Iain Charles

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I have never not written. My claims to fame and failures?  Wrote a daily diary for 17 years, starting at the very same age as Adrian Mole. But mine was real. Not good at all. Just real.  

Wrote comedy sketches from the age of 8. Had my one and only play rejected by kids TV when I was ten. Right decision, it was purile.

Had groan-up meetings with the BBC where they sent me packing with the words 'no one wants to watch a sitcom set in an office. Go away and re-write it in a family setting.' Their loss.

2nd prize in a Guardian NewspaperTravel Writers' Cliché Competition. That one was a goody, as I didn't want the first prize, and the third prize was table mats. I got cash. Yay!

But all that was a long time ago. Now I am serious about writing serious.

I like to travel. No, I mean REALLY travel. Tripadvisor keep emailing to tell me that with just one more hotel review I will be in the top 1% of people in our town who are nerdy enough to care enough about writing Tripadvisor reviews. That makes me nervous. I don't want people pointing at me in the street shouting "that's him, the one who said that the noodles in Mrs Yang's Guest House in Shanghai were a bit salty." (I'm trying to be inclusive here with that last example, but it's  blatantly untrue. I actually stayed in the Sofitel which was marvellous. Being a French hotel they have great cakes. Full of yummy gluten. I recommend it.)

I like the bustle of airports and sitting on planes talking to strangers. 

My debut novel, 'Taken Flight', contains an airplane. It gets lost. So do the people who are sitting on it (they kinda had no choice).  After five months the modest sales have tailed off. I have learned the truth of self-publishing - 'If you do nothing, they do not come.'

Novel number two is now being buffeted along by the jetstream of lockdown. I wish the same thing would happen to the sales of 'Taken Flight'.

Update: Dec 2020. I managed to snag a Bookbub 'Featured Deal' for my novel and it shifted 900 copies in 5 days. Even made a brief #1 in Amazon category 'international crime & mystery'...(OK, confess that was only in Australia!)

Iain Charles Discussions
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Has anyone else had a go at self-producing their work as an audio book and would like to share their…
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  •  · I have no idea about all the gigamegs hertzbits stuff but I am just blindly following various bits o…
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So I joined this Facebook Group -20BooksTo50K  - mainly US based, and built around the idea that you…
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  •  · I'm so glad you've raised this topic as it's something I have been interested in and astounded by, e…
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Hope this feedback is useful to some.My book has been out for almost a year now, and enjoyed very mo…
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  •  · From what I gather, a paid ad on Bookbub can be marginal. It is the 'Feature Deal' that really pulls…
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I got bored playing with Canva. Any votes for my next writing project?
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  •  · 😂 love the kidnapping for beginners!!
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Sarah, you asked about self pub book pricing. Here is my take.I decided not to publish at 99p.There …
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  •  · You make a good point, Iain. Best of luck with your sales! :-)
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If you have already self-published does this jeopardise the chances of an agent picking up the same …
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  •  · I’m just back from the Winchester Writers Festival where a publisher told us he publishes the print …
Added a comment to Synopsis 

I think you need to distinguish between a) telling about the story  and b) telling the story
A synopsis is a)!

This is a) - Andrew Kendal is found floating in the canal behind his home.

But this is b)
Elizabeth Kendal, a key suspect in her husband’s murdered, stares dry eyed at O’Brien,

And right now the gut was convincing him that although she was a bit strange, Elizabeth Kendal was not a murderer.

Just before he started the short walk to her home, Elizabeth called frantically telling him to stay away.

Hope that is a useful guide.

I look at it as a numbers game. My understanding is that a good agent will get several thousand (yes, THOUSAND, not hundred) manuscripts per year, of which they will take on, at most, a handful (count your fingers!).  If I was 25 years old and was prepared to wait a decade or so then I might try the trad approach more seriously. I have approached a mere pinprick of agents, less than 20, but in the meantime I have a self published book that has sold a few hundred copies. I am happy with that.  I'm lucky enough not to have to write to pay the rent, so for me the balance is right.

Sorry for the delay in reply. My motivation is simple – every time I stay in the cinema at the end of a film and watch the credits I’m thinking ‘seriously, it takes THAT many people to produce a movie?’. Literally, thousands!  I recently finished reading what I considered to be a pretty average debut novel in the same genre as my own and I’m not kidding the author must have thanked  more than 50 people who helped in the process of producing the book. That’s 50 people who presumably all get a salary.
OK, I know many of them will be very good at what they do and will be better than I am at their little piece of the pie.
The only person I have paid in the whole process was my Jericho editor who was brilliant.
I’m sure trad published would have produced better results, but I am just not prepared to spend the next several years wading through rejections, or more likely non-replies from agents. I understand that a good agent will get several thousand submissions annually, from which they might succeed in getting a handful published.

Now, to answer your questions.

Canva. I have absolutely no eye for design, colour or layout. I was 2nd bottom of my art class back in school days and the poor fellow who was below me is now a prominent national politician!
I used Canva because even with the free version I found it relatively easy to move things around and get what I wanted. Some difficulty in selecting a background image, as the one I eventually settled on was in their magazine layout section and not in book covers. After my first tranche of sales, I changed the cover completely to better reflect the genre. That was done in an hour.

 Bookbub Featured Deals. These are apparently hard to land, but I managed it at the second attempt. The person there who helped me through the process of determining pricing etc was very supportive. I went for pricing @ 99p and only distributed internationally, which means excluding USA (too expensive). If you look at their site they show an estimate of how many copies you can expect to sell for different genres. However, the averages they show are just that, and as such the distribution curve will skew towards the lowest price. Hence my decision to go in at 99p. My sales result was almost 50% above their estimate.

Hope that is of some help.

I would be interested to read a snippet to understand the style. I am always intrigued when a book is described as witty or humourous as this covers such a wide range from mildly sarcastic to off the wall crazy.
I finished writing a comedy spy novel some years ago and put it away in a USB. Upon dipping in to re-read a few bits I know that in the current climate I would need to 'curb my enthusiasm' for some of the stuff that is sadly frowned upon these days.

I have no idea about all the gigamegs hertzbits stuff but I am just blindly following various bits of advice I have found online. 44100 bps is the rate required by Audible.
Although I can do a range of accents, apart from my own (British), my main characters are a mix of Asian and Australian so I don't attempt those. Some of the dialogue is delivered via phone conversations and some of it is bad guys shouting at good guys so I use a bit of tonal difference for these exchanges.
I find unless you are a professional mimic or voice actor, attempts at accent will always come unstuck when heard by a native speaker.

Thanks, RIck, Baz and Jon. After much Googling and Youtube watching here, for your delight and critique,  is what I have learned and what I do for the production process.

1. Record in a top floor bedroom with the thick curtains closed.
 2. Use a Blue Yeti X condenser microphone connected to my Lenovo Yoga laptop, via Logitech G Hub with ‘warm vintage’ voice setting. The mic is strongly directional and the laptop fan can only be heard by neighbourhood dogs

3. Whenever I make a mistake I just repeat and then edit it out later

4. Then jump into Audacity and export the file as a mono WAV file set at 44100 Hz

5. Run that through an app called Levelator

6. Import back into Audacity and run it through various effects – RMS Normalize, Noise Gate and Limiter

7. Import snippets of music, written and performed by a talented friend. Use that as fade in background to my Chapter announcement then fade out to narration start.(4-8 seconds). Also fade out 3-5 seconds at Chapter end

8. Ensure there is 0.5-1.0 seconds gap of room noise intro and 1.0-5.0 seconds room noise gap at the end

9. Analyze the whole thing against a brilliant little app called ACX Check, which does what it says on the tin. It checks that the Peak Level, the RMS Level and the Noise Floor will satisfy the stringent requirements for Amazon Audible.

 10. Save as MP3 Chapter file

Glad you asked?


I self published my debut novel in 2019. After paying Jericho Writers for  editing (best money I ever spent!) the cost thereafter was virtually nil.
I did the cover design on Canva. I later changed it after the first couple of months.
Got to grips with KDP where the biggest hurdle was figuring out the print layout. But the great thing is, you can have a go, get a print proof within a few days and then refine. My first attempt was terrible – the page layout and text justification was all over the place and I had forgotten to include page numbers! But, hey, that only cost me about 5 quid. After two more attempts I got it ready to roll.
By comparison to print, the e-book production is easy-peasy.
I tried a bit of advertising here and there – the usual Facebook, Amazon etc.
By far the best marketing was being lucky enough to land a Bookbub feature deal at the second attempt. Other than that, seeding the book in various appropriate special-interest Facebook and Linkedin groups produced a trickle, at zero cost.
There’s lots more to it than that, but go ahead and ask if there is something you want to know.

Added a forum 

Has anyone else had a go at self-producing their work as an audio book and would like to share their experience?
I am in the process of trying this with my debut novel self-published in 2019. With the help of a Bookbub promotion it sold just over 1,000 copies, mainly Kindle but is now languishing as I have not done any marketing for a while.
I have no great expectations of audio but I'm enjoying the challenge of self-narration and production. My take is that each finished hour will have taken about 5 hours of creation ,broken down as around 2 hours for narration and editing and 3 hours of production and mastering.
It's a lot of fun, and along the way I've learned a lot about the original editing, and the differences between written and spoken dialogue. In a scene with just two characters it becomes quite clear on the page which one is speaking each segment. But in narration (if you are not doing funny voices) you need more 'she said' and 'Fred replied', etc. I've also learned more about decibels, Mz, and Bps than I care to share.
Biggest eye opener has been that originally I had no chapter 30, and two chapters numbered 75. And not one of the original 1,000 readers appear to have noticed, or at least commented on it!

I think it's called Google. Start there!

Added a forum 

So I joined this Facebook Group -20BooksTo50K  - mainly US based, and built around the idea that you can fairly quickly produce 20 books, probably in a series, and by then you will have made 50K (dollars, I presume).

Leaving aside the money bit, there is a lot of discussion about how to set up a writing schedule with a target for a set number of words per week. Now, I'm not kidding, but there are people in the group talking about writing thousands of word per day, adding up to tens of thousands of words per week. The most prolific claims to produce 50,000 words per week. Another claims an output of 40 (yes, four zero!) books per year.
I have had a 'look inside' on Amazon at some of their output and most the writing is reasonably competent, if somewhat unexciting. Most of it is in the Dystopian/SciFi/Romance/Dragons and Witches genres.

As someone who took 3 years to write a book that sold 1,000 copies in year 4,  I have been accused of being prejudiced in the group when I have gently hinted my incredulity at the whole thing. Is it just me?  Look, I'm going to say it out loud. Don't you think most of it is probably complete crap? Hush my mouth and thanks for listening!

Added a forum 

Hope this feedback is useful to some.

My book has been out for almost a year now, and enjoyed very modest sales.
Not surprisingly, when I do nothing to promote it....zero sales.

What did not work?
Amazon ads. Facebook ads. Yes, I got click throughs, but virtually no sales

What kind of worked?
As the aviation industry is integral to the plot I posted in lots of Linkedin Groups associated with airline people. That is free, and some of the groups are huge. A trickle of sales.

What worked?
Bookbub featured deal.
Pow!! Was lucky enough to snag one of these at my second attempt and the email went out yesterday.
In 24hrs I have sold hundreds. Yay! OK, only £0.99, but still SOLD, not given away free.
And a few moments basking in the glory of cracking the Kindle charts.

(No need to tell me about the missing apostrophe in the title. :( )


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