Getting ahead of myself

Since I put my books up it seems I’ve spent all my time doing anything BUT writing, which is kind of annoying, but also kind of interesting. One of the things I enjoyed the most was putting the covers together and I now have 5 or so in different stages for books half complete, nearly complete and not even conceived of yet because once I started I just kept going. So, as yet something else to spend a bit of time doing, other than writing, I thought I’d throw them up here.

This first one is for the novel I’m writing now. It isn’t complete yet, but I pretty much had the title and the cover before I’d gotten past the prologue. It may change as I go:

This is for an idea I’ve been kicking around for putting out some edited and revised Gutenberg texts in a new format as a group of ‘forgotten classics’ and then giving all the proceeds to charity so I don’t feel bad about charging people for paying for texts that they can also get free in the public domain:

And these are three that I was just playing about with, and are at various stages, maybe to be used later, maybe not…

Common theme is the use of black and white photographs I took in my serious amateur photographer phase. Top cover was taken in Paris, the middle one (vertically) and the one on the far left here were both taken in Amsterdam – on the same night I think. Middle was a hotel room in New Orleans and the far right is the Atomium in Brussels.

This is kind of trying to look like a 70s album cover – it’s for an idea I have about writing some shorts that accompany my orphaned story, all of them about music in some form or another… Whether I’ll ever write it or not, I don’t know… Now that IS getting ahead of myself.

I must admit, I enjoy doing the covers. They’re not the best designed book covers in the world, not by a long shot, and I’m a bit limited with the free trial version design software I downloaded from the internet, but if I’m going to publish independently I want to do the whole project independently. And I don’t have £400 to £1000 to get someone to design covers for me…

Right, now back to the writing. Hinterland – chapter 3…

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Japan

I’m a bit slow to react and I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner, but there are lots of indie authors on Amazon at the moment pledging royalties this month to one of three causes: relief appeals for Japan, relief appeals for New Zealand, and Comic Relief. Taking their lead (instead of taking the initiative, which I wish I’d done) I’ve pledged to do the same. Because I’m such a Japanophile and love the country and its culture, having visited it several years ago, I’ve decided to pledge all my royalties, such as they are, for March to one of the appeals for the country. The Red Cross or Medicins Sans Frontier.

So far I’ve sold 24 ebooks for March in the UK and US combined, which works out by my calculations to be £5.28. I’ve also sold at least one paperback which gives me a bit more than the ebooks, but until it filters through to CreateSpace I don’t know exactly how much that is (different channels have different amounts linked to them). I think it’s about £1 or so. I was going to donate anyway, so whatever the royalties amount to I’ll at least double that.

Two other things happening that I want to promote to anyone who stumbles upon my Blog are:

1. http://authorsforjapan.wordpress.com/ is an online auction for different lots put together by all manner of writers to raise money for relief efforts. It’s too late to contribute, which I’m kicking myself for, but not too late to support.

2. http://booksthathelp.org/ is a collection someone is putting together on writing inspired by Japan, with all proceeds going to charity. They are taking submissions until 11th April, and will obviously be available to buy soon after.

And finally, this is a book by an author doing the same thing – contributing proceeds to Japan. Excuse me, where is the exit? by Stella Deleuze. I’ve just bought it and am looking forward to reading it.

Patience has its Reward

I’ve been noticing this month that I’ve had an upturn in sales. And for several days I’ve been wracking my brain as to why this might be. Then, by sheer chance, I noticed the rankings of my books has now appeared on their product pages:

Oblivious

The Haiku Diary

It looks like suddenly, after about 3 months of my books not really appearing in the right categories, something has happened to align them to their tags. So they are now appearing in rankings where they should actually be.

So if people click through to the ranking lists from other books, suddenly they see mine sitting there at visible positions. Well I never – The Haiku Diary is at number 1 for Haiku genre books on Amazon. Oblivious at number 25 for short stories in ebooks, and number 39 for Kindle literary fiction. Fantastic news for me. I’ve sold almost as many books as last month so far this month (and we’re only 14 days in). I was told it takes time for your work to start attracting sales, and I have been seeing a steady (but small) increase month on month. But now I’ve broken into the top 40 on these five product categories, I’m extremely happy and excited about it and it seems to have added an extra boost. Thanks are due to everyone who’s bought them – without the sales I’ve had so far I wouldn’t now have this chance to try and push on.

Inspiration

Sometimes, I’m so dumb it astounds me. I’m suffering from a little bit of writer’s block at the moment – three chapters into my novel/novella and I’m stuck. I have loads of ideas and yet not one of them is willing to give itself up to a decent sentence of articulation.

So I’m sat there last night wondering why on earth it’s not happening, and thinking back to the greatest period of creativity I had when the stories were just flying out night after night. And then it hit me. At that point I was writing The Haiku Diary as well as the short story collection. There was no effort or psychological blocks with that project – I just homed in on one impression I’d had that day and wrote it out. Some of the imagery I generated by doing this I reused in the prose. Some of it sparked off other ideas that became part of the stories. The main thing though was I was writing, every day, without having to think about it. I was already in that place, in that mindset, so it was easier to switch between the different works.

It’s pretty obvious that I need to do the same thing isn’t it? Haiku Diary volume 2 looks like it might be on its way then – maybe not for publication but just to help me along.

Nervous

This week or next marks a significant step for me. On Saturday I posted a copy of my short story collection to a reviewer who specialises in providing critiques of self published and small press writing. I’ll admit, I’m really nervous about it. I’ve had some feedback already from people who have read either the collection or individual short stories and overall the response is fairly positive. I have one 2 star rating on Goodreads, but I’m fine with that, not everyone is going to like my writing. My essay on Bukowski generated 16 reviews on Amazon a few years ago which split the audience right down the middle: 9 five star reviews, 1 four star review and 6 one star reviews. And I’ll always remember doing my A Level English course where we had three different teachers – two of them consistently marked my work at around 70-80%, and the other just as consistently gave me 50-60%. I wasn’t doing anything different for him than the work I was submitting for the other two… Luckily enough, the examiners sided with the higher markers, but it was a lesson in subjectivity.

The big problem is that this is more of an editorial review than a standard customer one. It will carry, probably, a bit more clout and it could sink my sales if it’s really negative. I wouldn’t want it to be any less than truly honest, and I welcome constructive criticism – I don’t think I’m the complete writer, I’m a work in progress and no matter who you are there is always room for improvement. Whatever happens I’m going to have to take it on the chin, I know that, and it’s important to get some reviews on the go as I’ve struggled so far to generate many. But I can’t help but be a little bit anxious about it. Fingers crossed and all that…

Life as an Indie Author

I posted up my two books for Kindle in December last year, so I figured three months on I should probably reflect on the experience.

On the one hand, it’s easy to summarise: I’m happy I did it. I’m selling copies, I’m getting some feedback, I’m enjoying participating in forum discussions with other authors, and I’m getting out of the house regularly to a writing group now.

How successful have I been so far? Well, that’s kind of hard to say. Partially because I don’t really know what the benchmarks are and partially because, taking cash to one side, how do you define success in something like this?

Let’s be honest, I’m not achieving the kind of sales Stephen Leather published on his Blog. He made somewhere around £10,000 in ebook sales for January. I probably made around £5 or £6. And I could go into a long explanatory whine about how he’s an established author with an existing fanbase, and that he employed viral marketing techniques to get his work into the top 10 for Kindle where his sales then took off over Christmas – which is all true. But here’s the thing: I was inspired to give it a go more by musicians than I was by other authors. Two of my favourite musicians keep releasing CDs when either their audience has shrunk, or as an alternative to the successful career they were having in big bands. Grant Lee Buffalo was a band I followed in the 90’s, and their lead singer still releases music to a smaller audience now because, well, because he’s a musician and that’s what he does. Jon Frusciante from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers – the greatest living guitarist in my opinion – released 6 indie albums in a year with music that didn’t fit the band’s genre and then turned his back on them to follow his own course.

These guys inspired me. They don’t do what they do because there are untold riches and worldwide fame in it. They do it because they enjoy it, it’s what they feel they have to contribute, and they do it on their own terms. So I put up my indie books and am happy to see some steady sales and am proud of what I put out. It’s spurred me on in a way I didn’t think it would.

I read somewhere that a bestseller can be categorised as such when sales hit 35,000. But the same article said there are 500,000 books published a year and less than 2% of them will sell more than 500 copies. So if you hit that magic 500 you’re actually doing ok. From the last two and half months it looks like I may hit that -admittedly in about 12 to 18 months time, but there was no timescale to it. And ok, the article was about paperback books, I’m not sure whether the bar would be set higher on 70p ebooks. But hey, I read it and I’m sticking to it as a target, even if that is just because it seems potentially achievable…

At the moment, I’m setting little targets month on month to see if I’m getting anywhere. Target 1 was to sell more in month 2 than I did in month 1. I achieved that quickly, so I edited it to a target to double the sales of month 1. I exceeded that by 4 sales too. So far so good. Because February was a shorter month I set the target lower, but hit it before the month was out. The next target in line was to sell the equivalent of a book per day. I did that in February too – 28. So now I’m hoping to hit 31 in March to surpass that book a day idea by virtue of it being a longer month, and the next target is to sell more than a book a day (even if it averages out at 1.001 or something). Of course, I’m probably setting myself up for a fall as I’ll be disappointed when it all goes pear shaped in April and my sales evaporate completely. But with the paperback coming out, I might be able to push it in other sales avenues now and hopefully keep building.

It might all seem a bit modest to some, a cottage industry I’m running here, but as they say, every long journey starts with the smallest step. Hopefully I’ll still be in the race at the 24 mile mark, we’ll see. (How about that for a couple of mixed metaphors)…