For those of you who don’t know, i.e. anyone not based in the ever-extending and loosely defined Eurozone, Eurovision is a huge annual song contest for European nations plus a few friends to join in. It began in 1956 as a way of strengthening the ties between countries in Europe, which was still recovering from the ravages of the Second World War. It’s grown and grown since then and as far as I’m concerned is an unmissable spectacle of national pride, fun and lots of talent. As ever, I was watching last night and enjoying every minute.

Now, a lot of people love to rubbish the Eurovision Song Contest, saying it’s naff and amateurish, so that immediately suggested a link to me with indie authoring. Too many people, including a lot of mainstream publishers, are all too quick to denounce all self-publishing writers in the same condescending way. And when you start to look, there are a lot more similarities between this joyous, optimistic musical event and today’s enthusiastic indie authors.

ryannolanLast night, poor old Ireland came last. That was tough, and was felt strongly in our Anglo-Irish household. Ryan Dolan gave a brilliant performance – polished, professional, pleasing – but didn’t pick up the popular vote. That happens so often with indie authors. They do absolutely everything right and have a good product but can’t seem to find readers. Ireland had plenty of points in common with the winners, Denmark, namely a good looking singer, catchy music, a prominent role given to drummers and a well-choreographed stage show. Similarly, an indie author can produce a book that is every bit as good and worth reading as one by a best-selling paperback author but can’t get the recognition it deserves. However, Ireland will dust itself down and try again next year, and that’s what indies do. They don’t give up.

Some countries go for a safe approach in the Contest and jump on the current popular bandwagon. Germany’s song was very heavily inspired by last year’s winner by Sweden, ‘Euphoria’. A musical version of fanfic perhaps? In their case it didn’t win, but they didn’t do disastrously. For some writers, following the trend is enough. Think of all the erotica that’s appeared in the wake of 50 Shades. It may not be what the authors really wanted to write, but they knew it would probably sell, so they had a go. That makes commercial sense, if not artistic sense, some might argue. And by all means, be like Azerbaijan and Georgia and play safe; go for something a little predictable and non-ground breaking but still thoroughly commendable and enjoyable.

Other countries don’t want to fit in with the herd. They go for originality and dare to be different – extremely and dramatically different in Romania’s case yesterday! You don’t get many male contraltos in vampiric oufits. Cezar had incredible talent and an astounding vocal range, as well as showiness, and really shook things up. Fabulous. This is precisely what many indies do, and is why they’re indies in the first place. Their books will never fit in with a conservative ‘traditional’ publisher so they take the responsibility for launching themselves and their unconventional ideas. But they have to write is well worth reading and makes us think. Who wants to be stuck in a reading rut?

Greece gave an energetic performance that defied any categorisation. What else would you expect from a group of men, each dressed in what looked like a sports shirt and a pleated skirt (a traditional podea, I believe)? Many indies are like this. The appearance of their books may be a little unconventional and not very slick, but there’s a lot of heart and soul inside. These authors give you their all, and you can take it or leave it.

Which brings us full circle. Take it or leave it is the Eurovision Song Contest’s robust attitude. And that’s shared by indie authors. Love them or hate them, they don’t care, but at least give them a fair chance. Like the Song Contest, they’re here to stay. They make a valid contribution to culture with their genuineness and the fact that artists who might never make it in the mainstream of their art form get a chance to surprise, shock, baffle, delight, horrify and maybe gobsmack, but above all to shine.


How well and for how long can you realistically expect a Christmas book to sell? I have a children’s Christmas ebook out, Oh Santa!, so this is a very pertinent question for me! However, I haven’t been able to find many concrete facts and figures on the Net.

Printed copies of Christmassy books will have been selling for a month or so now. The publishers brought out their books aimed at the Christmas market back in October to allow time for word to spread and sales to pick up. But ebooks aren’t quite the same. You don’t have to wait a week for them to arrive in the post or plan a trip to town to buy them so you don’t tend to purchase as far in advance. You get them within seconds of hitting the ‘buy’ button. Also, ‘word’ is spread via instant social media rather than via slower newspaper articles or magazine reviews and so that happens quicker.

When is the best time to launch a Christmass ebook? November still feels too early, and it would seem a lot of people share that feeling since I’ve only sold a handful of copies of Oh Santa!, which is priced very reasonably at 99 cents! So I’m going with December. You can’t avoid Christmas once kids start opening the windows on their Advent Calendars. Tomorrow I’ll make available a Smashwords  coupon code so that folk can get the book for free, but just for 24 hours. I can Tweet and Facebook that to get some attention. I’ve come across a couple of Christmassy virtual book tours scheduled to take place in December, and that seems a nice idea too. I’ve probably left it too late to organise one for Oh Santa!, but we’ll see.

Ebook sales can in theory continue right up to and including Christmas Day itself since those shops won’t shut and you’ll get the goods immediately. But how can you give an ebook? Well, with Kindle books it’s easy. You gift a book to someone. You buy it and specify where it is to be delivered. And Smashwords? You can choose and buy a book and download it in the suitable format, and send that as an attachment to the recipient via email. Please don’t abuse the system and send it to loads of people though. Think of us poor starving authors! I’m not sure what the Nook system would be. Barnes and Noble refuse to sell me anything, including ebooks, since I don’t live in the USA so I don’t have a lot to do with them!

In the next few days, I’ll be suggesting some ‘book bags’ you can put together to go with some of my ebooks as Christmas pressies to make them more fun. Most of my ebooks are free, by the way, so they’ll make budget-friendly pressies! I’ll also come up with some lists of great ebooks for anyone and everyone you might need to be buying for.

There are lots of posts appearing about how writers can use QR (Quick Response) codes, but to my mind a lot of them are missing the point. (A reminder. QR codes are those square shaped bar codes that smart phones can scan and read if the necessary app had been uploaded.) Many writers are talking about putting these codes in blogs or emails so that people can be directed to where an author’s book is for sale on the Internet, or to a review of it, an interview with the author etc. Well, a hyperlink does that just as well and more efficiently. Not everyone has the necessary hardware yet. Well, I don’t! The point of the QR code is take you from printed media to digital media. There is simply no need to have them take you from digital to digital.

They’re free to create. Here’s one I just created at to take you to my other blog: Blog in France. It took about 10 seconds! I can now print this out and use it on any press releases or posters or such like publicity, were I ever to create any!

So, QR codes certainly have a role to play for writers but do remember that they’re intended to go from paper to digital. Here are 9 non-nonsensical places to consider incorporating them:


Press release


Book cover



Christmas card – well, it’s that time of year!

Promotional notebook, calendar, ruler, pen, mug etc

Business card




As promised last week, every Monday I’ll update you on my ebook sales. I hope it will be an interesting exercise and at least give you one set of figures to compare your own sales/downloads with. You’ll notice the bar chart on the right of this web page which reflects these sales. Chris installed this nifty little widget for me.

This morning, at roughly 11 o’clock, we had the following figures:

Oh Gran! (free)       830 (757 last week = 73 downloads this week)

The Witch’s Dog (free) 483 (336 last week = 153 downloads)

Escape the Volcano (free)  372 (235 last week = 137 downloads)

Oh Auntie! (99 cents)  25 (24 last week = 1 sample downloaded, no sales)

Beat the Hackers (99 cents) 9 (7 last week = 2 samples downloaded, no sales)

Oh Grandad! (99 cents) 13 (9 last week = 3 samples plus 1 sale with coupon code so it was free!)


No changes on Kindle sales. 🙁


So, the week’s best mover with 153 was The Witch’s Dog, my fun kid’s story for Halloween. A close runner up was Escape the Volcano with a pleasing 137. Booby prize goes to Oh Auntie! with just 1 sample. (Shame, it’s a super little story!) Total downloads for the week were 370, which is pretty fair really.

I’ve issued Smashwords coupon codes for Beat the Hackers (TQ44P) and for Oh Grandad! (LP43H) so you can get those ebooks for free at the moment with those. I’ve Tweeted them but need to keep doing so to get some more downloads.

See my Smashwords page here to get copies of my ebooks.

My three 99 cent books have still not made any sales on Smashwords, whilst my freebies have been downloaded 1,574 times between them. So, I’ve generated coupon codes for two of  ‘pay for’ books to see if that helps. If you enter the code when you purchase the book, you get it for free.

Beat the Hackers – the coupon code is TQ44P. I’ve Tweeted about this several times but still no takers.It’s valid till 15 November so grab your free copy while you can.

Oh Grandad – LP43H will get it for free for you. I generated that yesterday and have had one ‘sale’, yippee! This runs to 5th November.

So, I’ve been a little despondent. But Chris cheered my up by saying he didn’t think free ebooks would endure for a long time. In the early days of the Internet, everything was free. It wasn’t the done thing to charge for software and information at all, but now you generally have to pay. He’s pretty sure the same thing will be true with ebooks. Gradually people will realise it’s not reasonable to expect to have reading matter supplied for free, given all the work that’s gone into it. And the authors will decide that enough is enough and want some recompense.

But until then, it seems a good bandwagon to jump on in the hope that it will lead to sales of future books. Lots of us believe this. If you type ‘Smashwords coupon code’ into the search bar on your Twitter page, you’ll find plenty there that will allow you to get some free samples. And if you do, please think about supporting the author by buying another of their books at some time. Especially mine … !


I’ve decided to follow Alex Adena’s lead and do a weekly summary of my sales figures, warts and all. I hope it will be interesting for other indie authors to see how their fellows are getting on. In rather a lot of the authoring-related forums and groups, there are plenty of whoops of joy on a good day, but a lack of transparency on the not so good! Of course, no one’s obliged to divulge what their sales actually are, but it may help create a more realistic view of actual numbers of books that can be moved in various genres. A lot of people come in to publishing with way over the top expectations. Generally results are fairly steady and mundane.

So, to get going I’ll do this report every Monday morning, at more or less the same time (farm chores etc etc permitting!).

To get the ball rolling, here are my sales to date i.e. 17.10.11:


Amazon Kindle

Oh Auntie! (99 cents)     9 (US 3, UK 6)

Beat the Hackers (99 cents)         4 (US 1, UK3)



Oh Gran! (free)                                                757

The Witch’s Dog (free)                  336

Escape the Volcano (free)            235

Oh Auntie! (99 cents)     24 samples downloaded, no sales

Beat the Hackers (99 cents)         7 samples downloaded, no sales

Oh Grandad! (99 cents)                 9 samples downloaded, no sales


It’s fairly clear – and disappointing – to see that people like free books and find even 99 cents a bit of an imposition! Now, so far I’ve only epublished children’s books, which I haven’t put illustrations in. (The original printed versions had them, but I only have the rights to the text, not to the illustrations so can’t reuse them in my ebooks.) Children’s books for younger readers without pictures aren’t the most attractive, it has to be said. So really, results have been better than expected. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, listing my books on has given them a significant boost, as has their appearing in Barnes and  Noble’s Nook bookshop.

Let’s see what this week brings.

Today is Super Thursday, the day when publishers launch their best hopes for the Christmas market. According to the BBC, more than 500 books in all formats, amongst them 200 hardbacks, are being published today, including a good helping of comedians’ autobiographies, and of course a Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie’s Great Britain. This latter is the hot favourite to the Christmas bestseller.

Getting the Christmas books out today gives publishers and authors enough time to do lots of promotion and for word of mouth to kick in and the power of reviews to kick in. The next best day will be in a fortnight, October 13th, so if you were hoping to make it big this Christmas, get your skates on! Looks like I’d better get a move on with my two non-fiction ebooks.

Last year, nine of the books released on Super Thursday sold more than one million pounds’ worth of copies. Not bad. In the 12-week run up to Christmas, a total of 69 million books were sold, with a value of 567 million pounds. This is serious money.

Ebook publishers will be looking to take a share of the public’s book budget this year. You can’t put an ebook in a stocking, though, which will work against them during the festive season. However, you can put a Kindle or other ebook reader in, and with the new Kindle priced at 79 dollars, that’s in normal spending parameters for family and special friends.

It will be very interesting to see how ebook sales fare over the next three months. I’ll be watching closely.

Time for some decluttering and in particular time to get rid of some old books. Now that I’m going in an electronic and self-publishing direction, quite a lot of tomes on my shelves are well outdated now.

This is the first to go. I’ve had this book fifteen years.  It’s aimed at the publishing scene two decades ago and has very little, if any, relevance any more. At least it’ll make a good few briquettes to keep us warm this winter. That’s the most use I’ll have got from it!

It was a bad buy. We all make them. I was sucked in by the 1001 aspect, thinking surely to goodness there’ll be something there that will help me shift a few more books. I wasn’t self-publishing at the time, but the publisher I did have wasn’t over enthusiastic in the marketing department so I wanted to see what I could do from my end.

Some of the techniques in the book smack of desperation. For example, there were the suggestions of selling your books door to door, sponsoring an award, organise a sweepstake, creating your own speakers bureau, sponsoring a library, putting up public posters (especially in New York!).  Many were neither practical nor affordable.

Live and learn. I shall replace it with a ebook aimed at today’s publishing scene. I have my eye on Sell More Books. John Kremer is co-authoring again, but he seems to be rather more up to date this time round. If I go for this one, than as usual, I’ll buy on Smashwords for 9.99 dollars and transfer to my Kindle myself. I’m not paying an extra 3.80 dollars unnecessarily to greedy Amazon!


I’m in a quandary and temporarily disheartened. I really don’t know what to do regarding promotion and marketing. I’ve been spending hours on Twitter and various author platform websites such as Author Outbreak, Goodreads, Library Thing etc. But I’m seriously starting to wonder what’s the point. It seems the only other people out there are other authors. I’ve bought some of their books, and a couple of people have bought mine – but if we only ever sell to each other, I don’t think we’ll do very well. Writers don’t get much time for reading on top of self-promoting and writing, and they’re not the wealthiest folk either.

How do you get out there to the readers? Maybe through reviews on Amazon and Smashwords? However, people will only find those if they look you or your book up i.e. they still need to know about you first. But how to get them to that stage?

I’m guessing that the personal website is the key starting point. If you can build up followers to your website that will hopefully turn into buyers for your books, then at least you’re spreading beyond the fellow indie author market.  So I shall cut down the time I spend on social media for a while and put more time and effort into my websites. And my writing. I still think it’s best of all to keep writing and fit the marketing activities around that, and not the other way round.

Perhaps one day I'll be as successful as JK ...

Now that I have two books on Amazon for Kindle, and many more in the pipeline, I’ve been working hard on building my author platform. So far I have signed up with the following. I thought it might be useful to share my list in case it provides you with a few more ideas for your platform-building. And of course I’d welcome any suggestions of other places where I should be putting in an appearance.

The story so far: 10 day book club; Articlesbase; Bite Size Edits; Bookbuzzr; Booklending; Digg; Ebookling; Expatfocus; Facebook – own page plus in four groups; Feedbooks; Filedby;; Goodreads; Independent Authors; Independent Author Network – thinking about this v seriously (free till 31.8 for one book; Jacketflap; KDP; Kobo; LinkedIn; Livejournal; Library Thing; Lulu; My Writer’s Circle; Pontnoir (local Creuse thing); Pinterest (crafts thing); Reader’s Favorite; Smashwords; Shelfari; Shewrites; Survive France (local); Technorati; Twitter (3 accounts); Wattpad; Your Book Authors*

* = joining fee

I also have two ongoing websites (this one and and two more waiting in the wings to accompany my two big adult projects that are coming soon.

Three very helpful books I’ve read on the marketing and self-promotion side are:

How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks – All For Free by Jason Matthews

The First Ten Steps by M R Mathias

How I Sold I Million Ebooks in 5 Months by John Locke


Hope the above helps. I’m convinced it will help me!