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Wittering writer writes a blog post

Hello, good morning and welcome–oh, somebody else has already used that catchphrase, haven’t they? Let’s see now…

Once upon a time there was a writer who really, really meant to write a blog post every single week and he was doing quite well until one day the evil keyboard genie came and stole his keyboard…..

Fortunately not, and what’s actually been happening is I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I’m attempting to publish a novella every six weeks–originally it was every month but the day job keeps getting in the way. That and coming up with ideas for book covers, has made the original intention a little too ambitious, so six weeks it is. I reckon a novella is around 30K words, so perhaps more of a long short story then? Hey, what’s in a name–we limit ourselves by labelling ourselves, and if that isn’t a bit of pop psychology then I don’t know what is.

I have two new, rather unlikely heroes, Barnikel and Fearnaught–Occult detectives, and their first adventure, Afterdeath,  was published in mid-June. I’m now roughly a quarter of the way through their next case, Jogger in Black, and hopefully that will be coming out mid-July–hang on a minute, Enid, that’s back to the original schedule. Ambition is a wonderful thing, as is touch typing. The trick, of course, is to touch the right keys in the right order, but that’s another story. I think that they will have a run of about four adventures and then there will be a surprise ending to the series. I haven’t done an Agatha Christie and written their last case yet, but I do know what the last scene will be. By the end of the year, you’ll know as well, but it will surprise you, if I’ve done my job properly.

So, why this sudden burst of activity? Why not take longer and write a ‘standard length’ novel of around 90K words? In a word, experimentation. As always with self-publishing–and traditional publishing come to that–the trick is to let people know that your book is out there. The question is, how to pull-off the trick. The answer, the real answer, is that nobody really knows, but there are plenty of opinions, so a self-publisher has to make a choice. Personally, I have never felt that bombarding innocent bystanders with ‘buy my book’ tweets is very productive–it certainly turns me off when I get them–and I feel that the ‘like my fb page and I’ll like yours’ brigade are onto a loser as well. Maybe expanding your blog readership into the thousands works–having a huge mailing list and offering free goodies if people sign up to your newsletter might make the advertisers think that it would be worth their while paying you to advertise on your site–but exactly how do you go about achieving that? As always, there are people out there who will guide you, step-by-step, through the process and it will only cost you X currency units. To be fair, there are people who publish free advice, and in some cases it is quite good advice–but I can’t help thinking that a wind of change is starting to waft through the cyber world. Oh, before I forget, don’t you forget to sigh up for email notification of when I publish a new post here.

In the self-publishing world, there is a perception in some quarters that becoming an overnight success is easy, and it takes, well it takes a night. I published the damn book seven hours ago and sales haven’t hit the one thousand mark yet. What is going on??? Well, what’s going on is that readers have a vast choice of rubbish and some decently written books. They are returning to what readers always were–a discerning bunch. Discerning doesn’t mean they want literary masterpieces, it simply means they know what they like, and they like it well written. We’re back to how to let them know that your well-written offering is out there. As I recently wrote on a writers forum–hey, that almost rhythms–the ‘get rich quick’ crowd are starting to get bored with not getting rich quick. The keyword is ‘starting’, but I think that over the next twelve months we may start (keyword) to see a possible fall-off in the number of self-published books. Another thing that has happened is down to Amazon, and I don’t blame them for it. If you don’t already know, you can sign up for something called Amazon Prime. Amongst other benefits, is the ability to ‘borrow’ Kindle books for free–free, if you disregard the annual fee. So far so good for the avid reader–and for the quick writer. You see, if you publish a short story a week, and charge 0.99 cents or pence for it, but also put it in something called KDP select, then every time a reader borrowed your book  you could get up to $1.40, or more some months. Better than selling a copy, eh? The problem that Amazon encountered was that they stopped making so much money. The payout fund for authors, I’d guess, was supplied in part by the Prime membership fee. When payouts become more than pay-ins, then something has to give. Amazon is cutting the payout. The size of payout will now depend on the length of the work borrowed AND how many pages are actually read. There is much muttering about this in the writing world and whilst I can see why, I think it might result in a better overall standard of writing. I should add that as far as I am aware there is nothing to stop an author publishing a short story a week, but the payout per borrow might well be around 25c per borrow as opposed to $1.40. These are not my figures, they are averages from the many comments I’ve read. Some people have gone into this with a fine tooth comb, and claim that authors are now leaving KDP select in droves. I gather that some have been making good money at this, but it was an unsustainable business model for Amazon. If people are  now going to have to fork-out actual money for something, then the something had better be of a reasonable standard and not just titillating, or it won’t sell.

So, the above started me thinking. My decision to publish shorter books more frequently had nothing to do with KDP select and the library–only a few of my books have been borrowed–but everything to do with trying to raise my profile. Although I have three books published by a small, non-traditional publisher in the States, they do not have a marketing budget nor do they have an ‘in’ with books store chains (those remaining). In short, they are nice people but they don’t really do anything that I can’t do myself. Granted, they edit the books and provide the covers with me paying no upfront fee, but I get a lower royalty rate than when publishing with Amazon. We share the risk, but most of the marketing is down to me. I have the Tim Turpin illustrated children’s book coming out with another publisher sometime this year and seemingly they do a bit more marketing, but again there will only be a relatively small budget, so marketing will be down to me–and John the illustrator. My approach will no doubt be labelled ‘publish a lot and hope’, and thus derided by some. I would say that I’m going to get a body of work out there in different genres–Karno is not everybody’s cup of tea, and the same will be true of Barnikel and Fearnaught–and then take time out from writing to tackle the marketing aspect. I’m old-fashioned–OK, I’m old–I actually believe that you need to have something to sell before you start trying to sell it. How quaint!

A new platform for my books is going to be iBooks. My shiny new iMac has a built-in iBook producer, and with all my self-published books now scheduled to come out of KDP select–at first sight that makes me one of the herd but part of the ‘select deal’ was you could not put the books on another platform– I will start to make them available on iBooks. This raises the interesting possibility of easily adding a soundtrack, or a video intro (I’m ready now, Mr DeMille), or adding a video ‘scene-setter’. It was a dark and stormy night–cue video insert of a dark and stormy night–you know what? this could be fun!– We’ll see. In the meantime, the second Karno book to come out of KDP select happens to be the first full-length Karno book, Kittie Cracks Case, and that happens early next month. The first one out of KDP select is the collection of short stories, Karno’s Casebook Volume one, at the end of this month. I wasn’t certain whether to put that on iBooks first, but then decided I was to tied-up with the current novella. Hopefully by the end of July, both will be available, and possibly the second full-length book, Polly Picked the Pistol Up. It would be a good opportunity to review the covers–busy Pauline?–before putting them on iBooks, so the whole project might slip a bit, due to the evil keyboard-stealing genie, of course.

Anyway, who wants to get rich quick?

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