Thursday, 16 April 2015

The End of My Marketing Campaign

I’ve just finished an eight-week series of promotions that fell completely flat. I was planning on sharing the results with a strategy-by-strategy breakdown of the costs and sales attributed to each, then present to you my top three ideas. Looking at the results however, there isn’t much point. There’s nothing I’ve tried that I’d recommend, at the same time, there’s nothing so absolutely disastrous that I’d say it was a con. Advertising is a gamble. I rolled the dice, unfortunately they bounced off the edge of the table and disappeared somewhere in the crowd.

With one exception. Yesterday I was out on a photo and note taking trip, working out the route a drone would take if it flew from… no, wait. I told you I wasn’t going to say what I was working on until I’d got to the formatting stage. Okay, so suffice it say that I was walking around a place that, had I actually tried flying a drone, I would have ended up as the lead item on the evening news. Nuff said, right? When I got home and checked the sales figures, I saw a nice spike. It took a while to work out why, but an ad had been run on Buckbooks. They list/promote books that are on sale, and thanks to their listing I sold an additional 60-ish copies of Book 1, putting them at the top of the list for the last eight weeks. (Sadly, by a very secure margin)

They’ve an odd business model too, they don’t charge authors for having books included in their mailing list. Instead they have a highly curated list, picking books that they know their readers will buy, and rely on their affiliate income. It’s a nice idea and makes a change from the standard model (for this promotion, it worked out at a cost of around $2 per book sold. Since the royalty on Book 1 comes in at $0.33, I rely on a reader buying the rest of a series in order to break even.)

Otherwise, as I say, the marketing/advertising strategy for the last few months hasn’t worked. I’ve many possible and conflicting theories as to why, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no point worrying over it. In fact, there’s no point coming up with a new marketing strategy at all. I write books. They sell, and whilst they don’t sell as well as they could (I still don’t own a Scottish Island), I do alright. And I’ll do better with more books. As such, the only strategy I need is to write more, and better, books.

Speaking of which, I have my photographs from yesterday - it’s time to write up the drone flight over the ruins of <name of famous landmark redacted>.

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:

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.)


Friday, 10 April 2015

Win a Kindle & Support the Autistic Self Advocacy Network

You may have heard that April is Autism Acceptance month. If you haven't, well, now you know! A very special team of authors has come together to help raise money for the cause. We're not asking for donations, in fact, the authors who sponsored this giveaway will make that donation on your behalf. All you need to do is enter the competition below, and if you do, you'll also get a chance to win a free kindle or $100 cash (via paypal).

Participation Donations
We'll be making donations according to the number of entrants as follows:
0-999 entrants = $50 donation 1000-4999 entrants = $100 donation 
5000-9999 entrants = $200 donation 10,000 or more entrants = $300 donation

Purchase Donations
But wait, there's more! We've put tracking links in all the books. If you see one that you like, and decide to grab a copy, we'll make a donation of $10 for every 100 books bought (up to $200). The books are below, and many of them are on sale for $0.99.

Please note: purchasing any book is completely optional and won't effect your entry in the competition.

So, take a look at the books provided by our participating authors, then scroll on down to the giveaway and enter to win! The more entrants, the more we can donate! Please help us reach our maximum donation goal of $500!

The Authors

Amazon UK 
Amazon UK
Amazon UK
Amazon UK
Amazon UK


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.