What I learnt over the weekend

Second Chance

This weekend has been a wonderful learning experience. To say that I have been blown away with the response to my free promotion would be an understatement. I ran the fill gamut of emotions, from surprise, to excitement, to pinching myself to see if it was real. If the next few paragraphs come across as boasting, I apologise. It’s not. I’m just trying to get my head around it all.

amazon.co.uk top 10People like free books, and that’s a good thing

Some authors are against giving their work away for free. I can understand why. When it takes a year or more of hard work to write a book, why should people have it for nothing? I see it a little differently. While I want to earn money from my work, I also know that the biggest challenge to a self-published author is visibility. The more people who see our work, the more chance we have of generating a word-of-mouth buzz. I discovered many of my favourite authors through friends lending me copies of their books. I may not have paid for that particular book but I certainly paid for everything else the author wrote.

Saying that, my expectations for the promotion weren’t high. Having spoken to a couple of authors who ran free promotions at a similar stage in their publishing career as myself, I thought it realistic to have 100 downloads over the two days. My hope was that possibly 200-300 copies would be downloaded. To put that number into perspective, it would be close to twice the number of copies than I had sold since launch. I knew I was being a little greedy but hey, one could dream.

In the end over the two day period my book was downloaded over 1000 times. At one point I was no.8 in the Amazon.co.uk free Science Fiction charts as well as  no.1 in the Dystopian and Cyberpunk sub charts. On Amazon.com I made it to no.16 in the Science Fiction charts and No.2 in the Cyberpunk and No.3 in the Dystopian charts. I was also in the top 10 of the UK Thriller charts, top 20 in the US thriller charts. All from a 2 day promotion.

The kindness of strangers

I didn’t pay any money to advertise the promotion. The only promotional avenues I used were via social media. Many friends and family shared my promotion on Facebook, to which I am very grateful. Probably the biggest promotional boost, though, came via twitter. I’ve spoken about how I’ve come to like twitter in the past, how what started as a means to promote myself became a great way to meet like-minded people. I have rarely promoted via twitter but for this weekend only I sent a total of 13 tweets letting people know my book was available for free. I was worried it was too much as I didn’t want to fill people’s inboxes with tweets saying ME, ME, ME!

What happened next was wonderful. Many of the people I had befriended via twitter retweeted my tweets. This meant they were seen by all their twitter friends, some of whom retweeted them on again, and again. Through these acts of kindness, enough people decided to take up my promotion to send my book into the charts. Once visible, it enabled many, many more Kindle readers to find out about my book and download it. If it wasn’t for the kindness of these people, my promotion would never have been as successful as it was.

The fear of success

Of course, having this many downloads means that there are now hundreds of people all over the world who will now judge my work. For somebody as self-critical as myself, that’s a terrifying thought. Even though I’ve been lucky enough to have had a number of good reviews to date, a small part of me is just waiting to be pointed out as a fraud. This isn’t a plea for sympathy, I would much rather be in the position I am in than have nobody read my work, but I’ve now realised that I’ve passed the point of no return as far as critical anonymity is concerned.

Writing is not everything

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that while all this has been very exciting, the thing that gave me most pleasure this weekend was watching my 7-year-old play his first cricket match of the season and taking his first wicket. It put everything else into perspective.



Recommended Reads: Ravens Gathering by Graeme Cumming

Ravens Gathering

“Martin Gates left the village fifteen years ago because he didn’t belong any more. Now he’s back, and looking for answers. The problem is, no one wants to hear his questions. Well, maybe Tanya McLean, but she has an ulterior motive and her husband won’t like it.

I really enjoyed Ravens Gathering. Graeme Cumming captures perfectly life in a close-nit hamlet. When one of their own returns, strange things start to happen and it is the newcomer and outsiders that shoulder the blame, at least at first.

From the insular outlook, mistrust of outsiders and the ongoing friction between locals; everything has an air of authenticity about it. History weighs heavily on all, and it’s only during the second half of the book that you truly begin to understand why.

While the writing style is straightforward, Cumming likes to play tricks on his readers, meaning passages you thought you understood are revealed to have a different meaning later on. If, like me, you enjoy piecing a story together as you read and having your initial expectations confounded, you’ll enjoy Ravens Gathering.


Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.