Archive for the ‘Darklands’ Category

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 Amazon.com, which I am very pleased about. Although I have several excellent reviews on Amazon.co.uk, 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?

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

Darklands giveaway prize

Darklands giveaway

The winner of my first blogoversary prize draw is Pete Denton. Congratulations, Pete! A parcel of goodies is winging its way to him as I type.

I had some grand ambitions for how I was going to produce such a gorgeous package that it would be a wonder to all who beheld it… but that didn’t quite pan out. I should have known better. I am a notoriously poor present wrapper :-/

I wanted some nice traditional brown paper and string to wrap it in… But we didn’t have any brown paper. I searched through my bag of random wrapping paper, and all I could find was love hearts, butterflies, or christmas paper. I do also have some great paper with dinosaurs on, but not enough for the book parcel, unfortunately.

Then I found a roll of pleasantly old fashioned flowery wallpaper, and thought that would work quite nicely. I wrote out the address on a piece of hand made paper sent to me by Rachael Pinks, after donating to her campaign to keep the Old Lock Up Studio in Cromford going. However, my sellotape wouldn’t stick to the wallpaper, and I didn’t have much hope for pritt-stick holding the ragged edged hand made paper in place… I had to abandon that idea. I think half an acre of gaffer tape would have slightly marred the effect I was going for.

In the end… bubblewrap and a padded envelope *sigh*

I tried, Pete. Really, I did.

Hopefully the parcel will reach you in good shape, and I hope you enjoy!

Thanks again to everyone who entered the draw, and don’t forget that you can get your copy of Darklands from Scarthin Books in Cromford, or online from Amazon and Waterstones.

The close relationship between music and magic

First published December 2012 on The Speculative Salon.

At fifteen I was 5’8”, all knees and elbows, with a big mane of dyed red hair and army boots half way up my calf. I had started to learn the cello only a couple of years earlier. I was 12th (last) cello in the county youth orchestra, sandwiched awkwardly between the double basses and a gaggle of tiny eight year old cellists all far more accomplished players than me.

Consequently I felt ever so slightly conspicuous as I guessed at tuning my instrument, struggled to find my place in the score, and fudged my way through rehearsal after rehearsal. Despite a week’s intense practice I didn’t get much better, and my confidence plummeted. I was so worried about playing the wrong thing and ruining the piece, that when it came to the eventual performance at Buxton Opera House I mimed through most of it.

I gave up the cello shortly after that. I have grudgingly had to accept that I am just not a musical person. No one in my family is musical. Words are our thing. And food.

The Power To Mesmerise

Music seems a kind of magic to me. It has the power to mesmerise; to alter moods; to bring exultation or despair, or unlock hidden memories. It is wreathed in a strange coded language that I don’t understand. Allegro con molto means as much to me as Abracadabra.

Those who are musically gifted seem very mysterious. I view them with a mixture of admiration, envy, and a sort of distrust – they must be witches! How else could they control and harness that amazing power, and bend it to their will?

I feel it as a terrible loss in my life that I’m not musical. I love music – all kinds of music. But I don’t understand it in the least. What is a fugue? A partita? A canon? A gigue? What is the difference between a rhapsody and a fantasy? A concerto and a symphony? What makes something a prelude? Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun always confused me. I expected there to be a longer piece called ‘The Afternoon of a Faun.’ There isn’t.

When I used to sit at the back of the orchestra I couldn’t hear myself play. I had no idea how to pick my own sound out from the multitude of sounds around me. I had no idea if I was in tune, or if I was in time…

The ability to make music; to create one beautiful sound and then to weave it around other sounds, and to build a coherent, wonderful whole seems hardly less astonishing to me than the ability to move objects with the power of the mind.

Given this wonder and envy, it is perhaps not surprising that I have allied music with magic in much of my writing. In Darklands, Inkling is a powerful magician with a particular affinity for music. But he doesn’t play a violin, a flute or a piano. He plays the wind. He plays the dry grasses and the branches of trees. He sends the wind whistling around sculpted rocks, creating fluttering arpeggios. He conjures a soft, shushing rhythm from the treetops, and a mournful, clattering tune from living bamboo.

In my work in progress, a musician unwittingly exerts power over the ghostly protagonist, Kikimora. Her magical powers weaken whenever she hears him play, and she becomes visible to humans – which causes problems for them both.

His Inhuman Skill

Music has a long history of association with the uncanny, the fae, the devilish. One of the best known and most evocative examples must be the Pied Piper bewitching the children of Hamlin with his playing, and leading them astray. Celtic lore has fairies closely tied with musicians, particularly pipers. Musicians are far more likely than other mortals to be taken to fairy land.

Some, such as the blind 17th century harpist, Turlough O’Carolan, were said to acquire their musical prowess after spending a night on the fairy knoll.

This echoes the story of the violinist, Nicolo Paganini, widely believed to have sold his soul to the devil in return for his inhuman skill and virtuosity. Early Blues musician Robert Johnson was similarly said to have sold his soul to the Devil – down at the Crossroads.

Both of these musicians knew a good story when they heard one, and they played up the unearthly aspect of their personas – Paganini by growing long wings of hair, and dressing all in black, Robert Johnson by singing such songs as Hellhound on my Trail, Me and the Devil, and Crossroads Blues.

And let’s not forget the role music has played in religion down the ages, from Gregorian chants, via plainsong, liturgy and mass, to American gospel music and beyond. Would religion grip the hearts and souls of so many without the uncanny power of music in its arsenal?

To Muddle And Misplace

Some music is so evocative of a certain time, mood or place that just hearing a short passage transports you instantly back there. Much of our unconscious musical associations come from film and TV. There is a certain type of English romantic music (typified by Vaughn-Williams’ The Lark Ascending) which never fails to make me yearn for an idyllic rural past that probably never existed. This is thanks to its use in countless period dramas on TV: Tess of the D’urbervilles; the Mill on the Floss, Precious Bane.

Another well used piece is the thrillingly dramatic Carmina Burana, which conjures everything from King Arthur’s knights riding into battle (Excaliber) to demonic murder (The Omen) to sexual ecstacy (The Doors).

Powerful music has the ability to imprint a mood into your soul; a mood which can be instantly recalled by hearing the music again. On a more humdrum level this is demonstrated when we hear music from our youth and become misty eyed over all the memories and associations it brings back – even music you didn’t like at the time.

When I was sixteen Brit-pop was all the rage; everyone loved Oasis – but I thought they were boring and whiny and not a patch on Sonic Youth or Pixies. I hear Oasis now and I don’t remember how I used to complain about them and groan and roll my eyes. I remember how it felt to be sixteen, and think that the world was my oyster; to not wake up every morning with back ache; to be full of hope and dreams and chutzpah that hadn’t yet been tempered by dusty reality…

But hang on – is that really what it was like? Or is the music fooling me? Didn’t I spend much of my teenage years paranoid and miserable? Didn’t I spend long hours obsessing about my intense ugliness, the dullness of my life, and dreaming that one day things would be better?

Music can deceive. It can muddle and misplace, and convince you of things that never were.

It can also inspire. Artists of every sort find inspiration in music. Marcus Sedgwick has described how Midwinter Blood is based on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. My above-mentioned work in progress, Kikimora, was directly inspired by a ‘fairytale for orchestra’ of the same name by Anatoly Lyadov.

Magic

Music can be mind-altering, reality-altering. It can affect the listener mentally, physically and spiritually. It can transport you through time and space. It can unlock memories long forgotten; it can sometimes trick us into believing things that never happened.

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.


This post was first published in December 2012 on The Speculative Salon. I have reproduced it here as I have something to add.

Thanks to Howard Goodall’s excellent Story of Music I now do know the difference between a symphony and a concerto,* and much more besides! If you haven’t seen the six part BBC TV series, I thoroughly recommend looking it up. Goodall is excellent at explaining musical concepts. Admittedly some of it goes over my head a bit. But then, so do books about string theory and the quantum universe. I read them anyway, because each time I try to understand I get a bit closer to actually doing so.

Howard Goodall, I salute you!

* A concerto showcases one particular instrument with the rest of the orchestra as backup.

Win a free copy of Darklands by Emma Woodcock

All this could be yours! [Note: coins may be chocolate rather than actual gold…]

It’s my first blogoversary!

To celebrate this auspicious occasion, I’m giving away a signed copy of Darklands plus a promotional Darklands bookmark to one lucky reader. All you need do is leave a comment below, and a winner will be chosen at the end of February.

So, why do you want a copy of Darklands? What, you mean, apart from it being FREE?

Darklands is “unputdownable, enthralling magic,” say Bookstack, “Brilliantly written and thought out fantasy.”

“I didn’t want to put it down,” says Arwen Fox. “The plot was gripping and fast-paced. The characters were fascinating, and I couldn’t wait to find out the truth about the sinister world Sophie finds herself in.”

“Atmospheric and sinister,” says Ship, “The sense of menace is perfectly executed.”

What are you waiting for? Add your name now for a chance to win 🙂

Due to postage costs, I’m afraid the offer of a paperback is available to UK residents only (well, I suppose an inhabitant of elsewhere could win, but they’d have to nominate a UK pal to receive the book!)

An inhabitant of elsewhere. I like that phrase. It sounds like someone from fairyland… *gets out notebook*