Monday, 25 March 2019

My first manuscript


I have just finished my first manuscript

"You wouldn't even know a diamond if you held it in your hand. The things you think are precious I can't understand"  Steely Dan

You write your story the best you can, edit it the best you can, then you look for a publisher or you publish your book yourself. Simple. Hundreds of authors do it every single day! Whether they actually sell anything at all is a completely different matter. As harsh as it sounds: if you can't sell your book to a publisher you might have a hard time selling it to your neighbour as well.

What makes you a writer is your unshakable believe that you have a story worth telling. Writing is the easy part, getting your book out to readers is what you should concentrate on.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Advertising with BookBub - a waste of money

Advertising with BookBub is a waste of money.

BookBub is a commercial book marketing outfit that tapped into the growing indie author market early on. BB has an impressive email database of readers who want free or heavily discounted books.  

The main problem is that nothing the promoters tell you can be verified. There is no public auction, so to speak, no checks and balances, no proof of delivery, no audited reach/circulation numbers.  In every way possible BB is just as murky as Amazon. 

Broad advertising with BB: I gave them a budget of $ 50 to advertise Fish from the Sky at the bottom of their newsletter/emails at a cost of $ 1.15 per 1000 imprints. An “imprint” is defined as somebody opening their email.  BB had no problem burning my $ 50 in an hour. I got 20 clicks out of it and maybe one or two sales.  It was a test that failed miserably.  I’d rather give my next spare $ 50 to charity. 

Test two: targeted advertising. I selected Historical Fiction and 30 top selling authors in the genre and offered $ 1.15 per click. According to indicator on the BB website the maximum daily reach of this ad was 250,000 to 500,000 imprints. I gave them a budget of $ 20 per day, later upped to $ 30 and I gradually increased my offer to $ 1.50 per click, 50% more than BB’s advertised top average bid.

To my surprise BB did not come even close to reaching my daily budget. When I upped the amount to 1.30 per click they still couldn’t manage more than 2000 imprints. Even when I finally offered 1.50 per click – an insane amount- they were not able to imprint more than 4000 ads and they still didn’t reach my daily budget. They did, however, always take close to my full bid per click. 

After spending $ 100 dollars I ended up with 70 clicks that resulted in 14 sales. The click to sale ratio is in better then Amazon advertising but it’s way, way dearer.

As a last test I gave BB a daily budget of $5 and I reduced my offer per click to 70 cents. Surprise, surprise…. they got me 10 clicks per day with 1,000-2,000 imprints at a cost of around 60 cents per click. My book was no longer discounted. No sales. 


1       BB either can’t or won’t let you reach more than a handful of their advertised target audience. Nowhere on their website do they tell you this. 

BB will “auction” off your click at whatever rate you give them. Don’t expect an eBay style auction where you only pay one increment over the second highest bid. As my tests showed, their reach is limited, either by design or by default. High bids will have a higher reach but no matter how high you go, they either can’t or won’t give you a wider spread. I would have expected a commercial operator to at least up the numbers to reach my budget. I was prepared to pay $ 1.50 per click at $ 30 a day. BB couldn’t deliver, no matter how much I offered.

I spent around $ 170 to sell 19 eBooks at 99 cents. This is probably the worst result I’ve encountered in five years of advertising books.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

How many books on Amazon in 2018?

Amazon doesn't publish sales figures or any other meaningful statistics.

Here is my attempt to crack the figures for today, March 5, 2018

Amazon offers their affiliate members a search tool for products. If you search for "book" in the entire Amazon range you'll get a figure. Same if you search for book in Kindle only. Likewise you can search the entire Amazon range for "hardcopy", "paperback", "softcover" etc. and produce more numbers.

I'm aware that this has been done before. I believe the Kindle numbers are reliable in most comparisons. However, the total number of books on Amazon seems to have been inflated in the past when different search engines were in place.

I came up with these 2018 numbers:

Total Kindle eBooks     6.9 Mio
Hardcover Books          4,6  Mio
Paperbacks                  13.3 Mio

add softcover, audio and others you come up with a figure of around 23 -24 Mio books in total. This roughly corresponds to the search "book" on all of Amazon.

You might be interested that a similar search three years ago produced a total of 3,3 Mio Kindle eBooks. In other words, 1,2 Mio eBooks are added to Amazon every year. That's 3,288 a day or

one new Kindle eBook every 26 seconds!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Brick in the Wall A Cold War Thriller


A Cold War Thriller by Addison Marsh

April 30, 1945
Demmin, a town of 15,000 in the lake district of Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania, 120 miles north of Berlin and less than 40 miles from the Baltic Sea, woke up to a beautiful spring morning.  Light fog rose from the Peene and the Tollense rivers that encircled the town, their tributaries branching out like the spokes of a wheel, fed by a myriad of lakes and marshlands covering two hundred miles to the east and the west. The high tide in the Baltic Sea gently pushed the water of the rivers back inland.

On every other morning there would have been a throng of boys and old men along the river banks, catching eel, perch and pike but not today. The town lay awake in fear and trepidation. The Russians were coming. The Red Army was sweeping north, pushing ahead a wave of displaced Germans and liberated forced labourers from Poland. The Poles would lose part of their nation to the Russians; the Germans were in for a lot more punishment. General Zhukov had made it abundantly clear what they were to expect:  “Woe betides the murderous nation upon which we’ll impart horrendous revenge.” Goebbels’ relentless anti Soviet propaganda had only added to the fear that now seemed an inevitable reality: the Russians would rape, kill, burn and plunder their way through East Germany all the way up to the North Sea and Demmin was right in their path.

There was nobody left to stop them. The Wehrmacht had withdrawn, after having previously forced the townspeople to dig a three mile anti tank ditch along the eastern approach. It was useless now. There were no soldiers left to mount a defence. The Wehrmacht had abandoned Demmin, leaving behind a few old men and boys from the Hitlerjugend, gullible enough to hope for glory in a last stance.

The town’s major, the police force, the Nazi functionaries and everybody else who had the means to leave had left with the soldiers, using their vehicles and confiscated fire engines for transportation. They were not waiting for the Russians to capture them. They would head west to capitulate to the Americans or the British. Demmin had no defenders, no leaders and no escape. The retrieving Wehrmacht soldiers had blown up the bridges behind them, cutting off all escape routes except the one east, where nobody in his right mind wanted to go.

By mid morning the square filled with townspeople and refugees who kept arriving at an ever increasing rate with more bad news: the Russians were just hours away. With all the bridges down there was nowhere to go for them, either. They would have to stop in Demmin and regroup. 

The Pastor climbed to the top of the church tower and hoisted a white bed sheet. Others followed his example, displaying white flags from the windows of their houses.

Tales of atrocities committed by the approaching Red Army from the east and the Poles who had taken Danzig in the north spread like wildfire. Wary of the refugees that by now outnumbered them, the townspeople began to recognise what had driven them here: a horror and despair so deep no words could fathom. It was beyond human fear: the burning distress and panic of trapped animals. Only now did the people of Demmin realise that they were different no more.

The first suicide went almost unnoticed. Hilde Bloehmann who had lost her daughter in an attempt to cross the Peene, decided she had suffered enough. She swam back to shore, picked up as many stones as she could fit into her coat pockets and then swam back out. The stones dragged her under but no matter how hard she tried, she could not stop herself from paddling back to the surface. It took her two more trips to finally weigh her down enough to sink. A handful of other refugees who contemplated crossing at the same spot silently watched her last struggle, then jumped in the water and swam right over the top of the ripples she had left.

By noon the townspeople heard the deep growl of V12 Diesel engines and the metallic clanking of tank tracks as the spearhead T-34s of the 1st Guards Tank Division on the way to Rostock reached the outskirts of the town. One single shell was fired from the 85mm cannon of the leader tank, aimed at nothing in particular and completely wasted if it was meant to get the town’s attention.

The tanks lined up along the ditch. As the engines were shut down, voices could be heard, shouting in German for negotiators to come forward for a surrender that would spare the town. One officer in German uniform and two soldiers emerged from the line of the tanks and proceeded into the ditch towards the town. When they reached the middle of the ditch, several shots rang out, coming from a group of Hitler youths who had lined up behind a stone wall of an abandoned farm yard. The three German collaborators were shot dead. There was no immediate reaction from the Russian side but more tanks could be heard approaching from the east. Soon the tanks of the 65th Army had caught up with the 1st Guard. They opened fire and were in the town half an hour later, looting two breweries on their way in.

What followed was a drunken three day orgy of punishment and revenge devoid of any semblance of warfare, with the full blessing of the commanding officers who had declared the town outlawed after being fired upon. The intense hate of the Russians for their former oppressors boiled over. Here in Demmin they had found the parents, the wives and the children of the German soldiers who had invaded Russia, even now in defeat living a far better life than most of the simple Russian soldiers could ever hope for. This was revenge for the Nazi arrogance as well as for their dead brothers and comrades and nothing they did to the inhabitants of Demmin could be indiscriminate or brutal enough to ever balance the scale.

Boys and men considered to be of fighting age were summarily executed, shot or stabbed and left where they fell. Buildings were methodically doused in petrol and torched or shelled by the tanks, street by street. Nothing was spared. Three quarters of all buildings were totally destroyed in the three day rampage.

There was no hiding. Women and girls who escaped their burning homes were raped over and over again, regardless of age. Whoever objected or put up resistance was executed, mutilated or dragged along the streets and run over by tanks.  Hordes of drunken soldiers roamed the streets, shouting: ‘women, women!’ in Russian. On that day, every woman and girl the Russians encountered was raped. Few would ever be able to talk about it but the ones that did, told of seeing their eight year old daughters raped right next to them or their grandmother gasping her last breath, her belly cut open with her entrails spilling out.

The brutality would be suffered by all, shared by children who didn’t understand and the old who couldn’t have imagined horrors on such scale. Yet, some of them knew or suspected they knew of the atrocities committed against millions more in their name. Even in their deepest despair they knew that what was happening now was revenge that would not diminish the guilt their generation would be passing on.

At three thirty in the afternoon, as the Russians were wreaking havoc on Demmin, a single shot rang out in the Fuehrer bunker in Berlin. Hitler’s valet and his private secretary Martin Bormann, the only men authorised to enter Hitler’s private quarters, found their boss sitting hunched over on a sofa, his head resting on an occasional table with blood dripping from his right temple. Hitler had shot himself with a single bullet from his Walther PPK. To his left lay the slumped body of his wife of one day, Eva Braun, showing signs of cyanide poisoning.

Hitler had left instructions with his valet. His body was to be wrapped in a blanket and cremated. Accordingly, the guards carried the two bodies upstairs and burned them in a shallow pit near the emergency exit of the bunker. Some of the SS guards on duty in the upper level brought additional cans of petrol and they managed to burn most of both bodies. Hitler had insisted on the destruction of his remains after learning of the indignities the Italians had inflicted on the bodies of Mussolini, his mistress and close supporters. No spectacle should be made of Hitler’s remains.

The following day, May 1 1945, Hitler’s death was broadcast to the nation and the world.

Nobody in Demmin was listening to the radio that day. If they had listened they wouldn’t have cared. One man’s suicide was insignificant to the atrocities that were unfolding in the town. The excesses of the Russian troops continued unabated and panic amongst the terrified population had now reached fever pitch.   

Schoolmaster Gerhard Moldenhauer grabbed a bazooka and fired it at the Russians, and then he raced home and hanged himself next to the bodies of his wife and their three children he had shot dead before his last act of defiance. Friends of his were adamant that he was no Nazi. He had only joined the National Socialist Party to keep his job. Moldenhauer was a follower – the same as most of the townspeople. His actions were not those of a fanatic who followed the Fuhrer to his death. His were the actions of a man who had judged himself guilty by association of no lesser crimes.

Moldenhauer’s last desperate act opened the floodgates of what was to become Germany’s biggest mass suicide.  Most of the victims drowned themselves in the Peene or the Tollense. Mothers and children, entire families tied together with ropes or washing lines, carrying backpacks filled with stones. Some went down quietly, other screamed for their lives. Some of the older children fought back and managed to swim ashore to watch helplessly as the rest of their family went down.

The drownings went on for two days. Possibly well over one thousand committed suicide, their bodies washed downstream, mingled with their belongings, piled up high on the river banks. Not everybody succeeded at the first attempt. Survivors crawled up the banks and strayed through the town, looking for a knife to cut their wrists or a rope to hang themselves.

In a small park near the river, amongst the spring flowers and the chirping birds, half a dozen women sat slumped over on the park benches, with lifeless eyes staring into the warm midday sun, blood dripping from their noses. One bottle of herbicide had been enough for all of them.

In the midst of the dying and the dazed, the looting and burning continued but the mood of the soldiers began to change. By late afternoon even the hardiest Russians couldn’t cope with the mass drowning any longer. They began pulling the Germans from the water and guarded the banks to prevent others from entering. They couldn’t stop them all. One woman tried to enter the water with her two sons several times until the elder son finally managed to talk her out of it. Their house was razed to the ground but they found an empty fisherman’s cottage a bit further out of town where they settled for the night. By morning the mother was gone.

After three days the sappers had secured a temporary river crossing and the Russian tanks moved out of the devastated town. Half the population of Demmin followed in their tracks, joining the growing stream of the displaced, flowing west like stormwater after the deluge. They had lost everything and there was nowhere else to go. The ones that stayed began to bury the dead. It would take weeks to recover all the bodies that kept floating forth and back with the changing tides. Nobody counted them. Around 900 suicide bodies were buried in a single mass grave. Some of the names or their details were recorded on the pages of an accountant’s warehouse stock book. The mass grave was marked with a simple stone and the inscription 1945. There was no reference to what had caused the mass suicides.

The grave site and the marker were soon overgrown, the field around it used to grow sugar beet as a new regime, led by a small group of handpicked German Communist stooges under Walter Ulbricht took over the civil administration of the Soviet Occupied Zone. Stalin had comprehensively outwitted Churchill and Roosevelt. He was going to keep East Germany, use his right of reparation to sap the lifeblood out of it and deport tens of thousands of its citizens to the death camps of Siberia.

For the dead in Demmin and thousands more suicide victims in the Soviet Occupied Zone, there would never be a reckoning. The heroes of the Soviet Army were celebrated with monuments as the liberators of Nazi Germany. Nobody dared to speak up. The silent torment and the shame of the victims had by now been turned into the collective guilt of all Germans. It was to be the justification for the birth of the German Democratic Republic and the yoke that would keep its citizens tethered to a state that had been meticulously planned long before the Russian tanks had rolled trough Demmin. Walter Ulbricht, the man Beria, the head of the NKVD State Security, once described as “the greatest idiot I have ever seen”, was to build a Communist state and make it look democratic while keeping an iron fist on its citizens. Never mind that his SED party only managed to secure one fifth of the vote in Berlin’s one and only free elections; never mind that it’s citizens clambered to get out - Ulbricht and Stalin were going to build a Soviet style Communist Germany and wall it in, brick by brick.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Anybody filled your parking meter lately?

The cheapest way to sink your book to the bottom of the ocean is to publish it online for free. Great!
It really is easy to get an eBook online. There are a lot of platforms you can access but let's just look at amazon kindle and smashwords because they cover most of the market. Of course both of them will give you some shining examples of people who have made it as authors. Success is usually defined by number of copies sold, praise in the traditional print media and yes, almost ready to give up the day job. If nothing else, this is the keyword that seems to define an author. If so, the unemployment rate amongst writers must be in the high 90s.

No wonder. Think about it. Everybody with a word document is now a published writer. That's the curse and the blessing those free platforms have added to publishing. Everybody just throws their piece in the pot. Gems and garbage, all melted into one big fat stew. Still, it's free as long as you don't sell. Once you start selling you'll have to pay your way.
Remember, writers are in the business of make-believe. Few will actually tell you how miserable their sales figures really are. It can be pretty embarrassing - even for the big shots who have their autobiography ghost-written by capable hands.

Publishing platforms are the kings and queens of fiction. Pay close attention: when they show off their success stories they'll show you a young woman sitting in a cafe, musing about how beautiful life is now that she is a published author. Ask yourself: do I fit her profile? Do I have the same background in marketing and sales? Have I been published recently and actually sold a thousand copies or more? Do I have a thousand friends on Facebook? Do I present like her, talk like her? Where are the annoying kids?
 "This is so boring, can we go now, Mum?" 

Amazon is tricky in so many ways... Easy to access and easy to use but they keep their cards so close to their chest that nobody in the universe actually knows what they are doing, how they rate sales, how many downloads, visits and so on. I guess they didn't want to repeat the mistakes Google made by giving away the recipe for everybody's favourite cookies.  Ok, they are mostly computers, apart from Tarzan and a board of humanoids who actually run the Amazon. I have no problem entering their jungle. It offers a free platform for all takers.

Change providers to Smashwords.
They are not as big as Amazon but they do cover Kobo and Barnes & Noble and they are growing.  I strongly suggest you go on smashwords right now and publish something. Anything. You can publish a movie ticket of ten words. In any language. For an author, this really is great entertainment value.
If ever there was a reality check on what e-publishing really means, smashwords will pop your eyes!
You publish your masterpiece on smashwords and it will come up on top of the screen in all its virginal glory. Don't blink. Ten seconds later you have lost the top spot to something you think is a book but it could be a railway timetable. It's in Arabic so you'll never know. You don't have much time to worry about it because the next book scrolls up. Twenty thousand words  with a bare-chested six-pack young man on the cover. See how many of them you'll find in the amazon top 100 but don't change the screen to count them, by now your brand new eBook exits the screen and disappears out of sight. 

And that is where most eBooks stay for good.

The few eBooks that were successful in their own right, i.e. not spin-offs from print books, never made anybody rich. To make a sustainable living out of writing you'll have to get into print.

Friday, 28 July 2017

A book promotion that works

I ran a promotion through Amazon last week and to my big surprise it actually worked! Over 34,000 people watched the promotional video for my book on YouTube and 90 of those viewers went ahead and bought my book. This brings my total paid for copies in three months up to 220 which is what I would call a respectable start for my alter ego.

What does it all mean? Well, the rankings say it all. For a brief moment I made an under 4,000 overall ranking which translates to around 40-50 sold copies per day. At the time of writing I’m back at 25,000, which averages at around 4-5 sold books per day. I expect this to drop lower again, soon. It’s not what you might call a big deal but it is a milestone all the same. I have now well and truly crossed the major Amazon hurdle that spells death for most writers: You need to sell a certain amount of books (I believe 50-100) before Amazon starts to actively promote you. If you linger in the high hundred thousands with only a few sold copies you don’t exist. Once you cross that line of recognition, the automated Amazon promotion starts kicking in. From now on your book will be listed under the also reads. This is free advertising and the single most important target for new authors.
Forget hunting for reviews. It’s irrelevant. The myth of 50 reviews has long been debunked. Amazon doesn’t care about feedbacks, nor should you. What counts are sales and short of a miracle you can only get them with a successful promotion. No, I did not pay anybody a lot of money to get my sales up with questionable email carpet bombing. I did all this on my own, by using the tools Amzon puts on our disposal and an investment of $ 130. It just goes to show you that you don’t have to pay the snake oil sellers and promotion sharks to run a very successful campaign on your own.