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…

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.

Review – Gun by Ray Banks

Richie, a young criminal not long out of prison and odd-job man for Goose, a wheelchair-bound crook who claims he got his injury during the Falklands conflict, although everybody knows it was from mainlining a leg artery, is given the task of picking up a Magnum from Florida Al, a shifty hoodlum with a taste for loud shirts.

The pick-up of the gun goes relatively well, but as soon as Richie gets out on to the Leam estate he is attacked and beaten by some local kids, who take the gun from him whilst he’s unconscious.

He then goes in search of the gun with inevitably disastrous results.

Gun is a powerful novella with a nice eye for place and an excellent ear for Tyneside vernacular. It’s written in lean prose that gets on with telling the story rather than dressing the page in adverbs. The characters are believable and well-rounded, even the ones who only stray into the story for a paragraph or two, and Richie is a compelling and tragic protagonist. He’s not a bad-guy, as such, just a human being who’s judgement might be considered highly suspect.

The story unfolds at a cracking pace and, once things really start going badly, Banks expertly cranks up the tension to almost unbearable levels. If you’re a fan of gritty, urban crime fiction, you should stick this on your Kindle straightaway. It’s the kind of cracking read you can polish off on a long commute or a lazy weekend afternoon. Highly recommended.

The Hunters will be free this weekend

In celebration of my novel The Hunters entering KDP Select, I have decided to give you lot a free-for-all from Friday 17th through Sunday 19th February.

I felt that The Hunters wasn’t getting enough exposure and thought that this would put it in the hands of a few readers. These readers will hopefully like it and tell their friends, who will, in turn, tell their friends, and everything will start to snowball. After all, there’s nothing like a bit of momentum.

And if you do grab it for free, please either post a review (it can be ultra-brief if you’re not the wordy type) or hit the Like button next to the title. Come on, you know it’s the right thing to do…

After the free-for-all has ended, the price goes up to £1.99 ($2.99) and will stay there.

That is all!

UK Edition

US Edition

Review: Dig Ten Graves – Heath Lowrance

One of the beauties of being on Twitter is finding a thriving hardboiled crime fiction and noir community. Meeting people (in a virtual sense) with similar interests to you; Meeting people whose knowledge of my chosen field of interest far exceeds my own, people like Heath Lowrance.

Heath recently did a potted history of hardboiled/noir fiction on his brilliant Psychonoir blog. It was good enough to make me buy the Kindle version of The Bastard Hand, which in typical hoarder style I have yet to read (though it’s now next on the list).

But I also recently downloaded Dig Ten Graves, his collection of short stories, which in also typical style I got around to reading first.

What can I say? Well, it’s flat-out superb stuff, for a start. And second, just bloody well buy it. You’ll be guaranteeing yourself some top-notch reading, and finding yourself a new favourite writer!

The entire collection is of a very high quality, but the stand-outs for me are Incident on a Rain-Soaked Corner, which is not only superb but, damn it, similar to a story of mine that was going in a collection of shorts I’m releasing late in February (although I’m now wary of including it because, trust me, Heath’s story is far far better); The Most Natural Thing in The World, which beautifully takes a man’s relationship with his dog and turns it on its head – a gruelling bit of psychological survival horror; and finally, From Here to Oblivion, which chronicles one man’s attempt to kill himself with brilliantly comic results (I have two words for you, Sayonara, bitches) – I guffawed regularly during the story, which got me a fair few looks whilst travelling on the underground.

If you’re looking for a quality collection of shorts, with not a duffer amongst them, then look no further. Dig Ten Graves is superb short story writing from a superb writer. Buy it today.