So, here's the thing! I took a few days off from the obsessive displacement activities of blogging, tweeting, checking my month-to-date sales, checking where I am on the Amazon bestseller lists, seeing who's above me and below me, and wondering why nobody in Vietnam wants to buy my books, to do some writing! I know, call me names like wordsmith, writer, or ink slinger, see if I care!
I'm at 20,000 words for my third Parish and Richards novel The Flesh is Weak (first chapter available here or there), and I've identified the title of the fourth book in the series: The Shadow of Death. Trouble is, I can't write fast enough. I know I'm reasonably prolific, but what I'd like is an autopilot (or should that be an autowriter?) - a button to press, which would allow me to write and do all the other things like eat, take a shower, slurp coffee and ginger beer, walk the dogs, sleep, watch some TV! Wouldn't that be great, hey! In fact, in my next blog I'll tell you about my writing day - excited or what!
The first two books in the Parish & Richards series are selling very well in the UK: A Life for a Life and The Wages of Sin, and one assumes being received well by those wonderful reader people, but sometimes one ponders the imponderable! Well, you do, don't you? Especially when you've sold a hundred books and nobody comes back to leave a 5* Review! I mean, what's going on? Now, some of you might be happy for readers to return and leave something less than a 5* Review. You might be driven - in your tortured minds - to say, "Hey, all reviews are good, helpful, and very wonderful!" And I say, "You're insane - get in that cell, and don't expect to see daylight anytime soon! Whoops there goes the key swilling down that drain!"
I've heard some readers say, "Yep, look at the reviews, take them to heart, make my choice based on: 1) How many there are; 2) The quality of 'em; 3) What they say about plot, characterisation, and the sustainability of the Amazon rainforests!" Other readers, however, sit in the middle, like those birds on the telegraph wire in Hitchcock's The Birds, wondering which person's eyes to nibble on first. Finally, there are those readers who say, "Reviews are subjective! One person's 5* is another person's 1*! Hey bozo," they continue in a high-pitched guttural wheezy type of voice, "books aren't kettles or ray guns! Now if you give a 5* Review to a kettle or a ray gun I might take some notice, but a book - go stick you head in the sand, I want to make my own mind up!" Which type of reader are you?
So, I thought, maybe if I change the book's categories on Amazon sales might pick up. Maybe I've got my books in the wrong categories and that's why they haven't gone viral! I mean, does anyone actually know how those categories work? You can only choose two when you upload your magnus opus, so maybe the two I chose were the kiss of death (oops, those idioms get everywhere), black book holes, or doorways into alternative universes! Before I focus on my mainstream crime thrillers, let me mention two others: Orc Quest: Prophecy (YA Fantasy) and The Knowledge of Time: Second Civilisation (YA Science Fiction). Both of which I think are pretty good, but have only sold a handful! Well, I scanned down the categories and realised there was a 'Juvenile' category - I know I should have spotted it before, but I was looking for 'Young Adult' forgetting that American was a foreign language!
Anyway, I thought this has got to be the reason sales are non-existent, so chose sub-categories within the main 'Juvenile' category and sat back rubbing sweaty hands and waited for fame and fortune to come knocking on my metaphorical cyber door. You're sitting on the edge of your seat drooling now, aren't you? You want to know whether sales soared, or if the books became scuttlebutt and went viral? Sorry to say - I've seen more movement watching paint dry! Changing categories hasn't made the slightest bit of difference!
In fact, I won't even talk about my crime novels, because changing categories hasn't altered their sales either. So, what's a guy to do? What innovative strategy should I use next? I see posts - often - asking about book promotion - where, how, who, what? I see indie authors frequenting padded cells - often - wearing straightjackets and flipflops and trading Viagra for cigarettes - they want to know how to reach their target audience - any audience - where to go, which best foot to put forward first, who's hand to shake using the secret handshake, or where the skellingtons are buried! Send your answers on a postcard to me @ here, but don't write in invisible ink, don't mention blogs, blog tours, guest blogging, forums, kindleboards, or anything that's been mentioned before because not only is it boring it also doesn't work, and if you're doing all those things you can't be writing - like wot I'm not now! Ta Ta For Now (or TTFN)!
So, here's the thing! I've been wandering off all over the place like someone with dementia! This blog is called a Book Blog - and have I been talking about books or blogs? Not in the least! Everything but, Toady. So, let's get back to the matter in hand - books.
You know, I've just read The Warsaw Anagrams by Richard Zimmler - it was good, but I felt the ending was a bit of a wet blanket, and the aftermath went on and on. I also had a quick look at a book by Quentin Jardine and one by Barbara Nadel. Yes, I can hear you scratching those crunchy lice in your hair because you're wondering why I might pick up books by two authors I wouldn't normally read. Competition! Yep, I thought: Hey, these two 'trads' are on the bestseller list in police procedurals, so when my wife took me to town in her new Vauxhall Corsa - I haven't told you... Well, the short and the long of it is that my car is off the road because we didn't need two cars when we were both sat at home staring at each other and wishing we were someplace else - I'm retired and Pam (that's her name) was taking time out. Trouble is, my wife's got a job now - you guessed it! She takes the car and I'm using Shank's pony - that's walking for the uninitiated. Don't you just love idioms? I bet young people have never heard of that idiom, or any idiom for that matter! I wonder when the last idiom was invented? Are there idiom inventors plying their trade out there now? Click on the picture and it'll take you to the idiom of the day. So, whilst I was in town I popped into the Charity shops and bought one of each author! I bet you didn't know Barbara Nadel lives in Essex! What a coincidence - so do I! Maybe I'll pop round for tea and scones!
Anyway, I'm reading (and I use the term under advisement because when I'm writing I find it hard to read other people's books, and I'm always writing) The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Now, in terms of their writing, some authors stand head and shoulders above other run of the mill authors (oops! did I just use another idiom or two?) I loved The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game. The writing was beautiful, and the stories wonderful. I'm also reading The Passage by Justin Cronin. Now, I've not read any of his before, but I like doorstops - or I used to when I was merely a reader and not a writer, but I don't like vampire stories - especially doorstop ones, so we'll see how it progresses. Well, let's face it, vampire stories are boring. I mean, what's scary about someone biting your neck, especially a hot sexy woman with porcelain skin? So there we are, if you want to bite me, get on with it - the longer I live the more books I can write!
Now, if we're talking exceptional books - and I understand that one man's meat is another man's poison (oops, was that another idiom?) - I'd like to mention The Religion by Tim Willocks, Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein... Now, I could go on and on, because I've read a lot of books, but suffice it to say that there are some books that stay with you, haunt you, and when people say, "Hey, what are your five desert-island books?" You immediately reel them off. When I first read LotR in 1972, it came as one book. Its only recently that the publishers have split it up into three to make more money - a ruse, a gambit, an artifice!
Now, let's talk Indie Authors - one of which sits before you! I'm also reading Murderson by Mark Yarwood, Caribbean Moon by Rick Murcer, and Losing the Hate by Simon Palmer. Although, as I said earlier, it's a struggle to read and write. I used to devour a couple of books a week, but now I'm lucky if I can get through one a month!
So, what's out there for Indie Authors? Well, proliferating like the plague wouldn't be an understatement, but let's pick a few sites where Indie Authors are welcome, because as you've probably noticed they're not welcomed with open arms everywhere! If you click the picture on the right it will send you to Steampunkery and Book Reviews run by the beautiful Mad Scientist. Clicking on the picture below will take you to the Reel Swell Productions Blog. The one below that... Well, I bet you get the idea. Simply click on the pictures to see where they take you, and don't be surprised if you stay awhile to enjoy what they offer.
Now, the people I know - who happen to be Indie Authors - have places you can go to as well. Here are a few of them: Mark Yarwood, Kelvin O'Ralph, Sibel Hodge, Kristina Jackson, Susan Helene Gottfried, David Gaughran, and there's more on my Featured Author page, so be there or be square! Anyway, that's it, I'm off. I have a low boredom threshold and I'm bored now, so...
So, here's the thing! I don't want to go down the route of chasing my ancestors round the mulberry bush - family history (tree) to the uinitiated! My mum spent hours and hours and some loose change on finding out about our ancestors. Now, I don't want to brag, but my dad told us when we were still sprogs in short pants and woolly vests that we could trace our lineage directly back to David the One-Eye - a famous Welsh Warrior King (Ellis is a Welsh name by the way) - and I have no reason to disbelieve him!
Also, we have our own coat of arms, you know! So, you can call me, "My Lord," and I'll call you... Toady, okay? Now, don't ask me what that half-naked female is doing popping out of the top of my helmet because I have no idea, but she looks vaguely familiar! And the Latin phrase is from Virgil's Aeneid Book II and means Good looking and witty! Ha! Not really, but it could be because I am. It means Not without the divine will of the gods! Yeah, I know, doesn't mean much to me either, Toady, but there it is - like it or lump it. Doesn't change your position or mine. I'm still Sir Tim, and you're still Toady!
So, I've got copies of pictures of my mum's mum and dad, (George & Henrietta Sandland - good old English names!) which you are now looking at below, because I've just scanned them in. The thing is, when I was younger I was the spitting image of my grandfather, an example of genes skipping a generation. Now, here's the thing... My mum's dad wasn't an Ellis! So, I don't know how my mum - as a commoner - got to marry Welsh royalty, but what it means is that the genetic pool has been diluted. It also means that the Ellis family are not inbred like most royal families! In fact, its just occurred to me that - being the eldest son - I could be the heir to the Welsh throne! King Tim - it has a certain ring to it, don't you agree, Toady?'
I've been away and come back - these blogs don't write themselves, you know! Anyway, I had a quick look at my position in the bestsellers charts - as people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) do - and found A Life for a Life at number 25 (its a shifting thing - yesterday I was at 18, now I'm at 17!) in Bestsellers in Police Procedurals, but that's not why I mention it. My book is wedged between Lazybones by Mark Billingham and Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter, both of whom are traditionally published and authors whom I read. How awesome is that? One could argue, as one might, that one is an author! How spooky is that? Next, people will be telling me that someone has actually read one of my books all the way through to the end. Now, that would be spooky! So, books are selling well here in the good old UK, USA is patchy, and as for Deutschland - what's that all about? The people who live in Germany obviously can't read because they haven't downloaded one of my books yet - pah! They don't know what they're missing! Maybe I should make it clear that my books have been written by a King - jump on the celebrity bandwagon, hey Toady!
Oh! Update. Got an email from the stunningly beautiful Elizabeth at TheFrugaleReader saying that my book was being featured. Maybe she'd heard I was a King. You see, that's what happens when people find out you're royalty, Toady, they want to do things for you, get on your good side, stroke your ego and other things... Anyway, my sales in the US went through the roof - Well, not really, but they did surge (that's a thrusting word, isn't it?)
So Toady, let's take a detour to the Isle of White Festivals of 1969 and 1970. You weren't there. OMG! And I thought everyone was there. I went with Neds and Fletch to one of them, but I'm not sure who I went with to the other one - memories begin to smudge, intermingle, and generally splodge into one. Thankfully, they've got written records, photos, and youtube videos, etc., so that wrinkly people who can't remember their own name - yours truly - can reflect and remember how old they are. Well, it was 1969/1970, and that's 42/41 years ago for goodness sake, so that makes me... See the photo below - I was there, I remember the naked females! Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a pervert or a voyeur or anything like that, but when two beautiful women take their clothes off in front of you, well... you'd be a pillar of salt not to look, so yes I have to admit... I was there.
So, we were lying in this field in front of the stage, and we were starving and thirsty because we'd eaten the sugar butties we'd brought with us on the ferry over. I remember drinking sour milk, but that wasn't the worst of it! I had a hole in one of my teeth and I could taste this sour milk forever afterwards - yuk! One day, I was asleep, and my two mates decided to try some drugs they got offered! Laugh - I nearly wet myself. Something that was meant to be smoked they chewed and ended up with sore throats! Hey, we were hippies of the world, we knew all about drugs, free sex, and flowers!
The list of artists that performed over the four days in 1970 is detailed below. The ones I remember are: Kris Kristofferson, Black Widow, Procul Harum, Joni Mitchell, Tiny Tim, Ten Years After, ELP, The Doors, The Who, Free, Donovan, Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Bez, Leonard Cohen, and Richie Havens. It was just the best time ever. One of the most enduring memories was Tiny Tim singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips!
Here's a list of artists: Wednesday 26th: Judas Jump, Kathy Smith, Rosalie Sorrels, David Bromberg, Redbone, Kris Kristofferson, Mighty Baby. Thursday 27th: Gary Farr, Supertramp, Andy Roberts Everyone, Howl, Black Widow, Groundhogs, Terry Reid, Gilberto Gil. Friday 28th: Fairfield Parlour, Arrival, Lighthouse, Taste, Tony Joe White, Chicago, Family, Procol Harum, The Voices of East Harlem, Cactus. Saturday 29th: John Sebastian, Shawn Phillips, Lighthouse, Joni Mitchell, Tiny Tim, Miles Davis, Ten Years After, Emerson Lake and Palmer, The Doors, The Who, Melanie, Sly and the Family Stone. Sunday 30th: Good News, Kris Kristofferson, Ralph McTell, Heaven, Free, Donovan, Pentangle, Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Richie Havens, Hawkwind.
List of artists from the 1969 festival: The Band, Blodwyn Pig, Blonde On Blonde, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Edgar Broughton Band, Joe Cocker, Aynsley Dunbar, Bob Dylan, Eclection, Fat Mattress, Family, Gary Farr, Judas Jump, Julie Felix, Free, Gypsy, Richie Havens, Marsha Hunt And White Trash, Indo Jazz Fusions, The Liverpool Scene, Mighty Baby, The Moody Blues, The Nice, Tom Paxton, Pentangle, Pretty Things, Third Ear Band, The Who. With memories like these I can die a happy man. Not that I'm on the way out you understand, but hell - those were the days!
I had long blonde hair in those days, a job that paid next to nothing, and my mate Neds had a Mini with a hole in the floor, so that when it rained your feet got wet. I remember going out with a girl (I went out with a few actually), but this one wore short angorra jumpers that revealed her midriff - sexy or what! Anyway, time to go I suppose. I'll leave you with a not very good Bob Dylan, but even drugged up to the eyeballs he could sing better than me!
So, here's the thing! Still no more reviews, but mustn't grumble because sales have been quite respectable. Halfway through the month and I've already surpassed last month's sales! Could this be the calm before the storm? Yawn!
My mum used to say that I had no patience, and she was right. She died last year, but hey - no problem - she had a good innings (that's her with my dad in the photo - must be about 1950). She used to ring me up (before she died, stupid), and I'd answer the phone by saying, 'Are you stalking me?' (I have a loud speaker on my phone so I know who's calling before I pick up - often, my wife and I don't bother picking up because we don't like a whole lot of people). My mum and I had a good laugh and I miss her phone calls. Being a wife and mother (or a husband and father for that matter) was different in those days. Now, if you don't like the man (or woman) you've just agreed to spend the rest of your life with, you just walk away. My mum stayed with my dad through thick and thin, and believe me there was a lot of thin! The sanctity of marriage ain't what it used to be. Our new throw-away society extends to wives, husbands, and children as well!
So, a few years ago, my wife and I went to Mexico for a holiday, and stayed in a lovely five-star hotel. Now, we don't usually sign up to organised trips and the like because, 1) We don't like other people (as I've said before, but you still keep coming round) - which reminds me of our honeymoon. We went to the old part of Tenerife (Peurto de la Cruz I think) in 1977 (yeah I know - before some of you were even born!), and stayed in a nice hotel (except the showers were freezing cold most of the time). We did a lot of... well, lazing about by the pool, sightseeing, you know the type of things honeymooners do - Well, we kept getting lumbered with this fat smelly guy that we called Sloan (there was a reason we called him that, but I can't think what it was now!). I mean, two honeymooners in love and this fat smelly guy wants to spend time with us! You can imagine my response? Polite didn't work, so in the end I had to be fairly forthright, as one does in extreme circumstances.
Which also reminds me of Jasper Carrot! You've never heard of him? You don't know what you're missing. He was big in the 70s as a stand-up comic - even had a couple of records out - one was called Motorbikin' - it was one of those rubbish ones that you had to like and sing along to! I wonder... Yep, YouTube had it, but it was called Funky Moped! You're gonna hate me for this, but you have to listen to it!
So, before you destracted me with Funky Mopeds, I was telling you about this guy Sloan who reminded my wife and I of the nutter on the bus. Jasper Carrot tells a story about how, when he goes and sits on a bus, the nutter always comes and sits next to him. Well, if he's not sitting next to Jasper Carrot, he comes and sits next to me - that's mainly why I don't go on buses anymore.
Where was I? Oh yes - organised trips, 2) They're usually a rip off; 3) They take you away from the bar and the pool. Anyway, to cut a short story long, we decided to go on an organised trip. First, they took us to this underground tunnel system (well the cave opening thereof) and we swam inside this dark cave. You're thinking - wow really exciting - snore! No, you're missing the point - it was the start of a tunnel that went from where we were (miles inland) to the coast. Divers had explored this tunnel filled with water, needed a couple of changes of air tanks, but eventually made it to the coast through this tunnel system! Scary or what! You gotta admire people who do something like that! When we were treading water (and before the wife started panicking because she thought she was gonna drown and the water kept lapping over her mouth) when you dived down there was a rope path underwater that led into the tunnel, something that later divers just followed.
Anyway, onwards and upwards. From there we went snorkling in the coral reef. Now, you've gotta laugh (I just remembered that we paid for this trip days before we were due to go, but the wife had never snorkled, so I had to teach her how to use goggles, flippers, and a snorkle in the hotel swimming pool - so funny - remember the nutter? Well, that was the wife trying to snorkle!) So, we travel to this beach, put on life-jackets, snorkels, flippers etc., and climb into kayaks to row out to the coral reef (I won't tell you how I got my leg trapped and ended up floating upside down and looking like a fool!) So, there we are diving down to be one with nature and the coral reef - the wife and I - who had previously never snorkelled and couldn't stand the water going over her head. She loved it! And if it wasn't for the fact that we've got five Shitzhu dogs (yeah in the picture: Daisy, Frodo, Buddy, Coco, and Mim), we'd be snorkelling in coral reefs all over the world! We would liked to have learned to scuba dive as well, but I fear its too late now - me being on my last legs 'n all! (Yeah, I know the video is of a coral reef in Indonesia - wherever that is - but the Mexican videos weren't up to much, and its only to give you the flavour of a coral reef not the real thing for goodness sake)!
Next on the itinery was swimming with the Dolphins (this was what we really wanted to do and why we paid for the organised trip!) I've got a video, which now you've reminded me, I must get transferred to DVD. Yeah, it was brill (or should that be wicked!) Whatever, I loved it. Oh, I have got a photo! Now, where did the wife put it? Found it and scanned it! My wife knows where everything is, and I know where nothing is! What's that about? So, don't read anything untoward into that Dolphin kissing me - her name was Mildred by the way - there was nothing going on between us!
So, how on earth did we begin traipsing through the Mexican jungle when I wanted to talk about my sales? Oh, I forgot to tell you about the Mayan ruins in Quintano Roo, at Tulum - the Walled City. We had a wander round there as part of our trip - that's me on the alter, I'm the human sacrifice to the God of Wind Ehécatl! Anyway, got to go! Maybe I'll talk about my sales next time if I've still got a heart! Have a nice day, y'all!
Here's the thing! Remember that Smash advert? The one where Martians laughed at humans peeling poatoes? (It's amazing what you can find on YouTube - check out the short video below and have a laugh!) Well, you can imagine those little tin aliens laughing at the way we use our language now. I read in a post recently, "I'd like to be liked!". I mean, wouldn't we all? But to go around asking people to 'like' you is a bit desperate, wouldn't you say? What they're really asking for, of course, is that you press their button! Ha! I've had people pressing my button since I was knee-high to a grasshopper!
Anyway, I popped along to RedAdeptReviews for my monthly inspection, and do you know what? They're closed! The door was shut, the 'Closed' sign was up, the lock was locked, and the bolts were bolted! Don't send them anymore books because they've got a 900 booklog - 900 books! That's like saying I'll never see the light of day again! Someone threw me in this basement and stole the steps - HELP! Good luck with those RedAdept!
So, I suppose you want me to talk about Indie Book Review sites? I'm not going to - can't be bothered! I'm sure there are more scintillating things to talk about other than Indie Book Review sites - like me for instance! You know, when I write I start with a title, or a character, or a situation and then go from there. I don't plan, I have no idea where I'm going. I write a scene and focus on dialogue first - I'm a dialogue person - and then I go back and add description, internal dialogue, check times, facts, locations, do some forewarning, until I'm happy with the scene - this, apparently, is called 'layering' - adding layers, which is a good anology for what I do. I re-read it, picture everything in my head - the characters in the location, what they're wearing, making sure their behaviour is consistent with who they are, have them moving around purposefully, checking that their dialogue matches their personality. Then I move on to the next scene and do the same again. I construct my book scene-by-scene. Maybe I'm a builder instead of a writer, which reminds me of that Star Trek Voyager episode called 'Prototype' when B'Elanna Torres (no, not the footballer who can't score for Liverpool or Chelsea) retrieves a robot floating in space and re-activates it, and then it goes downhill from there because the robot has been programmed to kill the builders - uh oh!
Did I ever tell you I received my first rejection letter at 15/16 years of age? I was a right weird kid, I used to listen to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, David Bowie, and The Rolling Stones, there was also some Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, and other stuff I'd prefer not to mention like Lulu, The Love Affair (Everlasting Love - see below), Gary Puckett & the Union Gap (Young Girl - see below)! I could fill up the Weebly server with brilliant songs from my youth.
Ha! Here's a thing... A bunch of us got together (Neds, Fletch, Pete Croft, Stevie Barker, Chris Brown, and Andy Keeble) - we must have been about 14/15. We called ourselves 'The Gang', hung about the park with some girls, and went round stealing apples - we were hard! Anyway, we started a group! Trouble was, my guitar had a couple of strings missing and I couldn't play any chords anyway. Also, I'm tone deaf and couldn't sing any notes in tune. We practised in my front garden playing and singing 'Mony Mony' by Tommy James & the Shondells (see below). The neighbours threatened to call the police if we didn't stop making a damned racket! That was the end of my music career! I look back at some of the stupid things we did and cringe with embarrassment! Oh, there were some girls associated with those songs - I used to fall in love at the drop of a hat! There was Michelle with Everlasting Love, Joyce who had a thing for Andy Fairweather Low of Amen Corner (see below)... I can't remember their names now, but I loved them all.
So anyway, I was talking about this rejection letter I recieved from a publisher before you distracted me with a trip down memory lane! It was for a collection of my poems a'la Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. And I wrote about the Purple Rain long before Prince ever did! I've still got them, somewhere, went into the garage to dig them out yesterday so that I could give you a taste of my poetry skills when I was 16 years of age. Sadly, you'll be glad to know, I can't find a damned thing in my garage - its full of books! So, maybe next time! Something to look forward to, keep you on the edge of your seats, waiting, anticipation...
So, here's the thing! In my last blog I started talking about one-star reviews and jubblys, but then got sidetracked by the Normal Distribution and investigating whether they applied to some of my favourite authors. The answer - if you were wondering - is not really! So, before you - yes you, I'm not taking the blame for everything - take me down a side road and have your wicked way with me again - I'd better talk about these terrible one-star reviews you've been getting lately! (I haven't got any, and before you rush off to rectify that, I don't want any either!)
Why would someone give your book a one-star review? Well, let's scrutinate (is that just the best word?) the possibilities. 1) It was unadulterated drivel! Oh my... (One of those three idiots in the Wizard of Oz used to say that, didn't they? Which one was it - the lion, the witch or the wardrobe - mmm!) So, you've written a book that either has no plot, boasts none-dimensional characters, you've treated the subject matter like a bull in a labyrinth, it reads like a shopping list, the spelling is atrocious, the grammar sucks, your punctuation is modelled on my blogs - Oh my... No wonder someone gave you a one-star review!
Let's examine some one-star reviews to see what motivates a person to circumnavigate the obstacles to reviewing a book! Now, I've lifted these off random fiction books from Amazon, and I hope there's no infringement of copyright, or trespass law, or squatter's rights, or whatever? And if there is, please don't sue me because I have no money, I'm just a struggling author trying to make ends meet...
I persevered with this book as I thought that somehow, somewhere, it will start to make sense and the plot will start to unfold. How utterly wrong could I be? I read this book but actually have no idea what it was about, who the main protagonists are or what the point was. Utter rubbish.
I don't usually review anything here but feel compelled to by the sheer awfulness of this book. As soon as the killer was intoduced I thought that would be stupid, that's the killer, sure enough I was right. The cops are all borderline retards FBI included. I'm a little depressed this book got published never mind sold well, I suspect the author might actually be a bit thick.
This was a horrific book with no substance, bad characters, and an ending that made no sense. Half of the book reads like bad porn and the other half is just horribly boring. None of the characters are likeable or even slightly interesting. The reviews are very misleading. I will never waste my time with this author again!
I don't even think that this was worth 49p. It wasn't even easy to read as the plot was laborious with no real reward at the end. It leapt from terribly cheesey cliched writing, to boring amounts of detail describing court cases, to wrapping up important subplots in one incidental sentence!
As far as I'm concerned, this book is just not very well written or thought out. Stilted dialogue, stereotypical characterisation, poor grammar and punctuation, all serve to disappoint from the very start. And with that in mind, as the scenarios became more ludicrous, I wondered why I was bothering to continue. I made it as far as a scene where the main character has a conversation on his mobile phone in an area that has had all radio signals blocked, then I gave up.
This is the worst book I have read for years. It is banal, the plot is lucicrous, the writing repetitive & the novel appears to be aimed at an audience aged under 12.
So, it seems to me that a book has to be pretty awful for a person to give it a one-star review. However, it should be noted that the 1* reviews quoted above are also counteracted by 5* reviews, which just proves that reviews are subjective. I suppose the trick to not getting one is to keep your drivel to yourself (not that the books from which the 1* reviews came from are drivel - I'm not qualified to make that judgement and I haven't read any of the books in question. Now, there were some interesting comments following the first part of this blog which deserve mention: 1) Readers only give reviews if they really like it or really hate it! There might be something in this. Certainly, controversial books such as Sugar & Spice by Saffina Desforges attract a large number of reviews - 127 in a couple of months (and sales - 50,000), whilst others have hardly had any - reviews or sales! 2) Reviews are subjective - one person's 5* is another person's 1*! Again, a valid argument - the amount of times some people have been surprised (on Amazon) by 5* reviews when they think the book is rubbish (and vikki verki) - books are not kettles (is that an insightful observation, or what!) 3) There are too many good books about to read rubbish books, so most reviews will be skewed towards the 5/4* - Again true! Why read something you're not enjoying (I don't) life's too damned short. What surprises me is that people persevere with a book when they're clearly not enjoying it - see the one-star reviews above! 4) As a reader, because reviews are subjective, I don't see the point in leaving a review (I'm going to throw my teddy bear into the corner!) 5) If I can't fairly give a 4 or 5* review I won't bother (you can read my books anytime). 6) I barely look at the Amazon reviews, I consider either personal recommendation or book blog reviews (so that's why authors want book blogs to review their books! I keep meaning to get some reviews don, but... See below!) 7) Average books don't motivate the reader to leave a review - I can relate to that. 8) I've downloaded two of your books, but haven't read them yet - WHAT? (That teddy bear is staying in the corner until...)
Before I sign off, let's briefly investigate the goings-on of these so-called book review sites. Now, I've listed quite a few on my page entitled Reviews, but I haven't really had time to peruse them in detail. However, a few observations: 1) If you type in the nice Mr Yahoo's engine 'Book Review Sites', you get back 'professional review sites' i.e. book reviews by professional writers and critics - they review 'proper' books! If you want sites that review 'indie books', one must type 'indie' into the engine. 2) Now, some people are doing a roaring trade in reviewing indie books, but... and here's the thing... apart from them being your average reader, what qualifies them to review books? I don't want anybody thinking that I'm having a dig or casting aspersions - nothing could be further from the truth - I see them filling a gap in the market. So, don't go grabbing my books by the dangly bits to tar and feather them! Not that you would, because you're all such nice people! 3) Most sites have a review policy, which states that reviews are unbiased, honest, and if you don't like the review - tough! Yes, I saw the tooings and froings of that author who got a bad review and then started effing and blinding at the reviewer - not really the way to go. Well, I've rambled on for far too long as usual, so I'm going to finish here, but... and here's another thing... seeing as you keep coming back to riffle through my offerings I'll write some more on Indie Book Review sites in my next blog. Later alligator!
So, here's the thing! What's a book review? You wrenched the very question out of my chocolate-stuffed mouth, Grasshopper. Well, let's scrutinize this phenomenon, shall we? (Have I said how much I like the word shall? I do - and I shall continue to use it!) Anyway, let's scrutinate! (You could retire on words like that).
I am, of course, referring to the wonderful Mrs Amazon's 5-star classification system for customer reviews (see picture on the left). I'd like to say that the picture was a screen grab of the reviews from one of my books, but alas it is not. This particular item has had 31 reviews - sounds like review heaven to me. The most I've had on one book is two reviews - I mean, what's that about? Anyway, I'm sure I will re-visit the lack of reviews further along in the blog. First though, I'd like to dissect the whole idea of reviews, because I don't want you to take them at face value. Ha, you're thinking: A review is a review, isn't it? Unfortunately, Grasshopper, no it's not. Read on, and all will be revealed.
Numero uno is the Five-Star Review. I can hear your breathing rate increase, you feel your chest getting tight at the very mention, perspiration breaks out along your hairline! "Oh yes, yes," I hear you moan. "Give me a bucketful of those." But... and here's the thing - Can you trust 5-star reviews? There's an article (yes, of course, someone has written about 5-star reviews. Let's face it, reviews influence sales, and if humans are involved in the review process then they'll find a way to lie, steal, cheat, and twist everything around to benefit themselves!) I know, call me a cynical old fool - but quietly please. Here's the article, which basically says that eliciting or posting dummy positive reviews is called 'shilling' - those fabulous Americans have a name for everything, don't they? (They also have a few other names such as: Amazon bombing, Sock puppetry, Astroturfing, and Seeding!) Well, I suppose it's because they invented them all! The British aren't like that, are they?
Anyway, I thought a shilling was an old British coin - just goes to show what I know! Only this morning, my wife and I were harping back to the good old days of the farthing, halfpenny, penny, threepenny bit (my gran used to save them up in a bottle and give my brother and I a handful when we went on holiday to Colwyn Bay in North Wales. There was an ice cream shop on the corner that sold the best ice cream in the whole world with bits of ice in it), the tanner (sixpence), the shilling (bob), the two-bob bit (florin), and the half-crown (we were poor, so I never had a crown - five bob). Those were the days - you could get four liqourice Black Jacks for a penny! They used to make your lips, gums and tongue all black, but they were great to chew on. Do you remember the Jubbly as well - I loved sucking on those babies in the summer - they made your lips and your tongue numb!
Anyway, apparently these 5-star reviews aren't all they're cracked up to be. If you're on the ball though, you can spot them: 1) If there are only a few reviews, assume that there is a good chance they've been planted by friends or foes (now hang on a minute - all my reviews have come from genuine reviewers - I have no friends or family - and I've only got a few reviews - dabs eyes with tissue); 2) If there are many reviews, act like a statistician, and start by dropping the most extreme comments; 3) watch out for similarities in style between reviews from people with different usernames, particularly if those reviews were placed about the same time; 4) watch out for people who are new users, or whose only reviews are on the same item; and 5) a sudden wave of five-star reviews after a more sustained run of lower ratings should provoke suspicion. Also, be wary of: 1) gushing praise; 2) advert-like qualities; and 3) repeated key phrases.
So, in my experience, getting reviews is like trying to push a piece of string uphill, or skydiving with a concrete parachute, or skating on thin ice, and equally impossibile pastimes! My books have been on Amazon for 8 weeks, but lets just take one book - A Life for a Life - which has sold 119 copies (in the US and UK), but has only attracted two reviews on the US site and two reviews on the UK site. I mean, why don't people leave a review? Is it overly difficult for readers to post a review? Some feedback from readers here would be useful? Maybe, after reading the book, readers are disappointed and just can't be bothered writing a scathing review? Maybe... Well, who knows? Certainly not me. I'd like a few honest reviews.
Now, when I say "honest reviews", I mean constructive reviews. Numero due (you're impressed with my grasp of Italian, aren't you?) takes me to the other extreme - the one-star review. Let's quickly mention the Normal Distribution again, Grasshopper! In any review system you would expect 68% of 3-star reviews, 13.5% of 2- and 4-star reviews, and 2.14% of 1- and 5-star reviews - that's the theory anyway! Does it work? Well, it's no use looking at my books because I've hardly got any reviews (have I already mentioned that?) So, let's examine some of my favourite books: 1) The Religion by Tim Willocks - he's got 47 reviews (41 x 5-star, 4 x 4-star, and 2 x 3-star)! The theory's looking a bit shakey already, but if you haven't read it you need to. 2) Lord of the Rings by an indie called JRR Tolkien - he's got 255 reviews (215 x 5-star, 18 x 4-star, 7 x 3-star, 7 x 2-star, 8 x 1-star). There's a distribution, but it's skewed heavily towards the 5-star review, but are you surprised? I mean, LotR is the best fantasy book ever! How could anybody give it a 1-star review? But.. and here's the thing... not everyone will like your book! WHAT? I know... shocking, or what?
I'm enjoying this! So, let's do one more for the road, but feel free to examine your own favourite books and see if the theory holds up! Let's look at 3) Steig Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which in my humble opinion was brilliant (as was the trilogy and its a damned shame he died, and died intestate). It has 938 reviews (that's a serious number of reviews) - (465 x 5-star, 211 x 4-star, 115 x 3-star, 56 x 2-star, and 91 x 1-star). Although still skewed towards the higher reviews, this distribution lends a bit of support to the theory. So, it might be that you have to have a whole bucketful of reviews before the theory holds up. Or, maybe the Normal Distribution doesn't apply to books! I think I'll stop there, because I have the habit of rambling on. I did want to talk about book review sites, but I'll save that 'till the next blog!
Here's the thing! I used to teach Psychology to Sixth Form girls before I retired. (I know, you're thinking 'lucky dog', but being in a room full of chattering females was one of those levels in hell that Dante Alighieri wrote about in the Divine Comedy). Anyway, stop trying to distract me! Before becoming a civilian teacher I did a lot of teaching in the Army related to psychology - like leadership, methods of instruction, physical training, and drill (the picture is of me taking part in a parade as a Drill Sergeant in about 1985/86 - Note the lithe body!). Anyway, I began thinking about the personality types of writers! Well, you do when it's a slow day, don't you?
I conducted a quick search using the nice Mr Yahoo's engine again and found a four-fold classification by the famous writing coach Jill Dearman who lives in New York city (which is a little place outside London if I'm not too much mistaken)! There's lots of questionnaires that try to analyse you - learning styles, thinking styles, urgency index, mindset, team profile, but I particularly like this personality inventory: NEO-PI (Short). I used to get all my students to complete it and then analysed their conscientiousness score - pretty accurate in terms of identifying those who were motivated to succeed! Try completing the inventory when you're looking for something to do other than write.
So, the beautiful and captivating Ms Dearman reckons there are four types of writers: 1) The Distractionist - A quick-thinking person who is never at a loss for great ideas, but somehow loses interest by the second draft; 2) The Dictator - Knows how to keep her eye on the prize and her butt in the chair, but her unwillingness to change makes her inflexible, stiff and often frustrated. As the needs of readers and the marketplace evolve she refuses to; 3) The Perfectionist - Grabs the reader at the first sentence, yet she cannot move on to the next brilliant line because she is still agonizing over the punctuation in the first; and 4) The Commitment-phobe - Takes him a while to settle on one project, and when he does, he inexplicably becomes obsessed with 'the one that got away.' Which one describes you? If you were wondering, I'm a Distractionist - I hop from project to project like a damned grasshopper!
Are you a Type A or B personality? Here's a survey to find out: Survey! So you can compare, I did it and I'm a Type A+ personality - that's why I had a heart attack two years ago. Here's what it said: You're driven to succeed every single second of the day, and you don't let up on your goals no matter how tired you are. You've already achieved a lot in your life... but it's not enough for you. Always on the go, you tend to get things done quickly and effectively. You have the personality to be a successful entrepreneur. Just remember to play a little too, even if play is the most difficult thing for you! True... so true! It's not the first time I've done the questionnaire - and it always comes out the damned same.
Here's another Survey: What Type of Writer Should You Be? I completed it and apparently I should be a Film Writer: You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind. You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life. Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling. And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen! Now, call me a donkey's hee-haw, but this is damned accurate! What about you? What type of writer should you be?
Maybe my next project should be a movie script! Exit stage left... Now, that's spooky, because I was only reading an article on Scriptwriting in one of my Writing Magazines today and thinking, Maybe I'll have a go at that! Is someone trying to tell me something? Are the planets in conjunction? Ha! Asking all these questions reminded me of Bill Cosby's 'Why is there air?'. Now that guy was funny. I was stationed in Germany in 1972 at the British Military Hospital in Iserlohn (when I was training to become a nurse) and the barman used to play one of Bill Cosby's comedy records. I loved Noah, My Dad's Car, Medic, Tonsils, $75 Car, oh all of them - they were brilliant. Here's a page full of Bill Cosby's videos on YouTube. If you want to laugh 'till you die - watch them! Below is Noah to give you an idea of what I mean.
In fact, now I come to think of it, Bill Cosby was probably one of my inspirations for humourous writing - he was the master. But, before I forget, let's talk about my next project - what, didn't I say it was going to be a big-budget Hollywood script with lots of whistles, bangs, and car chases that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have already signed up for? - Well, it is! I have a working name for it - Mr & Mrs Jones! What do you think, hey, hey? So anyway, as soon as I learn how to write a script after doing some research in the BBC Writer's Room, Steven Spielberg will be emailing me toot sweet begging me to do a treatment (Ha! I love that - a treatment - what the hell is one of those?) Here's a definition from that very nice Wiki person - Treatment! Right, I'm going to go now, but stay tuned to the same Bat Channel (do you remember that TV series - Zapp! Kapow!) because I might just write something about book reviews next time!
Here's the thing! I know a thing or seven about Private Investigators (PI's) so I hired one to find out where all the readers had gone (I had heard that they congregate in hordes in abandoned mines and hotels like vampires, witches and zombies, you know). Now, if you aren't familiar with the term 'reader' let me clarify! Readers walk among (or is that amongst!) us, they even look like us! (Some of them look particularly alluring (good word, or what!) as seen in the picture of my sister on the left, but it's only to tempt us to the dark side). You could (note the past tense here) usually spot them on buses, park benches, in cafe's smoking with crossed legs (before crossing your legs in public places was banned, and quite rightly so in my opinion!) reading a book, a tome, an opus, a paperback or a hardback! Those were the days! You could swivel your head to look at the spine or the cover to find out what they were devouring, strike up a conversation with: "Good book that!", or "How you finding it?", or "He gets the girl, but dies in the end, you know!" I'm sure you get my drift!
But, as I intimated above, sadly those days are disappearing into the annals of history, spiralling down the plughole of progress, whooshing along the waterchute of evolution (and you thought I couldn't write - pah!) Now, they're more difficult to spot. Oh, they're still rubbing shoulders with us, some even have jobs, drink in clubs, lure us to their cosy little nests (I wish) and... (no, we don't want to make this an 18+ blog, do we), some get married, and some even have tiny baby readers. If you look hard enough, you can spot these readers (not the baby ones - we've moved away from them now) sashaying along the sidewalk with an electronic gadget peeping out of their back pockets, or dangling on a rope around their scrawny necks (the gadgets not the readers), or hidden in inside pockets, briefcases, or handbags - these are more difficult to differentiate from normal people. Now, I use the word 'normal' advisedly (whatever that means), because it is one of those 'pick 'n mix' words.
Let me clarify! Normal is usually based on a 'normal distribution' - in other words, if there's a lot of people doing what you're doing, then you're normal. (Now, I don't really need you to tell me what you're doing, because I have a very vivid imagination!) So, drinking booze all night and then driving to work the next day to do heart transplants is considered normal, because... yeah, you've got the hang of it, a lot of people do it - especially heart transplant surgeons. Well, I'm going to shock you now, but I read recently that readers are increasing - I know, a bit scary to say the least - and I'm not one for saying the least. The University of Manchester did a study and found: 1) Women read more than men (that's because they've got more time - dives behind sofa with crash helmet on); 2) A quarter of adults hadn't read a book in the previous 12 months (can you believe that?); 3) In 1975 we read for 3 minutes a day, now we read for 7 minutes (UK and USA) (Unbelievable! Only 7 minutes - have you all got ADHD?); 4) The French (18 minutes) and the Dutch (12 minutes) beat us. (If the French beat us we've got serious problems!) 5) People reading books had increased by 17% (I bet that has also increased with the proliferation of ebooks - I mean, I've proliferated 11 ebooks for goodness sake!); and 6) People read in fragmented time (I knew my short chapters were good for something!)
So, what I'm saying (if I can still remember what I was saying) is that readers are becoming normal! I know - how alien is that. Gradually, we'll all look like zombies (walking round with staring eyes after ten hours reading a book on the Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader, etc); We'll only come out at night with translucent (what a wicked word) skin like vampires (after sleeping all day because we stayed awake all night to finish one of my ebooks - sorry, had to get that in somewhere!); Or, cackle like witches (because we've lost our marbles - and our broomsticks - because we stayed awake reading by the light of a full silvery Kindle instead of sleeping).
The world is changing people! You're either with us, or... not with us? There's no inbetweenies, you can't join Species 8472 and live in fluidic space (They were awsome, but I still thought the Borg were better (especially Jerry Ryan in Voyager - was she hot or was she hot? She was hot!). Which moron decided to end Star Trek, and Stargate, and all the other brilliant SciFi series? Now what have we got? Not a damned lot is the answer, and I love SciFi as well). So anyway, what about these readers? I mean, where are they? I've sat here all day watching my book sales stand still.
Even supposing I couldn't count, which I know my previous employer but one (that's the employer before the last one) would swear that I couldn't! I mean, I ask you, what's £5 million between friends? And talking of £5M - oh no, we were talking about book sales. I know its Monday and people are back at work, but can't these Kindles connect to the Internet from anywhere? And if they can, where are all these 17% of additional readers?
So, let's do some numbers again: UK population = 50M, the US population = 250M (we're talking about the potential reading population in both countries now - not the actual population, so don't go leaving comments that I can't count!) Anyway, we've got a combined population of 300M, and 17% of this nice round number is 51M (I hope that's right! I never know whether to multiply 300 x 17% or divide 300 x 17% - Anyway, its around that number because even I can work out that 10% = 30M and 20% = 60M, so 51M sounds about right for 17%. I was never any good at maths at school - In fact, the only thing I excelled at was not being there. Me and my mates (or 'my mates and I' for the puritans) used to spend the day in Mal's shed at the bottom of his garden smoking and just hanging out. Ha - those were the days we learned buggar all!
So, the bottom line is - if the people reading books has increased by 17%, which we now know is 51M, why haven't my ebook sales increased exponentially? Even a small fraction of that - let's say 1M, or 1/17th (that's a fraction isn't it?) - would be appreciated. I'd even settle for a million sales of one book (feel free to choose your one book from those on the right!) Maybe these increased readers went into the Lost Room and disappeared! (Did you watch it? Talk about inspiration - I was inspired! Absolutely brilliant. Whoever thought up that story wants to be lauded as one of the greats - I loved it. I won't tell you what it's about, but after watching it I bought the DVD so I could watch it again at my leisure - that's how good it was). So people, I think we have something just as puzzling as the missing objects from the Lost Room. Where do the readers hide? Answers on a naughty postcard to that Lost Room underneath Amazon's HQ that might contain the answers to where these lost readers have disappeared to, but definitely contains my ebook profits!
So, here's the thing! I published my 11 books in the morning - by lunchtime I should have been a multi-millionnaire, a publishing phenomenon that agents and publishers wanted more than chocolate (or money). I expected to be more famous than the Beckhams or Pippa Middleton's backside - but that's not what happened! Where did it all go wrong?
Before we look at my modest expectations, let's first examine the problems associated with being a celebrity. First of all, you have no private life. Those awful people in the media will do anything to find out about your sordid life (notice how it's your sordid life and not mine anymore!) There is ample evidence of their underhand tricks in the controversy surrounding voicemail hacking by a certain newspaper, the sensational revelations about certain footballers and their penchant for callgirls, dirty texting to busty models, and getting friend's wives and girlfriend's into bed. Oh, I know women do it as well, but it seems that men are better (or should it be worse) at it! Also, you have to call your children Peaches, Sage Moonblood, or Pilot Inspektor! Then, you have to let the cameras into your home so that the minions can watch you brushing your teeth, eating, and abluting every week! Have I convinced you that being a celebrity is not what it's cracked up to be? No! Oh well, when you've got screaming fans pounding on your door night and day and crawling in through the catflap don't come crying to me!
As you do, I had a quick search using the nice Mr Yahoo's engine and stumbled into M. Louisa Locke's Front Parlour. She gives a wonderfully reasoned argument for 'Managing Expectations' and waxes lyrical about how, after sales dropped off she fell into the pit of despair, but has since had an attitude adjustment! I thought you had to visit your therapist at least twice a week for two years and hand over thousands of dollars to get one of those! Anyway, I digress (What a fantastic word! What the hell does it mean?) She (yes, we're still talking about Louisa here - pay attention for goodness sake!) talks about how everyone (except JA Konrath and a few others who are raking in the moolah) are generally in the same rotting wood boat (you know the one - they used it in Titanic and wouldn't let that nice Mr DiCaprio in because there wasn't enough room - pah!).
Louisa tells that it took her seven months until her book was selling well. Seven months! And she had to do a load of things to get noticed (she doesn't say what she had to do, but I've drawn a line in the sand - I drew a circle and a triangle as well, and had some ice cream also). She realised that as her sales rocketed, so did her expectations. Suddenly, when sales dropped from a hundred a day to fifty a day, she was devastated - Ha! We should all be so devastated! Anyway, she's seen her therapist, and he says that fifty sales a day is so-so!
I dropped in at the New York Times - as one does. In the dark dank underground corridors (that connect up to the Statue of Liberty, the room underneath the Amazon offices where they keep the profits from Indie Authors, and Central Perks) I found an article entitled: How Writers Build the Brand. Well, this guy that nobody likes called Tony who wrote the article, says that writing a book is the easy part. Pah - he's obviously never sweated blood over a manuscript. So, he talks about 'rabid self-promotion' (Rabid! What type of word is that to use in an article about books?) and 'an orgy of blogs, tweets, and YouTube trailers'. An orgy! I'm a bit on the wrinkly side, but I'm still game if you are? Leave a message and tell me when and where, but... I'm on these pills, so I can't get too excited, and nothing after 10 o'clock at night - I need my beauty sleep!
So, this Tony (who I've never heard of btw) puts an electron microscope to the methods writers used in the past to get their books noticed, such as Hemingway, Simenon, Whitman, and de Maupassant - to drop a few names. Well, what's clear is that if you want to be famous you have to get your hands dirty and self-promote. It's all a bit dirty though, isn't it?
Lastly, but not leastly, there's a site called The Business Rusch run by a wonderful young woman by the name of Kristine Kathryn Rusch - who sleeps during the day and likes biting necks at night (and I've still got the marks to prove it!) Anyway, Kristine tells us that all the work you're (notice how it's you again) doing on Twitter, Facebook, Amazon forums, Kindleboards, Bookbuzzr, blogging, guest blogs, book giveaways, blog tours, etcetera., are a complete waste of time. I'm so glad I'm not doing any of that rubbish!
Someone did a survey, and what sells books is:1) Author reputation 52%; 2) Personal recommendation 49% (word of mouth, scuttlebutt on the forums); 3) Price 45%; 4) Book reviews (37%); 5) Cover/blurb 22%; 6) Advertising (including online) 14%. Don'tcha just love objective evidence? You can work with data like that can'tcha - can'tcha hey? There have been some comments (see comments) that the figures don't add up to 100%! Well, it seems logical to me that people were asked to choose more than one answer - I suppose! American Booksellers Association - Check it out for yourself you unbelievers! But hey, does it really matter? For one, the truth is out there! (They should bring back the X Files). And for two, the figures (whether they add up to 100% or not) have a beauty all their own!
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.