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I did a freebie of The Gamblers recently and have decided to share a few thoughts:

a) I won’t be using a book publicity service again (I won’t say who they are). I paid $40 for them to notify a considerable number of free book websites about my upcoming freebie. I gave them a considerable amount of notice about this free period (almost three weeks), and yet they pretty much notified all the sites concerned at the last minute. Most of these free sites seem to require 48 – 72 hours notice. In most cases, the publicity service only gave them 24 hours notice, which means I know for a fact that many of the sites notified didn’t run details of my freebie as a result. If I pay money for a service, I expect that service to be undertaken properly.

b) There were more downloads of The Gamblers during this free period than there were last time. However, download figures were fairly poor until I started tweeting (and getting retweeted) early on Saturday evening, which is how I know that many of the free sites didn’t display my freebie at all. Many thanks to those who gave me a retweet.

c) The recent freebie has had zero impact (literally) on sales, which have been flat-lining in the UK for over a month. This means The Gamblers is probably not going to shift any more copies at full price, so I intend to make it a loss-leader when the KDP select exclusivity ends tomorrow. I will make it free on Smashwords and Kobo and hopefully Amazon will price-match it and make it available for free – permanently.

d) If I’m lucky I might get some new reviews from the latest promotion. The general consensus is that 10% of people who download a book for free will read it (though not necessarily straight away) and out of the 10% who read it maybe 10% of them will post a review. So if I’m lucky I might get two new reviews in the UK and maybe three in the US. I won’t hold my breath, though.

If nothing else, I have at least learned that my work is never going to make me a penny of profit. If I add the time I’ve spent on covers, formatting, tweets, blogging, Facebook posts, then I’m still making a loss on my work.

So be it.

Not everybody is going to be a success, not everybody is going to write commercial work. And as I’ve stated before, it’s not the money that keeps me writing (if it was I would have stopped long ago). All I can do is keep writing, hopefully keep improving, and at least keep my very small audience happy. And, on the subject of keeping my audience happy, Bone Breakers (a Stanton brothers novella set long before the events in The Hunters) is coming very soon, and The Glasgow Grin is still on target for a 2013 bow. Added to which, another Stanton brothers short I started recently, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to Billingham Forum, has since become a novella, and is also almost done-and-dusted.

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What’s going on at Casa Stanley

On the off chance that you’re interested in my work, and interested in how it’s coming along (if you aren’t, I won’t be offended, please click away now), here’s a rundown of what I have been doing with my days/evenings recently.

Since stopping all promotion of work that’s more than two month’s old, which is currently everything, I’ve found that I have more time for writing and reading and reviewing. I’ve finished a couple of shorts that are both based around the theme of revenge, with several others on the go, to be included in a short collection that will probably see the light of day sometime in 2014.

Standalone Stanton brothers novella Bone Breakers is out on submission, though I’m not holding out much hope for this, to be honest (It’s been over three weeks since I sent it, and I can already see sections I want to tweak); I’m making good progress on the sequel to The Hunters, The Glasgow Grin, (even though it has changed from its initial incarnation in the redraft process – first and third person narration, for a start – and has consequently got bigger); I’ve also got several Stanton shorts on the go, including one that works as a sort of prequel to Bone Breakers. There are also two other big Stanton projects that I have simmering.

Other projects include three novellas/novels that have either been started, outlined or are close to completion (Cry Tomorrow, When Word Came Down and We Bring The Darkness).

I’ve realised that I write best with multiple projects on the go. If I get bored or stalled with one project I can move on to another and so on until they are completed. I now have so many projects on the go I expect to be tied up until at least 2015 (assuming I finish them all). It’s not a method I recommend; partly because writers who tell other writers WHAT TO DO and HOW TO DO IT bore me bloody rigid, but mostly because you need to be able to thrive within a maelstrom of organised chaos.

And I like organised chaos, so there.

Since ceasing my dull existence of relentless book-plugging I’ve been much happier, much more creative, and I’ve realised there’s more to life than gnawing at my fingernails whilst I check my KDP figures for the umpteenth time that day. However, I did check my sales figures recently and it’s as I expected: during my pimping embargo (now about five weeks) I’ve sold exactly four books, all of which have been in the US. Not good, but I’m not sure the figures would have been that much better even if I did use my usual relentless pushing tactics.

However, I have a two-day sale of The Gamblers coming shortly (partly because I had two free days left before it reverts back to not being in the KDP free program), but you won’t see me plugging it on this blog. In fact, I’m not even going to bother telling you the date.

Why? Well, I figure most regulars here have either read it or have it on their Kindle (to be either read at a later date or not at all), and I hate preaching to the converted. Instead, I’ve paid an organisation about £30 to punt details of the freebie to all the major free book list websites, saving me many hours of work and getting word out to some websites that I didn’t realise existed. I’ll let you know how this experiment goes later in the month.

Dream Weavers – or peddling the self-publishing myth

Not sure if you folks have read Hugh Howey’s article about self-publishing on Salon yet? It’s interesting in many ways, and well written, but it again trades on the much-peddled myth that if you’re good enough, that if you market yourself well enough, you will succeed at this self-publishing malarkey and make a living wage. He does qualify some of his points, but the overall tone does give the impression that just about anybody can make it big. And while this is of course true, anybody can make it big, it doesn’t take into account the much bigger picture.

There are plenty of authors (excellent authors – I might add), particularly in the noir and hardboiled backwater, whose work doesn’t earn thousands of pounds in royalties a year, whose work doesn’t regularly earn $100 – $500 a month, whose work doesn’t earn enough to pay the odd monthly bill. And these guys and gals are the majority of the self-published, I should add for emphasis. Personally, I think it’s dangerous to think you can enter into the career of a writer in the belief that you’ll be able to turn it into a full-time profession.

My last royalty payment was enough to pay for a large Costa mocha (without cream) and a muffin. Make of that what you will (it was a very tasty muffin, mind you).

I was very happy that my royalties were able to stretch to that kind of extravagance, especially as this month’s royalties look like they’ll be just about enough to buy me a tasty slice of fresh air (air is still free, right?).

What I’m trying to say is this: please do self-publish your magnum opus if that is how you wish to proceed, but don’t expect people to buy it and, more importantly, don’t get all bent out of shape when they don’t. Considering that there will be tens of thousands of self-published titles published in 2013 to add to the hundreds of thousands that already exist, the odds are vastly higher that you won’t be discovered, you won’t be the next big thing. But, in all honesty, if you’re writing solely for money or recognition then you’re probably fucked anyway.

If you’re going to write then do it for love: do it because you want to write something you want to read; do it because you’ve had a brilliant idea, one that keeps you writing even when your prose reads like shit (because you can always refine and edit that later); do it because you want to see how it all turns out for the characters you’ve created; do it because you want to do it, fucking need to do it, because you’ll probably go insane otherwise.

And if your first book doesn’t sell, don’t give up, write a second, better, book and see how that fares. And if that doesn’t sell, write a third and a fourth and so on, until you’re a master of your craft.

And be aware that you might be writing the kind of stuff that has a limited audience (too violent, too gory, too sweary, too much sex, too controversial, too literary/experimental). I noticed that many of the authors listed in Howey’s article were from very popular genres: fantasy, vampires, YA, rom-coms etc.. If your work doesn’t fit neatly within genres it might take you a long time to be discovered, or Amazon might change their recommendation algorithms to favour Big Publishing and you might never be discovered at all. Who knows what the future holds?

Trust me, if you have realistic goals (a handful of sales a month, to start with) you’ll end up being a lot happier. Since I’ve stopped trying to peddle my work incessantly, since I’ve accepted my very tiny readership, since I’ve stopped checking my sales figures, I’ve been a lot happier. If I sell books, then great. If I don’t sell books, it doesn’t matter.

And despite my lack of sales I’m still writing. You know why?

Love, my friends. Love.

The Greatest Show in Town is here

GreatestShowInTownCover.inddI’m proud to announce the release (just in time for Christmas) of my short story collection The Greatest Show In Town and other shorts on Kindle (Kobo version to follow soon).

This collection serves up 11 nasty bits of Brit Grit for you to sample. They’re not gonna go down easy, but you don’t want that, right? You didn’t come here for sparkly vampires, boy wizards, and easy reading – you can get that elsewhere. No, you’re here for stories that grab your nuts and don’t let go. Tales that beat you down and do nasty things to you while you’re out cold. That’s what I’m giving you here – and you’ll take it and like it!

A security guard gets more than he bargained for when he pays a visit to The Carpenter’s Arms; two women cause all manner of mayhem when they suffer from a bout of Bus Rage; a mother’s death brings about a permanent rift between brother and sister in The Short Goodbye; and the Stanton brothers cut a kneecapping, bone-breaking, ball-busting, sweary swathe through the underworld in The Greatest Show in Town, The Beautiful Game, One Sixteenth and The Fight.

The Greatest Show In Town will eventually be £1.99 ($2.99) but throughout December you can grab it for the bargain price of 99p ($0.99). You lucky things!

And you you can grab some grit here in the UK and here is the US.

Happy Kindle birthday, The Gamblers

This slipped past me almost unnoticed (partly because The Gamblers was first released on paperback in November 2011), but I thought I’d say a few words to mark the occasion.

This last year has been an interesting ride on Kindle. Sales were marginally better than I hoped upon release, though it’s never troubled the best-seller charts (not counting the occasional chart place in the hard-boiled hit parade). And in that time I’ve managed to release another book, making me almost prolific, haha! I’ve learned a lot about this indie-publishing business too during the last year and I thought I’d share these thoughts with you (feel free to click away when you get bored):

1) There’s a vibrant hard-boiled crime and noir community out there. I didn’t realise just how vibrant it was until I joined Twitter and noticed that not only are there lots of people doing what I’m doing, but they’re doing it a lot better too. What this means is I know I have a lot more to learn. It also means that it’s not a lonely place, and there are a lot of great writers to chat with online. That feeling alone is marvellous.

2) I’ll never make my living as a full-time writer. This isn’t some whiny point declaring woe is me, it’s more a simple statement of the facts as I see them. Getting noticed is incredibly difficult and involves more effort than I can manage if I’m to keep earning a living as a graphic designer and pay my rent. I can only do it to a minor degree, far less than I would like, which means minor returns. But I’m cool with that. Sales might take off to a degree over time, given a more substantial back catalogue, but I’m pretty certain the best I can hope for is something that can supplement my full-time job income rather than replace it. Regardless of this, I’ll keep writing. I love doing it, because it’s not about the money, it’s more than that… I don’t want to sound all poncy and pretentious, but it fulfils me in a way that I can’t quite explain – whether that’s spiritual or what have you, I don’t know, but there’s a sense of contentment I feel when I’ve finished a project that I don’t get from any other aspect of my professional life.

3) The Gamblers wasn’t a one-off. I was worried that I might return to my pre-Gamblers routine of starting projects that remained unfinished, but this hasn’t been the case. The Hunters, the first of a series of hard-boiled and blackly comic crime thrillers featuring two dysfunctional criminal brothers, made an appearance and will be quickly followed by three other books later this year and into 2013. Also, I have another noir that is on schedule for late 2013! The floodgates are well and truly open.

4) I’m going to stop trying to sell my wares all the time on Twitter. I’ve been scaling this back, but unless I have a specific deal going (two-for-one deals, a price drop etc.) I’m going to cease with the Twitterbombs. To be honest, Twitter is an abysmal selling tool and I find that I get more sales through providing interesting content on this blog, or links to interesting content on Twitter, than I do by saying, ‘Oi! Buy my books’. If I slip with this promise at any point, feel free to pull me up about it 😉

5) I won’t be doing any more KDP Select giveaways. Initially, KDP Select kickstarted sales of The Gamblers again after they went dormant for a while, and it’s given The Hunters an initial boost, but repeated freebies have done nothing more for me in terms of sales and are probably detrimental in the long run. And what’s the point of giving away my work to hoarders who don’t read it? It’s a waste of my time and theirs – they’ll only end up deleting it unread anyway. Better a tiny audience of devoted readers than a larger audience of those who couldn’t care less. So, I have a few ideas of my own to boost sales in the summer months, involving a slightly more structured giveaway of my own devising (I’ll reveal more another time).

6) It’s been fun, thus far. I’ve enjoyed having all three of you visit my blog from time to time and read my work, and I hope to keep you entertained for many years to come. And if the standard slips do let me know. I’ll come back stronger and better for it.

Adios!