Help a brother out, leave a Jackson Speed review

Help a brother out ... please leave a review if you've enjoyed a book.

Help a brother out … please leave a review if you’ve enjoyed a book.

If you have read and enjoyed any of my books, I would really appreciate a short review on Amazon. Reviews help sell books. Even if I handed you a copy and you didn’t buy it from Amazon, you can still go to Amazon and leave a review.

It doesn’t have to be long or thought out or grammatically correct. A word or two: “Fun read!” or “Enjoyed it!” would be very helpful to me. One of the best reviews I’ve received was from someone who said the book was so funny “I cried and almost pee my underwear.” Do I care that her pee is present-tense and her tears are past-tense? Not at all. I’m just glad she’s soaking wet from top to bottom.

Or, if you’re a bit more verbose, a longer review is always very helpful, too. If you can describe the book or what you enjoyed about it – even what could have been improved – all of these things are worthwhile and helpful to other readers who are considering reading the book.

Obviously, if you were ambivalent about the book (3 stars) then that’s not going to help me, and if you absolutely hated it (1 star or 2 stars) then I’d prefer you keep your opinion to yourself. But if you hated the book so much that you feel compelled to leave a one star review, I do hope you’ll be specific about why you hated it and give other potential readers an honest accounting of your opinion.

But I think I’d rather have an honest 1 star review than a fake 5 star review.

I know people are enjoying the Jackson Speed books because sales of all four of the Jackson Speed novels are consistent. Clearly folks are reading a book and coming back for the next book in the series.

I was recently lamenting the lack of reviews to a friend of mine. I told him that I’ve had more people email me through my blog to tell me they enjoyed the books than have posted a review on Amazon – and that’s something I don’t understand. Especially when Kindle readers get a prompt to post a review when they finish the book. For someone to email me through the blog requires at least another step or two.

It might be that people get to the end of a Jackson Speed book but never get the prompt because they don’t reach the last page after the endnotes. It may be that the endnotes are dooming me from getting reviews.

Based on my sales reports from 2015, it looks like I picked up somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 new readers in the United Kingdom and another 30 new readers in the United States who read all four of the Jackson Speed novels just in 2015. There were others, too, who read some but not all of the books. That doesn’t include the folks who bought books in 2014 (and we won’t talk about 2012 and 2013 when my sales were so poor I thought about never writing another novel again).

If half of those people who bought all four books in 2015 (and presumably did so because they enjoyed them) would leave a review, it would help me out so much. Instead, I only received one review on a Jackson Speed book in all of 2015.

All the conventional wisdom on novel writing tells me that reviews will improve my sales. Someone recently told me that Amazon has an algorithm that kicks in when a book reaches 50 reviews, and writers find it difficult to get traction before they have those 50 reviews. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be dead and gone before my books start getting traction.

I am deeply grateful to everyone who has read a Jackson Speed book and come back for a second one. Those people who have read all four of the books are the people who keep me writing. I love you folks more than I love my dogs (and you come in very close behind my children, and on some days you’ve got them beat, too). You can’t understand the feeling I get when I see a copy of El Teneria sell and a few days later I see a Blood Tubs sell and then an Orange Turnpike and then a High Tide. It’s like I can watch someone enjoying the Speed books (and yes, I realize, it may not necessarily be the same person, but I like to imagine it is).

So please don’t misunderstand me begging for reviews to think I’m not grateful. Every time I look at a sales report and see that people are reading my books, I am humbled and so very thankful.

But I really need some reviews, too.

Seriously, me begging for reviews is so much better than me begging for spare change on the side of the road. Help a brother out.

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Update on Jackson Speed at the High Tide

The trauma of NaNoWriMo has left me speechless. I’ve not written a blog post in two months.

For you fans of Jackson Speed, here’s where things stand: The fourth book is written but I am still editing/rewriting.

Taking Jackson Speed at the High Tide as a continuation of Jackson Speed on the Orange Turnpike and considering them one complete work as they were initially intended, I’ve got to say Volumes III and IV of the Jackson Speed memoirs are my personal favorites so far. I’m really proud of these two books, and I cannot wait for Jackson Speed fans to see Volume IV!

Speaking of Jackson Speed fans, I’ve occasionally written about my sales here, and I’ll say a word about sales today, too. December was awful. I’d been riding a pretty good wave of sales from May through November, but December my sales fell off the wagon.

Thankfully, January picked up steam and February (so far) has been very good. Interestingly, I’m selling books in the United States again. Back in June my sales in the United Kingdom began to increase dramatically, and through the second half of 2014 almost all of my sales came out of Britain. But my U.S. sales outpaced foreign sales in January. I think that’s a good thing, because my novels offer a chance for more people to learn about U.S. history as seen by Jackson Speed – and what better way to learn than with Ol’ Speedy as your teacher?

When I say that I am grateful beyond words to you people who buy my books, I hope you understand that I am being completely genuine. It’s not the $1.34 I get from the sales in England or the $2.05 I get from the sales in the United States … it’s the fact that people are enjoying my work enough to come back and read the next book. That’s really so amazing to me.

When I started writing the Jackson Speed novels, I was writing stories that would entertain me. I created this character who I found amusing and put him in historical situations that I found interesting. I didn’t know if I would ever sell a single book or if anyone who read the stories would even enjoy them. Basically, Jackson Speed was just a pleasant diversion for me.

But when I go to look at my sales chart and see that I’ve sold a copy of Blood Tubs or Orange Turnpike – that people enjoyed El Teneria enough to want more – it truly is the most gratifying experience.

While I work on edits of High Tide, I’ve also got some other projects that I’m working on – many of which are in some latter stages of completion – and I hope to soon be able to share some details about some of those projects.

My target date for publishing Jackson Speed at the High Tide is late March (though it could be mid-May), and when the time gets a little closer I’ll release the cover image that Alex McArdell created for High Tide. It’s spectacular!

Celebrating little successes

If you’re a self-published novelist or published through a small press, there’s a pretty good likelihood you’ve wallowed in a fair amount of self-doubt and self-pity.

If you see fireworks this week, almost surely they are being set off in celebration of my best sales month last month.

If you see fireworks this week, almost surely they are being set off in celebration of my best sales month last month.

I think most indie authors discover that finding and connecting with potential readers is a more challenging task than writing the book.

I didn’t know what to expect in terms of “success” when I first published Jackson Speed: The Hero of El Teneria. I mean, obviously I wanted to sell a million copies and be on the NYT bestseller list for years. But I suspected that wouldn’t happen.

Now, after two years and four published books, I’ve learned that you have to find success where you can. Maybe you even have to redefine what success means. Otherwise, it’s easy to get terribly dispirited.

In June I had a pretty good run of “little successes.”

Toward the end of May I realized I was coming up on a milestone – 1,000 books distributed through Amazon. Around the first of June I achieved that milestone when I distributed my one-thousandth book. That’s not 1,000 sales, and that’s not all the books I’ve sold or given away, but it’s 1,000 books through Amazon (paperbacks and Kindle ebooks) both paid and free. The majority were free, but that’s okay.

Then over the course of the rest of the month, as I periodically checked my sales reports, I realized that I was having a good month. Again, this is scaled because we’re talking about a good month for me, not for Stephen King. But I was consistently selling books through the month of June and – by far – had my best sales month ever.

My month of little successes kicked off at the end of May when I received an email from a reader who contacted me through this blog. He’d read all three of the Jackson Speed novels and was complimentary. He favorably compared them to George MacDonald Fraser’s Harry Flashman books (which is high praise in my mind, because Fraser is among my favorites).

Fraser died in 2008, and for his fans it was devastating to know there would be no more Flashman books.

As I’ve noted before, I patterned the character of Jackson Speed after Flashman – a coward and a womanizer. As I’ve written the novels, I’ve felt that Speed has developed more into his own self, but the comparison to Flashman is obvious and will always be there.

Anyway, the email closed with: “Thanks for filling the void, but making it your own.”

That’s enormous praise. I can’t ask for anything more than that. If a Flashman fan thinks I’ve filled the void left by Fraser’s death, that’s as much as I can hope to do.

Still, it scares me to think that fans of the Flashman novels would read a Jackson Speed novel, because truthfully they must be disappointed. I’m not half the writer that George MacDonald Fraser was.

When compared to a lot of other indie authors, I know my sales seem pretty weak and my little successes insignificant (especially after two years of this), but I’m still feeling pretty good about the way June went.

So, I’m filing this under advice for indie authors: Don’t get bogged down in the disappointments. Whether you set small goals (1,000 books distributed) or just celebrate unexpected victories (a reader who enjoyed your book reaching out to let you know), I’m convinced that the people who achieve success as indie writers (or, really, anything) are the ones who persevere through the tough days so that they can enjoy the good days.