To be … whatever you want to be!
And on that basis, here’s a quick update on what’s been happening in my busy world over the last few weeks.
First off, I’ve managed to find a few fragments of time and done some more work on G’host. Admittedly, not as much as I’d have liked, but some all the same. I’m pleased about that, but also slightly disappointed that I’m not going to be able to post a scene from it, here, as a tribute for the holidays.
The scene I am working on suits the season very well and my idea to use it as a post is what inspired me to get back to the keyboard. Unfortunately, inspiration can only get you so far, and tiredness from several months of long work days doesn’t facilitate good prose. So the scene is coming along but is, sad to say, nowhere near ready enough for a public airing.
It is, however, nice to report that I’ve had some more, very nice, positive feedback from a number of readers over the last month. This is always a real joy. Thanks to anyone who’s ever offered encouragement to any writer: dark days haunt more than just winter months…
I could blather on about restarting my ski-fit regime in readiness for heading for the slopes next year, or about finally sorting my kitchen out after six years of putting up with randomly painted duck-egg blue walls but, as you can tell, it’s not exactly rock and roll news, and so I’m not going to waste any more of your precious seconds in the countdown to the big day…!
Rather, I’ll close by saying: to any stranger who happens past, and to all of my kind and wonderful friends, I wish you all a joyful Christmas and prosperous New Year.
See you in 2014…!
I’m not sure why, but there’s a seemingly endless fascination with rankings and chart numbers. In certain circumstances, sports for instance, this all makes sense: it’s about competition and determining victory and there are a whole host of governing bodies to ensure fair play. Charts are also considered helpful to indicate relative popularity but this kind of benchmarking is much less reliable and is liable to manipulation or abuse. Of course, you might have guessed that the charts that I seem to be most fixated with are Amazon Sales Rankings. I confess: I try not to look at them but for some reason I can’t help it! Anyway, I thought I’d share a little of what I’ve experienced about them over the last few years.
When I first published Firebird, back in 2011, the concept of ebooks was still very new. Back then, Firebird would oscillate between the top 10,000 and top 100,000 books in both the UK and US Amazon charts. At that time, the general author consensus was that if you were in the top 10,000 then that was a very good sign.
Nowadays, however, things have changed. All of the major publishing houses have, to some extent, conceded to the ebook format and published their back catalogues. Indie writers, good and bad, are pouring their wares into the e-marketplace and the trend of publishing shorter stories as “novellas” is not doing anything to reduce this literal tsunami.
So, two years on, Firebird is selling more strongly than ever – albeit that this means approximately two copies per week – but is now generally ranked as being between 100,000th and 200,000th. A good day might see it spring up to a circa 30,000th slot but, within a day, it’ll drift back into its more normal resting place.
Thunder, despite having a lower overall circulation, is not too dissimilar. It ranges between 200,000 and 500,000th.
Initially I was concerned about this. Now I’m not.
I celebrate days when either book breaks the top 100,000 as this tells me that someone new has been kind – or perhaps crazy – enough to try out my efforts and I have settled into being satisfied that if my books are anywhere in the top million then that’s still pretty impressive considering the wealth of global competition they’re up against.
And who knows? I may have to add even more zero’s to my benchmark in another couple of years!
Well my trip to Finland was, once again, extremely restful. Except for the journey home where, somehow, I managed to damage my lower back on the way to the airport. Eight hours of transit and tight connections later; I couldn’t even stand upright unassisted! Ouch …
My doctor says, “Things like this happen, as you get older…”
Thanks, Doc. That makes me feel much better…
Anyway, I’m pleased to report that I’ve made a start on the new novel and the opening pages – assuming I don’t shuffle things as I go – have been drafted. Openings are vital for any piece of writing, particularly novels. They need to drag readers in by the eyeballs and may, in the end, determine the entire success or otherwise of a story. As a result, I try not to be too precious about the opening pages. If I get a better idea later, I’ll swap stuff out. Looking back, Firebird hasn’t got a ‘bad’ start but I think Thunder’s is better. For me, I’m looking to stir up shock, confusion and to create intrigue from the get-go – although I don’t deliberately sit down and try to force this to happen – and recently I’ve been to paying more attention to missing things out, rather than putting them in… In other words, I’ve noticed that a little deft cutting sometimes adds more value than a hundred extra words…
On another subject entirely, I noticed yesterday that Amazon have adjusted their pricing regimes again. As a result, I’ve been able to reset Thunder’s pricing so that it’s a little bit lower than it’s been since publication. Other authors might also want to check out the pricing policies in detail. Certain country price points are lower than the US which, thanks to Amazon’s global price-matching rules, means that there’s a little bit of headroom to offer better deals for your readers (and for us to still get a few cents to contribute toward our next computer upgrades!).
Right, it’s time for me to go and enjoy the, highly unusual and probably short-lived, British sunshine…!
And anyone daft, or masochistic, enough to want to publish a novel will no doubt have spotted it. However, just in case any budding book-reviewers are busy sharpening their critical pencils, the one in the title of this post is deliberate…
Anyway, what’s prompted this blog is a fascinating email I received about Firebird from Amazon last week which advised me, most helpfully:
There are typos in your book. You can see this error at the following Kindle location(s): 6548 … “An unusual number compared to the surrounding arid countryside.”
i.e. the sentence in quotations contains a typo…
Well, I looked and I looked…
And I looked some more…
‘This must be a real cracker of a typo,’ I thought to myself. ‘Not like that blistering, bold typeface, spelling mistake I just saw in the middle of XYZ [yep: my self-preservation instincts force me to refrain from naming of oft-offending but otherwise entertaining novel, and its perhaps-responsible professional publishing house]…’
So I tried reading each word out loud. First forwards, then backwards…
Nope. Still nothing…
Then I noticed that Amazon had kindly offered their erudite wisdom to aid me: poor illiterate that I am.
Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what I’d apparently got wrong?
Well, according to Amazon, my sentence should read:
“An unusual number compared to the surrounding and countryside.”
You may need to look carefully… I had to; before I laughed out loud…
I have, of course, not inserted the above, grammatically-incorrect and ill-advised text into my book… The word arid is welcome in my vocabulary, and it can stay just exactly where I’d carefully placed it in Firebird.
So, has this experience diminished my paranoia of all things typographical? Not a chance. My passion to eradicate any real mistakes I might find lurking somewhere on my pages remains indefatigable… Or as an Amazon proofreader would perhaps have it: in the fat gable…?
Typos, eh? I think they’re just the fingers’ way of keeping authors’ minds humble…
This is possibly long overdue but I wanted to take a few minutes to say thank-you to everyone who has taken the time to write a review or post a star-rating for Firebird whether on Amazon, Goodreads or elsewhere.
My self-dictated policy for Amazon Reviews is not to comment on them. I feel that, if I did, it might be perceived as being intrusive, that it might accidentally undermine the credibility of what’s being posted and that it might also be misconstrued negatively by roaming internet trolls and other nay-sayers. That said, I do take notice of them. Some more carefully than others…
Obviously, I’m delighted when I see any sort of positive response and disappointed – but not surprised – that some people don’t get on with the book. Books can be like that. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another and the premise, by its nature, requires a small leap of faith. If a reader, for whatever reason, cannot make this leap then one of the central, if not the central character, will not work. This is why the book opens as it does and why the strap line on the cover is there… together I’ve always hoped they’d be a couple of pretty big clues.
Anyway, I’ve learned a huge amount from the whole Firebird process and I’m trying hard to put this new knowledge into practice as I press on with drafting Thunder.
To those readers who do post positive messages I’d like to say a special thanks. I have, over my many years, plumbed the art of self-critiscism to spectacular depths. Even my most virulent critic is unlikely to get close to my own scathing self-doubt and pessimism. Constructive feedback really does help and feels as good as a touch of warm sunshine, or a friendly pat on the back, or perhaps like the sudden and unexpected appearance of a helping hand being extended toward me when all seems unachievable or lost. Positive feedback genuinely drives me back to my laptop and inspires me to keep writing. Whatever things I might write in the future will therefore, in no small part, be thanks to your kind encouragement.