The End of Magic challenge, week 18 – Spend, Spend, Spend!

On 9th July I made a big ol’ public declaration to sell a thousand copies of my fantasy novel The End of Magic by Christmas, and I promised to keep folks in the loop with the ups and downs of sales and marketing with a weekly update.

A few caveats…

  • I can only do this in the USAUnbound have the UK rights and I have no visibility on sales other than the twice yearly statements.
  • I’m going to stick with Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.
  • I’ll be counting both Kindle and Paperback sales.
  • Here’s week eighteen!

Last week, I announced that after a long lull in activity the only way I can get anywhere close to this target is to go on a bit of a spending frenzy. I started by running some ads with Bookbub. My old artwork needed a bit of a spruce-up, and I asked the BXP Group for a recommendation and Bookbrush came up again and again, so I had a little play…

Don’t bother trying to enlarge these as they have to be weeny as per Bookbub’s criteria.
The free account on Bookbrush gives you three free images per month, but you can upgrade to an unlimited account if you wish (and I think I will).

I started with the James Barclay ad, and lo and behold, I got a few sales…

I started running ads at $10 per day, following the guidelines in the David Gaughran’s excellent book on Bookbub ads, alternating between the Abercrombie and the Barclay. Sales weren’t stratospheric — a couple a day — but they were moving again.

I also have to thank the gang on the BXP Team for recommending various book promo sites they had used in the past. Astonishingly, I’ve not tried any of these before, so I’ve really gone for it now, booking a bunch of them in the run-up to Christmas:

The first one of these ran a few days ago with Bookrunes and Bookraid on 22nd Nov. I stopped all Bookbub ads in order to see what effect the promo had on sales (drumroll, please…)


Well, it’s better than nothing. And there were a couple of sales the day after. There’s also a charge per click…

No profits to boast of, but we knew that didn’t we? I’ve still not resumed the Bookbub ads to see if the promo has a longer tail, but nothing so far. I’ll think I’ll spruce up the artwork again and resume the Bookbub ads until the next promo with Bargain Booksy on 4th December.

The BXP Team also recommended Kindle Countdown Deals, but because I had already discounted the title before applying I don’t meet their criteria. Besides, Amazon have had enough of my money already.

Jack Logan also got in touch to recommend using Etsy, which hadn’t occurred to me before, but might be a good way to shift a few signed copies of the paperback before Christmas.

Here are the sales since last week…

Y’know what, that’s not bad. The best week since I started… and all it took was a ton of money. Hmm. Of course, I need to be doing these sorts of numbers on a daily basis to meet my target — there are 29 days till Christmas, I’ve sold 171 copies and need to sell 829. That’s 29 per day!

If you would like to help, then please do any of the following:

Buy a copy here in the US, or here in the UK

Tell your friends about the book (especially on those big fantasy reading groups on Facebook, please!)

Leave an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Until next time…


10 Productivity Tips For Writers

On the most recent live show of the Bestseller Experiment podcast we got talking about how to make the most of your writing time. You can listen to the whole podcast here (where we also launch the BXP2020 challenge, which will make 2020 your best writing year!) and I’ve listed my top ten productivity tips below…

Procrastinate first

This may sound a little odd, but we all have our favourite forms of putting off writing, so why not just get them done and out of the way? Mine is social media. If you follow me on social media, you might notice that I’m busy first thing in the morning (breakfast), I might pop up for ten minutes or so mid-morning (tea break), then there’s lunch and then the evening when I’m done.

Diving into Twitter and Facebook first thing in the morning quenches any curiosity that there might be something more interesting going on in the world. I pop in, have a laugh (or get outraged), put it aside and then jump into the writing.

Close the door

The old advice from Stephen King. Most people think The Shining is about a writer battling his inner demons, but I reckon Jack just wants to make his daily wordcount and his wife and kid complaining about the terrors in the Overlook Hotel really isn’t helping the poor guy hit his targets.

Closing the door works. If you’re lucky enough to have a room of one’s own then use it, and make sure your family or flatmates know what it means: no knocking unless there’s a fire, nuclear war or similar*.

Before I was lucky enough to get a writing room, I used to write on my commute on a busy train. I used headphones to block out the world. If you’re a time poor writer — and who isn’t?! — you have to make the most of your writing time and any distraction can be detrimental to keeping your train of thought. Which brings me to…

*Unless they bring tea and biscuits. I can allow that occasionally.

Silence (or nature sounds)

I used to have specific music playlists for any writing project and I find these useful when I’m brainstorming ideas and trying to get into mood… But when I’m in the thick of a draft I now need complete silence. It might be a middle-age thing, it might be that I just need more brain capacity to concentrate on this stuff, but I can’t write now if the theme from The Witchfinder General is scratching at my brain.

When I’m travelling and using headphones I’ll use a nature sounds app. This blocks out extraneous noise and is far less distracting than music, though you if you find that you start getting annoyed by repetitive bird calls, then maybe switch to a white noise app.

Set targets

What are you actually going to do today? Is this a first draft and you’re hitting a word target? If it’s a screenplay, how many pages do you want to do today? If you’re editing, are you working on a particular chapter, character or thread? Whatever it is, set yourself a goal. Once you’ve hit it you can either smash through or, what the hell, take the rest of the day off and binge something on Netflix. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned on the podcast is setting achievable goals is one of the biggest boosts to writing productivity.

It’s one of the reasons we launched this thing.

Know your arguments

It’s all very well splashing words onto the page, but what the hell are you actually saying? What is the point of this book? This character? This scene? And where are you in the story?

I always take a moment to figure out just where I am in the story. If my protagonist starts at A and ends up at Z, where am I in the alphabet of change? How is this scene helping them evolve and head towards that ending? What change is occurring through drama? In other words, how does this scene earn its place in the story? I find that once I have a clear idea of that, the rest comes relatively easily.

Make notes always

One of my favourite moments of the podcast is when Sarah Pinborough challenged the “Write every day” theory that we were really excited about.”That’s bollocks!” she said…

Listen to the whole episode here

And she’s absolutely right. Keeping that story brain ticking over in the back of your mind is so important. But, if you’re like me, you have no idea when inspiration might strike. It’s usually at two in the morning, so I have a stack of Post-It notes by the bed, or I’ll be out for a walk and a story problem might solve itself and I end up sending myself an email on my phone before the thought it gone…

And that’s the dread thing. I know now that if I don’t make a note STRAIGHT AWAY, it’s gone. For good. Again, that might be a middle age thing, but it’s real. Always be ready to make notes wherever you are.

Change medium

I’m a pretty speedy typist. My dad used to be secretary of football referees association and I used to type up his handwritten notes for their newsletter on a second-hand fire-damaged BBC B computer, so I was a touch typist from about age eleven. The temptation for me is to stick to typing on a screen because it’s so fast, and that’s great when I’m on a roll, but when it comes to problem-solving you can’t beat pen and paper. There’s something about scribbling on a pad, or a scrap of paper, or on a whiteboard that fires up a whole new set of synapses in my noggin. I’m hearing a lot of writers are switching to dictation now that the tech is getting more reliable. I haven’t tried it yet, but watch this space.

Regular breaks

This might feel like more procrastination, but at my age I have to get off my arse every hour or so, if not more. If I’m working from home there’s always a bit of washing to put on, a dishwasher to empty, some vacuuming to do. Getting up and moving around gets my blood flowing and it’s a good way to let the brain take a breather, and it often leads to solutions to story problems. And of course nothing beats a good walk…

From one of my very productive walks… Yes, this is work!!

But doesn’t all that interruption break into my concentration…? Well, I have a thing for that too…

End mid-sentence

Whenever I take a break, and especially at the end of the day, I try to end either in mid-sentence or in the middle of an incomplete scene. This means that when I resume work I’m not faced with a blank page or fresh chapter to start. I just need to polish off what I was working on yesterday. I’ll often leave myself a note along the lines of, “You were thinking this, and this thing was going to happen next.” That’s usually all I need to get started and before I know it I’m up and running and ready to tackle the next chapter.

Similarly, if I ever get stuck I’ll go back and rewrite or edit the pages running up to the moment of stickiness. This run-up usually gives me the momentum I need to break through the sticky bit and keep going.

Prepare to change

Here’s the thing. What worked for me two years ago, doesn’t necessarily work for me now. I’ve never written a script or a book the same way twice. I’m always looking to shake things up. I think the day I think I’ve got it all figured out is the day to give it up.

Bonus tip: Back up your work

Every day. Back up your work to a dongle, a cloud, email yourself — whatever it takes to ensure that your magnum opus isn’t sat on a device that will inevitably crash and die. There’s no “maybe” about this. Tech dies every day and often without warning. Sometimes it’s unavoidable and that’s horrible, but you can and should take steps to avoid it.

The 3-2-1 back up rule is best: keep three copies of your data, two on different storage media and one off-site.

I hope this was helpful. We talk about this more on this episode of the Bestseller Experiment.

And do please leave your own tips and comments tips below

Are you looking for feedback on your novel or screenplay? sending to agents? I offer all kinds of services for writers at all stages in their careers. There are more details here and get in touch now for a free ten minute Skype consultation and a quote.

The End of Magic challenge, week 17 – Where The Hell Have I Been??

On 9th July I made a big ol’ public declaration to sell a thousand copies of my fantasy novel The End of Magic by Christmas, and I promised to keep folks in the loop with the ups and downs of sales and marketing with a weekly update.

A few caveats…

  • I can only do this in the USA… Unbound have the UK rights and I have no visibility on sales other than the twice yearly statements.
  • I’m going to stick with Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.
  • I’ll be counting both Kindle and Paperback sales.
  • Here’s week seventeen!

The more observant of you may have noticed a lack of updates in the last… ooh, let’s see… TWO MONTHS?!

What happened? Where have I been?

A few days after my last update, I got a long-awaited email from my lovely agent Ed Wilson. He had read the draft of my new book… and he had notes. Lots of notes. All good stuff that I was keen to get my teeth into, so I dug in and got started. On top of that I was also working on…

Those are my excuses and I’m sticking to them. But seriously, the book rewrites have been soaking up almost all of my time and energy. It’s been hard work, but I think it’s been worth it. The book is with a beta reader now, which might mean a bit more tweaking before it goes back to my agent, but the bulk of the work is done before it goes out on submission (I hope).

So what happens when you don’t do a single bit of marketing for two whole months? This… this happens…

Hmm. It’s almost as if Amazon has rigged it so that if you don’t spend ad money you won’t sell any books… hmm.

What to do now? Do I call it quits and focus on the next thing? That’s tempting. There are only forty days till Christmas. I’ve sold 137 copies and I need to sell 863 copies – that’s about 21 copies per day. It ain’t gonna happen.

But… dagnammit, I worked too bloody hard on this book to give up on it now, and it’s a good book. I get genuinely good reviews from readers. One big lesson from promoting Back to Reality earlier this year is that throwing money at Amazon does, sadly, work. We sold over a thousand copies in six months and we did that by spending about a grand on ads, which gave us visibility and momentum and it improved our ‘also boughts’ on Amazon, which is crucial. And we’ve not spent a penny since and we’re still selling a few copies every day at full price because of that momentum and visibility, so we’ve almost made all that money back.

Also, the option was renewed on my TV thing, so I have a bit of cash to splash.

Screw it. I’m going on an ad spending frenzy. I know not everyone can do this, but I’m running out of time. Let’s see what damage a grand can do between now and Christmas. Hold on to your hats, folks. There will be an update next week!

If you would like to help, then please do any of the following:

Buy a copy here in the US, or here in the UK

Tell your friends about the book

Leave an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads.