13 Dec 2019

Comments on the Election

Hello readers!

As of this morning, Friday the 13th, the UK General Election 2019 results have been declared. This post will be separated into multiple parts, to account for my predictions before the campaign (spoiler: I was right); to the result here in Scotland; and to the reality in England, and what it will mean for the future. I aim to provide a preliminary analysis of why the results turned out as they did, though we will need more in-depth data to uncover some of the mysteries.

My Predictions

In this post written six weeks before the election, I made three concrete predictions, and raised the point that the NHS would be a major part of the election campaign. The polls agree that, besides Brexit, the NHS was indeed a big part of voters’ concerns.

As for my three predictions, I was correct on all of them, though some were more prescient than others.

Claim 1: “I don’t think the Liberal Democrats are going to do as well its leader, Jo Swinson, hopes.”

This proved fantastically accurate, or dare I say, prophetic. It’s true that the Liberal Democrat vote increased 7.4% to 11.5%, but this did nothing other than gift seats to the Tories. Jo Swinson lost her seat, confirming what I thought and what the polls were saying: no one likes Jo Swinson.

Moreover, judging from the campaign, Jo Swinson’s Lib Dems lost for the exact reasons I predicted: their revoke policy was undemocratic, and a large number of Remain voters (especially we, the young) care about the NHS, education and welfare. Jo Swinson’s record in coalition was less than stellar on those counts.

Claim 2: “the Green Party will do pretty well, though it probably won’t gain any new seats.”

This was precisely correct: the Green vote increased from 1.6% to 2.7% and they retained their 1 seat. The high profile of environmental issues in the media helped them. I should say that Labour would have won some more seats if the Greens had stood down in some constituencies, but hey, who cares about Brexit if we can pretend to save the planet?

Claim 3: “The Conservative Party will be punished hard in Scotland.”

This one turned out to be mostly correct. The Scottish Tories lost 7 of their 13 seats, and their vote share decreased by 3.5%. I was hoping for a wipe-out, but I’m sure my fellow SNP activists are happy with the result.

As for why the Scottish Tories got 25% of the vote, I’ve tried to understand it, and I’ve come to the following conclusion. About half of Scottish Tory voters do see Boris Johnson’s policies on the economy and NHS as being pretty despicable. I think they justify voting for the Tories with the idea that those policies can be fixed, whereas the breakup of the UK—and exit from the EU—are permanent decisions.

The thing with identities is that they are powerful. Unionists in Scotland believe they are British, and it’s incredibly difficult for them to give that up; they will vote to keep it, even if it means enormous child poverty, homelessness, and decimating the NHS.

What will happen to Scotland?

In one word: Independence. In two words: EU membership. The long, in-depth explanation is going to be too complicated to discuss here. The road to independence will be long, hard, and treacherous. An almighty confrontation between the Scottish government and the Tory government in Westminster will be just the start.

I wish I could be optimistic and say that everything will be alright for Scotland. I think it will—in the future. But the next couple of years are going to be chaotic and uncertain. The double whammy of Tory government and Brexit is going to devastate this country.

What happened in England?

I don’t need to tell you this: Corbyn lost and BoJo’s Tories won. But you know who also lost? England, as a nation. British democracy. Rational thought and truth.

As for why this happened, I’m not sure yet. There are many obvious answers: the antisemitism debacle which was parroted by the media ad infinitum—and which Corbyn would have nipped in the bud long ago, if he had any sense. It’s true that the media coverage was pathetic, and incredibly hostile to Labour; but that doesn’t excuse Corbyn for giving them ammunition.

Then there’s Corbyn himself, who could not get across to the electorate like he did in 2017. But hey, I predicted this long ago. I loved most of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, but I was always sceptical of the man himself; I called him “less than prime-ministerly” and pithily remarked: “Corbyn? Get a tie.”

I was hoping the young were going to save Labour the same way they did last time, particularly since 1.5 million people registered to vote. Source I don’t know what the hell happened. Did the young vote for the Lib Dems and Greens in a grand act of irony? Did we not come out to vote on polling day? Or was it simply not enough to outvote the bloody pensioners and turkeys?

All of this pales in comparison to the biggest reason for why the Tories won the election: “Get Brexit done.” As John Crace has remarked, this was the biggest lie of the election—and it will cost the English dearly. Look, English voters: the Brexit paralysis we have experienced for the past three years has not been because the Tories didn’t have a majority in Parliament. It’s because Brexit is complicated, difficult, and costly.

The media has encouraged this foolish, self-regarding stupidity. Brexit isn’t hard because British Remainers don’t want it. It’s hard because I, along with the 440 million people in Continental Europe, aren’t going to hand your unicorn on a silver platter. Neither will Trump’s America or China. We have our own interests and we are going to protect them.

I repeat: you are not a world power anymore. If you try and force a deal, you will get nothing, and your economy will implode.

I’m going to abandon my normally calm, rational tone and say it like it is. If you voted Tory, you’ve fucked the young. You’ve fucked the disabled, the homeless, and the people on low pay. You put a noose around the neck of the NHS. Don’t come begging to me when Brexit screws you over; I told you so.

6 Dec 2019

Fallen Love Publication Delayed to January 7

Hello readers!

I am announcing today that I am delaying the publication of Fallen Love to January the 7th, 2020 (which is one month from now). This was not an easy decision to make—I deliberated for some time—but I feel it is the right decision. I’m going to explain why. It boils down to two things: personal and business.

The Business Reasons

I’ve read a very helpful book called Amazon Decoded, and the author, David Gaughran, explained how successful book launches are supposed to work. Essentially, it’s about selling as many books as possible in a relatively short amount of time—a sustained period of five days where sales increase day-on-day.

There are a number of ways to accomplish this—including advertising—but the best way is Bookbub, mailing list promotions, and lots of exposure. At the moment, I don’t think I have enough in place to do that on December 10th. And there are a variety of other good reasons why launching it in January is a better idea.

Reedsy Discovery. This platform—which is run by Reedsy, the company I work with to hire designers and editors and marketers—can help me in two different ways. Firstly, they pay me $50 for every reviewer I refer, and thanks to you guys, I have people who can do this and earn me a bunch of money. Secondly, I have paid them for a launch and have over 250 followers there. But: the earliest launch date available was January 7th. No co-incidences here!

YOU CAN HELP: Sign up to the mailing list on the right-hand side and I’ll send you a reviewer referral link.

WHSmith and Waterstones. I have been in touch with the managers in my local (Glasgow-based) WHSmith’s and Waterstone’s, and I have high hopes I can get Fallen Love on the shelves of at least one of these stores. The potential for exposure is huge. Once again, the earliest available opportunity is in January.

Other funding opportunities. I am looking into the possibility of doing a crowdfunding campaign.

Reviews. I don’t have a huge number of reviews yet, and I am expecting more to come in.

The Personal Reasons

My personal life has been chaos these past three months. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but there are two immmediate things that make a December 10 launch extremely difficult: I will be travelling to Romania (by car) on December 15th. Moreover, I am currently exploring the possibility of going to study for a Master’s in the Netherlands on February 1st.

The uncertainty in my life is very difficult—extremely difficult—but I can’t dither and delay forever. January 7th was the best compromise based on the available knowledge.

To receive automatic updates on Fallen Love, the sequel, promotions and free books, sign up to my mailing list.

23 Nov 2019

The Vampire Eirik is Available Now!

Hail readers!

After having been available for pre-order, the Vampire Eirik is now on-sale at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Smashwords and Kobo. For just 99 cents, you can read a charming short story described by reviewers as a “fantastic short story” that is “riveting” and “super cute” (thanks, Sharon). Alternatively, you can subscribe to my mailing list and get it for free!

Also, stay put for Fallen Love, which is coming out in just 3 weeks!

21 Nov 2019

The Necromancer is on Kindle Countdown!

Hello readers!

As part of my upcoming promotional blitz, I am putting the Necromancer on a Kindle Countdown promotion from Saturday, November 23rd to November 30th. It will start at midnight GMT (which is in the early morning for you Americans) and finish at midnight for both GMT and PST timezones.

The price on Amazon.co.uk will drop to 99p, then £2, then back to £2.50. On Amazon.com, the price will be 99c, which will go up to $2 and then $3 again.

Buy it now on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

The wind of the North whispers a name, and all who hear it are frozen in fear. It is the name of the Necromancer. And it means death...

In the South, Linaera dreams of becoming a healer. A novice at the Academy of Magic, she skips most of her battle magic classes (because who needs battle magic anyway?) When her mentor, Terrin, decides to send her on a quest to the icy North, Linaera will have to learn far more than a simple fire spell to survive the ravenous undead.

Even so, Linaera will have to face greater dangers if she is to prevail. There is a dark secret hiding in the depths of the North; a secret that will make her stronger—or destroy her.

Magic and adventure beckon in the world of Arachadia. There’s dark humour for the cynics, and a sweet love story for the romantics. If you like stories about mages, bad-tempered ghosts, dragons, elves and thief guilds—you’ve come to the right place.

What readers are saying:

★★★★★ “It truly made me feel like I was seeing everything the characters were seeing; the detail is immaculate.” —Ashley Tomlinson

★★★★★ “Between the intricate plot, unique and fascinating characters, and a story line that held me riveted to the very end... this was one incredible ride.” —Teresa

★★★★★ “The Necromancer is an adventure through an old school fantasy world, and I enjoyed it immensely.” —Jayde Kemsley

Fallen Love is coming December 10th

Hello everyone!

I have some important news to share with you all: Fallen Love will now be released on December 10th. This is for personal rather than marketing reasons—I won’t be able to work on the book’s launch during December 15th–21st. I don’t like changing the release date yet again, but it is the way it is.

I can also announce that my 2nd proof copy of Fallen Love has arrived, and it looks pretty good. I may or may not make one final adjustment to it before it goes to press.

If any of you Magical Realm readers would like to review a free ARC copy before the book launches, now is your time to ask! Every little helps. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go and discuss my launch strategy with my marketing consultant.

15 Nov 2019

A Commentary on Book Reviewers and Target Markets

Hello readers!

I am pleased to announce that I have received my first proof copy of the Fallen Love paperback! Now, I won’t be sharing any photos yet, as some things did go wrong—the colour management software messed up the colours on the cover. I have corrected the problems, and ordered another proof, which will arrive next week. I promise to show you photos then ;)

At the moment, I am planning on releasing the paperback version at approximately the same time as the ebook—on December 15th—though it may be available a few days after that date (Amazon has to check everything and ensure quality). I am working through any kinks before I hit the publish button.

I am also devising a launch-strategy in co-operation with my marketing consultant. At the moment, I think I will be relying heavily on Amazon advertising, which, in 2019, seems to be the best bet for getting book sales. I have excluded BookBub promotions as I will be releasing Fallen Love exclusively to Amazon (and the Vampire Eirik, being a short story, is also unlikely to be selected). Facebook advertising is a possibility, but its extreme complexity—and personal doubts about whether Facebook users will actually buy my books, as opposed to just following my personal “brand”—leaves it second choice.

On Reviews...

In any case, the subject of this blog post is actually something else: book reviews. Some of you may know that, a few weeks ago, I submitted my book to a site called BookSirens. The jury is still out at the moment, but I have a feeling I will withdraw Fallen Love from their platform.

Why? To put it one way, they’ve got the wrong bloody readers. Let’s start with some statistics: the company claims they can show my book to about 1250 readers. As of today, they’ve shown it about 1400 times. I managed 216 clicks out of that (a remarkable CTR) but only 10 readers have actually chosen to review the book. This suggests that I have an excellent cover, but that readers aren’t converting after the initial click.

And this is probably because of genre. To put it bluntly, their reviewers read some weird crap; I’m talking really niche, genre fiction—alien romance, the omega/alpha shifter stuff, etc. It’s the kind of fiction that has a hardcore following of readers, who will gobble up anything in the genre, but don’t much like anything else.

Then there are the reviewers who read the wrong genres, but are mistakenly lumped together with a totally different bunch of readers. No other category better exemplifies this than romance. One of these reviewers enjoys regency romance a lot—a sub-genre that might has the words “romance” in it, but has bugger all to do with Fallen Love. For those of you who don’t know: regency romance is full of tropes about manly earls and plump maids, and they’re usually set in Victorian (or perhaps Georgian) England.

I have nothing against people who read regency romance, of course (whatever floats your boat and all that). But I definitely will criticise regency romance as a social force: these books embody the worst kinds of social values—the words heteronormative and patriarchal only scratch the surface. They’re retrograde and rose-tinted as well; they portray Victorian England as a pleasantly romantic place, but the truth is, the Victorians were dirty, sick, poor—and bigoted.

I didn’t write a futuristic fantasy novel about two gay characters just so I could have it reviewed by people who think the effing Victorians were cool.

What About Targeting?

You may be wondering what this has to do with ads, and the aforementioned strategy. Actually, the relationship is very fundamental. The trick with reviews is the same trick as with ads—you have to identify your target audience, and hone in on it.

For example: the people who have liked my books so far have loved Cassandra Clare’s books as well. This is exactly what I expected. Cassie’s books are similar to my own, not in a superficial way—aside from the genre, they don’t really share all that many archetypes or worldbuilding features—but in more in the kind of stories we write. I’m so confident of this similarity that I’m willing to spend a fair amount of ad money targeting Cassandra Clare’s fans.

Another one of my reviewers read Eragon, which is, again, one of my favourite books. Other authors that I think would make excellent targets are:

  1. Lauren Kate, author of the Fallen & Rapture series.
  2. Becca Fitzpatrick, author of Hush, Hush.
  3. Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse books.
  4. Patricia Briggs, author of the Mercy Thompson books.
  5. Karen Marie Moning, author of Darkfever.
  6. Jeaniene Frost, author of the Night Huntress books.
  7. Alexandra Adornetto, author of the Halo books.

Obviously, this list will be whittled down—I’ll run various ads, and choose the ones which perform best. Nevertheless, you can see the connections here: these are all urban fantasy books. Some of these have gay characters—Charlaine Harris is famous for this, and I think Jeaniene wrote some gay characters too. And I should also add that quite a few of these books are multi-million copy bestsellers.

What don’t you see on this list?

  1. Bodice-rippers, regency romance, M/M shifter books, contemporary gay novels. Nope, none of that has anything to do with my book.
  2. Dystopian scifi like the Hunger Games. I like dystopian well enough, but my book is not actually a dystopian novel! I will be explaining this in a later blogpost.

The trick, then, is to target in such a way that’s not too broad, but also not too niche. The problem with niche readers, as I’ve argued, is that they only want to read the same, familiar stories. The problem with broad targeting is that you will be selling to readers who don’t have a huge amount in common with what you write.

Okay, that’s enough from me, folks! Till next time.

8 Nov 2019

A Brief Essay Regarding Epic Fantasy

Hello readers!

Today I am sharing a brief essay (or perhaps “musing” is a more accurate description) regarding some trends I’ve observed in the epic fantasy genre over the past couple of years. Although Fallen Love is an urban fantasy novel, my first novel, the Necromancer, was definitely in this genre. It’s still my all-time favourite genre, as both reader and writer, and one I care very deeply about.

Thinking Big and Small

One of the trends I’ve observed in many epic fantasy books over the years is a tendency to go bigger and bigger: the world has to be bigger, the plot lines must be increasingly far-fetched, and the characters have to be bigger to accomodate the increase in bigness. Likewise, the word count of many epic fantasy books is becoming increasingly ridiculous—well-established authors are the big culprits, but even less well-known authors write manuscripts in excess of 150,000 words.

Guys, it’s time to dial it down a bit. Writing a 6-book series at 150,000 words a pop isn’t going to produce a better story. The great Scottish poet Robert Burns was praised for his ability to capture everything from the magnificence of a landscape, to the relationship between husbands and wives, all the way down to the life of a mouse. This is something that, as fantasy authors, we should try to emulate.

I’m not saying epic fantasy shouldn’t contain great battles, mighty dragons, or terrifying dark wizards. It wouldn’t be epic fantasy if it didn’t have the magic ingredients. But I also want to read about the little things in life—the wonder of a young boy as he discovers magic; a sweet romance; or the snappy comeback of an annoyed teenager. Heck, I even enjoy seeing the occasional joke in a fantasy book.

Speaking of Jokes...

Seriously, why is fantasy so dark these days? I enjoy a well-written grimdark novel as much as the next dude, but I also want to read fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Not in the sense that it can’t be serious literature—I do want to read about death, loss, politics, love and hope—but in the sense that it doesn’t have to show us gore, profanity, and bad sex to do it. (I enjoy a book with good, passionate sex in it, which is rare in an epic fantasy novel.)

Heroes and anti-heroes

This is another area where epic fantasy needs to wake up and do something different. The first fantasy books—ye olde fantasy by the likes of Tolkien, Le Guin, later Eragon and the Belgariad—popularised the trope of the hero. This hero is male (nearly always), young-ish, and a do-gooder.

Then a new wave of fantasy came along. The old heroes were deemed “cliché”, and they invented the anti-hero in his stead. The anti-hero is usually male, but sometimes female. The men are rough, violent, and not afraid of a little dirty work; the women are usually dagger- or magic-wielding super-assassins (yes, I’m looking at you, Mark Lawrence). The anti-hero can be found in most of today’s grimdark books by the likes of Joe Abercrombie, Richard K Morgan, and GRR Martin.

The anti-hero has become even more of a cliché than the hero was, I would argue. Or at least, the anti-heroes are not always as interesting as they are supposed to be. They suffer from the same problem as the heroes: lack of variety. The anti-heroes nearly always seem to be manly warriors or femme-fatales, and to my mind there are a lot of unexplored possibilities. What about dark magicians trying to do the right thing? Strong kings who gained their power through violence, but have to try and unite the nation against a much greater outside evil? What about arrogant elves who end up trying to save humans? Rebellious angels?

Show us imagination

This is my conclusion, and my advice to fellow fantasy writers: fantasy is about imagination. Let’s see more of it!