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.

63. How I chose my star-spangled editor for my latest novel Spark Out

VERY rarely do I look at, let alone read, direct messages on Twitter. Normally they are from people imploring you to watch their “hilarious” YouTube channel, employ them as a life coach or join their network on LinkedIN*.

Anyway, I must have been going through a nasty case of Writers Block or something because one morning I found myself wading through this list of wannabes and never-was’ers.

Then to my pleasant surprise I came across Night Owl Freelance, offering editorial services at a time I was mulling over who to pick as editor for my second novel, Spark Out.


Perhaps it was fate but I decided to investigate further. Night Owl is a small operation run by the very talented Vanessa Gonzales, and one look at her personal website persuaded me she would at least be worth an inquiry.

For a start, I don’t imagine there is any situation that would phase her – her back story including such diverse life experiences as having been a mormon and a porn shop worker. Currently she travels around the US in a motor home with her husband, seeking out adventure along the way.

The line that resonated most with me in her bio was ‘I want to fall in love with characters I sympathise with, want to sleep with, and want to punch – in a really great story, those last two are the same’.

One thing a writer needs is an editor who has empathy with their main characters, and I immediately thought the relationship would work. I have spent hundreds of pounds and hours of anxiety waiting on people to “critique” my work, only to find that for the large part they have missed the gist or failed to “get” the point.

After some correspondence between us and a sample “edit”, I felt Vanessa understood where I was coming from, even if I did have to include a short glossary of Cockney Rhyming Slang to help her out with some of the dialogue.

I decided to take the plunge and asked her to do a developmental edit, as my wife Liz – a qualified proofreader as I have mentioned before – would sort out the line editing.

Within a month Vanessa had provided me with a comprehensive 13-page analysis of my work, covering every detail of plot and character. Taking her views on board I did a few tweaks here and there, adding to some chapters and removing stuff from others and now I am on the last leg. Liz is at the moment proofreading my latest draft and I’ve sent out a few copies on word documents to chosen BETA readers, though I am looking for more before I set a launch date of sometime this summer.

If anyone is interested please comment on this blog…


I’m looking forward to including a big thank you to Vanessa in the credits. My decision to choose her for the edit would have certainly shocked some of my bowler-hat wearing, umbrella-toting colleagues over this side of the pond, but I’m happy I took the plunge. She has been a good sounding board – even helping me adapt my previous title from Headers to Spark Out.

Can’t wait for the launch…

(* EDITOR’S NOTE: I tried LinkedIn once and couldn’t see the point. What made it even more annoying was the fact it was so bloody hard to Link Out!)

62. Spark Out: Cover reveal

THEY say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I certainly hope you can in my case. In my humble opinion, my cover designer Jane Dixon-Smith has excelled herself with Spark Out, the second book in my Boxer Boys series.
Jane, one of the members of the prolific author-collective Triskele Books, has a simple but effective way of working with authors and her covers can rightfully take their place alongside the very best on the virtual bookstand (or, indeed, in book shops if you are lucky to find anyone prepared to stock your book… hint, hint Waterstones, WH Smiths and Foyle’s).
It’s all about genre, really. Jane asks you what type of book you have written and invites you to submit covers you like in that genre. Once you have provided some examples and explained the kind of imagery best fits with your story, she sources them and sends you a variety to choose from. Once you have done that she then gets to work.
Crossing the Whitewash was my first book and because Spark Out is part of a series Jane wanted to stick to the overall style. As you will see the name is very similar as is the idea of taking a silhouette image, in this case a man and a boy, and adding a background significant to the story. For Crossing the Whitewash we used the Millennium Stadium, for Spark Out it’s the QE2, which carried 3,000 troops to war in the Falklands back in 1982.
For me, the image of a soldier’s eyes, facepainted with camouflage and the Union Jack, was striking, and we used it above the title in the same way we used the knife in the first book.
So that’s it. I hope you like it.
The book has just come back from my American Editor, more of which later, and is now with my wife Liz, a qualified proofreader. I will soon be selecting Beta Readers to get a free copy of the book and give me their comments while hopefully posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads on launch day. If anyone is interested please let me know via the comments on here and I will get back in touch.

61. Tune in for a magical ride with Mystery Thriller Week

IT’S BEEN  a long time! Sorry about that but I really have been incredibly busy. Not only does the day job take up a lot of my time but I have also been working hard promoting my first novel Crossing The Whitewash over the Xmas period, while sending my second novel out for editing and starting a third as part of NaNoWriMo.

I just had to post this week to tell people about a wonderful new on-line project that I have become involved in.

Mystery Thriller Week is a group set up on Facebook for writers, bloggers, readers, reviewers and just about anyone interested in the genre to swap ideas, learn about a wide variety of books out there and discover new authors. It is all supposed to kick off from February 12, but some people have started the ball rolling early.


Jennifer S. Alderson

There are a lot of us all shouting for attention, so I am delighted that my book is one of the 15 that has been included in Jennifer S Alderson’s blog about Mystery thrillers based outside the US.

As readers will know Crossing The Whitewash switches from humdrum life on a busy inner-city housing estate to the wide-open spaces of the Welsh Valleys, so just about perfect for Jennifer’s subject matter.

Please have a read and let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, I’ve been experimenting with Facebook Ads again and am delighted to say that I seem to have hit just the right tone with the current one. During December I sold over 100 copies of Crossing and this month I have sold nearly 50 in the four days so far. On one particular day I peaked at 20 copies, and realised that I was also advertising on Instagram. It may have been a fluke because there is no way of knowing who saw what before going onto KDP and taking the plunge.


Much of it is down to targeting which I have now honed, directing the ads at people in the over-45 age group who are fans of thriller writers like Mark Billingham, Ian Rankin and Martina Cole.


When I broke into the top 5,000 sellers on KDP I was delighted, particularly with my novel appearing in the top 20 of hard-boiled mysteries alongside household names like Stuart MacBride, Phillip Kerr and Gordon Ferris. It’s the perfect boost with the new book, a prequel, due out in February or March.

27. Radio Rippers

THIS IS a massive week for me. The Rugby World Cup kicks off at Twickenham on Friday night when England take on Fiji, and I make my radio debut the day before.

I have been invited by BBC Radio Wales to talk about my book and all things Rugby World Cup and newspapers with Eleri Sion (pictured above) on Thursday afternoon at 3pm. Fortunately I don’t have to travel all the way to south Wales for the interview and feel quite honoured that I have been booked a “suite” at BBC headquarters in central London.

Not nervous. Much!

When I first launched Crossing The Whitewash I always knew that I would have a five-week window in which to make the most of my marketing ‘hook’. Although the novel is a character-based thriller, setting it against the backdrop of a Rugby World Cup meant that I could take advantage when seeking out media organisations and reviewers to showcase my work.

So far the tactic seems to be working. This weekend, for instance, one of the papers I slave away for – The Daily Star Sunday – put a panel about my book on a page alongside an exclusive interview with former England World Cup winner Jason Robinson. Honoured, I’m sure.2015-09-15 11.12.38

Alongside that I am hoping to be featured on the Books page of the Express website, and will also have a piece going into my local Ilford newspaper. Some of this has come about courtesy of friends, but I’ve also put in a lot of groundwork, providing free interviews and the like to some of these news outlets to build up brownie points with them.

It’s not all cost-free, though. There has been quite a sizeable investment, too. I figure if I don’t put my money where my mouth is now, I won’t get a better chance later.

I’ve done two things with my hard-earned cash this week. The first one was to book a mailshot through Net Galley and the second was to produce a facebook ad with direct links to my website www.theripperfile.com.

It’s not cheap to join Net Galley as a self-published author who has invented his own imprint and only has one book to showcase. I always feel a bit easier when the price comes in dollars because I know it will be less in pounds, but am never brave enough to do the maths.

For those unfamiliar with Net Galley, it gives access to a digital copy of your book for reviewers, bloggers, media professionals, bookstore owners and librarians. You upload the cover and an ePub version of your book, Net Galley members see it and request a review copy. You can approve or refuse their request depend on what your first impressions are of them (you have access to their bio).

The initial response was OK but the good thing is that, for an extra fee, there are ways you can target certain audiences. One, which cost £300 but has produced excellent results so far, is to send out a mailshot. In my case Net Galley designed an email for me after I provided blurb and images, I made some tweaks and approved it, and it then went out to over 20,000 members. It targeted everyone in the UK and Net Galley members around the world with an interest in sport. I was clicking the approval button all weekend and hope it will produce some good results. Among those who asked for the book were bloggers, magazine reviewers and a couple of buyers from the entertainment departments of major retailers. Fingers crossed.

Facebook was far cheaper. For an outlay of £35 I have targeted a chosen audience all week – Sports fans who also list reading, fiction and thrillers as among their interests – with an ad which directs them to my website. I’m pleased to say that ad has had a greater response than 90 per cent of similar ones on Facebook, resulting in 300 clicks to the website already at a cost of about 7p each.

With a link to Amazon on the home page of that website it may help explain why Crossing The Whitewash rose from 160,000 to 28,000 in the Kindle sales rankings on Monday. Then again, perhaps it was the article in the Daily Star Sunday. That’s the only problem: Finding out why people bought your book. Perhaps I’ll put a questionnaire asking that very question in the back of the next one.