30 July, 2015

Sales Figures, Royalties and Expectations

Expectation vs. Reality?
Last week I received my latest sales report for The Art of Letting Go from my publishers, Thistle Publishing. Sales figures and royalties are given several months after the fact, and so these were the figures from February to April this year. I was pretty excited about receiving this report as I knew it would include the figures from when my novel was on promotion on Amazon and was in the Bestseller lists on Kindle.

Until I receive the reports my only way of estimating the number of books I've sold is by using NovelRank - an independent website that uses Amazon ranking information to estimate the number of sales for any book you care to track. What I hadn't realised was that NovelRank is mostly accurate when you are selling a small number of books a week/month. At higher levels, the data can be pretty far off. So, where I thought I'd sold a few thousand books - and was darned happy with that - it turns out I actually sold closer to the 10 000 mark worldwide. I probably don't need to tell you that I'm even more happy with that! I can't believe nearly 10 000 people have paid money to read something I wrote. Not only that but I also received two more reviews - both 5* - which takes me up to 62 reviews of 5* out of 102 in total. A good day!

When I mentioned on Facebook that I had sold over 9000 copies of my book, I was interested to see one of the first comments was about how much money I must've made. I've found that people are uncommonly interested in  how much money writers make. I would never dream of asking a nurse, or plumber, or accountant... or anyone, really... how much they make from their job, yet people often ask me outright about my income from writing (this particular person didn't ask, to be fair - he was just being encouraging!). Maybe the myth of the rich writer is why one recent survey found 'author' to be the most desirable profession?

I remember one of the first blog posts I read from the successful author Martyn Beardsley made me laugh because he was describing how he'd blown his latest royalty cheque on a chocolate bar and a newspaper. This particular set of figures might afford me a little more than that, but I'm certainly more towards the confectionary end of the market than the private jet end. I suspect over 99% of authors receiving sales reports this week worldwide will be in the same boat. Most of us will probably never reach the threshold even into having to pay tax just from book royalties. I wonder what other expectations people have of writers that would take a hard knock from reality?

21 July, 2015

Adaptations Better than Books?

Whenever a book is adapted into a play/film/TV programme, there are always people who loved the book and hate the adaptation. It's rare that an adaptation receives even close to universal praise (the recent film of Gone Girl being an exception). It must however, be much less usual for somebody to love an adaptation and dislike the original book(s). This happened to me recently, has it happened to you?

I love listening to cosy crime on the radio. Poirot, Marple, Peter Wimsey... they are my friends. Even the Paul Temple stories which are terribly-written and badly-acted will do when I need something to listen to. I've particularly enjoyed Agatha Raisin stories in recent years, and so I thought I'd read one of the books by MC Beaton - Something Borrowed Someone Dead. It was dreadful.

In cosy crime I can deal with a ludicrous plot and I still enjoyed the bizarre character of Agatha Raisin herself, but the writing was truly bad. I was amazed and disappointed - MC Beaton is a best-selling author. The book mostly consisted of very short scenes each containing a single conversation, over half of which were pointless. The dialogue was unrealistic and often stilted, the prose repetitive and the storyline managed to be both drawn out (through the pointless scenes) and rushed (through the constant scene changes). It wasn't completely unenjoyable, just unbelievably badly-written.

If you look for reviews online, you will see I am in a minority. Something Borrowed Someone Dead averages over 4* on Amazon. However, I was interested to see from the 1* and 2* reviews that many people were disappointed for the same reasons I was AND that most of the unhappy reviewers were long-time readers of Agatha Raisin who thought this particular book was nothing like all the previous ones and nowhere near the standard they usually are. A couple of reviewers said they were afraid first-time Agatha readers would be put off. They were right. I shan't be reading MC Beaton again, but I will return to the radio version I'm sure.

What are the best and worst adaptations you've come across? Ever preferred an adaptation to the original books?

14 July, 2015

One Year - 100 Reviews

After several weeks of not receiving any new Amazon feedback for The Art of Letting Go, I have just been given my 99th and 100th reviews! They were 4* and 5* as well which is even better. It comes at a special time for my novel as next week it will be one year since publication.

I'm not sure what I imagined the first year of being a published author would be like. Not like this I don't suppose. After landing an agent, then struggling to get a traditional publishing deal and deciding instead to take a risk on a new type of deal, it has been an interesting year. I guess as a child I would've thought being published involved book signings and literary festivals and award ceremonies and, quite possibly, days spent writing in tiny clifftop cottages overlooking the sea. I don't suppose I would've expected to spend most of the first year changing nappies and singing nursery rhymes. Life is both more mundane and more fabulous than the dreams of a child!

After my book was published in July I sold a good few to people I knew and, gradually, to strangers as well. My minimum aim was 400 copies, which I might have crept to eventually. My true aim was 1000, which would've been harder. Then Amazon decided to promote my book in February and things took off. I sold many more copies than I was aiming for and even, briefly, made it to be the Bestseller in Women's Literary Fiction. The Art of Letting Go was also in the Top 10 most-read Kindle books in February.

Since then sales have gradually slowed down again, although I have also been promoted in Australia and India in the last three months. I know of four book groups who have read it together as well. As with everything, however, the reaction to the book is more important to me than the cold, hard numbers. So here are some cold, hard numbers illustrating the reaction!

Amazon Reviews
5* - 60 reviews
4* - 19 reviews
3* - 12 reviews
2* - 7 reviews
1* - 2 reviews

Average rating: 4.3 stars

I don't think this is too bad for my first year of my first novel. It's not a perfect piece of writing and it's certainly not a perfect piece of plotting! Reviewers have told me that it is "absurdly entertaining" and gripping, and that it's the most boring book they've ever read. It is both apparently slow to get started but gets better, AND starts well but tails off. The ending is both great and a "bit of a let down". People are both eager to read my next book and would never read something written by me again. Which means, of course, I am both delighted and disappointed, but not in equal measure. 60 five star reviews is OK I reckon (and some of them were better than I could've dreamed up myself!)

So, as I head into my second year, with my novel having sold much better than expected, I am looking forward to seeing where it takes me. I am currently trying very hard to finish the first draft of another novel before a second baby arrives and it's back to only nappies and nursery rhymes again for a few months at least. Whether the words THE END or the baby arrives first is still a close race!

Thank-you to everyone who has cheered me, encouraged me, bought and/or read my book and left reviews. If you've read The Art of Letting Go and haven't yet left a review on Amazon or Goodreads, please consider taking five minutes to do so.

10 July, 2015

Quotable Friday (46)

I've never read a PG Wodehouse book. I have however, listened to many of his adventures of Jeeves and Wooster on the radio and I love them. He's got such a sharp wit. I was reminded of this in Writing Magazine who published a small selection of quotations from his books.

Here's one of my favourites...

"She fitted into my biggest arm-chair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing arm-chairs tight about the hips that season."

06 July, 2015

Amazon Promotion - India

I'm glad to say that my novel, The Art of Letting Go, is now on promotion in India!

If you are in India, or for your own nefarious (or otherwise) purposes choose to shop on Amazon India, you can get hold of the Kindle version here for only 85 rupees - that's about £0.86 or US$1.34.

If you have friends or family in India who you think might be interested, please spread the word! You can read more about the book here.

01 July, 2015

Hemingway App

There was an article in last month's Writing Magazine about useful online tools for writers. I'm not much a one for this sort of thing, but one of the suggested sites intrigued me. Hemingway App is a website whcih aims to help you write simply - no more purple prose, excess adverbs or complicated sentences.

Ernest Hemingway was famous for the simplicity and sparse beauty of his writing. On this website you can paste (or type) your work-in-progress into the text box and receive an immediate analysis. The things highlighted include sentences that are hard to read, or very hard to read, phrases that have simpler alternatives, adverbs and use of the passive voice.

Obviously, you could never use this tool to make editorial decisions about your work. There are plenty of times when you want an adverb, a long sentence or to speak passively. Aside from being a bit of fun however, it is genuinely interesting to see your work analysed in this way. If I can put my pride aside I think I shall use it when I come to edit my next completed piece of work - not as a definitive rule book, but as a guide as to where I could tighten up my writing.

As an example, here is an analysis of the first draft of the first chapter of my novel-in-progress...

I'm not too ashamed of this. I will go and cut one or two of those adverbs however, and re-think my first paragraph - one hard and two very hard to read sentences is probably not an ideal hook! I'm pleased that I have no phrases which have simpler alternatives - this is one way I've tried to tighten my writing in the past.

I haven't looked into how the app works in terms of the analysis - for example, why 27 or fewer uses of the passive voice is the ideal number for this passage - but I expect I'll play around a bit more as time goes on. There are some interesting features as well, such as an estimated read-time for the passage (6:13 minutes for my chapter if you're interested). So why not have a poke round for yourself, or just spend one minute putting your latest blog post or short story into the website and see how you do? Go on - I dare you!