Saturday, 22 December 2012

Hoole Gallery 1820

The Chapman, the ship on which the Hoole family travelled from Gravesend to Algoa (Port Elisabeth) in 1819-20
Settlers going ashore in 1820, in rough conditions.  Note the "tented village" on the shore, which awaited the arrival of the first group, from the sailing ship "Chapman."
Chaotic scenes in the tented village on the shore at Algoa, 1820
Grahamstown as it appeared in 1823.  This was the eventual destination of the Hoole family.
Jane Hoole as she appeared in later life

The Sad Tale of GGG Grandpa Hoole - Chapter 5

 The Chapman -- the vessel on which the Hoole family sailed to South Africa in 1819-20.

A romantic painting of the landing by the first settlers in 1820


On 9th August 1819 James went along to a public meeting at the Crown and Anchor tavern on the Strand, at which John Baillie (an ex-naval officer who was now a civil servant) spoke rousingly about his plans to gather a party which might emigrate to South Africa under a new scheme under-written by the Government.  Baillie and many others at the time were working hard to gather together a sizeable number of emigrants who would be given free passage to the Cape of Good Hope -- and also allocations of land when they arrived.  Each of the signatories to the first agreement was to receive a one-acre plot of land in a planned village and a hundred acres of land capable of being farmed.

James was excited, and he was one of 600 people who entered his name as an applicant.  He was even more excited when Baillie selected him as one of a hundred to join his party of skilled tradesmen and professional men, who were intended to create village centres and develop commercial activities in the new settlement of Albany.  Other groups were made up of farmers and labourers, and in Baillie's party there were also a number of minor gentry families and their indentured servants.  We can only assume that Jane was also swept along on a wave of enthusiasm.   It may even be that she was the driving force behind the decision to emigrate -- for the old records suggest that she was very forceful and determined, whereas James was kind, intelligent and affectionate but not particularly decisive or ambitious.

The politicians hoped that the colonists might, by sheer force of numbers, secure the colony of South Africa both from the predations of native tribes and also from the designs of the Dutch and other expansionist European states.  In reality there were huge dangers involved, but the prospective settlers were utterly naive about the dangers they would face in the frontier zone.  From the government's point of view, this frontier needed to be settled and defended at a cost which was manageable -- and settlers were cheaper than military garrisons.  There had already been some settlement by a few hundred men (including time-expired soldiers and sailors) and others from around Edinburgh, in 1817, but those settlers had caused more trouble than they were worth, dispersing into the fledgeling towns of the colony and refusing to move to the frontier zone where life was uncomfortable and dangerous. 

This time, in 1819, things were more organized.  Twenty-six vessels were chartered by the Government.  All the settlers were told was that there was a wonderful climate, with limitless opportunities for occupying land of their own (without cost), and a landscape of lush green meadows and parkland.  James and Jane had nothing to lose and a lot to gain.  They were both orphans, and  in spite of a partial reconciliation with Jane's uncle and aunt, and the presence in London of several of Jane's sisters and her brother, there was nothing to hold them back, and they were still young and energetic.

During the last months of the year 1819 about 90,000 people applied to the Colonial Office for permission to join the emigration, enticed above all else by the offer of free land.  Only 4,000 were given permission, including James and Jane Hoole and their family. (To increase his chances of being selected, James recorded that by profession he was a "harness maker" although he had earlier recorded that he was a "straw plat dyer."  He had obviously calculated that on the South African frontier there would not be a great demand for straw hats....... and that the Colonial Office would be less than impressed by his skills in the matter of lady's fashion.)  At first James tried to organize a party of his own, but when several families dropped out or were refused permission to travel, he and Jane joined Baillie's party, still with James in charge of his own group.  Although he was young and somewhat diffident, he was obviously identified by Baillie as a trustworthy man with considerable leadership qualities.

The families belonging to the Baillie party were allocated to the sailing ship Chapman, with 256 men, women and children on board.  The Hoole family members said their farewells, and the ship sailed from Gravesend on 3rd December 1819.  On 9th December the pilot was dropped off somewhere near Brighton, together with some seasick settlers who had decided that enough was enough..........  and soon the old country was far astern.

We know little of the voyage except that two ships, the Chapman and the Nautilus, were sailing together.  On board the Chapman there was considerable friction, not just because of the cramped conditions and illness on board, but also because of Baillie's authoritarian manner, which did not go down well with the gentry families.  In addition, there was a greater social mix on this ship than on any of the others, and the gentry were not used to living cheek by jowl with skilled tradesmen, merchants, farmers and labourers.   In the middle of January the ship passed through the Cape Verde Islands, and on 17th March it anchored in Table Bay.  It was immediately placed under quarantine, because there had been a whooping cough epidemic on board during the voyage which claimed the lives of six small children -- including Jane Hoole, who was just one year old, on 28th February 1820.

Then the ship moved on to Algoa Bay or Port Elisabeth, arriving there on 9th April.  Again the Chapman was ahead of the Nautilus, and on that day James and Jane, and their surviving children (Abel, aged 8, and James, aged 4) stepped ashore as members of the first party of settlers who would face the rigours -- and the endless possibilities -- of their new homeland.

To be continued........

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Sad Tale of GGG Grandpa Hoole - Chapter 4


James was wandering across London Bridge, contemplating suicide, when his attention was attracted by a strange-looking man with wild eyes who was walking straight towards him.  The fellow was deathly pale, and he looked more like a ghost than a man made of flesh and blood.  But he was alive all right, for he stopped in front of James, looked him directly in the eye for what seemed like an eternity, and said gravely: "You, sir, are the man who came to me in my dreams."

James was greatly taken aback, but the pale man explained everything.  It transpired that he was in the business of making straw bonnets, and that he had invented a shiny glaze which was currently all the rage, so that the business was thriving.  He was making a good living, he said, but his health was declining fast and he could not see how he could carry on with running the business single-handed.  He said he did not want to sell or give away the secret of his invention, for that was the source of his wealth.  He decided that he should find somebody whom he could trust, to join him in the business.  But who should that person be, and how might he be found?  He had worried about this for days and weeks, but then he dreamed on three successive nights that a man came to him and told him that he could be trusted;  the face of the man was that of James Hoole.

James did not know how to respond to this turn of events, but before he could say anything the sick man told him that on the strength of the dream he would take James into his confidence, take him into his business as a partner, and --if all worked out well -- pass the business on to the young man when he died.  No investment or other commitment was required on James's part.

This was manna from Heaven as far as James was concerned, and since he had no other prospects he joined the sick man (we do not know his name) in the business enterprise.  He brought his own talents to the business, including youthful enthusiasm and a good knowledge of  book-keeping.  The partners did very well indeed for a few years, as long as the craze for glazed straw bonnets continued.  But then the sick businessman died, leaving his fortune of a few hundred pounds to James.  The family was now secure, if not very wealthy.  But the economy the nation was still precarious, following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, with ex-soldiers and naval personnel swelling the ranks of the unemployed, and with thousands of retired officers struggling to find positions in business, particularly in London.

Then, in the year 1819, with another baby on the way and with Jane and James facing more financial insecurity, James heard that the Colonial Office was thinking about a settlement programme in South Africa.  The Times trumpeted:  "Our noble station at the Cape of Good Hope has the finest spoil and climate in the world; it is the centre of both hemispheres -- it commands the commerce of the globe -- it produces in unparalleled abundance all the necessities of life."  It sounded like paradise.  Then James saw a notice which announced that Lieutenant John Baillie RN was thinking of assembling a party of emigrants, and that a meeting would be held quite close to the place where the Hoole family was then living.  James decided to go along to the meeting.........

To be continued.......

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Sad Tale of GGG Grandpa Hoole -- Chapter Three

 The old London Bridge, painted by Turner in 1794.  By this date the old buildings which ran across the length of the bridge had all been demolished, for safety reasons.


Mr and Mrs Fitz were Jane's adoptive parents, and Mr Fitz was James's employer.  Research has revealed that the banns for James and Jane were read out at St Mary Abbots Church for the three weeks prior to the wedding date, 25th November 1810.  It is something of a mystery that Mr and Mrs Fitz did not get to know of that;  we can only assume that they were not regular churchgoers and that they did not know any members of the congregation.  We can imagine that the young couple must have been on tenterhooks, for fear of somebody or other saying: "Ah, my dear Mr and Mrs Fitz, we hear that your delightful niece is about to be married!"

Following the secret marriage of the unhappy couple, the young man was packed off to Paris by his employer.  Legend has it that he travelled on the same day as the wedding, but somehow or other the marriage was consummated, for on 26th August 1811 (exactly nine months after the wedding) Jane gave birth to her first son, named Abel Worth Hoole, in Margate.  One wonders whether the couple had made love on the night before the wedding, or even before that.  One also wonders whether that is what precipitated the decision to be wed in secret -- but we will never know the truth on that score.  Also, one wonders why the birth happened in Margate...... but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

With James out of the way in France,  Mr and Mrs Fitz resumed their attempts to get Jane to marry the chosen army officer, whose name we do not know.  Jane, now that she was married, resisted this pressure even more vehemently than before -- and although she loved her uncle and aunt dearly relations became very strained.  The situation grew more and more embarrassing, and at last Jane could stand the deceit no longer.  She pulled out the wedding ring on its silk thread and told them the truth.  Here uncle and aunt were furious -- far more angry than Jane had expected.  James was immediately called back from Paris and sacked from his job, and he was forced to take Jane away and to set up home with her somewhere else in London. 

How they survived is not known -- but Jane might have had some money of her own put away, and it may be that her brother Edward (who lived in Hart Street, Bloomsbury Square) helped out in some way.  She also had eight sisters, some of whom lived in London, and maybe there was also sympathy and support from them and their husbands.  We assume that James might have found other work as a secretary, and we also assume that the couple and their small child did not sink into abject poverty.  Did they live in Margate at some stage?  It's quite possible.  The only address we have for them is Selby Place, New Road, London -- the address recorded  on the date of their departure for South Africa on December 3rd, 1819.    After some years there was a partial reconciliation with Mr and Mrs Fitz, although Jane claimed to the end of her life that they never really forgave her for marrying James.  In due course another baby arrived.  He was christened James Cotterell Hoole, and he was probably born in London on 18 May 1816.  At some stage during these dark years, James was swept along by the spirit of one of the many religious revivals of the early nineteenth century, and became a Methodist.  Jane said she "did hope that he would get over it" -- but he never did, and he remained a staunch Methodist for the rest of his life.  Indeed, Jane herself became a Methodist too, some time before their move to South Africa.

James was always liable to sink into black depression, and he always blamed himself for taking his wife away from what might have been a life of comfort and wealth.  Their marriage was a very happy one, but that was no great consolation to him.  One day, his fortunes were at a very low ebb.  We have to assume that he had lost his job, or that the couple had spent all of their savings.  At any rate, James was penniless and very miserable indeed.  He had no idea how he was going to keep his young family above the bread line.  He walked down to London Bridge -- was he so depressed that he was contemplating suicide by flinging himself into the Thames?  But then something strange happened........

To be continued.....

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Sad Tale of Great Great Great Grandpa Hoole

Jane Hoole (nee Cotterell), born 1788, married 1810, died 1853 in Grahamstown

 The marriage certificate of James Hoole and Jane Cotterell, November 25th 1810

 The Church of St Mary Abbot on Kensington High Street, London, where James and Jane were secretly married in 1810.  The church was demolished in 1869.

An unutterably sad tale...........
Read on only if you have the tissues handy.


I discovered that my Great Great Great Grandpa James Hoole (the one who emigrated to South Africa with his wife Jane) came originally from quite a wealthy family in the Chester area. In 1794, when he was 5 years old, his nursemaid took him and his little sister (who was 3 years old) out for a walk. The nursemaid realized that she had forgotten something in the house, and so she ran back to fetch it, telling the children to wait in the lane until she got back to them. When she returned, she found James weeping bitterly, and the little sister gone. All James would say was that a lady in a shawl had taken her away.

There was a frantic search, but several days had passed when they at last found the little girl, quite naked and battered and bruised, under a hedge. Apparently the gypsies had taken her, just to steal her clothes and the coral necklace she had around her neck. The parents took her home, where apparently "she cried for three days without stopping and then died." The shock and horror of this episode caused the poor mother to die shortly afterwards, and then the father died too, leaving James an orphan. There were no relatives to take care of him, and so the nursemaid took him away across the border to her home in Wales, where she raised him as her own son -- in conditions of great poverty and with no education at all until a local clergyman took him in and taught him how to read and write.


Having received a modest education in the household of that kind clergyman (whose name is unknown) James was sent to London (around 1805?) to see if he could make something of his life. He was not very ambitious, but he was bright enough, with an honest face, and he obtained a position as a secretary with a blind gentleman named Mr Fitz. The employer was quite wealthy, with business interests in London and Paris.

The Fitzes had one natural daughter and an adopted daughter called Jane Cotterell, who was actually their neice.  She was, like James, an orphan.  She had experienced a very unhappy childhood with parents who seem to have been unable to look after a family consisting of one son and "many daughters". When Jane was ten, her parents had died within a year of one another, and her mother had dropped dead (presumably from a heart attack) right before Jane's eyes.  She later admitted that her overwhelming emotion at the time was not sadness, but relief that she would no longer be beaten. The family was split up, with Jane being sent to London to be adopted by Mr and Mrs Fitz.

When James arrived to take up his position, he and Jane got on very well, and eventually they started to fall in love. They were both orphans who had suffered a great deal of trauma in their young lives, and they were about the same age.  Jane was not particularly beautiful, but she was bright, intelligent and strong-willed.  James was amiable, gentle and kind hearted.  He was also a very handsome fellow, and he retained his good looks throughout his life.  They were still very young, and Jane's uncle and aunt were concerned when they saw what was happening. They had plans for Jane to marry a young officer, but she was not at all interested in the idea. At last, in the year 1810, in an attempt to force the young people apart, Mr Fitz announced that he would send James off to work in his Paris office, and that the young man would set off for France the very next day.

But Jane and James were made of stern stuff, and they knew their hearts and their rights, and early next morning, while Mary the cook was making breakfast, Jane appeared and convinced her to go with James and herself down the road to Kensington Parish Church.  (This was the church of St Mary Abbot, on Kensington High Street, which was demolished in 1869.)  They were married there without further ado, with Mary as witness, on 25th November. The cook was sworn to secrecy, and Jane determined that she would keep the wedding ring on a silk thread around her neck, under her clothes. Then James was packed off to Paris, to the relief of Mr and Mrs Fitz.

There were bound to be repercussions, and indeed there were........
To be continued!


May Bell  "They came from a Far Land"  Maskew Miller, 1963

WE and RJ Hoole  "Descendants of James and Jane Hoole -- an 1820 settler family".  Privately published, Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa, 1993

Friday, 7 December 2012

Signing Session in Haverfordwest

Tomorrow (Sat 8th December) I will be in Haverfordwest for a signing session and "meet the author" session in Victoria Bookshop, between 11 am and 2 pm.  Should be fun!
The bookshop always puts on a good show.  It's one of the few bookshops to take signing sessions seriously, which means that they put adverts in the press, posters in the window, and give the author a good prominent position in the window -- so that people can look in from the street and see that there is something exciting going on!

So let's hope for good crowds and sales to match.........  the focus of attention will of course be my new book of ghostly tales -- but the 8 novels of the Angel Mountain saga will also be much in evidence.

There was a prominent write-up for the new book in this month's "Pembrokeshire Life" magazine, so with a bit of luck almost everybody in Pembrokeshire will now know that the book is out and selling fast!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Flying with Angels Kindle freebie

I have just finished the free Kindle promo for "On Angel Mountain"-- and at the moment "Flying with Angels" -- volume 5 of the Saga -- is free for the Kindle. You can get it here:

My marketing for the Kindle promo is based on just one thread from the book -- which leads Martha, as a 68-year-old widow and grandmother, to have sex with a married clergyman in Tycanol Woods.  As an act of kindness -- well, she was a very kind lady.  The trouble was that somebody was watching.  Bad idea.  Big trouble.........

This is the blurb for the book:

It is 1845, and Martha Morgan, Mistress of Plas Ingli, is feeling her age. She receives warnings that she should “take care”. Her beloved estate collapses, and she has to call upon her deepest reserves of strength in order to survive. But her misery is lessened when she meets a travelling evangelist on the summit of Angel Mountain. It turns out that the fate of Amos Jones Minor Prophet is inextricably bound up with her own. A single indiscretion in Tycanol Wood splits the community and tests the loyalty of friends and family to the limit, and starts a drift towards the final tragic episodes of Martha’s life.

While Martha is dealing with these personal crises, she is also drawn to help the peasants caught up in the Irish Potato Famine. A shipwreck on the coast near Newport gives her the opportunity to do something practical, but in the process she offends the secret Society of Sea Serjeants. Her family tries to protect her from evil men who are driven by ancient family animosities. But her fighting spirit is stronger than her body, and she takes them on. It becomes clear that Martha will not die in her bed; nor does she, but in the final act of her exciting life there are breathless twists and turns which confound her enemies and leave her undefeated.

Author web site

I now have an author page on Amazon -- here:
It should contain a full list of my books -- those in print and out of print.  I'll try to update it periodically....

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

On Angel Mountain -- freebie promo number 2

I've just finished my second "freebie promo" for ON ANGEL MOUNTAIN -- a five day period between 9th and 13th November, this time spanning a weekend.  For comparison, I have described the earlier promotion (in May) here:

...........and added a short analysis of the after-effects here:

This time round, the results were rather disappointing. Over the 5 days, the total number of free downloads of the book was about 880, compared with about 3,500 downloads in May.  Downloads in the UK outstripped USA downloads by about 3:1.   The average number of downloads per day was  176, and I didn't notice any difference between weekday downloads and weekend ones -- so my conclusion must be that you probably don't need to be too concerned about the precise timing of a freebie promotion.

So why was this particular exercise so much less effective than the first?  Difficult to say.  Time of year is probably not a factor -- one might have expected more downloads at the beginning of winter than at the beginning of summer.  But in this case the May promotion was 4 times more successful than the November one.  Might it be that there is only a limited market for most books, and that once you have grabbed the attention of those who might be interested on Promo number one, you are not going to grab their attention again on Promo number two?  Against that, one might expect that with the expansion of the Kindle readership, there should be enough "new readers" coming along who would not have encountered the book before, and who might wish to try it -- assuming that they actually noticed it in the welter of other freebie promotions.

This is where the crunch comes. I think that there are now so many titles available for the Kindle, at very low cost, and indeed so many freebies available at any one time, that the chances of "being noticed" are declining all the time.  This time round, I did work quite hard at bringing the book to people's attention by tweeting furiously (!!) to all of the "Kindle freebie" sites and by using other social media like Facebook.  But one is very dependent upon messages being forwarded or re-tweeted, and as Twitter grows at a phenomenal rate the chances of your tweets being noticed are diminishing all the time. 

Amazon itself promotes freebies quite heavily, and makes sure that the info gets out there -- but I have heard that they put more effort into promoting books being offered free for the first time, and less for books which are free for the second or third time.  I don't know how true that is.  As far as I could see, the "Free Books for Kindle" website puts out the info as usual, without mentioning the number of previous freebie promos.  I noticed that even with the very modest number of downloads this time round, "On Angel Mountain" spent some days in the top 10 of historical fiction best-selling titles.  I don't think that at any time the title got into the "top 100 fiction titles."  (To get into that list, you probably need to be getting at least 30 downloads per hour -- last time round, I was getting one download per minute for a good part of the freebie 5-day period.)

Another thing that might affect the likelihood of your tweets being mentioned or retweeted is the nature of your tweet.  Should you make it dull and matter-of-fact, like most of the other tweets which are promoting free books?  Tweeting is after all a part of the advertising and promotion business, and dullness never triumphs in this particular sphere.  But how wacky should you make your tweets, when you only have 140 characters to play with?  And should you actually mention the book title in the tweet, in addition to providing a link to the right Amazon page?

These are some of the tweets I tried this time round:

Free for 5 days: On Angel Mountain by Brian John. 27,000 sold. "A self-publishing sensation". Enjoy!

Hist fiction with a rough edge. "On Angel Mountain" is now . 27,000 sold in pb. Enjoy!

A tale with a rough edge. "On Angel Mountain" is . "Vibrant and alive --beautifully written."

Martha, pregnant, suicidal teenage bride, loses her baby. What else can go wrong? Quite a lot

Part 1 of the best-selling saga. "On Angel Mountain" is now . "Gripping and beautifully written."

I really have no idea which of these was most successful in attracting attention!  I also have no idea of the extent to which potential downloaders are influenced by the cover design of a book, or the publisher's blurb, or the reader reviews featured on the Amazon web site.  Maybe, in a highly diverse market-place, some are influenced by one thing and some by another, and some by none of those things, but by word of mouth and personal / private twittering somewhere out there in the twittosphere, beyond our ken..............

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Three freebies on one day

On this very day, for the first time since  the creation of the universe, you can get 3 of my books for nothing, in the Kindle versions, from Amazon.

One has to do these freebie promotions now and then, as an essential part of one's marketing strategy, and it so happens that 3 promotions are overlapping today.  So if you or any of your loved ones are Kindle book readers, feel free to get your free downloads as follows:

"On Angel Mountain" (the first book of the Angel Mountain Saga) is far and away my best-selling book (27,000 sold) and is here:

"Flying with Angels" (the fifth book of the saga, in which the heroine Martha Morgan dies for the first time -- don't ask me to explain!) is here:

"The Strange Affair of the Ethiopian Treasure Chest" (my prize-winning children's adventure story for an upper primary school readership) is here:

There now.  That's just three of the fringe benefits you get from this rather strange blog site!  Happy reading!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Ghostly Tales spread far and wide

Well, that's got my first few sessions of signing and distributing out of the way.  Been out on the road a fair bit recently, and the shops now have their first batches of the Ghostly Tales book in stock.  And the good news is that only a week after publication, sales income has already exceeded the size of the printing bill.  To achieve that, I needed to sell just over 200 copies.  So far, about 300 are in the shops, with a further 400 copies taken by my main distributor, the Welsh Books Council.  (That's a nice sign of confidence -- they know that there will be a good demand for the books.......)  My initial print run was 1,000 -- so I have about 300 copies still in stock. Enough to see us through to Christmas?  Hmmm -- not sure...

Now I can sit back a bit -- or get on with things in the garden -- and wait for requests for top-up supplies from the book trade.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Free on Kindle-- five days only!

Time for another marketing push on my Kindle books.  Five of the novels are available in Kindle editions, and I'll get the others uploaded soon as well.  Last time I did a five-day "freebie promo" for "On Angel Mountain" there was a distinct spurt in sales for all of the novels afterwards -- so giving things away does seem to have a positive commercial effect!  So take the chance, folks -- for five days, starting on Friday, the first novel in the series is free again........ so feel magnificently free to download it, and please tell your friends.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A spooky Halloween offering...

This is my latest non-fiction title -- just in time for Halloween.  I decided to do it less than a month ago -- so I have really had my skates on with this one.  I didn't have to write it, since this is a revised and redesigned version of "Pembrokeshire Ghost Stories", published in 1996, reprinted once and long since out of print.  But because the original book was done on my first computer, the LC475, the text was unrecoverable, so I had to scan every one of the 96 pp, then put them through an OCR programme, and finally redesign the text and edit it in Pages, adding new photos as I went along.  Foolishly, I added about a dozen images imported from the web -- not realising at the time that most were at 72 dpi and quite unsuitable for top-quality reproduction.  The printers (Cambrian Printers in Aberystwyth) alerted me to this at proof stage -- so at the last minute I needed to find substitutes from my own photo collection, scan some of them from ols glossy prints, redesign the problem pages and send fresh PDFs to the printers.  So I have been on a steep learning curve here -- but the printers have been great.  They have produced the book within a week of receiving the original PDFS of text and covers -- including setting up, proofing, printing and binding.  I am impressed!!

Now then -- delivery today, and out to the shops tomorrow........  I just hope my faithful readers will like it!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Angel Mountain Conversation

Derdre (looking jolly) and me (looking pensive) during our conversation in the Memorial Hall last week.  An enjoyable evening -- even the main hall was rather large for a modest event!  Thanks to Siobhan and the Hall Committee for putting on the event, and thanks to Literature Wales for financial support -- it's good that they still have a little cash left after the excesses of the Dinefwr Literary Festival earlier in the summer.....

Friday, 24 August 2012

Mistress Martha in sharp focus

Tonight (24th August) I'll be having a "conversation" with fellow author Deirdre Edwards about the Angel Mountain Saga, Mistress Martha's virtues and vices, and anything else that the audience might wish to talk about.  Starting at 7.30 pm in the Memorial Hall in Newport.  Tickets (obtainable at the door) £4.00 -- incredible value for money, since refreshments are included!!

So please come along and join in the conversation -- everybody welcome.

This event is part of the ongoing programme of events in the hall, organized by Siobhan Ashe and the new Committee -- and giving the hall a much greater "buzz'' than it had in the bad old days........

The event is funded with the help of Literature Wales.  I'll have the eight books of the saga available for signing and selling after the talk -- and Deirdre will also be signing copies of her book called "Willowby's World".

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Pen Morfa Rock Garden

Pen Morfa yesterday, after the pouring rain.  Pen Dinas is in the distance.  The soil is very thin here, and it always looks like a rock garden -- but it's at its best in August.  Heather, late summer gorse, and lovely fresh greenery.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

PENfro workshops for creative writers

If you are a creative writer, or have aspirations to be one, and live in West Wales, this is your chance to participate in an intensive workshop with a leading published writer -- for just £10.  Much more information can be found on the PENfro website.  Make a note of the date --PENfro Writer's Day -- Saturday 15th September 2012.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

... and the Parrog from above

This is a fabulous photo taken from above the estuary -- showing the man-made spit on which the Boat Club and various cottages are located.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Down on the Parrog......

I thought I'd share this atmospheric photo of low tide down on the Parrog.  I found it somewhere on the internet.  Many of the incidents in the Angel Mountain Saga take place here, in what was at the time Newport's little port, populated by seamen, merchants and a good many rather disreputable characters.....

The Kindle Freebie Promo -- the aftermath

At the end of May I posted a long analysis of my experience with the free Kindle promotion of "On Angel Mountain" -- the first book of the Angel Mountain Saga.  You can find it

During the five days of the promotion, Amazon recorded more than 3,000 free downloads of the book, mostly in the UK.  Naturally enough, I was somewhat intrigued to see what impact the promotion might have on actual SALES of the book -- and the other books in the series -- in the weeks that followed.  So I kept an eye on the Amazon reports for ten weeks, and what I found is recorded on this table and graphic:

Table and graphical representation of Kindle book sales for the ten weeks after the freebie promotion.  Click to enlarge.

Most authors and publishers are very reticent about sales figures, but I don't mind sharing this!  Bearing in mind that before the free promotion, sales of my titles were bumping along at a rate of two or three a week, there was an immediate and spectacular increase in sales in the days following the promotion.  There were 239 sales of "On Angel Mountain" in that first week, and also a big increase in sales of the other titles as well, with total sales for the five titles reaching 306.  Not exactly stratospheric, but some people out there must have liked the free book enough to buy some of the others, and some readers must have told other readers about the books.  A few hundred quid is not a fortune, but it's not to be sniffed at if you are a "mid-list" author!

Then the slide started, with sales dropping sharply to 81 in week two, and then more gradually to 60 in week three, 57 in week four, and 41 in week five.  Since that time, I imagine that I have reached the "normal" sales level for the Kindle books -- with sales between 20 and 30 copies per week.  That's the way I imagine that it will continue week on week...........

Am I disappointed?  Yes -- I had hoped for an exponential sales increase on the back of the freebie promo.  Occasionally, I suppose these things happen -- but in the great majority of cases they don't.

Am I sorry I put all that effort into the freebie promo?  Not at all -- it was quite exciting at the time, and I learned a lot.  I subsequently sold 500 or so Kindle books which I would not otherwise have sold, and I have seen a ten-fold increase in my "base level" of sales of all of the titles in the series, which I imagine will continue for a long while.

What next?  Now for the freebie promo of "House of Angels" .............

Saturday, 11 August 2012

PENfro Bookfest 2012: the poster

The full programme is here:

Information about the Book Fair on 16th September is here:
Information about our Saturday workshops can be found here:

Information about our 2012 Sunday speakers is here:

Advance booking of Festival Passes is recommended via the Rhosygilwen web site:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

"Incredible book -- excellent author!"

Some nice reviews recently posted on the Amazon.UK web site:


I visited Newport a few weeks ago and came across this book whilst researching where to walk. Loved being able to relate to actual places where events took place and found Martha to be an engaging heroine - I am very much looking forward to the rest of the saga - and if you get the chance - visit Newport and Carningli!!!!

Wonderful, evocative book

I really loved this book. The writing is so evocative you could almost be in 16th century Wales. The characters were strong, the sense of place was very strong and I felt like I was really reading the diary of a living person. I felt that all the characters came alive off the page and that was down to the excellent writing. I could almost visualise the people and places which is, to me, evidence that a book has done it's job - to entertain and enthrall the reader. Well worth reading this book.

Incredible book, couldn't put it down

Incredible story set in Pembrokeshire West Wales, of the struggle, loves and lives of Martha and her family living on Angel Mountain near Newport. I can't wait to read the rest of the saga. I was desolate when I finished the book.  It sounds barmy but I missed everyone in it so much. Excellent Author!      

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Gravy train or cultural necessity?

Well well -- this has caused a bit of a stir.  Author Julian Ruck (whom very few will have heard of) has launched a bitter attack on the Welsh publishing scene in the pages of the Western Mail.  Sour grapes or pearls of wisdom?  His E-publishing festival in Kidwelly was such a disaster that it had to be cancelled -- so maybe he has reason to feel sore.  But is he justified in having a go at the whole of the Welsh publishing scene?  I have to say that I sympathise with some of the points he is making -- and I have made similar points in some of my submissions to the Welsh Assembly on the Welsh publishing scene.  I was staggered by the figures he gave for the subsidies paid to Welsh publishers over the period 2008-2012.  Was all that money well spent?  I doubt it -- and without it, many books that should not have been published would not have been published.  In a fully "commercial" publishing world, as we have in England, hundreds of Welsh titles would have gone onto the slush pile or into the bin as being unpublishable, on the grounds that they had not a hope in hell of repaying the investment sunk into them.  Mythology has it that a book only has to sell 700 copies in Wales in order to be classified as a "best seller."  And I have long been concerned that those titles which receive the heaviest subsidies get the heaviest promotion, since it is incumbent upon everybody in the grant aid chain to justify the decisions which they have made, using public money.  Another myth has it that copies of the "big" Welsh titles are dumped in Welsh bookshops in larger quantities than are strictly justified, simply to show strong apparent initial sales -- and that returns are then not counted into the equation.  So, by some magic, the "big" titles all turn into bestsellers, although the number of people who actually buy them might be very small indeed.

But should Welsh publishing be asked to survive without any support from the Assembly?  That would probably be counterproductive, because publishing in Wales needs to be used as a part of the strategy for promoting Wales's unique cultural heritage and creating a strong brand image.  But could those millions of pounds be better targetted and better used?  Undoubtedly yes -- and in that I would agree with the maverick author who has been given such space in the Western Mail.


Author Julian Ruck attacks taxpayer-funding for Welsh writers

By Rachael Misstear
Jul 30 2012

A Welsh author has launched a bitter attack on taxpayer-funding for writers in Wales, calling for the money to be diverted to cash-strapped health and education budgets.

Julian Ruck said that subsidies for Welsh authors and publishing houses stifled quality as writers were not forced to hone their craft with readers in mind.

He said that since the 1950s there had not been “one single Welsh writer of any national or international note”.

In a speech due to be given to a literary festival, which was cancelled before he was due to speak, he revealed figures showing £4m of public money had been paid to authors and publishing houses through Literature Wales and the Welsh Books Council in the last four years.
He said: “The Welsh publishing industry is nothing more than a parasitical, elitist carbuncle on the hide of a struggling Welsh economy.

“Of course one will never obtain sales figures for the winning works.”

His speech was set for the closing of the Kidwell-e Festival – UK’s first literary event celebrating the e-book and its growing popularity.

Ruck, who privately funded the event, was scathing about the quality of writing that the grants subsidised.

He said: “Where are the giants of Welsh writing? Where are the Welsh Seamus Heaneys and James Joyces or for that matter the Jeffrey Archers and James Pattersons? Or even the odd bookish shade of grey?

“Did Lady Charlotte Guest or Dylan Thomas receive hand-outs from the tax-payer?

“Since the 1950’s there hasn’t been one single Welsh writer of any national or international note to hit the tarmac beyond the Severn Bridge.

“The hunger to create for an audience has been stifled, the warts and all of learning the trade have been burnt away, the cleansing of rejection and reality of commercial brutality is no more.”

Ruck, who has written three novels described on his website as thrillers or family saga novels, cited figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act which showed that four Welsh publishing firms had been granted significant sums from the public purse over the last four years.

Seren Publishers received £557,078, Honno received £239,708, Y Lolfa received £687,507 and Gomer Press £1,409,493.

In total, over the same period from 2008 to 2012, grants to Welsh writers totalled £1,409, 493.

He said: “Not only are Welsh writers subsidised but so of course are their Welsh publishers. So you have a situation where firstly the writer receives a hand-out to write the book and then the publisher receives a hand-out to publish it. So, a double whammy for the tax-payer if you like.”

He added: “Cancer patients can’t get the drugs they need because they are too expensive.... Wheelchairs are in short supply, families can’t get the care they need for their elderly relatives and yet the Welsh Assembly feels it is morally right to dish out millions of pounds of your money for a few people to propagate a Welsh ‘literary’ agenda that few are interested in, whose books, magazines and pamphlets patently don’t pay their way and most importantly of all, contributes precisely nothing for the overall good of society.”

“It is time Welsh publishers and Welsh writers operated under normal commercial rules. The state simply can no longer afford to indulge you. There are far more important priorities to consider.

“And for all you Welsh writers out there, genuine talent will always prevail. Good writing will always be read and will always sell. If your work has these essential qualities then you don’t need the exhausted tax-payer to fund it – full stop.”

Literature Wales' chief executive Lleucu Siencyn issued a full statement in response to Mr Ruck, defending the organisation and naming Philip Pullman, RS Thomas, Ken Follett, Gillian Clarke and Owen Sheers as great writers Wales had produced and nurtured since the 1950s.

Elwyn Jones, chief executive Welsh Books Council said the body revises and monitors its schemes regularly to ensure that funding offers the best possible value for money.

“Literature and the arts are funded in countries throughout the world,” he said.

“In a market dominated by large English and American publishers, it is testament to the success of Welsh authors, publishers and funding bodies that in the past year titles published in Wales have been listed for the Man Booker Prize, the T. S. Eliot Award and the Costa Prize.

“They have also found commercial success, such as sports titles by Eddie Butler and Simon Easterby and popular autobiographies, including that of radio presenter, Chris Needs.

“We are confident that with relatively modest funds, our schemes support books that enrich Welsh culture, placing it on an international platform.”


Read More

My Writer's Workshop at the PENfro Festival

I'll be leading a Writers' Workshop at the PENfro Book festival on 15th September, on the theme of "Going it Alone" -- dealing with the realities of writing and publishing without a contract and without a big publisher to work on your behalf.  Hard work, but it can be done!  Further details on the website. If you want to book a place, it'll cost you £10. Please book as early as possible, since numbers will be limited....

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Carningli by John Brett

This is the Carningli oil painting by John Brett, dated to 1882.  It's available from the Bridgeman web site for reproduction and commercial use -- hence the watermark on the image.  More info here:

Look at the dense gorse high on the mountain, and the swathe of heath on the mountainside.  My guess is that there was much less intensive agriculture at the time, and that there were far fewer sheep on the mountain.


I came across this lovely painting of Aberfforest, by John Brett.  Available from the National Museum of Wales via its picture library page.,WNLI,6MPC87,2PE3X,1

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Children's Book Prize

This is my certificate, recently received following the award of First Prize in the Children's Book Awards announced a few months ago.  I'm very chuffed that my first children's book should have won this award against stiff competition -- and judged by children from primary schools all over the country, who know nothing about West Wales in general or Haverfordwest in particular.  (The story is based partly on my childhood memories of Haverfordwest in the immediate Post-war years.)

So -- anybody who reads this -- buy the book for your children and grand-children!  I guarantee that they will love it....

New edition of the OS Coast Path Guide

After a hard slog in the spring, correcting and reorganizing the text and discussing layout changes, the new edition of the Pembs Coast Path (National Trail) Guide is about to hit the shops.  Apart from being bang up-to-date, it is redesigned in a double-column layout, and there are many more -- and better -- photographs.  Route changes are also entered on the map pages.  It looks stunning -- I hope, dear reader, that you might agree when you have seen it.....

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

"A wonderful, evocative book"

Just spotted on the Amazon web site.......

Wonderful, evocative book, 5 July 2012
By G Beech

This review is from: On Angel Mountain (The Angel Mountain Saga) (Kindle Edition)
I really loved this book. The writing is so evocative you could almost be in 18th century Wales. The characters were strong, the sense of place was very strong and I felt like I was really reading the diary of a living person. I felt that all the characters came alive off the page and that was down to the excellent writing. I could almost visualise the people and places which is, to me, evidence that a book has done its job - to entertain and enthrall the reader. Well worth reading this book.

Rating: 5 stars

Monday, 2 July 2012

"..... a grand achievement by a born raconteur..."

Acknowledgement:  Gwales / Welsh Books Council

There is certainly no loss of verve, adventure or indeed style in Brian John’s latest book in this long-running saga.

In Conspiracy of Angels the reader is taken back to 1810 and a youthful 31-year-old Martha Morgan is back as mistress of Plas Ingli after a period of absence of which she will give no true account. Being a woman of this period is a serious disadvantage, especially a woman without a husband beside her, with children to bring up and without great wealth. As always there is much hurtful gossip, but Martha’s ever-loyal staff, her family and friends, particularly grandpa Isaac and granny Jane, and her mentor the wizard Joseph Harris, are there to support her. However, will they be enough? Following a premonition on a damp Angel Mountain, Martha becomes involved in a secretive anti-slavery movement; child torture, blackmail and the Sons of Obeah all add to the nail-biting intensity of the plot.

If the reader were to assume that that is all John’s story tells, they would be very much mistaken. The author is a master of connecting interwoven threads. His secondary characters, no less colourful than the protagonists, jump from the page with the intrigue of their daily lives and adventures all adding to this riveting saga.

As usual John has excelled himself with his art of story-telling, his humour and his literary prowess.
Conspiracy of Angels is the eighth in the Angel Mountain saga, of which more than 65,000 copies have been sold to date. A grand achievement by a born raconteur.

Norma Penfold

"Another enthralling epic"

Just came across this review of "Conspiracy of Angels" on the Amazon web site.

Conspiracy of Angels - another enthralling epic

16 May 2012
Amelia Davies

So pleased to reacquaint myself with Martha Morgan again - this is another totally gripping tale from Brian John. He writes with such credibilty that it's hard to believe that Plas Ingli and its occupants are all fictional. The historical 'element' is equally fascinating, and I have been completely convinced each time I read the novels in this amazing saga.

It is such a shame that the BBC haven't got their act together and realised what an enthralling series this would make....or someone with some vision in S4C who could translate it into Welsh...we have the actors, the scenery is already there...if Hollywood can see the benefit of Pembrokeshire, why can't those nearer home ???! I think Nia Roberts would make a superb, feisty, enigmatic Martha.

Diolch yn fawr Brian John ( ps I (almost) think that the best part of each book is the beginning - it is SO clever at drawing one in from the very first moment).

Monday, 4 June 2012

More happy readers

"Thank you for such a wonderful saga.  Every page a page turner.  For a man to write this saga from  a woman's point of view is wonderful -- sensitive and very clever.  I feel I know this woman.  Martha's life has been so eventful and full of danger -- all woven with true facts so that I have to keep remembering that this is fiction.

I am so sorry that this is the end -- knowing that Martha and Amos would die was very poignant......

Thank you so much for a truly glorious read..."

Joan Hall

From the Amazon web site with ref to "On Angel Mountain"

"Incredible story set in Pembrokeshire West Wales, of the sruggle, loves and lives of Martha and her family living on Angel Mountain near Newport. I can't wait to read the rest of the saga. I was desolate when I finished the book. It sounds barmy but I missed everyone in it so much. Excellent Author!"


"This is an incredibly well written debut novel that had me yearning for more. It paints a detailed picture of the times and was engrossing from start to finish."


Thank you all!      

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Angel Mountain Kindle Freebie Promo



Well, it's over and done with, and it's time to review the experience.  Having put 5 of my Angel Mountain novels onto the Kindle Store on Amazon over the past few weeks, all of the Kindle experts whom I have consulted were telling me that I must do a free promotion.  Others have taken the line that it is somehow demeaning to give books away -- either in electronic format or in conventional book form -- and that a respectable author must "hold up the value of his product" and stay well clear of the Kindle publishing riff-raff.........

Anyway, for better or for worse, I decided that I would not be so precious as to decide that Kindle marketing techniques were beneath my dignity, and I decided to go for it.  So I  set it all up, and "On Angel Mountain" was available free, initially for 3 days, starting on the morning of 22 May and ending on the morning of 25 May.   Very quickly I realized that there was a lot of inertia in the system, and that one needed time to get things rolling, so I extended the "freebie" period to the full 5 days permitted (that's the maximum allowed by Amazon in any  90-day period).  Unless you are a massive success as a Kindle author, maybe with a following of half a million readers, I don't see any merit in a  "short freebie promo" since it will be over and done with before people notice that you are there......)

My hope was that if I could get a lot of downloads of "On Angel Mountain" (the first book in a Saga which now has 8 volumes) that might trigger an interest in the Saga among Kindle users -- a totally new market for me -- and then lead to actual sales of the subsequent volumes in the series.  Would I be losing income as a result of the freebie promotion?  I did not think so.


One of the good things about Amazon's Kindle scheme is that once you have an account you can monitor your book sales and free downloads pretty effectively.  You get a KDP Select "dashboard" page on which all your titles are listed, and once you log in you can check on an hourly basis to see how downloads are going.  Life is too short to look at the computer screen on a minute-by-minute basis, but by checking now and again you can get an impression of trends.

At the end of my 5-day period, when the promo was automatically stopped by Amazon, I had seen downloads totalling 3,604 copies of "On Angel Mountain."  That's over a period of 120 hours -- so the average rate of downloads was about 30 per hour.  Nearly all of those downloads were in the UK and USA, with a few in Germany, France, Spain and Italy.  (Actually some of them might have been in Australia and New Zealand -- some people can access the site in those countries, and presumably get downloads just as the residents of the USA can.)  In the first half day of the free promo, there were about 400 downloads, split more or less equally between USA and UK -- and downloads must have been running at about 60 per hour for a short while.  That brought the book up to number ten in the "Top 100 Free Kindle Downloads" table.  After that, things settled down to a more regular pattern of downloads, running at between 20 and 40 per hour.  That was enough to keep the book in the top 40 throughout the download period.  On the occasions when I looked at the chart my book was highest at number 24 and lowest at number 39.  I imagine that those titles that make it into the top five  of the chart must be getting downloads at the rate of several hundreds per hour.  At the other end of the scale, there must be hundreds of titles published that do NOT get into the "top hundred" at any stage -- and that must be quite dispiriting for the authors and publishers who have gone to the trouble (and it IS trouble!) of uploading their precious manuscripts to the Kindle site.  There must be vast numbers of titles which -- even with freebie promos -- never shift more than a few tens of copies, mainly to the author's immediate and wonderfully supportive family members............

Another interesting thing -- I noticed that I was "competing" with several soft porn titles, several chick lits, chillers and thrillers, and titles like "Pride and Prejudice", "Dracula", and  "Wuthering Heights".  These latter classics are probably permanent fixtures in the table, hovering around in the top 40 and downloading 30 or so copies per hour, day after day, month after month.........  I couldn't see any real pattern in the downloads, except that for some reason on one evening downloads of "On Angel Mountain" went up to 60 per hour -- that's one every minute -- and then settled down again......

Should I be satisfied?  I really have no idea.  I started off thinking that maybe 2,500 downloads (500 per day) would be a good target.  In fact I exceeded that by a substantial margin, with downloads of about 720 copies per day.


All of the generous advice I received before deciding to go for it with my promo included an exhortation to work hard with Twitter and the other social media -- since presumably without this hard work people might not even notice your book.  That's not entirely true -- some people will notice it, since as soon as a promo starts, Amazon alters the price to zero on your book page:

in the UK:

in the US:

There is also this:

Top 100 free Kindle books:

And this:

There are also other Amazon lists which you will find if you are a book lover looking for a free book to download for your Kindle.  Some of them are actually quite confusing; if you hunt for free Kindle downloads on the Amazon web site you will often end up looking at another "top 100 free downloads" site where you can select by genre, hunting for "fantasy", "science fiction" or whatever.  The trouble with those lists is that many of the books on them are not free at all -- and I cannot work out what the process may be by which books get listed.  There are also many other sites which are quite independent of Amazon -- some of them apparently honest and some blatantly commercial and biased.

So, assuming that you are going to get SOME downloads without any effort on your part,  how do you get the downloads really rolling?  Hard grind, I'm afraid -- lots of Emails to your friends and colleagues, lots of tweeting, lots of Facebook entries.  Social media are the things that matter -- and apparently (according to the Ebook millionaires) word of mouth and twittering then take over after a while, and your happy fans will run the whole marketing campaign for you by liking you, posting reviews, and texting and chatting with one another.

I would recommend that you devote at least a week to your freebie promo campaign, with at least a couple of days "preparing the ground" before the 5-day promo starts and then putting in intensive work during the five days.  It's probably a good idea to make sure you don't have anything else to divert your attention -- and to spend many hours in front of your computer, tweeting into your iPhone, or whatever.   

My own experience:

EMAILS --  I Emailed all of my contacts with a message telling them about the free promotion and encouraging them to look at the Amazon page for the book.  Several hundred messages went out, with an exhortation to my non-Kindle friends to pass the word on to friends and relatives who own Kindle readers.    I have no idea how effective those Email messages were -- I got very little feedback (I suspect that very few of my contacts own Kindles); many messages bounced back (that's the way with mailing lists -- a proportion of the addresses were redundant); and in the real world most people are probably too busy to pay much attention to unsolicited messages of this type, even if they come from close friends or family.  My advice?  That Emails should probably be low on the list of priorities.....

FACEBOOK --  I put a lot of messages out to my Facebook friends, and I think these were reasonably effective in encouraging downloads.  The good thing about Facebook is that you can post longish messages and include images and hyperlinks.  There can also be an exponential effect if lots of your friends "share" your messages and move them on through their own networks.   I have less than 100 friends, and don't particularly want many more.  But there were lots of supportive and encouraging comments, lots of "shares", and lots of "likes" -- and when you are slogging away on a campaign of this sort it's great to feel that your nearest and dearest are cheering you on!  More to do with psychology than economy, but there you go........

TWITTER -- This was far and away the most effective of the social media which I used.  During the course of my 5-day campaign I probably sent out about 350 tweets.  Purely by chance, that's about one tweet per 100 downloads.  I don't think that the correlation is in any way reliable, but there must be SOME relationship.  You can look at all my tweets here:!/Angelmountain5

I devised lots of different messages -- all within the 140 character limit -- designed to reach different constituencies -- other writers, book clubs, book publishers, TV celebrities, friends and acquaintances, film stars, sportsmen, eccentrics, Welsh people, ex-pats in America, Pembrokeshire people, media sites, BBC reporters, Jane Austen fans, historical fiction readers, history sites etc etc.  If you go down through my tweets, you will see the general idea.  Sometimes you need to follow people if you want them to follow you.  Often I asked for retweets -- not always, because that is bad practice.  Of those I asked to do retweets for me, maybe 10% actually did what I asked and sent my message on.   I hoped that Stephen Fry (the ace tweeter) would retweet for me, on the basis that I would then miraculously reach more than 4 million of his followers, with a sort of personal endorsement from him -- but in spite of frequent efforts on my part, he declined to cooperate!

One technique which worked quite well for me was to target a person whom I respected -- and then to target those on his or her list of "following".  Those on the list are, you can assume, either acquaintances or friends, or people whom they in turn admire or respect.  Far better than going to lists of "followers", who may number many thousands, and who will in all probability not be in the slightest bit interested in YOUR book.......

Use hashtag links like these in your tweets: #FreeKindleBooks   #freeforkindle or just  #Kindle.  A lot of people use these while searching for jolly free books to download and read.

What I discovered is that the Twitterati are in general very friendly and supportive -- and I received many messages from completely unknown people (and some who are very famous indeed), wishing me well, saying they had retweeted my 140 characters, and saying they had downloaded my book.

I know that there can be some pretty bad-natured and rude twittering on contentious issues (such as GM wheat trials!) but on this issue -- an author promoting a book for Kindle -- I really felt that there is a supportive community out there, with nobody feeling threatened of feeling that you are a competitor, taking potential sales away from him or her.  In a sense, we are all competing for business -- but I genuinely did feel, during this exercise, that everybody wants everybody else to succeed, and that everybody (rather, everybody who can be bothered!) wants to help somebody who is working hard and has a good product.....

That brings me to my last point.  The PRODUCT clearly has to be worth downloading, if people are going to get it for their Kindle readers.    The book needs a good bright and punchy cover which looks good at large size and as a thumbnail.  Take the Amazon advice on this!!  The book needs to be well written and appealing to at least one group of readers.  A good track record helps -- in my case, "On Angel Mountain" has been around for more than ten years now, and has racked up sales in excess of 26,000.  So quite a lot of people know about the book already -- and I can twitter about its past success.  Your product description is very important too -- I am sure that is one of the things that encourages people to make a download.


Early days yet.  There may be some negative effects from a campaign like this -- for example, there will be some who are thoroughly pissed off with you for sending them an unsolicited endless string of tweets!  But tweets are very ephemeral --  they are noticeable for a few minutes on your Twitter page, and then they are gone, replaced by more recent messages.  In  the case of the really famous and popular twitterers, your tweet (or even twenty of them) may not even be noticed, let alone responded to.  But do you target those tweeters who have thousands of followers, or those who have just a few?  Arguably, it might be more cost-effective to target somebody with 200 followers than somebody who has 200,000.  So forget about Lady Gaga!  She clearly has no time to read anything.  And another negative is that you could have been sitting in the shade, reading a good book, rather than slaving over a hot keyboard -- or maybe devoting time to writing another book -- or maybe spending more time out on the road, shifting the paperback version.............

But by and large, I feel quite empowered and encouraged, having gone through this week of very hard work.  I have had a huge amount of support in Facebook and Twitter comments, and the fact that 3,604 people have gone to the trouble of downloading the book does give me a nice rosy glow.  I don't feel that I have "lost" any sales at all, or that I have demeaned myself in any way -- and I am optimistic enough to think that  a small proportion (maybe a big proportion) of those who now read the book will actually like it, fall in love with Mistress Martha, and want to know what happens in Book 2 of the Saga.

Before I did this promotion, I had earned royalties from Amazon of about £90 on my titles available through KDP Select (eight titles, including the 5 novels uploaded in February - April this year).  Not exactly spectacular sales figures!  But in the last day (since the end of the campaign) I have seen 156 copies of the novels sold.  So something is happening -- and I am now increasingly confident that as people read their downloaded copies of "On Angel Mountain" -- and like the story -- those sales will continue to go steadily upwards over the coming weeks and months.  Eternal optimist?  You bet!!


For what it's worth, and bearing in mind that I am a complete novice in this business -- here it is:

1.  Do it!

2.  Follow Amazon's advice with regard to a good jacket, a good descriptive blurb and a good presence on the Amazon web site.  Get good reviews posted onto the site if you can.  (That's something I have not worked hard enough on -- my readers are just too laid back to bother.

3.  Demonstrate a good track record in earlier sales if you can. (In other words, try out a book in the market place before you put it on Kindle.  I suspect that many people just write something, bang it onto Kindle, and hope that a miracle will happen..... that should lead to dismal failure, but of course, as we all know, sometimes things DO happen, right out of the blue.)

4.  Use the full five days which Amazon allows you, all in one go.  It takes time for a title to build up momentum, and if you have invested a lot of blood, sweat and tears in promotion work, you might as well reap the benefit.)

5.  Twitter and tweet and chirp for all you are worth -- and learn from the way that other successful writers use this particular social medium.

6.  If you are in the UK, don't bother tweeting messages to people who have .com in their web sites or blog addresses when the USA is fast asleep.  By the time they wake up in the morning, your tweets will have got lost in the clutter.

6.  Preferably, include a weekend in your five days -- I think a lot of people do their Kindle free downloads during their days off work.

7.  Look at the long-range weather forecast and try to choose a period when the weather is windy and rainy!  During my 5-day promo, the weather was generally far too good, and I noticed that there was an inverse relationship between the weather outside and the level of downloads.  On the hottest and most beautiful day the hour-by-hour download rate dropped quite dramatically (that was true for all the books in the "Top 100" list) and then it rose again in the evening, when it got cooler.  Would I have had a much more successful kindle Freebie Promo had I chosen horrible 5 days in February?  I really don't know.......

8.  Take the advice of the experts.  There are some people out there who have sold millions of Kindle book downloads, and who are now seriously wealthy as a result.  Some of them are very happy to exchange Email or Twitter messages with you, and they are very generous with their advice.  Some of them have very informative blogs and web sites.

9.  Monitor your download figures carefully and regularly.  They may mystify you -- but they may also encourage you to modify your promotional strategy as you go along.

10.  Do it!  And have fun!