Book number 8 notched up – time to move to the next one

Well, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum is finally done, dusted, and delivered to Amazon. And I’m glad to see the back of it.

Why?

Well, it was hard to write, for starters. It began life as a short story (encompassing the initial robbery at Billingham Forum). But as soon as the short was complete, I wanted to know what happened to the characters I’d created (the short story leaves the fate of several of them up in the air). So I decided to fill in the gaps…

The novella came next. It fleshed out Bobby, Harry, ToJo, and Thrombosis, but, again, left me wanting to know more about Billy Chin, Jonno, Joey, and Ramon. So I went back again, and gave the story a third go.

The novel took much longer to assemble than the novella and short story because I wanted the tale to be more character driven than in previous works. I used a lot more foreshadowing. Many of the characters make decisions that come back to haunt them later. Sometimes you can’t plot these things. Occasionally they just need to bubble to the surface. For a plodder like me, that take times.

I learned a lot by writing this novel. I found out that expanding a short work into something much longer is not for the faint-hearted. Often the plot changes course because what works in a short story (or even a novella) doesn’t always succeed in the more generous word count of a novel. Characters evolve because they can grow into the pages. The lack of limits makes them less black and white.

Endings changed, first chapters came and went, characters emerged from the chrysalis of a cameo to become fully-fledged main players. Most of the main players got at least two or three killer lines and moments, or in Billy Chin’s case got to steal virtually every chapter in which he appears. The Stantons were much nastier in the short story, partly because this was the first Stanton short I ever finished (that’s right, the first – which goes to show how bloody long the novel took to write). It was only when I wrote The Hunters that they developed slightly softer edges and became more sympathetic. A Funny Thing Happened… came together in such a way that it was overtaken by every other project. This is why what seem like prequels actually aren’t. I write about six projects at the same time. It just so happens that The Hunters was the first project after The Gamblers that I was happy to publish. A Funny Thing Happened… was last one to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

The next Stanton story due for publication (early in 2017, most likely) has been almost as protracted. Sexy Lexy is set roughly a month after the events of A Funny Thing Happened… It was originally slated for release in The Greatest Show In Town, but I felt it needed lots of work and dropped it at the last moment. And, much like A Funny Thing Happened…, it expanded to become something bigger and broader – in this case, a novella.

After Sexy Lexy, I’m planning to put the brothers away for a while and concentrate on The Amsterdamned, which should come together quickly, because I’ve plotted it meticulously. Then I intend to fix my sights on We Won’t Leave This World Alive, which continues storylines from The Glasgow Grin (the Stanton brothers, Bob Owden, Gupta Patel, Jimmy Raffin, all get leading roles).

Anyway, enough talk about future publications…

Now it’s time to start pushing A Funny Thing Happened… to my readership.

I hope you enjoy it.

It was hard to write, but I think because of these difficulties it’s a pretty good read.

Advertisements

Some fresh cover concepts

I’m thinking of renewing my cover designs. The aesthetic is rough and gritty – all sketchy, nervous lines and spatters of colour – reflecting the content of the books. It’ll be interesting to know people’s opinions. Good? Bad? Indifferent? Do I need a better illustrator (ie. somebody who’s not me)?

Personally, I like them. They sum up the content and the location of the book better than the current covers. Over the coming weeks I intend to do the rest of the covers, but it’ll be interesting looking at these a few weeks after their initial creation and see if I still feel the same about them.

CuriousCaseCover v2   BoneBreakers2016

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to know your thoughts on the matter. If you’re feeling chatty let me know in the comments section (particularly if you feel these are more impactful than the current covers).

Ta.

Martin

 

 

2016: No Resolutions, just a resolve to push forward

2015 was the year I finally finished and published The Glasgow Grin. The process was more difficult than I’d anticipated, which meant that I barely wrote another word for a good couple of months. To be honest, I felt written out. If I’d tried to write a sentence as simple as The cat sat on the mat during this period I would have fucked it up. Instead, I sat back and studied my initial sales in the hope that GG would make a decent start to its life.

I’d set myself a sales target of 1,000 books in total for 2015, hoping that The Glasgow Grin would make up the largest percentage. This would be a decent increase on 2014, and would mean more readers and a bigger audience for the next one. During my two-month period of inactivity The Glasgow Grin quickly gained sales momentum and became my biggest seller.

Then it kept on selling…

It was the first of my books to break the 200 sales in a month barrier, then it was the first to break 500 in a month, then it sold enough to propel my combined sales through the 1,000 in a month threshold. And then it repeated the feat in the following month. It also managed to break into the UK Top 1,000, albeit briefly. In short, it was the (not so) little book that could.

Sales of The Glasgow Grin hit 3,400 this year and all my other books took the total just over 6,000.

Not bad for somebody who just wanted to crack the thousand mark.

I’m not going to try and break the 6,000 barrier in 2016. Instead, I’m going to try and maintain and build on my current audience. To do this I intend to finish and publish A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum in the first quarter of 2016. This is actually set earlier than The Glasgow Grin (In fact, it occurs after the events of The Curious Case). Not because it was intended as a prequel, but because I started a lot of novels and ideas at the same time – they just happened to finish in an utterly random order. A Funny Thing just happens to have taken far more time than everything else.

After all, I want to make sure it’s a good read.

After this, I’ve got a novella called Sexy Lexy, started simultaneously with A Funny Thing and set during the same time period. It might make it into 2016.

Then I’m sending the boys on holiday, and I’m writing something different for a while: The Amsterdamned is the most obvious candidate, though I have an idea for a psychological thriller that should come together quite quickly (famous last words).

I also intend to build a more specific author website for myself, with an email subscribers’ list to keep interested readers up-to-date with the latest news, and merge this blog and reviews into that.

Adios for now!

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!

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…