Category Archives: self publishing

Mailing lists: the all embracing panacea or the hamster wheel of doom?

As you know, I’ve been writing books and attempting to sell the results since about 2010. I still think my books are good. I think the books I’m writing at the moment will be good too – or at least as good as I can make them and good by my standards, ie they’ll be more of the kinds of stories I’d like to read but that don’t exist.

However, for all my efforts, I’d be lying if I said I was doing well as an author, but the fact I write the books I want to read, rather than what ‘the market’ is after could be posing a problem there.

Originally, in the absence of a following to ask, my marketing strategy went like this.

‘Hey Sensible M T I’m going to write a book.’
‘Great plan Ditzy M T. What about?’
‘I’m going to write the books that I’ve always wanted to read but no-one has ever written.’
‘Is that a good idea Ditzy M T?’
‘Of course it is Sensible M T.’
‘But, if people wanted to read them, wouldn’t someone else have written them?’
‘No Sensible M T, I believe I have spotted a niche.’
‘Oh yeh?’
‘Yeh. I’m a person, I’m bog standard, so surely whatever I want to read will be something a whole group of other people like me want to read too, right?’
‘You think there are other people like you?’
‘Of course.’

Unfortunately, Sensible M T is correct. People like me are rather rarer than I anticipated so it’s taking me a bit of time to build an audience … and I think a lot of folks are getting mailing list fatigue, which is understandable, but a pity. Although at least, now, there are enough folks following my writing for me to be able to ask them what they’d like: hence the K’Barthan shorts, and there will be some, I promise once I’ve finished the K’Barthan accidentally long I’m working on – that’s hit 50k today, by the way. I have a nice properly short story brewing about how The Pan ended up jumping off the bridge (he mentions it to Ruth in the second book).

We’re on the road to nowhere!

As the Talking Heads said (blimey this is getting a bit Alan Partridge). But I do feel that I am running faster and faster to stay in the same place. Sales are a bit … well

That’s right. Pants.

Looking at my sales spreadsheet over the last umpteen years, I can’t help but notice that I am putting in more and more effort to achieve the same results. This last month, April 2017 if you’re reading this 400 years from now in a post apocalyptic world where electricity and computers have only just been reinvented, was one of the worst on record. It was the first time more than two days passed between book sales, for me, since 2013. Then came this month, gulp. There were several big blocks of four or five days when I didn’t sell a thing. The total earnings are £30. The lowest month for ages. Naturally, I thought I’d see if I could find out why.

First up, I tried a different type of mailing promo last month and it’s too early to tell if it’s worked yet. Second, the month before that, I didn’t do a promo. That’s two very compelling explanations, right there. But is there more.

Looking at onward sales I discovered these lovely factoids:

  • There are 4,247 people on my mailing list.
  • They have bought a maximum of 662 copies of the K’Barthan Series books in a combination of books 3 and 4  at $4.99 a pop (sales are about level pegging which is a good sign) or the box set at $7.99.
  • I’ve sold about 400 copies of book 2 since I started all this free book malarky – even though I give it away free to folks who join my mailing list.
  • That said, about 750 have bought Unlucky Dip, the short story, for 99c.
  • On the day of launch only 14 people bought the K’Barthan Box set.
  • Only 280 have bought Escape From B-Movie Hell.
  • If I take just one group of 1,000 mailing list members, I can see that 280 of them clicked on the links to find out more about the paid books when I emailed them about it. That’s actually not bad.
  • After three quarters of a year, or thereabouts, I survey my mailing list peps. You’d be amazed how many answer the ‘did you enjoy the books’ style question with, ‘I haven’t read them yet.’ Even after eight months or so some of them are clearly a little nettled to be even asked.
  • A couple of folks have joined my mailing list and then emailed me to say they downloaded the book two or three years ago, never got around to reading it and are really glad they have this time – there’s even a review that says that!

What do these pieces of information tell me?

  1. That I should be writing more short stories. Hmm.
  2. That information pages I send them to about each book on my website need an overhaul.
  3. That the books might be too expensive.
  4. Or that people are feeling a bit, what’s the point? about brexit and our impending ecological and nuclear doom and don’t want to shell out for a book any more.
  5. It reinforces the argument that a higher rate of output comprising shorter books at a lower cost is probably the way to go – I’m thinking 50k for $2.99 and 10/20k for 99c/p maybe. At least I have to have something between 99c and $4.99 – currently there’s only the stand alone.
  6. That if I’m smart, some or all of the future books I write should be about K’Barth.
  7. That anyone on my mailing list who is interested in reading the K’Barthan Series had already done so, with knobs on, when the box set came out and that any who might be weren’t ready.
  8. That folks who are interested in reading the second K’Barthan book often buy it straight after reading the first one, they don’t wait four days to get it free. That’s great because clearly they’re into it.
  9. That, in turn, could tell me that people who are less worried about money purchase my books and perhaps this is more evidence for shorter books that I could sell at a more accessible price for folks with less disposable income.
  10. That I need to make it clearer to people that they can borrow my books from libraries – but they have to ask because the librarian won’t have bought them (I’m not famous and not a sure bet). In short, I need to make sure that they realise that they can get access to my books, even if they are cash strapped.
  11. That the average reader has a to-read list that is well over 8 months long and reads the books in order.
  12. That while I have always assumed that a fair few of the people on my mailing list won’t have read my books 7/8ths is quite a lot higher than I expected.
  13. That the read through rate is only as high as 7/8ths if every single person who has bought K’Barthan book 3 and 4 in whatever format is on my mailing list, which I doubt.
  14. That the percentage of people who are actually reading the book I give away is gob smackingly low. Nowhere near the 20% I thought it was (going on Amazon downloads of the free book and totting up subsequent copies of the next books sold in 2015.
  15. That, possibly, the people who do read the book I give away in return for their email address are the ones who read it straight after downloading it. This could explain why they zip through the first book in a couple of days and then get stuck right into the rest of them rather than waiting for the free second book.
  16. That until a couple of years have passed, I won’t really know the results of my efforts to upsell since it will be a very long time before many folks get to the first book.
  17. For the long haul tbr people, at least regular mailings from me will keep them in touch and help them not to forget about my books.

What about the risible rate of earnings?

Hmm… what about it? More factoids.

  • It was 70% down on my £100 monthly average.
  • The worst since February 2015 when I had 70 friends and family on my mailing list and hadn’t worked out about permafrees with optimised listings – which worked then.
  • It is in keeping with the time of year. The worst month for sales always seems to happen in spring: Feb, March, April or May.
  • As I mentioned, it may be down to the choice of giveaway book in April.
  • I didn’t do much in the way of promo in March.
  • There has been no uptick in sales at the beginning of May, usually at the start of a month there is.

What does this tell me?

  1. That net worth of my efforts to upsell my other books from information I give on my mailing list is currently worth £30, or thereabouts, from an average £100. Possibly. But I’ll never really know for sure.
  2. That it’s very important to have a promo planned every month.
  3. That you need to be lot more savvy these days, and do a lot more to get your books in front of people, to achieve the same results you could have done with less effort a year ago. Mwah hahaharhgh so nothing new there!
  4. That promos do drive sales.
  5. That the merit of giving folks a second book as well as the original freebie they downloaded might be debatable. Is it getting read by many folks? Difficult to tell but it looks unlikely. Then again, I won’t really know until the long haul people kick in (if they do).
  6. That if I give the short away as a second book, instead, it might get more people reading because it’s accessible, but it might people off because it’s crap.

It could be that I am gaining a lot of new mailing list followers, but very few readers. But just as easily, it could be that I will need to wait at least a year before a big proportion of the folks on my mailing list get round to reading any of my books. Only time will tell.

So? Patience young paduan?

Yeh, looks like it. It takes a lot of time and effort to sort out my mailings, find interesting things to include or fun stories to tell. But, clearly when I join the right kinds of promos folks are downloading and enjoying the first book in the K’Barthan Series, it’s just catching them while they’re still enthused in a way that doesn’t annoy the ones who don’t want to be reminded for a year or so. It’s also juggling not earning much with the cash. I’m moving my mailing list to another provider but currently it costs me £40 per month to entertain 4,250 folks. If my £30 per month earning streak continues I will need to uncover a way to monetise my list slightly or I’m going to be in certain doo-doo.

Yep. Doo doo. Scary huh?

Mailing list factoids.

  • Open rates have dropped but only a little.
  • Open rates are slower. I would have a decent idea how a mailing had gone down in two or three days a year ago, these days it’s two weeks before the percentage of opens stops creeping up.
  • Click rates are down. A lot. From a fairly reliable 20% – 40% to about 6% -13%.

What do these factoids tell us Noddy?

  1. Perhaps there is a mailing slow down. It’s clear that folks are still reading my emails but taking longer. Also, a couple of unsubscribe comments along the lines of ‘I love your emails but I am on so many authors’ lists and I just don’t have time to read them’ might bear that out.
  2. Many authors are doing giveaways now, or promos, or things where groups of similar books are offered for free to readers in return for them singing up to the authors’ mailing lists. It may simply be that a lot of readers have already heard about the promos I’m taking part in from other authors involved before I tell them.

So what can I do?

Sit tight and keep doing what I do.

Once again, on this one, I am, dangerously, doing what works for me. This does not mean it’s what works, generally or even that it’s what other people like. After all, if I wanted to sell books to the normals I’d have a really attractive thin woman on the covers and they’d be that shade of green, taupe, blue, brown or red.

For the record, what I want to discover, from mailing lists I join is whether I find the author interesting, as well as the stuff they offer. I like to hear about their books, their progress on new work and about any books they’ve read and enjoyed. I also like it if the emails, themselves, are amusing, or chatty, like a letter to a friend rather than a ‘professional’ offering. Furthermore, as my readers will undoubtedly be getting loads of emails from other authors as well as me, I want to make mine stand out, in a good way. I want them to get enough enjoyment and value from the things I send them to make time for them.

So far, the feedback is good. I think it is weeding out the kinds of people who are going to like and enjoy my books from those who’ve downloaded them free but will probably never read them. Hopefully it will. I’d much rather have an engaged list of 500 people, than a list of 4,500 who aren’t interested.

These days, twenty or thirty folks unsubscribe from my list in a month. That would have come as a big surprise a year ago. But people still write back and interact so I must be doing something right.

I have come up with some practical answers for improving the usefulness of my emails and, therefore, open and click rates but when it comes to onward sales, or library borrows, I’m kind of scratching my head. Maybe my books are shite, except if they were, why are the reviews mostly good? And the bad reviews, with a few exceptions, tend to say things that suggest the reader was the complete antithesis of the book’s target market anyway.

Any other cunning plans?

Well … I need to ask folks questions, find out a bit more about what they are after and then give them what they are interested in. If I set this up right, I can send free books to the people who want free, paid books to the people who want paid and can avoid sending amazon offers to readers who use only Kobo or vice versa.

But while that might help me make the information more pertinent and useful, I’m not sure what I can do about the ten thousand free books they need to read before it’s the ‘turn’ of mine. I also wonder about the 19,000 folks who downloaded Few Are Chosen while it was permafree. Six hundred onward sales from those isn’t a very good track record.

But for what it’s worth, here’s my plan.

I have two weapons and two weapons only. I’m weird and sometimes I’m funny. This pertains to everything: my books, who I am and what I do. In all, the weird and the funny are key. Some people find that hard work, others really like it. So hopefully, if I can carry on being the way I am, I will, eventually, build up a group of follows who appreciate the weird and funny of me, at least, even if they haven’t read the damn books. And maybe, eventually, they will find one of my newsletters leaves them wanting more … enough to dig out the K’Barthan Series, Book 1 and start reading.

It’s my only answer. So I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope. I’ll let you know how I get on.

On a final note …

If you’re one of the 3,500 out of 4,247 on my mailing list who hasn’t read my book, I am absolutely agog to know two thing:

  1. What on earth you’re doing there?
  2. What on earth you’re getting from it?
  3. Your reasons for not reading the book yet – i.e. your to read list is too long, the book is too long, you’re a book blogger/reviewer and haven’t got round to it, you’re never going to read the book in a month of Sundays but you love the reviews and special offers on other people’s books etc.
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Filed under General Wittering, Good Advice, Marketing Ideas, self publishing

It’s a snurd, Jim: but not as we know it…

A light one, tonight. Last week was pants. Sunday my computer hard drive failed, suddenly and irrevocably. Tuesday Chewie, the cat, got ill, also suddenly and irrevocably. The long and the short of that is that I now have a new computer – which is nice but my writing software doesn’t work very well on it and I’d have preferred not to buy one three days before shelling out every penny I have on a new car. The three of us are not happy to find ourselves suddenly ‘resting’ between cats either.

Yeh, not much time to think so it’s a light one tonight. A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, on this post, I wrote about how you should always Google your made up names.

Recently, for interest, I thought I’d try Googling one of the made up names I’d already… well… made up. Hmm…. good sentence that one (not).

Anyhow, I decided to put the word ‘snurds’ into Google and where once it was stacked with nothing but references to my books and pictures of flying cars now I find this… I don’t actually mind at all but I am slightly worried that the Snurds  – or Manchester School of Art – may be upset about their K’Barthan namesake.

Naturally snurd also has a definition in the urban slang dictionary – but then so does everything.

So to clear it up. If anyone is wondering what a snurd is, it’s this:

Or should I say these? Then again only the grey one’s a snurd – the other is the Interceptor and is made by the Grongolian Military rather than The Great Snurd (of K’Barth) Company Ltd – to give it its full title.

Actually, did you know that K. Barth is a mathematician. Nope, neither did I. Although I did find out when I checked – before publishing this time – and decided to leave it. Sorry Mr Barth.

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Filed under About My Writing, Blimey!, Interesting, self publishing

I’ve got my mojo working baby and I’m gonna try it out on you…

Er… eventually.

I’ve been agonising about my career choice; mother versus writer. There are aspects to the two that clash (like all of them, mwah ha ha hargh). But the fact is, it’s not just finding the time to write that poses a problem. Being an Author is like any other job. There are bits you’re good at and bits you’re not so good at; aspects you love and aspects you dislike. But as an author I stake my professional integrity on the stuff I put out and getting the bits I’m not so good at wrong could be seriously risky.

Clearly the happiest author is going to be the one who writes full time but unless you’re Sir Terence, with the might of Transworld behind you, that’s not realistically possible. Actually even Sir Terry has to do other stuff.

However, happiness really is a state of mind. And more to the point, none of the other scary stuff; the marketing, for example, and the grammar – or the grim business of reasearching and approaching the various gatekeepers who are going to throw your manuscript in the bin and tell you to piss off. None of that is going to go away.

So, I’ve been a bit blue lately. My perfectly acceptable (two years ago) punctuation is now unacceptable and because I’m a self published author it’s no good arguing – as both my editors do – that it’s consistent. Sure if you’ve a contract with Orion or somebody, the indie bashers will merely ‘disagree’ with your approach but if you’re M T McGuire, self-published nobody, they will consider it ‘wrong’ and review accordingly. So my book’s going in for a third edit.

That’s why I haven’t written anything on here. Because, I was beginning to wonder if I should try to continue being an author, or at least publishing my efforts. Yes, yes, I admit it, an artistic hissy fit, but it all felt very real to me – like I’d really lost my mojo – and what can you say about feeling like that? Nothing interesting or constructive that’s for sure.

Then I realised that anyone, in any job, is going to feel a bit pants about what they do from time to time. The trick is to ditch the negative aspect that’s bugging you for a day or two – even if you have a deadline – and concentrate on an aspect of your work that you’re good at.

So, in my case, that would be the actual nitty-gritty of writing the story. Except that it’s the end of term, there’s lots on and I’ve been rather strapped for time to write. So my usual negativity cancellation technique has been an epic fail.

While I was wondering what else I could do to get the feel good factor back, the answer cropped up totally unexpectedly; at toddler group. There I was, with McMini, and I ran into a fan. Someone who I didn’t know – one of the dads – who had read my books. And he sidled up to me, shyly, nervously even, took a deep breath and told me he’d loved my books and couldn’t wait until the third one came out. And he used things like my name and the word ‘talented’ in the same sentence. And I thanked him – from approximately 40,000 feet up because I was flying. And suddenly even though I was looking down the barrel of the summer holidays – which, while a delight in most ways, does present a daunting eight week moratorium on all writing – McWorld was McRight again.

It’s things like that which make all the scary I-could-get-this-so-wrong-and-destroy-my-reputation-for-ever side of publishing your own work worth it. And then I read this post and it got me thinking.

My cyber buddie Mr Will Macmillan Jones. It’s in his honour that I’ve used a jazz lyric for a post title… that and the fact it made me laugh. Mr Macmillan Jones is a fellow humorous fantasy author; Mancunian, exciled to Wales and driver of a slightly more plutochratic but similarly stupid car as myself, he does a lot of book signings. Now, OK he’s a proper author because he has a real live publisher, not one actually, two – I swear he’s made some kind of pact with the devil – but I digress.

Anyway, he does a lot of book signings. As I understand it, he rings a branch of Waterstones, introduces himself and blags them into letting him spend an afternoon in their shop, with a big pile of books, flogging them to unwary customers. I think it scared him quite badly at first but it’s abundantly clear that he’s become rapidly addicted. Like delivering a good stand up set, it clearly gives him a buzz.

Now, on the one hand, the idea of doing signings fills me with toe curling, buttock clenching fear – and I don’t have time to do more than about five a year anyway. On the other, I’m an ex stand up comedienne so I really should be able to handle it and anyway, it’s not so bad, is it? After all, I only have time to do about five a year.

Furthermore, I’ve sold 200 copies of Few Are Chosen over the past year simply by having a copy in my handbag so that if people ask me what I do I can say, ‘This.’ And show it to them.

In other words, though the prospect of doing signings scares me, the chances are I might enjoy it. I might even do it reasonably well – or, certainly, be better at it than I am at selling e-books. I may not have sold as many via the handbag as I have via the web but my handbag hit rate is a lot higher, I can tell you.

Signings also get you into the real world. OK, don’t tell anyone this but believe it or not, out there in the normal, non-scary world beyond Amazon, people still quite like authors.

There is one small problem. I’ve only written two books. It’s not enough, but come next year, when I’ll have written three… and it’ll be a trilogy… THAT’S when it might be smart to look at signings. In earnest.

Right, so, if any of you are still awake, the conclusions I’ve come to for happy authordom are as follows.

1. Write as many books as you can, GOOD BOOKS mind you, as fast as is humanely possible without letting your quality standards drop.
2. Do the Lightning Source thing and get them into the wholesalers or get a publisher so it’s really easy for both independents and chains to order them.
3. Do signings.
4. Publicise them. Do press releases and send them round to local newspapers where you’re going to appear – pimms media guide or similar in your local library will have a list with contacts. Or ask the manager of the shop you’re going to for any press contacts they have. Many will be happy to help – they’re as keen as you are to sell lots of books, after all.
5. Do schools events – I’m not sure how, as yet, but I’m sure it’s worth it.
6. Get in touch with your local literary/library officers if you can.
7. Make post cards and other promotional items and leave them wherever you go – here are some examples.
8. Take a copy of your book with you, wherever you go and if people ask you what you do, don’t be shy, whip it out and show them (phnark).

I’m not saying I’ve applied my plan – apart from the postcards and the taking my books about – but when book three is in the bag, I will have to seriously get my finger out. There’s no chance of intensive signings, not on Saturdays but I think I should be able to swing some. So I think I’ve found… well… if not my mojo then a plan and now that I have a plan, even if I have to wait 18 months or so – hnur hnur hnur hnurrrgh – I’m gonna try it out on you.

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Filed under General Wittering, Marketing Ideas, self publishing

Why Can’t Indies Punctuate Dialogue? I Think I Know.

Gah, welcome to the world of Victoria Meldrew. I was reading a post on a forum somewhere recently, complaining that self published authors are rubbish at dialogue. Well, sticking my neck out, I’ve just discovered a lot of my dialogue tags are wrong.

So once again, I am at home to Mr Cock up. Frankly, he’s going to be moving in at this rate. I dunno what’s wrong with me at the moment. I seem to be dead from the neck up.

So, now that I’ve bombed, I may as well tell you what I’ve learned so you don’t have to.

At school – and sodding heck, it’s only 20 years ago – I was taught to write dialogue like this:

“Writing speech is a pain in the arse.” Said M T McGuire.

Sometime, between me leaving school and starting to write books for a living it changed to this.

“Writing speech is a pain in the arse,” said M T McGuire. “Never mind. On the up side, entirely fortuitously it’s right in book two.”

So here’s what Mr Cock up has taught me on my latest visit.

Golden Rule Number 1, then: Even if you left school five minutes ago, question the rules of punctuation you were taught.

After all, you only have to look at how often government policy on education changes to realise that the shelf life of any received theories propounded to you as a child, will probably be out of date before you leave school.

So yes, I’m afraid those rules of grammar that it hasn’t occurred to you to doubt may be completely at odds with the way things are done now. And if they are, you will be looking like a spanner. NB, even if you write business English for a living, check the types of grammar you don’t use in your every day job that you will use in a book. Like speech! Gaaaah.

Can you guess who didn’t do this? For heaven’s sake, I have a very high IQ – I really should be smarter than this. It’s a bit like being one of those people who can build something really pointy-brained, like a satellite, but can’t boil a kettle… except that I haven’t got any satellite-building abilities against which to offset my piss-poor kettle boiling skills.

Bum.

Oh well, on we go.

Golden Rule Number 2: Don’t trust the internet.

Having realised I may well have ballsed up a lot of the dialogue tags in all my work, I tried to find out what was the right way on the internet. All I could really discover is that one, there is a lot of disagreement and two, none of it looks like the way I was taught at school.

You can google a lot of things but not grammar. There are too many strains of English round the world and not everyone knows which is which. Hmm… Which leads me onto number three.

Golden Rule Number 3: Ask the right questions.
Because I remembered what I’d been taught it didn’t occur to me to ask at first but when I saw what the editor had done, and failed to understand what was going on, I did ask her. The answer she gave was that I should treat the whole thing, speech and tag, as a sentence. That was right but it still gave me plenty of scope to do it like this.

“Punctuating dialogue drives me crazy.” said M T McGuire.

Which is still wrong, wrong, wrong.

Golden Rule Number 4: Ask the right people.

I now use a different editor who is pretty good. I was still confused when I first started working with him though. So why didn’t I ask him? I haven’t a blind clue. So when you find someone who knows what they’re doing and you trust ask them. If you can find somebody who is absolutely pukka writing, trad pubbed establishment ask them too.

Golden Rule Number 5: Always be open.

One day I might get this writing thing sussed but I suspect not. Language is a living thing. It’s always going to move and change. So even if you begin to think you know what you’re doing it’s worth remembering that actually, you may not.

Which brings me onto the 6th rule.

Golden Rule Number 6: Always use an editor.

This is really important. Seriously. Unless you are some kind of grammar savant, use an editor. Hell, use two. I do… and beta readers and I’ve still stuffed up. Ninety nine point nine percent of authors cannot proof their own work. Trust me on this. Get somebody else to do it. Then if you have any gimlet-eyed reader friends, get them to look at it.

Golden Rule Number 7: Keep an eye on what you learn.

As you learn more your work will get better and your punctuation more professional. Each work you produce is a shop window on your talent. If the punctuation is a bit dodgy, or old fashioned, it doesn’t reflect well on you so if you learn something new that hits you out of the blue or change the way you punctuate, I dunno, interrupted speech or something, remember to apply it retrospectively to all your work. Not just the one it’s cropped up in.

Sure your skill with the business of arranging words will grow but so will you knowledge and while your actual writing style may change, editorially continuity is best – a house style if you like.

So there you go, in a nutshell, think about what you’re doing. Always.

I hope that helps.

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Filed under General Wittering, self publishing, winging author

Is ‘indie’ the new ‘crap’?

Is there still a stigma attached to self publishing?

As an indie music fan, I have always associated the word ‘independent’ with quality. People who have ploughed their own furrow, refused to compromise their artistic integrity and done their own thing. Indeed, I’ve never been a great fan of mainstream music dismissing pretty much the entire lot of it as overproduced shite. The big exception here being Abba and 1960s bubblegum pop but cut me some slack there, everyone needs to flirt with the Dark Side sometimes.

Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that in the world of literature, the word ‘independent’ in many circles is synonymous with the word ‘crap’. Even worse, it can also mean, giant-egoed, self-important drama queen… with delusions about their talent (please god let that not apply to me).

I don’t want to sound chippy but self published authors do seem to be pretty much the literary equivalent of ear wax. Worse, I get the impression that, in many quarters, if it came down to a popularity contest between the two, the ear wax would win.

Then, we move further out to extremes and we have these people who have worked themselves up into a frothy-mouthed frenzy of loathing at the idea that anyone should dare to publish their own book. These people seem to be determined to exterminate any literature which has not been chosen by the beloved gatekeepers from the public domain. I reckon they probably work for them.

So first up. The indie bashers. What I’d really like to know is how these people buy books?

I mean, when I buy a book I go into a shop and have a leaf through and if it looks interesting I buy it. On Amazon, I go to the page, have a look at the preview or download a sample and read it. If I like it I buy it. So when the indie bashers take a break from stalking the Amazon forums, axe in hand, like Jack Nicholson in the Shining, looking for indie authors so they can kill them, what are their book selection criteria?

Clearly they don’t buy them the way I do or surely they’d spot the duffers on the first or second page of the sample. Instead, it seems they purchase without looking so they can be shocked and irate and feel cheated when a book turns out to be crap.

Why does this piss me off? Well mainly because I’ve waited to publish until I’ve written a reasonable book. I’ve had it proof read by professionals. I’ve had a proper cover designed by professionals. I’ve attempted to produce a book which looks and feels professional to the reader and it got an award so it must be reasonably decent. I’m not the only one self publishing who has bothered to do this, there are lots of others. Unfortunately we get lumped in with those selling dross with the aplomb and sensitivity of door to door double glazing salesmen.

However, don’t get smug, indie writers. If the people who are pathologically unable to spot a good book seem thick, you, my fellow authors are the dumbest things that ever walked the earth. With the brains-to-body ratio of a triceratops (look it up) and a sense of self preservation that would make it look smart for Lady Ga-Ga to wear her meat dress in a shark tank.

Oh yes, a lot of you really do seem to be intent on shooting yourselves – and me with you, you smeckers – in the foot. Yeh, I’m raw about it this week.

So here are some please-oh-please-I’m-begging-will-you-fricking-do (and-do-nots) for anyone thinking about publishing their own novel.

1. ‘Wait it is not ready yet’ The Grolsh Novel.
You’ve managed to write 70,000 words with a beginning a middle and an end.

Well done.

Here’s the big news. This is where the hard work starts. Avoid being Grolsch author. If this is your first ever novel, the chances are, ‘it is not ready yet’. Think before you go ahead and publish anyway. Trust me on this, I’ve written three Grolsch books. I really, really wanted each one to be THE ONE but it wasn’t. It took every fibre of self control in my body to demurr from publishing them but I did. Trust me, if I can do it, you can. Experience has now proved that, had I published any of them, I would have destroyed my credibility as a writer and made selling subsequent books that bit harder. I am very, very glad.

2. Think about production.
If you’re going to write a book, do it justice. Spend money on a professional proof reader. Also, don’t get it proofed on paper, trust me, you’ll put more mistakes in than you take out. Er hem, I did anyway. Have it proof read by somebody who will make the changes in the document. Get a decent cover designed by someone who knows what they’re doing. Find out what fonts are popular with publishers, find out how books are formatted and laid out, justification, chapter headings etc.

3. Try to avoid making assumptions about your audience. It’s dangerous.

Some of the things I’ve seen indie authors do on forums are, frankly, prepscholic. Pretending to be other people and bigging up their book, making fake accounts and writing pretend five star reviews. The average 10 year old would consider these moves unsophisticated and beneath them.

This behaviour is very unwise, my paduan learner.

And it’s cheating.

Furthermore, every single one of those bogus reviews chips another tiny piece off the genuine reviews and hard earned reputation of those of us who do have some integrity.

It’s also worth asking family and friends to admit their connection.

4. Avoid ‘exchanging reviews’.
I am pretty gutted when authors offer to ‘review’ my book and give it 5 stars if I do the same in return. No. I’ll review a book and give it however many stars I think it’s worth. Gushing about books you’ve never read or that you’ve enjoyed less than you say damages the integrity of the whole system. It also damages the credibility of genuine, honest review groups.

5. Avoid spamming.
If you drop a 3,000 word essay about how wonderful your thriller is into the middle of a thread about teacups you are going to turn people off. They’re going to remember you as that person who turned up without so much as a nod to the topic under discussion, or even a hello, shouted in their faces for a few moments and then effed off into the ether, never to be seen again.

Are they going to read your book?

No.

6. Make it perfect.
That’s right. You have to, because unfortunately, there are a lot of people self publishing things that shouldn’t see the light of day. That means that even if your book is alright, the automatic assumption of a big part of your audience is going to be that it’s crap and that you are a git. So you almost have to make a better job of it than a ‘proper’ publisher would.

7. Be confident – but not arrogant.
So many people knock self publishers that, if you are one, it’s easy to take it to heart. Also, if you don’t have that vote from a ‘gatekeeper’ it can make believing in your stuff and publicising it very hard. So try not to over compensate. If you’re publicising on forums, I’ve found the best way is to ignore the fact you’re an author for some time and just chat to people. Like real life, you can tell people what you do when you get to know them.

8. Be courteous and professional.
If someone doesn’t enjoy your book it’s allowed. Don’t get into a public shit fight if someone gives it a bad review. Indeed try to avoid shit fights at all.

To sum up, make sure your book is ready, present it and publish it as well and professionally (I hate that word but I can’t think of any other way to say it) as you can. And once it’s out there, behave with integrity and courtesy. In other words, research what your publisher would do, if you had one, and do the same thing only better.

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Taking the plunge

Having discovered the lovely Smashwords is going to charge witholding tax I have been feeling, for some time, that my plan to e-publish my book has been a bit well… to put not too fine a point on it, pissed on. Now though, I have a plan.

So, here’s the deal.  I’m going to serialise my e-book for free, starting the last week in July. Anyone who gets bored reading the instalments can buy a copy of the e-book in advance for £2.50 or, if they really want to push the boat out, they can buy a paperback. Incidentally, the free, serialised, e-book will always be available. My aim is to get it printed for a price that will allow me to sell it for £7.99 and send it anywhere in the world for a tenner!

Terrestrially (is that the right word) I’ll try to sell the paperback locally, my local book shops, a signing, publicity in the local papers, radio and if I could swing it, TV, e-mails to friends, family, clubs etc. The angle being stay at home parent with two year old writes and self-publishes book – might add NCT or the like to the list for press releases then.

I’ve thought about Amazon but because they demand you sell it half price I’d have to list it at £15.99 in order to sell it for a reasonable amount and leave room for costs an their cut, let alone actually earn anything from it.  It all seems to be a bit artificial to me.

So there we go, that’s the plan… I took a big breath and sent off for the ISBNs today… one for each format of the serialised e-book, one for each format of the sold e-book and one for the paperback.

And yes, it’s a lot of money all this printing and isbns and gubbins and I could end up looking a real idiot. It’s sort of daunting and yet quite exciting too.

On a lighter note, scion pointed at my Dr Who mug today and, unprompted, shouted “Darlick”.

I did tell him what a Dalek was – when he was about 5 months old at any rate – but I don’t remember mentioning it since. Even so, clearly it went in.

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Filed under e-publishing, General Wittering, self publishing

Lorks!

Since yesterday evening, the download total for my second free e-short, Bog Man, on feedbooks has gone from 650 to 741… I dunno what’s going on but it’s brilliant! In the last hour 11 people have downloaded it… The other one’s still ticking along with 2 or 3 downloads a day, now, that’s what I consider to be a realistic expectation for both but this is… barking… in a very good and happy way!

The new e-short is in the pipeline and I hope to upload it in June… the actual book, Few Are Chosen is, I hope, going live in July… if I can manage it… so you all have something to read on holiday.

Smashwords have to do withholding tax now so I’m thinking I won’t sell my e-book, I’ll do the give it away free and hope some people will buy a paperback model… unless I can’t get a paperback printed cheaply enough to sell it to you all for £7.99 plus postage, in which case it’ll have to be a case of sod it, let them withhold it and do it anyway.

So… scores on the doors…

Is This Heaven? – 917 downloads since Christmas Day 09
Bog Man – 1,119 downloads since 12 March

Mmm…

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Filed under Author Updates, Blimey!, Encouragement, General Wittering, self publishing