Voices Inside My Head

This time last year I was convinced my writing was done. The Phoenix Series was complete and the desire to start something new was lacking. However, March brought more than a shed load of downloads and subsequent sales. It provided the spur I needed to get moving again.

I previewed the main characters of my next series ‘The Freeman Files’ in the past two blog posts and began writing #1 ‘Fatal Decision’ in mid-July. Twenty thousand words in so far. I’m on schedule for the first four books of the six-book series to be finished by December.

That first book will be published in time for Christmas and as well as writing books #5 & #6 in the New Year, the remaining books will be published far more rapidly than in the past. So, by mid-May the series will be ‘live’ in full.

Not writing for a year meant this past three weeks have been a struggle, I must admit. I hoped to achieve 3000 words per day as I had when I was writing regularly. I was lucky to get a thousand at the outset. Fortunately, I’ve had a couple of better days recently. The rhythm is coming back.

I never had the benefit of higher education and the technical aspects professional writers refer to go right over my head. I draft a skeleton format for a story. I decide on my characters and put flesh on the bones. For all my previous books I carried those characters around inside my head, so they could talk to me, and tell me where they wanted to go.

Then, when I started writing, I would know roughly where each chapter was drafted to reach, but the characters regularly changed their minds and took the story in an unexpected direction. We’d reach the ending I planned for the book, but not always via the route I’d expected.

This past weekend I had a dream. Sometimes we forget what they were all about don’t we? In ‘Fatal Decision’ Gus Freeman has to solve a cold case from a decade earlier. I had drafted the skeleton story line, I knew the killer, but I didn’t have the intermediate clues to sprinkle through the chapters that would explain why they were guilty.

I woke up at about five in the morning. The road ahead was now clear. The conversations the characters had in my dream stayed long enough for me to jot down the salient points. I’ve always kept a notepad and pen by my bed. You never know when an idea will spring up.

Not everyone will know the identity of the killer from the first clue, but it will all make sense in the end. Now all we have to do is write the remaining chapters. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Those main characters are inside my head for five more books after this one. I’m sure I’ll need their help solving the other mysteries.

Take care and best wishes.  I’ll be back in September.

 

 

 

Introducing the supporting cast

Last month I gave you a progress report on The Freeman Files my new cold case series. Well, the first chapters are about to get underway.

The decorators have left the building, at last. A protracted visit it must be said and my wife & I escaped to one of our twin daughters at the weekend. We needed to get away from the place. There was a lot of tidying, curtain fitting and drawers to be re-filled; plus, some actual de-cluttering that required visits to the recycling site.

It’s affectionately termed ‘the dump’ over here. You may recognise the term, but if you didn’t, you get the picture. Where did we get all this clutter from, anyway? We’re both de-stressed now and ready for the next phase of the operation. Meanwhile, the writing life stumbles on.

Let me introduce you to the members of DI Gus Freeman’s team.

Detective Sergeant Alex Hardy is 38 years old, single and confined to a wheelchair. He has been assigned to the Crime Review Team as part of his rehabilitation. Alex joined the police after university and his passion for motorbikes saw him train as a qualified pursuit officer. Twenty months ago, he was seriously injured in a high-speed crash while chasing a suspect.

Alex is adamant he will eventually recover sufficiently to resume active duties. This struggle will form part of the background theme to the six books. Will he achieve his goals? You’ll have to read the books to find out, I’m afraid. I’ll be discovering how far he gets myself. He has mental and physical barriers to overcome and his superiors will need some convincing to alter their opinion that a desk job is as good as its going to get.

Forensic Psychology graduate Lydia Logan Barre is a 25-year-old firebrand. She’s full of righteous zeal, with opinions on every aspect of modern policing. This is bound to put her on a collision course with Gus Freeman and his ‘old school’ approach. Lydia’s birth mother was Scottish, and her father Nigerian. Lydia was born in Edinburgh and adopted at birth by a white couple living in Dundee. She had a happy childhood, in spite of racial bullying at school, and remains close to her adoptive parents. At first, she wanted to be an actress and attended part-time classes at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. She switched her focus to an MSc at Glasgow Caledonian University, and this will be her first ‘proper’ job.

Detective Sergeant Neil Davis followed in his father’s footsteps. Terry Davis was a DS with the same force back in 2001. Terry appeared in my first novel ‘The Final Straw’. He was already 48 years old then and his career path was firmly at a dead end. He retired to Southern Spain in 2011 and has no intentions of returning to these shores. Neil must face some uncomfortable truths as cold cases from his father’s time are among those re-visited by the Crime Review Team. Neil is 28, recently married, and a rising star on a fast-track to higher things. Unless he’s cut from the same cloth as his father, of course; is he someone Gus needs to be wary of? Time will tell.

That’s the team. What will I be doing until my next update? Getting to grips with those opening chapters of ‘Fatal Decision’ the first book in the series.

I won’t bore you with the list of mundane tasks that remain to be tackled at Casa Tayler. I’m feeling good at the minute. I don’t want a relapse. They’ll all get done, somehow. My wife is confident I can fit the writing in during the gaps. It pays not to argue. Forty-eight years’ experience – in case you wondered. Find out whether I made it in early August when I’m sure there will be other tales to tell.

Take care and best wishes. 

 

Sowing The Seeds

Five weeks ago, I was heading to Ibiza for a holiday in the sun. I took plenty of reading material, plus paper and pens to jot down plot ideas for the new series. I had a great time… and apart from a few random thoughts I scribbled on the homeward flight, I admit to achieving very little.

Almost as soon as I arrived home a horde of window fitters, swiftly followed by a team of painters/decorators invaded my quiet retirement. Have you ever tried writing under those conditions? It’s not easy. However, I’ve somehow completed the research for the six titles in The Freeman Files and I can share my progress.

The image shows the covers I’ve purchased for the series. I think they represent the cold case mystery/police procedural very well. I hope you agree. I decided to get them before I started to write. After a year without metaphorically picking up my pen I needed the spur to get me back in the game. The schedule remains the same. Three books in 2019 with #1 published in time for Christmas. The remaining three books to be ready by the end of April 2020. I’m aiming for a more rapid release on these titles than in the past. So, the final title will be up for grabs by the end of May. 

So, who is the leading man and what sets him apart from other police procedural staple characters out there?

Gus Freeman is 61 years old. The retired Detective Inspector lives in a village on the outskirts of the West Country town where my first novels were set. A fictional town that borrows elements from the half-dozen small towns that surround my family home. It lies approximately ten miles from the Roman city of Bath – which is where The Phoenix series was centered. Larcombe Manor stood several miles out of the city, closer to Bristol and the coast.

Freeman has spent the past 3 years tending his allotment. A peculiar British tradition that is a carry-over from WWII and the ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign. As he surveys his handiwork sitting outside his garden shed he ponders his night-time reading. He’s a fan of Kierkegaard the Danish author considered to be the first existentialist philosopher.

Freeman’s wife, Tess, died from a brain aneurysm six months to the day after his retirement. He is still coming to terms with his enforced solitary existence. Then comes a phone call from the county police HQ. His old boss wants him to head up a Crime Review Team investigating cold cases. His trips to the allotment would be curtailed. The musings would be clouded by old witness statements and freshly unearthed clues… the hunt would be on. Freeman wonders whether his superiors really need his old style policing methods, or is the request out of pity? To occupy his mind with some fruitless digging into age old cases the best young brains failed to crack?

Next month’s blog post in early July will introduce Detective Sergeant Alex Hardy and Forensic Psychology graduate Lydia Logan Barre. There’s one more team member to emerge. I’m sat outside my own garden shed now studying the seeds I planted last week. They should be ready to harvest by late summer. Patience is a handy tool to have, don’t you think? I’m sure you realise there’s a lot more to the other team members than mere names? I’m excited by the possibilities already. 

Take care and best wishes. 

Ted Tayler

 

Breaking News

‘If you stand still in this game, you’re dead in the water.’

 I’ve no idea where that quote came from. Nor do I know which business or sport it referred to but it’s certainly true as far as the writing and promotion of books is concerned.

After the high point of Mid-March, the last four weeks have been very much as I predicted. The lessons learned on my journey so far told me I had a mountain of work ahead of me to realise the full potential from the significant leap forward that Book Bub Featured Deal created.

In a recent article I wrote for our local newspaper I said that ‘exciting times lay ahead and the incentive to write a new series to provide new material for a growing number of fans has never been greater.’

When I started self-publishing in 2013 my first outlet was Smashwords and once that initial book was through their strict processes, I felt confident my file would sail through the KDP set up. It did, and I continued using the same formatter ever since. What she thought I knew was that although Smashwords don’t insist on a TOC, Amazon changed tack some time ago and it’s now on the list of things they require.

So, most of the past four weeks have been spent adding a TOC to each book and inserting links to the next book in the series. That was time I had assigned to the steep learning curve I knew faced me as I dug deeper into Ads on Facebook, AMS and BookBub. Sadly, although I’ve tinkered with those marketing avenues in a few snatched moments a lot of the impetus has been blunted by the ‘housekeeping’.

How many times have I written on this Blog Page that progress has been slowed by another bump in the road over the years? I dread to think. Three steps forward, two steps back come to mind.

In the end I decided to clear the decks, get the housekeeping behind me, park the marketing seminars and finalise the next phase of my journey.

Breaking News. Coming by the end of 2019 the first books in a new crime thriller series. 

The Freeman Files  – a six book series featuring a retired detective reviewing cold cases. A departure from the vigilante justice genre, but the police procedural has always been one of my favourite reads. What do I hope to bring to the party, where many other authors have gone before? When I read the comments on recommendations from BookBub followers I enjoy seeing words such as ‘wonderful characters’; ‘entertaining’; ‘great plot’.

I believe that’s what I’m good at. I need to play to my strengths. The battle with the marketing strategy will continue. Any further ‘housekeeping’ tasks will be dealt with without delay. No matter what obstacles lie ahead I shall be back in the saddle writing in the very near future.

We’re off on holiday next weekend. Time to chill out and think about those six plots, all the supporting characters and attention-grabbing titles & blurbs.

I did say it was a holiday, didn’t I?  

Ah well, please refer to my opening sentence. Standing still isn’t an option.

I’ll be back with all the latest news in early June. If you want to write to me, you know where I am, and I’ll be happy to hear from you. Best wishes.

Ted Tayler

From Base Camp To The Summit?

If February was ‘turning the corner’ month, then March could be an even more significant milestone on my journey. Let me rephrase that. On our journey. So many of you have been with me from the beginning and you know the bumps in the road we’ve had to negotiate. 

Those who have recently joined us have done so for the same reasons. Good reasons. The themes in The Phoenix Series have struck a chord somewhere inside you, or you simply enjoy the style in which the adventures are written. Events of the past 48 hours might bring even more fresh faces to our door. The more the merrier, I say.

Two weeks ago, I was celebrating the confirmation of my first BookBub Featured Deal. That ran yesterday, Monday March 18th in the US. So how did it go?

 You recall my excitement over seeing my first #1 ranking on Amazon for Assassination Thrillers? Heck, yesterday I was grabbing screenshots all over the place as 21000 copies of ‘The Olympus Project’ were downloaded.

 #1 Assassination Thrillers; #1 Conspiracy Thrillers; #1 Terrorism Thrillers

#1 Crime Thrillers; #2 Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense; and #2 Thrillers in general.

#4 Kindle Free Store. (OK. #1 was on my wish list. Maybe next time?)

 I reduced the price on #2 ‘Gold, Silver & Bombs’ until March 31st. Over 160 copies were sold yesterday. For some obscure reason, all of the remaining 10 books in the series had sales in double figures. Any concerns about the cost of the Featured Deal have melted away. I’m good to go to the next phase of progressing ‘read through’ for the series.

Yesterday unlocked a vast potential. I’m not naïve. It will need a heap of work to realise that potential.

 Many thanks for sharing this journey with me. I couldn’t do it without support.

 Breaking news: – My wife, Lynne has started to badger me into writing again. Last year, she thought I was banging my head against a brick wall and should stop. Lynne thought we should be taking more holidays and visiting family and friends. At my age you can’t look too far ahead, but it appears I may be hibernating for up to ten of the next thirty months – resurfacing in time for our Golden Wedding in October 2021.

 Retirement – who needs it? All things being equal, I’ll be back early next month.      

A Welcome Boost

February definitely felt like a ‘turning the corner’ kind of month. 

I experienced a warm glow with that first #1 ranking on Amazon at the start of the month. The follow up promotion two weeks later wasn’t brilliant but the unseasonably warm weather here in the UK meant it didn’t leave me with any chilly after effects.

In fact, it was hard to stop wandering around with a cheesy grin on my face. Actual sales were 100% up on January and my website sign-up form had its links re-connected to Mailchimp. I hadn’t been able to welcome a new Phoenix member since October. 

I was on a roll.

In previous posts I’ve told you about my correspondence with other writers. Those who have been far more successful than me. I’ve learned far more through their willingness to share their wisdom than I could from reading the ‘How To’ books out there.

I had just posted a review on Amazon for an Australian thriller writer. I think that made sixteen (or eighteen) titles now from two different series. He emailed me to say he had spotted my name on a site he also uses and asked how my recent promotion fared. It had generated a moderate return on my outlay and I took the opportunity to outline my strategy in general in the hopes of some useful advice. He took the time to reply with a detailed version of his own approach and some pointers that might benefit me.

To give you an idea of the difference in scale between us; my annual marketing spend is around £2500. He spends $100 EVERY DAY on Facebook Ads, plus Amazon Headline and Sponsored Ads and giveaways through Booksweep/Book Funnel. My guess is he ploughs $50000 back into his business – and still comes up smiling!

I swallowed hard. I couldn’t compete with that. I thought, it’s time to find out whether my books can cut the mustard. For six years I’d envied the small percentage of writers accepted by BookBub who then reported eye-watering numbers of downloads via a Featured Deal.

I submitted #1 in the Phoenix Series on the 21st of February. It was a fishing expedition. I was confident the new covers would be a tick in the box. I thought the fact it was a completed series would be another positive. I hoped when they sent the rejection note they told me what needed to be done to fix the problems. If it was feasible within my budget I could regroup this summer and try again later in the year with a revised re-launch.

Five days later I received the ‘Congratulations – you have been accepted’ message. I was over the moon. Stunned, but over the moon. MONDAY, 18TH MARCH 2019 will be my first BookBub Featured Deal.

The rest of February was a blur I’m afraid. I wish I could tell you what I did to celebrate, but I spent the time in preparation for the big day.

I added more reader magnets and standardised my Author Bio. I asked for advice on how to discount books #2 & #3 to encourage a fast follow-through in the weeks after Deal Day.

I revised all the short stories I had written and prepped them for new members. Since October, when the link broke between my website & Mailchimp there have been no new faces and the promise at the end of the updated books of ‘a free short story for every newbie’ has been redundant.

It’s early March now and the 18th seems a long way off. On the 18th, book #1 will be Free and being offered to 2.7 million US Thriller readers. I want as many of those interested in the series to grab the early books and hope that encourages them to read all twelve books in time.

Everything’s changed since that acceptance email. I can concentrate solely on book #1 and run discounted periods of time on books #2 & #3 whenever I get a repeat deal. Instead of lots of small amounts across dozens of sites every two weeks, I may be able to run four or five big promotions through the year, supplemented by some of those ideas from the land Down Under – Headline, Sponsored, Facebook Ads.

I’ll update you in early April on what happens on the 18th March. There have been so many bumps in the road I won’t allow myself to believe that corner has actually been turned until I check the road is clear.

No matter what happens, that acceptance message was a welcome boost. The covers must be good. What’s between them must be better than I thought. Only 10 to 15% of books are accepted for those prized Featured Deals.

Someone once said ‘there’s no such thing as an overnight success – if it happens it usually means you’ve been doing lots of small things better every day for a long time and not giving up’. 

That was the plan. If it doesn’t turn out to be a giant leap, it will still be another small thing done better and I have another reason NOT to give up.

 

 

Another Box Ticked

Which box did I tick?

I’ve often marveled at authors whose profile highlights the fact they’re #1 Best Selling Authors.

When I’ve dug deeper some have achieved that across the board on several occasions, but many have probably only hit that prized #1 spot in a single category. Yesterday I ran a Freebooksy promotion on The Olympus Project. The return was as good as could be expected with a thousand plus copies downloaded.

All the work I did last autumn is starting to bear fruit. The great new covers by The Cover Collection are a significant factor. The refreshed blurbs have an input, plus the increase in keywords on KDP that open fresh categories where my books can feature.

Yesterday evening for the first time in the six and a half years I’ve been writing fiction I hit the #1 spot. I took a screenshot for posterity. It might be my only highlight. (OK, I took the screenshot to be able to back up my revised profile details that might casually mention I’m a #1 Best Selling Author) If anyone doubts the veracity of that claim, you can tell them you’ve seen the evidence. If you love thrillers with assassinations, conspiracies and terrorism I’m your man. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Olympus Project promotion follows two weeks from yesterday. Who knows what the future will bring? Further collaborations inspired by my Instagram posts? More bumps in the road from problems yet to reveal themselves? Whatever it is will be eventful I’m sure.

Why not return in early March for a catch-up? You’ll be most welcome.

 

 

 


         

 


           

Out With The Old, In With The New

Welcome to my first blog post for 2019. How true that headline statement is as everything looks different on every social media site featuring my books.

The old covers for The Phoenix Series have been consigned to history. Just as we have left 2018 behind us hoping for a brighter year ahead, I’ve got a new look with which to enter 2019.

The covers designed by The Cover Collection have met with universal approval. The scale of improvement can be measured by the immediate response from the first site I approached for this week’s promotion on book #1 in the series: – “IMHO this takes your covers from a 3 or 4 to an 8 or 9”

After two and a half years of offering that first book in the series permanently free, I’ve changed tack. All 12 Phoenix books are now priced at $2.99. Book #1 will be free via KDP Select only on individual promotion days (such as today (2nd Jan) or in two weeks’ time (16th Jan).

What else has changed? The blurbs for the books have been refreshed. The revisions are punchier and more relevant than before. The keywords that help the reader find the series in the forest of other thriller writers out there are also significantly improved. I’m in better shape than at any time since I started this journey into fiction back in 2013.

Will there be further books? A new series, perhaps? I don’t believe so, but I am considering writing more short stories, which would include the early lives of Phoenix characters such as Rusty Scott, Annabelle Fox and Henry Case. 

My 2018 goals were: – To complete The Phoenix Series; to promote #1 in the series, and the complete series whenever possible. The strategy was to maintain the 20000 downloads level, to entice more readers to BUY books 2-12; and to continue to enjoy life.

How did I do? I only achieved 18500 downloads in 2018, but actual sales were 50% UP on 2017. Page Reads also contributed a decent amount to the royalties received. What were the downsides? The lack of downloads was due to the search for new covers, fresh blurbs and a general ‘stock-take’. So, I don’t consider that a failure. While I used November/December to reappraise everything and scrapped any promotion activity I put all of the books (except #1) into Kindle Unlimited.

I had hoped the income from Page Reads would pay for the new covers. The sad fact was very few people grabbed the opportunity to read the books until the new covers arrived in late December. There was a sudden flurry of activity over the festive period which reinforced the urgent need for them. Fingers crossed, that flurry will continue well into 2019.

Do I have specific goals for 2019? I don’t believe they have changed. The writing is all but done. The marketing will concentrate on #1. The promotions budget will remain at the same level. As I haven’t got 3 books to complete this year I will focus on what I could do to increase my conversion percentage viz. getting more people reading the whole series after grabbing The Olympus Project via a free promotion.

 

I’ll be back in early February with an update – or sooner, if I have exciting news. 

If you want to join my select mailing list, why not join The Phoenix Club? Newsletter (#33) will be circulated very soon.

 

 

 

Testing Times Ahead

Do you ever ask a question and then wonder whether it was the right thing to do?

I checked my September sales/downloads and the numbers were still on track for my best year to date. You know me, I’ve been at this game long enough to know you can’t stand still. I wondered whether there were things I could do, places I could promote that I hadn’t discovered yet. What did I need to do to take things to the next level?

The BookBub Ad I ran last month was a big disappointment. It may have been the targeting, the image, the wording, the budget I had available – who knows, the feedback wasn’t helpful to isolate the problem. All I knew was, it didn’t work for me.

A month ago I joined the Facebook Page 20BooksTo50K. Exactly what it says on the tin, a whole load of writers, bloggers and reviewers striving to help other indie writers progress from selling a handful of books to enough to fill a library.

I asked what I could do to take that next step.

The first replies were useful. ‘Check your categories and keywords.’ ‘Move things like Acknowledgements & About The Author to back matter.’ ‘Put your entire bibliography in EVERY book, don’t just build it up as you add a new title.’ “Have you entered everything into KU for three months?’

I set to work on those items as the weekend began. By Monday, things had progressed.

‘You need to change your covers. They’re too similar and don’t indicate the genre.’ ‘Your blurbs don’t have a positive hook to get readers enthused.’

Well, this was not what I needed to hear. Or perhaps it was what I knew was an issue but couldn’t face the prospect.

At the risk of repeating myself, I intended for The Phoenix Series to be a trilogy. Three similar covers via Canva wouldn’t have been so bad. With only three to find a designer for, maybe I would have got three professionally produced covers, who knows?

Once you reach twelve, the thought of re-designing the covers for the kindle gets to be a problem. Then, there are the tweet images, the slides for the Video Book Trailers on my YouTube channel, updating information held on a dozen websites (including my own). Not so much a problem, as a nightmare.

Oh, the paperback cover/spine/back will need updating too. Another £600 to recoup in extra sales. Most of the other changes only involve time (lots of time) but if the KU initiative brings in an income from people reading the books it might offset the inevitable expenses.

I feel as if I’m committed to making the changes. The first two books in the series have passed muster with several scrutineers on 20BooksTo50K. If I get the green light the rest of the series will be remodelled and tested over the next two weeks.

I’ve got to be careful with installing the new covers. There’s a promotion on the 15th October. The only one in October. I need the downloads from that to get me close to my 20k target for 2018. If I mess with the picture & the blurb while that’s in progress it could affect the promo’s performance.

Will these changes bring about the step-change I wish for? I’ve no idea. This blog post is entitled ‘Testing Times Ahead’. I think that goes for more than just the covers. Ah well, they say that ‘if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you always got.’

Onwards and upwards.

 If you want to join my select mailing list, why not join The Phoenix Club? Newsletter (#30) will be circulated very soon.

 

 

A Frequent Peal Of Bells

I often wondered how approaching retirement felt. Those weeks and months as you neared the date when you could officially pack up work. Redundancy robbed me of that anticipation, and I was thrust into semi-retirement with no time to prepare.

I’ve kept busy in the past eighteen years with exam invigilation and quiz compiling for a decade each. In the past six years, I’ve written fiction. In two weeks’ time, the eleventh book in the Phoenix series will be published. That leaves me with just one more to write. Four weeks in May/June to write a fitting end to series that’s given me so much pleasure.

I plan to post the odd blog and promote the eighteen books I’ve published since I started, but retirement beckons. I’ve got time to prepare this time around, and to be honest – it feels right.

Yesterday (9th April) saw almost 1200 downloads. Figures are a third up on 2017 in general. I can’t complain. I received this from an ex-schoolteacher in Missouri last month: –

Just recently discovered Olympus and Phoenix. I am midway through Book 5 and totally committed to making my way through all of the books. I’ve visited so many of the places mentioned in your books that I’m comfortable with settings. Your characters are so believable that I’m easily drawn into their lives and activities. Although I am no fan of Phoenix’s music choices, I am totally in sympathy with his mission. Congratulations on weaving a tale worthy of our oral traditions.

And ONE week later: –

And now the waiting game begins. Finished Three Weeks in September, Book 10 and eagerly await number 11. Wow! I thought Demeter was an evil witch, but this new member is a true snake in the grass. Chilling. My total fascination with this series remains strong. I am surprised to see so few posts on this FB page. I am going to have to encourage my friends to read the Olympus series.

That’s why we write isn’t it?

There are others out there who will react the same way. I just have to find them. It’s not imperative I slog away with more books about The Phoenix or start a new series altogether. What’s done is done, and good enough to spark that reaction.

I’ll be back with news on the FINAL book sometime in May. 

If you want regular updates on all my books, why not join The Phoenix Club? Newsletter (#23) will be circulated very soon.