Thursday, 24 May 2012

With A Cast of 50,000 - The Valley Of The Trolls

I'm a troll
We've been together for a year now - just you and me. Well, it's better than drinking alone I guess. One year ago I was certain I knew nothing. Today I know everything there is to know about uncertainty. I had just launched "Knockout" - my genre Romance pulsating with animal lust, lusty animals and International Locations. To some extent I have come in a complete circle. At that distant time I realised that I was saying goodbye to 35 years of serious writing. The slush piles of the Great Gatekeepers had felt the weight of my A4 gravitas. The bin-men of south London had kept pace with my output and the scorn of editors. Employers had failed to appreciate my creative day dreaming. The dog shampoo sales stats from Manchester got lost in the post modernist white thrusting buttocks of yet another dystopian philosophical tract. My writing career had arrived at the genre milestone simply because I was too poor even to starve in the attic. Perhaps - just perhaps, one could actually make some kind of income as a writer?

At first it was all about blogging and networking. That is how we met. The book went out onto all the platforms and we struggled with different formatting and "American" grammar. A few dozen kind souls looked at the blog. Now and then someone bought a book. We were priced at 99 cents. Each sale was like a birth. Now and then a kind soul would enjoy the book and give me a decent review. At that time I was able to write and live in France. I was a humble little mouse, building my literary burrow.

Firstly then the blog. I regard this as something of a success story because the readership has grown without any corporate stunts. The help and support of indie writers has boosted the readership to a total of 2,500 per month. For the first 6 months I set myself the goal of blogging every day.  Although I'm ever popular with Russian males, most of the traffic is random hits from people clicking on photographs. The fact is that the blog has sold very few books.

I arrived in the digital budget hotel with just 2 items of luggage. One was a short story "Sub Prime" and the other a genre "supermarket" book about cops and slobbers. I had decided a few years before to ditch everything of the previous period - i.e. my life. We used to live in a Capitalist system. Now life is Capitalism. Every single thing is commercial. Everything is bottom line. This is a born poor/stay poor world unless you can pull off the deal and get your hook to hold up in the sky. Dear old "Sub Prime" is the last footprint of the way I wanted to write. 

"Knockout" bumped along the bottom all through 2011. It was so far on the sea bed that only flat fish and readers fitted with sonar could detect it.  I believe we were at about number 60,000 in the Amazonian Ocean of a million digital books. This appalling figure means that 900,000 books have no significant sales at all. 

Course of the Amazon
Then came KDP Select. We knew that other writers had gained visibility by offering free books. This was our chance to get a hook up into the blue sky. We hurled it up - and it stuck behind a fast moving cloud. We topped several categories and reached the top 300 of all books. So far we have given away 50,000 books. A success story perhaps? Well - it rather depends on what happened next. 

Our first free run in January 2012 led to a sustained sales period over weeks. People were buying and enjoying the book. Reviewers on the whole were very positive and we were beginning to see some hope of some income after months and months of day and night  promo work through every conceivable media and cyber hang-out. I had also returned to the UK, grateful to get work as a bus driver.  I must also add that my actual book and story writing had stopped. Quite simply the endless jingle jangle of click this and check that has destroyed my inner calm. I tell Gilles that I am going through the Zenopause. 

Our second free run in early March was a similar success with a sustained sales afterglow. I began to notice hits by very negative reviewers as the book went back for sale. I have a policy of not commenting on reviews but surely if you are going to criticise a book - you should have read it properly or indeed, merely have read it to some extent.

Our third free run was in mid April. Clearly things had changed. Now, I'm not much of a musician - but I do have a natural sense of algorithm. Amazon have changed the deal so that you need to do ten times the traffic of free sales to get the same advancement up the sales charts. Visibility means sales. Sales means visibility. Almost the minute we came off the free deal, the negative reviews came in. Perhaps I am paranoid but can you really slam a book on the basis that in "real life" a woman would not risk her career for forbidden love? Come on guys! The book is a light sex infused escapist Romance, not a career development manual. 

So - 50,000 potential readers have the book. On the basis of the last free run we gave away about 5,000 books in order to sell about 50. It is quite clear  that in the current format KDP Select is not for me and I will not do any more free days. I know people only grab the book because it is free, but if I had sold one tenth of those books, I would not be working all day driving a bus - at least for a few months. I also think there is a great difference between the free reader and the person who looks at your book, samples it and then actually buys it. In the long term it is probably counter-productive  to put your book into the hands of people who would never like it or choose it. 

Here is the problem though. During my last free run, I was one of 15,000 free books on that day. There are now so many free books that no one is ever gonna have to buy one again. Soon there will be a plug in external memory for e-readers and all free books will be scooped as they come out. One day our unfortunate children will receive only our digital libraries of unread free books as their inheritance. Well, they won't have jobs to keep them busy.

Emma at the Oracle
I am not an Amazon hater. They have enabled me to publish at little cost. The lending library feature provides some income, albeit small. All the same, I feel like a supplicant at the feet of the priestess of Apollo as she interprets the gas emissions at the Oracle of Delphi. No one knows what is going on. Each time the oracle pronounces, the mob charges off to the latest Klondike. Each time a Romance novelist writes a blog, the historical imagery becomes more tangled. Soon there will be Amazon soothsayers and experts. Amazon lobbyists will offer special insights. And they will all be right - until the oracle emits gas again.

Oooh - I do go on. Thank you all my lovely readers who have sustained me during the last year. How was it for you? Please dear friends - let me know how you are getting on with KDP Select?  My own future is gonna be a lot more proactive. I want to get to the readers who want to read me and will pay a few cents to do so.

In the teeming millions of creatures being swept down the Amazon to the sea, I will no longer be  a speck in the universe washed onto the shifting sands of broken metaphors. Who said I was a purple crap writer? I really do love you guys out there.

Emma thinx: Don't big yourself up. Big yourself within.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

I'm Fifty not Thrifty - Still Giving it all Away

First of all it was Woolworths. This wonderful shop from which I had purchased my first 45 rpm record (T Rex singing "Ride a white Swan") closed a few years ago. Oooh - I was only 8years old but Marc Bolan was the prettiest bloke I had ever seen. I had been given a record token (who remembers them?) for my birthday. It was a few months later that I heard him singing and my love affair with men wearing tight pink clothing began. Ever since I've been addicted to the Giro d'Italia cycle race.

And now, 42 years later, as the Giro rolls across Italy, I am approaching the big Five Oh No. To coincide with this event "Clintons Cards" announces the closure of about half its outlets. Seemingly they are a victim of the e-card, rather in the way that dead tree books are becoming a victim of the e-book. I am not sure how I feel about any of this. In order to celebrate my birthday I'm giving away digital copies of "Knockout" on Amazon Worldwide ( USA UK FRANCE GERMANY ITALY & SPAIN) during Thursday 17th and Friday 18th May in the hope of reaching the big 50 in the charts as well as in my bones, teeth and soft components. As a special salute to "Clintons Cards" and the dead tree book industry, I am also giving away signed copies of my paperback on Goodreads - all entries to be in by Sunday 20th May.

Now, another year slips by and all that. I do just wanna say that I've had more fun and frolics since I turned forty than I had ever had before. Wow - let's ratchet it up for the next decade. Maybe a little extra chilli and garlic, maybe a slightly deeper red wine over a longer lunch. Slower breaths and longer kisses have been the wisdom of my ageing.  Really truly, this is a deeply serious comment. The English summer is cold and wet so far. The Euro creaks. The money beast bellows. From Greece come stories of mounting suicides and new born babies being held as security in hospitals when mothers cannot pay. Let us not forget love, comradeship and pleasure. It is allowed.

Emma thinx: Comrade humans - if not us, then what is humanity?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Going For Gold

Heavy Sabre
There are three types of sword used in the sport of fencing. They are the foil, épée and sabre. My readers will probably suspect that I have not done a lot of fencing. However, I am very well acquainted with the noble art of parry and riposte since I used to be the bus driver for a famous public school. One of my missions used to be driving the fencing team around to equally famous public schools so that the young gentlemen could duel with each other.

 Now, as you will know comrades, my sympathies and background are somewhat proletarian. The accents and demeanour of the young blades and their masters seemed almost from a different planet. They exuded wealthy effortless self confidence and played esoteric japes in Latin with their peers and instructors. I always felt I should have disliked them. In reality they behaved towards me as absolute gentlemen and when food was served they ensured that I was treated equally. When packed lunches were provided, I received exactly the same. When they got off the bus they cleared every item of litter and thanked me for my service. Every time I got home I had to go to my secret naughty drawer and fondle my copy of the communist manifesto just to relieve the tension.

Plus ça change
Olympic Torch
And the point of all this is to announce the arrival of the new Olympic sport of sabre rattling. As the London 2012 games approach on the anti aircraft radar, our News bulletins are filled with accounts of battleships, snipers, commandos, missiles, and socket repelled grenades. In the air helicopters, Euro fighters, Tornado attack jets and AWACs planes will circle and hover over the city. Soldiers in masks practice kidnap and hi jack operations on riverboats. Thousands of extra security staff are being recruited and trained to say "No!" Oooh - it's come a long way from a few sexy Greek boys doing a bit of running and hurling their shafts. I know all this stuff is necessary but it does bring home to me the actual nature of the world we live in. Like everyone I will be watching our pure boys and girls attempting to defeat the drug fuelled ugly foreigners. Luckily I will be in France and their cameras are programmed to ignore all competitors other than their own. Even the 100 metres is a solo event. We Brits are not like that of course. Please please let us get through the coming ordeal with nothing more than a few dreams, prides and records being broken.

When I wrote "Knockout", the Olympics were just a TV news item showing a lot of cheering important British folk with glasses of champagne and lots of glum looking foreign important people. It was at that moment that I decided to write an account of the darker aspect of sport and corrupt gambling. I called an old friend at Scotland Yard and asked for some inside info. He asked me if I was free for dinner and what I was doing afterwards. I tried to work on an objective account of serious international crime but in the end everything got kinda mixed up with love and sex. It was much the same story when I came to write the book.

Emma thinx: Is there a gold medal for Nationalism?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Beg Steal or Burrow

It's that first insecure Wednesday. Things should be OK this month because I woke up shortly after midnight yesterday morning and before I said anything else I uttered the magic word "RABBITS". I know that some folk say white rabbits but I believe that this weakens the spell. Of course some of you will have no idea of what I talking about. I hesitate to use the word superstition because that makes it all seem kinda - well - nuts. An old English custom of saying "rabbits" on the first day of the month was drilled into me by my mother. If at some point during the next four weeks I dropped some china or failed an exam (regular events) she would sigh and shake her head resignedly saying "It's you own fault - you didn't say your rabbits." All I could do then was to cling on - expecting to fall at each hurdle until the next 1st of the month. As the broken china, failed exams, missed buses, lost boyfriends and publishers rejection slips piled up in  the hallways of my life, I guess I often forgot to say "rabbits". 

When I had my own little bunnies I decided that I would never impose this type of insecurity on them. That was until my ex husband bought the first pair of baby shoes and put them on the table. I had to divorce him to clear the curse although for years he clung on by saying "Good morning Sir" to the magpies just to please me. Believe it or not when we split up, the removal men dropped my mirror but I told them to pack it with his stuff so that he would take the bad luck with him. 

So, having said the magic word I clicked on my Amazon KDP account to see if the new month brown bar of doom had disappeared. As you will recognise comrades, my sense of personal worth is linked to my sales figures. As the new month arrives the counters return to zero and there is just this brown nihilistic line. (Ooooh - I've been trying to get that intellectual word into something for years!) 1st of May - 0004 hours, a sale was made. I slept secure. By morning two books had been returned. The brown line had gone - but I am less than nothing. As I drove my bus around the town there was not a single magpie to greet to lift my gloom. A seagull dumped his entire bowel contents onto my windscreen and I shouted at it to F*** off. When I got home I had made some sales. Yes - that old mystic seagull oath never fails.

It's all a load of tosh isn't it. My wonderful partner works and works to help me and he has never thrown salt or said rhymes to spiders. He tells me that more effort means more success. He's a kinda business type. I know he's right. That's why I've doubled up on my lottery tickets.

Emma thinx: You can make your own luck, but the ready meals taste the same.