Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blog 19 A tsunami of benevolence?

As I write this, a 2 metre wall of water is about to hit the Hawaiian islands, so this title could be either wildly inappropriate or an unintended Google search hit.

Anyway, the tsunami of which I write concerns the 48 hours last Monday and Tuesday during which my debut thriller 'Milkshake' (available at all good bookstores called Amazon) was available for free download.

This is a nail-biting time for an author who is not self-published. With no access to the hourly figures and no idea how things are going, all I can do is blindly promote and wait, like mission control waiting for Apollo 12 to emerge from the radio-blackout silence of the dark side of the moon.

At least I got a sense that things were going well, since the figures on the 'Free' kindle chart appear alongside the book listing for the duration of the free promo. Milkshake appeared to reach number 5 in the US Amazon 'Action & Adventure' chart, which was promising.

After two days the promo came to an end, with the book, as hoped, a lot further up the real Amazon chart, where hopefully it will draw greater interest and therefore actual sales.

So what about numbers? well my publisher tells me 1200 free copies were downloaded on Amazon UK and US. Surprisingly the vast majority on the US site, since usually sales are far greater in the UK.

So with 1200 copies now scattered across the world, the next stage is to wait and see if any get read. The first indications came earlier today, when, within  the space of a few hours I received (on the US Amazon website) firstly a 4* review from Minnesota, followed a short while after by a 3* review from New Delhi.

I have no problem with the free promotional periods. Along with the previous ones, there must be several thousand copies of 'Milkshake' on Kindles around the world. The thought of my debut book being read by so many complete strangers is both thrilling and also vaguely disturbing.

The sequel 'The Destiny Stone' should be out early in 2013 and I console myself with the expectation several thousand copies will be instantly purchased by those eager to find out what happens next.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Blog 18 Publisher or not? The 'sea' word..

Just before a tsunami, the sea rushes out further than the low tide mark. That's a warning of the impending tumultuous torrent of devastation about to ensue.

After I finished writing 'Milkshake' I wasted several months trying to track down likely agents and publishers who would preferably accept emailed manuscripts instead of insisting on half a ream of paper being sent halfway around the world. I reluctantly sent one to Australia. It cost $25. They declined.

So there I stood, in a desert of frustration, with no prospect of anyone ever getting to read 'Milkshake' in the form of a book. Except it wasn't a desert, it was a beach, and the sea had retreated far over the horizon.

A tsunami was imminent...

A number of aspiring writers were slowly realising the potential of self-publishing. Lead by the likes of Smashwords and Amazon, the internet was finally developing a viable model to exploit the full potential of the novel, in the same way musicians were already embracing the web as a way of cutting out the middle-men record companies who'd traditionally taken the lion's share of royalties and passed on a few cents to the artist.

Writers now had the ability to not only self-publish their work. Not only that, there were mechanisms in place to market and sell, potentially on a global scale, 24/7. Meanwhile, back on the beach, a distant roar could be heard. Traditional publishers stood looking out to sea, and wondered what that strange sound was.

So now the wave has hit us, swamping the unsuspecting publishers who stood, Canute-like, expecting the water to just rise uncomfortably above their waists. Instead, it simply washed over their heads.

But some were prepared. A few writers had already prepared their raft. They'd anticipated the power of social networking and realised without the luxury of a corporate marketing budget, their success depended on branding. Never mind the story, the sale was as much about the attraction of the author as it was about the written word.

Not everyone has the skill to build their own raft. Luckily a few entrepreneurial types had the foresight to build lifeboats, and so we saw the rise of a huge number of publishers. In many cases this is a misnomer, since they offer little more than the time and technical expertise needed to convert Word documents into files capable of being sold on Amazon. Others will offer editing and critiquing services. Again many of these are not founded in any kind of formal training or acquired skill or learning.

Nevertheless, many inexperienced writers prefer to jump on board the relative comfort and safety of one of these newly-constructed 'lifeboat-publishers'. The kudos of a 'published by' together with an eye-catching logo gives many writers the desired 'warm-fuzzy' feeling of having genuinely been published.

Of course, one of the other benefits is, hopefully, there are also other people on the 'lifeboat'; fellow writers able to support and publicise each other's work.

Meanwhile the traditional publishers frantically try and construct their own lifeboats using the flotsam and jetsam bobbing around in the wake of the biggest tsunami to hit publishing since the printing press.

...and I've not even mentioned pirates yet...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Blog 17 is book purchasing seasonal - like fruit?

Milkshake  has ticked along quietly since mid-October 2011.

In recent months it has sold, on average, one copy each day. This makes it feel like prospective buyers are patiently queuing to log on to Amazon, one-by -one to make their purchase.

Now, as the northern hemisphere summer finally kicks in, it's interesting to see how sales, even of my obscure, low-charting debut novel , have started to pick up.

Helped, no doubt by my publisher; Taylor Street Publishing who have signed 'Milkshake' up for Amazon's Kindle Select program. In return for giving Amazon exclusive ebook rights, they allow a number of promos which see 'Milkshake' offered for free, for a limited time only. This not only allows the opportunity for a free copy (and hundreds have taken up the offer), but also pushes the book up the Amazon chart and closer to the more popular titles. This in turn appears to attract actual sales, once the promo period ends.

So, coming out of a 2-day promo at towards the end of June, the notoriously unreliable, but nevertheless compelling sales estimate website Novelrank, began suggesting sales of more than 1 per day!

In fact, in the last 7 days, Novelrank has estimated sales of 20 copies on Kindle.

So I'm hoping I've caught a wave of people stocking up their e-readers ready for their summer holiday. I've also tweeted and face-booked the fact 'Milkshake' is primarily set in July 2002 -  exactly 10 years ago this month. Readers may enjoy the heightened sense of timeliness by reading it in the next few weeks.

Although I don't yet have the figures for this most recent promo offer, combined with the last, and judging by how 'Milkshake' leaped fairly rapidly up both and Amazon UK, I'm estimating there to be around 2,500 copies out there. This bodes well for people wanting to find out what happens next in the story.

The sequel The Destiny Stone is currently with the publisher, awaiting editing. I'll keep you posted on its progress towards publication.

Finally, two more generous readers have taken the trouble to leave reviews on Amazon. This is, as always, great feedback as well as valuable unsolicited publicity for potential buyers looking for a great summer read!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blog 16 - Slides Down Easily

After the success of the free Kindle downloads for Milkshake,sales picked up to around 3 per day on both Amazon UK and US. The publisher tried another 48 hour freebie on the last couple of days in May, but, as he predicted ,the uptake was not as high. The downside was, when the book appeared back on Amazon 'for sale' it had lost its ranking and was in the teens on the UK and the hundreds of thousands in America.

The previous experience showed people appeared to be more attracted to titles higher up the chart and there has only been a couple of sales in the last 4 days. The new cover may be a factor, but there are too many other variables to consider as well.

The final draft of the sequel is nearly ready to be sent away and I may get my first royalty cheque in the next week or so from the publisher, for Milkshake. I actually got my first royalty about a month ago thanks to a solitary sale of a hard copy via my local bookshop in Nelson, Page & Blackmore who are great at supporting local authors.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blog 15. New publisher, new beginning

The Kindle Select free promo for 'Milkshake' lasted approx 48 hours. During that time around 1400 free digital copies were downloaded from the & .UK sites.

Since then, sales have really picked up, more in the UK than the States, with on average 4 copies a day being purchased for actual money. This trend is set to continue with a couple of recent developments.

I've signed to Taylor Street Publishing; a US-based company with bigger promotional and marketing aspirations than my previous publisher. They also have contacts in film and TV. I've been told (and said myself) 'Milkshake' is quite a 'cinematic' story, and the yet to be published sequel even more so.

I'm looking forward to the next stage of the journey me and Taylor Street are taking together.

As part of the 'refreshed' look to "Milkshake', the cover will shortly be updated. Will this change to the visual attraction on Amazon make any difference to sales, especially in the American market?

Do people buy based on the cover art, or the blurb?

With the new cover running initially for a month, it will be interesting to watch the sales figures.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blog 14 Marketing strategy creates a FREE download!

Yes, I know the title looks like one of those spam emails, but in this case its absolutely true!

As part of a cunning marketing plan, Night Publishing has removed 75% of its titles from Smashwords and handed sole e-publishing rights to Amazon.

This means, for a limited time Milkshake is FREE!  (yes, you're meant to click on the link!)

The idea is everyone loves free stuff and, with the northern hemisphere summer fast approaching, and the time to sit around the southern hemisphere winter fires almost upon us, now is the idea time to take advantage of some free ebook entertainment.

As the free downloads encourage curious readers, the free version of Milkshake will slowly rise up the Amazon chart. At  a certain point it will then become a 'pay per view' only. Hopefully that point will be when its chart position and popularity become irresistible  and voracious readers will clamour to pay just 99c for their own copy.

That's the theory (I think!) anyway.

Now let the games begin...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Blog the thirteenth - Around the world and back

I've just returned from a 3 - week trip to the UK to visit family, taking in Paris, London Cardiff and a brief stop in San Francisco airport. After 10 years, my impression of the UK was -  what recession? There are more retail outlets than ever, with a constant stream of people emerging from them laden with bags of 'bargains'.

 A new phenomenon was the ubiquitous Apple Store where people seem to just stand around in huge numbers gently stroking Ipad screens. A bit like a nightclub but without the booze. Or dim lighting. Or music. No one seemed to be successful though. Not one person seemed to be leaving having actually secured the services of the aforementioned Ipad. They are, after all, not a cheap date.

The other trend I encountered was the apparent insatiable appetite for German cars. The M3, M25 and M4 motorways were choked with a seemingly endless variety of Mercedes and BMW's, with a few Audis and frequent VWs thrown in as well. I swear the same sporty black Merc kept lapping me on the M25.

In book news, I took a few copies of Milkshake to give to friends and relatives. I decided it would be a bit of fun to leave my last copy in the departure lounge of Terminal 3 at Heathrow. 

I wrote inside asking the finder to pass the book on when they'd finished and note their brief possesion on the Milkshake facebook page  So I sat down, carefully placed the book on the empty chair next to me and then waited until the cleaners had passed by before walking away.It felt a bit like one of those subtle document drops you see in spy movies. Only later did I remember that the opening chapter is actually set in a Heathrow departure lounge in 2002.

The sequel to Milkshake is currently with 4 beta readers, one of whom has already given me plenty of feedback to work on now I'm back in front of a proper PC rather than a netbook which seems to have about 20 minutes battery life before needing re-charging.

Incidentally, it was nice to see how many locations offering free wifi also offered the chance to re-charge laptops etc free of charge.

I'm off to start work on amending the first draft of TheDestiny Stone. It's 6.40am and I've already been up for 2 hours thanks to jet lag!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Blog 12 Beta readers and a fly on the wall

An update on beta readers for the Milkshake sequel; The Destiny Stone. Thanks to some generous offers, I have 3 willing readers (2 in New Zealand and 1 in Australia), who have agreed to go through the draft in the next couple of weeks.

In Milkshake news I had an interesting experience this week. A work colleague has purchased the paperback version from The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery) and keeps asking me about various aspects as she reads. Meanwhile, my manager has downloaded the e book onto her Ipad from the site. On Thursday I overheard them discussing what page they were up to, what had happened so far and how much they were enjoying it.... all without acknowledging I was actually in the room! This proved to be far more immediate and worthwhile than any written review I've ever had!

Incidentally I now have 10 reviews on American Amazon and 7 on the UK version.

Also this week, Milkshake had been reviewed on the popular and well-respected KIWIreviews website. It'll be interesting to see whether or not it generates any sales at all.

Milkshake has now been on sale since mid-October 2011. I understand this week the publisher gets all the royalties and sales details from places like Smashwords (and all its affiliates; Kobo, Barnes & Noble etc) and Amazon. Once the figures are passed on, it'll be my first indication of actual sales numbers.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Blog 11. How social is a social network?

This afternoon I finished the sequel to Milkshake . Unlike Milkshake which I struggled to title until re-reading the final draft, this sequel had a title virtually from the first page. 

The Destiny Stone is complete at just under 78,000 words.

No-one has read it yet.

I've decided I need a few Beta readers to check things like plot, if the various timelines integrate with each other as well as grammar and spellings etc.

So as a small experiment in the power of social networking, I've advertised for Beta  readers on Facebook, Twitter, and the website of my publisher, Night. One fellow Night author has already kindly agreed to read it through, on the basis of enjoying and being a staunch support of Milkshake.

It will be interesting to see where (if any) the offers come from, how many I get, and also what feedback I eventually get from them.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BLOG 10 - The Pirate Blog

Someone at work boasted at having found a site with 'free' e books.
 They'd downloaded 300.
 I may have downloaded free music in the past -  certainly not 300 albums in one go. 
 But at least with music, it doesn't require your undivided attention. You could easily load 300 albums onto your Ipod and play them in the background while you go about your business. However, a book requires a semblance on concentration and engagement. You'd probably have to stop most things to read a book. 
I hasten to add I've since changed my attitude to online piracy since becoming an unwilling victim of Cap'n (phone) Jack
So why on earth download 300 different titles at once at once? Think about it. Isn't that just literary looting for the sake of it?
I've yet to receive any royalties for 'Milkshake' Its been for sale for nearly 5 months and I'm due my first royalty sometime this month.
 I'm not holding my breath. I haven't ordered the Porsche. I haven't booked a celebratory table at a flash restaurant in anticipation. With the amount I'm expecting I'm confident Macca's don't take reservations.
'Milkshake' has been variously priced @ 99c (75p) for the ebook and $11.99 (7.50GBP). One sale; ANY sale is a significant event, both for my ego and, eventually my bank account.
I'm not against free books, or free digital content in general. in fact I'd rather someone read for free, than not read for the sake of 99c. I can fully understand the clever marketing logic of offering an online title for free for a limited period to drive traffic to a particular title before adding a price back onto it.
So please consider the author next time internet temptation stares at you from your PC screen. I read a slogan recently along the lines of  'ebook -  took 2 years to write - cost 99c. Cappacino. Took 3 minutes to make -  cost $4.00.'
See you next time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blog 9 - Just a quickie

I haven't blogged for over a month. Time for a brief catch up then.

Mr Dotcom is out on bail and the hysteria over his wealth and lifestyle appears to have died down now the court process has started to get bogged down in the inevitable procedural sludge. You see? This is where real life differs from the edited and stylized imagery of fiction.

Meanwhile, the debate continues in NZ over the proposed purchase of vast tracts of arable dairy land by a Chinese-based company. If you've read 'Milkshake' then you'll know this real-life scenario in some way mirrors the plot. But as with the Mr Dotcom saga, life is very slow when it comes to mirroring art.

Last week 'Milkshake' finally went on sale in a real bookshop! Page & Blackmore in Nelson have taken half a dozen copies, so now locals can go in and peruse, poke and ponder before purchasing.

I may have to have a third and final attempt to get the local media to sit up and take notice by sending out yet another self penned press release.

 I was very happy to see a tenth review on, and a five star one at that! Apparently George Polley in Japan purchased a paperback version and gave me a very generous review.

Finally, the first draft of the sequel 'The Destiny Stone' is nearing completion after just over a year and 75,000 words. It should be ready for anyone who wishes to 'beta read' in the next few weeks.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blog 8 - Only one thing is stranger than fiction...

Before Christmas I blogged vaguely about how, since the publication of Milkshake, life seemed to be imitating art. I put the details on the Facebook page, but I'll also now detail them here as well .

Dec 4 -  NZ news website Stuff reports the NZ dairy herd is growing faster than the human population - predicted in Milkshake

Dec 5 -  The BBC reports on plans to harness desert sunlight and transmit the captured energy north, to Europe. Again, predicted as a throwaway line in Milkshake as The Felin Project in the initial draft written nearly 7 years ago and retained in the final version! 

Dec 6  -  Another 'Milkshake Moment' in the media as the NZ airforce finally take delivery of the NH90 helicopter they are secretly testing (in the book) in 2002. I wrote that in 2006.

Dec 17 - Things started to get just a little freaky as some political commentators in NZ started focusing on the Green Party and how their agenda may not be all it seems? Without giving away the plot, in Milkshake the Ecological Political Assembly (of) New Zealand are not quite the good guys everyone assumes them to be.

Things went quiet in the media while the world enjoyed a well-earned break. 


Like some modern-day Ian Fleming villain, an overweight, unfeasibly-named, over-smiling black-clad Teutonic overlord with a penchant for fast cars and faster women and a secretive empire globally dominant in it's chosen field, is arrested in a protected safe room in his $30million New Zealand.

New Zealand?? sleepy little nuclear-free, hobbit-loving clean and green Aotearoa?

How could such a person and his cohorts, this tallest and widest of tall poppies, have lived under our very noses undetected, untroubled by the media? Did  no-one ever see that Lady Penelope pink Cadillac cruising down the leafy lanes around Dotcom Manor? Are we really to believe that such a person is able to live and control his empire from a small island tucked away in the bottom corner of the world?

What do you think made New Zealand the ideal location for this mega-villain's lair?

Are we not all just a little shocked that such a character not only exists at all, but chose, it seems to base his operations here?

Kim Dotcom has made me smile. He clearly watched far too much TV as a child and thought he could actually be Dr No while living on Tracey Island, manipulating how and when the online community watches and listens to whatever it was they wished to download.

I bet the Police found an underground bunker, the wall lined with TV's and a counter showing how many $$$'s were being earned by the hour.

The point of all this is to show that, as far-fetched and fictional as Milkshake might appear to be, it's no where near as unbelievable as the unfolding story of the unlikely-named Kim Dotcom.