A slight change of plan
26th October 2015
After publishing Random Bullets, which I am delighted to report has recently gained its first five-star reviews, I had been intending to write a collection of short stories. I have written ten of these stories over the past month that I was happy with. I am still planning to write another ten to complete the book, but before I strive to accomplish this, my eleventh short story has served me a curve ball. This particular short story emphatically told me that it needs to become an entire book. Who am I to disagree?
Without giving the game away concerning the content of the book, suffice it to say that it is another contemporary fantasy thriller. However, it is shaping up to be nothing like Random Bullets. I sense that the fantasy element will be even stronger, judging by the first ten pages that I have already written. In my opinion, and also in the opinion of one of the readers of the book who said that they could not put it down, Random Bullets is probably my best offering thus far. Hopefully I can outdo myself with this next book. Whatever happens, I am thoroughly enjoying the process of writing it, which is always a very good sign.
Random Bullets, my sixth book
On 27th September 2015, with very little splash, bunting and brouhaha, I self-published Random Bullets on Amazon at the eye-watering price of £0.99. It is a thriller with a fantasy twist. The low price of my latest eBook is in keeping with my policy to keep all of my books affordable for everyone. I mentioned the fact that I had published Random Bullets on Twitter, on Vine, my Facebook author page and my website with very little effect because I have only sold three copies to date. Luckily, I have now steeled myself for very little response, so I expected as much to happen. I know that the biggest threat to my love of writing is a feeling of despondency due to realising that nobody gives a hoot whether I have published a new book or not. Only acclaimed, long-standing authors have readers panting for the release of their latest oeuvre. Realism has crept into my life over the three months since I published my first five books on Amazon following my initial unsustainable euphoria.
I am now working on a collection of short stories of mixed genres and thoroughly enjoying the experience. I am sticking to my timetable of writing from eleven in the morning until six in the evening. Decent book sales would be a very welcome cherry on the cake, but unless I throw time and money into promoting the books it is unlikely to happen. I am more interested in writing than in promoting the end result, but I probably will change the emphasis at some point over the next few years. There are apparently many con artists out there keen to profit from promoting an author’s books, especially if the author is self-published. I do not want my enjoyment of writing tainted because of falling foul of this type of unscrupulous business. At this point, my books can take their chances with a minimum of publicity amidst the millions of others on offer.
Ironically, I have just listened to a televised discussion of the topic of authors buying reviews of their books. I wonder whether the public will suspect book reviews in future and not rely on them to make their book purchasing decisions. Until recently, I yearned for more starred book reviews, but only genuine ones. I would only be interested in receiving honest, above board reviews and would not dream of buying one to appear more established and venerated than I really am. Authors who buy their reviews have muddied the waters for everyone. What price literary fame based on dishonesty? I hope this shady practice of buying book reviews will be stamped out so that the true value of a book review can be restored.
Reviews over Revenue
I have decided to reduce all five of my fiction books to £0.99 each for the foreseeable future. This is because I would prefer people to read them than scroll past them on Amazon because they cannot afford to buy them. When Amazon allows me to reduce my non-fiction, Living with Postcards book, then I will reduce that too. I am confident that all of my books are worth considerably more than £0.99 each, but there are so many other books for sale on Amazon at low prices that I cannot justify charging more.
It has been a couple of months since I first published five of my books as ebooks on Amazon. My sixth book is literally hours away from publication. I have recently realised that reviews are what I need more than revenue. Without a five star review, the reading public cannot be expected to trust a book to deliver what they expect it to. It is a Catch 22 situation. Without reviews, nobody will buy a book, but the book has to be read to be reviewed. Two of my books have received a five and four star review in the two months since I have published my books. Hopefully I will receive more in the near future or my strenuous efforts to bring my books to the general public will have been in vain. However, I will carry on writing regardless of sales, as it has been such a massively important part of my life for so many years.
Where is everyone?
So, with considerable difficulty, the first part of the task is complete. I am finally a published author, ten years after starting to write my first book. There are now five, almost six of my e-books available to purchase on Amazon by anyone with the urge to buy them. The past year has seen me emailing chunks of each work off to be scrutinised by an ever-increasing number of literary agents. I emailed my last offering to eighty-five agents, but it has so far turned out to be a fruitless occupation, although not all have yet replied. I impatiently decided to shun them all just as they had ever so politely shunned me. After a sudden rush of blood to the head, I opted to self-publish.
Some literary agents had made encouraging noises, particularly over my penultimate book, ‘Potholes and Magic Carpets.’ However, as they have hundreds of book samples thrust at them weekly, they said that they did not have space on their lists for little, old me. After speaking to three authors who have had books published through established publishing houses, I realised that I did not want to work for any publishers in any case, with their deadlines and intrusive input. I have always been a fairly strict self-disciplinarian and do not need anyone to crack the whip to force me to write. Having decided to change tack, I launched myself onto an unsuspecting world, rejecting the constraints and shackles of a traditional publishing house.
The plan was for me to trot along to my friend Diane’s house and pay her husband to upload my books onto Amazon. That particular day, Diane was busy making jam and suggested meeting up the following week. As there was far too much fire in my belly to wait until the following week, I gritted my teeth, girded my loins and decided to tackle the task myself.
I researched the Kindle direct publishing process, watched several YouTube video tutorials on the subject and dived headfirst into the absorbing world of self-publishing. After a few extremely helpful telephone calls and some online correspondence between Diane and myself whenever I hit a brick wall, my first book disappeared up the chute. With the click of a button, it was suddenly made available to the world through Amazon, much to my delirious, giddy delight. I could not have managed it without Diane’s initial assistance and encouragement, for which I am eternally grateful.
Silence then followed with zero response for the first few hours. What had I expected? Did I honestly think that clamorous applause would ring out across the world because a woman in Oldham had published her first book? Irrationally, maybe I was, such was my over-excitement over what I had just achieved. I had no way of knowing what to expect, because I had never even used Amazon to buy other author’s books, having always been an iTunes customer. I was so hyped up on adrenaline and over-work after succeeding in my ambition after a decade of trying, it was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that the world fundamentally did not give a damn about my book, not deep down, not like I did. Why should they?
To blot out the deafening silence, I immediately ploughed my way through publishing the remaining four, already written books. Over the next couple of weeks, I learned more about the entire process. I was engrossed to the point of obsession, twiddling with my laptop for over twelve hours each day, revising each book countless times until I was satisfied with content, layout and covers. Having earned a living for over twenty years as a graphic designer who has laid out artwork for other author’s books, it is a joy to lay out my own literary works.
I eagerly looked at my sales figures at least six times a day during the next few days and was ecstatic when the first book of my Mug trilogy was purchased by a mystery buyer in America. Oddly, my first three buyers were from America, despite me being a British author. I am doing much of what new, self-publishing authors should do; I bought a domain name, set up my first author’s website and created my page on Author Central. I promote my books on Twitter, Vine, Spreaker, LinkedIn, Facebook and anywhere else that I can think of. I am mindful that too much self-promotion could be irritating and counter-productive. However, such was my initial over-excitement that I am embarrassed to admit that I even informed my neighbour, three taxi drivers and two Tesco deliverymen about my book publishing enterprises. I could sense their polite indifference.
My mother eventually managed to access my Amazon Author page and telephoned me from Jersey to rave about how much she loved my non-fiction, ‘Living with Postcards’ book sample. Gaining any sort of praise from my mother has always been quite an achievement and her words touched me deeply.
‘I shan’t be buying any of your books until they’re in print,’ she added. I smiled and sighed. So like my mother. She eventually bought all five books.
It has been three weeks since all of my five books were published on Amazon. There have been nineteen book sales worldwide during that time, nine books of which were bought by either me, my mother or my sister, who is reading her way through ‘the Mug Trilogy.’ They have both given me welcome, constructive criticism which I have acted upon. Perhaps there might be an increase in sales when the price is discounted to $1.99 for a week in late August, a normal part of the traditional, Amazon book-selling strategy. I am still finding my feet as far as the pricing of my books goes. I am considering permanently lowering the prices because they are only e-books, despite my decade of hard work to produce them. It takes much longer than three weeks to build even minor publishing success, especially as an unknown non-celebrity.
I am content now that my life-long ambition of becoming a published author has been achieved. Am I disheartened by the understandably slow response? I was initially mildly deflated, but that sinking feeling has diminished and will never deter me from completing books six, seven and however many books I am lucky enough to produce in my lifetime. Book sales are a secondary incidental to me because I am aware that the competition from other writers is intense and growing daily. Fortunately, my main pleasure comes from the writing process itself. I was never in it for the money, which is just as well.