Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Howard Jones, Councillor For Leatherhead North, Is At It Again

There have been a number of high profile trolling cases in the media over the last few days. TV presenter Richard Madeley had to contact the police after his wife and daughter were threatened by Twitter trolls following his wife's "controversial" comments on rape during a live TV show.

The trolls came out in force after Judy Finnigan appearing to defend a convicted rapist by saying "the rape was not violent".

And in another high profile case, a troll who was caught attacking the parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann committed suicide, unable to live with the shame of being outed as an internet troll.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, by far the best way of dealing with trolls is to ignore them. Generally they are looking to provoke a reaction, and if the don't get a reaction they'll eventually get bored and turn their attention elsewhere.

The problem is, that doesn't always work. Sometimes they never give up. The question is, what do you do then? I have had a number of trolls over the years and as I don't engage with them, most eventually get bored and move on to other targets.

But some just won't give up. Howard Jones, Conservative Councillor for Leatherhead North, has just tweeted this:

In the Tweet he accuses me of being an Amazon fake reviewer.

That is not true. I don't review many books on Amazon but when I do they are not "fake". And I do not post reviews of my own books.

Maybe he is confused, or maybe he is deliberately lying. I don't know. But the statement he made is a lie. And a lie told in public is a libel. As a barrister he would know that.

His attacks are also highly personal. Here, for instance, he calls me a narcissist and a sociopath. Yet Howard Jones does not know me. He has never spoken to me. He knows nothing about me yet he continues to mount personal attacks against me.

I'm not sure what to do. Howard Jones has made a habit of attacking me in public and generally I have just ignored him. That's the best way of dealing with trolls.  If you get a malicious review, just ignore it. If you get trolled on a forum or a blog, just ignore it. And if a troll vents his spleen on Twitter, just block the person and they won't bother you again.

The big question, though, is how long you have to ignore a troll before they move on and pick on someone else.   Most trolls give up after a few weeks. A few will persevere for a month or two, especially on Twitter because Twitter makes it so easy for trolls. Howard Jones, though, just won't stop. I don't know why he has decided to pick on me, but he clearly won't give up.

I'm not the only one that Howard Jones picks on. Recently he retweeted an allegation about Prince Andrew. I doubt that Howard Jones knows anything about Prince Andrew's private life, but he seemed happy to spread the rumour.

Howard Jones clearly has something against Prince Andrew as he also retweeted the following vile Tweet.

Does Howard Jones expect to follow a political career? Seriously? While Howard Jones has reached the dizzy heights of Mole Valley District Council's Executive Member for Town Centres, I hope that anyone considering Howard Jones for elected office sees the above Tweets and reflects on them.

Clearly Howard Jones has nothing but contempt for the Royal Family. He also seems to take pride in the fact that he never married the mother of his children, which seems strange behaviour for a Conservative elected official.

Here's the thing about Howard Jones. He is a barrister and barristers are governed by the Bar Code of Conduct which requires barristers to be courteous at all times. Clearly in my case he's being far from courteous so maybe I should complain to the Bar Standards Board? Or maybe I should ask the Conservative Central Office if they think he is behaving in a manner befitting an elected official representing the Conservative Party. Or get a lawyer to send him a "cease and desist" letter. Or do I just continue to ignore him? I just don't know. I just wish he would leave me alone.

Recently Howard Jones publicly tweeted another allegation about me, claiming that I was behind a sock puppet account on Twitter.

That is an absolute lie. The account is nothing to do with me. I Tweet through two accounts and both are clearly labelled with my name on the profile page, @stephenleather and @firstparagraph.  Those are the only two accounts I use.  

I don't know why Howard Jones decided to make those allegations in public, but they are lies and I deserve an apology. I doubt I will get one, because Howard Jones has demonstrated an unwillingness to engage with me directly, he prefers to Tweet insults and lies. What should I do? I'm giving the matter some serious thought.


Unbelievable as it may sound, instead of spending Boxing Day with his family, Howard Jones was on Twitter continuing to libel me.

He started off by calling me a narcissist, a sociopath and a bully. I don't think I'm any of those things. I'm certainly not a narcissist, I hate seeing my photograph and am able to see all my own faults to the nth degree. A sociopath maybe, but then a lot of successful people have sociopathic tendencies. The tricks to keep them under control.  A bully?  I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that I don't think I am a bully. I don't recall ever attacking anyone unless I was attacked first. I will always defend my corner but I can't think of any occasion when I have gone on the attack without me being wronged first.

Name-calling is the norm on Twitter but Howard Jones crossed the line again with his next Tweets.

In them he accuses me of using sock puppet accounts to post bad reviews of rival authors. I have never done that. And why would I? Posting a bad review of a rival author (and that's in itself nonsense, authors are not rivals) doesn't help sell my books. And almost certainly wouldn't hurt that author's sales. It could be that Howard Jones is confusing me with another author outed by the Jeremy Duns he refers to. But he is quite wrong to make that accusation about me.

But his most damaging allegation is that I have fabricated bogus solicitors letters. I have never, ever, done that. I have no idea why Howard Jones has made that accusation. I do wonder why a barrister, albeit non-practising, is prepared to tell so many lies about me in public. It's all very worrying.

And I'm not the only one to have noticed that Howard Jones behaves badly on Twitter. READ THIS TO SEE HOW HE USED THE MURDER OF MP JOE COX TO SMEAR LABOUR SUPPORTERS. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pricing - the $3.99 Sweet Spot

Some fascinating information from Mark Coker at Smashwords here -   CLICK FOR SMASHWORDS SURVEY

I'm a huge fan of Smashwords and have been since they started.  Smashwords probably accounts for 15 per cent of my self-published eBook sales at the moment, and that percentage is growing.

In the survey Mark talks about pricing, which is one of the main marketing tools open to a self-published writer.  Mark sees $3.99 as the sweet spot, i.e. where earnings are maximised.

It certainly seems to me that the rush to buy cheap books - 99 cents to $2.99 - is over. Buyers now realise that most low-priced books simply aren't good.

I'm still trying to work out the sweet spot for my books. I recently raised the price of several of my books from $4.99 to $5.99 and sales pretty much halved overnight. I put them back to $4.99 and sales recovered almost immediately.  I'm now wondering if I drop the price further - to $3.99 - will earnings rise?  Watch this space!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Free eBooks Website

I don't know any writer who has given away more stories than me. Long before eBooks I used to give away free PDFs of my book Private Dancer - more than 40,000 copies in all.  I believed that the free copies would expand my readership base, and I'm sure that is true.  And I've met a lot of readers who have told me that they went on to buy a copy of the paperback after they had read the PDF, either to reread themselves or to give to friends.

Once eBooks took off, I realised that free stories were the best way of attracting new readers. It's a win-win situation all around. Readers get free books that they can just throw away if they don't like them. I get to show my work to a potential new reader. The cost to me is minimal. The cost to the reader is zero. To date I have given away more than half a million stories.

At present I have six books for free on Amazon and on all other retailers through Smashwords. Two of them - Short Fuses and More Short Fuses - are collections of short stories and tasters of other Stephen Leather best-sellers.  Blood Bath is a collection of Jack Nightingale short stories all using that title and based on the cover. Contributors include my fellow Hodder and Stoughton author Matt Hilton.  One of the free stories is an Inspector Zhang locked room mystery, and I'm also giving away a free Thailand story, Banging Bill's Wife. And finally I'm giving away the first in the Spider Shepherd SAS short stories.

I have just put all the free eBooks together on a new website, designed by my friends at WHITE WAVE WEB SOLUTIONS.

You can visit the new Free eBooks website BY CLICKING HERE

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Power Of Amazon

How cool is this? Today I am the third most popular horror author in the US - behind the amazing Blake Crouch and the even more amazing Stephen King. I'm not worthy.

It's all down to promotion by Amazon on their US and Canadian sites.

I've been a huge KDP fan ever since it started, and am hugely grateful for the way KDP and Amazon have boosted my sales over the past three years.

As well as self-publishing several books through KDP, I gave two of my books - Once Bitten and The Basement - to Amazon to publish through their Thomas and Mercer imprint.

That was three years ago, and yesterday - yes, yesterday - Once Bitten was in the US Kindle Top 100. How cool is that? It's nothing to do with me, it was simply that Amazon decided to promote the book. And wow, does their promotion produce results!

Within hours of Amazon starting their promotion, Once Bitten was in the US Top 20 chart. As of today, it's just outside the Top 100. And it's the top selling vampire book which is way cool when you consider what the competition is. 

The book is even higher in the Canadian charts! Number 73 as we speak, though it was higher!

Publishing is a funny old game. One of the things I've learned over the last twenty years as a published author is that the difference between an author who sells just a few books and an author who sells a ton of books is promotion, pure and simple. And no one does promotion better than Amazon!

If you are a self-publisher, Amazon is the best place to be. Yes, I would recommend using other platforms - I am a big fan of Smashwords - but Amazon is the gorilla in the room and you would be crazy to ignore them.

Not that there aren't crazy people out there. Self-styled self-publishing guru Suw Charman-Anderson for instance, hates Amazon with a vengeance. She claims to be a social technologist, journalist and writer, but she refuses to use Amazon.

It's crazy advice, frankly, from someone who clearly doesn't "get" self-publishing.

In fact Suw Charman-Anderson recently announced she was giving up self-publishing. You can read about that HERE

It's hardly surprising that her foray into self-publishing was so unsuccessful - ignoring Amazon makes no sense at all. And anyone who suggests that is really not giving sensible advice to aspiring writers. (I also think that a real journalist wouldn't feel the need to use the word "shit" in an article about self-publishing, but that's another story.)

Here's an example of Suw Charman-Anderson's writing - which pretty much says all there is to say about her, frankly.

She also touts herself as a social media "expert" but seems to think it acceptable to use profanity on Twitter, and her blog. That fact alone means any advice she offers about social media is suspect.

But look at her Twitter stats if you want to get an idea of how much of an expert Suw Charman-Anderson is on social media.  Last time I looked she had sent almost 80,000 tweets (the equivalent of two million words, by the way - more than 20 novels!) but despite that prodigious output she had fewer than 6,000 followers. So she tweets away but hardly anyone notices. Does having 6,000 followers quality her as any sort of expert on social media?

Not according to TwitterCounter who say that there are more than 100,000 Twitter accounts that are more popular than Suw Charman-Anderson. So presumably there are 100,000 people who know more about social media than she does.

So the question is, who can you depend on to offer up useful, and accurate, advice to writers who are just starting out? Not writers like Suw Charman-Anderson, that's for sure.

It seems to me that the best guide to the quality of the advice you will get comes from the number of books the person has sold. Not the number of books they have written because there are plenty of awful authors who are churning out rubbish books in huge numbers. Look to see how many books they have sold.  Suw Charman-Anderson - virtually none.  So look instead for advice from writers like Stephen King, Lee Child, Val McDermid and Jefferey Deaver, who sell in their millions.

And if you want advice from a self-publishing guru - a real self-publishing guru and not simply a wannabe - then go to the font of all knowledge, the awesome JA Konrath who has sold well over a million eBooks himself. YOU CAN READ JA KONRATH'S ADVICE BY CLICKING HERE