Danny Gillan tackles Internet forums the Glaswegian way.

Today, my  guest blogger is Danny Gillan, author of the brilliant new novel Scratch, which I have just finished reading and can highly recommend. Read his unique (to say the least)  take on e-book publishing, his own style of marketing and how he tackles the ‘profanity clause’ on the Amazon forums by inventing some new words.

Kindling an Interest

Many thanks to Susanne for inviting me here to have a moan and a grumble, I mean write a balanced and objective blog post.

Yep, I’ve jumped on the Kindle bandwagon. Enticed by tales of thousands of sales and generous royalty rates, I recently stuck up my second novel, Scratch, and sat back, waiting for the cheques to roll in.

I did it for various reasons. Or at least I could pretend I did. My experience with ‘traditional’ publishing didn’t go too well with my first novel, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, so I could say that’s what put me off this route and made me go out on my own. I could also say that my writing is far too unique and experimental to find a place on celeb hungry trad publishers’ lists. I could even say that I’m joining the band of hardy pioneers blazing a trail into the ‘new’ publishing model because I’m all cool and stuff. I could say all of that, but it would be bollocks (especially the ‘unique and experimental’ thing).

I put Scratch on Kindle for two reasons and two reasons only. I’m lazy, and I’m skint. I want some easy money, and I want it on a monthly basis – a modest second income to supplement my extremely modest first income. Not too much to ask, surely? So, to achieve this, do I spend months (or years) sending samples out and failing to get an agent, or do I put the book on Kindle for relatively little expense or effort? Guess which one I chose.

So, what now? The book is there, it’s got a good cover, it’s a reasonable price, it’s not the worst book ever written. When does the cash arrive? Seriously, when?

That’s when the ‘lazy’ bit started falling apart. I quickly learned from other writers that, to get any kind of buzz going about the book, I would have to dive headlong into the world of self-promotion and, more specifically, the Amazon Kindle Forums. ‘Get your name known’. ‘Take part in discussions’. ‘Look for threads with people who’d like your writing style and genre’. All sounds fair enough. ‘But, whatever you do, don’t push the book too obviously’. Huh?

I quickly learned there is a highly vocal and significantly large number of Kindle Forum contributors who actively, and sometimes viciously, dislike authors who use the forums to promote their book(s). This seemed a bit odd to me, but again, fair enough. Apparently the best strategy is to simply become a regular forum user and hope that sales will be achieved through some sort of osmosis. A bit like Bruce Lee’s technique of ‘fighting without fighting’ (wee Scratch reference, there), we must master the art of ‘promoting without promoting’. I’ve barely mastered the art of feeding myself, so this was a daunting prospect.

But, needs must. So, armed with a bottle of red wine and a willingness to make friends with complete strangers for entirely selfish purposes, I found what seemed like a relatively ‘author friendly’ thread on the Amazon US forum and said hello. I even got away with mentioning Scratch a few times. It was all going very well and I was pleased with these early efforts. A few people even said they’d download a sample of the book. Excellent! This was going to be easy. There were a few users who seemed to be a bit cheeky about each other for no reason I could fathom, but that happens everywhere.

I had some fun making up new swear words to get round Amazon’s ‘decency’ policies (I am Glaswegian). I joked I could become the thread ‘bouncer’ to fend off trolls. It was all very jolly. Then I noticed that the ‘cheeky’ stuff was getting a bit personal between some users. Hmm, I thought. Why are they ripping into each other like that? I did a little digging and discovered that I had inadvertently landed myself smack in the middle of one of the fabled ‘flame wars’ of which legends tell, between two competing factions from different threads who had seemingly been involved in a prolonged and bloody battle for months. Oops. I then had a wee look at the other camp’s ‘home’ thread to discover I had apparently been added to numerous people’s ‘do not buy’ lists because of the made up swearing and the fact they thought I was taking sides. Again, oops. I did what all decent, honourable people would do is such circumstances and ran away, never to return.

So, not the best start, after all.  I learned a valuable lesson on that strange, corpse-strewn night, though – people take this shit awful seriously. For me, the internet has always been about trying out jokes and taking the piss out of my online mates as they do the same back to me. Not on Amazon, it seems. Oh no. I’ve since been far more reticent to jump in, all ‘farktwits’ blazing. I just respond to anyone who asks me a question and try to mention Scratch when I think I can pretend it’s relevant to the discussion. Then go back to Facebook to have a swear, take the piss and try out jokes.

It’s not so easy, this self-promotion thing. The slightly baffling factor, though, is that I sold more copies in theUS that night than on any since. Maybe I should have kept calling people ‘bastiging iceholes’ and making enemies, after all. Dunno.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. When does the cash arrive?


Meet Danny on hos own amazing blog

He is also the deputy editor of Words With Jam, an informative online magazine for readers and writers.

You can download ‘Scratch’ both at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. M.P. McDonald
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 20:05:05

    The folks on Amazon claim that authors are better off just promoting in designated threads and otherwise participating like any other user, and perhaps it’s okay to put a book link. But don’t believe them. I’ve been doing that for months and it gets me next to nothing. On the other hand, people who come in and boldly post and don’t worry about the regulars, tend to sell a lot of books, at least for awhile.


    • Danny
      Apr 20, 2011 @ 20:16:53

      Hi Mary. It’s certainly a funny old world on Amazon. A sense of humour and a glass of wine are the best weapons we can use, I reckon. I certainly know a few writers who have achieved excellent sales by participating on the forums, but I do wonder if that time is now past and it’s back to who can shout the loudest.


  2. susannefromsweden
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 20:09:43

    That’s very true, Mary, some people think they own the forum and try to control who posts there. Freedom of speech? Not there.


  3. Melinda
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 21:33:10

    Love the post, Danny! And I agree, the Amazon forum can be difficult to navigate. I also agree with M.P. that authors who post without sticking around to see the ramifications do seem to sell well, but my guess is that it’s temporary. I don’t know the answer. To much of anything. Especially not to “when the cash arrives.” 🙂


    • Danny
      Apr 21, 2011 @ 14:23:28

      Hi Melinda, it’s certainly difficult to know what the best strategy is purely to increase sales. Fortunately there are enough threads where we can simply chat and forget about promoting for a while. The main issue I have is finding the time to keep up with them!


  4. Ruby Barnes
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 23:16:50

    Good post, Danny. I do wonder if only authors are reading a lot of those threads. I know romance authors who have sold a good number of books by offering theirs in romance threads at an opportune moment. Wouldn’t it be great if purchasers had to complete a ‘how did you come to hear of this book’ box when they buy?
    I’ve been kindling for about 7 weeks now and I’ve dabbled in many threads and forums. Dabbled being the operative word. I’ve ended up blocking repeat offenders who advertise their books and I guess that’s what others do too.
    It’s all a bit of a mystery. I think selling your soul to the devil in arcane rituals with craven black magic images is the best bet. So that’s my plan.


    • Danny
      Apr 21, 2011 @ 14:26:36

      Hi Ruby. Hmm, black magic and arcania. Sign me up!
      I agree that there are times when it does seem it’s just writers talking to other writers about what they write, and that’s not just on Amazon. Still, I suppose it helps us feel wanted!
      I think, like any other form of publishing, there’s an element of luck, or at least optimum timing, behind the big success stories. of course it helps if the books themselves are well written or at least entertaining.


  5. Danny
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 23:41:54

    There are no answers, only the same questions repeated over and over again. And the same complaints, and the same spammers, and the same pissed off readers who for some reason don’t like writers, and the same writers who for some reason can’t tolerate readers.
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the world would be a much nicer place if everyone was just a little bit kinder. To me.


  6. Sunny
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 02:49:03

    Danny, I read this blog and felt very bad because I believe you were talking about Welcome to the New Comfort Inn and the time I asked you to help me out because we were being furiously attacked by some really bad people who have tried many times to get me off of the Amazon Discussion Forum. I have no idea why. But, they started their attacks and continued until all hell broke loose that night I asked for your help.

    I hate to think this is what casued your books to be voted down. But, to be realistic if you can hang in there it will settle down. And as a matter of information, I finally got the Amazon Legal Department involved and we have not had any serious problems since then.

    I can only say that I am so sorry to have caused you any problens and I do appreciate your attempt to help us out. I would like you to know that you did nothing wrong. There will always be some mean spirited on these forums and we will have to just ignore them. They normally go away. I also hope that if you ever do come back for a visit that you will know that you are welcome at the Inn and I hope to hear from you again soon. My best wishes to you with the sales of your book which I have read and really enjoyed. May God Bless you with much success and prosperity as you continue your career as a fanntastic writer.



  7. Kristie Leigh Maguire
    Apr 21, 2011 @ 03:41:26

    Soooooo, you got caught in the crosshairs of being a target at Kindle Discussion Groups???? Man, you’ve arrived as a Kindle author now, my friend! Welcome to the fricking club!

    Amazon Land is a place fraught with peril. Swim at your own risk.

    Kristie Leigh Maguire
    PS. Dannyboy, dome join us on a safe for authors thread as there can be over there … The Spinning Wheel. 🙂


    • Danny
      Apr 21, 2011 @ 14:29:56

      Hi Kristie
      Yep, I certainly feel like part of some sort of club now 🙂
      I’ll head over to the spinning wheel soon to say hello.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: