Monthly Archives: June 2014

Marketing, yeah well whatever.


It’s all well and good having written a book, what about selling it? Not wanting to talk dirty or anything, but seriously people, you’ve poured a lot of time into the who literary process, so it wouldn’t hurt to get a few bob back.

After all, a couple of weeks back I talked about how much it cost to produce this book. (So how much money is there in this book writing job anyway)

So how do you do it?

Well frankly I don’t think a lot of Indie author’s actually do any marketing. There was a fascinating article in the Guardian about the Self-Publishing boom.

It made the fascinating comment “18m self-published titles purchased, worth £59m,”

By my reckoning this means the average self-published book nets £3.27.
Even if 6m of the self-published titles are free this means the average purchased on brings in £4.91.

That means that an awful lot of books aren’t hitting double figures in their sales figures. I suspect that this figure probably gives us the number of supportive family and friends self-publishing authors have. Granny will buy a copy come what may, even if she has to buy a kindle first to read it on.

And the rest of us; how is our marketing going? A lot depends on genre. Talking to a friend who works in a library, they might lend out five SF books in a month as opposed to thirty thrillers in a day. So choose your genre with care!

So where do we market? At the moment ‘on-line’ is everything. Personally I don’t rate twitter. All you end up with is a crowd of authors screaming ‘Buy my book’ at each other. I do have some hard figures. Due to a statistical fluke my first book, “Swords for a  Dead Lady”

was picked up and massively tweeted. About ten Americans (by their pictures they’re the sort of lady whom some might have described as ‘underwear models’) all tweeted that you buy it. If you clicked on their tweet and purchased it, they’d have got a payment from their Amazon retailer account. I totalled up their combined followers, it was well over 100,000.

In that week I sold one book in the US.

Facebook? It can help, especially if your friends spread the word by sharing your links. At least with Tallis Steelyard, I’ve always got something fun for people to read

Goodreads? Yes, you’ll see sales and you’ll actually get a lot of support, but you’ll have to become part of the community. You’ll have to spend time, interact with people, chat, and just join in. Just spamming them and moving on is going to get you nowhere.

The real world? Well frankly my best sales have come after my local paper mentioned the book and my local radio station did an interview. It was as if it made me ‘real’ and gave me credibility. The problem is that to get this level of credibility you really need a paperback to flourish and that will be more expense.  E-books might be gaining market share, but for many people, until you’ve got a book they can hit somebody with; you’re not a proper writer.

So I’ve got my new marketing plan. Buy my book or my new sales manager will be round for a frank and open exchange of views.



But then what do I know?
This seems to be an appropriate book for somebody who gets his works pushed by underwear models

As a reviewer commented “The tales of Tallis Steelyard are always entertaining and this collection of short stories, plus a few poems and reminders of his other works, does not disappoint.”




nakedslavegirl for sale comics fantasy,

Don’t come the raw prawn Bruce. I’ve been busier that a one-armed carpenter during boat race week. I’m out there are the cutting edge, pushing the envelope, creating great art.

But funnily enough I’m not sure people want great art. One of the interesting things about writing a blog is that you get lots of data about how many people read various posts and the search terms people use to find your blog.
So twenty eight people have found my blog whilst looking for Marks and Spencer’s knickers, [updated, now 134] leaving me wondering it they were completely satisfied with what they found.
A further seven have found the blog when searching for lesbians in cars, [now 121] whilst others have found it searching for Jehovah’s Witnesses, cute sex, and ‘what happens to coins thrown in fountains.’ (In the case of the last one I assume the local authority sweeps up the coins and banks them, leaving a few as seed corn to encourage people to keep throwing them in.)

I can only assume that these people have looked at an awful lot of websites before their search engine has finally brought them to mine. But whilst I can imagine my site came as something of a disappointment to them, I hope the people who found me by searching for ‘dustbin wagons’ and ‘Mirkwood Yorkshire’ went away happy.

At this point I was reminded of the phrase “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” Out of completeness I thought I’d track down who said it, just in case some wandering savant on a quest for M&S Hosiery happens by. It was said by Henry Louis Mencken, a man who died a couple of months before I was born.
I read some more of his quotes.

In 1918 he wrote
“Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

That strikes me as remarkably close to the bone at the moment with our liberties being leeched away to protect us against more and more unquantifiable threats.

In 1919 he wrote
“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.”

And a final quote from the great man

“The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it’s good-bye to the Bill of Rights.”

You know, I’m sorry I missed him. Oh yes, and as for the title, this was another search term someone used to find this blog.
In case they’re still looking for the naked slave girl, she’s tucked behind the pillar on the left.


Oh and also from Belshazzar’s Feast, the writing on the wall.

the writing on the wall

Henry Louis Mencken could read the writing on the wall, can we?


But then what do I know?

As a reviewer commented, “This is the third collection of farmer Jim Webster’s anecdotes about his sheep, cattle and dogs. This one had added information on the Lake District’s World Heritage status. This largely depends upon the work of around 200 small family farms. Small may not always be beautiful but it can be jolly important. If you want to know the different skills needed by a sheep dog and a cow dog, or to hear tales of some of the old time travelling sales persons – read on! This is real life, Jim, but not as I know it.”

Weight loss, the easy way.


Whilst I’m old enough to remember the great long hospital wards with no curtains, no privacy, just an endless line of beds, I don’t remember the world before the NHS. But I do remember some of the jokes and stories they used to tell of the early days.

One I remember was told by a friend of my father. It was about a chap who went to his doctor and asked for something to help him lose weight.

The doctor gave him some tablets and told him to take one a night before retiring.

Each night he dreamed that he was on a beautiful tropical island. As he explored he discovered that it was populated largely by beautiful and scantily clad tropical maidens and his resulting antics meant that in the course of a fortnight he lost three stones.

He mentioned this to a friend of his who also needed to lose a bit of weight, and so he went to the doctor who gave him some tablets.

In great anticipation the friend took his first tablet and went to bed. A beautiful island, but suddenly he’s spotted by fearsome cannibal warriors and he spends his nights desperately trying to elude them, all the while searching for the maidens he’s sure have to be there. After a fortnight he’d lost four stones.

Not entirely impressed by this, he returned to see the doctor. He was ushered into the august presence, produced the packet the tablets had been in and asked, “Why did my friend, Mr Jones, dream of beautiful maidens, whilst I got savage cannibals?”

The doctor glanced at the tablet, looked down his nose at him and said, “Your friend, Mr Jones, was a private patient. You are National Health.”

Thinking about it, I do wonder whether we’re expecting too much from the NHS. If it does the job, should we expect the beautiful maidens as standard, or are cannibals good enough?

I had my gallbladder out and wasn’t kept in overnight. That’s fine by me; I’ve got a perfectly good bed of my own. I’d rather the bed was used by somebody who needed it.

I think we’ve got to reassess things and decide what’s important. Not what tugs our heartstrings, or can whip up a storm on a TV documentary, but what’s important.


Get to know him and it’s obvious what he thinks is important

The fourth of these collections of anecdotes, rants, pious maunderings and general observations on life. Yes we have dogs, quads, sheep and cattle, but in this one we follow the ‘lambing year.’ It starts with ewes being put to the tup in late autumn and finishes in summer with the last of the laggards lambing.
But as well as this we have endless rain, as well as sleeping in a manger. Be brave and you’ll meet young ladies in high heeled cowboy boots, Sir John Moore of Corunna, brassieres for cows, and, incidentally, David Essex.


As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”

You win some, you lose some


I'm in a paperwork mood let er rip

When dealing with the incalculable lunacy of the Department of Work and Pensions it’s probably good to be able to count up to ten, slowly, before exploding and quoting the immortal words of Ford Prefect to the Golgafrinchans, “You’re a bunch of useless loonies.”

I was off sick for a fortnight after having my gallbladder out. This took me to 15th May. I told everybody I talked to in the DWP that I was only going to be off for a fortnight. So on June 5th the DWP posted me four separate letters.

One was my P45. This, I was told, portentously, is for you to give to your employer. The fact that I was self-employed, always have been self-employed and have never had an employer was irrelevant. When I explained this, I was told, “But you will need to hand it to your employer.”

One was to tell me what they’d paid me. Which is fair enough, indeed it’s actually useful, we can put it in the accounts as part of income received.

One was to tell me they weren’t paying me any more because my circumstances had changed and I was now working more than 16hrs a week. Fair enough, I suppose it’s their way of formally signing me off. Admittedly it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to stick them all in the same envelope, but then it’s only tax-payers money, it’s not as if it matters.

The fourth letter was a gem. They’re going to start paying me at a different rate from the 2nd August!


So I phoned. I had to, these muppets have my bank account details, gods alone know what they’d do with them if they start deciding to arbitrarily put money in and take money out.

So I got hold of someone. I told him what had happened. I roughly paraphrase the conversation.

“Yes well this is because you have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group and have had a medical check up.”

“I haven’t had a medical check up.”

“Well it says on your form you have.”

“Well I didn’t fill it in.”

“Ah, what’s happened is that you filled the form in to see if you were fit to work.”

(Filling a form in counts as having a medical!)

“Yes and on the form I told them I was back at work.”

“Yes, but that information isn’t collected from that form, and when they were processing the form they didn’t know that you were back at work, so we had to send you their conclusions. But we knew you were back at work so our letter [posted the same day] superseded their letter.”

I give up. I mean, if you’re not going to collect information from a form, why ask people to waste their time putting information on the form in the first place?
Admittedly we’re only taxpayers it’s not as if our life had meaning in the great scheme of things. But they could at least pretend they care.
But yesterday I got a small revenge on the system. I was cold-called by someone wanting to know if I’d worked in a noisy environment. I told them yes. They got excited at this, had I ever been issued with hearing protection, I answered yes. Now they were in full flow and the questions came thick and fast, with them getting more and more excited, especially when they realised I’d worked for the same firm for nearly forty years, then at last they asked

“We think you can get compensation off your employer, have you ever thought of taking them to court?”


“Who is your employer?”

“I’ve been self employed all my life.”

Long, heartfelt and heavy silence

“Do you realise that the self employed cannot sue themselves.”

“Oh yes.”

There was then a click as they put the phone down on me

One has to take one’s pleasures where you find them, and at least wasting the time of cold callers is tax efficient.


There again, what do I know?

Try reading this, it’s also tax efficient and is guaranteed more fun than dealing with cold callers.


As a reviewer commented, “These are four excellent short stories introducing the early days of Benor. Each tale pulses with humour as the well-drawn characters engage in various adventures. Each story features great dialogue, lots of good food, wine and ale, all taking place in a believable and well-drawn world where the streets pulse with life. The reader gets a powerful sense of being there in a real world with real people going about their real lives.

I look forward to reading the next book and wish I’d read this one far sooner.”




So how much money is there is this book writing job anyway?

People do occasionally ask this question. Normally they’re too polite; sometimes they just assume the money just keeps rolling in. Other times when they actually meet me they make the inspired guess that it doesn’t put my amateur status at risk. There again, perhaps it’s the new bathroom that leads to them jumping to conclusions.


So how much does it cost to produce a book properly?
Well first let’s ignore the writer’s hourly rate. Let’s look at the stuff that ought to happen.

Assuming we’re talking about a book that’s 70,000 words long I’d suggest you’re looking at the following figures. We’ll stick with an e-book because the numbers are less complicated.

Front cover. I’d guess somewhere between £30 and £70 should get you something acceptable so we’ll say £50. Be aware, artists are considered remarkably flaky, prone to attacks of the vapours, but unlike writers they get paid before the book is published. So go figure that one out.

Editing; because the basic rule is that nobody can edit their own work, will cost about £180. A good editor will correct major typos and punctuation disasters, but most importantly will ask questions like “Why does this character suddenly do that?” Or they’ll say things like “This doesn’t convince me. You can explain this better.” Your editor points out the changes you need to make to lift an ordinary story up to the level of a really good story. Your editor is really your partner, between the pair of you; you produce a really good book.

Then there’s the line-editing or proof-reading. This goes through the book picking out all the errors. A good proof-reader will spot the fact that you wrote ‘drawers’ when you meant ‘draws’. They’ll also make sure you’ve got the right ‘its’ and haven’t applied your commas with a shotgun. It can cost nicely over £1000 for this length of book.

Then there’s the techie bit when they pour the corrected final document into half a dozen different electronic formats and make sure they’re properly uploaded onto the correct websites and that all the pricing deals are correct and that the links all work. I guess I’ll put in a nominal £100 for that.

At this point we could talk about marketing and publicity, but you do that in your own time. Flitter away your waking hours on the web trying to be seen amidst a myriad other small voices all shrieking, ‘Look at me, look at me.’

Remember that the first year is when your book really sells, next year it’s old hat and will hopefully pick up a few sales on the strength of your second book which you published a year after you published the first.

And how much money do we get back?

Well there’s an interesting table I saw based on Amazon sales rank.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 50,000 to 100,000 – selling close to 1 book a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10,000 to 50,000 – selling 3 to 15 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 5,500 to 10,000 – selling 15 to 30 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 3,000 to 5,500 – selling 30 to 50 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 500 to 3,000 – selling 50 to 200 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 350 to 500 – selling 200 to 300 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 100 to 350 – selling 300 to 500 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 35 to 100 – selling 500 to 1,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10 to 35 – selling 1,000 to 2,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 5 to 10 – selling 2,000 to 4,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 1 to 5 – selling 4,000+ books a day.

Most self-published writers seem to creep in slightly above 10,000 when they’re launched, perhaps have a spell when they manage to hold up above 50,000 and then a couple of months later they drift down to 200,000 but with occasional flashes when they sell another book and shoot up to the giddy heights of sixty or seventy thousand.

But you’re different. You’re going to be a real success; you’re not going to drop below 50,000. (As a reality check, Terry Pratchett’s ‘Guards Guards’ is currently about 4,000.)

So over the first year we have 365 days in which we average sales of ten books a day. (Be still my beating heart.)

Now e-books are priced cheap, as a new writer you’re not going to sell many if you charge £5. So let’s say you go for £0.99 so make sure you’re attractive and don’t scare off the big spenders. You’ll get a 35% royalty rate which is 34.6p a book. Now you’ve sold 3650 books, so you’ve earned the magnificent sum of £1265; my sincere congratulations.

So against this magnificent sum of £1265, you’ve got to set £1000 for the proof-reading, £180 for the editing, £50 for the cover, and £100 for the techie bits. That’s £1330.

OK so even through you were a really big success for an indie writer, you’ve lost money. What can you do?

Well in your second book you can put the price up a bit, you’re a success, you’ve got a reader base.

But if you just publish through Kindle alone (which would lose me between 10% and 15% of my sales) you can simply do the techie bits yourself, immediately saving £100.

Actually if you know what you’re doing you can probably do it with the other platforms as well but don’t expect me to be able to show you how to do it. For me the £100 seems a sensible amount of money to pay someone so I don’t have to do that sort of stuff.

What other savings are there? Some people produce their own covers. Well if you’re a gifted artist that’s fine. With the Tallis Steelyard stories I use the finest artists the western world has known. But remember the book cover is the thing people see. It’s the thing that leaps out from the Amazon webpage shouting ‘Buy me.’

Then there’s the editor. Frankly the £180 you spend there is the best money you do spend. If you spend nothing at all, still spend the money on the editor.

And then there’s the big saving; that £1000 for proof-reading.

Frankly very few of us are that successful, so very few writers can afford to even think of spending that sort of money. In fact I have come to suspect that even with the big publishers, they’re not willing to splash out and pay for proper proofreading on new authors who might never cover the cost.  So we, the little people, do it ourselves, or more wisely throw ourselves on the mercy of good hearted friends who can do it.

So there you have it. You thought you wanted to be a writer; here are the bare bones of the trade laid out in a seemly manner for you to ponder upon. There is a route to success. When your second book appears, your first book should get a boost, and your second book might sell faster and sell more copies. When the third book appears you’ll see the same effect, perhaps amplified. So write a book a year, or ideally two a year, keep on plugging away, keep on improving (because the more you write the better you get) and suddenly, after twenty years hard work, you might just become an overnight sensation.


In the interests of making me an overnight sensation you might want to consider purchasing a number of copies of this book to give as suitable presents for your friends..


As a reviewer commented, “When a story starts with the words ‘There are safe ways to kill an Urlan. No, let me rephrase that, there are ways to kill an Urlan that do not lead to their kindred hunting you down like a rabid dog’, you KNOW it’s going to be a classic Jim Webster tale.
True to form, this is indeed a great yarn, worthy of being sung about at feasts in Medieval, or, Valhalla-like, halls.”

Dogs, Dreams and Fairy tales.

Do you believe in fairies? Do you believe in Richard Dawkins? Or is he just a creature dreamed up by a wicked school master to make sure you stay at your desk and concentrate of differential calculus rather than daydreaming?


He’s stirred up quite a few comments, pretty well all of them unfavourable. This might be because they were made by writers and perhaps writers know the power and value of daydreaming. One blog did stand out for me, it was at and I have to thank K.M.Lockwood for doing the hard work and finding the picture below. For me this sums up what a real scientist, a great scientist, thought about fairytales.




But as often happens, two trains of thought came together. On Tuesday our current working dog, young Sal, got her first real go at working cattle on her own, without quad bikes or other people to fret about. I discovered that she has the same cattle technique as old Jess had. When moving cattle, first go to the front end, snap at their nose to tell them that you’re the boss and expect action. I think of it as the ‘Granny Weatherwax’ school of management which boils down to ‘If you haven’t got respect, you’ve got nothing’. (For those of you who don’t know Granny Weatherwax; read Wyrd Sisters, )


Anyway yesterday Sal was working with me, moving some sheep. She did that OK and then heard the quad bike. She spotted that the quad bike was also moving sheep pretty effectively and she immediately ignored the sheep and started herding the quad bike, just to make sure that it kept working and didn’t slouch off or stop for some reason.

Now way back, I’d be still at school, we were haytiming and the baler broke a shear bolt. Not an uncommon thing to happen. But everything stops; my father and my uncle unjam the baler and put in a new shear bolt. During this process, old Ben, our working dog at the time, sat and observed. (Working Border Collies don’t merely watch; that is a merely passive activity, they Observe because they somehow give the impression that they’re valued participants in the activity which wouldn’t go well without their input.)

Finally, everything fixed, my father started the tractor, and as it moved off old Ben darted in to give the baler wheels a nip, just to get it going and make sure it keep working.


Now I’m second to none in my appreciation of the Border Collie. They regularly give the impression of absolute certainty. They know, to the very core of their being, that they are the professionals, and I’m just some ape descendant with an opposed thumb who thinks he knows something about moving livestock. There are times when I’m vaguely honoured that I’m considered worthy to discuss policy with.

But even Border Collies have their limits. There are things which are beyond their comprehension; things that they don’t really understand. They cope with them; they just treat them as sheep.

I think this is perhaps a metaphor that Richard Dawkins ought to meditate on at some point.