Monday, 4 September 2017

The Most Prolific Writers Ever and How They Did It

I'm back from my regular research trip to Oxford and am now hard at work here in Madrid. One of the projects I've been working on is a nonfiction work titled Writing Secrets of the World's Most Prolific Authors. There are lots of books on increasing your word count, but none, as far as I know, focus on the actual methods of the amazing writers who manage to pen hundreds of books and thousands of articles.

I’m focusing on writers who have written at least 300 books and left behind plenty of information on their work methods. Also, they must be dead so I can look at their careers as a whole, they must have been active in the 20th century so their work is more applicable to the modern era, and they must have written in either English or Spanish so I can read their stuff. At the moment I have the following list: Isaac Asimov, Walter Brown Gibson, Corín Tellado, Marcial Lafuente Estefanía, Lauran Bosworth Paine, Ursula Bloom, Enid Mary Blyton, Barbara Cartland, Frederick Faust, and John Creasey. Other writers who have something worth quoting are given passing mention.

One interesting bit of advice comes from David Graham Phillips, who at the beginning of the 20th century worked as a journalist, pumping out hundreds if not thousands of articles. At night he wrote bestselling novels and short stories. He said of his method:

"I write every night, from about eleven until about four or five or six in the morning. Sometimes seven or eight. . .Let me urge you to work the same hours every day and never, never, never to let anything or anyone interfere between you and working at those hours. I write every night--seven days a week. I don't wait for mood or inspiration, and I don't give up because I don't begin right or am writing rubbish. I think it's fatal to give way to moods. And I'm not a bit afraid to throw away everything I've written, or to edit my stuff to the bone."

Can you think of any authors I should add? Can you suggest any good source material? This book will take a lot of research so it's going by fits and starts. I had a burst of writing when I first came up with the topic and searched through my personal library. Then I had another burst of productivity at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. I bought some reference materials I'll be using for the next month. Then I might have to wait until I get back to the Bodleian before I can do another round of intense research. So unlike most of my books, I can't say when I'll be done.

You can read more about the project and these incredible writers in an article I wrote for Black Gate.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Military History Photo Friday: World War One Medals and Mementoes

Hello from Oxford! I'm here for my usual research trip, and as a matter of fact this is my tenth year. It's been a rainy summer so I haven't gotten to explore much of the countryside like I usually do. Luckily last weekend the clouds cleared and my family and I went on a hike to visit Minster Lovell, a fine old ruin of a medieval manor. Follow the link for an article I did on it.

We set out from the small town of Whitney, which has a fine little local history museum. Here are a couple of shots from the World War One section. I've always enjoyed small-town museums since the collection comes from old neighbors instead of some rich patron. I wonder who donated these?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Blurb and Cover Help Please!

My brother-in-law is designing the cover for my next book, a historical adventure/mystery. Which of these do you prefer?

I'm also working on the tagline and blurb, to be submitted to the Kindle Scout Program. The tagline can be no more than 45 characters, while the blurb can be no more than 500. Here's what I have so far:

An ancient mystery, a modern murder.

Sir Augustus Wall, a horribly mutilated veteran of the Great War, has left Europe behind to open an antiquities shop in Cairo. But Europe's troubles follow him as a priceless inscription is stolen and those who know its secrets start turning up dead. Teaming up with Egyptology expert Moustafa Ghani, and Faisal, a street urchin who knows all the city's hidden places, Sir Wall must unravel an ancient secret, and face his own dark past.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Results of an Amazon Ebook Giveaway

As I mentioned in my last post, last week I had a giveaway for my ebook Warpath into Sonora, a Western from the Apache point of view. This book came out last September and while it moved a couple of hundred units in its first two months, after that sales plummeted. It seemed that no one was much interested in Westerns. Sales got so bad that novellas I wrote five years ago were outselling it.

I decided to do one of Amazon's five-day giveaways to try to drum up some readership. I took an ad out on the Fussy Librarian's newsletter for free ebooks, which set me back five bucks. The ad went live on Thursday, July 27, the first day of the giveaway. Here are the numbers, broken down by country:

Thursday, July 27: US (296) UK (10) Germany (1) Total: 307

Friday, July 28: US (281) UK (4) Canada (4) Australia (1) Total: 290

Saturday, July 29: US (49) UK (3) Australia (5) Total: 57

Sunday, July 30: US (46) UK (3) Australia (1) Total: 50

Monday, July 31: US (41) UK (3) Canada (1) Total: 45

Grand Total by Country:  US (713) UK (23) Canada (5) Australia (7) Germany (1)

Grand Total: 749

What's most apparent is the big jump the newsletter gave me. It put Warpath into Sonora into the top five in free Native American (at times it was number one) and top 20 in free Western, where it remained for the rest of the giveaway. This, of course, added visibility and led to more downloads after the initial rush from the newsletter faded. I'll be using Fussy Librarian again.

One thing that annoyed me about those lists were the number of off-topic titles. In Native American, the Collected Stories of Conan vied for position with my book. The Western section was dominated by Western Romance, which is a different category. For a time there was also a romance featuring a muscular fellow with a kilt on the cover. I didn't realize my Scottish ancestors were actually Native American! 

What is also noticeable is the weak showing in the UK and other countries, lower than giveaways and discounts and even my regular full price sales figures. Generally the UK makes up about 10 percent of my overall sales, with the rest of the world being another five percent. This was not the case with this title.

So was the $5 expenditure worth it to give away so many books? I would say yes. First off, it got my book (and ads for my other books) in front of 749 sets of eyeballs. Also, it put my book into the Amazon algorithms so that it would show up in the "customers also bought" section. Since my sales had faded so many months ago, I was slipping out of that.

There was also an unforseen benefit. My Kindle Lending Library units went way up for that title, from almost nothing to the low hundreds of pages in the last couple of days of the giveaway and from then on. I suppose this was because people on Kindle Prime saw it and downloaded it. With these customers, while they get it for free like the regular customers who donated it, I get paid for page views. My ad has already paid for itself in real dollar terms. 

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Free Summer Reading: A Western from the Apache Point of View

My Western novel, Warpath into Sonora is free through Monday. A blurb is below:

Arizona 1846
Nantan, a young Apache warrior, is building a name for himself by leading raids against Mexican ranches to impress his war chief, and the chief’s lovely daughter.
But there is one thing he and all other Apaches fear—a ruthless band of Mexican scalp hunters who slaughter entire villages.
Nantan and his friends have sworn to fight back, but they are inexperienced, and led by a war chief driven mad with a thirst for revenge. Can they track their tribe’s worst enemy into unknown territory and defeat them?

You can get it on Amazon, Amazon UK, and all the other Amazons. Enjoy!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Military History Photo Friday: The Screw Picket, A Simple Yet Brilliant Invention of World War One

In war, sometimes it's the little details that make the difference between life and death. In the early part of the war, when both sides started sneaking into No Man's Land at night to string barbed wire to protect their trenches, the Allies couldn't figure out how the Germans were doing it so quietly. The British and French wiring parties would often attract unwanted attention while hammering in the pickets to hold the barbed wire. Although they used padded mallets and put more padding on the tops of the pickets, they couldn't help but make some noise, and the alert Germans would hear it, send up a flare, and spot them. You can imagine what happened next.

Then, on 15 August 1915, the Indian Corps discovered the secret. The Germans used a different type of picket to suspend barbed wire. Called a "screw picket", it had a corkscrew on the bottom and an eye at the top through which to stick a bayonet or entrenching tool. Then all the soldier had to do was twist and screw the picket into the soil. This was much quieter than hammering, and once the Allies learned the trick they saved many lives.

The above photo, courtesy Wikimedia Commons, shows a British wiring party moving forward. Since it's daytime, this is either staged or in a rear area. You can clearly see the corkscrew on the bottom and the eye on the top.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Leaving for Oxford

It's time for our biannual research trip to Oxford! We're there every Easter and summer. As usual I'll be researching in the Bodleian Library, one of the greatest libraries in the world, and doing a variety of freelance projects as well as my own stuff. I'm planning a few trips to London and the countryside, so there should be some nice pics coming up here and on my Instagram account.

And just a reminder, my post-apocalyptic novel Radio Hope is still just 99 cents through July 19 on all the Amazons!
Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.