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.



The Tinker Man & Pastures New

If there has been one thing I’ve learned in the past six years it’s that nothing ever stays the same for long. There have been changes to cope with on every aspect of social media. Some have a major impact, most are minor irritants.

In May, I needed to cobble together a Privacy Policy. Perhaps a little earlier in the year, Facebook moved the goalposts on Pages so that posts from Twitter I directed to my Author Page ceased to appear. I never noticed for weeks. I was otherwise embroiled in getting my final book published and trying to convince Amazon to add the same Editorial Reviews material it had accepted for the other eleven books. I gave up that fight in the end.

I complained bitterly that it was a real bind needing to contact KDP & Createspace in both the US and the UK to get anything done. I would love to believe they listened! Either way, Createspace has disappeared into the giant maw of the Amazon beast. If I was still writing, it would have cut my work in half. Typical.

Twitter had a massive clear-out of fake accounts in June, leaving me five thousand followers light. C’est la vie. Bigger accounts lost millions. Less is more. Small is beautiful. It’s not all bad. None were accounts I followed back anyway.

Then Twitter woke up to the practice of some account holders flooding the timeline with the same tweets. I worked with a book promoter four years ago who did this. He had 10 accounts, posting your customised tweet half a dozen times per day on each platform. Of course it was annoying. No, it didn’t bring much in the way of reward. It was money down the drain. It’s a practice I’ll be glad to see the back of.

Buffer advised me last month to create brand-new tweets every month, just in case my schedule infringes the new Twitter rules surrounding such tweets. I have a four-weekly cycle on my platform, where the wording may be similar but the image is always different; and I vary the tweets across every title I’ve written. Variety is everything. I’m going to tough it out. In comparison to those multiple posts across multiple accounts, mine is almost negligible. Anyway, who can dream up something original to say every five minutes? I’ll continue to tinker with things & hope to fly under the radar. Life’s too short.

Talking of that, I’ve used my spare time during August researching my family history. I’ve discovered my grandfather had two sets of twins in his family. I never knew that. One twins, Eliza died in 1889 before her first birthday. The next pair survived into their 70’s. My great grandfather had 10 children, but only half of them reached maturity. When the census was held in 1851, Isaac was in prison. The case never got to court. He was drunk & disorderly on Saturday night. The census was on the Sunday. Can you blame him? Life was hard back then. People complain today, but compared to those days they don’t know how lucky they are.

On a more positive note, it’s over seven weeks since I had a blank day on sales. Exactly, every day has seen a new reader, or someone coming back for more. Happy days.

To keep the fire burning I’ve set out on pastures new. I’m running more ads with my tried and tested promotion sites, plus a a new venture with Bookbub. Their relatively new offering is similar to the Amazon Sponsored Ads in style & make-up. I’m hoping for good things. I’ll report back next month.

At some point I’ll try the Facebook and Amazon Marketing Services route for new readers again, but it’s not cheap & I need to check my ROI on the ads I’ve run this year. If I’m in a strong financial position, I’ll give it a concerted crack. To see if I can turn this slow-burning fire into a blaze. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

If you want to join my select mailing list, why not join The Phoenix Club? Newsletter (#29) will be circulated very soon.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Somewhere, there’s an interview where I stated my favourite book was ‘A Tale Of Two Cities; by Charles Dickens. I took the liberty of paying homage to the great man in my final novel.

Not for the first time, I slipped some of my titles into the dialogue too, for good measure. So, you will come across ‘nothing is ever forever’ and ‘a new dawn’ as you read ‘Larcombe Manor’. You see? I did it again.

Eighteen titles in six years was hard graft. Not the writing, because I loved that part. It’s been the marketing that’s made it a long, hard road. With no more books to write, I only have that to concentrate on as I move forward. Will I get bored? Or is it more likely I’ll get frustrated and pack it all in?

That’s the question now. Where do I go from here? I’ve explained my reasons for making #12 in The Phoenix Series the last book. To discover what they were you’ll need to read ‘Larcombe Manor’. I also tried to acknowledge everyone who helped me in the past six years. If you were among that number and won’t be reading the book, I’ll thank you now for everything you’ve done.

The initial plan is to maintain the social media presence and to promote the books with what funds I can muster. Will I miss the writing? Of course I will. I thought I would produce more blog posts on various topics, but I don’t think that’s going to work. It’s not really my thing.

Perhaps, I’ll post book and gig reviews here as well as the occasional update on my progress. I need to keep this site ticking over, in the vain hope that more people discover it.

I never set out to be a writer. This past six years was an accident. Is it any wonder I’m asking myself – where do I go from here?

Keep cool in this sweltering summer. I’ll be back with something (?) in August.

I Caught The June Bug

The past six weeks have flown by. All the doubts and fears over ‘Larcombe Manor’ have been resolved. I’m 75% through the writing now with 15000 words to go. Give or take. The story lines were easy to find, the eventual conclusion and farewells will be hard to write.

Nothing’s changed. This is still the final book. I tinkered about during the last two weeks in May, then went flat out with the writing from the beginning of June. Five days will get me where I need to be. Another week revising and editing will get it published.

How have the numbers stacked up in the past six weeks? Crazy. The 3 promotions have been unspectacular, but worth the expense. The actual sales have seen a steady increase.

I think that means the few readers I do manage to hook continue to read the series and will be poised to buy ‘Larcombe Manor’ in mid-July.

In the periods of downtime, I’ve read a lot – almost 80 books reviewed of my 100 book Goodreads Challenge for 2018 – I’ve discovered new thriller writers I love and ditched some duds that I won’t be downloading again.

If you want to follow my Amazon Author Central updates, why not head to amazon.com/author/tedtayler

If you want to join my mailing list, why not join The Phoenix Club? Newsletter (#26) will be circulated very soon.

Trials & Tribulations

Although I haven’t been adding to my blog posts recently, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. We returned from our annual trip to Ibiza last week. In the days before we left I spent many hours struggling with the best way to end the Phoenix series.
I tried to give more thought to things while we soaked up the sun (when it was available) or out walking (every day). As we landed at Bristol Airport early on Sunday morning, I was still confused.

One reason I hadn’t resolved matters before we left was the impending GDPR. 90% of my books are read in the USA, Australia, Canada, and India. However, the Privacy Policy you can read for this site has to be in place for the few UK/European readers I might have.

As each year passes it becomes clear that we indie authors must run faster just to stand still. Nothing can be ignored for long, or you find yourself hopelessly out of touch.

Anyone who has read my posts will know the trials and tribulations this Long Hard Road have met with on my journey. Some I’ve conquered, others I still struggle with daily. Reviews are nowhere near as numerous as I would like. Good reviews (4* & 5*) still make up over 80% across the board. With the Box Set, the frequency of less favourable reviews that mention the lack of editing has had its effect.

How many more times must I admit that I can’t afford one? Yet again, I spent days before we left for our holiday using Grammarly/ Pro Writing Aid to improve the Word files for the 4 titles that comprised the Box Set. I updated all 9 books on Amazon (5 Kindle & 4 Paperback). I added ‘Revised Edition’ to the Kindle edition.

Since I returned from Ibiza, I did a similar update on ‘The Final Straw’ and ‘Unfinished Business’ which can be read under one title ‘Conception – The Birth of The Phoenix’. Three more Kindles, and two Paperbacks have been refreshed. (You will understand why later)

It won’t come as a surprise that I’m yet to begin writing ‘Larcombe Manor’. I promise I’ll start next Monday. I need to get it over with. Who was I kidding? I thought I could put my feet up once I’d finished writing. This past five weeks has shown me I’ll still be kept busy trying to maintain the status quo.

If you want regular updates on all my books, why not join The Phoenix Club? Newsletter (#25) 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 of the boxed set. 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.

Another Pitstop On The Long Hard Road

The longer gap than usual between blog posts has been due to several things. I’ve been writing for 32 days and have completed ‘Three Weeks In September’.
I know, you thought I was hard at work on ‘The Noble Heart Cracks’ #10 in The Phoenix series. Well, the title didn’t match the plot in the end. That’s what happens when you let the characters loose and they disappear over the horizon making up their own plotlines.
This week I’ll be editing. Next week I start writing #11, which is now entitled ‘A Frequent Peal Of Bells’. Whatever happens, it must be written, and edited before we fly to Ibiza on holiday at the end of April.

Promotions in January and February went ahead as scheduled, and there have been 4500 Downloads/Sales YTD, which is most encouraging. My concentration has been on writing & editing. The numbers appeared with a lot less input from me than in previous years. The end is in sight, and that’s my focus.

My writing ‘career’ has always been three steps forward, two steps back, so there have been setbacks since I last posted. It took until the end of January to get Amazon to upgrade the Product Pages to my satisfaction. I also upgraded the four titles in the Box Set (taking the opportunity to feed the changes into the original books too). More editing to satisfy the critics who concentrate more on the packaging than the content.
I know I’m a Philistine, but I believe the story is what’s important. More of that next time.

I uploaded the new files to Amazon KDP and Createspace. All went well until mid-February when Createspace sent a Content Validation Request. They seem to be confused over whether I actually wrote ‘The Olympus Project’, or at least, that I own the publishing rights. It was stupid, but it’s finally been resolved.

Back to the editing, then the new book. I hope to be in touch before April, but you never can tell.

If you want regular updates on all my books, why not join The Phoenix Club? Newsletter (#21) will be circulated very soon.

Slow But Steady Wins The Race

As one gets older, days pass more quickly. Two weeks of this new year have gone already. It seems only last week I was preparing for Christmas. What progress have I made towards achieving my goals for 2018? The two days of ‘free’ promotion for the box set on Amazon yielded two thousand downloads via Freebooksy, The Fussy Librarian, and Good Kindles. We’re well on the way to matching one of those goals.

As for writing the three remaining novels, I’m afraid progress has been zero. I’ve blamed the cold weather; it’s too cold to sit upstairs writing without putting the central heating on. My wife and I heat one downstairs room, and share it, getting on one another’s nerves at times. If things get too bad, she’ll decide to hang the expense and tell me to get warmth into every corner of our home; so we can spend several hours as far apart as our four walls allow.

Another reason for the lack of writing is a further bout of self-analysis. I carried out a ‘reverse engineering’ exercise two years ago, and it felt time for another assessment. Amazon (US and UK) have been pedestrian in their updating of my newly-refreshed Editorial Reviews. On some titles they have been slower than that; more a snail’s pace. I had hoped it would all be complete by the end of the first week in January, but it looks like being closer to the end of the month.

Older readers will recall the 10 writers I selected as my benchmark against which my Titles/Covers/Blurbs/Author Profile/Website and Social Media ‘footprint’ was to be measured. Initially, I came out as a size 8, where I was hoping for a size 10. When I decided a refresher was needed last December, I looked at Karin Slaughter’s Editorial Review section, and reckoned if that format was good enough for her, then I had nothing to lose – even if Stephen King, Jeffrey Deaver, and the New York Times haven’t reviewed any of my books as yet.

There are still a few titles with the ‘old’ versions, but many now have the updated section as I wanted it to be, plus a refurbished Author Profile on my Author Central Page. No doubt there are other more important things that need to be done, but change is continuous. Any aspect of my online presence that can be ‘tweaked’ to attract more first-time readers has to be beneficial.

The next two weeks will be filled with finishing those amendments, booking the next promotions for February and March; and starting the tenth Phoenix book. I will also be hoping for warmer weather, or a short, sharp, cold spell that forces a review of our heating plan. I can’t delay too long. The three-book goal must be achieved.

If you want regular updates on all my books, why not join The Phoenix Club? Newsletter (#20) will be circulated very soon.

A Year In The Life – My 2017 Review

The icy fingers of winter have started to grip. The nights are long, and days where hours can be whiled away outdoors, a distant memory. Last time I told you ‘Christmas was around the corner’. Christmas, with its festive decorations, its customary surfeit of food and drink, and happy times with friends and family.

For the indie author it’s often a time for reflection. How have I done this year? Did I achieve the goals I set? Have I learned anything in the past twelve months to alter the way I approach 2018? Are there different ways to be in a better position to reach my 2018 targets?

My writing days are entering their final stage. I have three stories in my head, which during 2018 will become Books 10,11 and 12 to complete The Phoenix Series. All good things must come to an end.

I know I’ll miss the act of writing, so, I might revisit the short story genre. ‘A Sting In The Tale’ (2013) was my first attempt; perhaps it’s time for a second volume.

Another avenue to exploit is this Blog – ‘The Long Hard Road’ will be over, but a new path lies ahead. I’m planning to write about anything and everything – maybe in a ‘Midweek Matters’ and a ‘Sunday Roast’. (Suggestions welcome.)

In January I posted these goals for the year that’s almost done and dusted.

To write more; to market The Phoenix Series, rather than individual titles; to double the downloads achieved in 2016; and to enjoy life.

I published the 3 books that I promised, plus regular blog posts and newsletters to The Phoenix Club members. I concentrated my promotions on ‘The Olympus Project’ #1 in the series, the 4 book box set, and the series as a whole. The strategy worked. I hit 20000 downloads by November. There were 8000 in the whole of 2016. Life was good.

Was there a downside? Downloads from free promotions don’t always translate to actual sales.
True, but in 2017 I will have sold ten times as many books as last year, plus, with the box set in KDP Select I’m also earning royalties on KENP Reads.

What about reviews? Are there many criticisms?
Not from readers whose only aim is to enjoy a good story; but I’ve always had occasional remarks about the lack of a professional edit. I can’t afford it – end of story. That might continue to hold me back in 2018, but I can only do what’s affordable.

These are my 2018 goals: – To complete The Phoenix Series; to promote the box set, #1 in the series, and the complete series whenever possible. (the first dates are the 3rd/4th January) The strategy is to maintain the 20000 downloads level, to entice more readers to BUY books 5-12; and to continue to enjoy life. In 2017 we visited Ireland for the first time. In 2018, we want to visit Scotland. Simple pleasures.

My experiences with promotions in 2017 taught me where my attentions should be focused. That will position me better to achieve my goals. I won’t waste money on sites giving little or no return. If sales increase sufficiently, it could encourage me to tackle the editing issue. I’m not in it for the long haul (not at 72!), and if sales stick at the same level as 2017, then the books can carry on as they are.

Will I be content with what I achieved, when I reach the end of ‘The Long Hard Road’? I can tell you the answer to that already. An unequivocal YES. I’ve had so much fun writing this past five years. The fact that a good number of people have enjoyed reading my books has been amazing, and unexpected.

If you want regular updates on all my books, why not join The Phoenix Club? The Christmas Newsletter (#19) will be circulated very soon.


Christmas Is Around The Corner

Happy Thanksgiving.

I’ve no idea why I wrote that. In the UK it means nothing, yet on social media today all I’ve read is designed to make me feel warm and friendly. I guess it’s worked.

I scheduled the final Free day promotion on the Boxed Set for today (with special features on Book Gorilla, and Ebook Discovery) hoping for a warm and friendly response.
I have a promotion on The Olympus Project scheduled next Tuesday, and if there’s an afterglow from today and Black Friday, who knows? Christmas may come early.

The big news is that #9 in The Phoenix series arrived ahead of time. Yes, you read that right. ‘Revenge Comes In Many Colours’ was promised for the 1st December, and like many babies after your first-born, the little devils have a mind of their own and pop out without warning.

You can buy the new book on Amazon here

As the Blog Title says, Christmas is only a month away. I’ve spread my Glad Tidings earlier than usual, so watch out for a little Joy before the big day. Take care, and happy reading. I’ll be back in four weeks.

If you want regular updates on all my books, why not join The Phoenix Club? The December Newsletter (#18) will be circulated very soon.