Writing Update 2019 week 13 & 14

Mike GristMarketing, Soul Jacker, Weekly Writing Update Leave a Comment

It’s been an overwhelming week with the launch of Soul Jacker. I’ve sold more books faster than ever before, got influencer testimonials like never before, and heard back from readers like never before.

  • Yesterday I hit 1,000 sales
  • 2 major influencer plus 2 medium influencer testimonials
  • Reports from all readers that they couldn’t put the book down


I looked back at my track record to get some sense of perspective here – The Saint’s Rise, which was my next most successful launch and itself also a relaunch of an earlier title, sold 800 books in the first 4 weeks. Some 500 of those were at 99c when I was pushing it hard, and the next 300 came at full price of $4.99.

I lost money in the first week’s promo. By 4 weeks, with some 100,000 page reads on top, I’d made my best profit yet. Along the way I got the attention of Amazon and they kept the book selling, I presume with recommendation emails to their hordes of shoppers. I ‘tickled the algorithm’.

Have I achieved that this time? Only time will tell. I have sold 1,050 copies at 99c in the first week, holding bestseller ranks on both the US and UK store in various categories the whole time. Page reads are minimal thus far.

I spent a whopping $1700 to achieve this. $400 on a Bookbub New Release ad which brought in maybe 300 sales over 2/3 days, $1000 on Facebook ads which brought in another 300, $200 on Bookbub ads which brought in none (grrr…), and the rest on promo emails that brought the remainder.

It’s a long way to go into the red – but then this is the launch of a fast-release trilogy, and it needs to be as big as I can make it. I’m actually all out of budget now, so have dialled all ads down and am hopeful Amazon recommendation emails will start firing out today or tomorrow. Either way, I’m confident enough people will read and enjoy this book then go on to buy books 2 and 3 to push me into profit.

And if Amazon does recommend it? The sky is the limit, really.


I never thought I’d get anything, when a few months back I sent out requests to fellow authors, some major and some medium, to take a look at my book and offer a blurb. I was amazed as several responded.

  • Pat Mills, creator of legendary British SF comic 2000AD which featured Judge Dredd, called Soul Jacker ‘Superb, a Fantastic Voyage into the Soul.’
  • Michael Marshall Smith, bestselling SF author of ‘Only Forward’ said ‘MJG proves that cyberpunk is alive and kicking.’
  • Leland Lydecker, author of ‘Necrotic City’ called it ‘one of the most unusual and thought-provoking cyberpunk novels out there.’
  • Cameron Coral, author of ‘Altered’, called it ‘Mind-bending cyberpunk. An incredible start to a new series.’

That’s pretty phenomenal, considering I’ve never had a testimonial before. 4 at once! And all for this book which has only ever sputtered like a damp firework in 5 years of attempts to market it.

Why the change? I think it comes down to the changes to the book and marketing package I made, which in turn come down to the ways I’ve learned to see a book from the readers’ perspective.


Readers have said they’re loving it. They can’t put it down. Before, people did not say that about this book – praise was qualified by how confusing the book was, how difficult the concepts were to follow, how it dragged in places.

I think I’ve been looking at story and narrative in a cleaner way recently, probably since writing my thrillers. I read my own work with a view to what readers will think as they read it. Will they get this? Will they put up with this much exposition on the route to something exciting?

Many of my early books I wrote with only myself in mind. I can’t get upset about this – it was the only way I knew how to write. I just wrote. I didn’t know what would go over well or not. Now I’ve got a feeling. When I edit, I can feel for the first time where the reader will start to switch off – and I know what to do to fix it.

Usually it’s cut and simplify. Align the words on the page with forward movement along the line of narrative thrust. Make it exciting, not interesting. Concepts get a few lines of explanation and that’s all. They can’t stack on top of each other – they have to come interspersed with movement.

Beyond that – it’s not enough that readers get through the book and feel satisfied. I think all my books do that – there’s plenty to fill up the reader’s brain. Too much. I need them lean and mean and wanting more. They don’t just find the book interesting, they really enjoy it. It’s an experience they want more of.

I think I’m getting better at delivering that. That’s exciting. Craft is what it all comes down to, really, though marketing is essential. I always want to make the best book I can. Fingers crossed not only Amazon will start sending out recommendations soon, but also readers will do the same, letting their friends know about this new book they read called Soul Jacker.

Time will tell. I’ll be here with the report when it does.

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