So, here's the thing! I was feeling a bit nostalgic. Why? Well, I'm glad you asked. I have an invite for tomorrow night to the Headteacher's retirement bash at the school I used to work at ten years ago when I left the Army. I know, you're thinking "So what?" Well, even though it was a challenge and a half, I had an interesting time and made some good friends. So, I'm going to go to that.
Then, I got an email from FeadaRead - Say what! Well look, instead of me expounding their virtues, take a look at their website - you won't regret it. Now, this is a follow-on from the YouWriteOn (YWO) website, or should I say a "spin-off'! Now, if you want a proper look you'll have to join both sites, but they're both free to join. Anyway, I discovered that I'd sold 153 paperbacks and had royalties of £179.26 just waiting for me to put in my paypal details - consider it done! The wife and I had a slap-up meal down the chippy - curry sauce, pickled eggs, and all the trimmings.
Which made me realise I'd neglected the print side of life in favour of ebooks - so, I promptly uploaded the remaining four books in the Parish & Richards series to be printed and distributed through Amazon. Not only that, I'd had numerous requests for the print versions of my books because not everyone has an eReader - my mother-in-law Gladys (see picture below) being one of them! So Gladys, as soon as I get my author copies, you'll get the rest of the books - now, I can't say fairer than that, can I?
So, I wondered if YWO was still going strong, and lo and behold it was. I logged on, I put a message on the board to announce that I'd reached the quarter million mark in books sold, and to say thanks to all the people who reviewed my early work and gave me invaluable constructive criticism - it's a peer review site by the way - one of the better ones. The people on this site helped me to get to grips with the vagaries of writing, and made me realise that I could string a few words together - not in the same league as James Joyce or Charles Dickens, but enough to tell a half-decent story.
Anyway, I was asked to say how I did it! Ha, you think I know? Ain't got a clue! I made loads of errors, I know that. Here's a few errors I tripped over when I uploaded my books to Amazon Kindle in October 2010 - 1) I priced them too high at first; 2) I didn't read the instructions before I uploaded (it's a man thing, I suppose), and as a consequence, the samples people were downloadloading were full of blank pages - no wonder I didn't get any sales!; 3) I had images in my books, and it took me ages to find out how to upload them so that they were visible and in the right place; 4) I should have had all my books edited and proofread first, but that meant paying - possibly thousands - up front in the vague hope of recouping some of the money - I have had them all proofread now though; 5) I had to learn to use new pieces of software such as Mobipocket and Calibre, and new Internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Kindleboards, Bookbuzzr, etc; 6) I offended people through floods of self-promotion on the Amazon discussion boards; 7) I had to create a website... But, when all is said and done, that's what people do isn't it - they make mistakes - or, to err is human? Anyway, eventually I got my ebooks uploaded onto Amazon, and in the early days I was still playing about with prices, covers, blurbs, and everything else related to ebooks, and even now it's not perfect.
I haven't got an agent or a publisher. Is that the measure of success as an author? Do we still yearn for an agent or publisher to email or phone us with the words, "We want to sign you up?" It would be very nice I suppose. Recognition! Acceptance! Hardbacks! Translated into 40 different languages! But... in the meantime, I'll have to settle for sales averaging between 10,000 - 20,000 per month. I started with 5 copies of my books sold in December 2010, and had a peak of 41,717 the following December. Now, I write a book every two months, which usually goes into the UK Top 100 within a month (I don't want to tempt fate here, so if you're reading this fate - I didn't mean it!)
Obviously, not all my books sell in the same quantities. Historical fiction (two written), science fiction (one written), science fantasy (one written), young adult (two written); poetry (one written); short story collections (two written) - don't sell as well as some other genres. My main genre is crime. I focus on the preponderance of serial killers in Hammersmith (I was born there) and Essex (I live there now). They seemed to have crawled out of the woodwork since I started writing! Anyway, I appear to have written a book (A Life for a Life) that people like. From the reviews on Amazon, they like the characters, the banter between the two main protagonists, the plotting, the mystery and suspense - Oh, of course, not everyone likes my books, but enough do for them to spread the word - and that's the main marketing strategy that works - word of mouth!
I have a Facebook Fan Page. Only a couple of minutes ago, a woman posted on my wall saying she'd found my books, they were brilliant, thank you! Hey, who wouldn't want to be a writer? But, don't think its all roses, wine, and chocolates - it's not. People have also said my writing is trash, the worst thing since the invention of the locust, a reflection of how the postmodernist society has destroyed literature and a major contribution to global warming - All right, maybe not the last one, but they say some nasty things that you have to take on the chin.
Now, here's the real thing! Nike had it right - Just do it! You could spend years getting your writing to a level where you surpass even Jane Austen or William Shakespeare, but in the meantime you're missing the boat. The best way of finding out if people like your is to put it out there. I used to teach leadership - if you try and fail at least you tried. If you never try, you'll never know if you could have done it! Before, it was hard to get an agent to take you on. Now, it's nearly impossible. If you're waiting around for someone to accept your work, you'll be waiting a long time. Get the BBQ going and get the beers out! Right, that's all I'm going to say. If I haven't answered your questions - just ask?
Oh, and remember: You're never too old to learn something stupid - That's a paraprosdokian, which is a phrase or sentence that leads us down the garden path to an unexpected ending. Ha! Sounds like one of my books.
So, here's the thing! The better half and I went to Crete. We'd been before, so we knew what it was like - hot, hot, hot! We hadn't been on holiday for at least 5 years because of the four shitzhus we've got - putting them in kennels would be the cost of another holiday, and they're our babies so we didn't want to anyway. But, as the planets aligned, aliens arrived for a visit, and my son was able to come to stay for a week and keep them safe. Hey ho, off we went - booked on Tuesday, flew off on Thursday. Did I say it was hot? Yeah, it was hot. But all was not lost. For one, it was a child-free hotel - the peace and quiet was life-affirming. For two, we had our own private pool and sunbeds just outside the air-conditioned room (we didn't have to fight anyone for them, or get up in the middle of the night to put Union Jack towels on them). For three, I ate a Cretan salad every day with feta cheese, which I love. For four, I was able to write my 10,000-words for the week, and read The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly and The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - both favourite authors. Did I say it was hot? Yeah, we were glad to get back to the freezing rain at Stanstead airport last night.
This morning, I tipped over 250,000 ebooks sold - I know, a quarter of a million! I feel a bit humbled. Not too much, but a bit. I would say, not bad for an indie author where the majority of books are ebooks, which have not been translated into any other languages, and there are no hardbacks with inflated prices. So, well chuffed. Thank you readers for buying them.
Now, that said, I've had some complaints about The Breath of Life. Well, when I say some, I mean three. In fact, my wife did that yesterday. We were sitting in the departure lounge at Heraklion Airport - well, it was a room with a couple of chairs and a boogie box making a noise in the corner. So, she said, "Lots of people have bought the type of bag I bought." Now, based on the aforementioned comment, you would think she had only bought one bag - sadly, that was far from the truth! She had actually bought five bags she doesn't need - I digress - for good reason you might shout! Anyway, when I looked for these sad people lugging the type of bag my wife had bought I couldn't see one. I said, "Where?" Well, you would wouldn't you? Apparently, and don't quote me on this, there was one person hefting the bag who had already gone through booking and I didn't actually see her!
Complaints, that's what I was talking about. Yes - here's the main thrusts. But first, I should say that some people have liked the book, or should that be, "do like the book"? Anyway, they felt: 1) the ending was rushed (now, this has been mentioned before, so I'll drag the next ending out over at least ten chapters); 2) the dialogue wasn't appropriate in some of the critical situations - Mmmm; 3) there was a lack of police procedures - I agree; 4) familiar characters were eliminated without ceremony - hey ho, easy come easy go; and 5) some of the characters were stereotypical - Mmmm! Okay, let me say that I've taken these points on board for the next book The Dead Know Not, and already made changes as a result.
Now, there's no point in me trying to rebut any of the complaints, because that's the way I wrote the book. I'm saddened that some people didn't like the book (or some of it). Hey, I would love 100% of readers to like 100% of everything I write, but sadly that's never going to happen. There were so many different ways I could have written - or ended - the book, but - right or wrong - I chose the way it is. What I can say, is that those people who thought some of the storylines had ended are sadly mistaken. People may think Parish has found out who his parents are, but... Well, that's another story, which hopefully will be better than the last one. And, if you're going on holiday, make sure you take the high sun protection factor cream with you!
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.