Author Talk with Kent Libraries

I had great fun chatting to Simon at Kent libraries about the books and authors that changed my life…

The End of Magic By Mark Stay

First of all I would like to thank the author Mark Stay himself for being so kind and gifting me a copy of his book in exchange for a fair and honest…

The End of Magic By Mark Stay

Signed Book and Chocolate Giveaway

Giveaway time! For your chance to to win one of five signed/dedicated copies of The Crow Folk and a special bar of chocolate simply sign up to the my newsletter here at the Woodville Village Library... https://witchesofwoodville.com/#library

Ends 5pm GMT, 28th Feb 2021 Ts&Cs here: https://witchesofwoodville.com/woodville-newsletter-giveaway-terms-and-conditions/

The Crow Folk Book Trailer

Thanks to Kai Newton for the camera and edit, Dominic Currie for the music, Emily Stay for directorial assistance, and George Stay for putting on the costume in such stifling heat. And apologies for my scary lockdown hairdo…

Transcript (or click on the Youtube CC button for subtitles):

“England June 1940. Three bickering witches are the only thing standing between us and the evil forces of the supernatural. Oh, and there’s a war on. The Witches of Woodville chronicles the wartime adventures of three witches. Faye Bright is an apprentice who learns about magic from a book left by a late mother. She’s helped by the prim and proper Mrs Teach and the enigmatic Miss Charlotte, and they all live in the village of Woodville, deep in the heart of the Kent countryside. The village is besieged by the Crow Folk. Living scarecrows led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead. Faye must unite the Witches of Woodville,using her magic, wits and some aggressive church bell-ringing. The witches will argue and drive each other mad, but they will remain resolute as our last defence against supernatural evil.”

And here’s where you can order it in paperback and eBook (audio will be coming too!)…

Waterstones UK

The Book Depository for free international postage and packing

Support your local UK indie bookshop and order from The Hive

Blackwells

Amazon UK

Kobo

Apple

A note for readers in the USA and Canada:

We haven’t sold the North American rights yet, so your best bet is to order via The Book Depository. They offer free postage and packing worldwide.

Stay tuned for more reveals about the book soon!!

4 Million Words Written

You may recall that we started a thing on the Bestseller Experiment podcast in January called the BXP2020 Challenge. This came from my co-presenter Mark Desvaux, who had struggled to write much under very difficult circumstances. As a single working dad of three kids, he rarely had the time or energy to write, but he found that by using a variation of the Pomodoro technique, he was able to get back into the habit again.

Just 200 words a day, maybe 15-20 minutes in the morning, and he was writing more than ever, but also coping with the everyday stuff with his life and family.

What really made it work was being accountable to others, which is why we added the “banking” feature to the challenge. Don’t just write the words, tell the word about it. That has been embraced by every who has joined in with the challenge (follow the #BXP2020 on Twitter and you’ll see) and I’m blown away to report that one of our challengers just banked our four millionth word.

I can also report that it’s worked in our house, too. Claire started on Jan 1st and is now 60,000 words into her debut crime novel. And me… I finished writing a screenplay through Jan and Feb, and then Covid-19 came along and took all the wind out of my sails. After a couple of weeks of writing precisely bugger-all, I decided to use the challenge to start writing again. 200 words a day, has become 500+ words a day and I’ve not only completed one short story, but I’m halfway through another.

It really works.

Give it a go. You can start whenever you want, and it’s completely free… https://bestsellerexperiment.com/bxp2020/

The End of Magic challenge finale…

On 9th July 2019 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 the big finale!

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Sold a thousand copies of your book? Er… no. Let’s have a quick recap since my last update, and then figure out what worked and what didn’t.

You may recall that I had a bunch of promos booked for the run-up to Christmas:

And here’s how they did…

BookRunes and BookRaid – 22nd November:

Bargain Books – 4th December, then Fussy Librarian – 5th December:

The Librarian turned out to be a little too fussy…

E-reader News – 16th December:

Book Barbarian – 24th December:

Quite disappointing in the end, it has to be said. I was hoping for bigger spikes than that, and in between the promos I was running Bookbub ads to maintain what little sales momentum I had. Here’s what the daily sales look like since my last update…

Which gives a not-so-grand total of 286 copies sold since I embarked on this challenge!

A mere 714 copies shy of my target. I’m not completely sure how much I spent on ads, but it was in excess of £700… So what went wrong?

It wasn’t a series:

Something I realised very early on was that this kind of promotion is most effective when promoting a series of books. Book one is your loss leader, and you upscale with the subsequent titles in the series. All I had was a loss leader! Fellow author Ian Sainsbury summed it up here in this exchange on Facebook…

I only had one territory:

Because Unbound have the UK & Commonwealth I could only run this promo on Amazon US, and that can really hamper the effectiveness of the promotions you run. You’re much more likely to be chosen for a Bookbub newsletter promotion when you tick the “International” box, for example.

Real life happened:

I took a holiday in July, and for seven weeks between September and November I was heads down on rewrites of a screenplay and a new novel and let the marketing slip and the sales dropped to nothing. Only myself to blame, but you can’t be a writer unless you write and these are both important gigs.

Too Few Reviews:

For much of this experiment I only had six customer reviews. They were good, but most casual customers will need more convincing than that. I did change strategy to get more newsletter promotions and boosting my mailing list, and then in December Amazon decided to merge the UK and US reviews, so I now have 27 ratings with a 4.7 average.

I might be too British:

I’ve definitely had a stronger reader response from my fellow Brits. I have a writing style that’s quite wry and ironic and Brits generally enjoy that, and Americans can often find it a little baffling (this doesn’t just apply to The End of Magic, I’ve known this about my writing for a while). Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and even Monty Python have cult followings in the US when compared to their profiles in the UK, and my writing owes a lot to their influence, so I guess I’m in the same boat. I take some solace that there are plenty of writers who never cracked the States who make a very good living. I do love you, America, but it seems it was not to be (at least, with this book)…

I still don’t know who my readers are:

I can’t tell you the number of reviews that start with a variation of “I don’t normally read fantasy, but I loved this…” Here’s a few recent examples…

Knowing who your readers are is the key to driving sales. I’ve experimented with ads for fans of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and they’ve been very hit and miss. Nothing has made me think: that’s it! That’s my readership! So it’s entirely possible that The End of Magic falls between the cracks: not grimdark enough for Abercrombie fans, not funny enough for Pratchett readers. If anyone who’s read the book has any thoughts do please let me know!

And here we are at the end of this great experiment. I’ve learned a lot and have even more to contemplate, but thanks to everyone who’s joined me, encouraged me and — most importantly — bought and read The End of Magic. If you haven’t so far, then you can find it here.

And if you’ve just stumbled across this and want to see how it all began, here’s the first week of the challenge and there are links to the subsequent weekly updates at the end of each page.

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…)

Meh…

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…

HERE’S THE FINAL WEEK – DID I DO IT??

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 5

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 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…

FOR THE NEXT INSTALMENT CLICK HERE

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!

FOR THE NEXT INSTALMENT CLICK HERE

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.