Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Why you should ignore me when I say what book is coming next.

A couple of weeks ago (before Book 5 was published) I was planning Book 6: Svalbard. I’ve been making notes on that since I started writing Book 4, last summer. In fact, the original idea for that book was a short story featuring Bill and Kim, set the day after Book 3 finishes. The plot, loosely, told of Kim’s journey to the Arctic island, the discovery of a small group of survivors based around the Millennial Seed Vault, how they’d survived, and then how they were rescued by Kim, Francois et al. That was the first half of the book. The second half featured Bill and how he, George, Mary and Sholto tried to forge a functioning democracy out of all the disparate survivors on Anglesey)

I’d been dipping in and out of this story, making notes here and there, thinking ‘ooh, trapped in an underground vault system - that’d be good’, and I’d write a few thousand words. Then I’d look at my photographs of Svalbard, jump back in time and write a scene about how the inhabitants reacted to the news of the outbreak, then skip forward to the rescue, then back to the scene with the polar bear, then forward and back and so on.

(Go on, tell me you don't want to find out what happens to the polar bears.)

When I came to juggling the notes in to order, I realised I’d made a couple of colossal errors. First, the whole point of the vault is to be a repository of last resort in case some natural disaster destroys the seed stock of entire country or region. Since these seeds are stored in sub-zero temperatures, no one could survive there from the outbreak until mid September.

That meant my whole society-in-an-underground-chamber plot was shelved.

The second problem came pretty quickly when I sat down to imagine how the small community on Svalbard might have survived. They get their electricity from a coal power plant, the fuel coming from mines actually on the island. If the power plant was destroyed, and if they’d kept the seed vault working by using the oil from the NATO supply dump (as described in Book 4), logically they would use a ship, moored offshore, as a mobile power plant. That means that the survivors are all on a boat, with power, and, therefore, safe from the undead.

Out went my rescue plot, and the 40,000 or so words I’d planned for this part of the story ended up being trimmed down to 5,000.

That story will be told, but not as Book 6: Svalbard. Which is a shame, because a photo like this would have been perfect as the cover for the book.

The idea will stay, but I think it will now form the prologue of Book ?: Wedding & War, but then again, I have just said that you shouldn’t listen to me when I say what’s coming next.

I am working on something. I hope it will be finished soon. Until it is (or at least until I’ve got a draft at least 60,000 words long with all the words on the correct pages, if not in the right sentences), I’m not going to say what.

(I will say that it’s going to be good, and I’ve got a slot with the cover designer booked for mid May.)

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Surviving The Evacuation Audio Books - Coming (really) Soon

It’s with genuine pleasure I announce that Surviving The Evacuation will soon be available as a series of audiobooks. (Woohoo!)

It’s taken a long time, and a lot of auditions, but I’m a big fan of audiobooks and really wanted to get these adaptations just right. We've finally found the perfect actor to narrate Bill Wright’s journals: Tim Bruce (and in my opinion he is absolutely perfect.)

He’s an experienced and multi-talented actor (and singer, though I won’t be introducing any songs into the books.) You can find more about him on his website:

You can find clips of his audiobook work on his studio website here: http://www.albionaudio.co.uk/audiobooks/4586733789

Initially we will be producing Book 1: London, aiming to have it sent to Audible/Amazon/Itunes for distribution next month (mid May). Once we’ve ironed out the cricks and smoothed out the bumps, we’ll be producing Zombies vs The Living Dead, Book 2: Wasteland and Book 3: Family, aiming for a summer release date, with the rest of the series available soon after. More concrete dates will be announced just as soon as they’ve been set.

Though Audible’s policy may change, as it currently stands I will be able to offer a limited number of review copies. I’ll be doing this through the mailing list (if you’ve not signed up yet, please do so in the box at the top of the page. You’ll only get an email when there’s a new release or an opportunity to grab a free review copy.)


Thursday, 9 April 2015

How not to publish No. 4: Costs

As I move from ‘a guy who writes books’ into ‘a guy who’s going to be writing books for the rest of his life’, I’ve been taking a closer look at my accounts. The summary is quite interesting.

The cost of covers, and editing/proofing for Book 5 was $1000, twelve cupcakes, and eight hours of gardening. (The next book will be about the same, but with more gardening)

Since February, I’ve spent $500 on advertising. So far (7 weeks on), sales that I can directly attribute to this advertising have brought in $300.

Audiobooks will add another $2000 - $3000 per book (the cost of an audiobook is determined by the finished length. More on audiobooks later this month.)

To keep the maths simple, (and after taking into account the exchange rate and sales taxes) I earn about $1.50 per full priced book.

So, if I’m aiming to write and publish a novel every ten weeks, then the total cost would be around $4000, which would mean I need to sell about 3,000 copies before making a profit.

This excludes the cost of coffee, biscuits, jelly beans and new backspace keys for my laptop (I go through a lot of those).

The figure oft quoted, though I can’t find its origin, is that most paperbacks would be lucky to sell 500 copies in their lifetime. To put all of this into something vaguely approaching perspective, 155,000 new books were published on Amazon over the last 30 days.

Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos - It’s brilliant!

I’ve just finished re-reading ‘Terms of Enlistment’ by Marko Kloos. It’s the first book in a dystopian, near future sci-fi trilogy (third book out this April).

The story (in brief) is the tale of an ordinary soldier, just another grunt who enlists in order to escape the soul-crushing poverty of the urban slums. Training ensues, and just as you’re thinking this is another military sci-fi book, the dystopian storyline kicks in again. The author does this time and again, tackling food riots and draconian punishments, as the government the hero serves slowly sinks further and further into chaos. And then our hero goes into space, and the twists just get better and better.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both Book 1 and Book 2, and the reason I’m leaving this review is that, for the first time in a long while, I’m eagerly awaiting the release of a (the third) book. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Zombies vs The Living Dead - New Cover

The free short story/prequel has a new cover. Let me know what you think.

And if you haven't read it, grab a free copy from:
Amazon UK USA/Worldwide Canada ItunesDriverthrufiction Kobo Nook Google
(did I mention it was free?)

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Price of Books - Then and Now

I received a rather cool gift recently:

It's the same design as the penguin cover for their 1960s reprint of The Day of the Triffids, complete with the price printed in the bottom right corner. That price, if you can't read it is 2'6d (or two shillings and six pence)

Naturally, this got me thinking; what's 2'6d in modern currency?

With twelve pence to a shilling, that comes to a total of 30 pence. 
According to this calculator:

It comes to £6.09. According to Amazon, The Day of the Triffids has a current list price of £8.99.

Which certainly made me think a fair bit (mostly on how glad I am we ditched imperial currency, and on how long it'll be before we can abandon miles and feet. Seriously, calculations in cubic feet are maddening.)

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

How not to publish, No. 3: The books should pay for themselves

Since I began publishing, my philosophy has been that the books should pay for themselves. And when I started, I didn’t have much choice in the matter. Finding $5 for a promotion was a real stretch. A year and a half on, things have changed (audiobooks are coming soon! Watch this space!)

I can’t remember which site that first promotion was with (I didn’t keep very accurate notes), but I made the mistake of advertising the book at full price. I think I got one sale. Maybe. So if rule one is make the books pay for themselves, rule two is that people love a bargain. That’s all pretty self-evident, and if you were looking for some fantastic insider tips, I’m sorry but there aren’t any (there really aren’t. Rule three would be; don’t buy anything from anyone who says they have a guaranteed way to sell anything - especially books.) But the other mistake I made early on was not tracking the sell-through rate. I paid for an ad, saw an upward spike in my sales graph and was happy. What I’m only realising after going through the data in more detail is that often, when I’d run a promotion targeting the US, the increase in sales was actually coming from Germany or Italy, and the increase in sales in the Book 2 ebook was linked to the sales of paperbacks in a bricks and mortar store. The spike in the sales graph was merely down to coincidence.

I’m coming up to the end of a three-month promotion binge that began in February. This time, I’ve been tracking sell-through, mailing list sign-ups and a few other factors. Broadly speaking, the results are thoroughly disheartening. Whilst I’m not certain I’ve learned anything new, it has confirmed a couple of points I should have taken to heart twelve months ago:

First, almost all promotion services available to authors are aimed at selling books on Amazon.com.

Second, zombie books are hard to market. They’re not quite science fiction, they’re not quite horror. When using mailing list/promotion sites to advertise a book that’s on sale, I’ve tried advertising the series as ‘Horror’ and as ‘Science Fiction’ and where possible also as ‘Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction’ and ‘Horror Undead’ as well as just ‘Zombies’.
The best results have been advertising as ‘Horror’. Sales were 40% higher than as ‘Science Fiction’ (which was higher than the rest.) The top four sites, by sales, on which I tested this are:

EreadernewsToday ($15, 200 - 400) http://ereadernewstoday.com
FussyLibrarian (£10, 20 + 10 Barnes & Noble) http://www.thefussylibrarian.com
Booksends (£25, 50) http://booksends.com/index.php
ChoosyBookworm (Free, 10) http://choosybookworm.com

(in brackets: price, and number of downloads on day of promotion from Amazon.com) Results may vary etc, but I use the above four for every promotion I’ve run.

I’ll post up a full table of results when my mega promotion is finally over. However, I have already come to the conclusion that this type of promotion just doesn’t work for my books. I’m developing a new marketing plan at the moment that’s based around content creation. More on that soon, but the first part of that plan is: in addition to aiming for 4,000 words on the novel each day, I also have to write 1,000 words on something else. For the next 10 days, it's going to be this blog and then... well, like I said, more on that soon.