Prices rises and general warnings

As of the 1 August, The Glasgow Grin will be going up in price from 99p/$0.99 to £2.99/$3.99. The lower price point has obviously assisted sales that are creeping towards the 3,000 barrier in the UK, and helped shift numerous copies of my other novels and novellas, but I feel now is the time to raise the price. I’ve been selling GG cheaply for far longer than I ever planned (it was originally only going to be 99p until the end of March), and all good things must come to an end.

Will this decision affect sales? Undoubtedly, and for the worse. However, I don’t think £2.99 is an unfair price to pay for several years of my life, and something that will give readers many hours of enjoyment (I hope). It will, I suspect, negatively impact sales of my other books, too. But I’ve been worrying more about my sales recently than I’ve been doing actual writing. I check my sales figures with depressing and monotonous regularity; in fact, I’d even go so far as to suggest that it has become a complusion. So, come August, I’ll be avoiding my sales figures like they’re some sort of life-threatening disease.

The other thing I plan to do is put bad language and violence warnings clearly within the product description/synopsis of my books. I’m getting tired of the prudish, and those of a weak disposition, giving me one-star reviews because they can’t handle bad language or sex or strong violence. Frankly, I’d rather warn them from the start that my work is hardcore crime fiction, so they don’t make the mistake of buying my stuff and complaining about it later. A clear warning (PROBABLY IN CAPS, SO THERE’S NO MISTAKE) at least gives readers a chance to make an informed decision about my work (although the current synopsis for my latest novel states clearly: The Glasgow Grin combines intense, fast-paced plotting, ferocious ultra-violence, snappy, foul-mouthed dialogue, and a rogue’s gallery of twisted villains…).

So there you have it!

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Glasgow grinning

Yesterday was the day I sold 1,000 ebooks in a single month.

If you’re also a writer and you guffaw at this figure (and say to yourself, “Well, I sell that many in a single week, day, hour), then congratulations, as you’re obviously very successful. I salute you.

However, if you’re a writer like me – one who set himself a target of reaching, and hopefully bettering, 1,000 sales for the entirety of 2015 – then you’ll understand my joy at reaching this milestone. You may also understand my complete and utter lack of comprehension at how I managed to reach my target so quickly.

You see, I haven’t a clue how I did it. Well, I have clues, but lack the intellect needed to assemble them into something approaching an idea.

Obviously, I understand that the majority of those sales come from The Glasgow Grin, but what I don’t understand is how or why it has been so successful. My sales strategy for GG has been as haphazard and piss-poor as every launch that preceded it. In fact, if you were to gather a group of ebook marketing specialists together and ask, “So, folks, just how did he do it?” I honestly think their brows would lower with concentration for several minutes, they would collectively shrug their shoulders and offer a terse, “Fucked if we know,” in response. “But it’s obvious that this man is a marketing dunce.”

It could be the successful freebie of The Hunters that I ran last year, which shifted over seven thousand units. If only ten percent of readers read the tale (and liked it enough to want to read my other stuff) then that could account for some of the Glasgow Grin units sold – people wanting a resolution to the narrative started in The Hunters. Also, judging by the total numbers of units shifted of all my ebooks last year (around 672, not counting borrows, most of which were Stanton tales), I’d say I gathered enough regular readers to shift maybe a hundred units of GG to them. Considering that I’ve shifted over 750 units of Grin alone this month (and well over 1,100 in its first three months), there are a fair few folks unaccounted for! So what else?

Algorithms, or, as I like to call them, Amazon’s magical book fairies.

What do they do? Buggered if I know, mate. My limited brain power suggests that they process the maths behind sales and correlate them into user consumption figures that compare and contrast what people are currently reading with what’s already on its shelves (I’m figuring by the power of keywords and other search optimisation), to give readers a list of things Amazon think they’ll like. So if Reader A likes stuff with the tag Brit-Grit or heist then the engine will recommend other books that feature in that list. It will also suggest things that other readers bought at the same time. So if Readers A through Y bought The Hunters, The Curious Case, Keith Nixon’s The Fix and Ryan Bracha’s Paul Carter then Reader Z will be recommended at least a couple of those titles when they inspect each book individually. At least that’s my understanding of it – though don’t take my word for anything, because I’m a fucking idiot.

The Glasgow Grin seems to have been paired with Amsterdam Rampant and Ryan Bracha’s output a lot in the Readers Also Bought section. The Ryan connection I get, because I’ve reviewed his work and featured in his novel of stories Twelve Mad Men (and historically he has sold a lot more books than me), but I think that having Glasgow in the title (which is a reference to a violent act rather than the place), has seen me paired with various Scottish authors.

Still, it’s now about making sure that the next book is well written. And once I’ve achieved that, then the work becomes about making sure that it does at least as well as The Glasgow Grin. That’s how real progress is made and measured – over time. I’ve got several works featuring the brothers over the next 12 months and then I plan to take a bit of a hiatus, to concentrate on other work (including Mark Kandinsky’s first novel The Amsterdamned, in which the brothers make a small but very funny cameo). It’ll be during this period that I find out if what I’ve achieved with GG is sustainable or if it is a particularly pleasant one-off.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it’s the latter.

The Glasgow Grin is finally here

GlasgowGrin2013After 3 years of writing and editing, the direct sequel to The Hunters, The Glasgow Grin, is finally here, slashing its way on to Kindle devices and apps everywhere! And for a fortnight only, it’s at 99p/$0.99. So grab it while it’s cheap.

In the aftermath of The Hunters, the Stantons are in hiding. They have a pile of money that doesn’t belong to them, and a lot of dead bodies to show for it. They’ve never had a problem with doling out violence to Middlesbrough’s villains, but now the stakes are different: A mother and her innocent daughter have been savagely mutilated in a revenge attack by a twisted maniac. An attack for which the Stantons are being blamed…

Bob Owden, feared local crimelord and businessman, wants to know exactly what happened at the Hollis Haulage Massacre. As Bob’s investigation progresses, and victims mount up, he comes to realise that the Stanton brothers might just know a thing or two about it. And anyone who comes to the attention of Bob Owden is not likely to have a long and happy future.

In order to survive, the brothers are going on the warpath. Bringing their own brand of street justice to the scum who cross them, while – of course – making sure that they still make a profit at the end of it. They’ll use blackmail and intimidation to flush out the culprits, all the while dodging hitmen, gangsters, and the ever-increasing bounty on their heads. But even they might have bitten off more than they can chew this time…

Set in a world where everybody’s motives are suspect, where the good guys are bad and the bad guys are worse, where every favour can cost the ultimate price; The Glasgow Grin combines intense, fast-paced plotting, ferocious ultra-violence, snappy, foul-mouthed dialogue, and a rogue’s gallery of twisted villains to create a crime thriller so wild that it just might leave you grinning from ear-to-ear.

Get it here: Amazon UK | Amazon US

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…

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.

A few good months – A few busy weeks

Sales didn’t exactly soar in the US over the last three months, but they were healthy (for me at least). I’ve attributed it to the combination of the July release of Bone Breakersalong with providing its prequel, The Green-eyed Monster, free on Reddit during July and August. In the case of Reddit, hosting a free ebook via my blog created a connection with new readers. They came, picked up the ebook, checked out the site, and it seems that they then went on to buy other work by me. It is something that I intend to do again (another Stanton story tentatively called The Curious Case of the Missing Moolah).

Since prices have gone up sales have drastically slowed down in the US, but that’s okay – I did kind of expect it. However, UK sales seem to have really improved after a disappointing July. They were decent in August, September turned out to be my best UK sales month in over a year and October has started off in encouraging fashion. By many people’s standards my sales figures will be pitiful, but I’ve felt energised by the upturn. So much so that I have decided to continue with self-publishing rather than pursuing an agent and a regular publishing deal with my first non-Stanton book in a while, The Amsterdamned (although they will appear in cameo).

But a recent influx of design work has meant that I have been far too busy and tired for writing (books or blog), which means that I haven’t made much progress with any of my outstanding writing projects (The Glasgow Grin or A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Billingham Forum)  and I also haven’t reviewed anything in a while.

I don’t do very good work when I’m tired, so end up having to rewrite most of what I jot down. The majority of my recent writing work has been tinkering and editing and thinking about endings. I’m hoping that an upcoming holiday in Spain (involving no work of any kind – just relaxing and reading) will recharge my creative batteries when I return and give me the boost I need to finish off some of my outstanding writing work. It will also give me the recharge I need to go back to reviewing more indie crime stuff – there are a lot of great writers that I have yet to read.

It’s going to be a busy end to 2013. Hopefully a productive one, too.

Stanton brothers chronology

Since I began to build up a good back catalog of Stanton brothers’ novels, novellas, and short stories, a few folks have been asking about the chronology of these tales. Well, here goes…

For those of you who are interested in such things, the chronology of the stories works in this order: The Curious Case of The Missing Moolah, A Funny Thing Happened on The Way To Billingham Forum, Sexy Lexy (set for release in 2017), The Greatest Show in Town, The Beautiful Game, The Green-eyed Monster, Bone Breakers, One-Sixteenth, The Fight, The Hunters, and The Glasgow Grin. Hope this clears up any chronology issues!