So, here's the thing! I've been neglecting you! I know, call me Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, Prince of Darkness if it makes you feel better - I'm lower than a snake's belly. But... I have a good reason. Remember, a week ago, I had a communique from a publisher who wanted to publish three of my crime novels? What do you mean, you never knew? Pah! Well, that's what happened, and I gave them short shrift, impaled them on the sharp end of my wit, said: "Hey Bozo, they're already published and doing very nicely, thank you muchly!" They sent me another communique, a dispatch, a request. I know, you're thinking it's a ploy, a gambit, a ruse to wheedle their way into my good books! Well, maybe it is, and time will tell if you're right, my friend.
Anyway, call me a fool, a buffoon, a simpleton, but they wanted to know if I'd write a short story for a magazine they were going to publish for the Kindle. Hey, I was flattered, buttered-up, and soft-soaped, and... I had the bones of a story I'd begun writing about six months ago, but they had to have it by next Friday if I wanted my story in the inaugural edition (the first one)... say what! Well, of course I did, so that's why I've been neglecting you. I also re-read their original communique and decided to give their offer a go (a royalty split because isn't that what most publishers do?). Uh oh! No, put that chair down, stop shouting, and listen...? I didn't give them all three of my crime novels, I said take one and let's see how it goes, and nothing's set in concrete anyway because I've sent them the first three chapters. Once they've read my offering they might say, "Yeah, we liked the premise, but you write like an Orangutan," - No offence to monkeys intended! So, let's see how the cookie crumbles shall we.
So, I've been writing this short story about a son honouring his father's dying wish to find the killer of five girls, and his subsequent descent into obsession. Yep, that's all I'm going to tell you. Now, if it gets accepted and published in this magazine on the Kindling machine, well you'll just have to buy it to read it. If, however, the same primate that wrote my books is also writing my short story, then I'll publish it on here and won't you be a lucky little anthropoid!
The above is a little bit of success - not on the scale of Joe Konrath, John Locke, Amanda Hocking, and other bookish celebrities, but in this corner of the universe I consider it pretty good for someone who left school at fifteen with no qualifications (success is therefore relative). Now, obviously this minor success didn't come out of the blue - oh indeedy no! It came after thirteen weeks of my books being bought by you wonderful readers, which is the real success. I mean, who would have thought that 1) I could string some words together to form sentences, paragraphs... whole chapters for goodness sake (the very idea would have been laughed at in that dark hellhole of Broadway Secondary Modern School in 1965), and then 2) crochet it all together to form a coherent book that people are 2a) buying, and 2b) enjoying. The world is full of minor miracles!
So, my crime novels wouldn't have been noticed by these publisher-type people unless you reader-type people weren't buying my books - so thank you very much for your kindheartedness! Now, as for buying my books, I should tell you that this month (as of 1100 hours GMT on 24th June) you've bought 914 of them (which includes 39 in the US and 3 in Germany). In total, worldwide (how spooky is that?) 1,566 of my books have been bought in 13 weeks. Now, as I said earlier, I'm not on the list of Kindle millionnaires, but to my mind selling that amount of books in that amount of time is a heartwarming success deserving of chocolate in all its forms, shapes, sizes, and glory - mmmm!
Now, I should tell you, because you might not have noticed, that with the amount of books you've bought A Life for a Life is No.5 in Police Procedurals (#257 Paid in Kindle Store), The Wages of Sin is No.8 (#663), Jacob's Ladder is No.17 (#1,247), The Graves at Angel Brook is No.31 (#2,320), Solomon's Key is No.35 (#2,572), and Body 13 is No.37 (#2,802) - talk about hogging the charts! Hey, and don't think I'm ungrateful, but I do have some other books, you know (see right column for all 11 of them!) Now, one I'd particularly like to mention is Orc Quest: Prophecy - Yes, I know its a fantasy, but don't forget that I wrote it, so its gonna be good, and I have a fabulous sense of humour, which really shines through in this book. Also, its got its own website that I'm still working on, but there's some stuff there like a map of Garagol. If you don't like the book, I'll stop writing altogether and take up knitting - now I can't say fairer than that, can I! Have a good one...
So, here's the thing! You wait for a tram for hours, and then seven come along all at once! Not that I've been waiting for a tram, because there aren't any here in this part of the world. It was purely an old saying to reflect my second blog in as many days! Anyway, on to the business at hand - let's do a post mortem (PM, or for my American readers - Autopsy) of SampleSunday (SS). Don't you just love acronyms? Being in the Army I was fed on acronyms. For a start, I was in the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps), at various stages in my career I was a PN (Pupil Nurse), a WO I and II (Warrant Officer), RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major). I've got the GSM (NI) General Service Medal (Northern Ireland) and the LS&GS (Long Service & Good Conduct) medals. I worked at an MRS (Medical Reception Station), a BMH (British Military Hospital) - Oh yes, we love our acronyms! Don't get me started on Internet Acronyms 8 (oral sex - say what!), CD9 (code 9 - parents are around), TDTM (Talk Dirty To Me - the real thing is better!)! Don't you just love the kids today! And we're not even gonna mention the AAAAA (American Association Against Acronym Abuse) - Pah! The Americans are the worst culprits, they've created a new acronym language. LOL!
So, I was up early on Sunday morning, and I opened up my SampleSunday document with all my tweets on! Yeah, you don't think I make them up every time, do you? The first time I did it, I copied all the tweets I used into a document. Now, all those samples are on this website. If you have a look around, I'm slowly building it up into a resource, and what I find interesting is that - unlike some sites and blogs, which are clunky - the Weebly sites are reasonably smooth. What I mean by this is that when you scroll up or down, it moves smoothly instead of chugging like an old worn out engine! Also, some sites, when you go to them, are really slow to load because people have put too much on the front page (which also does not look attractive either, so look at layout), especially the Amazon widgets, Bookbuzzr, etc. What I'm saying is, if your site is difficult to navigate around, or people have to wait ages for it to load, they won't bother to stay. Remember, the attention span of the average person can be measured in nanoseconds, so you don't have long to grab them, lure them into that dark celler, and inject them with a cocktail of hallucinogenic drugs, and chain them up for torturing later.
I think it was the stunningly beautiful Mel Comley from her boudoir in Normandy who suggested that I go to the Kindleboards and put a link there, so I did and the fabulously changeable Morgan Gallagher had opened up a thread. I put all of my 13 tweets in a post on the SampleSunday thread (although some said "one for one" not "one for thirteen", but that was OK) like everyone else had put their tweets in there. I copied and pasted each of their tweets one at a time into Twitter and tweeted them, and they did mine (I also did it later in the day as well). Now, some of these people were American, and my US sales didn't skyrocket - in fact, they stayed firmly on terra firma! So, whether this (or any of it for that matter) had any effect on sales - who knows! Now, one thing you should notice is that none of my samples are the books I have on sale, they're just the first (or more) chapters of books I'd like to write if people ever stop asking me to write blogs!
After I've written my current book The Flesh is Weak (Parish & Richards 3), I'll be focusing on The Timekeeper's Apprentice, then The Skulls Beneath Eternity Wharf (Quigg 3), and Orc Quest: The Last Human (Book II). Although, there's merit in continuing to write more crime novels seeing as they're selling so well, and as well as The Shadow of Death (Parish & Richards 4), I have a number of other crime novels up my metaphorical sleeve such, The Blue Butterfly and another one I only have a title for: Where Do You Go To My Lovely? (Remember the song by Peter Sarstedt?)
Oh, what I also did, but forgot this time, was to do a tweet directing them to my Books page, because they can sample about 24 pages of each of my books through the Bookbuzzr widgets. So, they have a choice of 11 book samples on one page!
I suppose you're wondering, "Why 13 samples?" Well, the idea is that you want those lovely readers to sample your writing (although - before I forget - some people create a website for one sample - that's a bit of a wasted opportunity if you don't mind me saying, because I don't know about you, but I like to peek in the cupboards, rummage through the drawers, nosy in the cellar and attic, and bounce on the beds, but if there's only one sample to read - how boring is that?) Anyway, if you're only offering one sample of say, Chicklit then there's a lot of people who won't even click the link - me for one! If I'm offering some crime, historical, biopunk, scifi, horror, paranormal, etc (and these are just samples - i.e. I've not had to write a whole book, it's merely samples of my writing - it could be short stories, but different genres) then a lot more people are likely to visit, and some will stay and nosy around, and maybe click on my book links - that's the theory anyway! Oh yeah, if they wanted a sample of your book(s), they could just download it from Amazon or Smashwords, so I give them something different, and if they like my writing then they might try my books!
So, I think I'm done! Except, the following day, I found out who'd retweeted and mentioned me and thanked them. One other thing, only one person has ever left a message saying, "Loved your sample!" so I don't know what that's about. Maybe, people click on the link, laugh, and leave! Maybe, people click on the link, copy/paste what's on offer, remodel it and steal your work! Maybe, people visit, copy all my ideas, and write the book before I get the chance to! Maybe... I'm being paranoid! Maybe... if I take my tablets when the nurse opens the door she'll let me see the daylight today! Please...
So, here's the thing! I know I haven't written a blog for awhile. And I also know that you've been getting the tremors, that your mouth goes dry at odd times, you toss and turn at night and wake up screaming my name, and you keep checking my blog every five minutes. These behavioural symptoms are manifestations of withdrawal - going cold turkey! I can only apologise, but I was all written out. Oh, I'm all right now, so don't go rushing round here to feel my pulse, or put a cold cloth on my sweating brow, or other demonstrations of affection - you know how I get all embarrassed when people say nice things about me!
Anyway, I know I've harped on about my American sales before, which have been fairly abysmal to say the least, but now they've ground to a halt. What's going on? Let's investigate this phenomenon, and get to the bottom of the murky issue. In the UK my sales are pretty good, but I've had no sales in the US of A for 3/4 days (and we won't talk about Amazon.de because I have no idea what's going on there! In fact, I'm clueless about a lot of things!)
Are all the Kindles broken over there in America? Has the satellite for the 3G wireless network run out of gas? Have all the American people decided to down Kindles and stop reading at the same time? Please feel free to chirp in at any time with a more rational scenario, or if you know the answer SHOUT IT OUT! (Cups hand to ear - hears nothing - no shouting, whispering, or muttering). Now, strangely enough, as soon as I wrote this - and I haven't even published it yet - my US sales started to creep up - is that spooky or what? Well, I did go on Kindleboards and make merry, so maybe that's the answer - making merry!
Another thing is, I don't do any promotional activity, but then if I did where would I do it? Well, that's not strictly true - I tweet now and again through Bookbuzzr, but I'm not a great believer in Twitter. I mean, a tweet only goes to the people who follow me, and all three of them would have to be glued to Twitter at the time that my tweet appeared for them to notice it. Now, the idea would be that one of those three people miraculously notice my tweet and retweet it, which then goes to their three followers, and one of those kind people re-retweets it - ad infinitum, so that the old lady in Alaska who's 105 with black whiskers on her chinny chin chin and has just got broadband in her igloo in the frozen wastes, reads the tweet, but decides she doesn't like crime, scifi, fantasy, or historical fiction and instead of downloading all of my 11 books she downloads one of Mel Comley's, or Stuart Land's, or Rick Murcer's books because they have better covers, blurbs, prices or, liking the look of Stuart Land's cat she rubs her tummy and says, "Yum, yum!"
So, there's my disjointed thoughts on the matter! But anyway, here's another thing! I've just created a new website! You're thinking, "Wow! Something else of his to read - can't wait!" What I've noticed is that my fantastic fantasy book Orc Quest: Prophecy isn't selling - I know, you're thinking, "How can that be when he writes so well?" Well, I can assure you it's true, so I thought I'd give it a website as a present. I haven't put anything on there yet, so be patient. I've just been choosing the design, creating pages, and generally messing about, but tomorrow - tomorrow I'm gonna do it!
Out of the many books you've written, why choose this one to give a website to? I hear you ask. Well, I just had so much fun writing it. Let me tell you a bit about it: The main character is an Orc. Now, Orcs are usually the baddies (think Lord of the Rings), so I thought let's make one a goodie. Grog - that's his name - quakes in fear when he's fighting some Ogres and fails his passage to adulthood (Hey, there's a lesson in there somewhere!) So, the Council of Elders banish him from the Bloodwolf clan - uh oh, what's he gonna do now? Well, his father tells him about a human beyond the Veil of Mists who knows witchery - the trouble is, there haven't been any humans on Garagol since anyone can remember because the Orcs hunted and ate them all (and wouldn't you know it, the Veil of Mists is at the other end of Garagol that is swathed in mist), but if he wants to be a true Bloodwolf warrior he must get back his courage. So begins his quest, but that's not the end of it... I could tell you about his friends and his adversaries such as the baby Dragon called Mimeo, or about Alfick the grumpy Dwarf, and then there's Nub the sneaky Goblin... It's chock-full of memorable characters and places like the Tunnels of Skygge, the Hall of Secrets, the Necropolis of Lost Souls, the Isle of Charon... And don't make the mistake of thinking that it's just for young adults, this book is bursting with humour. If you like my blogs, you'll want to cuddle this book and take it to bed - well, your Kindle anyway! That's it! If you don't love my book then you're not human!
So, here's the thing! Apparently, I can use while but not whilst. What's the world coming to? I love using the word whilst, but some guttersnipe in an office somewhere now says that it's considered pretentious and archaic. Pretentious! A snobby upper class word. What's wrong with a bit of snobbery whilst I drink my lemon tea and eat my cream scones? And archaic! What type of word is that? Is it like old, ancient, or obsolete? Just like me I suppose - shunting into the terminus, reaching the end of the line. That's what they're really saying isn't it? We don't need you old codgers speaking and writing old words anymore, we've got new words now that we'd like you to use such as naff, pants, jargonaut, frenemy, and meh - Init! My personal view is that denying people the use of whilst is an indication that the end of the world is nigh!
And here's another thing! I've noticed that people's blogs are pretty serious and mine aren't. I was reading one yesterday, which suggested that the old slush pile - the one where my manuscripts (yeah all right - yours as well) languished for many a day whilst (he he) I waited with my comfort chocolate, intravenous coffee, sweaty wringing hands, and high expectations for a word of encouragement, a phone call to say, "We'd like to represent you and your marvellous book," or an email along the same lines - all to no avail - is now the Kindle Store. If that's true, and you can see the logic of his argument, yesterday A Life for a Life rose to (or should that be dropped to?) 727 (the highest yet) in the paid Kindle Store, but I keep doing that - rising then slipping back down again. It reminds me of that bushtucker trial called Celebrity Cyclone on 'I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here!' They have to move up this slippery slope, but there are people with water canons trying to stop them - damn those people! Or, a more apt analogy might be a greasy pole!
So, I think we can safely conclude that I'm never (oh all right, you as well) going to get to the top of the slush pile when there are people with water canons all around and nothing else better to do than aim the water jets at all us honest hard-working authors trying to make a buck in the nasty old self-publishing world.
Maybe, I should make my blog more serious! What do you think? Maybe, I should do some research, report on the state of play of erotica, chicklit, sub-genres, the evolution and lifespan of the Kindle, the Apple iPod and why I can't get onto the site to peek at my books and whether I've had any reviews from my wonderful Apple readers! I suppose there must be a way, but I haven't found it yet! Mmmm, I use the exclamation mark a lot in my blogs! Are there rules? I remember reading that overuse dilutes its effect. Oh well, I feel a bit diluted myself as I slither down that greasy pole again.
Don't think I've forgotten, you know! I haven't forgotten. I know I'm old and crotchety, my eyesight and hearing have deteriorated to the point of old agery (he he, there's no spell check on this blog, so I can spell words any way I like!), and my body is that of a ten year-old corpse (having been kept in the freezer). Yes, I distinctly recall promising you wonderful blog readers that I'd continue documenting my writing day. Unfortunately, I've got to go for my shower now, then I have to walk my five shitzhu dogs, go to the post office to post a parcel to my ungrateful son who lives in the dark region of Alton, then go to the supermarket to get essential foodstuff, come back and have some lunch whilst watching Stargate Universe, have a siesta, and then I should be able to tell you something interesting about writing, or maybe I won't! Yes, I know this is all boring stuff, but you said you wanted to know. And... if the wife reads this she'll see that I've not been sat on my backside all day blogging and stuff. I was going to cut the grass, but its started raining so I'll just have to blog and stuff - sorry dear, maybe tomorrow.
There's a picture of the wife. I took that in 1987 using a Yashika SLR camera and developed it myself. We were in Chepstow in South Wales and I was a Corporal at the Royal Engineers Apprentice College in the Medical Reception Station (MRS). I also used to run a photography club for the apprentices. I know, you're thinking, "Is there nothing this man can't do?" Can't windsurf! Tried it in St Petersburg in Florida with my son - nearly drowned! That was the same holiday I got stung on the bottom of the foot by a Stingray. Pain! That was pain. I thought I was going to die twice! Had to sit in the hotel room with my foot in a bucket of hot soapy water! Anyway, I'm sure you're all eager to read this... I just remembered - one of my millions of readers suggested that I put all these blogs in an ebook and publish it for the Kindle - What do you think? Do you think I should, hey hey?
So, here's the thing. I said I'd tell you about my writing day in this blog didn't I? I can't imagine why you would even want to know! Mind you, I have to admit, I do like to read about other people's trials and tribulations. Well, we do, don't we? I guess we're all just too damned nosy about each other for our own good. We like to open other people's cupboards and doors, rummage through their underwear drawer, prise open their boxes that display large clear signs saying: "Don't open the box, stupid!" Hey, isn't that what Pandora did? Human nature, that's what it boils down to. I'm a student of human nature, always have been. We're social animals see, not happy unless we're in groups, touching, feeling, loving, chattering and nattering, getting the scuttlebutt, and spreading the news (gossiping).
Did you know that in the dark and distant past before you were born, gossiping was a sin punishable by death (found that out as part of my research for The Wages of Sin)? Yeah, so just you think on before flapping those gums of yours, Baby Jane! Well, I get up at 5 a.m. (I know, a tad early, but it's the old Army discipline ingrained in me. And not only that - no distractions). I make a coffee, let the dogs out, switch the laptop on. Yeah, we (my wife and I) don't have a PC we have a Dell Inspiron laptop each (mine's black, the wife's is red) and a BT Broadband hub sitting snugly behind the television. Nope, never had any problems with the laptop or the hub, and we won't talk about the wife's foray into netbooks! So, the dogs curl up and go to sleep again, and I check my email - read and delete, or put them in folders, or if they're Twitter followers I'll log on to Twitter, see who it is and maybe follow them back. I hate having Twitter open as a tab because the Tweets start mounting up and stress me out. Within minutes they're 368, 399, 462 - then I click on them - and almost immediately - 9, 1078, 3,000,000 - Aagh! I have to close the tab down before I crack open a bottle of ginger beer!
So, after I've cleared my emails - oh, I forgot to tell you that I have folders for agents and publishers emails - they're both empty! Anyway, next I open and log onto KDP to check my overnight sales in America, UK, and Germany. Now, American sales are mostly non-existent - I don't know what that's about. You know what I think the lack of sales is down to? Well, I'll tell you - readers can't find my book among the million other books on there. A good analogy is an alien planet in the vastness of space - everyone wants to find this planet, but where to look? Now, I've put tags on my book, but so has everyone else, so what's a bod to do? We all know that Amazon have made it verboten to publicise your books anywhere in the known universe, so what's a bod to do to get noticed? And don't say social networking - done that, got the T-shirt, seen the DVD, listened to the MP3 - none of it or all of it works, but who the hell knows - not I Horatio!
UK sales are good, but not in the same league as Amanda Hocking, Saffina Desforges, or JA Konrath (plus many others who have sold more than 2 books!) It's stop and start! One minute there are three sales, I move up the 'Police Procedural' rankings to No. 17 and I think, "Hey, hey!" I here the rusty gears and cogs of the flood gates opening, but then nothing happens, and I slide back down the rankings again to #250,757.4 or something just as obscure (that's a lovely word, init!) So, sales in blighty are good, but could be better - a lot better. As an aside, I received a wonderful email from a fan (one of my two fans! Insane or what - me with fans - he he!) last night saying how much they loved the Quigg books (Body 13 and The Graves at Angel Brook) and where was the 3rd one (The Skulls Beneath Eternity Wharf). Well, if all you get are a couple of negative reviews it kinda puts you off continuing with the series, so my advice to you readers is - if you like a book write a review on Amazon, because it has a cuddly warming effect on the author, and makes them want to get up in the mornings to write some more. German sales - well, the less said about that 'beige bar of shame' (BBOS) the better - nul point! You know what I think...
If there are any sales, I record the numbers on my Excel spreadsheet where I keep a consolidated ongoing record of my month-by-month sales and royalties as notified by Amazon and Smashwords - how sad is that! Then, I go to my website and bounce onto Amazon.US and Amazon.UK to see if any kind person has written me a review - usually the answer is non (that's French for no apparently!) The last review I received was last week - a wonderful person left me a 5* review for Jacob's Ladder! Now, here's another thing! I sent Jacob's Ladder out to agents about 2/3 months ago, and this morning a rejection came through the letter box! I don't think I need faceless agents rejecting my books anymore - I'll let the ereaders decide whether they're any good or not!
So, I've been up half an hour and I haven't even started writing yet, but then I do. I leave all my tabs open (oh, I use Windows 7, IE (sometimes Chrome), and Office 97 (my wife's got Office 2007 if I need to save anything as a PDF). I open up Word and my latest magnus opus, which at the moment is The Flesh is Weak (the 3rd Parish & Richards novel) and get going. Now, you want the lowdown, the nitty gritty, the... Yeah well, I start at the previous scene break and read/edit as I go to get back into the book. I have a notebook by my chair that I record key details in i.e. future things people have to do, a clue, a red herring, etc. I also make notes like: Describe the characters, don't assume people have read the other books! and I describe key plot details, which eventually make their way into the book. I don't plan, or write an outline - that's for wimps. I just write and see where the characters take me. I have an idea in my head, and that's about it. Sometimes, I end up in a cul de sac and have to backtrack, but most of the time its full steam ahead mixing metaphors and battling cliches!
Well, that's it! I know, you're thinking, "He was going to tell us about his writing day, and all he's told us about is the first half hour!" You kept diverting me, making me talk about other things, the blog's too long now, people will get bored - I'm bored! Tell you what I'll do, I'll write a part two - how's that? There see, I can be reasonable if you're nice!
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.