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

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 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…

Four things I learned from the publication of The End of Magic…

The End of Magic came out a month ago today!

And here are four essential “learnings” (ugh, what have I become?) from the last month…

A good launch is essential…

… but it’s only the start. The book had the most amazing launch week, thanks almost entirely to the gorgeous, wise and undeniably sexy people who had the foresight and canny knack of knowing-a-good-thing-when-they-see-it to support the book in its crowdfunding stage. When their copies arrived they shouted about it from the social media rooftops. Without doubt, this was the most exciting part of the whole crowdfunding experience: seeing them take ownership of the book and saying lovely things. And then one of them did this…

I mean, that is above and beyond… thanks, Jason…

They came to the book launch at Harbour Books and dressed up and made it a magical evening…

However, these good folk have lives to lead and cannot be called upon to sustain that kind of manic energy for long, and so it is left to you, the author, to continue to pimp yourself and the book for all eternity. You can only ride on the goodwill train for so long, and one of the biggest lessons learned from Back to Reality was that unless you continue to promote your book it’s in danger of sinking without a trace. Every week, new and splendid books come along to draw the eye of the reader, so how can you tome survive in the post-publication wilderness…?

You will need to pimp yourself

Unbound only publicise a few books, and I wasn’t assigned a publicist. It’s been quite sobering to be an author who can’t afford a freelance publicist (I was quoted two grand) and is left to their own devices. You’re definitely at a disadvantage. When I was published by Gollancz, you could be confident of reviews and coverage and festival slots because the magazines and websites know the terms of the unspoken deal: support our debuts and midlist authors and you’ll get the interviews with our big name authors… I had no such bargaining chip. However, I was lucky enough to know a few people and have had some great coverage in the likes of Starburst, BBC Radio Kent, and blogs, and I’ve managed to blag my way into various festivals. It can be exhausting, but it’s been worth it, leading to sales and more coverage.

I made Tweets like these with the Pixaloop app… https://www.pixaloopapp.com

Publishers will surprise you… 

A couple of weeks after publication I started getting messages from readers letting me know that The End of Magic was featured on a Bookbub newsletter. This saw me hurtling up the various Kindle fantasy charts and let to this little moment of happiness…

Not only that, but I was a Hot New Release (stop sniggering at the back)… and I was riding high in a number of other charts, too. Momentum was building and I had a clutch a really good customer reviews. Then…

Publishers will screw-up…

I’m planning to self-publish the book in the USA. My agent and I discussed this before we signed the contract with Unbound and I wanted to experiment with self-publishing and Amazon ads over in good old United States of America Land, and I was planning to do this after the Unbound edition had been published in the UK.

However, I got a message from a reader in New York telling me that I had been featured in an Amazon.com mailing. I checked and he was right: my book was available for sale in the US. Tut-tut, but these things happen and I dropped Unbound a line asking them to update the metadata on their feed to remove the book from sale in America.

Which they promptly did. And then someone must have ticked the wrong box, because it all disappeared from the UK, too.

For nearly 24 hours the eBook wasn’t available in the UK. I plummeted down the fantasy charts and all that great momentum was lost.

Such is life. To be fair to Unbound, these things are easily done and they responded rapidly… Ah well, easy come, easy go. 

Oh, and they put one of the chapters in the wrong place…

That was a fun weekend…

But, again, they fixed it fast and that’s all cool, but these little blips can test your nerves. Luckily I have years of experience with these kinds of screw-ups and the best advice I can offer is don’t panic, get on it fast, be clear and concise when describing the problem and never, ever refer to it as a disaster. The Titanic and the Hindenburg were disasters. Something going wrong with your book online is a minor glitch in the greater history of humanity…

What’s next…?

Nothing less than the conquest of America.

Eventually.

One of the issues triggered by Unbound’s release of my book in the US is that Amazon doesn’t believe that I retained the US rights to my book and I now have to prove it, which means sending them scans of signed contracts (which I don’t have) and getting Unbound and my agent involved. It’s a right old faff, but it will get sorted eventually.

After that I shall be using the Amazon and Facebook ad skills I’ve been developing with Back to Reality to send The End of Magic up the amazon.com fantasy charts and start earning some dosh.

Again, a huge thank you to everyone who has banged the drum or left a rating or a review online. You’re all wonderful and you should know that every time you retweet, like, leave a nice review or comment, you make an author’s day and this author will never take that for granted.

Blade Runner Secret Cinema – MASSIVE SPOILERS

I was lucky enough to be invited by the Gollancz gang (pictured above – photo courtesy of Kate Williams) to the latest Secret Cinema immersive experience, and this one was based on one of my favourite films, Blade Runner. I had been tempted by Secret Cinema in the past – particularly the Star Wars one last year – but the expense and commitment to costume and character was always offputting. But, as a guest of Gollancz, there was no way I could refuse the opportunity.

For the uninitiated, Secret Cinema offers an interactive evening where you essentially become part of the film. An extra in the movie’s universe. And it begins from the moment you sign up. They email you with the name of the character you’ll be playing and your role in the greater story. You’re given instructions on how to dress and a selection of props to bring. I was Nathaniel Woodville (spooky, as I went to a school called Woodville and the name ties into one of my forthcoming books). I was scavenger and chose to bring photos (precious currency in the Blade Runner universe), and an umbrella. I wore a paper suit, covered with a plastic poncho, decorated with fairy lights borrowed from my daughter, and topped off with my wife’s snood and some goggles. It cost about thirty quid in total and I have to say I looked rather fetching…

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From the moment you arrive, the immersive experience begins. We were abused by the LAPD outside the venue (a warehouse near Canning Town tube), the security bag checkers inside, and the ticket inspectors. They tore up my ID and stole one of my photos! It was clear that we were scavengers. The lowest of the low.

This is where you have to make a choice. Sit back and enjoy the silliness and retain your own identity, or go full method and immerse yourself in your character. Well, I bloody went for it, dodgy American accent and all. I gripped by umbrella with both hands, shuffled aroud, hunched up and twitchy as Nathaniel Woodville. Poor Nathaniel had been ground down by the system and he just wanted to get offworld. I was into it, exercising acting muscles that had been dormant for some time and loving it.

Once inside, we became embroiled in a mission to overthrow the powers-that-be and create a blackout. We had to go to Taffy’s bar and find a singer called Luna. She gave us a photo to deliver, and a message to pass on, but we were busted by the LAPD and thrown into a cage. Then I was singled out and interrogated by the cops. They were led by an actor who kept the scene on track with the story, but all the dialogue was improvised. They wanted to know why I had been speaking to Luna, and I told them I was a fan. “Then sing one of her songs…” So I then started a nervous rendition of “One more kiss, dear” from the film’s soundtrack. That seemed to help things and I continued to deny everything. Then, after bribing the cops with two photos, I was set free… But they were tailing me and I had to lose them by doubling back, scurrying into a crowd and turning my fairy lights off. This was thrilling stuff.

I sort of lost track of the story at that point, but by then I was already immersed in the world. All around me were sights and sounds familiar from the movie: ads for off-world colonies, sweeping searchlights, and a rain machine that doused Chinatown in “acid rain”. The sets were incredible: Taffy’s bar, the police station, and various eateries were all pretty faithful facsimiles of the film’s originals.

The anticipation to the promised blackout was building and we poor, oppressed scavengers began to gather in the main square, dancing in unison, raising our umbrellas in protest and getting absolutely drenched. I never went raving in my youth, but I imagine it must have felt something like this: a crowd chanting and moving as one, and thinking that anything was possible.

Once the story was over we were directed to the three movies screens where we watched the Final Cut of the film. This for me was the least successful part of the evening. The sound and picture wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, the crowd was restless, a few were inebriated, many got up for drinks, stomping up and down the metallic seating.

Actors moved about in front of the screens and the scaffolding during key scenes, miming the dialogue – erstaz Roy Battys and Rick Deckards… It didn’t really work for me. Stage acting and film acting are two different disciplines and it all seemed a bit silly and unnecessary after what we had just been through. The flashes of lightning and red pulsing lights as the spinners flew over the Tyrell Corp buildings were much better at building the atmosphere, but it was pale in comparison to the intensity of the main event.

I had a long journey home, and lost patience with the boozed-up chatterers behind us, so I left about an hour into the film, returned to my locker, got out of my costume and put on some dry clothing. Then came the strangest bit of the evening… returning to the real world, walking through Canning Street tube station knowing that if I tried to interact with any of the real people in the same way that I had interacted with my fellow Secret Cinemagoers, they would have veered away from me, called the police, or thumped me. Part of me wanted to turn around and go back in.

From talking to friends who have been to a few of these, the Blade Runner Secret Cinema had the most successful version of the interactive element. My scavenger story was competing with the cops’ stories, with the replicants’ stories, and yet it all came to a head with a transformative moment where, for a moment, lost in time, we were all in the Los Angeles of 2019, seeing things that you people would never believe…

Surviving your first year as a debut author with Ed McDonald

I had the pleasure of speaking to the superb Ed McDonald on the podcast this week. Ed talks very honestly about his first year as a professional author, achieving his dream of getting published, and then he asks the question, “What next?” It’s a very revealing chat and you can listen here.

I was over the moon to see my friend Deborah Haywood’s movie Pin Cushion premiere at the East End Film Festival last weekend. It’s funny, dark, and cat lady mad with a brilliant cast. Have a look at the trailer here.

And if you’re looking for a major time suck, the BBC have opened up their sound effects archives for non-commercial use. There’s some really freaky stuff available for your delight. Listen to this doll singing Oranges and Lemons and tell me you won’t be sleeping with the lights on tonight…Oh, and I’m 77% funded on The End of Magic with less than a month to go! If you’ve not pledged already, now would be a wonderful time to do it. Just click here and hit that lovely blue pledge button.

Till next time, happy writing!

Mark

Gollanczfest and a gatecrasher…

This week’s episode of the podcast is enhanced by the good folk from Gollancz talking GollanczFest, and by a very special gatecrasher…

 

It was all good chaotic fun and not one person asked why I was wearing that hat (it was to celebrate Stephen King’s 70th birthday).

Oh, and if you want a chance to win a couple of tickets for GollanczFest, get a clickin’ over here…

My First EasterCon – My Writing Diary Ten Years On – Easter Sunday, 8th April 2007

Ten years ago I enjoyed/suffered/endured my first ever Eastercon as part of the Gollancz team. Looking back at my diary it’s interesting just how little of the actual conference I chronicled — mostly because I was away filming authors — but I must have liked it, as I’ve been back for more several times since, even getting to attend as an author a couple of years ago! It’s generally a slicker affair these days, but some of that ramshackle charm remains. I won’t be going this year, but I’ll always have Chester…

Easter Sunday, 8th April 2007

I’ve spent the last couple of days in Chester for Eastercon – the British science fiction convention. There were engineering works on the trains all weekend, so I decided to drive the 240-odd miles to Chester. Points of interest along the way included a sign directing tourists to a Secret Bunker, and a pub called The Headless Woman.

I arrived at around half-six and made contact with the rest of the Gollancz gang. We had dinner at an Italian place called Piccolino’s. The author Roger Levy was there with his wife Tina. Roger is a very pleasant guy, quiet-spoken, but with a quick wit. Also with us was Dave Bradley, editor of SFX.

On Saturday morning I was up fairly early for a stroll around Chester to film its more interesting bits (I had come along to film our authors in conversation, and I thought I might need some links). Chester is completely charming. It has wonderful two-tiered shopping arcades with plenty of independent shops. Even the chains look more interesting, although once you get inside they reveal their usual indentikit selves. One highlight was an evangelist busker who played a five-string bass guitar while singing Amazing Grace at the top of his voice. He was joined by a man with a harmonica, another with an acoustic guitar and a woman in her seventies with a mandolin. They looked like the worst Led Zeppelin tribute band ever.

(Gollancz publicist) Jon Weir grew up in Chester and gave Gillian Redfearn, Sara Mulryan, myself and Marcus Gipps (lovely guy from Blackwells… looks like Paul McCartney circa Let It Be) the grand tour. We saw the ancient walls, the excavations at the amphitheatre and had lunch by the River Dee, which looks a lot like Putney and Richmond, but less crowded.

In the afternoon I filmed Richard Morgan in conversation with Ian McDonald, followed by Roger Levy and Jon Courtney Grimwood. All were great and very pleasant to work with. I like that they didn’t shamelessly plug their books, but instead discussed the issues that inspired their writing.

In the evening we had a Chinese meal at a restaurant called Raffles which had French airship murals on the walls, so we figured it hand’t been Chinese for very long. There was a heated debate between Richard Morgan, Jo Fletcher and Ian Drury on the historical accuracy of the film 300. I was way out of my depth and just listened, learning an awful lot about ancient Greece and Persia.

We followed the meal by attending the British Science Fiction Awards. It was a fairly ramshackle affair, with more in common with a village fete raffle than a glitzy awards ceremony, but that seems to be how the hardcore SF fans like it.

Today we ended the conference with a trip to Jodrell Bank. A very pleasant way to spend an hour or so. We took a 3D trip to Mars, then stood and stared at the mighty dish.

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From L-R: Me, Sara Mulryan, Jon Weir, Bragelonne’s Stephane Marsan, and Gillian Redfearn

I drove with Jon Weir back to London. We discovered a mutual love for John Williams’ movies scores and sang along with Muppets and Disney show tunes. In all the weekend was less a conference and more of a weekend break. Chester is a lovely place, though, and I’d love to go back one day.

Getting a poster signed is harder than you think.

Please note: this competition is now closed!

As part of Gollancz’s wonderful advent calendar giveaway for Christmas 2015, I am delighted to be able to offer a very special prize of a Robot Overlords quad poster signed by myself, director Jon Wright, and some of our lovely cast including Craig Garner (Mediator 452), James Tarpey (Nathan), Ella Hunt (Alex) and Gillian bleedin’ blinkin’ flippin’ Anderson!

Getting these signatures was no easy task. Jon, Ella and I attended the MCM Comic Con in Birmingham in March, and we signed a few for punters then, but they were all gone before I  could grab a spare.

And this was the first I had seen of the posters, which meant that when I was in the company of living legend Sir Ben Kingsley the previous week for his publicity stint, I didn’t have one for him to sign!

I did get manage to get some for EasterCon in April, and clung on to the three I had left over with a cunning plan to get as many of the Robot Overlords stars to sign them over the coming year of cons and festivals.

Next up was the London MCM in May, and this was when I hit Robo-star paydirt. We were interviewing some of the actors for DVD extras, and I was lucky enough to nab Craig and James in between shooting and they were gracious enough to sign my posters. Next up was Gillian Anderson, but her schedule was so incredibly tight that there was no guarantee she would have the time to sign. Indeed, the very second after she arrived, she was swept away for a series of interviews, such is the nature of these high-pressure press days: everything is timed to the minute, and I would have to choose my moment carefully if I was to crash in. Next she had a panel with Jon, where she received fan-love, chocolates, and a proposal from James…

And then after that she was swept away for an interview with James for the DVD. By now, her car had its engine running (she was about to fly off to make something called The X-Files… you may have heard of it), and my window of opportunity was rapidly closing.

Luckily, our publicist Marek came to the rescue and somehow found a gap of 76.5 seconds in the schedule. We threw the posters on the floor, threw a bunch of silver Sharpies at Gillian and while I held the posters flat she kneeled down and scribbled her autograph on them. There was even time for a fanboy pic…

I haven't washed since...
I haven’t washed since…
… and then she was gone!

I carefully rolled the posters into their tube… But I wanted more!!

My other targets were Ella, Callan McAuliffe (Sean) and Milo Parker (Connor). But they were all off making other movies: Callan’s made five films since Robots, Milo was away with Gandalf making Mr. Holmes, and Ella had a big costume drama lined-up… But then it got bumped to next year! Her delay was my good fortune, and she kindly popped into the Gollancz offices where we put the world to rights over tea and brownies, and she signed the posters.

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So there you have it, fair reader. If you are the lucky winner of this poster, please bear in mind all the times I had to lug a poster tube on the underground, all the miles and miles of Sharpie ink, and all the nerves and tension wondering if I would get those rare signatures. Frame it, prostate yourself before it every morning, give it a dust every now and then, and then flog it when you’re old and grey and I’ve won all those Oscars.

Click here to go to the Gollancz blog to enter (UK-only, I’m afraid, but I’m sure you overseas folk have friends in the UK who can enter on your behalf, and if they win they can pop it in the post after they’ve first gazed upon its awesomeness, yes?)

Good luck!

 

The GollanczFest is a go-go!

gollanczfest

Gollancz Fest 2015: 16th-17th October – Manchester and London, events tbc

Not sure what I’ll be doing yet, but there will be an awesome line-up of talent (and me!), so you’d have to be some sort of weird anti-geek to miss out…

Last year tickets were sold out in three weeks, so to get yours click here.

My EasterCon 2015 schedule

If you’re coming along to Dysprosium 2015 (EasterCon to the rest of us!), then here’s what I’ll be up to on the Saturday and the Sunday.

Saturday 4th April:

10-11am Build your awesome robot – Wright room

Described in the brochure thusly…

Build Your Awesome Robot: Child-friendly activity. Priority is given to children 17 and under. Children under 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Using cardboard boxes, egg boxes, toilet rolls, metal food trays, cereal boxes etc, plus some coloured card, tape, and glue, you can build your own ready-to-wear robot. Zandy has an incredible book that gives suggestions on things you can put on your robot. We’ll make sure to copy the relevant bits and people can draw their own signs on card. Zandy Hemsley, Mark Stay.

Yup, Zandy and me will be helping kids build their own robots. What could possibly go wrong?! Assuming that we haven’t all been enslaved by the children’s automations you can always come to…

12.30-1.30 Author reading (following Jaine Fenn) – Johnson room

This hardly seems fair: I have to follow the awesome Jaine Fenn! She’s a proper science fiction writer with a garret and everything! I’ll do my best and maybe read the bit from the novelisation with the exploding head.

Sunday:

10-11am Robot Overlords from script to screen – Bleriot room

This will be great fun. Myself and Paddy Eason (VFX supervisor on Robot Overlords) will take you on a journey from a page of script right through to a finished scene from the film. It’s also a great way to show just how an indie Brit sci-fi film gets made these days (with great difficulty, as it happens). This will be a multimedia tour de force with never-before-seen concept art and behind-the-scenes material.

11.15-12.15 Gollancz Room party

This will be where all the cool kids will be hanging out. So be there, or be a giant robot cube…

Robot Overlords Cube concept art by Paul Caitling
Robot Overlords Cube concept art by Paul Caitling

A Goodreads Robot Overlords book giveaway – ends 1st March

Those lovely people at Goodreads, in association with those equally lovely Geeks at Gollancz, are giving away – yes! Giving away! – ten copies of the Robot Overlords novelisation.

Ten copies! That’s (taps calculator)… lots of money I won’t ever see because of their insane generosity. It’s called “marketing” or something.

“But how do I stand a chance of winning?” you ask. Simple, just click here and then click on the ‘Enter to win’ button. Yes, it’s really that straightforward: two clicks… You’d be insane not to give it a try.

But hurry, it ends on the 1st of March!

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This thing of beauty for no pennies!

PS. Be sure to check the Ts&Cs, as this offer is only available in Great Britain.