My Google radar pinged back this review of Proper Job on Cornish Literature, a blog run by a chap called Lee Broderick. It’s an interesting perspective on the book; Lee is most interested in its Cornishness, whereas I’m focusing more on the comedy. Some thoughtful comments.
I’m investigating this Kindle Select business, which is a new service offered by Amazon that allows Kindle authors to put their books forward for a lending scheme. The catch is that Amazon requires such an author to publish via the Kindle platform exclusively. Not such a catch for me, as I sell, on average, zero books elsewhere.
Once an author’s book is in the Kindle Select programme, it is eligible for five days of free promotion every ninety days. So, as an experiment, I’m making my novel Proper Job free for today and tomorrow, just to see what happens.
Update at 11:30
I was concerned about what would happen to the rank of a promoted book. That is, when being promoted, at what position would the book enter the ‘free’ chart? Would it even go into the ‘free’ chart, or just be marked as ‘free’ in the paid chart? After the promotion, at what position would it re-enter the paid chart?
Well, Proper Job has essentially had its ranking stripped. It no longer has a ranking according to its Amazon information page, and on the KDP dashboard (the back-end that authors have access to), the ranking information is marked as ‘unavailable’. So it looks as though promoted books are de-indexed.
However, this doesn’t mean that people can’t find the book. 14 copies were ‘sold’ in the US since it became free; and 26 in the UK. To put that in perspective, I’ve sold at 86p only 34 copies of Proper Job since it was published in November.
I’ll post more data here as it becomes available.
Update at 12:00
Amazon has now indexed Proper Job in the ‘free’ chart, so I guess there isn’t a ‘limbo’ chart after all. The delay is almost certainly a lag due to database updates and letting an hour’s worth of ‘sales’ accrue to compute the new ranking.
As a data point, Proper Job was ranked at position 8,299 in yesterday’s paid chart and is now at 1, 665 in the free chart. That’s for the UK. In the US, the ranking is still classed as unknown.
Update at 20:30
Now ranked at 862 in the US for free books, and 34 in the Humor chart. In the UK, it’s at 304 in the overall chart and 18 in the Humour chart. US sales: 183. UK sales: 92.
Today I’m writing about the research process at Me and My Big Mouth, the blog of Scott Pack (late of Waterstone’s; now of the Friday Project). If you think learning Russian for the Saskia Brandt novels is impressive, wait until you hear about the ice-cream I had to eat for Proper Job.
It has been a long time coming, but today I publish Proper Job, a comedy novel whose first draft I completed more than seven years ago (US). How do I feel? Exhausted. Pleased. Quite interested to see how well the book will do on the Kindle platform in comparison to Déjà Vu and Flashback. I feel that science fiction does well in ebook form; but Proper Job, being a comedy lacking in lasers, bug-eyed monsters and time travel, should have a broader appeal.
The book evolved on several fronts across the course of its development. The initial draft was edgier. Its main character — then called Fabe, not Andy — was a crueller individual. It was novel where the main character and the reader laughed ‘at’ things. Now, the novel is one where the laughter is ‘with’.
Structurally, too, I changed some elements to take it away from the somewhat Hollywood three-act structure. These explicit frameworks are well and good in retrospect, but my experience of writing Proper Job has confirmed my prejudice that they are best applied in retrospect to help fix problems. They cannot be used as a blueprint. (That is, I can’t use them like that.)
So here it is. The final draft is about 60,000 words, I believe. With revisions, I probably worked through 200,000 or more.
Subtext and — of course — schmubtext. However, Proper Job is also about my relationship with Cornwall.
Publish and be damned.
When I wrote Déjà Vu, I wasn’t sure if it was any good. Certainly, it was 120,000 of sustained narrative and kept me entertained, but I couldn’t be sure about the effect on other people. Turns out they liked it.
The novel I wrote after Déjà Vu was a very different one: a coming-of-age comedy based on my experiences of being an ice-cream man, which I did to help pay for my university studies. I laughed a great deal when I wrote it. I thought it was good. I sent it to agents and publishers, and instead of the form rejections I’d received for Déjà Vu, I got hand-written replies. More than half those agents and publishers enjoyed reading it. However, because of the demands of modern publishing, full lists, and so on, they could not proceed with it.
I wasn’t quite ready to give up. Since 2005, I’ve returned to the manuscript, tweaked the gags, added colour, and generally improved it. I wrote a film script of the story in 2009.
When I first got together with my agent, I sent him the manuscript for Proper Job (along with Déjà Vu and Flashback). I knew that most of the people in the industry who had read the book enjoyed it, so I was more confident in Proper Job finding a publisher than my two science fiction novels.
A year passed, during which Déjà Vu almost, but not quite, got picked up. I asked my agent how he was getting on with Proper Job. He told me he had never received it. This puzzled me because I’d been careful in naming it in the body of the email. Anyway, my heart sank. If I’m honest with myself, this is one of the reasons I thought my agent and I should part ways.
Over the years, whenever I came back to the novel, it sucked me in. It made me laugh. No mean feat when I’ve read some of the gags more than twenty times. Plus, the marketing part of my brain — you know, the bit that never kicks in until I’m months into a project and realise its potential readership is, like, five — that marketing part told me this is the kind of book that anybody might pick up. It won’t elicit prejudice in quite the same way as a science fiction work. It’s a boy-meets-girl comedy set in Cornwall during the eclipse of 1999, that’s all.
Now, of course, I’m in a position to say the hell with it and publish the thing myself on the Kindle.
On Monday of this week, I went to The Grand, a well-preserved Victorian hotel overlooking the Leas in Folkestone. I spent every morning, afternoon and evening working on a final draft. Next week, I’ll send the thing off to my favourite freelance editor, Clare Christian, and get her take.
I’ve just realised that one of the major changes I’ve made in this latest drive is to introduce an element of faith — not religion, exactly, but faith — in the main character. I wonder if this is my unconscious mind telling me to have faith in the story. If so, it needn’t have bothered. I’ve always had faith in it.