10 ways to fail at publishing and marketing your book

When you’ve never done something before there is a high chance you’ll try things that just don’t work. Then again, perhaps you’ll eventually look back and have mixed feelings about what you did. I’ve found that I’m not at all sure that every mistake I made while publishing The Great Scottish Land Grab was quite as bad as I saw it at the time.

For the last few days I’ve been carrying out an analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab. You can find my first post here and Thursday’s here. (Friday is my flash fiction day…)

Here is a round up of some of my biggest (maybe) fails while publishing and marketing my first novel:

1. Paying for a libel read
In 2014, in the UK, if you wrote a book defaming a person or organisation you could find yourself being sued. The situation in the US is much safer for writers and it may have improved in England with recent law changes, but don’t quote me on that! Currently in Scotland an MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) is being sued for defamation for something published on his blog.

Defamation of character is a problem I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand I don’t think we have an absolute right to say whatever we like about other people. On the other, I think that defamation law is abused in the UK to protect the rich and powerful. I think the law in the US is too lax while the law in the UK is too extreme. There has to be a better way.

Regardless, when I set out in early 2014 to rewrite Land Grab, I knew I needed to be careful. The first draft lampooned various well known political figures and while politicians are one group of people who can be legitimately targeted with humour, there was a real undercurrent of nastiness as the Scottish independence referendum grew closer. One of the main campaigning groups – Better Together – had set itself up as a limited company, potentially allowing it to sue anyone who attempted to defame them.

I run my own company and had no desire to lose that, or my house if someone took offence at what I was planning to publish.

I contacted several solicitors for quotes and ended up selecting one. They read each of the three books as I wrote them and offered their legal opinion on whether I was at risk of being sued. It cost me £2,580.

Just to put that into perspective, I receive £1.67 per ebook novel sold through Amazon. I will need to sell 1,545 full ebooks novels before I break even on that cost.

As I wrote here, I’m nowhere close to that.

I have regretted that decision. Yet, as I wrote above, I have mixed feelings about it.

I was extremely nervous about publishing my first novel. The process of discussing the situation with the solicitor and applying his advice gave me a confidence that helped me overcome a real hurdle. In my writing now, I’m conscious of the threat of defamation and do research my characters to ensure I’m not inadvertently libelling real people.

I believe that far too few indie-authors give proper thought to the risk of defamation. Certainly if you’re writing fantasy or off world science-fiction you are unlikely to be at risk, but even in these genres, if you lazily base a character on a real person and that person can identify themselves – and is offended by how you’ve portrayed them – and they can show it in court, you may find that that catch-all declaration “Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locations, is entirely coincidental.” doesn’t save you from legal costs…

And that is the real killer in the UK. You can win your case, but still lose everything when the bill comes in.

2. Paying for indemnity insurance
Being aware of traditionally published authors who had found themselves in court defending themselves against defamation, I decided to take out indemnity insurance, insurance that covers legal costs and gives some protection against damages awarded.

Six months on and £265 lighter I cancelled the insurance. The fact was that I’d already paid more in insurance premiums than I’d earned on book sales. I’d sold nowhere near enough copies to think that I’d managed to find someone who would consider themselves defamed and since I’d followed the solicitor’s advice, it was extremely unlikely anyone would have a case against me.

Again, the act of taking out the insurance policy gave me confidence to write what I felt needed to be written, while also reminding me to take care with how I did it.

Still, that’s another bill that it’s going to take some time to pay back…

If you are writing a contemporary novel and there is a risk that you could defame someone, even inadvertently, it may be worth you considering.

3. Rush into marketing decisions
In the summer of 2014 I was commuting to Edinburgh from Cumbernauld on the train and I had this brain wave that I could get a T shirt printed up with the book cover on it and could become a walking advertisement for the book.

It was a disaster.

I still was in love with my first cover design and was filled with a sense that if I didn’t get the word out there about the book, no-one else was going to.

I turned up at a printer with a USB drive and the notion that since everyone was obsessed with voting Yes or No in the referendum, I should add some text above the book cover image saying:

Vote Yes?
Vote No?
Vote For…

It didn’t take long for me to decide that wearing that T shirt may actually do more harm than good.

Fortunately that mistake only cost me £12.95

4. Don’t tell anyone how to buy your book
I think I’ve mentioned this already, but it is worth repeating. I had thousands of leaflets and business cards printed up, none of which told people how to buy my books on Amazon. I still mentally kick myself over that mistake.

It meant that every time I gave out a leaflet or card, I had to tell people where they could buy the book. Yes, some of those people did then log onto Amazon and did buy it, but I’m sure I could have given more leaflets out and had more sales with just a few extra words telling where the book was on sale.

5. Tell people your book will make them scream
Unless your genre is horror, that just doesn’t work, trust me…

I was desperate for someone to review the first book in my trilogy and allow me to include their quote on my marketing material. Unfortunately, one of my earlier reviewers was extremely taken aback by my reveal and cliff hanger ending at the end of book one and wrote the following:

“Interesting ideas as one man searches for answers to the direction his life has taken, to the backdrop of the referendum. Knowing the author I can see where the story could be going, but I’m sure he will surprise me. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in current events in Scotland, though I know a fair few who would be shouting at the screen. Look forward to the next instalment if only to find out what he has done to Eck”

For some reason I thought referring to this reaction would be a good idea. I think that deep down, I want to avoid people having a negative reaction to what I’ve written and so want to warn them that it might be somewhat controversial…

I foolishly included the following statement on business cards I had printed up:

“Described by some as an easy read, by others as making you want to shout at your screen
The Great Scottish Land Grab
Scotland’s future is in your hands”

It’s wrong on so many levels.

I’m advertising a book, why is it talking about a screen? I could see people reading it, confusion growing on their face as they asked me what I was selling them.

Then there was the statement about shouting (okay, not screaming.) How many readers actually want to sit down, relax and get comfortable with a book that might make them throw it across the room?

6. Don’t try and get reviews for your book
While there are clear benefits from splitting a book into a series and making the first part free, one downside is that you will draw reviews away from your main book.

With Land Grab I wasn’t very focused on reviews. I was delighted to get them as I published each book in the series, but was focusing far more on selling copies than trying to get reviews.

Then, when I published the full novel, I failed to ask people I’d known to go on to review the full novel. As a result, three years on, I still only have one review for The Great Scottish Land Grab – The Complete Trilogy. I need to rectify that!

For the last few months, almost a year now, I’ve been almost totally focussed on Fallen Warriors, but Land Grab is still a book of interest and at some point over the summer I need to get my begging cap on and start asking people for reviews because even just a few positive reviews make a huge difference to how people perceive your book.

7. Waste time by contacting people who are never going to review your book
I emailed every single MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) and offered them a free copy of Land Grab. All 129 of them.

It was such a waste of time. A couple did write back, but the vast majority either ignored the email or it went straight into spam. You would think a novel exploring issues around independence might appeal to a few politicians, but how many of them actually have time to read. Especially during the run up to a critical referendum.

I’ve started to discover this group of people called book-bloggers… They are the people I really need to get to know and spend time on…

8. Rush out and get thousands of leaflets and business cards printed
While getting thousands of leaflets printed is a cost effective way to go about it, the problem is with the rushing.

However much time you spend on your book cover, you probably should spend as much or more on your marketing material. You get it wrong and you’ve just invested in some very expensive fire lighting material…

I still have several thousand leaflets and cards that I really should just recycle. I confess that the whole situation is holding me back from getting better thought out material printed up. That’s something I need to overcome soon.

9. Expect bookshops to buy your Print On Demand books
Print On Demand is not the way to go if you intend to sell paper copies. The per unit cost is way too high and that’s before you factor in delivery costs and the discount the bookshop will need to make it worth their while stocking your book! Finally, you may have to accept returns to be stocked by many bookstores. Not all of them, but most.

Using CreateSpace is great for getting your book available online and ordering a few copies to sell yourself to friends and family, but it is a poor option for small print runs compared to contacting a book printer and ordering 50 or 100 copies.

I actually walked into bookstores asking them if they would like to stock my book when all I had was a couple of POD copies. Once I realised I would make no profit on the deal, I gave up. It seemed like too much effort for no reward.

I’m now working towards my first small print run for Fallen Warriors and will go back to organise one for Land Grab over the summer.

10. Give up.
At various times over the last few years I have given up. I stopped writing, I stopped trying to market my novel, I stopped trying to get it into bookstores.

Giving up is the easiest way to slide into oblivion. If you never write another book, people will forget about your first one. If you never try and sell your books, people won’t know to buy them.

Don’t give up!

If you have a good story, if you believe in your heart you are a writer, keep trying. Keep trying different methods until you find one that works. If you can learn from my mistakes above and avoid them, great! You probably will make your own mistakes and that’s okay. If we want to achieve anything great in life, we’re going to make mistakes.

To misquote Edison: “You might find 10,000 ways to fail at publishing and marketing your book, but all you need to find is one right way…”

Are you willing to share some of your biggest mistakes below?

Friday Flash Fiction: Left Behind

‘Switch to South… Okay, he’s up again. End Command.’ Walter quickly scanned the other 359 images he was responsible for to see if any had “lost” their target. The board was green and he turned back to the memo he’d been reading before he’d been distracted.

GCHQ was ramping up their monitoring of the population, with a 400% increase in random surveillance to be offset by server and software improvements, that meant they would only need an extra ten staff.

Old George would be spinning in his grave if he could see his “office”, Walter thought to himself. He leaned back and nudged his chair so it moved out from his cubicle and he gave a lazy scan left and right. Ten cubicles to his left, thirty nine to his right and four rows behind him, collectively monitoring up to 90,000 citizens at any one time. He scooted forwards again and closed the memo, pulling up the next email.

Walter had never been able to fathom the amount of storage or processing capacity required, but then he didn’t need to know that. His role was to direct the acquisition of signal when the computers couldn’t recognise the target and provide in depth analysis when required. Which was happening more frequently, he admitted to himself.

When he’d started at GCHQ, three long years ago, he hadn’t been surprised to find out the government had quietly stepped up their monitoring of suspected terrorists.

He had been surprised to find out what capabilities they now had.

George had only envisaged a camera in every home, we had given the government far broader access by willingly accepting a camera on every smartphone. Not just one camera either, and not just the two that most people thought their devices possessed. A secretive bill had been passed forcing all makers of mobile phones to install a full six in each device, one for every direction allowing the government to obtain a full 360 view of people’s lives and even continue spying when the main cameras were covered. Front, Back, North, South, East and West, wherever you went, the government would go with you, at least if you were a person of interest…

‘Walter.’

He started at the sound of his supervisor’s voice, turned to see Marsha standing observing his board. ‘Good afternoon,’ he said, his pulse quickening slightly.

‘You’re monitoring suspect 2897.’ A statement, not a question.

‘Let me check.’ William entered the identifier into the search form and saw one of the images on the board expand to fill half the available display, the others shrinking in size to make room. ‘A burner phone,’ he said, reading from his monitor. ‘Bought four months ago, activated last week. Facial recognition identifies suspect as Josef Karrakis of Algerian origin.’

‘Bring up all feeds from his phone.’

Walter selected the option and the large image split into six, three of which were obstructed, one which showed an empty wall. As well as the target though, one of the other images showed two people… He looked round at Marsha.

‘Excellent. We received intel that a meet was happening. Run facial recognition on those two and spin back the feeds to see if you can get audio or anything else of use.’

‘Will do.’ He noted that Marsha hurried away, her role demanding she divide her time between the urgent and top priority.

Before he did anything, he messaged a colleague to ask him to begin active observation of the still in progress meeting. It wouldn’t do to miss something important because he was reviewing the start of the meeting!

All feeds from a device were linked which allowed him to skip back, watching the images in step with each other. He identified the start of the meeting, logged the timestamp and set it to play at twice normal speed. The meeting had been going for just over an hour and he spent the next hour catching back up to real time.

Most of the discussion was un-actionable, but disturbing in its content. He wrote up commentary as he listened and then when the meeting broke up, summarised it and emailed everything to Marsha.

Stretching, he checked the time and decided it was time for a rest break. He logged off his system which automatically reassigned the feeds he was monitoring amongst his colleagues. He pulled his phone from his pocket and checked for messages, then left it on his desk while he went to use the toilet.

He stopped by the canteen on the way back, got a double shot coffee and was sipping it as he reached his cubicle.

Marsha was there, sitting in his chair, his phone in her hand.

‘Walter, you left this behind.’ She handed him his phone which he glanced at before putting it back in his pocket.

‘Thanks for sending me the summary of the meeting,’ she said, standing and allowing him room to sit down. ‘Place an audio alert on his device, log everything it records and keep an eye on the transcripts.’

‘Will do,’ he said.

She studied him for a moment, then turned abruptly and walked away.

He pulled his phone back out and unlocked it. The front camera caught his eye as he checked once more for messages. He locked his phone quickly and put it away in his pocket. Looked round at the tall dividers which cordoned off his row from the next bank of cubicles. Wondered, just for an instant, whether someone there had seen his face on their screen…

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/ You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/06/friday-flash-fiction-left-behind/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

Let me know what you think of the story below…

Analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab Part Three

Continuing a short series analysing sales of my first novel: The Great Scottish Land Grab. You can find yesterday’s post here and the first post here.

Every author’s story will be slightly different. I’ve benefitted from reading and hearing about the lessons other authors have gained from their experiences selling their books so it makes sense to offer what advice I can from my own experience.

What worked

1. Don’t discard rubbish first drafts
The first draft of Land Grab was not great, but it contained large sections that contained the core of the story I wanted to tell and on re-reading a couple of years later, still thrilled me.

I was extremely fortunate to have a relevant first draft waiting when I realised the level of interest in the Scottish independence referendum. If only I’d realised it sooner, but in reality, much of the plot of the finished book came out of my own journey exploring the issues. I doubt I could have written the novel, especially my first, at any other time. I was told from an early age to write and save what I wrote as it may become useful later. It’s good advice.

2. Be aware of what people are interested in
My decision to try and publish Land Grab in 2014 was definitely the right one. I made sales I might not have made at any other time. The original idea for Land Grab was for someone to try and steal a General Election to gain power and use it to reverse the Highland Clearances. As my interest in the referendum grew, I realised it offered a ready made situation that could be exploited in my plot and I began to rework the story to fit a topic all of Scotland was interested in.

Yet trends can easily vanish, as happened in October 2014. The No vote won and my sales began their quick slide towards zero.

Still, almost three years later and interest in Scottish independence has had a resurgence following Brexit… I’m still selling this book three years on…

3. There is no substitute for advertising
If you want to see zero sales, don’t market your book. If you want to sell one copy, tell someone you’ve written a book. Then tell someone else. Repeat until one of them buys it! If you want to sell hundreds or thousands of copies… You have to tell thousands or even millions of people.

How you advertise is possibly less important than the fact you are doing it. As long as you are reaching out to people who might be interested in your book, you may see some sales.

I’ve managed to sell dozens of copies by approaching strangers and talking to them about my novel. I found out this year that I could also sell copies by paying for Facebook advertising and I’m now also experimenting with Amazon Ads.

Time or money, you have to pay at least one of them and probably both and if you do it right, with a good product, you’ll find that you will sell.

4. A good cover will help, but a poor one won’t stop people if the concept is right
My first book cover was poor:

Yet, if you look at yesterday’s post, I still managed to sell a hundred copies. I knew it wasn’t the best I could do and kept trying different ideas, using this one when I released book two:

By the time book three was almost ready, I’d convinced myself I needed to show another side to Scotland and settled on this:

The last chapter written, the third book in the trilogy published, I listened to reason and hired a graphic artist: David MacKenzie who took a new concept I’d wanted and produced what became the final cover for The Great Scottish Land Grab:

David was kind enough to produce related covers for each separate book in the trilogy as well which you can view here.

5. Telling people how to buy the book
When I’ve told people they can buy copies on Kindle or physical copies through Amazon, they have. When I’ve told them there is a book, but failed to include that vitally important where to buy, I suspect they haven’t… It’s rather embarrassing to admit that on my leaflets and business cards I forgot to include that vitally important piece of information!

6. Split your book and make the first part free
Or write a short story or novella or prequel and give that away.

While giving the first part free is no guarantee that anyone will read it, let alone go on to buy the rest of the novel, I am seeing results where I’ve advertised the novel and let people know they can try the first book for free. If they are interested enough to act on your request and download the book, I think people will be more inclined to read it. Then, they may enjoy it and go on to buy the rest…

Want to start reading book one of The Great Scottish Land Grab for free? Click here…

7. Don’t give up!
If you have written a good story, then believe in yourself. Publishing is a long game and as many more experienced writers than myself have said, ebooks will be there long after printed copies are removed from the shelves.

My intention is to keep writing, keep selling and keep learning.

If you have any advice to share on your experiences of selling your books, why not comment below.

Analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab Part Two

Yesterday I started an analyis of what worked and what failed as I attempted to market my first fiction ebook: The Great Scottish Land Grab.

Today I want to look in more detail at what I was doing to market the book and what results it had.

The chart below shows the lifetime sales of Land Grab book one since June 2014:

First thing to point out is that Orange/yellow shows sales where I got paid, blue is sales of the book after I set the price to free.

One of my biggest mistakes was not making book one free right away. Instead I priced it at 99p.

I was marketing Land Grab every single day during the summer of 2014. I printed up business cards, approached random strangers at village fairs and at train stations. I posted on Facebook and Twitter and while I sold over a hundred copies, look at the difference in numbers from October 2016… I did almost no marketing at all for the three months from October 2016 and people still found and downloaded the book!

I wonder how many more downloads I might have had in 2014 if I had enticed people in with a free offer.

The next two charts show life-time sales for books two and three respectively:

The numbers are not huge so I can’t make any hard and fast statements about what worked and what didn’t work, but it does seem to me that releasing Land Grab as a series did allow people to try at a low price and then free, and then go on to buy the other books in the series.

Both in 2014 and since October 2016, I’ve seen people go on to buy book two and three after downloading book one.

The chart for the full trilogy looks very different:

The fact is that I still carry business cards with me and still give them out or leave them in cafe’s and other venues for people to find. The business cards only advertise the full novel and I think that people who are intrigued by the cover image on the cards or maybe by something I’ve said will go on to buy the full novel.

Contrast the final chart with the first three and you see that huge dead area from November 2015 till August 2016. Without advertising I don’t see sales.

That’s a really important statement. Early this year I had an offer from Facebook. A £30 credit towards Facebook advertising. I used £12 of that voucher to advertise The Great Scottish Land Grab and later worked out that I made a slight profit off the back of it. (In reality a full profit as Facebook gave me a free voucher, but looking to see whether I would make a profit in future, it was small, but there.)

Tomorrow I’m going to try and round all this up into some sage advice to anyone thinking about how they can sell their book.

Analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab Part One

On 13th June 2014 I published my first fiction book: part one of a planned four book series titled The Great Scottish Land Grab. Published solely as an ebook through Amazon KDP, I fully intended to cash in on the hype surrounding the rapidly approaching referendum on Scottish independence.

This post is intended as an analysis of what worked and what failed as I attempted to market my first ebook.

Here’s the high level sales figures:

Total downloads:

The Great Scottish Land Grab Book One …. 227
The Great Scottish Land Grab Book Two …. 58
The Great Scottish Land Grab Book Three .. 56

Total sales receipts:

The Great Scottish Land Grab Book One …. £33.66
The Great Scottish Land Grab Book Two …. £74.75
The Great Scottish Land Grab Book Three .. £73.29

All these numbers are up to the end of May 2017, effectively three years worth of sales.

Somewhere during editing book two I realised that I would only manage to write three books before the referendum and so books three and four became one book.

On 24th September 2014, I released the full trilogy as a complete novel.

Total downloads:

The Great Scottish Land Grab …. 43

Total sales receipts:

The Great Scottish Land Grab …. £87.93

So, in total, in three years I’ve sold 384 books and made £269.63 from these ebooks.

I confess that at times it has been extremely depressing to know how few copies I’ve sold in a three year period. However, I’ve had a large number of readers contact me to tell me how much they enjoyed the story. I enjoyed writing the book and even enjoyed the rush of trying to market it at the time. It has been a worthwhile learning experience and I was able to go on to write a much better second novel in Fallen Warriors.

And I’ve gained knowledge about how not to market a book which does seem to be helping as I concentrate on Fallen Warriors. Tomorrow I’m going to look at some of the lessons I’m still trying to learn and apply.

Neglecting to Advertise

When I set out to publish Fallen Warriors, I told myself that I would learn from previous mistakes. My first novel – The Great Scottish Land Grab – did sell and continues to be sold today, but I failed to keep advertising it and so for long months, no books were sold.

It is a fact of modern life that we are bombarded with advertising all day, every day. I have no desire to contribute to that tsunami we all face, yet I know that if I don’t advertise my novels, few people will hear of them.

Last month I launched my first Amazon Marketing Services campaign for Fallen Warriors in America. This ad resulted in 66,862 impressions over five days (impressions being where your ad is shown on screen.) 43 actual clicks from those ads and 2 sales actually putting me in profit for my $5.55 total spend!

The system is quite neat. Amazon only charge you when your ad is clicked by a customer. If that customer then goes on to buy your book, it is recorded as a sale.

You can enter as many keywords as you want which can be book titles or author names and if someone searches for that keyword (or phrase) then you then compete with other advertisers for your book to be shown. Whether you win or not is down to your CPC Bid which is the maximum amount you are willing to pay for your ad to be shown. And this can be set against each keyword…

For my first campaign I entered 38 keywords each with a $0.25 CPC bid.

For some reason it’s a whole lot harder (more expensive) to advertise on Amazon in the UK. They seem to be wanting a Vendor Code before you can set up an account to advertise which costs £25 a month. I’m looking into whether it is possible to avoid that monthly payment. More on that later…

I’ve been thinking that I need to take advantage of the ability to write posts in series. This week I’m going to carry out some analysis of sales data for my novels and other books. Tomorrow I’ll look at sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab and see if I can learn some lessons.

Why would God want us to be obedient?

Obedience. There seems to be a real antagonism in UK culture to the idea that the God who created us should dare to demand our obedience. I see that antagonism reflected in government policy and media indoctrination that questions the idea that parents have the ultimate responsibility to teach their children to be obedient to them.

If you don’t have children and maybe even if you do, you may not want to teach your children to be obedient. You may feel that it is enough to love them. Even that if you love children they will naturally learn how to be the best they can be.

I doubt many parents can avoid the need for some training of their child to obey commands. Parents who do not teach their children to be obedient, at least in some ways are likely to watch their children suffer in miriad ways…

Burns inflicted because they got too close to a fire…

Fingers sliced after picking up a kitchen knife…

Broken bones after falling down stairs…

I could go on.

As a father I have taught each of my children to be obedient to me in order to protect them from danger until such time as they are able to discern and avoid that danger themselves.

It makes perfect sense then that the God who created us and sees himself as our Father in Heaven would have a perspective that wants us to obey his commands, in order that we are protected from danger that we might be unable to perceive.

Yet in our arrogance, like a stubborn child, we all too often think we know best, or simply just want to do something and do not care about the consequences.

I choose to believe that the God who created fathers, who sees himself as a father, has our best interests at heart.

Happy Fathers Day

Another lightbulb moment

I know electric cars don’t use fuel. Everyone knows that, right? Not unleaded, not diesel. It’s kind of obvious. Perhaps too obvious?

When we got use of a demo electric car – a Nissan Leaf, apart from setting off, it was no different to normal driving. Setting off is seriously weird though! There is literally no noise, apart from a slight whine which apparently they have had to add to warn pedestrians… You just press your foot on the acelerator, the car begins to move and inside the car you can’t even hear that whine. It feels surreal. Once you pick up speed, the sound of the tyres on the road and cars passing makes it feel more normal.

Anyway… The Nissan Leaf doesn’t use fuel. Though it does need charging…

I forgot to take a record of the mileage before we left the dealership, so did so once we got home. I charged the Leaf using a normal three pin UK socket for a few hours in the evening and again for a couple of hours the next morning.

As well as a kind of “battery life remaining” dial that looks a bit like a fuel gauge, the Leaf shows estimated miles you can travel. By the time I unplugged our Tekna model, the charge was up to 107 miles. You can see this on the right of the image below:

We drove pretty much as normal the next morning – Saturday – with a mix of city and motorway driving. As you can see from the next image, we drove a total of 49 miles and took our remaining miles down by 55 miles to 52:

The Leaf is an electric car… So, we had used the fans and the radio and the heater and played around with the gadgets available. You use electricity in an electric car and it does impact the distance you will be able to travel. But not by much…

I still wasn’t convinced. We were looking at just under £280 a month for three years plus £1,000 deposit on a PCP deal for a second hand car. £11,080 in total, £3694 a year. Far more than we’d ever paid for a car.

Except, the Leaf was really nice. We’ve wanted an electric car for years. Still tempting.

That’s when I had my next lightbulb moment…

You already know this right, so feel free to have a laugh. The Leaf is an electric car. It doesn’t use fuel. Fuel costs money. Money we wouldn’t have to pay each month…

I did a rough calculation of how much we spend on petrol each month (we actually have two cars just now so this is just for the car we’d be replacing.) £108 a month we’d save on petrol.

I travel roughly 170 miles a week on that £108. Per month that would be 736 (170 X 4.33) Nissan estimates it costs £0.02 a mile to charge if you charge using a low rate. Even if you double that, that would cost £29.45 a month, saving £78.55 a month.

Which would bring the monthly total cost of the Leaf (including the deposit) down to £230. (£3694 a year divided by 12 = £307.83 less £78.55)

£230 a month. It’s starting to seem affordable…

Flash Fiction: The world is ending

All my life savings, that’s all it took to save me from the end of the world. I still can’t believe my luck, that I managed to get away. The boat was the most expensive thing in the end, I had to buy it. No-one was willing to rent, everyone was too scared…

Fortunately I was able to buy supplies. Not food of course, food wouldn’t last. A harpoon, several knives, water filters, purification tablets, first aid kits… The real essentials.

I steer the boat carefully through the reef, conscious that this is my only means of transport if I ever want to leave this island again. White sand stretches in a bow ahead of me, gradually widening around me as I approach the shore.

Looking over the side, I see sand under the aqua green water, almost luminescent in the sunlight. A fish and then another and then a whole shoal of them swim underneath the hull.

Unless they succeed in poisoning the oceans I’ll be able to eat for a long time.

I run the boat up onto the shore, it’s flat bottomed so it doesn’t tip over. I pull up the engine and secure it, take a rope and tie the boat to a rock that serves as a useful anchor point.

My new home for the rest of my life.

The first few days I set myself busy building a shelter, getting used to the routine of fishing, trying to get used to the silence.

I’ve brought large plastic containers to store rain water. I cut down large leaves from the islands palm trees to put a roof over my shelter and try to arrange them so rain water will flow into the containers. I won’t know if it works until it finally rains.

One of my most precious supplies is a carefully sealed container of matches. Thousands of them. As long as I can keep them dry I’ll be able to boil water and cook the fish I catch.

Day 5

I sit on the white sand, looking out to the surf. It’s possible that others will come to this island, fleeing from the war and troubles that I’ve left behind. The world is ending and while I may have been one of the lucky ones, I hope there are more who got away.

Day 10

I’ve walked round the whole island now. Checking to see what resources are available. Mango trees and coconut will supplement my diet. I’m already starting to weary of my daily portion of fish.

Company is what I miss most. It’s been growing inside me each day.

I sit on the beach, the sand that hasn’t been trodden on for who knows how long.

The sand stretches out under the water for at least a hundred metres, maybe more, changing eventually to a dark blue, slightly darker than the sky in the distance. White clouds periodically block the sun, but here at the equator the temperature remains constant.

It is paradise and I have no-one to share it with.

All I can think about is what I’ve left behind, about what must be happening back home. So many have died and here I am living a dream vacation I might have killed for twenty years ago.

I never wanted to kill anyone.

But I knew if I stayed I would have to.

Day 14

I haven’t eaten all day.

I don’t even feel hunger, just lethargic. The motivation drained from me over the last few days. Yesterday all I did was sit on the beach waiting.

We were all to blame. Sure it would have been easy to blame the politcians, the leaders, but each of them represented us, each of them came from us. We got the governments we deserved and it seems we deserved to die.

At least no-one had pressed the button, at least before I left. Some semblance of rationality kept anyone from launching a pre-emptive strike, but who needs nuclear missiles when you can poison. When your conventional weapons are just as powerful as the smallest nuke, when you have a million men at your command all of whom seem to care nothing about their lives.

I left my family, I left my friends knowing that they would die.

Pleading with them to come with me, but none of them would.

It seemed like they were locked in to some strange feeling of destiny.

So I left. And every day I wonder what has happened to them. Is there anyone left?

Day 18

Today I forced myself to eat. Made myself sleep. I should be able to relax by now. I take long walks. I busy myself, building a stronger shelter, preparing for the long haul, but all I can think about is home.

I longed to come here, ever since I saw a poster of this view, heard about these islands, but I am not able to enjoy it.

Day 21

I don’t look back.

I doubt I will ever be able to return.

Maybe some lucky soul will find the shelter I left behind, the supplies buried under the floor, but for me, I realise that I was not destined to die alone.

The longer I was away, the greater my desire grew to do something, to try and stop the madness.

Maybe the world is ending, maybe all I can do is help it end faster, but I have to try.

I have to do something…

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/ You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/06/flash-fiction-the-world-is-ending/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

If you liked this story, or if you didn’t, let me know…

A Quarter Quell

Today will be my 25th post in my 100 day challenge to write 100 words a day. I decided I would review my progress every 25 days.

So far I’ve made good progress, managing to publish at least 100 words a day. I’ve written almost every day, excluding Sundays when I take a day off which means for the 21 days I’ve actually been writing my average daily word count has been 410 words.

However, that only includes published posts. I had a look at draft posts I’ve added, but not published – there are 24 of those – and taking those into account I’ve written an average of 600 words a day.

Total words written and published: 8617
Total words written inc draft: 12,753

All this in a little over three weeks which is encouraging as one of the reasons I wanted to restart this blog was to get into a daily habit of writing.

I haven’t been keeping track of time spent writing though. I timed myself last night and estimate from that that I’m spending 15 minutes writing and editing every 100 words. If that is accurate, I’ve spent 31 hours writing on this blog over those 21 days.

That’s not great. Ultimately I want to spend the bulk of my writing time working on my next novel and if I only need to spend 15 minutes on this blog each day, that means I’m losing 75 minutes that could be towards my novel word count. I only posted two posts during this time that were exactly 100 words long.

Over the next 25 days I should make an effort to time myself while writing and make sure that I’m prioritising time to work towards my longer term writing goals.

It’s worth my noting what impact my blog is having.

I’ve had one blog post which has been highly relevant to a lot of people and am still seeing people turning to it for information. However, the rest of my posts are falling into a vacuum:

Ultimately I want to build up a readership, but will have to do some research into what people actually want to read.

It might make sense to focus on posting flash fiction to draw readers who may want to buy my novels, but if so, I need to find a way to do that. If I’m going to market myself and advertise, it would make more sense to advertise my novels directly.

That’s enough for now… If you have any feedback on this blog, do let me know.