Archive for May, 2013

So the promotion is finished, the stats are in. Let’s see how I did.

As discussed last week, I ran the promotion for three days over the bank holiday weekend: friday to sunday. I submitted details of my free book promotion to 16 sites – almost all of which said in their blurb that they ‘may’ feature your book – or, of course, you could buy guaranteed promotion for a small fee of generally $5-15. I elected not to buy any guaranteed promotion, but to see what I could actually get for free.

I'm a featured author at Freebooksy

Of those 16 sites, as far as I’m aware only FreeBooksy did feature Darklands, and I’m pretty sure I have them to thank for a large percentage of my total downloads.

Friday started fairly slow, but suddenly began to gather pace around 3 o’clock – presumably when FreeBooksy’s email alert came out (I had subscribed to many of the sites I submitted to, but somehow neglected that one. However, I did get an email from them at 4.30 advising me that my book was featured on the site). For the next several hours my download stats jumped by about 100 every hour.

I had intended to keep a close eye on precisely how it all panned out. However, a family emergency saw me instead having to suddenly go spend the weekend with my poorly mum, with only my laptop and intermittant internet access :-/

In any case, there wasn’t much to see after that. At six pm friday my downloads stood at around 300. At 9pm, 600. By 9am the next morning I was very close to 1000. But it all tailed off from there. My tally for the three days is 1135.

The vast majority of that total came from, which I am very pleased about. Although I have several excellent reviews on, I have so far failed to make the slightest impact on the US site. I also had several downloads from other territories which I wouldn’t necessarily have expected to reach at all. Breakdown below:

US UK Germany Italy Canada Japan
1095 115 13 1 6 5


I estimate that my own efforts via Twitter, Facebook and generally being chatty and personable to anyone I met online over the weekend resulted in between 100-200 downloads.

My conclusion? If I run free days again I will pay for some promotion. I think I was lucky to get the freeBooksy promotion, and without it this would have been a bit of a wash out. It’s a lot of trouble to go to for possibly only 100 downloads. The promotional ads for these sites are not expensive, typically between $5-15. Extrapolating from my miniscule sample size of one, my best guess is that you could expect perhaps 1000 downloads per promotional site feature.

I wonder how many of those downloads will ever get read? I know from my own behaviour that I will often grab a free book while I can, without even reading any reviews or the sample. I will skim the description, and if it sounds even vaguely intriguing, I’ll have it. Then it sits on my kindle untouched until I happen to find myself with some time to kill and no current book. I generally read through a few samples/free books, scrapping them for not being good enough/not being my thing – until either I find one to settle with and read, or just weary of the whole proceses and go do something else.

So I know there’s a good chance that many of those downloads will never be looked at again. But I have no idea how many. From those that do get read I should hopefully get some new reviews. They may not all be good reviews, of course, but that’s all part of the process. I guess it will take weeks or even months to see what I reap from this promotion. All I can tell you right now is that four more people have added Darklands to their lists on Goodreads.

I’d be interested to hear what experiences others have had with their KDP Select free days. Similar to mine, or vastly different? Did you pay for adverts or just try to go it alone? And did you ultimately reap the increased reviews/eventual sales you were hoping for?

The free promotion of Darklands is going pretty well. I’ll have a full report on it later this week, but I’ve had over 1000 downloads from all over the world, and that makes me happy.

I’ve also found quite a few free books to snap up myself while perusing all the free book promotion sites.

One in particular caught my eye because the cover is almost identical to a photo in my collection – in fact I used it on a post about writing blurbs last year! The angle is slightly different, but I’m pretty sure that’s the same tree.

I snapped it on a visit to Yellowstone National Park two years ago, at one of the hot springs. Mammoth, I think. I know its a scenic spot, but what are the odds? Considering I live in Britain, and have visited the US twice in 40 years!

The book is Dead, but not for long, by Matthew Kinney and Lesa Kinney Anders, and it’s about zombies – hurrah!

Dead but not for long

Dead, but not for long, by Matthew Kinney and Lesa Kinney Anders

Dead tree in Yellowstone National Park

Dead tree in Yellowstone National Park

I’ve been umming and ahhing for some time over whether or not to offer Darklands free for a few days. I see compelling arguments on either side.

Pro: Increased exposure. Persuade doubtful readers to take a chance. Find new readers shortly before Kikimora‘s release.

Con: I spent three years writing that book. Surely it’s worth more than £0.00? Doesn’t offering free books devalue the whole writing process? Will people take me seriously if I give my hard work away?

I’ve finally decided to give it a go (thanks in part to this excellently reasoned post by Lisa M Lilly), and Darklands will be free on Amazon this weekeend, friday to sunday (though, I believe it works on US Pacific time, so I guess it won’t be free until something o clock friday morning).

Once I had set the free dates, I found as many sites as I could that would promote free books. There are a lot of them out there. Here’s a helpful list to get you started. But what I found was that although most of these sites may promote your free book for free, they also offer guaranteed promotion for a small fee of typically $5-15.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Part of me is thinking I probably ought to buy at least one promotion package, to ensure that this whole endeavour isn’t a big waste of time. But I’m holding out in the name of scientific curiosity; to see how effective any of these paid promotions are I first need a control result. I’ll be interested to see whether any genuinely free promotion actually happens. If it doesn’t, never mind. I’ll try again when my next free days roll around.

I’ve submitted details of my free promotion to around 20 sites. I didn’t get around to doing this until sunday/monday, and most of them request at least a week’s notice on your promotion, so that might hamper my effectiveness somewhat.

There was more I could have done, but I had already spent three hours filling in forms with the same details over and over again – apart from the ones that wanted some unique information (in fact, that was probably what took up most of the time), and I was heartily sick and tired of it by then.

What I also found during this process was the amount of other promotional tools out there – there’s a load of stuff on Goodreads that I wasn’t even aware of, although I use it fairly regularly as a reader. So I have also offered free promotional copies to reviewers on a discussion thread for that purpose.

I have discovered that there’s a lot more promotion I could be doing all the time, not just when my book is on offer! The dificulty, of course, is finding the time. For instance, this week I am off work and working hell for leather through a massive redraft of Kikimora. I want to work through all the structural changes in one fell swoop, so that I can keep mentally on top of all the story threads. I’m going to struggle to fit all the necessary work into one week (even with the bank holiday weekend), and resent even an hour of my time taken up with other tasks (like writing blog posts)!

So this free promotion is an experiment. It might be a complete fail. But I’m interested to find out, and I’ll let you know how it goes. What I really want to achieve from it is increased exposure in the US – a market I have so far failed to dent in the slightest – and more reviews, on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Goodreads, or anywhere else.

Who else has used KDP Select free days? Did you find it useful? Gain many new fans? Did you pay for any promotion of the free days, and how many downloads did you get?

A proud moment today. My old school requested a signed copy of Darklands for the school library.

When I was young I wanted to be lots of things: a pirate, James Bond, a mad scientist with sticky up white hair, Tarzan, a painter, an explorer… I also kind of liked writing stories. But I remember quite distinctly at the age of 13 realising that writing was the one; the real one. That’s what I was going to do with my life.

And I have, more or less. It doesn’t yet pay the bills, so something else has to, but I have been writing stories on and off for over quarter of a century. It takes me a while, and if something isn’t quite working I set it aside for a year or two. Or ten.

But I got there in the end, publishing my first novel, Darklands, in 2011.

When my old school requested a signed copy it made me think of the time in Mr Hannam’s English class when the idea took hold in my mind that I would be a writer. I don’t recall specifically what sparked it; but I knew that I loved words; I loved stories. And whatever magic made printed words sweep you up and take you on incredible journeys – I wanted to do that.

As an indie author it’s easy to get demoralised and to feel that you’re shouting into a void, but today I’ll take a moment to feel proud. I made a decision at the age of 13; I worked towards it in my spare time, I persevered when I felt discouraged, I made sacrifices of time and earnings – and 25 years later I achieved what I’d set out to. I published my first novel.

Signed copy of Darklands going to Anthony Gell School

Signed copy of Darklands going to Anthony Gell School

Jamie Lee Curtis in Friday 13th

Jamie Lee Curtis in Friday 13th. One of the first films to scare the bejeezus out of me.

As a child I didn’t understand the words insomnia or paranoia. I thought it was normal to lie awake for a few hours every night before falling asleep – and to spend the time thinking about all the things in the world that might want to kill me.

During these hours of silent contemplation, I explored rudimentary philosophy (Is the universe infinite? Or does it have an edge? If it does have an edge what comes after it? What would it be like to be god? Wouldn’t it be really boring? What would you do for fun?), and took my first forays into story-telling, in order to keep myself entertained.

But what I also did a lot of was listening for creaking steps, and watching the shadows to make sure they didn’t move. I always wondered what I would do the time that I did hear the step upon the stair; when the shadows did move and form themselves into a long-taloned figure. Where would I go? I began to plan escape routes.

For most children, the answer would probably be that they bolt for their parents bedroom. Due to architectural strangeness, this wasn’t the most obvious option.

Although only a mid-terrace, 18th century mill-workers cottage, my childhood home is an extremely odd shape. It has two separate upstairs, which aren’t joined together. My sisters and I slept up one staircase; our parents and the bathroom were up the other staircase. This was ideal for covert midnight feasts; less good for escaping from psychopaths.

To get from my bedroom to my parents I had to: exit my room, go downstairs, cross the room, go up another flight of stairs, and cross another room. There was far too much scope in that journey for some other thing to get me. So I came up with alternate plans, most of which were some variety of getting out the window.

My bedroom had a sash window, which only opened about six inches – at the top of the window. Even if I could have squeezed out of that space, it wasn’t ideal that I would be on top of three feet of glass. So I thought I would smash the window to escape. But being an old house, the windows are leaded, the panes only about 4x6inches.

I was unsure as a child (and still am) how hard it is to smash lead (a quick google search has revealed nothing remotely relevant. No, I do not want lead-effect double glazing…) I was always unhappy about this area of uncertainty in my escape plan.

When I went to secondary school I became interested in pottery. I was pleased to install several large, hefty home-made pots on my window sill. I felt pretty confident that I could smash my way out of the window with one of those.

Whenever I stayed overnight at other places I looked for escape routes before I could relax sufficiently to sleep. It’s a habit that has never really gone away. I scrutinize the access from and to windows of any bedrooms I stay in. I try to visualise the route I would take in an emergency (not necessarily from axe-wielding maniacs, but perhaps from fire).

I was a little put out therefore to discover recently that one of my current escape routes is not as accessible as I thought.

Last week my partner and I had a key malfunction, and found ourselves locked out of the house. No problem, I though. We’ll borrow next door’s ladder, and I can climb through the little bathroom window. I have often thought that when a psychopath chases me through the house, the best bet would be to run for the bathroom, because it has a lock. That then allows me a few minutes grace to climb out the window before he smashes through the door.

I had never before tested how wide the window actually opens. It turns out, it doesn’t open very far.

I stood up the top of that ladder for a good five minutes, scrutinizing the lay of the land on the other side. I got as far as lifting my foot up through the window. I tried to envisage exactly how it was going to work, and where my weight would be at each moment. I reluctantly came to the conclusion that it was a doomed venture, likely to end in embarrassment, hospital and inability to get to work.

I called the locksmith (and a whole other adventure ensued there. Well, if you call it an adventure to sit on the driveway without any lunch, drink, or toilet for hours, and then some more hours…)

The sensible part of my brain is actually quite relieved to discover how hard it is to break in to our house. But I miss the (entirely unrealistic) comfort of having an escape route in mind. I think I’ll have to install something hefty beside the bedroom door, so that I can block it to buy myself sufficient time to climb out of that window…

I’m curious: is it just me? Or do others have similar preoccupations?