A year on and a date with the BBC

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A year on and a date with the BBC

It’s nearly a year since The Big Click – the moment when Sarah and I simultaneously pressed the “send” button to publish our e-book I’M NEVER ILL. Although she was unaware of it at the time, I know that when I counted down, “One, two, three… GO!!!”, Sarah managed to press the “Enter” key a split second before me. So, although I spent more than two years writing it, she actually published it. It can therefore be legitimately claimed as a joint project – so she claims.

That night I barely slept. Although I felt that I had produced something readable for people, the sudden exposure to the world filled me with doubt and apprehension. My concerns were unfounded, because as the feedback and reviews came in, I became aware that readers couldn’t put it down, all reviews being 5* apart from one 4*. The audience response far exceeded my expectations at the time. But, when I look back upon the process of writing the book, I made every sentence count. Any paragraph, sentence or word was ruthlessly removed in order to leave only relevant and (in my opinion) interesting text. I tried to make it as pure and waffle-free as possible.

The reviews, however, have not been reflected in sales. Only around 200 copies have been sold, but things are really beginning to liven up. I have been invited to the BBC Radio Wales studios in Cardiff for a live chat on air with a well-known presenter. This is now a huge opportunity. I would like to use it, of course, to help book sales. But I am also aware that, although Sarah’s breast cancer survival story only takes up the latter 10% of the book (it was just something that happened during the writing process), it is possibly the part of the book that has most interest for the general public. Not only that, I’d like to get across the idea of checking for lumps early in order to stop the disease from spreading and destroying lives.

I tend not to communicate verbally as well as I do in writing, as I am not always quick to think on the spot. I will therefore have to spend some time preparing ideas to maximise the impact. I know that if this interview goes well, there could be interest from other radio stations and, who knows, possibly TV. Either way, I am confident that I have a great product to sell and an immense story to share.

I, or Sarah(!), published I’M NEVER ILL (the e-book version) on  February 14th 2015. The radio interview will be taking place a week after its first anniversary. I hope to do our story justice.

Please visit our website: http://www.markdpritchard.co.uk

The Lexington Project

The biggest challenge I face regarding book sales is that of convincing people to pick a copy up. So far, everyone I know who has read it has told me that they were unable to put it down. That tells me categorically that I have achieved, as a writer, exactly what I had set out to do.

 

My book, I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…) tells our story of how my wife (Sarah) and I have triumphed against grave illnesses, defeating the odds and turning our lives around in exciting, positive ways. We celebrated our survival by flying from London to Chicago, to embark on the holiday of a lifetime, the ultimate road trip, Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was more than a holiday; it was the complete adventure. Sarah has only one heartthrob (apart from me, of course!) – Pierce Brosnan. We happened to stumble upon him on Hollywood Boulevard, managing to get within a metre or two from him while he was signing autographs. Since then, we have taken up 1950s-style dancing – lindy hop, jive and swing. All that remains is for us to master some aerial moves, but I may need to get working out at the gym for that!

Our journey began in April 2009 when I suffered a brain haemorrhage. After brain surgery I made a virtually full recovery. In 2012 I decided to write a book about my experiences. Six months later, just three months after moving to our dream, happily-ever-after home in the Welsh countryside, Sarah developed breast cancer. She endured eight months of operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy before being given the all clear. It was only early diagnosis and prompt action that saved her life.

So far, in the UK, book sales are slow, despite the fact that everyone who reads it finds it compulsive reading, and the fact that all reviews so far (12 in total) have given 5* ratings on Amazon – apart from one who gave it 4*. I decided to research the USA – the country with the largest population of English speakers. At a cost of £7.99 for the paperback (approx $12.63 US at current exchange rates), I can’t expect the average person to take a chance on the book without having some recommendation. However, the e-book is available at only £2.50 ($3.86 US), and I’ve figured that people who have an interest in our story may be more likely to risk the expenditure on this edition. I researched which US city has the most e-book readers. It turned out to be Lexington, Kentucky. So I have decided to focus on this city, in an attempt to convince all of its e-readers that my book is worth taking a chance on – I know they won’t be able to put it down once they’ve picked it up, but as yet, they don’t.

I intend to approach Lexington hospitals (my book has already been used as lecture material for nursing students at an English university because of the interest in the patient’s perspective), book clubs, radio stations, cancer and brain trauma support groups and anyone else who may be interested in our story. I am calling it The Lexington Project.

 

I’d like to ask anyone who checks it out on www.amazon.com to first check it on www.amazon.co.uk, because all of the reviews so far are on the UK site (mostly on the e-book).

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Ratings and latest book review on http://www.amazon.co.uk

 

Please check out our website www.markdpritchard.co.uk where you will find out about our background, links to purchase the book, a video of us dancing and a Route 66 slideshow put to my own guitar composition, and a humorous Chemotherapy Diary which has been shared with people who have been touched by cancer all around the world.

Kentucky here I come!

Just before Christmas, Sarah reached her 50th birthday, celebrating in style with a spectacular dancing party. Dancing is the new theme in our lives. After our own cancer’s-butt-kicking, triumphant lap of honour, road-tripping across America, it became our new challenge. Here’s a link to Sarah’s birthday dance – the way Lindy Hoppers do it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8aTGgNF25o

We have some amazing dance teachers who, between them, have enabled us to do all of this after little more than a year. Our next challenge is to learn some aerial moves. I need to get to the gym first, to be honest, despite Sarah’s new slimline physique! Despite whatever challenges we attempt to rise to, there is always the underlying challenge – the one that constantly rumbles and vibrates beneath every step I take, and never goes away. The one that, despite neglecting my blog about it for a couple of months, I work at constantly behind the scenes, one way or another. It’s a bottomless pit of grafting. Last month I received my first e-book royalty cheque. It wasn’t a huge amount, but it reflected around 100 sales. This, combined with paperback sales both online through Amazon and privately, brings total book sales of my work I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…) to somewhere not too far away from 200 in around 11 months.

It’s not a huge amount, but I’m VERY patient. I’m also very confident about my product. I’ve had 12 book reviews on Amazon so far (11 for the e-book and one for the paperback), all of which were 5* apart from one who rated it as 4*. Everyone who picks it up tells me that they couldn’t put it down. That is good enough for me to keep me positive about it. It gives me the attitude that, not only do I owe it to myself to pursue sales, but that I also owe it to other people to convince them to pick it up. That is the hardest bit – getting people to pick it up in the first place.

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Amazon e-book ratings and latest review

The secret to getting people to want to pick it up is to get people talking about it and to get lots of good reviews. With nearly 25,000 Twitter followers, I guess that there are many people who have talked about it a little, but I really need more reviews. A proper national media/newspaper review would help. I’ve recently been approached for a copy of the book by a BBC Radio producer. I duly sent him a copy and I’m waiting for a response. This could be a big lift if anything materialises from it. I’d love to get onto national radio to share our story.

I’ve just hatched a new plan. The cost of the paperback is £7.99. People on the whole aren’t going to part with that amount of money unless they are fairly confident about the product. I can’t sell it any cheaper because it wouldn’t be cost effective. However, the e-book is only £2.50. I figured that the USA is the country with the highest number of English speakers in the world. So I searched the internet for where in America is the highest population of e-book readers. It gave me the answer that Lexington in Kentucky is the most e-reader orientated city. So now I need to make a plan of action. I need to contact hospitals (my book has already been used as lecture material for student nurses at an English university), radio stations, newspapers, cancer support groups, brain trauma support groups and anyone else who may find an interest in the book in Lexington. I need to attack through e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and whatever other means I can find.  It’s my very own “Call of Duty”. I’ve decided I’m going to call it The Lexington Project.

Kentucky here I come!

Visit our website: http://www.markdpritchard.co.uk for more information about our story and how to order our book.

Arizona 1, Arizona 2

I love driving. I’m soon about to embark on a road trip across the USA along Route 66 with my wife. Someone recently said to me, “That can’t be much of a holiday for you after being in a car testing people all day long.”
​   “On the contrary,” I said. “I can’t get enough of driving, and Route 66 is my idea of heaven.”
​I know that for others, driving is a chore and the idea of a driving holiday would be hell, whether they are involved in driving for a living or not. For nervous drivers it may be because of fear. For impatient drivers it may be due to lack of tolerance toward other drivers and the hazards of the road. For others, it may just be the problems associated with something like having the family in car for long periods.
​Now I don’t have all the answers to all of these problems, but I do know something really simple that can relieve a considerable amount of stress when driving. It is something that every driver knows about – or, at least, should! You see, there is one feature in common that I have found in the driving of almost everyone I know who hates driving:

                                          Separation distance

​This really isn’t rocket science and it isn’t hard. Commonly known as the “two-second rule”, people yawn and roll their eyes at the very mention of it. But it is the single most easy and instant improvement that you can make to your driving if you are one of the many of drivers who unknowingly (or knowingly) drive too close to the vehicle in front. It is also the most pointless of all driving faults.
​    I remember listening to a Jasper Carrott story about the things that his mother-in-law would say. When being overtaken on the motorway by someone doing 100mph, she’d say in disgust, “Look at him! It’s ridiculous! He won’t get there any quicker!”
​“Oh yes he will!” he’d reply.
Of course he’ll get there quicker, but he is also likely to reach his own funeral quicker, too. Although the actions of the speeding driver were irresponsible, at least there would be some benefit if he were to get away with it. However, by driving too close to the vehicle in front, not only is it irresponsible, there simply cannot be any time-saving benefits. You will always remain behind the driver, and you will not make any extra progress. But by remaining at a sensible distance from the vehicle in front, not only will you not be losing out on time, your journey is also likely to be less stressful.
You see, the problem with following too closely is that if the driver in front slows down, you must slow down immediately. You have to constantly keep on the alert. This, alone, can increase your stress levels manyfold. You have to constantly concentrate on the actions of the driver in front, with no let up. One moment’s loss of concentration and you could find yourself taking a very close look at his rear bumper.
I always leave ample distance, not because I’m some kind of angel, but because it makes my life so much easier. I can relax when I drive, safe in the knowledge that whatever happens in front of me can never cause me a problem. I wonder how many more people could find their driving less stressful just by implementing this.

​When I was a driving instructor, I always used to teach “Mississippi one, Mississippi two”. It takes approximately two seconds to say this. So when the vehicle in front passes a marker such as a lamppost, you should begin to say to yourself “Mississippi one, Mississippi two”, and if you pass the same point before you’ve finished saying it, then you are too close. This applies in good driving conditions and needs to be increased in adverse weather and on poor road surfaces.
​    When I’d ask my students to apply this method, for some reason they would always say, “One Mississippi, two Mississippi.” The problem with this is that when you say “One”, as far as time is concerned you are on zero. By saying “Mississippi one”, when you say the word “One” then one second will have lapsed, and the same with “Two” and so on.
​Of course, you don’t have to say “Mississippi.” You can say any combination of four syllables that you choose. Route 66 goes nowhere near Mississippi, so when I go on my road trip, I think I’ll use “California one, California two”, or I might even use “Arizona one, Arizona two”.
​    Yes, I like that one.

Visit my website: http://www.markdpritchard.co.uk