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.
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.