When I published Firebird, in May 2011, I wasn’t sure what would happen. At the time I was simply bored of playing the traditional submissions-lottery with a book that was never intended to conform.
You see, there are no youthful wizards in Firebird. Nor any tribal wars fought by teenagers. There are no vampires, zombies or tortured Scandinavian policemen. I deliberately set out to avoid convention and can imagine the reaction of the publishing houses when Firebird hit their desks: “Nope,” they would have been muttering, grimly shaking their heads, “this book’s not the same enough for us…”
Three amazing years later, I’m pleased I took the plunge. I’m pleased that I released this tale of one extraordinary creature, and a handful of very ordinary humans, from its years of enforced incarceration on my hard disk drive. Why? Because there are clearly a great many readers who, like me, are on the lookout for something different. Who enjoy change. Who don’t mind if the next page is not as entirely predictable as the last.
So here I am: three years on, with two novels in circulation, both of which continue to be picked up by adventurous bookworms. I always have and shall remain eternally grateful to everyone who dips into my writing.
Would Firebird look different if I wrote it again today? The answer to that question is a resounding, yes. There isn’t a single day that goes by when I don’t discover a new nuance of language, a new word, or a new technique I might be able to apply. Would Firebird be any better if I rewrote it? I doubt it. There comes a time when too much tinkering destroys raw accessibility. As far as I’m concerned, Firebird’s a done deal now.
Besides: I’ve got too many new stories to tell and, who knows, with the amount of spare time I have for writing, I might even finish one of them by the time Firebird is six…
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!
Apologies for a distinct lack of posts recently. I’ve been kept rather busy by the boring and mundane necessities of living a normal life and only being a part-time writer!
Nonetheless, I am cracking on in the background on the storyboard, character biographies and research for my next novel. Things are progressing nicely although, for the first time, I’ve realised that the scope of the tale is now definitely far beyond a single work. This is kind of tricky, and new ground for me. Whilst Firebird and Thunder are both written with open hooks for pre or sequels, the storyline I sat down with for each of them had a contained beginning, middle, and end. It was clear how much ground they’d cover. This is not the case with the new one. In fact, I’m scoping and storyboarding across what will likely be several manuscripts.
There is the option to write one, massive, blockbuster – but I’m not sure that the few fans I’ve got – or even I – have got enough patience to wait till I’ve finished it! So, as it is, I’m just marking up thoughts and ideas for later works and concentrating on honing the important components for at least a “Book One”.
It’ll be another sci-fi/fantasy/action and adventure mashup with possibly a tiny dash of UF just for the hell of it… Crazy? Maybe, but my objectives have and always will be to try to create stories that are a little bit off the beaten track!
Anyway, I also promised an update on how my pricing programme was progressing. Well at the moment, my jury is still out. Firebird does seem to be ticking over slightly more regularly at its price of 99c and Thunder is also selling the odd copy at my old base price. Recent weeks have seen a very slight upturn, but that might just be a seasonal effect. I’ll keep you posted as the months roll by.
To be honest, I’m way past thinking my books will ever earn me more than the odd pound or two and I’m genuinely excited and honoured whenever I see that someone has taken a punt to give one of them a go. And at least with slow sales I’m not under any pressure to pump out the next one!
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…
There’s not much writing going on at the moment: partly because the routine distractions of life are preventing me from having much mental bandwidth and partly because I’m simply not in the mood. Given that my writing is a hobby, I’m not going to try to force myself…
Instead, I’m trying a bit of an experiment. Having two books in circulation gives me the opportunity to try out different pricing regimes.
I’ve always kept my pricing as low as possible within the constraints of Amazon’s royalty-based rules. I’ve also learned, from promotions, the risks of ascribing zero value to a book. One thing I’ve not done so far is try out the lowest royalty band and, as the levels of royalty I receive are pretty much nil, now seems a good time to play with a few changes!
Personally, I think Thunder is a big step forwards from Firebird; so I’ve been considering for a long time adjusting my pricing to reflect this. Although, as an aside, the first US review for Thunder claims that Firebird is better… hey ho… each to their own…!
Anyway, for a few weeks I’m going to trial having Firebird at the lowest price point available to me: 0.99 cents. Let’s see how it goes and I’ll let you know if I see any results…
I’m back from my trip to Canada. The long journey was recompensed by lots of nice powder-snow, some bright sunshine, and news that the UK was colder – at times – than British Columbia! Have to admit: it is blooming chilly here… Roll on Spring!
I’ve noticed that, whilst I was away, both Firebird and Thunder have picked up some nice reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m always very grateful for any words of support and encouragement, so thank-you to those who have taken time to write them! I really appreciate your support.
Am still storyboarding my next project which will be a return to a science-fantasy, action and adventure, theme. More news and updates shortly…
[Now then, where did I pack my woolly jumpers…???]
So you’ve toiled long and hard to pull together your first manuscript – or second – or whatever. You’ve fought the good fight and, by some miracle, formatted it so it looks at least half-decent on an eReader. You’ve swallowed back your fears, assembled your ego around you, grimaced, and pressed the publish button…
How do you judge success?
It seems to me that this is just as variable a concept as the diverse subject matter of stories themselves…
For me, my views have varied over the last couple of years and I guess I’m now coming to terms with the following phrase: whatever defines success for one of my stories, it will likely take a long time to reveal itself.
I suppose a lucky – very lucky – few will see success immediately. For some reason their books will spark a wildfire of enthusiasm amongst readers and their stories will fly off the shelves; personally I think this is an extremely remote possibility if you don’t have the weight and power of a publishing house’s promotional machinery behind you.
The rest of us will need to be much more patient.
I started writing with a simple ambition: to test myself at a personal level. Pretty much just to see if I could do it… It’s not an easy task, as I’m sure most of you will agree… In the end, I produced a book and faced a new question: what next? This was what led me to publish… no dreams of grandeur, or huge reward, or whatever… Basically, if I’d done nothing, Firebird would have sat rotting on a disk-drive somewhere. It would have had absolutely zero possibility of being enjoyed by anyone else.
Now Firebird has been out there for almost two years. It has been downloaded several thousand times but, generally, I feel pleased if it moves even a tiny handful of copies in a month. Is this the benchmark? Well – given the amount of books on offer, the amount of books I personally get through in an average year and the very limited exposure my books get – maybe the answer is yes? For sure, I feel very honoured and humbled that my story is still occasionally being picked up and read by people.
What publishing also did though, was give me new insights. The simple, brutal, reality of having your writing in general circulation, the often critical nature of feedback, and the occasional positive encouragement have enabled me to step forwards and hone my writing skills. I am, despite the occasional pains, eternally grateful for this.
It has also helped me to move on and produce a second book.
These things would have been denied me, if I’d not taken the plunge.
Like so much in life, the different facets of success are often hidden in the corners of the obvious, tucked away behind so-called measures of popularity, masked by charts, star-ratings, and sales figures… In my opinion, being successful is not, on its own, a viable motivation for writing. Better, surely, to write simply to find out if you can, to stretch your imagination, to see if you can find personal pleasure and enjoyment from the process and, in the end, to discover whether your tales can entertain others?
Perhaps the bottom line becomes: does it matter; tell your stories anyway?
Because an untold story has no chance at all.
… Almost permanently wet.
It feels like only yesterday that I sat and drafted last year’s resume and here I am again: doing my annual audit and checking off what’s happened. It’s kind of scary how quickly this comes around – time flies past us at an alarming pace, doesn’t it?
So anyway, 2012 was a year of quite significant contrasts for me. Almost a “game of two halves”, if you’ll allow me to disabuse a soccer analogy…
For much of the year I was, effectively, unemployed. This is never a great place to be but I didn’t give up on finding gainful employment (of the type that pays well enough to cover the bills) and was lucky enough to land a new role this Autumn. That, on its own, would probably be achievement enough for one year but I have a few more:
- Garden fences painted (despite the perpetual rain)
- Garage woodwork stripped and painted (despite the perpetual rain)
- Loft boarded (because there’s only so much rain you can take…)
- Bedroom decorated (will it ever stop raining?)
- Olympic flame watched (in a brief gap in the deluge – lucky me!)
- Olympics cheered (along with 55 million other damp Brits)…
And, probably most importantly:
- Thunder written (12 hours a day until May, then left alone for three months, then edited alongside starting my new job – i.e. over a month of far too many hours a day)…
With Thunder, I’d set myself a personal goal to see if I could improve on some of Firebird’s flaws: I think I have. I’d also set myself a goal to publish in Autumn: I only just made it. So why push so hard? Why not just kick back, or give up, or not bother to set stretching goals?
Well, regular visitors will know that my year also included the unexpected and sudden loss of a friend. A friend from whom I’d drifted apart, but was on the verge of meeting up with. A meeting that circumstance kept delaying until, one day, he just didn’t come home from his holidays…
It’s shocking when something like this happens. Especially when death comes prematurely to someone only a handful of years older than me. But it serves to remind us that life is a short and fleeting gift. Time travels past us too quickly. The rain may never stop…
We have a choice as to what we do with the life we’re given: use it, or lose it. And I’m determined to try my best to grab every second I’m lucky enough to be gifted, and to wring the most I can out of every single one…
Here’s to 2013: another cycle, another raft of seconds, another chance to do crazy things, to laugh, to cry, to make merry, or hay, or just to have fun…
Happy New Year Everyone!