I discovered the other day that some people think I have one or two books out on Kindle, when I actually have four. (Maybe three-and-a-half, one’s a novella.) Such were my poor marketing efforts. I read yesterday that Pippa Middleton has been knocked back by Penguin for a second book deal, and one of the main reasons for this was that Pippa refused to do any promotion. Penguin believed that her first book could have been huge, despite it being rubbish, if Pippa had only moved her arse and … moved her arse and … Sorry, what was I saying?
Right, marketing. I don’t want be like Pippa Middleton, a victim of my own non-promotion, so I’ve put together this graphic to help people choose between my books. It’s arranged across two dimensions, weirdness and offensiveness, which I’ve been told are the two defining characteristics of my books.
It would probably be more accurate to say The Spanner is out of the works, or at least out of my head. My little novella, The Spanner, is now sitting quietly in the Kindle store, not disturbing anyone or creating a fuss.
I wish it would create some kind of fuss. Even a small fuss.
It’s not an easy story to summarise, but I’m inclined to call it an absurd comedy. It started to form in my head one day when I was on a conference call with the IT manager for a project I was working on, and I found myself in an argument I couldn’t quite believe was taking place. This guy, who forms the basis for the title character, Stan Ramble (so that’s how I’ll refer to him from here on), was insisting that “completed” meant something very different to “done”. I of course decided to represent sanity in the matter and argued that in the context of the discussion they were exactly the same thing. One just had fewer letters.
Stan wouldn’t have it.
This is just one example, one very small example, of the nonsense which came out of this guy’s mouth. The term “stranger than fiction” had never been so apt. I thought I could never write a book about this guy, it would be too far a stretch; but then I thought about it some more, and my colleague in pain (call him S) pushed me to get it all written up. So I started writing about Stan Ramble, just for a bit of fun, and I ended up dropping two other projects to get it finished.
It is finished now, and I like it. I started out hating the guy, but now I’m quite fond of him. I doubt he bears much resemblance to the real-life Ramble who started it (I hope not, for his sake), but I still can’t help feeling a gentle affection for the man who’d probably stab me in the eye with a pen if he knew what I’d done.
This is how I imagine my book launch would play out if I lived in North Korea:
ME: Is he watching? MY WIFE: Is who watching? ME: Glorious Leader. Is he looking away? MY WIFE: Well … he appears to be looking the other way, but Glorious Leader sees and knows all, so I guess you’re screwed on that. ME: Shit. Okay, okay, let me think. Okay, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to press the button. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? MY WIFE: You could be executed for dissidence, I suppose. ME: Oh, thanks for the support. MY WIFE: You asked for the worst. Hey, maybe they’ll just imprison you for life. ME: Okay, I’m going to say something now which might shock you. I don’t believe Glorious Leader is omniscient. MY WIFE: (gasps) ME: I mean it, I don’t think he knows everything. Yesterday I kicked my toe on the dining table — MY WIFE: You mean the wooden crate? ME: Yes, the dining crate. So I kicked my toe and I said, Glorious fucking Leader. MY WIFE: (gasps) ME: I know, right? So I said that, and here I am, still walking around, free. MY WIFE: Perhaps Glorious Leader is also merciful. ME: No, he’s a cock. MY WIFE: (nods) ME: There, I’ve done it. I pressed the button. MY WIFE: Well done dear. And what has that done? ME: It has published my novel as an e-book on Amazon, that’s what! MY WIFE: What’s Amazon? ME: You know, the global online retailer? Biggest bookseller in the world? MY WIFE: Biggest bookseller in the world except in North Korea, where only Glorious Leader has true access to the internet? You mean that Amazon? Honestly, I have no idea where your book has gone. ME: So what, now it’s lost, floating around somewhere in our disconnected national intranet? MY WIFE: Unless the Secret Police set up a fake Amazon site to trap stupid dissidents. ME: Oh, you are just a bottomless well of support, aren’t you? You’re a pillar of strength, supporting me in my darkest hour. MY WIFE: Don’t mix your metaphors dear. Look, maybe Glorious Leader is secretly interested in the creative output of the collective. Maybe he wants to read your novel. ME: Nah, he’d never read my book. MY WIFE: Now who’s being negative? Why wouldn’t he? ME: It has vampires in it. Glorious Leader hates vampires.
That’s roughly how it went down, with two key differences: there are no vampires in my new novel, and my wife wasn’t even in the country when I hit the button. Upload book … press “publish” … now, shhhh.
It’s hard work, and generally fruitless, and it agitates every humble nerve in my body. Also, it’s massively distracting.
After a month of trying to push Punchline, I have reached the following conclusions:
1. Giving away free copies is a double-edged sword, and a sharp one at that – readers might take up the free copy offer who wouldn’t normally go within ten feet of your book. 2. Punchline is a Marmite book. I’ve always suspected as much, and evidence observed so far seems to support that theory: two reviews from Goodreads readers, a five-star rating and a one-star rating. The difference between not rating a book at all and giving it one star is equal to the difference between “didn’t like it” and “hated it”. 3. I have no idea where the market for Punchline hangs out, or if one exists. I am my ideal buyer, but I don’t like to hang around in crowds. 4. People on the Amazon US boards are considerably more hostile than those on the UK boards; but also more entertaining. 5. If I spend too much time fucking about with this at work, I will probably lose my job.
What I need to do, I think, is chill out for a bit on the promotional side and get back to some writing.
So I advertised a free offer, where anyone wanting a free copy of Punchline just sent an email with “Punchline” in the subject header. So far I’ve given away twenty or so copies. I hadn’t reckoned on the spam filter though. I am getting really, really tired of checking my junk box.
Here’s my solution:
I’m just going to post the link and the coupon code. Here it is:
That coupon only runs to September 20th, so I’ll need to update this with a new one after that.
I’m thinking about offering an incentive of some kind for folks to (a) pick up a free copy and (b) review it. Here’s the plan: Buzzword Bingo! You know the game, you sit in a meeting and have your bingo card of popular meeting phrases, and someone always wins. Well, this would be like that, but for book reviews, except I create the bingo card, and whichever review gets first bingo they get a hundred dollar or fifty pound Amazon voucher. (Am I being a little hard on the value of the dollar there? Maybe.) I figure I’d need to line up a few ducks for that to happen:
1. Fora in which to advertise it
2. Possibly the OK from Amazon … do I need a license to hold a contest?
3. A neutral party to “hold” the bingo card, for verification
It might seem desperate, but I’m simply trying to employ my never-used marketing major. The problem as I see it is that one feels less compelled to read a book if it was free. I myself have a few ARC’s sitting in a storage container somewhere in the arse-end of London, their spines pristine. With my buzzword bingo plan, I figure it’s a win-win situation. Participants get a free book and a shot at a prize, and I get read.
‘Any thoughts?’ he asks himself. He waits for a reply, like a religious nut-job waiting for a reply from a God who is too busy watching Jersey Shores to answer.