Monday, 6 October 2014

How the World of Publishing has changed

My own personal writing process has changed almost beyond recognition over the past six years. To begin with I wrote longhand, in pencil. The first draft of Cut Short was written with no plans for the future. I had no idea anyone else would ever read it, let alone publish it. Certainly it certainly never occurred to me that it would become the first in a long running bestselling series, nominated for major awards and reaching number 1 on kindle. At that stage I was writing just for myself. Nine books on, I have abandoned handwriting in favour of typing my manuscripts. It's much faster, which is just as well as I'm now delivering two manuscripts a year to my publisher. The other big change is that I now write for my readers, not for myself. 
The world of publishing has also undergone huge changes, which are ongoing. When my debut, Cut Short, first came out in paperback, in 2009  fellow author suggested I ask my publisher to bring it out as an ebook as well. At that time, I had heard of ebooks but wasn't quite sure what they were... The ebook duly came out about six months after the paperback and that happened again in 2010 with Road Closed. By the time Dead End was published in 2011, the ebook and print book were published at the same time. Sales of my books are huge on kindle, with all of them reaching the Top 10, and one even hitting the coveted number 1 spot. Sales figures of my print books are not quite so high, and that seems to be a trend throughout the publishing industry. I do wonder where books sales will go next. 
Another change that has come about due to the internet is that it is now possible for readers to contact authors directly. A day never passes now without my receiving an email via my website, or a DM on facebook or twitter, from a fan of Geraldine Steel or Ian Peterson. It's lovely to hear from readers all around the world, and I always respond as promptly as I can. This is a bonus that simply didn't exist for authors just a few years ago. 
My life as an author has changed so much since Cut Short came out in 2009. Who knows what further changes are in store for us? 

Links to all my books, and facebook and twitter accounts, on http://leighrussell.co.uk, together with news, reviews, events and interviews
This post was first published in The Reading Thing blog

RACE TO DEATH is out now in paperback, and getting great reviews






Blog Tour Day One

For the first stop of my October Blog Tour I was invited to comment on how the world of publishing has changed.

I hope you find it interesting! I'll post the text of it here tomorrow or you can read it now on 

Thanks to The Reading Thing for hosting. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Is This Education?

Having spent several decades as a secondary school English teacher, I cannot let this article in The Times pass without comment.

          English A-level students will study Russell Brand, Jamie Oliver and Dizzee Rascal, despite accusations from within government that classwork was being “dumbed down”.
          Television clips of the comedian, the chef and the rapper have been approved for teaching next year. Sixth formers will also study the Twitter feed of Times columnist Caitlin Moran, an episode from the children’s TV show Horrible Histories and a comic-style graphic story alongside conventional classic and contemporary literature.
           “This is exactly the kind of dumbing down we are trying to get rid of,” a Department for Education source said at the time. “They must be having a laugh if they think A levels in Dizzee Rascal and Russell Brand are going to be let through.”
          Yesterday, however, the OCR exam board announced that its A level in English language and literature had been approved by Ofqual. It will be taught in schools next year, with pupils sitting AS levels in the qualification in 2016 and redesigned linear A levels in June 2017.
Asked if the content was dumbed down, Ms Bleiman replied: “Absolutely not. This is about serious linguistic study. We have chosen what we think are absolutely fascinating high-quality examples of language in use.”
          Clips of Dizzee Rascal interviewed on Newsnight, Oliver speaking to camera on a cookery show and Brand giving evidence on drugs to a committee of MPs are among 20 set texts for one element of the course and may crop up in exam questions, as may Moran’s streams of consciousness on Twitter. 
The Times
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/education/article4225014.ece
shareToken=3fc3a1fd33e6cd71867f21ff22c80f51

          Well, Ofqual can insist this isn't dumbing down if they like, but television clips and a children's TV show weren't on the A Level syllabus when I was at school. We struggled through Chaucer (in the original), Milton, Shakespeare and Donne - and we rose to the challenge. Without help I wouldn't have coped with those writers then, but I can enjoy them now, thanks to my teachers. Surely that is the purpose of education. 
          What is the point of A Level English if it only exposes young minds to texts they can access by themselves? Or are today's A Level students unable to understand and appreciate TV's Horrible Histories without support? 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Book of the Month

     Race to Death is Crime Book Club's BOOK OF THE MONTH



Available as eBook and in paperback - links on http://leighrussell.co.uk

Monday, 29 September 2014

How to Sell Books

The buzz word for authors these days is 'discoverability.' After all, what is the point of  publishing your book if no one reads it? And how is anyone going to read your book if they don't know about it?
This may be less pressing with ebooks which don't incur all the production and distribution costs of physical books. Whatever form the books take, it must be possible to cut corners for writers on a tight budget, determined to see their work published. But publishing any book still costs money, time and effort. Someone has to do the work, and put in the hours.
Whatever their expenses, self-published authors don't want to be exploited. Yet a shocking 98% of self-published authors fail to even cover their costs. It seems that making money out of aspiring authors is a mega-industry these days. Someone is making money, and it's certainly not the authors.
Regardless of whether they are traditionally published or self-published, all authors want readers, whether because they provide them with an income, or for personal satisfaction. In order to survive, books ('products') need readers ('customers'). In this respect publishing is the same as any other business. Publisher and author enter into a symbiotic relationship. Successful books benefit everyone involved in their production: agent, publisher, production team, technical team, editor, proof readers, sales team, distributor, publicists, translators, bookseller, reader... it's a long list, right down to the modest author who kick starts the whole process.
What can authors do to find readers? That is the big question. Whether we like it or not, the stereotype of the author as remote and isolated in an ivory tower is largely defunct. Most authors nowadays accept that speaking at literary festivals and signing in Bookshops is part of the job.
But the best marketing comes from readers. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool, and it's one that is impossible to control, except by writing books that readers want to read and recommend to their friends.
So the author's job is still to write the best book they can. Some things never change.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Writing a Spin Off Series

In all my interviews and posts about writing a spin off series, I never considered the possibility of confusing my two crime series. Geraldine Steel is a DI on the Met in London, while her former sergeant, Ian Peterson, is now a DI working in York. Clear enough?
Today I sat down to type the next chapter of the third book in the Ian Peterson series.
Let me give you the context. I'll try not to confuse you. I completed the seventh Geraldine Steel book, Killer Plan, before starting on the third Ian Peterson. That manuscript was interrupted for about a month while I was away at a literary festival in France, and then dealing with the edits for Killer Plan.
It's probably the case for most authors, that when I'm writing a book the narrative lodges inside my head like a giant coiled up worm that has to be unwound and released. Once a story is inside my head, it occupies my thoughts until I've written it out. Half way through the third Ian Peterson story, I had to abandon it temporarily and it went out of my head. My internal 'reality' changed.
Are you still with me?
So today I returned to the third book in the Ian Peterson series. The chapter I was working on opened with the local profiler. Chancing to check on another character in my 'Character Notes' document, I realised that I had introduced the wrong profiler into the Ian Peterson story! Instead of Ian's sympathetic clever male profiler from York, the rather irritating female London profiler from the Geraldine series was there discussing Ian's case with him in York.
Of course I would have realised, and my Editor would certainly have noticed, so there's no way that could have slipped through the net to publication. Even so... I'm going to have to watch out! Writing a spin off series has more potential pitfalls than I realised...      

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Living the Dream - Life as a Bestselling Author

After writing for six years, I find myself in the enviable position of earning a very decent living from writing fiction. Recently I took the plunge and gave up my day job as a school teacher. After all, if a crime author can't bite the bullet, what hope is there for any writer? So here I am at last, living the dream. I can finally call myself a full-time writer. And this is the point where I am beginning to realise that, in my case at least, 'full-time writer' is a bit of a misnomer. You might expect that I would have a lot more time to devote to my writing, now that I'm writing full-time. That was certainly my expectation when I gave up the day job. The reality is somewhat different...
It's hard to credit, but now that I no longer have the day job, I'm actually struggling to maintain my output. I hesitate to admit that I'm actually doing less writing now than when I was working. (Although I now earn my living from writing, I still can't think of writing as work.)  'Writers' block,' you mutter knowingly, 'that's why she's struggling to write so much.' You couldn't be more wrong.
The problem that keeps me from writing is that I'm just too busy. Take my visit to York in October. I'm going there to research the area for the Ian Peterson series which is set in York. Of the twelve days I'll be be in the area, I actually have two days free for my research. The rest of the visit is taken up with seven bookshop visits, two library talks, and one U3A talk, and then there's likely to be a radio interview and an interview with a local paper - and I still need to fit in a  talk to students at a local college. And so it goes on... I'm going to struggle to fit in all my research. Writing won't get a look in.
Look at my summer. July was occupied with a research trip for a week, followed by a crime festival which took up nearly another week. apart from two book signings, two author talks, and six meetings. In August I spent two weeks teaching at the Writers Lab in Greece, followed by a week at a Literary Festival in France, with a signing and a meeting thrown in between my travels. And so it goes on, meetings, book signings, author talks and workshops, one after another, with seemingly no let up.
It's all great fun, but I do sometimes look back at the days when all I did was work full-time in a normal job, and write books. Life was so much simpler then, and, dare I say it, not quite such hard work.