Belfast Ghosts series: Amazon Top 10 Best sellers chart and update on book 2

The Blue Man is Book 1 of my Belfast Ghosts series, which will comprise a trilogy of novels that can be enjoyed as standalone books, or as part of a themed collection. Book 2 is finished and with my editor and proofreader. Since we’re on the topic, let’s go through a few updates.

Best sellers Top 100 chart on Amazon

Ranked #8 on Amazon Top 100 Best Sellers for Ghost Fiction

When The Blue Man was released on 29th July, it stayed on Amazon’s Top 100 Hot New Releases chart for an entire month, reaching the Top 10 at its highest. After an article was published in Belfast Live, and with all the amazing support from local readers, my book then made it onto another Top 100 list – Amazon’s Best Sellers chart for Ghost Fiction. The Blue Man climbed to #8 at its highest and stayed within the Top 100 Best Sellers for Ghost Fiction for 7 days.

Update on Belfast Ghosts series book 2

Friar’s Bush Graveyard

The second installment of my Belfast Ghosts series will be released in November 2022. It’s a strange yuletide horror that would appeal to fans of the darker side of the holiday season. Whereas The Blue Man is set in East Belfast, Book 2 of the trilogy is set in South Belfast, this time in Stranmillis. Want a hint of what’s to come? Friar’s Bush Graveyard features in Book 2. But, that’s all the spoilers you’re getting for now. Stay tuned for more updates soon.

Horror inspiration for The Blue Man

As a horror fan, as well as horror writer, I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing wealth of creepily awesome horror books and movies that have influenced my writing. Let me break down my writing influences for The Blue Man into three categories, first of all: real life, books and movies.

Real life

(Victoria Park in East Belfast, setting of The Blue Man)

As a small child growing up in Sydenham, East Belfast, I spent a lot of leisure time over at Victoria Park. The Connswater River flowed around the outside of Victoria Park and into Belfast Lough beside the Short Brothers factories and was overlooked by the Harland and Wolff cranes, the same shipyard where the Titanic was built in 1912. I used to climb the riverbank and look out across the mudflats, sometimes gathering crab shells or catching sticklebacks in the river. The thick, black mud and dark, oily water beyond captured my imagination: older children told tales of veering off bicycles, only to get stuck in the thick, tar-like mud, or grownups told scary tales of a boogeyman who came out after sunset to chase small children home for bed. All of these ideas became implanted in my imagination and as a storyteller I thought, what if someone died out there on those mudflats and disappeared into the deep, black mud? Would their body be found? Morbid thoughts, but they fuelled the fire of a small girl’s imagination.

Books

I am a huge fan of stories where the protagonist gradually becomes isolated by their social circle; people who they trust who then gaslight them to cover up malicious activities. I also love the impact of personal mental health on perception in stories. I’m currently reading Rosemary’s baby, and love how she starts to question who she can trust. Stories such as this are a huge influence on my writing. In my second novel, The Buddha’s Bone, my main character Kimberly has a breakdown of self as she struggles to trust the people around her and in my third novel, The Blue Man, Megan and Sabrina are doubtful of each other and the state of their own minds as they suffer psychic attacks by the sinister titular character in the book.

Movies

It goes without saying that I am a huge horror fan. I love being scared and looking behind the sofa while watching a ghost film with the lights out. One of my favourite movies is the original Candyman. I love how the main character, Veronica, goes from being a respected university researcher to viewed as the epitome of mental instability, even though she is right, and ends up becoming the very thing that she feared in the first place. There is also the element of reincarnation and of an urban legend coming true; these themes are also present in The Blue Man. I suppose it’s fair to say that this movie in particular has been a huge influence on my latest novel.

In the news! The Blue Man is in Belfast Live

Many thanks to Sophie at Belfast Live for this amazing article about my latest novel, The Blue Man and my author career to date.

The countdown to Halloween is on, so if you’d like to read a sinister horror that’s a blend of urban folklore and a supernatural revenge story, why not grab a copy from Amazon, Waterstones or other online retailers.

Although The Blue Man is no longer on Amazon’s Hot New Releases chart, since it was released in July so is no longer ‘new’, it’s now on a different list: Amazon’s Top 100 Bestseller list for Ghost Horror, currently sitting at #14!

How many copies do self-published books sell?

This is a great article I read about how many self-published books you should expect to sell, supposing that you are an Indie author. As any Indie author knows, writing a book is the easy part: getting your book in front of readers is where the hard work comes in.

I think it’s good for debut authors to manage their expectations about how many copies they will sell. From reading around on various threads on Quora or Reddit, where some Indie authors have been very honest about their sales, it seems that many books sell less than 100 copies in the first year, with some selling only 5 or 10 in the first month of publication. Apparently the average yearly sales of books in the US is less than 200 a year, with less than 1000 in a book’s lifetime. That’s not to discourage new writers of course; in my opinion, it’s worth it to have your finished book in print, a lovely feeling to sell your first copy to someone outside your social circle and great satisfaction to read the first review of your work by a fan.

But, the best advice I’ve read is that if you want to sell books, write more books. It’s true that readers will often look up an author’s back catalogue if they like one of their books; as a reader in addition to being a writer, I can vouch for this as I do it myself. Being a successful author shouldn’t be about one book, but about your writing career as a whole. As for me? It’s still less than a year since my Indie author career started, as I launched The Buddha’s Bone on 25 October 2021. With the one year publishing anniversary of my second novel approaching, and the recent launch of my third novel on 29th July 2022, I’m happy to have already joined the 100 club (counting over 100 paid sales not free downloads – I’ll talk about those in another post).

How to fit literary time in with normal life

If you’ve been reading my writing updates, you’ll know that I’m not a full-time writer. I have another day profession that pays the bills. Whilst I enjoy it very much (I work in secondary education) I would, of course, love for my books to earn enough money to keep a roof over my head and keep my family and I fed and watered.

Making time for writing in addition to having a day job and family life is not easy. For me, it requires snatching moments in the day to write when I can. I can’t wait for inspiration to strike, or even for when I’m in the mood to write: I need to have enough discipline to seize the chance to write, whenever that may be. Here are a few ways I manage to get some writing done.

At home/ time off from day job:

1. Since I do a 16:8 fast in the morning, I can squeeze in some writing time during or after breakfast. This involves praying to the computer gods that my laptop doesn’t need software updates, then typing like the wind.

2. Another option is to bring the laptop to the sofa and type while maintaining an educational and stimulating conversation with my literary little one. This involves learning how to divide my brain in half so that I can be mindful of my hubby and child in the room, while still not becoming distracted from my writing. The goal here is that I must not lose the literary thread.

3. Option three is to make a full pot of strong coffee and type into the wee small hours after the bookworm babe is in bed, whilst using matches to prop open my eyelids.

Out and about:

4. This involves remembering to bring the tablet and wireless keyboard in the backpack (light-weight and less expensive than the laptop, if damaged). I then grab a moment to write while in the park, on the beach, in a cafe, or anywhere really. Even if it’s just a line. Sometimes this means yelping when wasps come near then channeling the fear and adrenaline into character development.

At work:

5. I squeeze in what I can during breaks, or lunch time, or after work for 15 minutes when colleagues have gone home. If a colleague happens to be near and in a talkative mood, I keep typing while politely letting them know that they aren’t interrupting me and that, yes, I can do both: talk and type. Must write, write, write.

Finally:

6. On a daily basis, I repeat the mantra: Must write today, even if it’s just a line.

Before you know it, voila. A finished draft. Job done. Now, onto the next task!

Can self-publishing lead to a publishing deal?

Recently I found the first book that I’ve binge-read in the longest time. Abberton House by Debbie Ioanna is the best written ghost horror I’ve come across in a long time. I literally couldn’t stop reading it and finished it in two days straight; no mean feat when you consider I had a small child to take care of while school was still out for summer. I discovered Ioanna through Amazon’s bestseller Top 100 list for ghost horror and after finishing her page-turning book, decided to look up her back catalogue. It turned out that Abberton House was Ioanna’s first horror, the rest of her back list being romance. Abberton House also happened to be her first book with a publisher, with Ioanna sharing on her Instagram page that the book had previously been self-published, now being re-released by Bloodhound Books. She didn’t mention whether the publisher had approached her with an offer of publication, or whether she had approached them on the basis of self-published sales or the number of ratings/reviews. What she did mention, however, was that being with a publisher had turned her book into an overnight best-seller and she wasn’t wrong: Abberton House stayed at #1 for many weeks.

I’ve also known other self-published authors who have, on the basis of sales or the number of reviews, been able to have books re-released with small to mid-scale publishers. It certainly does send a message of hope to other authors aspiring to have their work traditionally published. In my own case, the opposite currently holds true: my debut novel was published with a small press publisher, but I have chosen to self-publish subsequent novels through my own imprint, mainly to learn more about publishing and marketing myself. I’m happy with the results: my current novel, The Blue Man, stayed on Amazon’s Top 100 Hot New Releases for Ghost Horror for a month, reaching #10 at its peak. That’s not to say I wouldn’t consider submitting to a publisher again in the future; the right publisher could definitely propel my book further than my own marketing budget would allow for.

Self-publishing nowadays doesn’t have the same stigma as it did a decade ago, when it was seen as a pathway for authors who couldn’t get a publisher to touch their work. Today, it’s seen more as a preferable option for authors who want to skip the slushpile and often lengthy wait for a response – usually a rejection – from publishers who are taking less risks on new, unknown authors in the face of tough economic times. Of course, there are stories from decades ago of famous authors who self-published their own books even in a more profitable publishing climate, which you can read in this article about ten famous authors who self-published their books. The most surprising names for me on this list were Stephen King and Margaret Atwood, though knowing that any of these writers at one point self-published certainly gives a boost. Not only is self-publishing not a barrier to publication later with a publisher, but may even enhance a writer’s chances, if they can show how well their self-published book has been received and how much marketing they’re willing to do. After all, authors are expected to do much legwork to move books, and proving that you have a book that readers want is half the battle, even if the marketing budget doesn’t necessarily match.

My novels at Central Library Belfast

This beautiful historic building, the Central Library in Belfast, is now home to my novels. They’ve just been added to the catalogue and were put out on the shelves today.

Having my books in Libraries NI is a major milestone for me. I was used to sending legal deposit copies to the British Library, Bodleian Library, National Library of Scotland, Cambridge University Library, Trinity College Dublin and the National Library of Wales, where they are made available in the reading rooms, but to have them accessible for loan by the general public in Northern Ireland is very exciting.

It’s also a lovely moment when you check into the online catalogue and find out one of your books has already been borrowed! ☺️

My books are available to borrow at Libraries NI

Many thanks to Allison at Ormeau Road Library for having my books on the shelves. Copies are now available through Libraries NI. They can be reserved through this link or are available to browse if you’re at Ormeau Library in Belfast.

For me as the author, it was lovely to take a wee dander over to Ormeau Road Library and see my books on the shelves. They were added to the catalogue on Saturday, so are literally fresh on the shelves.

If you choose to borrow any, hope you enjoy the read!

Remember, if you like what you read, you can always buy a copy and support my writing too. Links to order from Amazon, Waterstones and more are on my novels page.

Author misconceptions: books in retail stores versus available to order online

Do you want to know one of the first things people ask me when they find out I’m an author? “Can I buy your book in Waterstones?” (A large retail chain in the UK, for folks reading this elsewhere).

Do you want to know what I tell them? My books are available to order from Waterstones as click and collect, but not on the shelves in every branch.

But, what’s the difference? Some of you reading this might already know: available to order as click and collect means the book will be listed on the retailer’s website, whereas in stock means physical copies will be present in stores. The difference comes down to money and connections.

If an author is published under any of the big 5 publishers (Penguin, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and Macmillan) they’ll be taken care of by a massive marketing budget, part of which is having their books appear in all the chain bookstores, and many small independent bookshops, across the country.

If, on the other hand like me, you have only been published by small press publishers (Blossom Spring Publishing, Eyewear Publishing, Cyberwit, Fowlpox Press) or self-published, your book *may (more on this below) be available to order from major online retailers where readers can collect copies in store, or have them delivered. If you’re particularly keen as a writer, you can ask local bookstores to stock copies of your book. I have managed to sell copies of my books through the local Waterstones branch in Belfast this way; though bear in mind that for any introverted authors out there, this requires a good deal of schmoozing on your part, so save your social-energy bank for this endeavour.

Do small press publishers always make their books available to order from major online retailers?

Not always. If having your book available to order for click and collect from Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells (UK) and Barnes and Noble (US) etc. is important to you, rather than only Amazon, then check where the small press publisher’s books appear. In the UK, if they have an account with the book wholesaler Gardners, then yes, your book will be available from all of the above. Or, if you are self-published but want to ‘go-wide’ (sell books from a wide variety of retailers, not just one distributor) then you can set up a Gardners account through Waterstones – though you will need to own the ISBNs for your book yourself. You can buy them first from Nielsen in the UK.

One month of publication for The Blue Man – Top 10 Amazon chart, Author interview on Jaffa Reads Too and Bargain Booksy

Wow, has it really been one month since The Blue Man was published? What a ride these past four and a half weeks have been! Let’s look at all things good and all things bigger-picture. Book marketing is an ongoing learning journey for me, so let me share the highlights and things I’ve learned along the way.

Author interview in Jaffa Reads Too

My author interview by Jo at Jaffa Reads Too

You can read my latest author interview, hosted by Jo, on Jaffa Reads Too. It’s a fun interview styled as an author picnic, and was fun to answer. Thanks to Jo for having me on her site. A forthcoming review of The Blue Man will be appearing on Jaffa Reads Too – more on that when it happens.

Bargain Booksy promotion

My book is featured today on Bargain Booksy under literary bargains. Last month on release day it was featured under horror. The difference? The Blue Man is both: ghost horror and literary fiction. The difference in sales? Literary fiction ads seem to work better for me, probably because there’s a bigger readership on Bargain Booksy than horror, so maybe it’s reaching more readers. I’m not sure, just guessing.

Making the Top 10 in Amazon’s Hot New Releases chart for Ghost Horror

My insomnia really paid off as I awoke in time to see my book at #10 on Amazon’s Top 100 Hot New Releases for Ghost Horror on 26th August, the highest ranking I’d reached. The chart updates hourly, so even by lunchtime, I’d moved to twelfth place. However, I stayed within the Top 100 for an entire month, an achievement I’m proud of. By the end of the month I was at #66 by the time I disappeared off the list, no longer a new release. The ‘newborn’phase is only for one month.

Reaching #55 on Amazon’s Top 100 Horror chart too

I also made it onto Amazon’s general horror chart, reaching #55. Considering what a broad category this is, encompassing countless tens of thousands of new horror books, this was another celebration-worthy achievement. I only landed on this list for one day, but I was up alongside some best sellers in horror that I love, so that was a great moment too.

Not to mention #190 for Ghost Horror in the Best Sellers Rank!

The more niche your book category on Amazon, the higher you can reach on the sales ranking. For example, my poetry collection, A Model Archaeologist reached as high as 27 in British and Irish poetry. However, Ghost horror is a relatively broad area, as horror generally is quite popular. Reaching 190 out of how many thousands of books out there was a happy moment for sure.

One month publishing summary: advertisements and sales

Amazon sponsored ads have been my biggest driver of sales for this book, which is different from The Buddha’s Bone which saw most sales through Bargain Booksy. Overall though, same as with The Buddha’s Bone, my hardcovers are selling the best through Ingramspark, with eBooks second and paperbacks third. I have no insider bookselling knowledge, so I can’t say why this is the case – maybe some of those hardcover sales were bought as library listings, as they were nearly all in the US?

The importance of reviews for new books and Indie authors

As any author knows, reviews help readers to find books, and I’m happy that readers and book bloggers have posted on Goodreads and Amazon. So if you’re one of the readers who has left a review for my book, thank you as your feedback matters. I read every review and value your thoughts!