I can’t really do slapstick and less sophisticated because I can only do it the way I do. I have no idea if it’s funny or not when I write things, the comedy part has always been more about making it look deliberate.

However, I can simplify the plots a bit, drop the multiple character POVs and make each book more like an instalment in a situation comedy. Or to put it another way, make it less of a Lord of the Rings style epic with added jokes and more like Porridge in Space.

The advantages of doing it like that are that I can probably include more world building as it goes on and the humour will be in the side characters, the surroundings, and our hero’s continued battle to get one over on a Mr Machay type of overseer who has taken against him. I dunno how many I can do, which is why I’m not going to publish the first one until I’ve written several but I can set it up so we don’t necessarily need an end, or at least, not until I decide to write one. The disadvantages to this are that I am very unsure as to whether I can think of that many adventures for them to have. Also, I do love the idea of a sweeping epic battle between good and evil. Although I’m doing another K’Barthan book like that, so I should try to be content with one, I think. In a nutshell, I guess I think that a kind of Porridge in Space might sell better than anything else I’ve done, but have grave doubts as to whether my comedic talent is up to it.

But I’m aiming for something a bit smoother like this.

Only one way to find out. Have a go. So that’s what I’m doing. The first one is provisionally entitled ‘Dignity Pants’. I’m enjoying myself, even if it ends up being crap. Right now, it’s so amorphous that I can’t tell. Then I’ll sell it as a straight sci fi space opera, which will be way, way easier than trying to sell humorous sci fi, which is officially a hot niche – woot – but only because it’s becoming a sub genre of romance, therefore burying my and any other books that actually are comedic sci-fi under a deluge of nekked manchest, rom-coms-in-space. Same thing happened to Fantasy.

Alongside this stuff, I also need to write some more Hamgeean Misfit stories. I’ve made a start on book five but my heart isn’t really in it, except it sort of is so I think this one probably begins in the wrong place. There is something creeping out of the woodwork there so I’ll let it ferment for a day or two and then have another go. I also need to finish the expanded version of the Christmas story I’m doing which features Gladys Ada, Their Trev and, of course, Humbert. That one has reached it’s first end point the mission is accomplished … sort of … but now they have to get home. I decided that they were going to run into some difficulties on that score but I haven’t started writing that bit so I’m not sure how many difficulties there will be or what, exactly will happen. I think that one’s about 12k at the moment so I suspect it will probably hit about 20k or thereabouts by the time I’m finished.

I guess the biggest problem is that I just take too bloody long to write this shit. It’s so annoying. But it is what it is.

Onwards and upwards. I’ll see how it goes.

On another note …

Yep, once again, I’m cutting my own throat here, but if you want to pick up an award-winning comedy sci fi novel for a song, now’s your chance.  Escape From B-Movie Hell is down to 99c/99p for the month of June. If you’ve already picked it up, do feel free to share the news with anyone you think might like it. Here’s the blurb.

Escape From B-Movie Hell, 99c for pride month.

Escape From B-Movie Hell, 99c until July 2021

If you asked Andi Turbot whether she had anything in common with Flash Gordon she’d say no, emphatically. Saving the world is for dynamic, go-ahead, leaders of men and while it would be nice to see a woman getting involved for a change, she believes she could be the least well equipped being in her galaxy for the job.

Then her best friend, Eric, reveals that he is an extraterrestrial. He’s not just any ET either. He’s Gamalian: seven-foot, lobster-shaped and covered in Marmite-scented goo. Just when Andi’s getting used to that he tells her about the Apocalypse and really ruins her day.

The human race will perish unless Eric’s Gamalian superiors step in. Abducted and trapped on an alien ship, Andi must convince the Gamalians her world is worth saving. Or escape from their clutches and save it herself.

If you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, feel free to share the ‘good’ news with anyone else who you think might. If you haven’t read it, and think you’d like to give it a go now it’s so cheap, then for links to buy – either from me or your favourite store – click here.

13 Comments

Filed under About My Writing

13 responses to “In brief …

  1. I dunno. Counterintuitive: raise all your prices since you have all formats? And those narrations.

    • I might do that. Originally my books were where they are now – mostly $4.99. But I put them up as high as $8.99 for a while. I think the long ones are $6.99 at the moment, the novels under 100k are $4.99 and the shorts are $2.99. The offer on Escape was to try and pull some new readers in. I am still not convinced that free books work either, unless they are short and pithy. Long ones just get stored on the ebook reader and never looked at. Ah it’s such a conundrum.

      • If we could just
        1) find our intended readers, and
        2) MAKE them read a bit of what we have so carefully crafted for THEM…

        Those horses you lead to water don’t even realize they’re thirsty!

      • 🤣🤣🤣 word. Some of mine take three or four years to read the free book. That’s why I made it a short one, people read a short story or a novella slightly faster. But even though they may well buy a book on the back of the mailing list freebie, odds are that’ll go to the bottom of the tbr list and not be read for three or four years.

        It is what it is.

        When they do the questionnaire after a year on my list there’s a huge percentage who have read nothing more than two free shorts and a free box set with the first in the big series in it. The folks who’ve read more tend to have read everything. It’s weird how it goes.

        On Mon, 28 Jun 2021, 18:55 M T McGuire Authorholic, wrote:

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  2. This marketing business takes all the shine off the writing business. Maybe Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt has something in her suggestion! I agree that giving away books doesn’t always work; it smacks of desperation and anyway, your writing is too good to give away. I have never taken you or anyone else up on their giveaways as I am always happy to pay full price for books; I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I am absolutely certain there are countless people out there somewhere who would love your books but aren’t seeing your ads. I am very forgetful but I can’t remember if you have done a ‘Buy my Books’ page/post for Facebook etc that can be shared by your followers. I’d be happy to oblige by endorsing it and passing it on. Someone might see it and become the catalyst. Also – I follow (on Facebook and Instagram) a bookshop owner from Clare in Suffolk – Harris and Harris Books (have a look at her, she’s brilliant) – who does little videos promoting all the books on sale in her shop. She has countless followers like me and might be able to promote your books if she likes the look of them. https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=harris%20and%20harris%20books
    I hope that link works 😮

    • I admit that I don’t usually do reduced books or freebies. I guess really I’m just trying some options. I have a workshop with a lovely lady who is doing rather well in September and we are going to go through my marketing, so I just want some progress on things to show her I guess. The 99c Pride Month sale has gone OK. Not enough to twist the algos or anything like that, but if the people who have read it enjoy it, they may well have a go at my other books and I might break even on the advertising spend.

      On the whole, if I can people to read one of my books, they do tend to read the rest eventually.

      I will definitely start following Harris Books. At the moment I have rubbish margins on my paperback books for stores. For that to work, I have to be able to put a 55% discount on the cover price so the middle peps can take their percentages and I just haven’t found a way to do this, so I have margins of 35% which, once the distributors have taken 20%, leaves 5% for the bookshop. Case in point, Looking for Trouble which is £11.99 – which nobody will pay for an unknown – but I have a margin of 35% on that and I earn 10p for each one sold. Or Too Good To Be True, which I haven’t a hope of shifting if it’s more than £7.99 but I have it at £10.99 with a 45% margin for stores (10% too small) and I make £2.00 on that one.

      This is probably why big publishers are going more and more for a sure bank, ie people who are already famous. Because they have to have x thousand printed in China for a quid or so and then shipped over to have a viable price. In short books are like everything else, we expect to get them for about half what they actually cost to produce.

      What I will do, when I have time, is make some hardbacks. Because people are far more likely to pay £16.99 for a hardback and I could put a bigger margin on and still make my £2. At the moment, my paperbacks mainly go to libraries but I think I’d sell more to them, too, if I went for hardback as well.

      • This all seems so demoralizing. I wish you the best of luck in all you do.

      • Marketing is a bit hit and miss. A lot of the folks doing well are honest enough to admit that they’ve no idea why some books sell and some don’t. I did it for a living, so I have a reasonable handle on what I’m doing. I suspect my books are some of the most highly polished turds in the history of products that do not sell! Mwahahahrgh. But also some of the stuff, like keywords and optimising my listings, is just something I don’t really have the time or skill set to do properly. In my job, I paid other people to do that. In this job I couldn’t begin to justify the cost of doing that. To optimise things for search engines well, you need to be way lateral and I tick that box, but you also need to be able to come into the centre and think like a normal so you can work out what the normals are typing in to find your stuff. I do not tick that box. The best keywords are the ones that everyone is typing in to find a product but which none of the producers of those products have chosen. There are various tools available to find them. However, humorous sci fi is tricky, in that the numbers of keywords that people can put in are very, very finite and the main ones are all in use. So I just try this and that until I find something that works. Sometimes the things that work stop working, other times new things pop up or old things that didn’t work suddenly start again. It’s more like alchemy than real science. But the basic gist of it is simply applied charm. If I come over as the kind of person they can do business with, so to speak, my stuff will sell.

        On the whole, with Real paperback books, independent fiction is extremely unpopular. Even without the pricing and distribution challenges, many bookstores are very wary of anyone who hasn’t got a publisher – even the independent ones. So I will have to follow the book store in Clare for a while, chat to them normally and interact so they realise I’m not a twat before I even think of mentioning that I write books. The giving a book away free method and getting people hooked is still king really and that only works on line. With the paperback books, the big seller is usually events. I’m not bad at flogging books face-to-face, if I say so myself so that will open up again when – if – we ever get shot of COVID.

        Marketing is a very inexact science, as Lord Sainsbury said, ‘I know half of my advertising strategy is working, the trouble is, I don’t know which half.’ So I read up, examine the stats and keep throwing the spaghetti at the wall until something sticks! 🙂

        On Tue, 29 Jun 2021 at 00:14, M T McGuire Authorholic wrote:

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  3. tallerbooks

    ‘Porridge in Space’? Take my money already!
    😀

    • Don’t get excited yet! It may not come off … at the moment I’ve got distracted by The Pan of Hamgee who been given a love letter from Big Merv to a prospective girlfriend to deliver, but doesn’t realise what it is and delivers it to a fellow ganglord – or at least, ganglady, by mistake. Chaos ensues.

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