Thursday, 29 August 2013

Carry On Up The Amazon

I just had one of those days writers dream about. It started with an e-mail from my publisher that morning, telling me my second book ‘The Damage’ had been selected as a Kindle Daily Deal.

Obviously this was good news. I regularly get promotional e-mails telling me a certain book is available for a lower than normal price and I figured a number of people might see an advert like that for ‘The Damage’ and be tempted to give it a try. Hopefully I’d sell a few more than average but I didn’t have very many expectations beyond that.

I’m not arrogant about my writing, far from it in fact. Most writers I know are riddled with insecurities about their own work. It tends to come with the territory and the divas that think they are God’s gift to the writing world are, thankfully, pretty few and far between. However I have had enough positive feedback in reviews, Twitter messages and Facebook postings from readers to know that most people really like my David Blake books once they’ve read them. I reasoned that by the end of the Kindle Daily deal, I might have gone up a few notches on the much vaunted Amazon listings and perhaps picked up a few more readers along the way, who might enjoy ‘The Damage’ and maybe even tell their mates about. If I was fortunate, some of them might even buy the other books, ‘The Drop’ and ‘The Dead’ as well

I then got on with some work. Around noon I received the first bit of positive news. My agent had checked the Amazon rankings and discovered ‘The Damage’ was number 482 in the Kindle charts. That might not sound too great to anybody but an author but there are many thousands of books in the world and I had started that day with my second David Blake book residing at 33,889 (I know that because we eventually found out how many places up the charts it had soared in just one day). Agent, publisher and I were all very happy with 482.

I carried on with some editing for a while and genuinely forgot about it, figuring it might have peaked already. An hour later, my diligent Literary Agent checked again and told me we were at 138. Things were starting to look quite exciting all of a sudden. I was up there rubbing shoulders with the big boys; writers who’ve written a stack of best-selling novels and become household names in the process, with major publishers and huge advertising budgets to promote their latest work.

More writing followed but, by this stage, I was a bit distracted and beginning to wonder just how far I could climb this pesky Amazon chart and, subsequently, how visible my books might become to the wider world. I can put it into perspective by saying that they have done pretty well already; having been optioned for TV by Harry Potter producer, David Barron, who is adapting them with Layer Cake writer, JJ Connolly. My first book ‘The Drop’ was voted one of the top five Thrillers of the Year by The Times and ‘The Damage’ was nominated as one of the ‘Top 12 Best Summer Reads’, again by The Times but none of that helped me mount a major assault on the monolith that is the Amazon charts. It’s amazing the difference a bit of advertising and the power of social media can make.

By 2.00pm The Damage was at number 24 and we still had ten hours of the promotion to go. Figuring we’d make the most of it, the agent, publisher and I all tweeted about it and posted on FB. Then a lovely thing happened; people started to spread the word for me; lots of people. Twitter re-tweets were so numerous I couldn’t thank everybody for them individually and there were lots of shares on Facebook, saying that my book was on offer and worth a read. Many took the trouble to inform their friends and Twitter followers that the book was storming the kindle charts. It was lovely, life affirming stuff and I was touched by the level of kindness shown.

By 4.00pm we were, unbelievably, in the top ten of the Amazon chart. ‘The Damage’ was seventh in the Kindle book list, ahead of massive names like John Grisham and Dan Brown’s latest.  It was even higher than ‘Gone Girl’. That was a champagne moment, or it would have been if I’d had time to pause for a second to open a bottle, as messages were coming into me now at an amazing rate. Other authors I knew were cheering from the wings on Twitter, which was lovely but not wholly surprising, as the crime writing fraternity is, on the whole, an incredibly warm and supportive place. We’ve all struggled at one point or another, so we all genuinely like to see one of our own having a good day. This time it was my turn.

There were more tweets and more shares, more good wishes, congratulations and ‘wow’s from publisher and agent. The next time we checked, I half expected ‘The Damage’ to have peaked or gone back down again, authors are like that, by the time we’ve even been published we’ve had so many disappointments and knockbacks we basically prepare ourselves for them in advance, but it hadn’t peaked. When the chart was updated, I was at number three and somebody called JK Rowling was at number four. I instantly took a screen grab of that one for posterity. I figured it would be nice to show the grandchildren one day.

At half past eight, the book eventually peaked at number 2 in the Amazon Kindle chart having gone up a staggering 33,887 places in a day, and was only kept off the top spot by a book that had been in the top 100 for 75 days; ‘The Detective’s Daughter’ by Lesley Thomson. My other two David Blake books, ‘The Dead’ and ‘The Drop’, hung onto the coat tails of ‘The Damage’ and were dragged up with it until they were residing at numbers 40 and 149 respectively. I can only assume a number of people bought two of the books or all three together, once they’d had the chance to read the synopses and reviews.

I didn’t go daft. There was no Krug or caviar. Instead I had a couple of bottles of beer and tried to reply to as many people as possible to thank them for spreading the word. Then I sat back and enjoyed the nice, warm feeling of being second in a chart that probably boosts an author’s profile like nothing else can.  

I don’t yet know how many of ‘The Damage’ we sold but it was thousands. In one day. Like most authors, I am in it for the long haul though and my books have had their profile raised, which should lead to more people trying them out.

Of course it might make no difference to me at all in the end. I could ultimately be ignored, dismissed or forgotten by an apathetic public; a one day wonder, the guy who could have been a contender. I might live to be an old man, residing in some underfunded nursing home somewhere, surrounded by young people who might understandably doubt my credentials. They will look at me questioningly and ask themselves, ‘Did he really write a book that went above JK Rowling and Dan Brown in the Kindle chart?’ At which point, like some ageing actor from a forgotten era, who carries his creased and fading newspaper reviews around with him in his wallet, I will reach for whatever electronic device has superseded the lap top or tablet and I’ll show them that screen grab, while tunelessly singing ‘They can’t take that away from me, oh they can’t take that away from me,’ as they gently wheel me away for my medication.


  1. I'd very much like to know if those three books I enjoyed very much are soon going to be translated into French.

    1. Hi Orage
      I don't have a French publishing deal as yet. So far the books are out in the UK, Germany and have just been released in the US. Hopefully other markets will follow the big three.
      So glad you have enjoyed them all.
      Best wishes


  2. Pity! I hope you will inform us in case you get a French publishing deal. I loved that trilogy so much I'd like to recommend it to those of my friends who can't read English.
    I know nothing about the publishers' world but since your British publisher has got connections with the German one, he may also have connections with a French one. You might prod him a little.
    I'm aware the books won't be easy to translate either! I'm afraid all this will take an awfully long time!

  3. Will there be fourth David Blake novel? If so, is there a publication date? Great hard-boiled writing so far - best since the late (and sadly missed) Ted Lewis.

    1. I'm honestly nut sure if I'll return to the characters in The Drop, The Damage and The Dead or not. I'm working on something new at the moment with different characters. If I get a good enough story idea one day then who knows but it would have to be something strong enough to go back to the series. I don't just want to churn out another novel for the sake of it. Really glad you enjoyed them and thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. Best wishes, HL