Sometimes good, sometimes bad

Bone Breakers first month was a bit of a washout in sales terms, especially in the UK. Aside from the first two days it didn’t sell at all in Britain. I tried plugging on Amazon forums, Facebook, Twitter and Kboards – nothing too OTT, but I did do a bit of pleading for sales – but I’ve realised that unless you’re writing something that people want to read you’re bashing your head against a brick wall.

Some books sell themselves. Certain genres (with a good cover and decent blurb) and certain writers can pull in real sales without massive effort. Others, well, you have to plug them constantly. And I think that’s the case with my books. Unless I’m constantly plugging away, putting it under people’s noses, shouting for attention, then I’m simply not going to pick up anything more than the occasional random sale.

I write what appears to be a very marginal part of a marginal market. Such is life. But I don’t intend to change the genre I write in. I can’t, really. Crime fiction is the only genre I know how to write.

However, my next major project, after The Glasgow Grin is done and dusted, is a more regular thriller called The Amsterdamned, featuring the character of Mark Kandinsky. It’s heist and crime stuff but with less bad language and less sex and violence. Much more of a straight up thriller than my other work. At least that’s how it’s planned, but who knows how it will turn out? It’ll probably end up as black as a serial killer’s heart.

Still, July was a rather decent sales month (for me, at least) in the US. I also had a passable month in June, too. I seem to be doing better on the other side of the Atlantic than on this side of the pond. So, even if UK sales are in the toilet, at least I’m picking up more sales in other territories. Clouds and silver linings and all that.

Recently I’ve found that giving away a free story appears to be difficult. I think some people didn’t like the way the blurb read and maybe some folks just weren’t interested in the genre, but most of all I have a real feeling that some people are very wary of anything free that doesn’t come from Amazon or one of the usual sources. I can understand that. People are wary of things that might not be legitimate. Trust me, if you’re wary, it’s genuinely a legitimate file. And somebody has just kindly pointed out that people also like getting the file delivered direct to their Kindle without having to do the work themselves. Another tick in Amazon’s favour and another black mark against my my method of file delivery (which involves a little bit of user input to get the file on their eReader).

I thought it would be nice to give something away for free, without any strings, to regular readers and new readers alike. I’m not asking for reviews, I’m not asking you to buy any of my other work, I’m just hoping that you might enjoy a decent story (in my opinion) with no strings attached.

I have several other stories that I plan to distribute the same way (free mobi files via my blog) if they are longer than 1,500 words.

I hope you will download and enjoy them.

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Potted reviews: World War Z by Max Brooks, Savages by Don Winslow, Gumshoe by Paul D. Brazill

World War Z, which I read earlier in the summer, is a superbly constructed ‘oral history’ of the Zombie War. It builds via long monologues the beginning, middle and aftermath of the war for the future of earth against the undead hordes. Along the way it uses the zombie apocalypse to satirically skewer Big Government’s inability to get organised in the face of big problems, the divisive nature of humankind, distrust, big business corruption, military inflexibility, and other societal problems. Occasionally, some of the voices can sound a bit similar, but this is a minor complaint when the book is so beautifully constructed and insightful. By the way, the film has barely nothing to do with the book other than sharing the same title. Read the book first. Highly recommended.

I’ll admit that I nearly put Savages down in the first ten pages, partly because the use of acronyms was driving me fucking crazy. But once I settled into it, and the acronyms, and etymology stuff, were toned down, I grew to love the story of Chon and Ben and O and their clashes with the Mexican Baja Cartel over their Marijuana business. The style, which reminded me of a up-to-date rendering of Ellroy’s prose, was perfect for this fast-paced story of cross and double-cross and clashes on the California/Mexico border. Highly recommended.

Set in the fictional northern locale of Seatown, which has its basis in the very real town of Hartlepool, Gumshoe is the story of serial failure Peter Ord, who decides in his infinite drunken wisdom to become a private investigator, and an enjoyable one at that, with plenty of booze, birds, some funny cases, and a brilliant sidekick-cum-best mate, Bryn Laden. Like all of Mr Brazill’s work it is very nicely written with a smart, sharp voice and a neat line in poetic similes. It can be polished off in an afternoon or evening’s reading and is well worth the cost of the download to your Kindle. Highly recommended.

Get a new Stanton brothers story for free

The Green-eyed Monster CoverNever say that I don’t give you anything for free, because here’s some proof to the contrary.

Mike Hollis is in trouble. Deep trouble. Having been sucked into a trap by a stunner with emerald eyes, he’s now being taken for a ride by some very smart blackmailers. He’s fresh out of luck and almost out of time. So he does the one thing he can in that situation. He brings in the Stanton brothers to help him. All he wants is the blackmailers off his back, but the brothers have other ideas. They intend to play these scumbags at their own game and make a lot of money into the bargain. They’re going to make them really pay!

If you’ve already read Bone Breakers – and why the hell haven’t you read it yet? It’s the mutt’s nuts – The Green-eyed Monster gives it a bit of context, by adding back story to a couple of characters who play a fairly sizeable role in the events of that book. However, if you haven’t read BB yet, then this 9,000 word short makes a nice lead-up to the main event – an appetiser, as it were.

Click the link on the cover or the title above or this link here here here and then just download the mobi file. It’s totally free (File no longer available). There’s no obligation to buy any of my other books (although if you do I won’t complain). And you won’t be asked to sign anything or join any mailing lists. It’s as simple as clinking the link, downloading the file, and then reading it.

Right now, you can only get this story here. You can’t get it on Amazon, Smashwords or anywhere else. Maybe later I will make it available to buy from the usual sites, but at least until the end of August it is only available here.

Enjoy!

After a couple of months for free, The Green-eyed Monster is no longer available as a free download.

The Green-eyed Monster

For the few folks who’ve either bought or read Bone Breakers (and there aren’t many of you) here’s a bit of a treat. The Green-eyed Monster will be available next week, to be downloaded for FREE via a link from this site as a .mobi file.

It works either as a Bone Breakers prequel or as a story in its own right. But if you read it and find you rather like it, then you’ll probably also enjoy BB.

I should have it up by Wednesday at the latest.

The self-publishing conundrum

I released Bone Breakers with a bit of fanfare at the beginning of this week and hoped that it would do well in terms of first week sales (maybe a small progression on The Hunters, definitely a progression on The Greatest Show), something to show that I’m moving forward as a writer, collecting a few more new readers along the way. It has a decent cover, is well laid-out as an e-book, has been thoroughly vetted and edited, and I’d like to think it has been well planned and written. All the things the e-book experts tell us are key to an initial burst of sales.

So how did it do in the first week?

Well… the fanfare mostly fell on deaf ears. It was a definite regression on sales of The Hunters and a mild regression over The Greatest Show. A huge disappointment, in so many words.

I realise that I’ve mostly been preaching at the converted, and other writers, and it’s the worst selling tactic in the world – awful, truly awful – but I don’t really know what else to do. The converted are going to buy anyway, some writers might buy, but most probably won’t, because other writers are more concerned at plugging their own work (which is as it should be). But the constant Facebook posts, tweets, Kboard posts, Amazon DOA (sorry MOA) posts, all whining that you should Buy My Book™, have been a barrage over the last week. I despise the sound of my own voice, so you can rest assured that come this Monday there won’t be any more of that malarkey.

Nor much more of my work, as it happens.

I’m going to finish The Glasgow Grin, because it ties up the story started in The Hunters and I feel I owe my regular readers an end to that particular tale, and I’m also going to finish A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Billingham Forum, because it’s more or less done, but after that I’m taking a long break from self-publishing.

I have several more Stanton tales, in various stages of progress, but they’re not going to receive any attention for a while. After The Glasgow Grin is released I’m going to write something aimed at snagging an agent, something aimed at a wider audience, a detective thriller idea I’ve had, or maybe another thriller idea that has been gestating for a while, a crime thriller set in Amsterdam, because I want to know if my writing chops are good enough to catch an agent’s eye.

The other thing is that I’ve grown to despise the marketing and selling process that comes with self-publishing. Over the last eight months or so (since The Greatest Show), I’ve found it more and more difficult to do. The writing I love; selling, er, not so much…

Some writers are brilliant at playing the game – they’re prolific, they have a great online presence, go on blog tours, they engage readers and other writers, they do things in an entertaining manner, and with great humour – and they rack up decent sales, free downloads in the thousands, and a fair portion of reviews as a result.

And fair play to them. Sooner or later it’s those men and women who get the luck, who break out, who get the success that they most certainly deserve, because most of them write well, too.

I’m not one of these people. So be it.

Every time I check my sales figures I feel a little more dejected. Every time I feel I have to say please buy my book on Twitter or Facebook or Reddit I get the feeling that I sound more and more desperate (nobody respects a beggar). The whole process of trying to force books on people who don’t want them makes me tired and angry and depressed. And why do something that does that kind of damage? Life is hard enough without inflicting extra misery upon myself. I can really do without it.

So, fuck it, I’m not doing it for a while, at least until I’ve written either this detective thriller or the crime novel set in Amsterdam, which at the speed I write will be years, not months.

The next two Stanton’s will get a cursory release. I’ll let you know when, I’ll let you know how much, but that’s about all you’re getting from me. I’m not going to force my wares on the public, because it just doesn’t work (at least, not for me). And it’ll be a relief not to feel obligated to send out tweets, or fret over my sales figures for a long. long while.

I’ll keep writing reviews, I’ll keep this blog as up-to-date as I can, and I will engage with other readers and writers on the usual social media outlets, but as for self-publishing – after the next couple of books are done (and they aren’t far off) I’m taking a long and hopefully fruitful hiatus from it.

Review: The Baddest Ass by Anthony Neil Smith

Billy Lafitte, the anti-hero from Yellow Medicine and Hogdoggin’, is now in prison after the massacre at the end of the second novel. Considered as a traitor and a dirty cop by other inmates and guards alike, he is public enemy number one – the one prisoner that the others want to kill. Trouble for them is, he’s gone from being a villain with a conscience to a stone cold bad ass and every assassination attempt has ended badly. But Billy’s nemesis, Agent Rome, and his new assistant, Coleen, have arranged what they think is a sure-fire assassination attempt with a seriously corrupt prison guard and his underlings in cooperation with a vicious prisoner, Ri’Chess, who rules the roost in one of the wings. But the problem is that the day of the hit is the day that Billy’s ex-mother in law brings his son to the prison to see his father. Inevitably the hit goes wrong and double- and triple-crosses abound, the guards come to realise that Ri’Chess is using the hit for his own ends, and Colleen and Billy end up fighting to get the man’s family out of the prison alive.

Last year Anthony Neil Smith’s excellent thriller All The Young Warriors just missed out on my top five of the year (by the narrowest of margins), but there was part of me that suspected that Smith’s next book was going to be the big one. And guess what? This is the one, the wildest ride that Smith has done. As dark and cold as its prison setting when the power goes down, it contains moments of extreme nastiness and some extremely vicious and self-serving characters. It heaps misery on top of misery (rape, torture, many murders in various forms) and turns the prison into a charnel house. Smith makes some very bold choices in terms of the plot development and offers little in the way of redemption. It’s easily the finest prison riot novel I have read since Tim Willock’s brilliant Green River Rising, and is without doubt the finest book that Smith has written and, along with Jedidiah Ayre’s Fierce Bitches, is installed as my finest read of 2013 (though not quite sure which one I prefer at the moment). Highly recommended.

National Bone Breakers Day!

The Stanton brothers are back!

Today sees the release of Bone Breakers on Kindle. A twisting, turning, out-of-control, wild ride that sees the brothers attempting to get their hands on fifty grand from some very nasty people. Bone Breakers moves through its Teesside backdrop like a rocket, keeping it lean, forcing the reader to turn the pages until the tale is done.

Get it today in the UK for £1.99 and the US for $2.99

Also, for those of you haven’t caught up with the brothers yet, I’ve cut the price of the first novel The Hunters for 99p/$0.99 and The Greatest Show in Town, the short story collection in which they feature heavily, for 77p/$0.99