Half-term report

At the end of last year, I set myself an annual target that was intended to ‘steady the ship’ after disappointing sales in 2013. I sold a lot less than I did in 2012, and there were signs that this trend might continue. A Kindle freebie at the end of the year did poorly, and I feared that 2014 would be a worse wipe-out than 2013 had been.

I set my target as a new high water mark; designed to be considerably higher than 2013’s total and only slightly higher than my sales in 2012. I believed it to be a realistic and achievable figure, so long as I worked hard at marketing my books. I even made it one of my writer’s resolutions.

Of course, I had a specific reason for setting my target: It was to determine whether or not I remained a self-publisher.

If I reached my target, I would continue as a self-publisher; and if I didn’t, I would start working towards ending my self-publishing adventure. The options were to write something a bit more mainstream, with an eye towards getting an agent, or to give it all up completely.

I didn’t really want to think about the second option, but I knew that if I got dejected enough, and ended things, I could at least say that I tried and failed.

January wasn’t a great month – I did okay in the US, but in the UK I was already down on the average I needed to ensure that I hit my target. In February, I released The Curious Case of the Missing Moolah, and had my (until then) best ever sales month. Then at the end of the month, I decided to make The Hunters permanently free on Amazon via their price matching function.

It was a calculated decision. The Hunters had been out for a couple of years, and sales were okay, but I still hadn’t finished the direct sequel to that book. That made it the right candidate as a freebie – to get people salivating for The Glasgow Grin, once it finally makes an appearance, and to possibly shift copies of my other Stanton brothers books. As it turns out, making it permanently free has been the best decision that I’ve made as a self-publisher. In March I shifted several thousand copies of The Hunters, which had a real knock-on for my sales. That month I smashed February’s sales record to pieces, and April sales were almost as strong (falling short by only nine copies). I also reached my annual sales target towards the end of the month. May has seen a drastic drop in free downloads, but sales – although down – have been solid, which means that everything I do now just makes 2015’s target a little larger and more ambitious.

So, that’s me happy – at least regarding sales.

The Glasgow Grin is still dragging on a bit, through a combination of slow writing, a lot of freelance work, and a desire to make sure I get the story right. Another couple of Stanton stories (a novella of about 30k words and a long story of around 10k words) that I’ve been writing concurrently are also going very slowly. My muse just isn’t firing on all cylinders at the moment, but I’m not worried – it’ll return. Some other stories that I have percolating in my head, or in various stages of completion, are currently stalled. At this point in time, TGG and a story that I’m writing for Ryan Bracha’s anthology 12 Mad Men are my main priorities. All other writing work – including book reviews – will have to come a distant second, for now.

Right, I suppose I better get back to it. The Stanton brothers, Mark Kandinsky, and Eddie Miles are waiting for me out in the woods, and they’re getting very, very impatient…

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To free, or not to free? That is the question

I’ve given away plenty of freebies in the past – far more than I have sold, if I’m completely honest – so why am I asking this question now?

Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, recently. Partly because I want to sell more books in 2014, and partly because I want to progress as a writer, by turning it into a career, rather than a side-line. There are other elements at play in my thinking, but these main points have occupied me for much of the beginning of the year.

The answer to the title, essentially, comes down to this one question, and how I answer it:

How much do I value my time?

Is the time I spend writing (time that would be more lucrative financially if I spent it chasing clients for new freelance work) of any worth to me? Do the hundreds of hours I spend writing, rewriting, fine-tuning, and editing my work mean anything to me spiritually? Do I have any defined goals as a writer? Do I want to sell more future work?

If I answer yes to any of these questions, then giving all my work away for free makes very little sense.

If I don’t value myself as a writer, why should the reading public? Some stats suggest that more than 70% of the people who download free books never read them. Goodreads figures for The Gamblers and Bone Breakers suggest that this isn’t far from the truth. Of course, they have every intention of reading them – otherwise, what is the point of downloading them? But, as any Kindle user will tell you, downloading free books becomes an addiction. The more they download, the more choice they have; and the more choice they have, the harder it becomes to make a clear decision based on those choices! Also, when Kindles are jam-packed with content (years of it, in many cases), what kind of choices does this force the reader to make?

If you’re like me, you probably base your reading priorities along several lines of thought: 1) novels I have bought (especially if the authors are known to me); 2) authors with a known track-record (I’ve read and enjoyed them before, so they get prioritised next); 3) recommendations (particularly from other writers); 4) publishers that I respect (I might not know the author, but I have read work from other authors that they have published in the past); 5) interesting, well-written synopsis; 6) all other freebies.

Note where all other freebies comes in the list.

I had every intention of reading them at the time, but as I’ve added new content to my Kindle they have been gradually pushed down the pecking order. Why? Because in my mind they have less value than the works I paid for, and, because they have less value, I consider that reading them is less important. When my Kindle gets too full, they are the books that I delete or archive first. Truth be told, I’m probably missing out on some cracking stories because of this…

And so it goes for my novels and stories. Same rules apply.

And when I think about it in this way, I realise that giving my work away makes it essentially worthless to more than 70% of readers. Carelessly giving away my work might garner me a few new readers (even long-term ones), but it will most likely lose me a lot more in the long run.

Also, why should readers take the time to buy your work on initial release when they think, Well, he’s only going to make it free at some point. Might as well wait till then. If your readership thinks you’re just going to give it away eventually, where is their incentive to buy? Nowhere – that’s where.

So, 2014 will see me taking a different approach to writing, and how I market and sell my work.

No more new freebies for a start: The Curious Case of the Missing Moolah, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum, and The Glasgow Grin will never be free. Ever! The same goes for any other future publications (with the notable exception of short stories, because they work as advertisements for my larger works).

The only freebie I have planned for this year is a tactical one. A couple of months before the release of The Glasgow Grin, I will make The Hunters permanently free. This makes sense because The Glasgow Grin is its direct sequel – every other Stanton brothers’ book works solely in its own right. It also makes sense, because I think The Hunters is a good enough read to make people want to get their hands on the sequel.

Otherwise, the free ride ends here.

I think my work is good enough to charge money for it.

And if you’re waiting for me to change my mind, and start giving it away again, you’ll be waiting a long time.

Bone Breakers is free from 12th December to 16th December

BoneBreakers2013If you haven’t picked up Bone Breakers yet – hold off. I’m making it available for free for five days from 12th – 16th December (my early Christmas present to you).

Besides, sales of my work have ground to a halt since the latter half of November, so now seems as good a time as any to generate interest again, particularly in picking up new readers and reviews, because there won’t be any new Stanton brothers’ thrillers until the first quarter of 2014 (judging by current progress that is most likely to be The Curious Case of the Missing Moolah).

I’m hoping that I shift a good number of free copies over this period. Part of me would like to break into the Kindle Top 100 free books this time around and gain a whole new set of readers going into the new year. I think it’s possible if I get enough retweets and Facebook posts, and if the numerous free ebook sites I have informed in advance about my book decide to pass this information on to their readers.

Anyway, fingers crossed. And if you give me a retweet or Facebook post I would like to take this opportunity to thank you in advance.

 

November price drop!

My recent good progress with sales has dwindled drastically this month, so I’ve slashed the prices of all my Kindle books to 99p or less (in the case of The Green-eyed Monster and The Greatest Show in Town).

They will remain at these bargain prices until December 1st when they will revert back to their original prices.

Grab ’em while you can!

Bone Breakers UK  |  Bone Breakers US
The Hunters UK  |  The Hunters US
The Gamblers UK  The Gamblers US
The Green-eyed Monster UK  |  The Green-eyed Monster US
The Greatest Show in Town UK  |  The Greatest Show in Town US

Price news etc.

After a couple of months at the 99p/$0.99 price point, I have put the price of all my novels/novellas back up to £1.99/$2.99. The Greatest Show In Town is up to £1.50/$1.99.

The Stanton brothers’ short story (and prequel to Bone Breakers) The Green-eyed Monster will also be available very soon on Amazon for 99p/$0.99. Which means that I intend to take down the free version in the next few days. So if you want it for free you better act now.

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.

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