I FEEL like one of those lost souls wandering tube trains late at night, putting little packs of tissues on the seats with a short note to explain their dire circumstances.

When they return later asking for a donation in exchange for their kind gift, most of us pretend not to notice them, even though the strong smell is pretty hard to ignore.

Your heart tugs at you, telling you that to dip into your pocket and hand over the meagre change that lies there among the shredded tissues would be the humane thing to do and could make a world of difference to this person’s life.

Your head warns you that it’s the start of the slippery slope: TV programmes and newspaper articles have alerted you to being taken in by professional beggars. They dress down deliberately and even sit in a bath of urine before hitting the streets and robbing good, honest, hard-working people of their cash.

So you put your head down and pretend you are reading your Kindle while waiting for the scruffy oik to move on, which seems to take an age.

You hope that after his shift ends he won’t be returning to a rat-infested squat, but to his four-bedroomed country mansion in Epping, therefore fully justifying your ‘snub’.

OK, maybe that’s a bit over the top, but I don’t like begging for anything. This week, however, I have tried every far-fetched scheme in the book to garner support in my bid for a Kindle Scout contract.

I hadn’t attempted this route to publication before. With my first novel Crossing The Whitewash I took it all on myself – the writing, the research, the cover, the formatting, the uploading, the pre-publicity, post-publicity, the placement of the book, the emails alerting book shops to its availability, the launch: the whole kit and caboodle.

I’d heard about Kindle Scout, of course, but it seemed like just another popularity contest and I doubted many people actually succeeded in their task.


Two years on, though, and I took the plunge. Having heard a bit more about it I decided I would enter Spark Out for a Scout deal. If it failed I was no worse off for the experience – If it succeeded? “Woohoo!” in the words of Homer Simpson. That’s a $1,500 advance that will immediately cover my costs of enlisting proof readers, editors, cover designers and all, even leaving me some money for social media adverts.

A week in and I am addicted, but as someone who just wants to write books and get them into the hands of as wide an audience as possible, I’ve started to scrape the bottom of the barrel in the search for support.


It began pretty well, my Facebook chums and Twitter acquaintances all weighing in during the first few days. I jumped straight into the Hot and Trending category and stayed there for four days.

Now, though, I’ve slipped out of it, and I am wondering how the hell I can revive the interest.

I have resorted to doing Periscope readings of parts of the book, the equivalent of the busker in the underground holding out a cap and hoping someone will show their appreciation when all they are interested in is getting from A to B.

Today I have even gone through my Goodreads list of friends, sending some of them personal messages and hoping that even though they don’t know me from Adam they will take pity on a poor writer and click the link to my Kindle Scout page.


Perhaps things will pick up as I get closer to the end. If they don’t, though, I will just have to throw myself on the mercy of those nice people at Kindle Direct Publishing and hope their editors believe Spark Out is worthy of their charity… together with a nice, juicy contract.

  • Sound familiar? Let me know your Kindle Scout experiences in the comments



IN the social media kindergarten where all the kids are holding their hands up shouting “Me! Me! Me” I’m appealing for people to help me get my squeaky voice heard.

I’ve been reluctant to try these voting schemes before as I’m such a shy, retiring personality I worry I’ll end up with ‘Nil pwan’ like the very worst Eurovision song contest performer.

Sometimes, though, you must be brave and bite the bullet.

This morning I stepped into the unknown and put my second novel Spark Out up for a Kindle Scout contract.


The way it works is that you give all the details of the book, submit the manuscript, cover and other relevant information about you as an author and your previous work – in my case the first book in the Boxer Boys series Crossing The Whitewash – then have a month to convince people it deserves to be published.

Once that period is up, those nice people at Kindle Direct Publishing will make a judgement call on whether your work has garnered enough interest to carry their stamp of approval.

If it has you will then have all the power of Amazon behind you in terms of marketing and publicity – a useful tool I’m sure you’ll agree.

Once the campaign is up and running I will provide you readers with further information on how you can lend me your support.

With a $1500 advance also on offer if the book is successful I will be off to buy a mansion in the Maldives and you’ll never hear from me again.

That, at least, has to be worth your vote.

6. Rip it up and start again…

I WONDER if the 1980’s pop group Orange Juice sent their songs off to a seasoned recording artist for feedback before writing their hit single “Rip It Up and Start Again”. More to the point, I wonder if the song’s writer was a budding novelist who opted to give up the whole infuriating business and form a band instead.

Having submitted my work for scrutiny by published author Richard Blandford and handed over the hard-earned £600 fee, I sat back and waited for his gushing plaudits to arrive. I was expecting something along the lines of “Wow, better than I could have written, it’s going to send me right back to the drawing board” or “Can I have your autograph please because there is no doubt you are the next best thing to authorship”. I even half expected a response along the lines of “I’ve shown this to my agent, expect a phone call over the next few days”.

Unfortunately the reality was somewhat different. To be honest, I probably should have read the small print from the Writers Workshop people much more carefully. “An in-depth critique from one of our experienced and successfully published editors will be tough, but constructive. It will identify what is working, what isn’t and give practical advice on how to improve it.” Mind you, when they said tough and constructive, they didn’t tell me it would be a hatchet job of which the last of the Mohicans might have been proud.

Damn, who was this bloke swanning around his home in Brighton, pouring coffee from his Espresso machine and perusing the art pages of The Guardian while I spend every day of my life hunched over a computer, writing and editing. Of course my book is different… isn’t that the way it is supposed to be!

My first reaction was one of pure resentment. I mean, at least give me something to grasp onto, some grain of hope to keep me on track. You can download Richard’s critique in full below…

Sex and Rucks critique

Once my wife brought me down off the ceiling and talked me out of posting a similar hatchet job review of Richard’s Hound Dog novel on Amazon, I looked at the criticism more closely and one thing stood out clearly… there was no genre.

I seemed to be trying to be all things to all people and though I felt this was the unique part of the whole novel, I had to accept that it might be a hard sell under such circumstances.

It was time to start stripping it down and rebuilding it as something else without, hopefully, losing too many of the aspects of my story which I liked.


  • WORK: About eight months.
  • BOOK STAGE: First draft.
  • HEADACHES: Lots.
  • COST SO FAR: Approx. £640.
  • NEXT MOVE: Start all over again…