There has been a great deal of discussion about the wisdom (and benefits) of offering books for free on Amazon (or elsewhere, for that matter). Some believe it undermines the value of authors' books while others continue to see it as the only way to spread the word to a large number of readers, who will then, hopefully return for more and buy other works by the same author.
I am inclined to subscribe to the latter reasoning, which is why I am running a promotion this week.
'One Summer in France' is the prequel to 'Bunny on a Bike', which has been in the Amazon best sellers list. I wrote 'Bunny on a Bike' first, after a friend suggested that people might want to read about the 'inside story' of a Playboy croupier. Judging by the reviews I have received, some people have found it entertaining and have even bought the prequel, which follows the same characters (Bev and Carol) on a three-month study leave from University in the South of France.
If you bought either of my books, I thank you. If you would like to download a free copy of 'One Summer in France', please do. I hope you will enjoy it and leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, which will help my writing reach a wider audience.
This is my third promotion in a one-year period. The other two were for 'My Grandfather's Eyes' and 'Bunny on a Bike'. These two books have definitely sold many more copies than my other two books (which have never been promoted). I think of a free promotion as a 'kick start' strategy to increase the visibility of my writing. And, crucially, to gain new readers. I love writing, but I also love to be read. To get a response is an added thrill.
So, 'One Summer in France' is free for three days. What's it like? Here's a sample and I hope it makes you laugh:
We chose our spot, mid-distance between the sea and the dunes, and installed ourselves as always, first laying out our towels and then wriggling out of our bikinis, before sitting up to survey the rest of the people sharing our beach. We analysed tans and chose our own as the best, assessed cellulite and decided that we had none, looked for good-looking men and always found something to put us off each one. And all the time there was the shushing of the sea and the view of the mountains, the softness of the air, with its refreshing ozone, the smell of our recently purchased Ambre Solaire and the knowledge that we had found our way to a paradise that would soon be just a memory.
But we could not be sad. We did not dwell on the past or the future. The present was all consuming and we digested it with relish.
‘That bloke’s gorgeous,’ said Carol.
By the time she had added, ‘Don’t look now!’ it was too late.
‘Not bad,’ I agreed, dazzled by the smile he was killing us with.
‘You silly tart! He’s coming over…’
We hurriedly did our best to hide our bits as best we could, which, when you have no clothes on, is quite difficult.
The man was more of a boy, probably in his early twenties, with blond hair and not a sign on any inhibitions. He crouched in front of us and I knew that Carol was trying just as hard as I was to avoid looking at anything other than his face. Every time he moved, I was unavoidably aware of a delicate swinging, which rang a bell inside my head and started up an awful and unexpectedly retro rendition of My Ding-A-Ling by Chuck Berry.
His name was Sven and he was Swedish. He was staying at Club Med with two of his mates and wanted to know whether we would be going out in Argelès that evening. (I want you to play with my ding-a-ling…)
‘We’re going to Bar Bleu, at about 8.00,’ he said.
It was difficult to listen to what he was saying, as there was a kind of background noise of over-enthusiastic thought processes going on inside my brain, in addition to the indescribably corny lyrics of the song which had invaded my head. I looked at his mouth, his wonderful teeth, his grey eyes and blond eyelashes and wondered who he fancied most.
‘Sure,’ said Carol. ‘We should be able to make it.’
He stayed a while longer, telling us that this was only the first leg of his holiday and that he would be going to Ibiza for a week, before flying back to Sweden and university, where he was studying Law in his final year.
I listened, weighing him up as husband material. Handsome, rich, Swedish. I rest my case.
Eventually, when we had finished goggling at his perfect ass, we lay back on our towels and sighed in unison. Then, we spluttered for a while, making ‘I can’t believe what just happened’ faces at each other and having a very serious discussion about what we should wear later.
‘Did you see his two mates?’ asked Carol.
As this was not really a question, it simply remained for me to utter a very basic growling noise for her to understand my pain. How would we decide?
Finally, we got out our books and read, on and off. I had run out of books and so I started on The Railway Children, which was surprisingly entertaining, although it was quite off-putting to have seen the television series and not be able to put Bernard Cribbins out of my mind. The mother was every child’s dream of what a mother should be. I lapped up the cakes and homemade presents, the ruffles and the pantaloons, the adventures and drama of the cross-country run and the narrowly avoided train crash. The Railway Children certainly seemed to have had a much more interesting life than me. The things I remembered were: being fat, climbing the never-ending Stoneway Steps to get to school, wearing a blazer, beret and tie, snogging a boy call Geoffry in the park when I was 14, not knowing who Joni Mitchell was at a party and wondering why I had to have a father who spent his weekend on top of the Long Mynd waiting for the mist to clear so that he could fly his glider.
I finished the book in one sitting and decided that I had enjoyed it.
Carol was reading A Clockwork Orange. She had kept that quiet. I was impressed.
‘I love the swear words,’ she said.
‘It’s ground-breaking stuff,’ I agreed.
‘Yeah, the swear words are brilliant,’ she said, ignoring me, as usual.
It was no use telling Carol that Anthony Burgess had created a language to illustrate the complex relationship between a youth culture and the accepted status quo of the generation in power. A language which was raw and expressive of the aggression and irony his characters carried around with them. It was pointless to tell her that the language had a name ‘Nadvat’ and did not consist exclusively of swear words. Carol had a different outlook on life and would not tolerate interference from the likes of a dullard like me.
I sat up, pondering the undeniable sex-appeal of Malcolm McDowell’s Alex, recalling the scene where, dressed in white fore-shortened trousers, adorned with a most impressive codpiece, bovver boots and the signature bowler, he wallops his cronies in order to assert his leadership. I recalled the poster featuring the enigmatic drawn-on eyelashes and the tilted, dangerous stare. He was certainly a dish.