There’s no accounting for tastes…

I have to admit I’ve not done any sort of promotional activity for my work since before the madness of Christmas set in. I figured there were plenty more ‘popular’ writers than me who would be hogging the limelight.  I have long realised that I don’t have what it takes to ‘cut it’ in the hard nosed world of marketing and selling and promoting work (especially my own) I am much happier as a teacher,facilitator or innovator. So I just got on with my work – writing, editing and reviewing.  In splendid isolation in my rural ‘idyll.’

And so far this year my promotional activities thus far have been in trying to get folks to take notice of Mark Frankland’s great wee novella Brief Encounter. And trying to show Mark the how’s and why’s of getting yourself visible on Amazon. I have been helping him navigate the shark infested waters of how to give your work away for free and get SOMETHING back in return and I’m happy to say that as of this morning he’s #1 in America on Kindle’s free POLITICAL bestsellers list and #2 in UK.  I’m confident that before he resumes pricing the work at a ridiculous 77p he’ll have hit #1 on both sides of the Atlantic. That’s some small comfort for giving your work away for free. Mark is a sanguine fellow. He writes because he has something important to say (which is one of the reasons I love his work) and his passion has real consequences from time to time. He’s not a man to blow his own trumpet so I’ll tell you what he recently told me (abbreviated) in an email.  He has written several short novels which are to do with drugs A Christmas Carroll and The Roads to Down  are the ones I’m talking about here. Anyway, he says that occasionally he gets stopped in the local supermarket by people who tell him that they were going down ‘the wrong track’ and on finding themselves locked in the local cells waiting trial, the police chucked them a copy of one of his books, and with nothing else to do, they read them and it changed their lives. Now THAT’S the power of fiction. And I have to say my respect for the local bobbies has gone up immensely.  But that’s the kind of man Mark is. He’ll have probably suggested it to the police, given them free copies and hoped against hope that he will ‘reach’ some people.

When I first met Mark he was struggling to maintain a cafe ‘The Artists Cafe’  You’d have thought with such an appealling name it would be a go-er right? But no. What did he do? He used the premises to set up a charity FirstBase which is still going 10 years down the line. There’s more need for food parcels and help and a listening ear than there is for a nice place for nice people to sit and chat culture it seems.  I could talk about Mark for ages (I can see him blushing!) because he is an inspiration. He’s bluff, he smokes FAR too much and he has an unhealthy obsession with Liverpool FC BUT he is one of the REALLY GOOD GUYS and I’ve been more than happy to try and help him with his first foray into ebooks. He’s now got all this back catalogue (I think it runs to 19) up as ebooks and I hope they sell. People should read his stories. And when he blogs about Liverpool FC people read his blog! 

Back in the day, I helped Mark fill out an application for writer support from SAC (note Marks still here and they aren’t!) and I may have termed him ‘a modern Dickens’ because that’s what I think he is. He writes fast and he writes with passion. There is the odd editing glitch and typo (get over it folks) but the stories are what it’s all about and they grip you firmly from beginning to end.

Mark’s work THE CULL was the one I first read, followed swiftly by ONE MAN’S MEAT.  Living in Dumfries and Galloway it was hard not to be touched by the Foot and Mouth crisis. I wrote MEN IN WHITE SUITS  around that time. It was given a staged reading in Lockerbie Town Hall to mark the 1st anniversary of the ‘crisis’ and it was given a rehearsed reading at The Traverse later in 2002.  The urban response was interestingly different to that of the rural one. First of all the notion of the urban ‘rude mechanicals’ was not appreciated and the director wanted it left out.  It kind of tied one arm behind the back of the play and though the review I’ve had for the ebook suggests that the ‘urban’ intervention in the play is a weakness, I can tell you, without it the play loses something  vital – particularly for rural folk.  Where I feel this has a connection with Mark Frankland is that it’s a play which seeks to convey something important – an important event and something important about relationships of the rural working class.

At its heart its a love story.  Of what you do when you can’t do anything but watch your love as it is beaten to death in front of your eyes.  I’ve recently published it as an ebook (to the usual rapturous silence.)  I think Julia Jones may be the only person who has read it thus far!!!  ( on the up side, she liked it and was kind enough to review it. She is ANOTHER of the GOOD PEOPLE in my book. ) Of course I’d recommend it, I wrote it. I think it has something valuable to say and explores important ground. And I think it’s a moving, good read. But what do I know?  The resounding silence at its publication  leads  me to conclude that I have NO IDEA what people want to read. Or how to find people who might like my writing. Life’s too short to ‘friend’ them one by one!

I looked at my ‘sales’ for Amazon for 2013.  Yesterday it was GRIM reading.  You’d think there was nothing worse than selling NO ebooks worldwide for 10 days but YES there is.  I had ONE copy of Brand Loyalty RETURNED.  I have no idea why.  I think that there’s enough information with blurbs and links and reviews and the free sample to let people know what they are potentially buying and so of course it makes me upset to think that someone has wanted to return it.  It’s about the fourth return I’ve had lately (it seems to be a spate) and my paranoia makes me wonder if there are just millions of incompetent clickers out there or if there’s more people realising you can download for free, read for a week and then ‘RETURN’ the goods.  Yes, you CAN do that people. You need never pay for an ebook, just read and return. But DON’T. Please DON’T.   You wouldn’t take a physical book back to a shop would you? Because you don’t like the ending?  For me, I get maybe £1 for each copy downloaded so it’s not about the money, it’s about the whole morality of the thing. What kind of person is so cheap that they return an ebook once they’ve read it or part read it?  Don’t flipping download it in the first place would be my advice.

However, today, maybe things looked up. I checked the sales figures again (why?) and someone has downloaded a copy of FIVE FAIR PLAY DRAMAS.  I nearly took that off sale last week because I’m heavily into rewriting them as fiction for the next Fair Trade Fortnight coming up in February.  I relented at the last minute thinking that it might as well be out there gathering dust as not. But someone, for some reason, has bought it. I hope they don’t return it within the week!

I carry on, because what else can I do? I’m a writer. I write. It’s what I do. Okay I’m not a popular writer (I’m not that popular as a person come to think of it) but I do my best and I have a lot of work out there which I’m sure SOME PEOPLE might like. If only I can find them.  But the cloak of invisibility is my regular garb.   We’ll see whether THIS post has any impact on the world, or if it’s true that mostly we are blogging as a sort of reflective journal exercise.

When I first published my first novel THE THREADS OF TIME in 2003 I realised something important. I didn’t just want to SELL it, I wanted people to read and enjoy it.  At my book launch I felt like I was selling puppies. I wanted to ‘vet’ potential readers. I’m afraid 10 years on I still feel the same. I don’t want people to download and not read my books. I certianly don’t want them to download and then RETURN them (or at least if they do, please could they tell me WHY they did that!) I don’t expect everyone to like what I write but I do try and give enough of a flavour of what it’s about so that people can make a judgement before purchase. I want happy readers.  I want my ebooks (or books) to go to good and loving homes. The amount of ebooks I sell means that I can more or less work out the names, addresses and inside leg measurements of my ‘customers.’  I certainly don’t sell only to friends and family. They don’t buy either!  So here, from the land where no one buys, I leave you with the thought – when you finish filling your boots with any old rubbish JUST BECAUSE ITS FREE or you download something thinking ‘I can return it if I don’t like it’ think again.   For those  of us who take the responsibility to publish independently, without the buffer of a mainstream publisher, we are all too painfully aware of the success or otherwise of our work and each sale is something we relish. Each return sends us into a depression. And no one buying books… well… how would you feel if everyone ignored you all the time because they wanted to play with the POPULAR kids?

(The tone of this post is pathos/humour for those who find tone hard to read. The subtext is: the writer/reader relationship in the e-revolution is a new one and there are responsibilities on both sides. The moral of the story is: if you love someone – tell them. If you know a writer why not read their work. you might even enjoy it! And give feedback! Even bad feedback is better than a deafening silence.  Tell them you love them before it’s too late eh? There are always more calls on your time, but life is about PRIORITIES folks and I believe it’s important to give credit where it’s due. That’s why I’ve said my piece (again) about Mark Frankland. I’m only glad that we live 300 miles apart now so that he can’t come round and tell me off for embarrassing him!

In conclusion. I have a lot of ebooks out there, easily downloadable and pretty cheap.  If you read one and like it (or even if you don’t) why don’t you TELL me.  Write a quick comment or email me and let me know you are out there and reading. It’s a symbiotic relationship folks.  I want to engage with you, but you have to meet me half way!  Writers are real people too!

Oh and I nearly forgot to say. The links are for Amazon BUT all my work is available as ebpub from Kobo too.  I have 11 titles there and I’ve sold ONE (and that was for my alter ego Jack MacRoary) in the past six months.  So even though Amazon sales may be poor, I’d say they’re more popular than Kobo, right? Which is a shame because Kobo Touch is such a good ereader!  However, maybe Kobo is my natural home. They seem to be incapable of reaching readers too!


About callyphillips

3 Responses to There’s no accounting for tastes…

  1. A timely post, Cally, since I’ve only just finished your “Another World is Possible”. It’s a beautifully written, intriguing story, which has left me with an appetite to read the next parts of the trilogy. A review to follow. So there, you’ve been told!

    • Thanks Brendan. If I could just connect you directly into my brain you could have the other 3 parts… getting them out onto the page is quite another matter! But it will happen ONE day.

  2. Julia Jones says:

    YES I do like MIWS and BH. Have tweeted to say so

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