Less than a week to go till…

Bone Breakers is up for sale. It’s a wild and crazy mix of snappy dialogue, fast action, brutal violence, and the Stanton brothers doing what they do best – bickering, breaking bones, and relieving other criminals of their wrongfully earned money.

It’s only £1.99/$2.99 on Kindle. Bargain!

And during July I intend to make my other Stanton brothers book The Hunters 99p/$0.99 and the short collection that features the brothers, The Greatest Show in Town, will be 77p/$0.99.

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Bone Breakers arrives on July 1st

My latest effort, another Stanton brothers’ thriller, Bone Breakers, will be on sale as a Kindle ebook on July 1st and later as a paperback. Set before the events of The Hunters, it’s a blisteringly fast-paced 32,000 word novella, packed with action, suspense, and an assortment of colourful and vicious villains. It will be priced at £1.99 for the eBook and £4.99 for the paperback. See the book blurb for a glimpse of what you’ll be getting…

When the Stanton brothers decide to rob Teesside construction magnate, drug dealer, and all-round scumbag, Terry Albright, they think it’s going to be easy. Get in, get out, break a few bones, and make a tidy profit. But when the money isn’t where it’s supposed to be, they find themselves holed-up in a high-rise flat trying to break into the bedroom of a fat, Eminem wannabe, while surrounded by a family of psychotic scrap dealers and bone breakers who want the money for themselves. But as the night wears on, and the Stantons realise that time isn’t on their side, they decide to take matters into their own hands, leading to a hammer wielding, classic car smashing, bone-breaking finale.

Bone Breakers is a crime thriller with the emphasis on thrills. It screams along at a furious pace, mixing fast action, ultra-violence, black comedy, snappy dialogue, and the Stanton brothers at their bickering, foul-mouthed best. 

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The Gamblers is free on Kindle… but only in the US

Hey, folks.

If you’re visiting this blog from the US, and haven’t picked it up yet, or didn’t read it last time it came out as a freebie, The Gamblers is currently free on Kindle. (It’s also free on Smashwords and Kobo – for those of you with other eReaders.)

My advice: download it, read it, and – d’ya know, what? – you’ll probably like it. Especially if noir and crime thrillers are your thing.

I’m not sure why Brits are being excluded from this freebie, and I’m sure that even if I asked for a reason Amazon probably wouldn’t tell me. So there. Even though it has pissed on my plans a bit. I’ll explain that below.

What I’m hoping to achieve from this freebie is fairly simple: I want more reviews. I want to shift enough units that, over the course of the rest of this year, the odds of people reading it (rather than leaving it untouched in the dark basement of their To-Be-Read pile, or deleting it) increase by sheer weight of numbers. This was one of the reasons why I hoped that Amazon would make the freebie universal rather than regional. I have thirteen reviews in the UK and I was hoping to take that number into the twenties. Reviews don’t increase sales, but large volumes of positive notices can sway wavering browsers into clicking the buy now button.

However, it’s not gonna happen now. Not for a while, anyway.

Still, more reviews in the US (he says, with fingers crossed). I’ll be happy with that.

Advertisements for Myself

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.

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.

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.

For the next three days The Gamblers is free

That’s right, you heard correctly. Call it my little Valentine’s gift to you readers.

If you can’t give your love the gift of love then give them a little murder, betrayal, and £750k of drug money to play with.

Give them The Gamblers free in the US, the UK, and anywhere else with an Amazon store.