Saturday, 21 January 2012

My 90 Day KDP Select Experiment: Day 30

This post follows on from the post My 90 Day Select Experiment. Why I signed up.

Now I'm a month in and I thought I'd let you know how it's going. Two of the primary reasons I joined KDP Select were; firstly, market forces were already making me almost entirely Amazon exclusive anyway (my sales from other platforms were very tiny) and secondly, I had slogged to no avail to crack the American e-book Market.

Despite various attempts, giveaways, U.S blog visits, tweetdeck scheduling, I was reaching a readership of about 10 people a month in the US.

DECEMBER SALES IMPACT: (Joined KDP Select on 20th Dec.)

The intial thing I did when I joined KDP select was to take advantage of their free promotion tool. I set a 2 day free promotion for the 20/21st of December and the U.S downloads went bonkers. Over the course of those two days I gave away over 1500 copies in the U.S alone. This was exciting, but then everybody loves a freebie and I wasn't overly confident on how it would impact on actual paid sales.

Impulsively, I stuck it on for another free day on boxing day, thinking it a good gift for anybody with a new kindle. Again I had almost a 1,000 U.S downloads in 24 hrs. During the rest of that month there were 900 paid sales of #1, 'The Forest of Adventures', in the U.S.

One of the reasons I had been so happy to give away so many copies was because #2 of the series, 'Immortal Beloved', was already published on Amazon and I was banking on the giveaway copies of #1 converting to #2 sales. This happened to a pleasing extent. Around 40% of the giveaway copies translated into #2 sales. In truth I had hoped for more, but since receiving my own kindle and going crazy for all of the freebies, I understand that sometimes the freebies (no matter how promising) tend to languish in my TBR collection. I'm still hoping that my book will be rediscovered when peeps run out of an immediate read.

As a result of the U.S sales I made it into the top #5000 ranked paid books on the and bagged a whole load of lovely new readers and positive reviews. It also made it to #11 of Paranormal Romance #20 of world myths #25 of fairytales.

My stable U.K market followed the same pattern and I made it into the top #600 of the paid Kindle charts, becoming a #1 bestselling fairytale and sitting comfortably in the top #20 of three other categories.


U.S - The impact has been significant. Now my U.S market is significantly stronger than the U.K, having sold almost 500 copies. Interestingly the sales conversion rate from #1 to #2 is around 80% - so this either proves that when peeps pay for the book they read it quicker and go on to purchase the sequel, or that peeps are gradually getting around to reading #1. Although I have slipped back down in the U.S rankings to around #10,000-#20,000, it is a considerable jump from languishing around #300,000 mark.

U.K - It's difficult to read the impact this month on U.K sales. The maket for kindle books is still considerably smaller than in the U.S. I do think that maybe as a result of giving so many away there has been a slightly negative impact on the sales of #1 this month, however it isn't anything disasterous and the sales of #2 are more than financially compensating for it.

FUTURE: I still have 2 days of promotion left and I am going to hold onto these until the end of March, closer to the realease date of #3 'Starfire' - I think that this will make an excellent launch promotion and also hopefully boost the sales of all the series into the next quater.

It would seem (from very early analysis) that it is better to block the promo days together. Allowing more time for the book to travel up the freebie charts gets it far more visual coverage on the Amazon sites. It also seems to have a less negative impact on some readers' attitudes. Running the promotion for 2 days and then again for 1 day a fortnight later invited a very irate reviewer who expressed 'hatered' for authors who make some readers pay $0.99 for a book and then go on to give it away free. As a result she gave me a 1* review which was a shame when given because she felt cheated out of 0.70 pence.

KDP Select isn't going to be for everybody. I think that I have found it works for me because in my case 'The Forest of Adventures' is part of the series 'The Knight Trilogy' - I'm not sure that stand alone books would find the same benefit - although on saying that do go and check in with Jeff Bennington (you can find him on twitter @Tweetthebook). His book 'Reunion', a stand alone paranormal, crime, thriller followed almost the same pattern as mine but with even better results, reaching the #20 of paid U.K sales following promos.

Whatever you do, do your research - read around and check in at twitter. Lots of writers are sharing their experience of KDP select and it's an interesting range of experiences.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Women and Horror: Is it time for the girls to bite back?

Since being fourteen, I have loved the horror genre. It began with the Point Horror series, writers such as RL Stein and Christopher Pike, and as I became older, I progressed onto the works of Koontz and King. I'm a rubbish horror reader - horror stories, whether film or written manage to freak me out. In a way I am a horror writer's dream.

When at Uni, I started to read the horror cannon, works of; Lewis, Shelley, Walpole, Stoker, Lovecraft and Poe. These writers went on to influence my whole creative imagination. Then as I went on to do my Masters I studied the work of Bret Easton Ellis and other American 'Transgressional Writer's', writing my dissertation on 'An Exploration Of Surrealist Psycho-sexual Enagement Within The Works Of Post-modern American Transgressional Horror Writers.'- (Yeah, I agree that only a drunken, academic wanker could have created such as title.) But as this potted history demonstrates, I am clearly more into horror than sometimes I realise!

You see, here is the thing - in my sixteen odd years of being a female reader of horror, who is in every other aspect of her life an embodiment of the post-feminist woman, I have an issue with female characters in the horror genre that I have yet to resolve.

I have read horror story after horror story of women being; hunted, raped, tortured, abused, degraded, humiliated, enslaved, eaten etc, etc. Ever so occasionally there is a small nod to progress and a few men are added to the body count but there's always a girl somewhere - and she's screaming.

There is, it seems a symbiotic (maybe parasitic) link between horror and eroticism. Even the tamest horror stories hint at the titillation of power-politics, of doers and receivers. Dracula is a perfect example of this - all that swooning, possession, domination, chemical bewitchment. There is something incredibly hypnotic about such predator, prey relations. As Conrad gloriously penned, humans have "A fascination with the abomination".

Now, I never set out to be a feminist writer - in fact some might argue that 'The Forest of Adventures' perpetuates the fairytale idea of rescue and submission - of course I'd refute that and show all of the subtle ways in which I go against this idea - but nevertheless I am increasingly becoming one.

It started with my short story submission 'The Venus Club' in which a Victorian dining society of cuckolded wives dine on the bodies of their cheating husbands. It wasn't until I read it back to myself I fully grasped the intricate metaphors surrounding flesh, ownership and consumption I had wrought. And it felt good to take such an established set of ideas and subvert it - to put the power into the hands of the girls.

This was the beginnings of my YA novel 'Beautiful Freaks'. A series of stories within stories, all of which play with the ingredients of classic fairytales, subverting them gloriously and darkly so that the girls are the ones in control. It feels good to make an offering to 'girl friendly' horror, to take on such established patterns of victim / predator relationships and turn them on their head.

So, I still don't know if I'd class myself as a 'feminist' writer, but what I do know is that I am making it my mission to redress the balance a little bit within the genre.

You can find out more about 'Beautiful Freaks' at the official website

You can buy your own copy of 'The Venus Club' here.

Friday, 6 January 2012

'How to Be A Woman' by Caitlin Moran: Why I demand this be put on the school curriculum immediately!

It is a long time since I have opened a book and then not put it down again until I have rapaciously devoured every word. It is a longer time still since I have found myself laughing snot-producingly-loud one minute, and then sobbing into my duvet the next. This is the effect Caitilin Moran's book, 'How to Be a Woman' had on me when I started reading it twenty four hours ago.

My total affinity and adoration of this book might be something to do with the fact that there is only about three years age difference between us, and so much of our impoverished, alternative, full-of-crazy-parental-love'growing up' is so instantly familiar. Aside from her rather 'glamorous' hedonistic career as a music reporter at Melody Maker in the nineties, and her later career as a presenter of 'alternative', cutting edge t.v, and more latterly as a columnist for 'The Times', in so many ways our lives have the most extraordinary parallels.

But this isn't because Moran and I have had such extraordinary experiences, it is because SO many women of our age have 'been there'. From the general anger at pointless periods, to the rejection by mainstream society, to the glorious discovery of Jilly Cooper, to the almost just as glorious discovery of Germain Greer, to the destructive relationship, to marriage, to motherhood, to career annihilation (consequence of motherhood), to the wonderful sense of contentment and wisdom of entering our mid-thirties, so much surer of the world than we ever feared we might be, and yes although more cynical, considerably funnier happier, and slightly better dressed.

From Moran's frank and open discussions about the almost political minefield over what we call our vagina, to the fabulously funny anecdotes of visiting a strip-club and hanging out with Lady Gaga at a sex party, Moran manages to approach each feminist concern with a wonderful lightness of touch that is at once paradoxically passionate old school feminist, and (post-feminist) hilariously funny.

Her exploration of twenty first century feminism - basically crystallised into the wonderfully simple but joyous idea of 'civility' is a breath of fresh air. Her ralleighing call to stand up and 'out' ourselves as 'Strident' (A word I love to use and is sadly under-used) Feminists and to pull the chaps to account for their lack of basic human civility in the treatment of us women, is a form of feminism that can be immediately implemented without the rest of the world believing you to be some angry seventies hangover.


Moran has instantly become one of my feminist heroes. It will be her book, alongside Germain Greer's 'Female Eunuch' and Jilly Copper's 'Riders' that shall be presented to my daughter on her fifteenth birthday in her 'welcome-to-womanhood-darling-gift-bag' which will also include a pair of Doc Martins, the instructions for making the perfect mojito, and a bottle of Miss Dior!

And for all those fledgling women with mother's who think that maybe a Playboy pant and knicker set, along with a Brazillian wax is a better gift to give their fifteen year old daughter, then I make this demand, Mr Gove. It's not the bible we need to give a copy of to every English School, it's a copy of THIS book. To be read out, a chapter a week religiously to an assembly of fifteen year old young men and women and then maybe, just maybe the future might be brighter.

You can get your copy here