The Harvey Duckman Experience

The bulk of this post is a reblog from Sixth Element publishing’s website. Hence the disclaimer below. I do however heartily encourage any published or unpublished indie writer of Horror, Scifi, fantasy or Steampunk who would be interested in having a short story published in an anthology to read the post below and consider contacting them at the email at the bottom. I would also encourage anyone in the north east of England who is interested in writing, considering publishing there work and/or just wants advice from professionals to visit their website. Frankly, I love the 6e team even though I am entirely self-published, and not technically one of their writers. Click on the banner below for their website.

6e banner

The aforementioned disclaimer: I am not part of 6e, do not work for 6e, and am not actually connected with them except that I am one of the authors who contributes to the Harvey Duckman Anthologies. But as I know they are always on the lookout for more contributors I thought I would repost their submissions policy, and how to contact them here …

harvey duckman experiance banner


Sixth Element Publishing is looking for new, original, exciting, exhilarating, thought-provoking short stories in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk and horror.

For each volume published, in paperback and eBook, authors are offered a share in 50% net profit from sales, with – according to Sixth Element’s steadfast philosophy – all rights to the works remaining with the authors. Yes, we’re breaking the rules, and happily throwing them out of the window.

We want to give readers great stories and the chance to discover awesome new writers. And we want to give writers the chance to get their work published, share in the collaborative promotion of their work with other like-minded writers, and join a select (but growing) community of exciting genre authors who are doing it their own way.

We do have a code but really it’s more like a set of guidelines than actual rules:

  1. No erotica. Sorry.
  2. Young adult friendly please, although the occasional expletive and swear word is fine. As is dark content and tough themes, as all good YA should be. Although we’re not specifically looking for YA stories, some of the content may be, and we’d like each volume to be accessible to as wide an audience as possible.
  3. Original, unpublished content only. If the story you’re thinking of submitting to us is in the public domain already (including Kindle, web publishing sites such as Royal Road and Wattpad, and small press), we’d rather look at something new and include links to your published work.
  4. The genres we’re looking for are quite broad and we’re good with anything weird, quirky or anything that stretches the imagination and has a good punchline. If in doubt, just ask.
  5. Story length – ideally around 3,000 words please, although we won’t necessarily refuse anything that is over this (up to 6,000 words) if it’s awesome enough.
  6. Sixth Element retains full editorial control over the content to be published. Any changes will be discussed in full with the author and agreed before publication. We will only publish a story when both parties are happy.
  7. Promotion – in addition to any promotional stuff Sixth Element carries out, authors included in Harvey volumes are encouraged to support each other and the series, whilst promoting their own work. The idea is for indie and new writers to reach a broader audience while having fun.
  8. All writers must confirm that they are the creator and owner of the submitted work, and accept full liability for any claims to the contrary. Sixth Element cannot accept responsibly for any actions as a result of falsely submitted works and any subsequent legal costs associated with any such claims.
  9. Costs – there are none. If your work is accepted, you will be offered a royalty deal (share of 50% net income with other writers in that volume). All rights to your story remain with you. Once it’s been published in Harvey, you are free to publish it elsewhere, and whilst we would appreciate an acknowledgement along the lines of ‘first published in Harvey Duckman Presents…’ we don’t demand it. We want to help. And, as we said, let’s have some fun.

If you like the sound of all this, please drop us a line or submit your story for consideration to:



Posted in amwriting, goodnews, goodreads, horror, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, publication, reads, sci-fi, steampunk, supernatural, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The page count dichotomy…

In the past, I’ve written a fair few mini guides for indie writers looking to self publish. One way to sum up these posts would be to call them ‘the list of things I have done wrong then had to fix’ or ‘My mistakes in self-publishing and how to avoid them’… I haven’t done any of these for a while, which you could decide means I make fewer mistakes than I used to…  If you chose to think that, then bless your little cotton socks for thinking well of me, and would you be interested in buying some magic beans?

But putting that on one side, let’s talk about page counts… or to be more exact type-setting and the approaches to take when making physical books. To clarify, there are other type-setting issues and considerations when it comes to e-books (I may do a separate post on them at some point), but they are completely separate from the considerations involved with physical books when it comes to one particular factor, the factor of length, or to be more exact girth. It doesn’t matter how long an ebook is, if you want to self publish a 250000-word epic as an ebook go ahead. But if you want to publish that same book on Print-on-Demand you are looking at an expensive book, a book so expensive no one but your mum will be likely to buy it.

This is because POD services base their unit cost per book on page count ( and I am using Amazon as an example here though there are others of course, but they all apply the same basic logic to their pricing structures).

With Amazon that cost for a black and white novel is $0.012 per page, + the base print rate. So if we say that 250000 novel in print is 875 pages, the unit cost is $10.225 per book. By the time you add distribution costs to that, your unit cost is closer to $15 and if you sell a paperback on Amazon you make 60% of what remains as the price you set, so to make a dollar the minimum you can charge is $17… All the while readers can walk into the local supermarket and buy two paperbacks for the print cost of one copy of your book, and that’s before they decide to look for books in the local charity shop first and buy five for a quid… But all that said, the cost of buying a print copy of your book on Amazon isn’t really your issue, because the market for print copies of an unknown author just doesn’t exist on the internet. The only people likely to buy print copies are those who know you and like your work already. E-books are your actual market.

When all this does matter however is when you dip your toe into a brave new world. The world of direct selling, at conventions and signings etc, or asking indie bookshops to stock a few copies of your books. At that point page count really matters, and it all comes back down to that unit cost…

I recently dipped my toe in these waters, I have bought authors copies of my books before, in small lots, to sell to friends and family (which is another form of mistake btw, as they are the people who would buy your paperbacks on Amazon, and you are far better off asking them to do so as it drives up Amazon sales which make it far more likely you will break out of the friends and family market place). But as these were small lots it never really matter to me how much the books cost, because I was getting print copies just because I could, not because I was trying to sell them to the wider public. But if you are going to do that unit cost becomes very important very quickly, table fees, travel expenses, hotels, bookshops profit margins all combine to drive up the bare minimum you can charge for a book and in terms of conventions the number of books you have to sell just to break even, and the only thing truly under you control is unit cost. So I went through an exercise in the last week or so of trying to reduce that unit cost while keeping the quality of the books, which is tricky, particularly if what you really want to do is improve the quality in any way you can. here then is the issue…

  • Passing Place unit cost £5.15
  • Spider in the Eye unit cost £4.52
  • Scar of avarice unit cost £1.98

Spider, in particular, was far more expensive than it needed to be. At only 75000 words it’s page count was well over what it should have been for a book that size due to the original choices I made in type-setting. Luckily by making smarter choices, I was able to cut that down quite a bit.

The first and biggest problem was fonts. Spider was typeset in Arial 12point, industry standard is more or less Garamond 11 point ( as my good friends at 6E informed me, and they give better advice than I ever do btw if you’re local to the northeast of England) Now it doesn’t sound like 1 point and a different font should make that much difference I know. But just reducing Arial 12 to Arial 11 dropped spiders PP count from 341 to 315, switching the main body of text to Garamond 11 (which is nicer to read anyway as it what most of us are used to in print books) reduced it still further to 289.

chapter head

That was not the only change, I altered the layout and presentation of chapter titles (see above), removed some blank pages and back end pages to include instead a simple ‘by the same author’ page, all of which cut the page count down still further while actually making the print book a nicer all round product, and the page count dropped right down to 279 and the unit cost to under £4. I also did the same with other books, Passing Place had its page count reduced by 45 pages by the same process, Scar which is fairly thin to start with as its just a novella by a modest 5.

The point of all this is typesetting was making the book look as good as possible but doing so keeping page count in mind. Of course, getting it right the first time is probably the best option around. But I’ve never managed that, which is also why an offshoot of this task was that I had to redo the cover for A Scar of Avarice, as the important cover from CreateSpace to KDP was made for a set number of pages, as soon as I made that page count smaller ( by all of 5 pages) I screwed up the cover as it no longer sat in the frame right and I had to build a new one from scratch. On the plus side, that did leave me with an opportunity to make the cover of Scar fit in with the themes of all my other books ( apart from Cider lane which doesn’t count in this case) So here is the new set of covers with the new Scar cover and the cover for the forthcoming Tassels ( which is not fully complete yet but is getting there.)

covers may 19

The lesson here, as ever, is learn from my mistakes, keep your page count down, get professional advice if you can, play with layouts and fonts till you get it exactly as you want it, and remember Garamond 11 is king…

At some point, I will talk about typesetting kindles, which is a different kettle of fish entirely and should be done in utterly different ways



Posted in amwriting, books, Hannibal Smyth, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, Passing Place, publication, sci-fi, self-publishing, steampunk, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tassels, Squids, Duckman, and Maybe, Something Red…

Theoretically, at least, one of the main reasons this blog exists is so I can keep in contact with my readers and give them updates on what is coming down the pipe, so to speak. That is it was one of the main reasons I started blogging about seven years ago now. Since then the blog has been through several iterations, moved entirely a couple of times and is no longer entirely focused on that core reason for its existence. But once in a while, I remember why I started a blog in the first place and put out an update for readers on what I’m up to. Today been one of those days, and this particular post been one of those posts because it seems like a good time to do one. Hence the rather ambiguous title…


A couple of weeks ago I finally typed ‘The End’ on the second full draft of ‘From Russia With Tassels’ The second instalment of The Hannibal Smyth Misadventures, and sent it to my editor and an alpha reader. As usual, I’d gone over my own deadline, a couple of them in actuality, but all things being equal ‘Tassels’ is now on course to come out towards the end of the summer. You know, that point when everyone has finished buying books for the beach… But, importantly for those who have been asking, it is on its way and not that far away at that.


With Tassels out of the way, I found I had some time to do a few different things and focus on something other than old Harry for a while… So, of course, one of the first things I did was start work on Book 3 ‘A Squid on the Shoulder’. Which was remarkably easy as its back to first draft writing and I’ve known what happens next for over a year now while working on book 1 and 2 simultaneously. I have been waiting to get on with the story for quite a while in fact, so I rattled off the first few thousand words in record time. But having made a start I realised I still need a break from old Harry, and so Squid, while started, is been left to fallow a while. To give me a chance to work on some other projects.


Following swiftly on from the success of the first Harvey Duckman anthology, I’d been asked to write another story for volume 2. So in a departure form steampunk, and old Harry I wrote a playful pulpy little sci-fi tale entitled ‘The Strontium Thing’ which in an earlier iteration was considered as a Lyal the barman tale in Passing Place. Like any tale told by Lyal, it is to an extent a rolling joke of the shaggy dog story style, that Lyal himself never really understands. The story was never finished as Lyal ended up telling the story ‘Demonic Home and Garden’ in Passing place instead as it fit better with the novel as a whole, so I am pleased to say ‘The Strontium Thing’ has now found a home for itself in Harvey Dunkman presents volume 2 which is due to be released to coincide with the Kapow Stockton Sci-fi festival in July. Where I can be found signing books and wearing big hats…


When I first started writing the Hannibal stories, I also began writing a second steampunk series, the first book of which was entitled ‘Maybe’s Daughter’. It was initially just a sandbox for playing with idea’s and was intended to be just a fun bit of writing, sillier than the more serious Hannibal novels, and written purely to entertain myself. As with all well-made plans, the grimdark original versions of Hannibal became more satirical and the satirical Maybe’s daughter is somewhat more grimdark. I recently let an alpha reader be alone in a room with maybe, and read the half written first draft. Between his notes, and the desire to set away from old harry, maybe is currently getting some work done of it for the first time in a couple of years. With a fair wind, I may get the first Maybe novel finished later this year, or early next. Depending on old Harry.


Something Red

Finally, as far as works in progress are concerned I am finally spending some time back in the Passing Place with the sequel to the original novel, Something Red. There is a long way to go, but the first couple of chapters are more or less set in stone, as is the main story arc I have been planning out for about three years now. Anything passing place tends to be a slow burner, but it’s good to get back in the bar for a while, and back to some of my favourite creations. I can’t give anyone a timeline for Something red, but it is still there simmering away.

So there you have it, much to write and much to come.

Adios for now



Posted in amwriting, blogging, errol the bookcase dragon, Esqwiths, fiction, goodnews, goodreads, Hannibal Smyth, Harvey Duckman, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, novels, Passing Place, publication, reads, sci-fi, self-publishing, steampunk, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Boston, for Boston…

I don’t know much about Boston Massachusetts, which is not all that surprising as I grew up a hell of a lot closer to Boston Lincolnshire from whence the American East coast city got its name. Its streets are familiar to me mainly because I’ve hunted, or been hunted by  Supermutants and raiders all through them. I know how to get to from Dimond City (Fenway Park) to Beacon Hill, but only the best route to take to avoid ghouls, and I could probably find my way to MIT, but I might get a little twitchy waiting for the synths to start shooting at me. But beyond my rudimentary knowledge of the city based on Fall Out 4, and a certain liking for the music of The Dropkick Murphys, I don’t know much about the city other than it has a touch of the Irish in its makeup.

The same can be said for my knowledge of the Boston Metaphysical Society. Though the graphic novels have been on my to-read list for a while now, I haven’t got around to them yet because my to-read is ever an endless undertaking, I need to catch up with the latest lucifer books for a start. Also, while I love the graphic novel art form, if I bought every graphic novel series that grabbed my attention, I would need a bigger house than the library I already live in. There is a reason, bibliophile though I am, that I buy a lot of Kindle books these days, not that I don’t acquire plenty of hardbacks and paperback as well but I try to limit myself to one new bookshelf a quarter or else I will never have room for the hypothetical pinball machine… But don’t buy ebook versions of graphic novels, as while I am happy to read a prose novel on a kindle, I refuse to read art on them. Graphic novels IMO need to be read in hardcopy formats.

boston meta

A Boston that never was, it a time of steam, spirits and shenanigans, strangeness is afoot

Now the reason I am saying all this is because I recently picked up a copy of A Storm of Secrets, by Madeleine Holly-Rosing, a prose novel set in the Boston Metaphysical Society’s universe. As a prose novel, I was perfectly happy to grab a copy on Kindle and just read it, not worry about the bookshelf crisis of April2019. It would also allow me to sample the BMS universe, by dipping a toe in the water, something I had been looking forward to since interviewing Madeleine back in January.

A Storm Of Secrets By Madeleine Holly-Rosling

It was something of a blessing to read ‘A Storm of Secrets’ without having read the graphic novels first, because ‘A Storm of Secrets’ is a prequel to the main series, set some five or so years before the events in the first of those books. That said I’m sure fans of the original series will enjoy this novel just as much as I did, but not having read the graphic’s did mean I’d absolutely no idea what was likely to happen in the book and where these characters were going to be in five years time. Likewise, I didn’t have a scoobies which characters would prove to be important in the grand scheme of things and in whom it might be wise to avoid becoming too invested… I suspect, though I still have yet to read the graphic novels, that ‘A Strom of Secrets’ might have been a slightly different ride if I had. That said, readers of the graphic novels are likely to enjoy it from the flipside of finding out more about how characters they are already familiar with, come to be who they are… I honestly could not tell you which would be the better ride…

But to put the graphic novels to one side, and just take this book as it is, a singular piece of work, as well as the debut prose novel of its author, what can I say of it. Well it is utterly involving, it draws you in and slowly, quite stealthily, gets you invested not just in the main point of view characters but all the supporting cast as well. There are those all-important shades of grey to every character that makes them all the more real, and shades of grey to the alternative Boston that is the books setting. Coming as it does from an already richly imagined world where the ‘Great States of America’  are dominated by a feudal oligarchy of trading houses that form the upper classes and control the government. These great houses struggle with each other for positions of power in a world of airships and steam power, and a delightful side portion of the occult. There is a  depth to the background that Madeleine draws upon, a depth build from the graphic novels and short stories over the years, that you can feel as you read. Yet at no point I, as someone new to the series, felt lost within this world or worse felt I was having it dryly explained to me. The rich history and background behind Madeleine’s universe is all there but it soaks into the reader rather than feeling like a torrent, which trusts me is a hard trick to pull off, and one that less talented writers of alternative histories often fail with. Madeleine never lets history lessons get in the way to the story, or the story become a history lesson. Instead, your understanding of this wonderfully vivid fully-realised world she has created grows organically as you read. Indeed in many ways, the setting and this reimagined city of Boston become just as much a character of the novel as the human ones. You find yourself invested in the city that Madeliene is inviting you to visit through her novel, from the very start when the newly married Elisabeth Weldsmore steps off a zeppelin with her husband, returning to the city her family built in many ways. Boston is a city of divisions, from the rich Manson houses around beacon hill, to the middle-class central districts, to the south side slums where Irish immigrants scrape a living. This is a rich city, and a poor one, but a setting that lives and breaths as a Boston that never was, but is not hard to believe could have been.

Everything within this novel is well polished, carefully considered and interweaved with passion and skill. It simmers away slowly but surely turning towards the boil. Then when things start to happen, they start to happen in spades as the storm of the title rolls over the Weldsmore family and Boston as a whole. And like all great storms, it leaves the world reshaped and full of sorrows and new possibilities.

As I said I have not read the graphic novels, nor any of the novella’s Madeleine has previously written, but I suspect it is only a matter of time until I order them and plunge myself into the great Bookcase crisis of May2019, because having had this taste of a Boston that never was, I can’t wait to devour some more. If this was Lovecraft would be giving it a score out of tentacles, and as there are hints of a little Lovecraftian goodness in all this, so it seems apt to do so…

6out 6

If you want to know more about Madeliene and her Boston, she featured in my Indie April series and here is a link to the interview she gave the Passing Place there too, she is also one of the featured Indie writers and creatives in the Indieo’micon, where she and many others are waiting to be discovered (not that any of them need my help.)

Posted in amreading, book reviews, dystopia, fiction, goodreads, grathic novels, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, Lovecraft, reads, sci-fi, steampunk | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indie April (may)#10: The Department of Curiosities

I have been a little swamped and didn’t get everything done in Indie April I wanted to get done. As such this is a little late…

The Department of Curiosities By Karen J Carlisle

doc 2

Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, was published in 2015 and her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat. She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.

Her latest novel, which isn’t out until the 22nd of May is ‘The Department of Curiosities’, as you may have guessed. I was given both the privilege and pleasure of reading an advanced copy.

Steampunk, as a genre, is occasionally a little absurd, and at it’s best, it embraces that absurdity and runs with it. I say this because the most common steampunk era, the latter half of Queen Victoria’s reign, is in of itself a little absurd to modern eyes. All those careful manners, ridiculous clothes, the class system,  and taking of high teas, makes for mildly comic excess that becomes pervasive, and delightfully absurd setting before you even begin to throw about the weird and the wonderful. Which is not to say that steampunk is necessarily comic, or necessarily absurd by default. there is plenty of grim dark steampunk about, but I have a liking for the more absurd end of the spectrum. (readers of Hannibal Smyth will be aware of this no doubt).

But, and here is the crux of the matter, absurd is all well and good, but it needs to be measured and countered with solid storytelling. You can put as many; dirigibles, automatons, grim silent grey fellows in top hats who don’t seem entirely alive, combat parasols, de Vinci codebooks, personal flying backpacks, weird weapons, meetings with the queen, retired and very British generals, suspicious clerks, nefarious professors, traitors, menacing jewellery, secretive organisations loyal to the crown, secret organisations opposed to the crown, resourceful young ladies in armoured corsets, clouded pasts and family secrets, into a novel as you like, but it will all become just a jumbled mess without solid storytelling.

Absurdities also have to be the kind of absurdities that you (the reader) are willing to go along with and willing to accept and believe in the context of the story, and that is the real trick to writing steampunk. The writer is creating a world, full of its own logic, and needs the reader to believe in that logic, because if the reader believes in the logic they will be carried along by good storytelling. Sure you might find yourself shouting at the main character once in a while when they do something foolish, but if that foolishness fits the character that part of the enjoyment. Steampunk at its best is storytelling in one of its most unabashed forms because we all know that a fair portion of it is absurd manners and technology, yet we (the readers) don’t care. The writer will never explain just how that steam-powered bicycle works, and the reader doesn’t care about power to weight ratios making it impossible. A steam-powered penny farthing is just a fun idea…

The long list a couple of paragraphs ago is taken directly from things that happen and exist in Karen Carlisle’s  ‘The Department of Curiosities’. the first in a series of books that it is safe to assume will see her heroine Miss Matilda ‘Tilly’ Meriwether continue a series of mildly absurd adventures in pursuit of the truth about her father. If, as I very much suspect, they are as well written, as entertaining, as delightfully absurd in all the best ways, and just as bloody good storytelling, then I can’t wait to read them. Because the first book in the series is just that, and like all good first books it leaves you with answers to some questions, but a whole lot of new questions to ponder while you await the next instalment. Sure I have some educated guesses as to the answers to some of those questions I was left with when I finished this book in the early hours of the morning, but that too is half the fun, I mean I am utterly sure I know exactly what the ‘orb’ is or should I say whom… but I can’t know for sure, and yet not knowing is better than having all the loose ends tied up. That’s part of the secret of good storytelling, knowing when to say ‘and I’ll tell you the next part tomorrow night oh Sultan…’

Karen spins a great yarn, its light when it needs to be light, dark when it needs to be dark, funny and absurd but always believably so. At its core, its a fun read about a resourceful young lady in an armoured corset. It is, to use a little steampunk vernacular (which in itself is often a tad absurd)

A splendiferously splendid tale of adventure among the high teas… 


eBook pre-orders are available via Smashwords –
It will be available from Amazon in June (when I’ll update this with a link)
All Karens social media details below


Posted in amreading, book reviews, books, fiction, goodreads, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, novels, reads, steampunk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The April Report…

Occasionally people ask me about my book sales, these people fall into a couple of loose categories, curious friends, and other writers who really want to know… Mainly I find that in the case of writers it is often because they’re new to self-publishing and occasionally a little starry-eyed. One tries not to shatter illusions, or infer that your personal experience is the experience of all. But for those who think that writing a book and self-publishing will be their way out of the rat-race, I feel an obligation to temper there expectations a little. Success is also something you can only measure by your own expectations, and after several years of self-publishing, my expectations are perhaps a little jaded, unlike my enthusiasm which remains undimmed.

Jim C Hines, an American author whose blog I follow because he writes really fun interesting novels, and also because he is a social activist on a number of subjects on which I share similar and very firm opinions. Basically, he is a very fine fellow and I recommend both his blog and his novels to anyone. But among other things, he also produces a candid annual report on his income as a writer and has been since 2007, which makes for interesting reading and if you look through them all you can track his career as it has developed from being a part-time writer all the way up to going full time a couple of years ago and growing a beard ( which is apparently the thing to do when you become a full-time writer.) Jim is not self-published ( at least not exclusively) and his experience is not the experience of self-published writers. But he is very open and his experience and the financial side of being a writer.

In the spirit of those Jim C Hines annual reports, and because people do often ask me about book sales etc. I thought I would share a little of my own experience, though you should bear in mind I am a self-published writer of genre fiction, a small fish, in a puddle, basicly, but some of you may find it interesting reading.

April report:

This April has been a bit of a watershed for me, for a number of reasons. Firstly I did my first ever convention as a writer, which was by varying degrees terrifying and wonderful at the same time. this was at Scarborough Scifi convention SCS which I was invited along to by the good people at 6E publishing as we were releasing the first Harvey Duckman Anthology at the convention, in which as you might be aware I have a Hannibal story. But I was not only there to launch Harvey Duckman on the unsuspecting world, but I was also there showcasing my own novels, which I sold a few copies of, and gave out cards and flyers on mass.

Further to this for the first week of April, I was giving away the Kindle version of A Scar of Avarice on Amazon, the novella being a cross over of Passing Place and Hannibal universes, this was a not so subtle ploy to showcase both.

I also bit the bullet and started using AMS to advertise my novels, both in the US (myself) and the UK (thanks to 6e, as using AMS in the UK is a nightmare if your not an Amazon vendor).

In short, I had a lot going on in order to push my books and had it gone badly I suspect I may have ended up a tad disheartened.

Now the first thing you need to realise is that I have been self-publishing since Cider Lane came out back in 2015, and in that time I have released three novels and a novella, none of which, apart from A Scar Of Avarice, is linked to the others. Sales on the month of release tend to do well, but after that, they drop off steeply. There are months that I haven’t sold books. generally, these months are in the long gap between releases, when I am not trying very hard to push books and if I am been honest my drive as a self -publisher has run out of fuel. But a lot of things have changed in the last few months, including my approach, aims and goals. Which is why when I looked back on April this morning this was the pair of graphs I was looking at.

april sales

Okay, clearly I will need to explain a little about what the graphs are actually saying.

  • The upper graph is Amazon book sales, both paperbacks and kindle
  • The lower graph is Kindle Unlimited page reads
  • The different colours refer to different titles or editions
  • This doesn’t include direct sales at Scarborough
  • This also doesn’t include Harvey Duckman Anthologies
  • I’ve also taken out the free copies of Scar ( there were about 65 in total of those)

To be clear, this is a damn good month for me. Every single one of my titles sold multiple copies. Every single one of them also had at least one copy read on kindle unlimited on which I had a total of 3336 page reads for the month, which is the most I have ever had in a single calendar month. Total sales on Amazon discounting the free novella was 20 books, if I guestimate the pages reads into books (it varies on each title, so it’s less than straight forward, passing place is a long book, the novella isn’t ) those amount to about 11 books. And if I add in the books, I sold at Scarborough, which was roughly another 10 (I would have to actually count paperback and do maths to be sure) that’s 41 books sold.

The point here is this, just sitting around waiting for books to sell gets you nowhere. You might not think 41 books is a lot of sales but baring in mind this is now over 4 months since the release of the first Hannibal novel, those 41 sales are not sales to people who have bought my books in the past, these are new release sales. Three of those sales are Cider Lane a novel, not in a genre I actively write in: or blog about, that came out four years ago. Eight of them are Passing Place which is itself almost three years old now. All in all, this was a very successful month for me. The question, therefore, is why…

Which is a difficult question because for most of the month I have been using AMS advertising, which accounts for some of these sales, There are also the direct sales at SCS which is an entirely new thing for me. It has also been Indie April, and I have been busy helping the Indieverse and a couple of sales have gone to other Indie authors, or have been because other Indie authors have shared my posts etc. There are also all the cards I handed out at Scarborough. There are all the free novella’s I gave away that have hopefully caused a few readers to consider buying some of my other books. There is the high position the Amazon charts that my books have achieved, and there are Harvey Duckman readers, enjoying The Cheesecake Dichotomy and then perhaps deciding to give my novels a try.

In short, it has been a hectic month, with a lot going on, but importantly I have done well by my terms, and hopefully, May will build on this.

So if you’re an indie writer, and you want people to read your work, my advice is simple, keep on pushing, working hard and doing what you can to get people to give you books a try. Hard work pays off.

Posted in amwriting, blogging, goodnews, Hannibal Smyth, Harvey Duckman, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, opinion, sci-fi, self-publishing, steampunk, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hopeless Interview…

As an indie author, I try to be a bit of an advocate for indie novelists and indie creators in general. But while my reviews may entertain, and hopefully even point some of you in the direction of books which you will both love and cherish but would have escaped your notice otherwise, authors themselves fascinate me almost as much as the books they write, as indeed do artists of all kinds. As such, because its a way to get them to answer my own questions, I do the odd interview with indie writers here. Today, therefore, I’ve had the absolute treat of interviewing Nimue and Tom Brown, (which is to say they emailed me back the answers to a few questions, but it sounds way cooler if I pretend I actually went to interview them…) Which makes this The Hopeless interview. Which is apt because I am on occasion a hopeless interviewer…

Tom and Nimue are collectively responsible for art, stories and tentacles in the series of graphic novels set on the island of Hopeless, which lays somewhere of the coast of Maine, it’s not clear if Maine is aware of the island hidden behind a remarkably persistent fog bank, but if it is I suspect if Maine is aware then there are warning signs on buoys all around it with skull motives and ‘Warning Do Not Pass’ written in red paint all over them. At least, I would assume its paint… But I digress…

Tom takes the leads on the art and while Nimue takes the lead on the stories but they both do both, which just speaks as to how utterly talented they both are. Hopeless started out as a webcomic, before coming to print. The Hopeless Vendetta web site is run as a collaborative which encourages the Browns fans to get involved with the Island setting, which is now it’s in the process of becoming a roleplaying game, tarot deck, a cuddly spoonwalker and all manner of other things. I don’t know precisely what a cuddly spoonwalker is, but I know I want one…

But enough from me, on with the interview, and a lot of Tom and Nimues artwork as they sent me a boatload, and who doesn’t like eye candy, of course, if you eat too much candy it might rot your soul, but who needs a soul in this day and age anyway…

hopeless 4

What do you feel drives you to create?

For both of us, it’s about a desire to put something good into the world. We’ve both lived
through difficult and challenging times when imaginative worlds have kept us going. We
hope to provide some of that same resilience and inspiration for other people.

PD spread

How would you describe your next graphic novel to someone who has never read
anything you have written before?

We have been described as being like a dark Studio Ghibli, so that’s a flavour. But, we’re
some way into a story here, its as well to begin at the beginning. (The Gathering)

Where, when and how do you do the majority of your creating?

We have a living room studio writing shed, and these days pretty much everything
happens either at the table or on the sofa. Previously we’ve co-created in a narrowboat,
and for a while before that, we were working on opposite sides of the ocean and passing
things back and forth online.

What was the first book/author you really connected to, that made you want to write

For Tom this was Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Ways comes, and all of the
comic books in the world at all!
For Nimue, there wasn’t a time before books (she remembers back to being about two!)
Probably the consciousness that books are things made by people, and that people can
make, goes all the way back to Winnie the Pooh.

Drury-bridge of bottles
There is a strange phenomenon on the internet and Twitter in general of Authors cats.
Several authors have started putting up daily pictures of their cats, as a running
monologue of their lives, and more are doing every day it seems. It’s all become a bit
weird… Do you own a cat and can we have a picture of it?

We co-habit with a cat (own doesn’t seem quite the word) and provide assorted services,
including tin opening and tum rubbing. In return, we are treated to late night arias, usually performed in the bathtub. There are also cats who live in our heads, and we have sent examples of both.


What’s your favourite / worst, form of procrastination?

Tom’s preferred method of procrastination is to over-research, spending far too much time getting, for example, the exact right table for the period and location even though you can only see a corner of it in two panels.
Nimue procrastinates through the medium of housework, which may be as well because otherwise frankly she would never do anything in the least bit domesticated!

Hopeless map
One of my favourite Hemmingway quotes is ‘write drunk, edit sober’ what’s your
favoured tipple if you’re writing?

We tend to imagine when drunk and work when sober. In terms of tipple, we like real ale – hoppy for preference. Tom likes whiskey, Nimue favours vodka, but we’ll both generally drink whatever is offered us, or happens to be cheap! When we’re working, its all about the coffee – black, strong, and with a steady supply of biscuits.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What do you love most about creating?

Each other. We got together as a consequence of working on the Hopeless Maine graphic
novel series. We’re both at our happiest as creators when passing things back and forth
between us, and jamming on each other’s ideas. What we make together is invariably
bigger than the sum of its parts, and it’s the energy of co-creating, and getting excited
about each other’s work, that keeps us going.

And on that heartwarming note of life, love and happiness we bid Nimue and Tom adieu for now. You can find out more about Hopeless Maine at The Hopeless Vendetta, or follow Tom and Nimue on twitter by clicking on their names, Hopeless is also on Facebook at hopelessmaine  and if you’re a wise person of great taste in art and storytelling you can even buy the Hopeless Maine graphic novels published by Sloth Comics in a multiplicity of places; including Waterstones, Amazon, and if your lucky enough to attend on steampunk fairs and conventions all over the place.

hopeless interveiw banner

To go read them yourself, because you know you want to, click on the links below :

Book 1

Book 2

and on pre-order Book 3

Posted in amreading, book reviews, dreamlands, dystopia, goodreads, Goth, grathic novels, horror, humour, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, novels, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, rites, sci-fi, steampunk, supernatural | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment