Social media hiatus

I’ve been getting angry recently. Angrier than usual, I should add. Most of this is borne out of frustration. A Funny Thing Happened is still moving very slowly, to the point where I’ve considered abandoning it on a couple of occasions, and the important tasks I’d set myself for the first month of the year haven’t even been started. I’ve been procrastinating a lot. Or my own personal favorite: I’ve been juggling so many tasks that I become paralysed and let them all drop uncompleted. This has made me both sadder and angrier.

Then I visit Facebook (the procrastinator’s friend) and get swamped by a tsunami of bad news, murder, racism, clickbait, and this makes me angrier and I feel the need to vent my spleen. Happy posts seem to be few and far between these days. The case is very similar on Twitter.

I’m tired of reading about jihadists murdering anybody who stands in the way of their doctrines and dogma, watching Donald Trump channel Adolf Hitler in his candidacy run, and observing a Conservative government that despises everyone and everything but Big Money and Corporate concerns, and shaking my head at mankind’s blinkered stupidity regarding the state of the environment.  It makes me sad, depressed and perpetually enraged.

And tired. Very, very tired.

All this anger is exhausting. It is gradually consuming all my positivity and drive, and it is burning me out.

So I’m dropping off the radar for a while, at least until I whittle down my ever-increasing to-do-list. I’ve deleted Facebook off my phone and my iPad and will hide my account either later today or tomorrow (assuming you can still do that). I’ve deleted Twitter off my phone and iPad, too. I’ll also log out of my accounts on my computer shortly and not visit them for quite some time. I’ve also deleted a lot of my news apps. Right now, I don’t want to know about the world.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I want to conserve my energy and positivity for my home life, my writing and my graphic design work (i.e. how I earn my living). The background can remain in shallow focus for a while. I’ll know it’s there, but it won’t bother me because it’ll be nothing more than heavy bokeh.

At the very least I’ll be off the grid for a month, but I suspect it will be a bit longer than that. Until I’ve got a workable second draft of A Funny Thing… ready for editing, and until I’ve got several other tasks out of the way, I want to maintain my focus. Staying off social media for a while is a good way of achieving that.

Those who want to get in contact have my email or my mobile number. As for those who don’t: So long, I shall see you all in a while (virtually speaking).

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Things I’ll do in 2014

I don’t make resolutions or wishes for the New Year – resolutions are made to be broken and wishes rarely come true – so I’ll simply say what I intend to do in 2014.

I will publish at least three books in 2014
The Glasgow Grin will finally make an appearance this year – I know I’ve been saying that for the last twelve months, but this time it will actually happen. TGG has taken a lot longer than I’d anticipated, partly because it has become the longest and most ambitious thing I’ve written since The Gamblers. It isn’t just about the Stanton brothers any more – it involves three interwoven tales, even though the brothers remain the star attraction. The Curious Case Of The Missing Moolah, which is another Stanton novella, should be out in February (depending how the edit goes). And A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Billingham Forum, also a novella, is on target to be published sometime in April. Once The Glasgow Grin is published, I’ll be concentrating on writing The Amsterdamned, which is another fast-moving, multi-character, multi-strand novel like The Gamblers. This time Mark Kandinsky takes centre stage, and it features a cross-over moment with The Gamblers, which should please readers of that tale. It’ll be big, brash and very bold – so you stand warned. I have a few lengthy short stories that may also get published separately in 2014 (otherwise I’ll gather them together and produce another collection early in 2015)

I will at least double my 2013 sales
Bold proclamation, I know, but 2013 represented a considerable decline on my 2012 sales (a good December helped me reduce this from a massive decline). If 2014 were to represent another decline, then I will have to seriously reconsider my future in self-publishing (particularly as there’ll be three new Stanton books on release). I have a few plans to help my books along in terms of sales and new readers, but some of them are dependent upon factors outside of my influence so, for now at least, I won’t talk about what these plans are.

I will begin to branch out
I have an idea for a straight-up action thriller that I will start to plot whilst writing The Amsterdamned. It will feature little of the gritty British locales that have been my stock-in-trade thus far, there won’t be a great deal of bad language, and the violence won’t be as eye-watering as it gets in some of the Stanton brothers’ books. At the moment it consists of a series of notes, dialogue snippets, and character sketches in Evernote. As the year goes on these will increase in volume until I finally feel the need to start plotting in earnest (which is how I usually approach all my non-Stanton books). I think it will be a wild ride.

I also have an idea for something completely outside of my usual thrillers, but I doubt I’ll get around to it in 2014, so I’ll keep the details a bit closer to my chest for now.

Read more widely
I did a little bit of this in 2013, but not as much as I had wanted to – partly because there was so much good crime fiction around. But in 2014, I intend to alternate between crime fiction and other forms of fiction and nonfiction, just to keep my palate fresh. One book of crime fiction followed by one of everything/anything else.

And that’s yer lot! I hope you have an excellent NYE and a fantastic New Year. I know I intend to.

Current writing projects (or total madness)

A couple of days ago, I decided to take stock of why I’m still struggling to get anything out for sale in 2013, despite writing my arse off for much of this year. When I realised just how many projects I’ve got on the go at the moment, I truly understood the depth of the problem I currently have. I’ve literally been writing myself to a standstill, ironically by jumping around from project to project like a kid with ADD on pharmaceutical-grade speed.

This has to stop. And it will from today.

The list as it stands (as projects are finished they get a line through, like this):

  1. Bone Breakers – novella (currently in final edit stage – want it to be ready for a July 1 Kindle launch)
  2. The Glasgow Grin – novel (three quarters done, needs more work)
  3. The Green Eyed Monster – short story (prequel of sorts to Bone Breakers – 2,000 words in)
  4. A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Billingham Forum – novella (first draft, badly needs a second draft)
  5. Parked Cars – short story (2,000 words in and nearly finished, just needs to be typed up and polished)
  6. Bangkok Bound – novella (2,000 words in)
  7. Laughter in the Dark – novelette/novella (3,500 words in)
  8. Cry Tomorrow – novella (6,000 words in)
  9. Last One’s The Charm – short story (250 words in)
  10. The Gods Won’t Save You (AKA Hell’s Waiting-Room) – novella (800 words)

In addition to these are several other projects without titles and without any idea of what they are and where they’re going.

As any sane person can see, there are far too many projects here to juggle at once. My creativity at coming up with ideas and starting them with a roar of concentration is a good thing. The fact that this concentration peters out when another idea pops into my head is not.

So, from today, and in numerical order, it’s one project at a time (or two, if I’m editing, but no more than that), and each project will be seen through until the draft is finished. At which point the next project on the list gets its turn.

Any new ideas get sketched down (and I do mean sketched) and added to my Evernote account, and dealt with as soon as I can reach them, not before.

This is the new way. Now let’s see if my productivity picks up.

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.

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.

2013 – and what the future holds

I’m not sure what the next year holds in terms of writing success (or lack of it), but I know I want to up my game in 2013. Write more, sell more and, most important of all, improve with every piece I produce.

I’m currently sitting on a second draft of a Stanton Brothers’ novella called Bone Breakers, I’m two-thirds of the way through The Hunters’ sequel The Glasgow Grin, I’m a good 5,000 words into a revenge-noir novella tentatively called Cry Tomorrow. I’m also sitting on a few long and short stories on the subject of revenge, which I may or may not turn into the basis of another short collection (if I don’t decide to try giving them to others to publish). All of these projects will hopefully see the light of day in 2013, but this is one area where I need to up my game. I need to release more of my stuff without fussing over it. Making sure that I’ve edited and polished my stuff is important, but fussing and tinkering is not. I need to learn when to let go.

Sales in 2012 were at the same level as 2011 (when The Gamblers was released on Kindle) in terms of volume, which means a decrease in sales in real terms due to the fact that The Gamblers wasn’t actually released until April of 2011 (whereas 2012 has been a full sales year). Like everybody else I’m shouting to be heard in an ever more crowded marketplace and I’m clueless as to what I can do about it. If last year is anything to go by, 2013 will see a record volume of stuff released on Kindle, meaning more competition for all of us. So I really need to think carefully about how I proceed over the coming year.

Do I continue down the self-published path? Or do I try and submit my stuff to a small Indie press and see if they like what I’ve produced (and there’s no guarantee of that)? Or do I take a half-and-half approach (some work stays self-published, other work I pass to Indie houses)? Decisions decisions.

If I do stick with self-publishing I am going to have to work a lot smarter if I’m to increase my readership over the coming year. I have some ideas, but without some effective marketing of them on my part they probably won’t amount to much. Ideally, I would like to double my sales in 2013, but I’ll be more than happy if I sell more than I did this year. That doesn’t mean big sales (far from it), but it will mean I have at least increased my readership considerably. And a bigger readership of better work will mean a good basis for 2014.

I intend to work my cojones off in 2013, travel further down the path of the writer, and produce more fiction and more reviews, improving with every piece I produce. And I hope you readers will be there to join me for that journey.

Happy New Year

No resolutions

I’m not going to offer resolutions for 2012 on here. I try not to make proclamations like that any more; they’re rarely ever fulfilled and I usually feel bad about them afterwards.

What I will say is this. My 41,000 word novella/short novel The Hunters, the first release in my Stanton brothers series of books, will be released as an ebook in January and a paperback in either January or February (depending how quickly the layout and proofing process go). The second and third books are currently being written (one of which will be released in the final quarter of 2012). A short story collection (as yet untitled) will also be released.

Outside of that I have nothing more to add. I have other writing projects in the offing, but best not to say much more about them because I have no idea when they’ll be finalised.

Have a great New Year, readers.