Indie Authors: Don’t Give Up On Your Original Voice When Sales Are Bad

https://www.amazon.com/Longbourn-Jo-Baker-ebook/dp/B00CQ1D3BYFive years ago, when I started writing online, I was lucky enough to meet some outstanding writers on Goodreads (I’ve met others since, on Authonomy before it packed up and elsewhere, but here I’m talking about that original base of writer friends).

They were mostly women, varying in age. Some came from my native England, some from the US, and a couple from the Antipodes. Their genre varied, but they all had one thing in common….

They didn’t write formulaic, predictable stories. They broke rules; they used humour; they featured strong female leads (otherwise, I wouldn’t have enjoyed their stories). They were often a bit cross genre, and this was probably one of the reasons why they hadn’t got that elusive contract with an agent or publisher.

They wanted to achieve something original. Yes, they wanted success and sales – who doesn’t? – but above that, they wanted to write with an individual voice and to get readers for the novels that they had loved creating.

In those days, things were a lot easier from the sales point of view. My goodness, back then Amazon hadn’t introduced Amazon Select and Pages Read, both of which have led to a catastrophic fall in sales.

Why, in 2014 my spoof Regency (technically, late Georgian) Romance ‘Ravensdale’ sold thousands – enough for me to take my daughter on holiday to Paris.

It also attracted a good many resentful reviews from readers who disliked their favourite tropes being satirized, however gently, but that is the price of notoriety, and I think most writers, like me, would rather attract sales and public notice than have no controversy, obscurity, and dismal sales.

Incidentally, since the introduction of Amazon’s new sales policies, sales of ‘Ravensdale’ have plummeted. Because it is sinking into obscurity, I have made it free on Smashwords. I have tried to make it free on Amazon, but they ignore me. Here is the Smashwords link for that:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/721130

My own view is, that while it is nice to make money out of writing, that isn’t why I went into it; in fact, that is only the icing on the cake. The reason I went into it, is because I wanted people to read my stuff.

If I – as someone (I hope) at least partially sane – had gone into writing to make a profit out of it, then I’d be writing: ‘The Duke Gets His Breeches Down: Dastardly Duke Series 101’.

That is the way to make high sales and money out of writing.

Most of those writer friends haven’t sold as much as they deserve. But then, if they got their just deserts, they’d be best selling authors.

Sadly, the market doesn’t work like that; the market recognises the price of everything, and the value of nothing, as someone once said.  As often as not, it’s not the talented and original authors who are among the most successful.

Sadly, I think some of them have become discouraged about writing. Some are taking a long break from the whole business of writing and the weary slog of publicity, and finding it a relief. Of course, many of them are very busy; some of them still have children, and a job…The wonder is anyone in that situation produces good work at all.  But I suspect some have been discouraged by mediocre sales, and the lack of a breakthrough.

I personally, think it would be a great loss if they gave up altogether. Rather, I think that if an author is making a pittance from her writing and it has no visibility on the sales ranks on Amazon, she might as well make her books free.

Smashwords will do it happily enough. The problem is Amazon, who seem to turn a deaf ear when it suits them.

However, they have made my first book, ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’ free. For anyone interested, the new edition, complete with a faster start, is available here https://www.amazon.com/That-Scoundrel-Émile-Dubois-Light-ebook/dp/B00AOA4FN4

and here

By the way, I wouldn’t like to give the impression that all wonderfully original works are doomed to poor sales and lack of public recognition.  Many receive the recognition they deserve (though sometimes it happens after the author is dead).

There is Jo Baker’s ‘Longbourn’, for instance. What a brilliant work!

I found it such a refreshing change to read a book set in the UK of the Regency era which is about ordinary people – not the aristocracy (the families of approximately 700 men) or the gentry (approximately 1.5 per cent of the population).

But I will be writing a post about that soon. For now, I would like to say that I wish that all of my original writer friends were back to writing again. I miss them.

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Getting From the Middle to the End of Your Story: The Main Characters’ Darkest Hours…

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YUK. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the sagging middle, and how I was fighting my way through that in my latest, the sequel to ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’.

By the way, this one has the interim title: ‘Villains and Vampires’. However, as my last began with the words, ‘The Villainous Viscount’ I am not sure that this new title is sufficiently different. A potential reader, skim reading, might say; ‘The V….V…’ that rings a bell; I must have read that…’  So I’m in two minds.

I have written a bit more of that middle – but guess what: I wrote a pivotal part about which I wasn’t quite sure. Then this way led somehow to all the characters getting towards the end from the middle too quickly.

I didn’t feel that the main characters’ feelings of desperation during the darkest moments were sufficiently extended or bleak. It was more, ‘Oh dear. This is bad. Oh dear, THIS IS BAD! Oh, what’s that? Ah, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel yet…’

I felt that I was pulling too many irons out of the fire before they were red hot, or as if I had lit the fuse too soon. A couple of the sub plots seemed to fizzle out.

And that isn’t good enough. That’s second rate at best – probably third rate. The only writers who can only get away with writing a middle like that are ones with a massive fan base, most of whom are so addicted that they will somehow miss the unsatisfactory nature of that move to the resolution, and give a five star review to anything connected with that writer’s name – even reissued juvenelia.

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So, in that last display of fireworks, you want them all to go off so that the reader says at the end ‘Wow! Just – Wow!’ I hope I’m not normally given to fatuous observations (some might dispute that ) but while I hate that expression  ‘Wow’, that is exactly what I did say at the end of, for instance, Rebecca Lochlann’s ‘In the Moon of Asterion’, the concluding part of the Greek section of her ‘Child of the Erinyes’ series. The way everything came together was brilliant.

By the way, at the moment,the first novel from that series, ‘The Year God’s Daughter’  is permanently free on Amazon.here

That being so, all I could do was jettison those 15,000 words and go back. It made me feel quite dismal for a day or so, but still, I wrote ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’ three times.

I found the following information from this website very useful https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/oct/19/evolving-your-story

…13 Downtime begins
The last section of the middle portion of the story begins with the downtime, which precedes the black moment. Your characters are coming to feel they have nothing left to hold on to. Detail these feelings.
14 Characters revise old or design new short-term goals
Your characters are going to make their next decisions out of sheer desperation. From this point on, they seem to lose much of their confidence – or, worse, they’re feeling a reckless sense of bravado that may have tragic consequences. What are their new goals and how do they plan to reach them?
15 The quest to reach the story goal continues, but instability abounds
Though your characters are ploughing ahead bravely, each step is taken with deep uncertainty. How does this action unfold?
16 The black moment begins
The worst possible failure has now come to pass. The short-term goals made in desperation are thwarted, and the stakes are raised to fever pitch as the worst of all possible conflicts is unveiled. Describe it in detail.
17 The characters react to the black moment
Characters react to this major conflict with a sense of finality. Never will there be a moment when the outcome is more in question than in this concluding section of the middle of the book.
The end…At the end of a book, all plots, subplots and conflicts are resolved. In the last few chapters, the characters are finally given a well-deserved break from their recent crisis.

On juvenilia – I am sure there will be no takers for anyone wanting to read my first satire, which I wrote in cartoon form aged nine?  Entitled ‘Wendy Goes To Town’ it was about an officious little girl who – surprise, surprise, went to town to stay with her aunt . She discovered that a gang of altruistic local villains from the local rough estate were stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and spied on them, using newly acquired detective skills acquired from a book. The story ended with Wendy driven off  by her proud parents, wearing a medal awarded by the local magistrate, who had given all the menaces to society six months…

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I remember that I had recently read a version of the  ‘Robin Hood’ legends, which had a great affect on me; any readers of this blog or my writing will know, of course, that it lingers still.   I hope I can write slightly better than I did at nine, though…

Conspiratorial Conversation Between That Scoundrel Émile Dubois and His Right Hand Man Georges

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I would like to apologise for this post appearing late. It was fine on the preview, and now I find that there was nothing there for three days! IT does NOT like me.

Émile Dubois: [lounging in his rich dressing robe] Georges, I have news of the most tiresome. And by-the- by, mon ami, we are not alone. We are surveyed – even as we speak, so be discreet.

Georges: [clenching his fists] Merde! Do you mean, them Bow Street Runners has finally guessed who Monsieur Gilles and his Gentlemen of the Road really was and is spying on us? The sneaking –!

Émile Dubois:  No, I do not think we need fear the forces of justice closing in upon us.

Georges: Never say that mad vampire inventor is back yet again! [Expresses himself even more coarsely.]

Émile Dubois:   I have yet to hear that happy news.  No, by news of the most tiresome, I mean that our biographer has delayed in recounting our further adventures, in favour of some story about some fellow in 1821.  No, when I say we are surveyed, we are followed in the form of what is known as a ‘web log post’. That is why we’re speaking English, with some French expressions thrown in.  That being so, limit your maledictions.

Georges: Merde! What’s maledictions?

Émile Dubois:  The low manner in which you and I normally converse, when we are alone, mon vieil ami.

Georges [bristling]  What does this fellow have, that we don’t?

And 1821? Le diable, by then we may well have gone to our final account. [uneasily] I hope Madame Sophie still prays for us every day?

Émile Dubois:  She prays for us every day, and twice on Sundays. It don’t seem to be doing a whole lot of good, though we try, après tout, and we ain’t ridden out to rob anybody since we met les femmes.  I am advised that highway robbery is out of fashion by 1821. You know how difficult it was become for us, with those toll gates and patrols.

Georges:  [reminiscently]  Monsieur Gilles, you said we must leave Southern England until the hue and cry had settled after that latest brush with the patrols, and we went to visit your cousin Lord Rhuddlan high on that mountain most isolated in the North of the Wales, I did not expect such adventure, or that we would meet such wilful women, eh? Vampires and time snags, and mad inventors.

Émile Dubois:  Vraiment, Georges.  Neither did I expect to meet in my aunt’s companion one Sophie de Courcy, the lost Anglaise I had encountered when I was living in Paris under the guise of Monsieur Gilles, robber chief.  Least of all did I expect her to have no memory of our meeting, because it was yet to happen for her through a journey back in time.

Georges:  And then, you were piqued, shall we say, at her attitude, and that sent you straight into the arms of that vampire siren, who changed you.  I know when to be discreet; I will not speak of the assignation in which she changed you/ You returned from that encounter most feverish, and (resentfully) spewed upon the most magnificent pair of boots I ever owned. I cut such a dash in them boots that respectable matrons approached me in the road.

Émile:  Tais toi, Georges! You have complained at my treatment those boots ever since. I weary of hearing about them.

Georges:  And then, my Agnes having decided against me, I sought diversion elsewhere also, so that it ended by that local girl biting me. Such sport as we had in our bloodlust!  I remember most vivid jumping out at Agnes from a cupboard, while you would chase your Sophie about the room. Au bon vieux temps, or as they would say in English, ‘the good old days’.

220px-Renoir23Émile: That is one way of putting it, Georges.  

Georges: It were a fine adventure [struts over to the mirror, and regards himself complacently as he rearranges his neckcloth]. I  don’t think our biographer emphasized  how fine looking a man I am. And then, there is the title of that romance: ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’.

Émile Dubois:  Are you outraged on behalf of two such morally upright characters as myself and yourself, Georges? It seems an accurate character depiction to me. You recollect those are the very words Lord Dale said, when he recognised me by my eyes when we held up his fine carriage. Perhaps our biographer laid little emphasis on your handsome looks for fear it might pain me.

Georges: Bien sûr, we did right to rob Monsigneur of his gains most ill gotten. He was a scoundrel himself, who stole from the poor to give to the rich. No, it ain’t that I mean. But why wasn’t it called, ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois And Handsome Georges Durrrand His Friend of the Most Gallant Renown ?’

Émile: Alors, you rascal, do you desire that more was recounted of your part in that adventure?

Georges:  No. I am a modest man, and I do not desire to seem boastful.

That Scoundrel Emile Dubois and the Sequel

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Émile Dubois: [lounging in his rich crimson dressing robe] Georges, I have news of the most tireesome. And by-the- by, mon ami, we are not alone. We are looked upon – even as we speak, so be discreet.

Georges: [clenching his fists] Merde! Do you mean, them Bow Street Runners has finally guessed who Monsieur Gilles and his Gentlemen of the Road really was and is spying on us? The sneaking bastards!  If not, never say that pig Kenrick is back yet again, and now he’s about it. [expresses himself even more coarsely].

Émile Dubois:   I have yet to learn of either of those two misfortunes. No, by news of the most tiresome, I mean that our biographer delays in recounting our adventures, in favour of one Lord Harley Venn thirty years hence.  We are watched in that we form part of  what is know as a ‘webblog post’. That is why we’re speaking English, with just a few French expressions thrown in.  That being so, mind your maledictions.

Georges: Merde! What’s maledictions?

Émile Dubois:  How you and I normally speak, when we are alone.

Georges [bristling]  What does this Viscount fellow have, that we ain’t?  And he lives in 1821? Le diable, by then we may well have gone to our final account. [uneasily] I hope Madame Sophie still prays for us every day?

Émile Dubois:  Every day, and twice on Sundays. It don’t seem to be doing a whole lot of good, though we try. After all, we haven’t ridden out to rob since we met les femmes.  This Viscount is a wicked fellow too, it seems, though highway robbery is out of fashion by his day.

highwayman_bodyGeorges: Do they have all them ebooks and weblogs in 1821?

Émile:   Non, pas tout à fait exact.  But this Viscount and his lady are new characters,        which we ain’t. I hear that there’s a generational curse, and a Hooded Spectre, and it all takes place in an isolated château.  Adventures most Gothic, enfin.

Georges:   Sad stuff compared to our fight with them green blooded monsters and both Kenrick and that Arhtur Williams coming back through that time displacement, and drawing in that pretty Éloise chit. So much for your talk, that she would only take her cross off for you.

Émile:  As for Éloise, I must take part of the blame. if I had not bitten her first, back when you and I were blood sucking monsters ourselves, she would never have agreed to be breakfast for Williams.

Georges: [strides indignantly about] It were a fine adventure, and it ain’t good enough, Monsieur Gilles. What it amounts to, is them blue stocking writer females can’t  be relied on.

Émile Dubois:  I was unaware that you ever placed an iota of faith in any blue stocking female, Georges. [solemnly] You could, come to think on it, start to pen those memoirs yourself.

Georges: [struts over to the mirror, and regards himself complacently as he rearranges his neckcloth]  I would write a fine tale, but I can’t write in that uncivilized tongue, l’Anglais.  But you can.

Émile Dubois:   Vraiment, but could my limited turn of phrase in  my second language do justice to your heroics in that adventure, Georges?

Georges: [much struck]. I think you speak true! You know, in that first history, I don’t think the female biographer spent enough time emphasizing quite how fine looking a man I am.

Émile Dubois: Perhaps she thought emphasis of your handsome looks might pain me, by contrast with my own.  Alors, you rascal, would you like to say more of that adventure, as we are speaking to your admirers?

Georges:  No. I am a modest man, and I do not care to seem boastful…

[A scratching at the door: Georges opens it. Sophie stands without, highly excited].

Sophie:  Émile, that baby is so clever. Only guess what he just said –Gaa-Gaa.

Émile:  A most profound observation, ma chère

 

New, Updated Version of ”That Scoundrel Émile Dubois ‘ Free 4-6 December and a Message from Kenrick to His Readers

EmileDubois-2500x1563-Amazon-Smashwords-Kobo-AppleA new and updated version of my first book, ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois ‘ is available on amazon now and will be free from Friday 4 December until Monday 7 September.

This version, in line with various criticisms from readers and fellow writers, introduces the occult elements of the story more quickly. That, and a few clarifications here and there, are the main differences from the first version, while the story remains essentially the same. I have also allowed Sophie to express some more annoyance with Emile’s impossible ways as he turns into a predatory, vulpine man vampire.

It’s available from amazon on: –

and

There is debate amongst authors about whether or not one ought to release amended versions of published works. There are those whose integrity I admire, who suggest it should be avoided. I personally take the line that it is best avoided, but sometimes is a good idea.

My approach is somewhat pragmatic; I want people to enjoy my stories; if a leisurely beginning detracts from that for a sizable number, and the quality of the piece won’t be
reduced by a faster start, then it seemed a good idea for me to re-write it in line with various criticisms regarding the first three chapters.

For previous purchasers who miss this promotion and would like a free copy of the updated version, please apply to me on this website, and I will be happy to send one.

Now, last week –

I have just been rudely interrupted by a glassy eyed, long toothed man who has appeared in m y mirror.

Kenrick:  I can’t have heard that description correctly.

I want to say here, that I hope that nobody takes such a biased account about my adventures as you will find in ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’ to be in any way fair or objective.

The handsome, charming Goronwy Kenrick – ‘florid’ ‘glassy eyed’ and ‘giggling’?

My risqué humour is depicted as purile; my overwhelming passion as a mania.

I should like to know why I, who am motivated by one desire, and that purely romantic – reunion with my lost and beloved first wife- have such pejorative descriptions applied to me?

At least I was never a cut throat in the gutters of Paris.

Fortunately, I have some well wishers. To those, I wish to do what I almost never do, and make an apology.

I must express my regret at the delay in my return.

Last year, I reassured my anxious well wishers that I intended to return betimes. So I do, and so I will, but firstly, I must overcome the various factors that have brought about my delay, including my need to invent a reliable number of – shall we say, ‘artificial men’ as a group of devoted retainers.

I did not expect these to melt away into puddles of tepid rubber, as happened with my first attempts. It was discouraging. But now I have a team of knights, whom I name after those the round table of old. Sir Kay, and Galahad, no less,  and others to come. At present I labour upon Lancelot, and have based his appearance on that comely rogue Arthur Williams.

You may recall that we ‘disappeared’ together. Yes, he is my companion here, and an increasingly grudging one, unfortunately. It’s dull for him, poor fellow. But he remains loyal to me.

For some reason, while back on the earthly plane, I always had problems with recruiting and retaining any sort of a household of servants, let alone a loyal one. I never understood it; I can only ascribe it to the spread of nonsensical ideas about equality, liberty and fraternity since the disgraceful uprising in France.

But I digress, and anyhow, I avoid thinking of anything French because it reminds me of that disgusting couple of French assassins, Dubois and that brutal fellow ruffian of his, who attacked poor Arthur even as the bandit chief made his murderous assault on me.

This is something like my image of Dubois Close, Emile's own house (then rented out) in North Buckinghamshire...
This is something like my image of Dubois Close, Emile’s own house (then rented out) in North Buckinghamshire…

Thus, I must return; and again, I will need Dubois, I fear.

I have been able to overlook him several times in his country seat to the north of the country of Buckinghamshire in England. I even penetrated to Madame Dubois’ bedroom.

There I heard through the insipid little thing’s prayers, for me amongst others. Meanwhile, I tried to draw her into this time warp; just a trial run, you understand… I lost contact as Monsieur entered.

If looks could kill, I thought as I saw him. But then I realised how lucky it is that mine could not, as I will have need of him – again. How unpleasant working with him shall be.

I wlll be re-united with my wife. Not in the next world, mind you, no. She spoke – well, no more of that. I will not hazard my fate on faith of that sort, and I refuse to swerve from my course, though those who go in dread of some sort of judgement after the death of the body would insist that I continuing on my course, I ensure that our parting will be permanent, or at least very long.

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I have no such superstitious fears; it must be very unpleasant to have them, like that fine fellow Arthur. He still fears that we must be in a form of purgatory.

‘No, my fine fellow,’ I reassure him, ‘We are in a section of the time displacement; view it if you like, as a sort of mirror image of the material plane.’

He marched about, kicking out at things, which only dissolved as his foot met them. ‘But there’s only a few rooms here, and that bloody mist outside. There’s nothing to do, nobody to talk to…’

Actually, between you and I, there is much more; but I have my reasons for concealing it from him. One reason, is that I know that tiresome Captain Mackznie is out there somewhere, and I think, very possibly – but this is just between you and I — that late husband of my naughty little second wife Ceridwen.110px-Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Torse,_effet_de_soleil

Yes, nobody knows the story of that disgusting libertine’s disappearance but the two of us…

I am called away, the material for the second stage of my work upon Sir Lancelot is ready. Ha,Ha. It is so funny, how like to Arthur I have made him.

Wish me luck on my return journey. It will be painful, as we will return to the injuries which those ruffians inflicted on us. But with a nice nourishing source of blood drawn in nearby, recovery will be speedy enough.Time travel 01.jpg

I will send Arthur first.