October saw the release of a collection of all ‘The Darkwood Mysteries‘ currently available. Darkwood and Hobbs, the heroes of these Victorian tales of horror and adventure, can think themselves lucky. They only have to deal with criminals and the supernatural, and they have me to bail them out. I, on the other hand, have to write and then self-publish their exploits. I only have the staff of me to do this. And, as I have recently found… I can be f****** useless. Okay, that’s a little harsh, but within the three days of formatting and uploading this collection to Kindle I nurtured a red, hot, and smothering self-rage at the stupid mistakes I kept making.
Let me start my tale of torment at the very beginning. First, some context. I write. Frustrated with the traditional publishing approach of differing submission requirements and waiting forever to get nowhere, I decided to self-publish. Through a mixture of many people wanting my money to promote my books, and me not being one to shout about my work, they don’t get promoted. I guess I rely on the chance of readers stumbling across me. I’m no self-publishing guru. Of course, I am not actually relying on chance. I am relying on whatever algorithm on Kindle gets you seen. It’s akin to having every book in the whole history of the world in one place, and hoping the senile librarian leads a reader looking for ’50 Shades of Grey’ to the aisle with my book in it. Whilst I’m not on the bestseller list, I’ve enjoyed periods of (very) modest sales. And although they flat lined in the last year, ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, along with ‘Ivory’, have always had the least amount of sales. Bordering on being completely unseen.
After nearly a two year break from writing due to studying, returning to writing–whilst yearned for–has been a challenge. I treat writing as a hobby first and foremost to temper the disappointment of not being Stephen King, and not having time to write while I study my love of board games filled in what free time I did have. Now, I am having to wean myself from playing games to writing. I was in the middle of writing the next run of tales for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ when I started my studying, and returning to writing them has been made even harder in the knowledge that the first nine really haven’t been read much. I have to admit, this has really hit my motivation. It’s not affecting the plots or the quality of the writing, but it’s making it tough for me to channel my time into it. I’m getting large doses of ‘what’s the point’. I turned 40 this year, so I’m very worried I might be ignoring some horrendous existential mid-life crisis. Thankfully, I’m trained in therapy. So, I decided that I needed to make a change to find some motivation and give me the sense of producing something, and give ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ another chance.
I had always vowed that ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ would never be collected, that the reader would only ever be able to read it in individual tales bought separately. After all, I told myself, people pay out £4 or £5 for a magazine or comic. Why not 99p for a short-story? However, they aren’t selling. I really want them to be read. I would love for Darkwood and Hobbs to have a band of readers following their exploits to keep me and them going. This is not happening, and has not happened. And, while it may happen, I really need someone to take some interest and read them right now. I need the motivation, and ‘The Darkwood Mysteries: Collection 1’ was born from this (desperation).
Born does feel like the appropriate terminology. Okay, so I’m a man, what do I know about ‘birth’?. All I know, is that producing this collection took days and was painful. I guess the only bonus is that I didn’t s*** myself while I was squeezing this story out, oh, and my nether regions didn’t tear. Result. Sadly, many of my issues were of my own making. And so begins the sorry tale of my series of mistakes…
- The first step was pasting all ninetales into one document. I copied one story in twice. Yes, really. And didn’t notice until I had uploaded it to Kindle. Please note that uploading to Kindle is not instant. It doesn’t appear on Kindle for hours, sometimes days. So each mistake here that follows added to the time it took to get my story on Kindle and left me tormenting myself over my mistakes.
- I then find that none of my images are working. Because I forgot how to format for images within the story. I reformat, and re-upload it Kindle.
- I notice the title on my cover isn’t bold. Redo it on photoshop. Re-upload it to Kindle.
- I realise that in the blurb in the front and back of my book, I had spelled website wrong. Yes, really. At first I thought, ‘silly me’. I change it, and re-upload it to Kindle. All done.
- Kindle spell-check has prompted me numerous times about errors. Having ignored them (because, these have been published before and have been fine, obviously) I decide that after ‘wesbite’, which I spotted myself, I would see what mistakes Kindle is saying I have made–sure that they would just be words Kindle doesn’t know. Huh, Kindle has learnt a lot more words, and I find that actually, Kindle has gotten better at finding errors than me. Oh, the horror. I then re-edit my collection to correct the mistakes, and all the individual stories they came from, and re-upload everything to Kindle. Again.
- I then realised that I hadn’t written ‘website’ in my collection document. I had copied it from one of my short stories. Which is online for everyone to see. I had copied and pasted the same mistake into all nine stories. Yes, all nine. Which are of course online for people to find. I then have to correct all nine stories and then re-upload them to Kindle. I did so with joy and love in my heart.
- I then find that my story description, selling a collection of nine tales, only lists eight. Yes, really. I’m that f****** good. So, I correct it and re-upload it.
- I realise that my ‘press release’ blog post also only lists eight tales in my nine tale collection. I then quickly change that and hope only people who can’t count had read my blog at that point.
- I find that I left a ‘:’ out of my collections story description. I edit it and re-upload it.
- I then find that my table of contents doesn’t list all the contents. I could not work out why. I could not get it to work. I did multiple tweaks, and none of them worked fully. So, I then had to reformat all my headers and chapter and part titles to get the contents to work. I then, of course, re-upload it to Kindle.
All of this makes for three days of back and forth. And I couldn’t bring myself to have my weekly day of actual writing. All of the above was enough writing related work for one week, so I lost a day of actual writing. But, at least my collection was available for pre-order. It was probably listed as the seventh edition or something before it was even released. Then, in the run up to its release, Kindle kept sending me automated emails prompting me to make sure my book is the best it can be. Making me very paranoid. Was this normal Kindle practice, or was it being that teacher from school that was like ‘are you sure that’s correct? Why don’t you check that again and make sure?’. Thankfully, Halloween saw the birth of my lovely little monster. And all its bits were exactly where they should have been.
By the way. I sold three copies. Thank you, to you brave three, you three who stopped me having zero sales. However, as grateful as I am for at least having those three sales, let this blog post be a lesson in what happens when you do zero promotion. What is the hard work of writing, formatting and uploading a title for, if you haven’t done any promotion? This is clearly something I need to look at doing, but with a budget of zero pounds I’m not sure how much exposure I will get. In the meantime I will keep plugging away at the next nine tales of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ to try and keep my interest in writing going, and when they’re tucked away waiting for an edit, I’ll have to get serious about getting my work out there in front of people. Any suggestions gratefully accepted.