Summer Reading

Running out of ‘Free Book’ titles here…

This morning, as I draft this, it is raining, for the first time in weeks.* Everything is cool and crisp, the air fresh and clear. It is a joy to feel rain like this, and something I do not ever take for granted, despite a damp Scottish upbringing. I know that in the weeks and months ahead, here in Alentejo, the rain will be rare and welcomed even more than today.

When we lived in Thailand, each rainfall — from late October onward — began to take on special significance; would this downpour be the last before the long months of the dry season? Or would there be one tomorrow, or in a week? I feel a similarity here, today, but I also know that this location, so close to damp Atlantic winds, will not be the same as northern Thailand, the air will stay fresh, any pollution blown away. The air here in this corner of Portugal is exceptionally clean and clear, and a big reason why we chose this as our home after Chiang Mai. Whether there will be months of drought, without any rain, remains to be seen. After the extensive wildfires in 2018, just south of here, I hope not.


During June, my twist on the standard fantasy quest trope, Only One Death, is a part of a free book group promotion on Book Cave. If fantasy tales are not your thing, or you have already downloaded the book, there are over fifty other free books in this promotion to choose from.

Unlike in May, when the book was a part of the fantasy/sci-fi promotion, Brave New Worlds, this promotion is entitled Summer Book Bash and contains a much wider range of genres; there is undoubtedly something there to entice and enthrall. Each and every one free. (And don’t forget, if you download Only One Death, there’s also a link to another free story.)

If that wasn’t enough, there is also the chance to win a $25 voucher to the ebook retailer of your choice.

Have a look, it’s definitely worth a moment or two of your time.

But was May’s promotion worth it for me? Read on to find out.

Yes, of course it was worth it (sorry for the quasi-clickbait line there) — it was free, after all! All I needed to do was promote the promotion, here in my newsletter and on my social media feeds, such as twitter and instagram. Not exactly asking a lot, is it?

The goal of this promotion is essentially to gain new subscribers to my newsletter via sharing my free book and, in this, it definitely succeeded. This newsletter is still relatively new and I have done precious little to promote it thus far, beyond the odd tweet and mention in emails. I have yet to even build a page discussing this on my website.

As such, from February to the beginning of May, my subscriber list stayed a constant thirty-two. Not exactly a huge figure, but a decent start. I’m not one to get upset about having to start with small numbers, there is no point — I’d rather build up and curate something which has an interested, engaged base, than simply go for quantity over quality (if you are reading this now, you qualify as quality, which is a lot of Qs).

I’ve done this before, with twitter (more than once), with a website (twice), with tumblr (several times) and old blogs (a-plenty). Start small, write and share, build up the readership. It is the same with the stories I’ve published this year — as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a plan, and the plan is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s all about strong foundations. And strong foundations require a lot of hard work, which takes time.

It is also important to note that I think those who signed up for this newsletter through the promotion are receiving a fantastic product. I do not send out spam, quality, remember?

Back in April, Substack announced they were offering grants to those who use the platform, to help cover earnings lost through Covid-19. I applied, but was unsuccessful. It would have been nice to have got something, as I fall between the cracks when it comes to funding and help available. I may be British, but I don’t live there, so many of the schemes and grants others could apply for are out of bounds.

However, what the process of applying for this grant did do, is to make me think hard about what exactly it is I share here. What is this space for? Why write this newsletter at all? Who does it appeal to? What am I doing? Asking these questions of myself made me realise I should try and push beyond my customary hesitance and mildly British embarrassment at self-promotion. Hence the Book Cave promotion (as a start). I’ll discuss some of my other thoughts on this point in the near future.

Here’s a snip of the subscriber graph for this newsletter, which is pretty self-explanatory. I started May with those thirty-two readers and ended it with eighty-one. In the few days I’ve been a part of the Summer Book Bash promotion, I’ve added even more subscribers, to the point where the day of drafting this message (the 4th of June) I passed the magical one hundred mark, a milestone of sorts but, honestly, I had set ninety-six (3 x 32) as my target.

Am I happy? Yes, I really am. As you can see from the graph, some of the people who signed up unsubscribed, most of them after my last newsletter went out. This is fine — you can always unsubscribe, whenever you wish. There should always be a link in every email for you to do so — I really don’t want anyone to be here who does not want to be. As I mentioned, I think this is a good (free) product, but that does not mean it will please everyone, which is a vastly important, crucial point, for ALL writers — you can never make everyone happy.

Likewise, I never really get upset about the open rate of this newsletter for the same reason, this is not about forcing anyone to read something they do not wish to do so. This lesson applies to so many things in life. And, besides, any newsletter I personally subscribe to will not see me opening it as I employ a tracker blocker in my inbox (and I also save up newsletters to read in a glut) — so who am I to complain or worry? When I get rare feedback on this newsletter (usually via twitter), it is always positive, which is a true delight.

I know I still have a long way to go when it comes to pushing past my inbuilt sense that I am somehow bothering people with each newsletter, or tweet, or even book release. But I am slowly getting there.

In a future message, I will talk about other facts and figures, especially those relating to the novellas — download rates and money-earned, for example. It has been interesting, tracking these (actually, I should confess that it is Aurélie who has put together and kept a spreadsheet to do this), and seeing the numbers. All things start small, remember?

I shall leave this here and send it. There will be at least one more newsletter this month, the “normal” one, and perhaps another before this, to help promote the Bookcave offer. Do have a peek.

*As I edit, a day later, it is sunny again, with the vast black clouds which this morning promised a potential downpour simply vanishing. The wind is still fresh, the air clear and the birds are furiously going about the process of feeding their next generation.

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