So, here's the thing! I'm not my usual jovial self! What the hell happened to Amazon's UK charts on Christmas Eve? It was like a creeping virus only days before: (A Life for a Life moved from No.14 on Dec 20 to No.28 on Dec 24, then on Christmas Day it was No.95). Every one of my 17 books etc plummeted in the same way. I had four books in the Top 100, but on Christmas morning I was left with one (A Life for a Life) at Number 95! I mean, even on bad sales days things like that don't happen - or do they?
It's been mooted that, 1) The email Amazon sent round caused the drastic changes, or 2) Amazon fiddled with the algorhythm and weighted some books over others. Well, whatever happened I thought I'd been stabbed in the back. All the work I'd done promoting my books, goodwill, fanbase, etc was - in the end - all for very little, because it's no longer a level playing field - if it ever was! And if that sounds like sour grapes - you'd be right, it probably is.
Now, it wasn't just me - oh no, no, no! Kerry Wilkinson - Locked In - suffered the same fate as yours truly with two of his books plummeting. Locked In stayed where it was at No2, but his other two - Vigilante and The Woman in Black fell into the 70s and 80s (and what's interesting - and probably a clue to some dirty tricks - is that his and my books stayed in relative positions, but fifty places lower!). They're both making some headway in recovering now, but my books don't seem to be moving back up. A Life for a Life has been shuffling between Nos. 85 and 95 since it dropped to its new position.
Anyway, what can we do? Not a lot it would seem! 1000s were added to the chart positions of some of my books, and I assume others suffered the same fate (a similar thing occurred in the US as well!). It would be useful to discover what actually happened, so that we could find a way to counteract it. Maybe there is no way to change things, maybe this is the New World Order! I'd heard tell that the powers that be were fed up with the Indies clogging up the charts, well they're not doing that now, so maybe they've worked out a system to discriminate against Indies! Am I being paranoid?
Then, of course, there's the draw of the filthy lucre! The email that came round included advertising for all the traditionally published books - including Locked In, which was a bit strange - so, it might be it was this that caused the seismic change! Anyway, if major publishers are paying Amazon to publicise their books - and new releases - then Indies can't hope to match that and its no longer a level playing field!
Well, I suppose that's my rant over with. Oh, I'll keep writing, because that's what I do now, but I have a horrible taste in my mouth now while I'm doing it!
So, here's the thing! You've spent month's creating your baby - I know, the analogy of the birth of a baby has been used many times before in relation to creating a piece of writing, and I also know - because I was there, in the delivery room, at the birth of my son, watching the blood, the forceps delivery, the episiotomy, the ugly pointy-head thing splurge out, and hearing my wife screaming as if the gynaecologist was torturing her - that writing and publishing a book is absolutely nothing like giving birth, but bear down with me, and PUSH when I say.
So, you've written a blockbuster, a bestseller, a magnus opus? You've nurtured it, held it in your sweaty hands, talked to it, caressed it... Yeah, some writers are like that about their books. Anyway, after all the antenatal classes, the breathing practise, and carrying around a bowling ball in a sack, it's time to publish. You've written a blurb, and sought advice from those who know about those things; created a cover or paid someone a fantasmagorical amount of moulah to create one for you; edited it yourself or sent it to someone who say's they're an an Editor who charges exhorbitant fees to put in a couple of commas or take them out, sent it to beta readers who tell you that it's fantastic - the best thing they've ever read, so you decide now is the time! You wait expectantly while the midwife cleans the acid-drooling alien with an oil-soaked rag, you keep typing in the title on Amazon to see if its there yet, and then when you weren't looking, it appeared and people started downloading it. OMG! Your heart thrashes about abnormally, you have to breathe in and out of a brown paper bag (do they still make bpb's?), you lie down in a darkened room until your sales reach double figures.
You fret and worry that they won't like your beautiful baby, and lo and behold, they didn't. They said it was ugly, too short, too long, there were problems with punctuation, grammar, and formatting. There was far too much (or not enough) violence, sex and gore. You can't write sex scenes, romantic scenes, violent scenes. In fact, the general consensus was that you can't write at all, and should think about dancing, singing, acting, or possibly a job as a highwire act. It was over-priced, under-priced, at any price, so you made it free and that was far too expensive, but it shot up the free bestseller list - don't people just love a bargain!
You felt violated, betrayed, used and abused. You swore you'd never write another thing as long as you lived. Then somebody said your baby had beautiful blue eyes, a warm smile, that although it was still a monstrous abomination, it had some small redeeming features. There was a sliver of light in the all-pervasive darkness, you stopped drinking the alcohol, stopped popping the pills, crawled out of bed to the computer clutching the quilt to your flabby nakedness. You forced yourself to put one word in front of another again, to create sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters. Ideas were like stormtroopers trampling through your mind, characters rose up like wraiths in the mist and created conflict, mayhem, and emotional turmoil, stories with plots and twists snaked away into the distance like a yellow brick roads, and so the process began again.
You hadn't forgotten though, you would never forget. The wounds were deep, too deep to really understand the psychological damage that had been wrought by uncaring readers. Reviewers who liked the sound of their own reviews and took pleasure in trying to be funny with their one-liners. This time it would be different though, this time you would be prepared. Nobody would ever say you had an ugly baby again.
The darkness slowly enveloped you and you signed on the dotted line, Lucifer was your constant companion, but in the end you knew he was only after one thing - your battered and bleeding soul, and welcome to it he was. What good was it to you now? You had promised him everything if he gave you everything, and the sales started to peak, readers said how beautiful your new baby was, a top-six agency offered to sign you to a publishing contract that would make you a legend in your own mind. Indies, self-pubbers, and other strange creatures that live in the London Underground tunnels, began to use your name in their blogs, follow you on Twitter, wanted to friend you on Facebook. You were the talk of the town, men with burning eyes sought your company, took you to expensive nightclubs, for exotic meals, and bought you stylish gifts. You became a parody of yourself.
If you've read this far... All I can say is that you obviously have too much time on your hands. Get writing that blockbuster! You can't please all the people, all the time - Bob Dylan said that!
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.