58. Dublin Writers’ Conference was Simply Brexcellent

 

IT was the morning after Brexit and in a state of shock I was making my exit from Britain.

Boarding the flight to Dublin, I wasn’t sure exactly how my hosts would react to the shock news that Britain had voted to leave the European Union.

First impressions weren’t favourable. “I’m not sure where I should go now,” I explained to the man at Dublin Passport Control.

“Well, yous got to be joining that big long queue over there, fella,” he said, pointing to the non-EU arrivals. He couldn’t keep a straight face for long, though. “I’m kidding you. Come on through.”

I jumped in the taxi and started a conversation with the driver about the other big European issue of the day: Euro 2016. “You did well beating Italy,” I said. “If you beat France then you might meet us English in the quarter-finals.”

“Don’t know about that,” he said. “I’m from Romania. We got knocked out in the group stages. I’ve been here for 13 years. Came over to do some building work and never left.”

Nice bloke. Reasonable fare. And I was dropped off at the Castle Hotel in the City Centre which was the perfect base for the weekend I had planned. I was attending my first official 3-day Dublin Writers’ Conference with Books Go Social.

I joined this writers group shortly after my book came out, mainly because they seemed to have an incredible social media reach and many fellow Indie Authors were on their books.

The brainchild of Laurence O’Bryan, an Irishman who was disillusioned by the whole traditional publishing “monopoly”, it has been going from strength to strength since the eBook revolution and Amazon’s decision to take the plunge and back the Indie Author scene.

For me, the jury was still out on BGS, though. I can’t put a single extra sale down to the tweets that have been put out on my behalf.

This was maybe the acid test. The Annual Conference. And if I had any doubts about joining the group they were simply blown away by what, for me, was the highlight of the year.

The self-publishing professionals who attended were an absolute mine of information, whether you wanted to learn about the art of writing itself, formatting, marketing, getting your novel into book shops or even turning it into a Hollywood blockbuster.

ken

KEN AITCHITY talks to the writers about the current state of storytelling

That was where Ken Aitchity came in. Once dubbed “The Story Merchant”, Ken is actually based in Hollywood and has produced film and TV shows, written books, lectured on writing and guided fellow authors. Who could fail to be impressed by a person whose CV reads like an A-Z of the creative arts.

Ken wasn’t alone though. Among others there was Ben Galley, an author of Dark Fantasy, started life in Croydon as a worker in a small food outlet dreaming of doing something better with his life. When he discovered self-publishing was no longer frowned upon he got in on the ground floor and has now produced 10 novels including an epic fantasy called the Emanska series.

notasleep

THAT’S ME on the far left: Not asleep, just listening intently (honest!)

Ben has started a shelf-help consultancy designed to assist budding authors and his particular strength is marketing. For those like me who struggle with this aspect his talk about reader funnels was fascinating and his website is well worth a look.

Jessica Bell, too, is a legend in self-publishing. She does virtually everything herself including formatting, cover design and self-editing, while somehow finding time at home in Greece to pursue a singer/songwriting career as well.

And these were just the people I met on the first day: There was a revolving door of professionals throughout the weekend, each with their own unique take on the art of writing and self-publishing.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect is meeting fellow writers and discussing their individual journeys, reinforcing the fact you are not alone. On Friday night volunteers had a chance to read from their own work and critique each other with expert feedback from Jessica and Ben.

Through it all Laurence and his team were extremely helpful and their organisation couldn’t be faulted, with events switching between the famous Gresham Hotel and the Irish Writers’ Centre.

The Books Go Social Dublin Writers Conference was well worth the investment. I would recommend it to anyone who has been in two minds about whether to take the plunge.

Britain may have voted to split from the EU, but it’s comforting to know the writers’ community goes from strength to strength around the world.

57. The Terminator and SkyNet really exist: We just call them Google

FOR THE last two days I have been going all Sarah Connor.

Sarah, for those who like their Sci-Fi, is the hero of the early Terminator movies. Her reward for identifying the dangers of a new world dominated by technology was to be wrapped tightly in a straitjacket and stowed away from the general public.

Well, I can safely say I can see Sarah’s point. For all the new wonders that new tech has bought us, how many of us are turning into boggle-eyed raving loonies by this computer-dominated world?

The task I started on this week seemed relatively simple. I had 25 free codes to give away after Crossing The Whitewash was released as an Audio Book.

CrossingpromoSTILLWow! Fantastic. A giveaway. FREE.

Recently everyone has been telling me that the way forward to becoming a “real” author is to develop your mailing list, so those interested in your work are at your fingertips when you launch new projects.

And to start this little process what better way to build a list than with a company invented for the purposes of compiling such lists?

The most popular of these in writing circles seems to be MailChimp. As with most of these things it is COMPLETELY FREE until you get to around 2,000 subscribers.

I have been with them for about two years. My current list numbers 16, including my wife and several of my mates who, no doubt, felt sorry for me.

Here is the key, then. You set up a Facebook Ad, with a classy video like the one my narrator/producer Samuel J Haskell made for me, then invite people to click through to your website and fill out the email link, which goes to MailChimp and is forwarded to yourself. From there you send out the codes. Simple.

chimpA useful piece of technology like that – with such a cute, cuddly name, too (Awwww, MailChimp, look at him) – could hardly be part of a conspiracy to take over the world, surely?

Then it begins. Trying to set up a mailbox to get notifications sent to me of new members on the list, I am informed both my Yahoo and Gmail accounts aren’t suitable. Because messages are being sent out from a third party (MailChimp) then Yahoo and Google will think they are up to no good and attempting to steal all the goodies from your email account.

Fortunately, you can click a button which says “I’ll take that risk” which, of course, I did.

Then I ran the ads and in one day had 22 clicks for just a fiver. Not a bad start.

When I checked the Email list, though… Nothing, zilch, nada.

So 22 people clicked through to my website and, one step away from their free gift, decided “Nah, can’t be arsed with that”.

I’m sure that does happen, but all 22?

I checked the link and, lo and behold, while my website said my email address had been accepted, nothing was passed on to my MailChimp list. The technology didn’t work. This, by the way, comes after five hours of tinkering about, trying to get the Ad together on Facebook before it rejects about half the things I want to do. So this is a hair-tearing moment… No wonder I have the hairstyle of Buster Bloodvessel.

Anyway, I try everything: Building a new list, tinkering with the forms, changing the website around… nothing works. I have to suspend the ad campaign, imaging that some people will be pretty fed up with the fact they haven’t got their audio codes even though they filled in the Email box.

Finally I take the plunge. I am told I need a website with my own personal domain. Which costs money. Luckily I spent some a while ago buying the domain name for my website, so I can set one up with that.

My website is from a firm called Wix. Quite frankly they get on my Wix on regular occasions. Other lucky writers take the plunge and “employ” website designers, but I figure: I design pages on a national newspaper, what can be so difficult?

The f***ing technology, that’s what.

Anyway, on we plunge and I obtain the website incorporating my own personal domain name. I am now nickripp@theripperfile.com. Only trouble is this has to be verified. I click for it to be verified and where do I end up? Google, of course.

Now, Google already runs my computer. Everything happens through Chrome. It knows all my passwords, usernames, inside leg measurements, length of… well, you get the picture.

Apparently Google is in charge of Emails, even if you thought you were setting them up with Wix, or Go Daddy, or any number of other companies.

And Google won’t make things easy for you. Oh no. There is a “How to get verified” video that lasts five minutes. I dare anyone to watch it and NOT find their mind well and truly boggled.

I give up and try different ways. “Congrats”, pings my old email. “You now have your own Email domain!”

“No I soddin’ don’t,” I reply, ranting at the screen. Google won’t let me play!

I try a variety of other tricks, none of which work. I am supposed to stick some code on the end of my website address as verification. How? “Watch the simple-to-follow video” says Google. “F*!*”|!”

By this time my wife has run for cover, my little girl is riding around the living room on a tiny bike which goes squeak, squeak, squeak and I’ve put my head through the computer and am shouting “Here’s Nicky!!!” having just typed 3,000 times “All Google and no play makes Nick a dull boy”.

Then, without warning, and I still don’t know how… it lets me in.

Ha…lle…lu…jah!

Unfortunately, now my brain is mush. I am mumbling to myself. I am sweating. I am picking bugs off the wall and eating them whole because I didn’t have time for lunch, or dinner.

My wife is whispering on the phone to someone… in my paranoia I am convinced it is the men with white coats.

Of course, Google isn’t the Terminator or SkyNet. It is much more subtle than that. It is not going to destroy us with guns, or lazers, or flying, whirling machines of death. It is just going to send us all slowly  mad.

google

So here I am, staring blankly at my screen, the Google logo in its jolly colours taunting me in its untouchable status.

And one question is whirring around and around and around in my head: “Who died and made you boss?”

56. How Audible brought my characters to life

 

ANYONE who has read Crossing The Whitewash will probably agree that Arnold Dolan is a pretty terrifying character. At least, that’s how he was described by judges in the Writers’ Digest eBook awards.

This week, though, Arnie even SOUNDS terrifying. I know, because I have heard him speak.

Today I am wallowing in the satisfaction of releasing an Audio version of my UK gangland thriller, having spent four months helping to edit and perfect what I believe is a pretty impressive product.

In collaboration with a very talented young producer/narrator, Samuel J Haskell, I think we have come up with something with which we both can be pretty proud.

Don’t take my word for it, though. The book is on sale on Audible and if you take up their offer of a month’s trial you can download it for FREE and put it on your MP3 player, phone or other listening device. Better still, why not listen to the sample which is provided on the page first to see if it whets your appetite.

I am a convert to Audio books. I find they take the pain out of the mundane commute to work, though I’m not sure if I would like Arnie Dolan sitting next to me on the District Line journey from Mile End to Monument!

The book has to be pretty exciting, though, to maintain the interest, because it is easy to doze off as the tube train clickety clacks through Whitechapel and Tower Hill.

I think Samuel manages to do that, and he has also added some pretty impressive sound effects for things like loud speakers and phone conversations.

So how easy is it to produce your own audio book? Amazon’s ACX division have made it a pretty straightforward process.

All you have to do is put a sample of your book on their website and then invite people to audition for the role of narrator/producer.

Then it is a question of setting a deadline for the first 15-minute sample, followed by a deadline for completion. You have to agree a fee – which can be done either as a flat rate of a certain amount per hour, or as a share of the profits.

With Samuel I agreed BOTH but unfortunately ACX don’t have a provision for that so he will just have to hope I am honest about how much money we rake in.

I paid Sam £750, which may seem a lot, but over that period of four months he certainly earned his corn. He was able to put up chapters a few at a time for me to listen to, and I then sent him corrections or comments if I didn’t think things sounded quite right. There was a lot of back and forth before we got it exactly how we wanted it, and Sam – a trained film producer – also threw in the promotional video that you can see here.

I think I got a bargain but, as it was his first experience of ACX too, I believe the experience for both of us has been invaluable.

At the end of it all, one simple click on the writer’s part and the audio book goes to the ACX techies for final approval, which they carry out as soon as the producer confirms he has been paid.

It’s interesting to know, too, that every time someone signs up for the one-month free trial with Audible and makes your book their first order, you earn $50. Whether I will get my money back I don’t know… but, to be perfectly honest, hearing characters I have created like Arnie, Gary and The Legend talk has been priceless.

 

55. The proof is in the pdudding

Spot the deliberate mistake in the heading?

As a career journalist and a newspaper sub-editor since the mid-80s these things have become second nature to me.

That’s probably why the one thing that is guaranteed to put me off reading a book – and this can happen in traditionally published novels, too, though mainly I am talking about indies – is when I find loads of grammatical or silly literal mistakes in it.

A few people have encouraged me to read their books in the past and I have found myself grimacing and swearing under my breath at the silly mistakes that have been allowed to slip through the net.

In one particular book the protagonists’ names kept changing or the wrong person was credited with speaking a line not meant for them.

The thing is that these things are so easily avoidable. The more people who read your work before you sign off on it, the better.

An editor is important to help the book flow and make sure you don’t get bogged down in too many details, but if you feel they are suggesting changes that you consider detrimental to your story you can always over-rule them. Beta readers, too, particularly those who agree to read your work but don’t particularly have a close relationship with you, can give really helpful advice.

A spelling mistake or glaring punctuation error is not a matter for discussion, though, which is why a professional proofreader is so important.

My wife Liz has just passed a proofreading course and the fact she is a production journalist with years of experience means she already has a head start. She proofed my book, her father’s and has recently taken on some independent work. Why not check out her website and make an inquiry? Her fees are very reasonable but if not Liz, make sure you seek out the services of a professional in the field.

Meandandrew

Plug over. The reason I am writing this is that last night after a busy shift in the day job we got talking about a friend who set up a magazine. It is all going quite well but he is tearing his hair out over some of the silly errors that creep into it. His partner is an enthusiastic techie who can handle all the layout and print issues, but lets silly mistakes slip through the net through carelessness and the desire to do things quickly, failing to realise irreparable harm is being done to the overall product.

I’ve just found this article on a website which gives plenty of stats about why people are likely to stop reading books and most of them can directly or indirectly be put down to the editing and proofreading process. Check it out here

 

 

54. Research: the word that brings me out in a cold sweat

IN the long, hot summer of 1976 I remember being incarcerated in my bedroom, swotting up on maths, geography, biology and history when I wanted to be out sipping illegal beers in the nearby park.

It was O level year (something I believe they call GCSE’s now) and an experience like that as a 16-year-old can scar you for life.

Perhaps that is why the very word ‘research’ sends a shiver down my spine. It feels like I’m turning back the clock and becoming mired in a world of facts and stats.

Some novelists pride themselves on research. Peter James is an absolutely stickler for it, as my recent interviews with the great man show. I’m afraid I am not as brave as Peter James, though.

I have no wish to become nailed inside a coffin, or bungy jump off a high bridge, or jump out of a plane with just a parachute strapped to my back, or even play pass the parcel with venomous snakes. The idea of entering some drug dealer’s den and engaging local gangsters in conversation about their lives fills me with dread.

Meanwhile sitting in a library and swotting up on a given subject makes me feel like I’ve been transported back to those schooldays again, like Michael J Fox in the 2016 equivalent of the DeLorean. To be honest, I just want to sit down and write, get my feelings out onto the page and let my imagination flow until I come up with a really good page-turner without too much stress and worry.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. At some stage or other you are bound to come across a little speed bump where you want to introduce a certain element to the story and realise: “B***er, I know absolutely nothing about this”.

What happens then? You either ignore it and change the plot completely to fit in with what you do know or you bite the bullet, take yourself off to the local library and try to learn what you can about the subject.

Peter told me: “When I’m writing a book I like to feel I’m learning something, too.” Which is all fine and dandy, I agree, but at times it actually distracts from the writing.

This is a man who can churn out two or three novels a year while my grand total is one and a quarter in the best part of five years.

The trouble is that once you start learning about the subject you are researching it is difficult to know when to stop. Then there is a tendency to feel that because you have taken the time and trouble to learn it all, you need to shoehorn all that knowledge into the novel, which can detract from the overall plot.

That is why I was so glad to come across this article from one of my favourite crime writers Mark Billingham. His ethos, and one I will use as my mantra from now on, is “We are writing fiction. The very word means making stuff up”. In other words, you don’t have to be unfailingly accurate to write a good story and, actually, too many facts can detract from a terrific tale.

Here’s Mark’s piece… worth a read.

 

53. Don’t apologise for being an Indie, we’re cool. Learn the lesson of Tarrantino and Co

I’VE just found a blog post which absolutely sums up the way I feel about writing and Indie publishing. If you want something new, bright and refreshing don’t bother too much about the trad published stuff: in my opinion they just see a formula that has worked in the past and hammer it.

How many times have you read a book and thought: This plot and the characters are awfully similar to something I read not that long ago? If it’s by the same writer I sometimes wonder whether there is a writing team back at Big Press Towers who are just following a formula to produce the next bestseller. Admittedly,  there are a fair number of Indies who follow tried and tested formulas (vampire stories, anyone?) but that’s probably because another Indie came in to break the mold and put them back in fashion. It just stands to reason, you are much more likely to find something new and original in the Indie pile.

So if you think you have a story to tell don’t wait for the big agent or publisher to come to you… be brave, be bold and put it out there. It worked for some in the film industry who got fed up of banging on the doors of the big studios and just did it. There is plenty of help out there these days to help write, edit, proofread, publicise and market your book… why not just go for it.

Use this article as your inspiration

52. Why TV drama Broadchurch was a turn-off for best-selling author Peter James

WE all loved Broadchurch. It was a gripping TV drama about a childkiller set in the heart of homely Dorset.

Every week we tuned in to see if David Tennant’s troubled Detective Inspector Alec Hardy and his sidekick, the feisty Detective Superintendent Ellie Miller, could crack the case.

Well I say we, but in one particular house in Sussex the first time DI Hardy visited the murder scene it had internationally renowned crime author Peter James reaching for the off button.

I was lucky enough to get a chat with the great man himself after the London Book Fair recently, and my main article can be found here on the Express website.

Peter, 67, has written 12 novels around his character, the Brighton DS Roy Grace, and gave an enthralled gathering of authors the inside information on how he does it. And key to it all is that nasty little word research.

If there is one thing that makes me groan out loud it’s research. I’m a writer and I want to write. I want to sit down at my computer and get on with it, rather than spending hours in the local library pouring over books or writing Emails to experts before waiting vainly for the reply that never comes.

Unfortunately it is also one of the most important tools in a writer’s armoury. In Peter’s list of priorities for a good novel it comes second, behind characters and in front of plot.

So back to Broadchurch. Peter has fantastic contacts among the police community which have helped him bring Roy Grace’s world to life.

He says: “Some of these police shows on TV really annoy me. They rarely emulate what happens in real life.

“I remember the crime scene in Broadchurch after the little kid had fallen off the cliff. All the men turn up in their white suits so they don’t contaminate the crime scene, then David Tenant arrives in just his normal clothes and breezes in.

“The Crime Scene manager would never let that happen. The first officer to arrive secures the scene and then no one, it doesn’t matter who they are, is going to be allowed in without being fully suited.”

Peter talks of another incident where he picked up a crime book set in the UK by an American author. “He had one of his main characters driving up the M25 to Birmingham,” said Peter. “I thought: if he can’t be bothered to find a simple road map online then he can’t be much cop.”

 

Talking of cops, Peter didn’t start out life as a crime writer. Originally he wrote spy novels.

He explains: “Ian Fleming had just died and I thought there must be a vacancy in the spy thriller genre so I wrote a book called Dead Letter Drop. To my complete surprise it got published but to my even greater surprise it didn’t sell – I think I offloaded about 1500 copies.

“I decided I needed a publicist so went to Tony Mullikan (Midas PR) who booked me on a Nationwide Tour. I visited nearly every town and city in the UK, went on TV and radio stations to give interviews, then published my follow-up book Atom Bomb Angel. It sold 1750 copies.

“Then I was told, ‘You will never succeed if you write about something you cannot research. Find something you’re passionate about.

“Then I had a massive stroke of luck. We got burgled. The policeman who came around, a Detective Constable, saw my books on the shelf and told me if I ever needed help with my research to get in touch.

“Me and my wife then met up socially with him and his wife, who was also a detective, and we became good friends. Through that initial relationship I’ve met lots of people associated with the police, like Scenes of Crimes Officers and such, and found them fascinating. I figure no one sees more in a 30-year career than a copper. These people are incredibly resourceful.”

Peter started being inviting me out on patrol, to crime scenes and to the mortuary for post mortems. They gave him invaluable insights on which to base his books.

Now he enjoys his research saying: “When I set out writing a book it’s nice that I am learning a little bit about the world, too.”

He is branching out soon to launch his own YouTube channel. It’s worth keeping an eye on so check out Peter’s website here for the May 19 launch.

As for me, I still see research as evil, but after talking to Peter I realise it’s a necessary one…

 

51. To join KDP select or not join KDP select… that’s the big question

 

INDIE AUTHORS have a great deal to thank Amazon for – in many ways the revolution in writing has been led by them.

Createspace, Kindle and ACX are all valuable weapons in a writer’s armoury once they decide to self-publish.

Through Createspace you have the ability to produce a physical book, with a professional cover and quality printing, which can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anything turned out by the traditional publishing giants.

Meanwhile, Kindle has led the way in the astonishing rise in digital books over the last few years while ACX is now allowing Indie Authors to bring their stories to life in the form of Audio Books. Once put together and produced with a narrator, they can then be distributed and sold through Amazon’s Audible branch.

In the past, sick of rejection slips or ignorant firms who refused to even answer our emails, potential authors no doubt put their hard work on the fire, admonished themselves for being such terrible writers and gone back to the day job.

Now there is an alternative – and it is something which is growing in popularity so much that even traditionally published authors are considering the alternatives: whether that means going the whole hog and doing everything off your own bat, or enlisting help through the “hybrid” companies. More of those in a future blog entry, though.

I spent a day at the London Book Fair a couple of weeks ago and found the Author Central section crammed with writers eager to learn more about this brave new world in which they have the power to publish in their own hands.

Perhaps their biggest problem now is getting their work “seen” – without the aid of the vast marketing machines the trad-pub companies can call upon.

It takes a lot of hard work and tinkering – trying to use Amazon’s algorithms to your best advantage – not to mention paying for advertising through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

And it is tempting at this early stage to find a method of giving away your book free so that you can get it into the hands of more people and rise up the book “charts”.

This is something that Amazon encourages, too. They invite authors producing eBooks to enlist in KDP select, which means you give them exclusive rights to sell your novel any way they want.

Join Kindle Unlimited, for instance, and the reader gets a whole library full of self-published books to delve into, picking and choosing, their subscription money going into a central pool, rather than payment for books going to individual authors.

The big advantage of KDP Select is that Amazon positively discriminate in favour of those that sign up, giving their books better visibility and special promotion. But at what price to Indie Authors in the long term?

To join Select or not join Select is now the big question, to misquote Shakespeare in the week of his 400th birthday.

It seems to me the more cards KDP Select holds, the more the writer’s work is being devalued.

cokerMark Coker, co-founder of Smashwords, gave his own thoughts on the matter in a video talk entitled 10 trends driving the future of publishing. It’s worth watching.

 

50. Climbing the charts like a Take That comeback single

SIX months ago if my sales graph had been a print-out from a life support machine doctors would have pulled the plug. To say things were flat lining would be like suggesting the Alps were “a bit hilly”.

Tonight I am basking in the heady atmosphere of being no 43 in the Urban Kindle sales rankings, having tried every trick in the book to resuscitate my baby.

Well, as an Indie Author, you can never give up hope, can you? The traditional publishers might whisk the plug out as if they had finished the ironing, rather than destroyed a promising career. We have a greater emotional attachment to our sickly child.

In the case of Crossing the Whitewash it had taken me four years hard labour to give it life and I wanted it to have every chance of succeeding.

To be fair I had plenty of advice about how to revive the patient, but the trick is deciding what is genuine help and what is designed to make a quick buck out of you. You have to wise up to those blowing on your neck telling you a hurricane is on its way, and it isn’t easy.

Still, by experimenting with Twitter and Facebook ads, changing categories and key words, and enlisting help from Social Media experts claiming to have hundreds of thousands of followers, the recovery has been a steady one.

The problem is I have no way of gauging what has worked and what has not. I just know that over the last month or so sales of my beloved novel have looked much rosier – in terms of Kindle anyway.

The fact none of the big bookshops will stock my novel, even though I emphasised my connections with Bristol, Wales and London and made a big selling point of the fact the Rugby World Cup – a backdrop for the novel – was taking place last September and October, has been hugely disappointing.

Tonight, though, I am pretty happy. In the hourly Amazon rankings I see that in this country my novel has reached an all-time high at no. 10,508 of all Kindle paid sales, fiction and non-fiction (and if you knew how many people are trying to flog books in this format you would know why I am so impressed). In the Urban category I have broken through the top 50 barrier. Admittedly it is one of the more “niche” genres but even so it gives my heart a flutter to see my baby actually featuring in one of the best-sellers charts.

kindlegraph

 

Of course, the spin off of this is that my novel is likely to be seen by more potential readers. With 24 reviews, 16 of which are 5 stars, it should begin to feature much higher on the search engines, which will improve its visibility for potential readers.

At £1.99 Crossing is still in the virtual bargain bin, of course, so there is little hope of making any profit or giving up the day job. The first ambition, though, is to establish myself as an author and with the latest news I think I can say I am starting to do that.

I’ve got some new marketing tricks to try out over the coming months in the hope of raising sales even further. An audio book is in production and there are plans to promote it through a video in conjunction with my narrator and producer friend Samuel Haskell.

The key, eventually, is to establish a fan base and hopefully then those four or five sales a day will multiply handsomely.

arnie ad

Meanwhile, the current Facebook ad seems to be the one pulling them in. I’ve made a strength of the fact the American eBook competition judge described Arnie Dolan as terrifying, and I’m delighted to say it must be working.