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…

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

The End of Magic – week 2

Another week passes and I’m currently at 35% funded with 73 wonderful backers. A big welcome to everyone who’s joined the adventure in the last week. Your pledges mean the world to me.

I’m also amazed to see that the ‘Be in the book’ pledges have sold out! Thank you Craig, Phill and Andy… I look forward to giving you all glorious deaths on paper very soon.

I’m currently hitting my target of 1% per day, and if we keep this up then we should be fully funded on 4th May, so if you’ve already pledged please continue to spread the word and let any fantasy fiction fans you know that the book is coming. Word of mouth is the best way to help make this happen. Here’s the link: https://unbound.com/books/end-of-magic/

We discuss The End of Magic and how Unbound work in this week’s episode of The Bestseller Experiment podcast. Have a listen here… http://bestsellerexperiment.com/unbound-and-the-end-of-magic/

 

 

The End of Magic – week 1 update

My new book The End of Magic is coming soon from Unbound! It’s a fantasy adventure mash-up of the kind of high fantasy I read in my youth, with a bloody dash of the grimdark I enjoy now. Yes, I’ve invented a new genre called GrimFun* – you’re welcome!

Here’s a short video of me looking all windswept and David Starkey…

 

 

Why Unbound? One big reason was the opportunity to work with Simon Spanton. Simon is an editor of excellent taste who has worked with the likes of Richard Morgan (Altered Carbon), Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself) and Scott Lynch (The Lies of Locke Lamora). I couldn’t pass this up!

And Unbound use a crowdfunding model, which means I have to raise about four grand in 90 days! It also means that every book they publish is profitable, and there are few publishers that can boast that these days. And after the Bestseller Experiment it seemed apt that I should jump feet first into a new way of publishing.

To entice you good people to pledge for a copy of the book, there are all sorts of rewards on offer. You could get your name in the back of the book (or the front, for a few quid more!), you could even have a character named after you (but be quick – two of those have gone already!). If you’re a writer, I could give you constructive feedback on your novel or screenplay, or I could give a talk on the Hero’s Journey to your writers’ group or school, and there’s a completely mental option where we go for a pub lunch in Herne Bay. Only two available. One has gone already…

I know that times are hard and money is tight, so if this is a little rich for your pocket then all I ask is a little signal boost: please tell all your fantasy fiction fans that this book is coming, because I think they’ll love it. Please send them here: https://unbound.com/books/end-of-magic/

After a week of fundraising, I’m just over a quarter of the way there, which is great, but other Unbounders tell me that this is the easy bit. Once your friends and family have all chipped in the real work begins… Wish me luck and come and join me on this adventure!

 

 

PS. If you like the music in the video, it was composed and performed by my friend Dominic Currie. Check out his Soundcloud page here. He’s something of a genius.

 

*I actually think Jen Williams got there before me, but she prefers the term GleeDark, which is just as cool.

My plans for 2018, and your favourite episode of the Bestseller Experiment revealed…

Okay, maybe the answer to the latter is obvious as it’s the one episode that we go on about more than any other, but I think you’ll enjoy the countdown of our top five as it contains some of my favourite moments. Have a listen here.

And there’s a little mini episode introduced by our editor Dave (who has a great trailer voice!), where you can hear clips from the Deep Dive extras for Patreon supporters. Me and Mr. D talk about New Year’s Resolutions, which I don’t really do, but last year I did make a list in my diary of the things I wanted to achieve with my writing in 2017. They were…

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BOOM! Managed to get a tick on all of those… There might be something in this list making stuff after all…? The smudge is a top secret film project that I’m working on with Jon Wright, and there’s definitely been some action on that front, though the problem with film and TV is that so much of it is out of your hands (especially if you’re the writer) that you can make all the lists you want, it ultimately comes down to all sorts of ducks and stars aligning, so I find it’s less stressful to just go with the flow.

So what do I want from 2018? Here’s the current wish list…

  • Get my fantasy novel The End Of Magic published (more on that soon!)
  • Self-publish at least one of my Woodville novellas
  • Get some TV assignment work
  • Get one my spec scripts optioned/off the ground

How hard can it be?

What are your writing plans for 2018? Whatever they are, I’d love to hear about them. Sharing the pain is half the fun of being a writer. Until next time, keep writing!

 

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If you liked that episode and want some more, we’ve started having post-podcast deep dive discussions for our Patreon supporters. You can support us and get the extra content here.

And if you’re looking for something new to read in 2018, then grab a copy of our novel Back to Reality on Kindle now!

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Your favourite episodes of The Bestseller Experiment (part one)

In an act of seasonal optimism/hubris (delete as applicable) we released a new episode of the podcast on Christmas Day this week. It’s the first of a two-parter in which we reveal the top ten favourite episodes as voted for by our listeners… and in typical Bestseller Experiment style, our top ten is actually a top twelve. Oh well… Have a listen here and let me know if the episode you voted for is here…

 

In this episode you will discover…

  • The most important lessons we’ve learned from our guests
  • Which author we were most nervous about interviewing
  •  How Donald Trump was key to our success
  •  The names of those on Santa’s “Nice” list

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW

If you liked that and want some more, we’ve started having post-podcast deep dive discussions for our Patreon supporters. You can support us and get the extra content here.

And if you’re looking for something to read over the Christmas holiday, then grab a copy of our novel Back to Reality on Kindle now!

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The Bestseller Experiment launches today!

A simple proposition: write, edit, publish and market a self-published eBook and get it up the Kindle charts… in a year. Fifty-two weeks. Yeah, a doddle…

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Oh, and while you’re trying to achieve this, and on top of all the other crap you have going on in your life, you’ll also be helping run a weekly podcast where you interview folk from the industry and maybe a few authors? Maybe even a few bestselling, mega-million-household-name-type authors?

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And yet, here we are… Luckily, my cohort in this exercise in insanity is the super-driven entrepreneur and life coach Mark Desvaux who could convince the most devout nun to abandon her vows and take up pole dancing (don’t worry, he only uses his powers for good, not evil).

Mark is also that wannabe writer who’s started writing a novel a few times, but has never finished one. He still has that joyous naivety that all it takes is a bit of application and before you know it you’ve written Harry Potter And The Cash Cow Of Azkaban.

I, on the other hand, am a cynical sod who’s worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty years and have seen more disasters than Donald Trump’s press office. There’s no way you can cynically take a dash of Dan Brown, add a smidgen of James Patterson, sprinkle it with EL James’s chutzpah and wait for the royalty cheques to come rolling in.

However, that’s not entirely our plan. While our book may end up the literary equivalent of the Hindenberg, we are totally convinced that there are writers out there who can beat us to it. Writers who might have a half-finished book in their bottom drawer, writers who just need a little guidance from the experts (that’s not us, let me make that absolutely clear!), and could get their work published and read by the masses.

So, if you think that’s you, or a buddy of yours, or you just like listening to fantastic interviews with the likes of Joanne Harris, Joe Abercrombie, Maria Semple, Michelle Paver, Scott Lynch, John Connolly, Michael Connelly and many more (yeah, we got some of those million-sellers recorded already, baby!), then join us. It might end in utter disaster, but it will be fun.

We launch today with three episodes, so you can really get your teeth into it, and they’re all fab. You can find the podcast on iTunes: http://bestsellerexperiment.com/itunes

Please subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes, and, if you like us, please, please, please leave a review and a rating on iTunes. I had no idea how important this stuff is to keeping your podcast alive. Apple use these as their major metric when it comes to making the podcast visible and easy to find! Without them, we wither and die… and I want this to fail because I was right, not because of some sodding metric!

If you’re not on iTunes, you can listen and download from our website: http://bestsellerexperiment.com/podcasts/

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, oh, and if you sign up to our newsletter you get a free eBook, The Writers’ Vault of Gold

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This really is aces. Updated every week it’s the highlights of our interviews, and by the time we’re done there will be about 80,000 words of advice from some of the best authors on the planet… For free! You’d be crazy not to.

Still not convinced? Then check out our trailer for a quick peek…

Like I said, this is going to be fun.

Oh, and to the chap who left a comment on our Facebook page bemoaning the whole exercise and declaring that Graham Greene would never have stooped to this… it’s called the Bestseller Experiment, not the Timeless Literary Classic Experiment.

That’s next year…

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GollanczFest 2015 – behold the awesome line-up (and, er, me!)…

GollanczFest 2015: 16th-18th October – Manchester and London

 

**STOP PRESS: LONDON AND MANCHESTER HAVE SOLD OUT, BUT THERE ARE STILL TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR THE WRITERS’ DAY ON SUNDAY 18TH**

This is going to be awesome, with an amazing line-up of authors including Joe Hill, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, Joanne Harris, Ben Aaronovitch and Sarah Pinborough, spread over four days starting Manchester and ending in London.

Day one: Friday 17th October, Waterstones Manchester Deansgate

I’m in the CLASS OF 2015 bit with Aliette De Bodard, Alex Lamb, Al Robertson and Tom Toner and it should be great fun…

Manchester - Room 1
Manchester – Room 1 (click to enlarge)

Manchester Room 2
Manchester Room 2 (Click to enlarge)

Day Two: Saturday 18th October, Waterstones Piccadilly.

This has officially sold out, but if you’re a lucky ticket holder, then I’ll be in the Class of 2015 bit again, with a slightly different, but no less awesome, line-up:  Antonia Honeywell, Alex Lamb, Al RobertsonTom Toner and Catriona Ward

London Room 1 (click to enlarge)
London Room 1 (click to enlarge)

London room 2 (click to enlarge)
London Room 2 (click to enlarge)

Day Three: Sunday 18th October, Waterstones Piccadilly – Writers’ day

This has just been added so grab your tickets now! If you’re a writer, this day is gold dust. If I weren’t already going, I’d be first in line for tickets. Top writers and agents (and, er me!) talking about their craft. Unmissable…

What a line up! (Click to enlarge)
What a line up! (Click to enlarge)

Friday and Sunday, Prince Charles Cinema screenings of Minority Report and The Prestige.

And after all that, why not kick back enjoy a couple of classic movies with introductions from Pat Cadigan and Joe Hill?

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Really hope to see you there. It’s going to be a blast.

 

Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country is bloody… (spoiler free review)

I remember getting an email from my colleague Simon Spanton some years ago. It was a simple message, ‘You’ll like this.’ Attached to the email was a file with the first few chapters of a book he wanted to buy for Gollancz called The Blade Itself. I opened the attachment and started to read.

He wasn’t wrong; the combination of black humour, violence and dental torture appealed to me very much. I wanted to read more and I’m happy to say that when we published The Blade Itself it was something of a hit (that was a golden summer for Gollancz debuts, also published were The Lies of Locke Lamora and Stormcaller – all belters).

I’m also happy to say that I’ve got to know Joe Abercrombie a bit over the years and should declare that before ploughing into this review of this latest THE RED COUNTRY. I’ll also do my best to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but if you’d rather go in cold, then come back when you’ve read the book.

When Joe announced that his next book would be a Western, but still set in the same world as his previous books, I was excited and slightly worried. The Western genre is incredibly tricky to pull off, especially in literature. Even in the movies, you could count the really good Westerns of the last 20 years on one hand (Unforgiven, Assassination of Jesse James… and… er… that might be it).

But what Joe understands is that Westerns aren’t about Sheriffs, or shootouts, or John bloody Wayne, they’re about the frontier. The farthest reaches of civilisation where lawlessness is the norm, where the regular rules don’t apply and death is ever-present. And what he’s done is take some of his most interesting and complex characters, drop them at the very edge of his world, and let the chaos unfold.

There are some new characters; Shy is a woman with an outlaw past trying to reform her life on a farm. She’s one part Calamity Jane (the Deadwood version) and one part Marion Ravenwood (the Raiders version).

Temple is a classic Abercrombie coward; he wants to be a good man, he promises that next time he’ll make a stand, but every time he caves in and takes the easy option.

Lamb is Shy’s stepfather – described as ‘some kind of coward’, he too steps away from any kind of confrontation, and would rather be alone working in the fields than raise his fists.

And there are some old favourites, not least Nicomo Cosca, here playing a combination of Richard Harris in Unforgiven and General Custer. He even has his own biographer, scribbling his every utterance for posterity.

Oh, and of you watch the book’s teaser trailer you might just see something significant…

Did you see it? The fingers? Count ’em… Nine!

Shy’s little brother and sister are stolen and she and Lamb follow their trail to get them back. And as they’re led further and further west, you realise that this will be no breakneck chase. This story unfolds like The Searchers and their quest will continue through blistering desert heat, driving rain and deep snow. They will encounter so much bloody violence that Joe gives Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian a run for its money for gallons of claret spilt. And, as always with Joe’s books, villains reveal themselves to complex individuals, the heroes of their own stories, and our heroes will make choices that are questionable at best.

Joe has clearly been watching a lot of Deadwood, a lot of classic Spaghetti Westerns, a lot of Eastwood, and he’s been reading a lot of Elmore Leonard’s Western stories. This could have been a mess and, if you read Joe’s blog, you’ll know that this has been hard work for him. But it’s a terrific read, a picaresque journey through a dying wasteland and a world about to change. The action is intense, but you never get lost in the mayhem, the story is complex, but it’s a joy to read, and the ending will leave you wanting more.

Saddle-up and enjoy the ride.