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 You may link to this post from 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.

A lightbulb moment

Have you ever had the exhaust fall off your car while driving?

It sounds and feels like the world has exploded underneath you – at least if the front gives way and you’re driving that exhaust into the ground!

Do we or don’t we? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself as we’ve considered buying a Nissan Leaf.

Electric cars are still more expensive than internal combustion, no doubt about that, far more for both new and second hand models than the normal price range we’d look at.

A dealership offered us the chance to take a 30kW Tekna home overnight. A longer demo. On the way home we chatted over the pros and cons. I mentioned the possible increased cost of maintenance when my wife pointed out that at least we wouldn’t have to replace the exhaust…

I felt rather foolish. Electric cars have no exhaust… Of course they don’t! They’re electric!

That’s a few hundred pounds we wouldn’t have to shell out every few years…

World building

My visit to a Nissan dealership today, looking to buy a second hand Leaf – Nissan’s electric car, sparked a whole stream of unasked questions.

How many people work at that dealership? How much profit do they have to make on each car? How many cars do they have to sell to pay the salaries of the people working there?

When I mentioned this to my wife she reminded me that you also have to factor in income through the extras they try and up-sell: Gap Insurance; Scotch-Guard; the regular service packages; the commissions from finance; and of course ongoing maintenance and repairs…

However they manage their business, the impression I get is that running a car dealership is a profitable enterprise. Which implies that for every car sold, new or second hand, for every up-sell, profit is being made.

I’m not against profit – I run my own business at a profit – yet as I compete with other contractors for roles and dealerships compete for our custom, I couldn’t help the thought that we humans have constructed a very inefficient model of economy. Surely there is a better way of organising ourselves…

Of course there have been attempts to organise the human economy, the two notable ones being socialism and fascism. Two philosophies that utterly failed in implementation during the last century, both of which tried to redesign our economy.

At the back of my mind as I wrote my first novel: The Great Scottish Land Grab, I was aware that my protagonist – Robert Castle – was rail-roading his way towards his vision for a utopian Scotland. Several readers commented that Castle was a “bit of a dictator…” I hope a benevolent one, but I agree, I ended up giving Robert Castle an enormous amount of power even as he sought to bring about a more democratic society.

At the time, as I was writing Land Grab, I struggled to imagine a different way for Castle to achieve his objective of reversing the Highland Clearances. It seemed to me that such an upheaval could only be achieved by someone willing to take tremendous risks, to go head to head with those in power and authority and accept the possibility that the threat of violence may be needed.

I enjoy my status as World Builder. So much easier to conceive and implement a new economy or society in fiction than in real life. Real life is much messier and frought with real risk.

I believe we have all been created by God to be creators ourselves. We have been given the tremendous capacity to turn the ordinary, everyday around us into something of greater value.

So why aren’t we all rich?

You probably have seen the “You have two cows” meme giving one possible answer to the question.

If you give two women each a million pounds, at the extreme, after a month, one woman will have turned that money into four million while the other will have squandered it all and have nothing to show for it.

Most of us fall somewhere inside those two extremes.

Think of all that humanity has achieved just in the last couple of centuries.

We have taken an industrial revolution to a technological revolution and seem on a trajectory to do more, better, faster and yet…

Hundreds of millions of people across the globe still live in extreme poverty – defined by The World Bank as living on less than $1.90 a day. On top of this, Water Aid estimates that 663 million people live without clean water and a massive 2.4 billion don’t have access to adequate sanitation!

We are all world builders. We’re building the world around us day in and day out. One day I believe we will all have to answer a very simple question: What kind of world did we build around us? One that shared and helped and lifted up or one that excluded and trapped and held down.

Avoiding Transaction

There are times in my job that I wished I had photographic memory. I primarily code in Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and in MS Access SQL (or other flavours depending on the client.)

As with all programming langauges, there are a lot of words to memorize. I suspect that I only use a small fraction on a daily basis.

For comparison, did you know that according to Oxford Dictionary there are 171,476 English words in current use.

Robert Charles Lee writes on Quora that the average adult native speaker of English knows 20,000 to 35,000 words. Also, that “3,000 words will cover 95% of everyday writing.”

Of course, some of those words we use are ones that are not always appropriate in certain situations…

There I was, trying to run a Stored Procedure (a SQL command I’d saved in MS Access) from VBA and all I got was this error:

“The SELECT statement includes a reserved word or an argument name that is misspelled or missing, or the punctuation is incorrect.”

Okay, what does that mean, apart from the obvious? The SQL was working fine when I ran it directly within the Access database. I only received the error when running through VBA.

I went and poured myself a coffee. Decaf…

Reserved word, misspelt or missing argument name, incorrect punctuation… One of those must be true, but why was the SQL query running on the database?

I took a closer look and finally realised what I’d done wrong. The query was returning a list of Transactions and so I’d called the name of the Transactions: Transaction. I searched online and found this handy list of Reserved Words.

Transaction, of course, is reserved. If you know more than basic SQL that is probably pretty obvious. A feature of SQL is that it allows you to combine commands within a “Transaction” which can then be rolled back if something goes wrong.

So, using Transaction as a column name is not allowed. What I’m left wondering is why MS Access allowed it… Maybe one for another day.

What days are we living in?

I watch the news and fear for our future.

I stop watching the news and life actually seems mostly okay.

At least where I am… For now. For others life is hard and sometimes brutally short.

We are living in days when Christians are persecuted on a massive scale from North Korea to Africa to the Middle East. I remember as a child hearing frequently about the persecution of Christians behind the Iron Curtain. For now, in Russia, life has improved somewhat. I wonder what direction we are heading in within the UK.

I had no idea of the origin of this song. One of my favourites and perhaps a suitable one for the times we are living through…