Did you know I offer feedback for writers…?

Readers reports, mentoring and more. Check it out here…

Writing Goals… Do They Work?

I set some writing goals at the beginning of the year and jotted them down in my diary on January 1st…

For those of you who can’t read my scribble (ie: everyone), they are…

  • Launch The End of Magic and get it to as many readers as possible
  • Relaunch and sell 10k copies of Back to Reality by Glastonbury weekend
  • Self-Publish one or more of the Woodville books
  • Find a publisher for Interstellar Mega Blaster

Have I reached them? Sort of… Well… no…

The End of Magic had a great start and is ticking along very nicely in the UK. A fab launch, great reviews and it topped quite a few Amazon charts. I’ve set myself a target to sell a thousand copies in the USA by the end of the year and it’s been tough so far.

Back to Reality didn’t hit 10k, but we did sell over a thousand copies and it’s given the book momentum.

I have finished the first of my Woodville novels (a series about three witches in a Kent village in the Second World War: think Bedknobs and Broomsticks meets Pratchett’s Witches), and I’ve started the second, and I was all set to self-publish, but my wonderful agent read it and it made him cry on the tube (twice… in a good way) and he wants a shot at selling it. He calls it “commercial gold dust”, which is nice.

And Interstellar Mega Blaster is my middle grade science fiction adventure, which has had a few encouraging rejections. All par for the course.

The more astute of you will note that I’ve not achieved any of these goals (so far). Does this mean I’ve failed? Heck, no.

Goals aren’t immovable objects like Stonehenge. You can shift them, squeeze them and even toss them away. And no, that’s not cheating.

Really, it isn’t. Okay, you might reasonably ask, What’s the point in setting goals if you’re just going to keep moving them? Well, if you’re like me, they’re what get you out of bed in the morning to start writing. They’re aspirations, dreams, and even if we fall short we’re still ahead of bugger-all, which is what we started with.

One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned on the Bestseller Experiment podcast is that setting a clear goal, a definite deadline, and making a public declaration are the most effective things you can do to boost your writing.

Be ready for real life to give you a swift kick in the nadgers every now and then, and be just as ready to pounce on the new opportunities that come along, too. Set a goal. Today.

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Do you have a writing goal? Tell me about it and maybe I can help you make it happen.

I offer all kinds of bespoke services for writers, from reader reports to full edits. Drop me a line here for a free consultation.

I’m at the Westgate Literary Festival This Saturday…

Just a reminder that I’m at the Westgate Literary Festival on Saturday. More details here…

More Than One Way To Get Published with Mark Stay

Saturday 14th September, 4pm

Christchurch URC, Church Hall Room 1Westgate Bay Avenue, Westgate

 Join Mark as he talks about his fantasy writing, podcasting, filmmaking and 25 years in bookselling and publishing. He will reveal the secrets of Amazon and you will discover so many of the Bestseller Experiments’ listeners now have successful careers as writers.

Tickets £6 here

The End of Magic challenge week 9, War of the Keywords

On 9th July I made a big ol’ pubic 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 nine!

A busy week of writing for me, which means I’ve only had one eye on the challenge, so all that’s really happened is a continued trickle of newsletter subscribers thanks to the StoryOrigin promo (which you should definitely check out if you’re a fantasy fan – so many free books!)

However, I did notice something disturbing... You may recall that in last week’s update I was pondering whether or not to return to Amazon ads to boost sales of The End of Magic. By mid-morning that day I had pretty much decided against it, but a few days later I decided to check where I was coming in the search results on Amazon.

I opened a new tab, switched on my VPN and connected as if I was in the USA, typed “The End of Magic” into the Amazon search bar, and this is what came up…

Fourth! Bloody fourth! That’s below the line, too, so if the searcher can’t be bothered to scroll down (and few do) then I’m completely lost! I have to win the War of the Keywords. And how do you do that…?

Bloody Amazon ads.

It’s almost – almost! – as if the whole system is rigged to make you pay for Amazon ads. Hmm.

So I ran a keywords report on Publisher Rocket and I’m now running ads at $2-per-day to see if I can get back to the top of the search results. Grr. I’ve only been running them for a couple of days, so nothing yet. Even the KU page reads are drying up…

Here’s a summary of last week’s sales…

Kindle units sold: 0

POD Paperbacks: 0

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 788

Royalty: $0

Advertising spend total: £2.86

And here’s the running total…

Kindle units sold: 98

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 10,825

Royalty: $46.98

Advertising spend total (since 9th July): $464.00 (and £105.81 in GBP)

AMS: $102.78

Bookbub: $272.70

Still 902 units to go!

That’s 8 a day between now and Christmas.

Thanks again for all your messages of support and to everyone who’s bought the book or spread the word.

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.

Oh, and I’ve just finished with a client on a writing project and now have a slot available on my writing services schedule. If you’re looking for feedback on your novel or screenplay, or maybe you just need a second opinion on that submission letter that you’re sending to agents, I offer all kinds of services for writers at all stages in their careers. There are more details here.

The End of Magic challenge, week 8 – Giveaways and Group Promos

On 9th July I made a big ol’ pubic 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 eight!

Not a huge amount to report this week, but a quick update on how last week’s Joe Abercrombie giveaway went, and how the StoryOrigin group promo is going.

You may recall that I had read and enjoyed my ARC/Proof copy of the new Joe Abercrombie novel A Little Hatred. Rather than let the proof languish on the shelf, I ordered a copy of the book from Waterstones, and decided to give the proof away as part of a newsletter giveaway. A simple deal: sign up to my newsletter and you’re in with a chance of winning the proof. Boosted by retweets from Joe and Gollancz I was able to gain over a hundred new subscribers in just a week. Once I announced the winner at the weekend, I lost fifteen of those, but such is the cut and thrust of these sort of newsletter giveaways.

Last Thursday saw the launch of a StoryOrigin group promotion designed to attract more newsletter subscribers. The way it works is a bunch of authors in a similar genre offer a free short story each to entice readers to sign up. All of the authors plug the promotion via their channels and we all gain a few new subscribers. Since the launch on Thursday I’ve gained 68 new subscribers…

And if you fancy reading the short story yourself you can get it here.

And hey, if you like fantasy you should check it out. There’s something for everyone: high fantasy, grimdark, romance and even big cats wearing bras. Yes, really. No judgment here. Click on the banner for more…

Has all this resulted in a sudden boost in sales…? Er… no… Once again, this week has been a blank…

I have had a few more KU page reads though…

And I now have a chunk of new fantasy fans who might just like my book enough to buy it. However, I can’t just start bombarding them with BUY MY BOOK emails. I need to give them fun and engaging content to reassure them that they’ve made the right decision.

What’s next? The StoryOrigin promo runs until September 27th, so that should keep the trickle of new subscribers coming, and I’ve also enrolled in a Kindle Unlimited one that starts in early October. However, none of these are driving sales in the here and now. There’s a part of me that wants to go back to Amazon AMS ads. I know they’re a money pit, but I was getting sales and the book was more visible. Will I succumb to the temptation…?? Should I?? Tune in next week!

Here’s a summary of last week’s sales…

Kindle units sold: 0

POD Paperbacks: 0

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 960

Royalty: $0

Advertising spend total: £0

And here’s the running total…

Kindle units sold: 98

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 10,037

Royalty: $46.98

Advertising spend total (since 9th July): $464.00 (and £105.81 in GBP)

AMS: $99.92

Bookbub: $272.70

Still 902 units to go!

That’s almost 8 a day between now and Christmas.

Thanks again for all your messages of support and to everyone who’s bought the book or spread the word.

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 like these lovely people…

I still only have six reviews on Amazon.com (the US site). They’re good ones, for which I’m very grateful, but ideally I need at least 20+. I like my reviews to grow organically and they have to be honest, so if you’re American and have read The End of Magic a few kind and honest words will go a long way.

If you have any thoughts or comments on what I might be doing wrong, do please leave them below! Until next week…

The End of Magic challenge, week 7 – Bloggers and giveaways

On 9th July I made a big ol’ pubic 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 seven!

The big change in strategy has been to stop with the expensive ads on Facebook, Bookbub and Amazon and instead to build my readership. And that means bulking up my newsletter and getting bloggers to review my book to drive a little buzz.

I started by looking online at other authors’ blog tours. Both Mike Shackle and Edward Cox have had recent blog tours with their new books – both of which are similar enough to mine – and they posted these handy images with the details of the bloggers…

I spent a day visiting the websites of these bloggers, finding out how they accept submissions (they all do it differently) and dropping them a line.

I also did a small blog tour when The End of Magic was launched in the UK in February and I got in touch with a couple of bloggers who had offered to review, but hadn’t posted anything. Immediately, I got a result…

The good news is I’ve had some very positive responses from the other bloggers I contacted. A few weren’t taking reviews (despite the Ed Cox and Mike Shackle blog tours… but that’s what a big publisher gets you!), and a Grimdark blog had the cheek to tell me that it wasn’t for their readers (!!).

When will these reviews go live…? God knows. A few of them post their TBR piles online and they’re swamped. I’ve told them I’ll be happy with anything between now and Christmas.

Next on my list was to start building my newsletter numbers. I was lucky enough to get a proof of the new Joe Abercrombie novel from my friends at Gollancz. I loved it, said so on Twitter, and got a great response from fellow fantasy fans. I had finished with the proof, so I could give it to a charity shop, maybe? Or… I could give it away online to people who subscribe to my newsletter!

This wasn’t officially sanctioned by the publisher, but I have a copy of the hardcover on order from Waterstones, so I figured what the hell, created the giveaway and added the Tweet to my original review…

Joe retweeted the giveaway without any prompting from me and the result at the time of writing has been…

… which is nice. Lots of new fantasy fans who might be looking for something read after Joe’s book.

To be in with a chance of getting your hands on it, simply sign up to my newsletter here before 23:59 UK time on Saturday 31st AugustFull terms and conditions are here. Good luck!

After last week’s FB video (did you know I also put a video version of these blogs on my FB author page…?) Sam Missingham – my guardian angel of marketing – got in touch to tell me about Story Origin, who run book and newsletter swaps for indie authors, much like Bookfunnel, though, unlike Book Funnel, Story Origin are currently FREE.

Rather than just fill out the form I interviewed Story Origin’s founder Evan Gow for the podcast to find out how it all works. It should go live as an exclusive for our Patreon supporters next week.

The interview inspired me to get started, and I’ve been accepted for a group promo. This means I give away my short story – How Drust Krax Lost Two Fingers – as part of a group of similar authors to gain newsletter subscribers. It starts on Thursday, so I’ll report back on how it went next week.

Sam Missingham also featured me on her first webinar for The Empowered Author last week. It was a fun session, discussing book sales and marketing and this very quest, and I’ll post a link to the Youtube video when it goes live. Thanks, Sam! Once again, if you’re an author and you’re not following Sam on Twitter or The Empowered Author, you’re really missing out.

I also realised that I hadn’t let my Unbound supporters know about this. 279 gorgeous and wonderful people supported The End of Magic on Unbound and I’m able to contact them via the book’s dashboard. I rattled off a message asking them to spread the word and maybe leave a review on Amazon/Goodreads. These posts are sent via email and need to be review by Unbound and we’ve just had a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, so it probably won’t go out for a couple of days, but I’m hoping a few of them might say something nice online.

So, how many sales have been driven by all this hard work? Drumroll, please…

Well, no one said this would be a get-rich-quick scheme… but none of my efforts last week will have the immediate impact of, say, an expensive Bookbub ad. I’m planting seeds, folks, planting seeds…

The KU page reads are up and down…

I did get some good advice from my friend Ian W Sainsbury over on FB and here’s the conversation we had…

He’s absolutely right, of course. This is something we discovered when pushing Back to Reality this year. You need a series to really make this work. And, as I’ve hinted at there, I am working on a brand new series.

I also got a couple more wonderful five-star reviews on Amazon UK…

Those both truly made my day… But I’m still stuck on 6 reviews in the US…

Honestly, with whom must I copulate to get a review in the States?? (Not that I’m desperate or anything).

Here’s a summary of last week’s sales…

Kindle units sold: 2

POD Paperbacks: 0

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 489

Royalty: $4.06

Advertising spend total: £0

And here’s the running total…

Kindle units sold: 98

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 9077

Royalty: $46.98

Advertising spend total (since 9th July): $464.00 (and £105.81 in GBP)

AMS: $99.92

Bookbub: $272.70

Still 902 units to go!

That’s a little over 7 a day between now and Christmas.

Thanks again for all your messages of support and to everyone who’s bought the book or spread the word.

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

I still only have six reviews on Amazon.com. They’re good ones, for which I’m very grateful, but ideally I need at least 20+. I like my reviews to grow organically and they have to be honest, so if you’re American and have read The End of Magic a few kind and honest words will go a long way.

If you have any thoughts or comments on what I might be doing wrong, do please leave them below! Until next week…

Joe Abercrombie A Little Hatred giveaway

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS NOW CLOSED! THANKS TO ALL WHO ENTERED

I’m giving away a proof/ARC copy of Joe Abercrombie’s A Little Hatred. To be in with a chance of getting your hands on it, simply sign up to my newsletter here before 23:59 UK time on Saturday 31st August. Full terms and conditions are here. Good luck!

A few things to note…

This is a proof/advanced reading copy sent to me by the good folk at Gollancz, and not the finished book. That’s coming in September and I have a signed copy on order from Waterstones!

This copy has been read… by me! I took it with me to Dublin and back and have been reading it all week (so it’s a little ragged around the edges). And I rather liked it…

Click here for full terms and conditions.

The End of Magic challenge, week 6

On 9th July I made a big ol’ pubic 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 six!

Not much to report this week as I was mostly at Worldcon in Dublin, but a Facebook ad with a video was running in that time (here it is)…

… and here are the resulting sales…

Not a sausage! And here’s the FB ad analysis…

Well, that’s thirty-four quid I won’t be seeing again!

There are no quick fixes here. I’ll look at the ad and see how I can improve it, but I’m losing faith in the ads approach. I spent much of yesterday contacting bloggers to review the book, and I’ll continue to do that today. Reviews and word-of-mouth are essential for a book like this, and it’s working already…

A big thank you to Andy at ebookwyrm for that!

And I was over the moon to get this review on Amazon UK from the wonderfully-monikered Masked Marauder…

Here’s a summary of last week’s “sales” (note the air quotes!)

Kindle units sold: 0

POD Paperbacks: 0

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 1023

Royalty: $0

Advertising spend total: £34.77 (Facebook)

Yes, some folks are still reading it on KU, which is nice…

And here’s the running total…

Kindle units sold: 96

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 8588

Royalty: $42.92

Advertising spend total (since 9th July): $464.00 (and £105.81 in GBP)

AMS: $99.92

Bookbub: $272.70

Still 904 units to go!

That’s a little over 6 a day between now and Christmas.

Thanks again for all your messages of support and to everyone who’s bought the book or spread the word.

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

I still only have six reviews on Amazon.com. They’re good ones, for which I’m very grateful, but ideally I need at least 20+. I like my reviews to grow organically and they have to be honest, so if you’re American and have read The End of Magic a few kind and honest words will go a long way.

If you have any thoughts or comments on what I might be doing wrong, do please leave them below! Until next week…

The End of Magic challenge, week 5

On 9th July I made a big ol’ pubic 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 five!

After releasing last week’s blog I had this wonderful Tweet from the writer Tim Clare…

Tim was saying what I was thinking: the magic advertising wand is an expensive one, and there has to be a better way to sell books. I’ve done almost every convention I could get into this year (and I’m at Worldcon in Dublin later this week), and the newsletter thing definitely works (see below). I’ve dropped a line to a couple of authors I know and have asked if we can mutually plug one another’s books via our channels.

I’m also grateful to Sam Missingham at Lounge Marketing* at for tipping me off about Story Origin. A site that helps authors build newsletter lists and organise book swaps. This is a whole new area to me and so I’m still getting my head around how it works. I’m also hoping to get the founder of Story Origin on the Bestseller Experiment podcast soon to talk me through it all in more detail, so keep an eye out for that.

*If you’re an indie author and you’re not following Sam on Twitter or subscribing to her free newsletter, then you’re really missing out!

Another nice bit of fallout from last week is I’ve been asked to go back on the Writers’ Centre podcast. I had fun last time I was on and definitely gained followers and sold books off the back of it. These are the benefits of sharing your failure in public!

First thing I did after last week’s results was cut all the Amazon and Bookbub ads and focus on building my readership. This meant a switch to Facebook ads.

I started running two ads targeted at Terry Pratchett fans in the US with a budget of $5 per day.

The first offered a free short story…

And the results were so-so…

The second had a pack shot of the book…

This had slightly better results…

I’ve gained 22 newsletter subscriptions since these went live, and if Mark Dawson’s adage that each subscriber is worth a fiver us true, then I guess this has worked…?

I’ve stopped both ads and am going to experiment with a video ad this week. It’s one I’ve used on social media before…

It’s “In review” over on Facebook – and has been for 24 hours – so I’ll update next week if anything happens with that.

Here’s a summary of last week’s sales

Kindle units sold: 11

POD Paperbacks: 0

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 2622

Royalty: $7.56

Advertising spend total: £56.67 (Facebook)

I think that boost on 6th Aug is from the start of the FB ads
Good to see KU page reads are strong. I’ll get a royalty from these at some point!

And here’s the running total…

Kindle units sold: 96

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 7565

Royalty: $42.92

Advertising spend total (since 9th July): $464.00 (and £71.04 in GBP)

AMS: $99.92

Bookbub: $272.70

A mere 904 units to go!

That’s a little over 6 a day between now and Christmas.

Thanks again for all your messages of support and to everyone who’s bought the book or spread the word.

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

A quick word on reviews… I still only have six reviews on Amazon.com. They’re good ones, for which I’m very grateful, but ideally I need at least 20+. I like my reviews to grow organically and they have to be honest, so if you’re American and have read The End of Magic a few kind and honest words will go a long way.

In the UK, I now have 21 reviews, the latest arriving just yesterday and is thanks to Ian W Sainsbury including me in his newsletter a few weeks ago. Thanks Ian!!

If you have any thoughts or comments on what I might be doing wrong, do please leave them below! Until next week…

The End of Magic challenge, week 4

On 9th July I made a big ol’ pubic 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 four!

Okay, so this is half a week, as I was still on holiday or travelling, so couldn’t keep my eye on the ball, but at least sales got into double figures!

These last few days have seen the final push of a 99c/99p campaign in the the US and UK to drive visibility and it kinda worked as I managed to sneak into a chart for a short while…

But it does mean I’ve been spending too much on Bookbub promos…

Bookbub is the only thing that really seems to drive sales, but it really comes at a cost that I just can’t sustain. Today is the last day of that promo and I’ll be putting the price back up to $2.99 and cutting the ads. My feeling is that price promo works better when you have a series and more expensive books to sell once readers have enjoyed book one.

With that in mind, I think the next phase is try and build my readership and, from looking at the usual forums and chit-chat, the best way to do that is to use FB ads to target readers and send them to your book/website. As of yesterday I started running two ads targeted at Terry Pratchett fans in the US with a budget of $5 per day.

The first offers a free short story…

The second has a packshot of the book…

It’s early days, but the packshot ad is getting more clicks…

Both ads are driving readers to my new squeeze page for the book. A squeeze page is a single web page dedicated to one topic (in this case, my book) and with the URL theeendofmagic.com it should give the book’s SEO a boost and make it more visible. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

In other news, the Amazon AMS ads keep trundling along with another 2 sales per week, and again these are now too expensive and I should knock them on the head…

Ooh, it’s like a big smile…

Though the KU page reads are still fairly strong…

Here’s a summary of last week’s sales

Kindle units sold: 20

POD Paperbacks: 0

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 1792

Royalty: $7.35

Advertising spend total: $108.02 (and £14.37 in GBP)

AMS: $33.01

Bookbub: $75.01

Facebook: £14.37

And here’s the running total…

Kindle units sold: 85

Kindle Unlimited Pages read: 4943

Royalty: $35.36

Advertising spend total (since 9th July): $464.00 (and £14.37 in GBP)

AMS: $99.92

Bookbub: $272.70

A mere 915 units to go!

That’s a little over 6 a day between now and Christmas.

Thanks again for all your messages of support and to everyone who’s bought the book or spread the word.

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

Leave an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads

Tell your friends about the book

If you have any thoughts or comments on what I might be doing wrong, do please leave them below! Until next week…

Update…

I got this wonderful Tweet from the mighty Tim Clare not long after I posted this. He’s not wrong…

Stay tuned for a change in strategy!

Speaking of help, I have a writer services consultancy thingy… Are you looking for feedback on your novel or screenplay? Maybe you just need a second opinion on that submission letter that you’re sending to agents? I offer all kinds of services for writers at all stages in their careers. There are more details below and get in touch now for a free ten minute Skype consultation and a quote.