There’s no reason for you to read my books

The title above is neither a bitter statement nor a request for you to stay away, more a suggestion of a problem that I think affects ninety-nine per cent of writers out there using KDP or some other self-publishing system.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole self-publishing experience recently. I’ve learned a few things during my two-plus years on this merry-go-round; enough to know that my books will never be anything more than a sideline for me, much as I’d like them to be something more, because maybe I’m missing some kind of X-factor, because year-on-year my sales haven’t improved but declined. When fanciful dreams get a bucketful of cold, wet reality thrown in their face they often harden into ice. And although my heart isn’t icy-cold yet, there is a certain cooling of interest in the whole self-publishing rigmarole (from a business perspective, at least). I’m not sure if other writers are feeling it yet, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but I’ve come to realise that the reason Big Publishing has survived as long as it has is because it knows a few things about its audience – a damn sight more than many of us do.

They know that there’s no reason for anybody to buy their books (you see, there was a reason for that title), but they make an audience want to read the damn things anyway and they do it time and time again. In all honesty, how many self-publishers (or even small presses) can say they’ve done anything even remotely similar. Building a brand takes time, money, good contacts, good luck, and most importantly (although not necessarily the case) good material. Big Publishing generally has the best covers, the best marketing brains, the best contacts, can sometimes make their own damn luck and, most importantly, they have that big fucking cachet – most of the best writers want to be published by them. If you are published by Big Publishing you automatically have something that no self-publisher has – reputation. Before you start harrumphing and disagreeing, think about it.

I’m not saying that going through the whole gate-keeping process of agent selection, editing, publisher, more editing routine necessarily means that the books are better but, let’s face it, in the mind of the book buying public at large this is nearly always the case. Instant reputation. What writer wouldn’t want that for their work?

Self-publishers have to deal with an inbuilt prejudice amongst the reading public – their work is automatically inferior because they aren’t well edited, have shite covers, can’t spell, don’t have, like, good grammar, and stuff, like what those proper authors have – in short, we have no reputation. And it remains this way until we can prove otherwise – meaning it is already harder for us.

If you are really persistent, write the kind of novels the public loves well, and have a certain amount of luck, too, you might be able to succeed at this self-publishing lark (Amanda Hocking, John Locke, Joe Konrath, Stephen Leather, Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, Saffina Desforges’ Sugar and Spice, and Bella Andre spring immediately to mind), but, for most of us, this kind of click with the public in order to create some kind of zeitgeist probably won’t happen.

If, like me, you write stuff that might be considered marginal (too violent, too downbeat, too much swearing, too many unpleasant characters etc.) then you’re screwed from the get-go – and unscrewing yourself is a major job in itself. It’s at this point that you’ll realise that the reason that Big Publishing doesn’t want to know is because your stuff just doesn’t have audience appeal. It comes back to the title – there’s no reason for you to read my books. I have to make you want to read them.

I’ve changed covers, thrown money at advertising, tried guerilla advertising techniques (flyers dropped in public places etc.), put up posters, joined forums (communicated with fellow readers and writers), joined social media outlets, given my books away, asked for reviews, slashed prices, and still every tiny sale feels like it has to be hewn out of a large rock of indifference. I’m doing more for less. And it is getting worse all the time.

Does it mean I’m giving up? No. I love writing, I love creating the kind of stuff that I want to read. But what it does mean is that I can’t be bothered trying to force or coerce people to buy my stuff any more. I loathe advertising all the time. I’m not a salesman, have no real feeling for it, and always feel somewhat embarrassed when sending out please buy my book requests. The only way I’m going to sell more than a handful of sales in a year is through the kind of effort I just can’t afford to do, literally. I’m a freelancer. My time is money. If I don’t work I don’t get paid. Every hour I spend trying to get one sale is an hour I spend not getting paid for my profession – and I get paid a helluva lot more for my profession than I do for my writing. So, from this moment on, I am giving up any kind of concerted marketing effort for my books.

When I eventually get round to releasing something in 2013 I will give it an initial push on Facebook, Twitter, my blog (two to three weeks, at most – because that’s when most sales and interest come in, anyway) but after that I’m going to let my books rise or fall on their own merits (or lack of them). There will be no more Kindle freebies, nor any please buy my book tweets several months after release, and I won’t be doing blog tours or anything of that nature. From now on, I’ll be solely about getting on with the business of writing (books, short stories, reviews, the occasional other blog post), but the sales pitches are a thing of the past.

I have found out that there’s no reason for the public to read my books, and I simply don’t have the time or the money at the moment to change that fact. And, do you know something, I’m actually cool with it.

BOG OFF – Or Buy One Get One Free, Friend! – January

Right, for the rest of January, in an effort to gee up sales through this grey, cold month, I’m running a buy one get one free deal on my Kindle books The Gamblers and The Hunters (The Greatest Show in Town due to the fact that it is cheaper is not included in this offer – however, it can be claimed as a free book).

How does it work?
Simple! You buy an ebook from Amazon and they give you a receipt (or they bloody well should) that looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 19.10.43

Once this has been emailed to you please forward it to me at The title you bought (either The Gamblers or The Hunters) will be on the receipt, which means it is then up to you state in the email what ebook you want: The Hunters/The Gamblers or The Greatest Show in Town – the choice, as they say, is yours!

Obviously, how you get that .mobi file on to your Kindle is your business entirely, but a handy guide on how to do it can be found here

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.

The Greatest Show In Town will be available in a week

GreatestShowInTownCover.inddI’m proud to announce that on Monday 17th December (just in time for Christmas) my short story collection The Greatest Show In Town and other shorts will be released on Kindle (with a Kobo edition following afterwards).

It consists of 11 stories, mostly crime and dark fiction, some of which have been on this blog in a different form, but with several others that are completely new to this collection. Four of the stories (including a couple of longer shorts) involve the exploits of the Stanton brothers, which should hopefully keep fans of The Hunters happy until its sequel The Glasgow Grin arrives. It will eventually be £1.99 ($2.99) but until the new year comes around it’ll be available at the bargain price of 99p ($1.99). You lucky things!

Tell your friends, your neighbours, your loved ones and total strangers about this momentous news. Because I really need the beer money!

Review: Dirty Old Town by Nigel Bird

One of the things about the e-book era is that it has re-energised the British crime and dark fiction scene. Novelists and short fiction writers who might have been overlooked by the big publishers – for being too dark, too grim, too violent, too different – have been given the option to self-publish or work with small, independent publishers to produce books that have, in many cases, had some of the big boys on the run. These writers are knowledgeable about their trade, know their history, know how to hook readers from the first sentence, and more importantly know how to use social media and modern technology in a way that many of the more established pros seem incapable of doing. There are a lot of these folks out there: Paul D Brazill, Ian Ayris, McDroll, Luca Veste, along with more established folks like Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Nick Quantrill. Also, included with this rather gilded lot is Nigel Bird.

Until recently, Bird had wrote mostly short fiction, although a novella length work, Smoke, was published not so long ago. And until very recently (despite being interested in his work) I hadn’t downloaded any of his collections, due to a very large to-be-read pile and work commitments. But I put this behind me recently by reading Dirty Old Town – a short but strong collection of short fiction.

For such a short collection, there’s a lot of good stuff in here. One Hundred and Ten Per Cent, which goes through the life of a runner as he moves from prison to the race track. It’s compelling, hard and has some lovely little moments of description:

“Everyone has a talent,” Tweed said.

As it happened, he was pretty damned good at taking the faces of cunts like the man on the other side of the table and turning them into modern art.

Nice and pithy. Appeals to a fan of clever, sweary quips like myself. But elsewhere, as in Dirty Old Town, the title story, a subtler but equally clever use of language comes into play:

I didn’t see the stars, but felt them speed through my nervous system, tingling down to my fingers and toes.

Again, nice and pithy. And the rest of the story is just as good. Harsh, unforgiving, and with a nice sense of loss.

A lot of these stories deal with loss: Dirty Old Town, Drinking Wine (Spo-dee-oh-dee), Sea Minor, Taking A Line For A Walk; all these deal with a sense of loss (love, life, future, family, you name it).

Bird has a lot of empathy and sympathy for his characters, even the bad ones, and it shines through on the page. In this sense, his work shares similarities with Donald Ray Pollock whose work I reviewed here.

There are a number of memorable stories in this collection. Bird has genuine talent and is definitely one to keep an eye on for the future. And I think I’ll be reading more of his work sooner rather than later.

The Greatest Show In Town – cover redux

Here’s the new, and final, cover for The Greatest Show In Town.

When I posted the first version of the cover the feedback was really quite positive, but a few people pointed out a couple of things that stuck in my craw. Not because they were wrong, but because they were very much right.

I felt that I could do better – much better. Hopefully these minor tweaks have brought out a major improvement.

The basic photograph is still the same as the original, but I’ve applied a few extra colour filters to it, which have given it a stronger more vibrant appearance. I also removed one of the layers, which sadly didn’t add much other than a background texture.

The major change has been to the font, which has been replaced with a stronger, bolder face. I’ve also separated the name and title blocks, which – as a previous comment pointed out – made the top of the cover look cluttered.

Oh, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with the landmark – this is a very nice shot of Teesside’s transporter bridge.

I think it’s a considerable improvement upon something I already thought was quite nice. Hopefully you all agree. Let me know your thoughts.

The Gamblers special offer – half price on Kindle

For those of you who don’t already have it, The Gamblers will be half price from now until the end of the month. This means it’s $1.50 for those who wish to buy it at Amazon US and it is currently 96p for those who wish to buy it at Amazon UK.

This special offer is for a short time only and ends on May 31st, when it goes back to its usual price of £1.99/$2.99.