Friday 28 February 2014

Stop Dead needs your vote!

Stop Dead has been nominated for The People's Book Prize.
And please ask all the crime fiction fans you know to vote for Stop Dead. Every vote counts!

Wednesday 19 February 2014

"The Publishing Wars"

In a recent post in, Porter Anderson wades into the debate currently raging over traditionally published versus self published books. What made me read to the end of Anderson's post is his balanced approach. He hopes that "we will all agree at some point that self-publishing is “just another valuable” way to get a book out, when conditions and resources suggest it as the best course."

Anderson's post may not be as entertaining as Chuck Wendig's hilarious satire on "The publishing wars of 2014", in his blog, but Anderson's accommodating attitude has to be the way forward. As writers we should support each other in our endeavours. We are not really in competition with each other, although it sometimes feels that way. It's not as if we are all chasing one reader, who is only ever going to buy one book. If someone reads my books and enjoys them, they may go on to buy one of yours.

When Stephen Zacharius speaks out on behalf of publishers, claiming that "Publishers are gatekeepers as are agents. We are filters as to what gets published," even he has to add "in most cases." As it happens, he's right in his general claim. Most self-published authors have been rejected by mainstream publishers, however much they like to shout about "choosing" the self-publishing route because it is financially more viable. Well, "in most cases" again, that isn't true. How can it be, when we read that 98% of self-published authors fail to even cover their costs. And I suspect that 98% doesn't take into account the time self-published authors spend on activities other than actual writing.

Of course there are exceptions. Self-publishing worked for EL James who made millions - after being picked up by a mainstream publisher. There are self-published authors who succeed in making decent amounts of money without support from publishers just as there are people who have survived being struck by lightning. One self-published author has achieved genuine bestseller status by working 80 hours a week together with her husband and two assistants.

Sadly every success story sparks a following of wannabes, seduced by the dream of replicating that success. Call me cynical if you like, but where there are hosts of wannabes, the legions of parasites are never slow to leap in, ready to exploit other people's dreams. I remember the first self-published author I met telling me how proud she was to be published. She had spent nearly as much as I had received as an advance for my first book. The sums didn't reach five figures for either of us. The difference did. Someone was making money out of her creative endeavour, and it wasn't her.

But this isn't really about money. People have argued back and forth about the figures, only proving the truth of the adage that you can prove anything with statistics. The facts are shrouded in obfuscation and mirrors - lots of mirrors - and no one really knows.

Porterson concludes that "we do seem to hear self-published authors extol their approach more frequently than we hear traditionally published authors do the same for theirs. Mind you, we don’t know what that means. But it does seem to be the case."

So I want to wave the flag for publishers. I'm often asked, "What's your publisher like?" My response is unequivocal. I love my publisher. He pays me to make up stories. He publishes my books. That means he does everything for me, apart from writing the books. That's my job. Because I'm am author. Not an editor, or a proof reader, not a jacket designer or a distributor, not a typesetter or a bookseller. An author. I don't have to worry about uploads, downloads, or truck loads. I worry about character development and plot structure. And the luxury of earning a decent living doing just that is priceless.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Print books and ebooks

The first Geraldine Steel murder mystery, Cut Short, came out in print in the UK in 2009. A fellow author suggested my publisher bring it out as a digital book. It seems strange to recall that five years ago I wasn't really sure what that meant. Nevertheless I sent a polite request to my publisher to bring my debut out as an ebook. No one thought it was important, but six months later the digital version duly came out. 'Of course your books don't sell on kindle,' someone in the know told me. As for me, I still had only a vague notion what a kindle was.

Exactly the same happened with Road Closed in 2010.

But reading habits were changing. When Dead End came out in 2011, the digital and print books were published on the same day.

By the time Death Bed appeared in print in 2012, the digital book had already  been available for six months.

This pattern has been repeated in 2013 and 2014 with digital versions of Stop Dead, Fatal Act and Cold Sacrifice available for download six months in advance of  print books.

Nowadays, no one says my titles 'don't sell on kindle'. Not only have the print books reached bestseller lists in the UK bookstore chains and on amazon, but the ebooks have reached Number 1 on both kindle and iTunes.

What has been your experience of ebooks, as a reader or an author? Do you own a kindle or a tablet? And where do you see the future of print books, and with them physical bookstores and libraries?

Links to all my books can be found on my website

Saturday 15 February 2014


We've been having discussions at my publisher's about whether to use 'Death' or 'Die' in the title of my next book. I was rather chuffed when the big boss emailed: "I really don't think it matters much any more as it's Leigh's name far more than the title that sells the books now." Nice to know the boss is pleased with me! 

Thursday 13 February 2014

London Book Fair

I am very lucky to be invited to London Book Fair. This will be the first time I've been, and I've been offered a ticket at an Ivy Club Booth in the IRC (I'm not sure what that means either, but all will be revealed when I share my experience with you here in April). I'll also be meeting my agent from the USA. I can't wait! If you're going to LBF, please stop by and say hello.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

FATAL ACT on offer

FATAL ACT, the latest in the Geraldine Steel series, has reached Number 4 on kindle, on amazon kindle's Monthly Deal for just 99p.

Monday 3 February 2014


The book trade journals and the press tell us 'Waterstone's Congratulates Itself As Sales Fell Another 3 Percent'. Really! Yes, Waterstones have done well to reduce their operating costs and so cut their losses to a mere £30 million or so last year from £40 million the previous year. This has been at the expense of store closures - there is now no bookshop in Watford, and Waterstones closed 6 stores out of 12 on university campuses, and numerous other High Street stores.  The ones that remain have seen savage staff redundancies. 

Fair enough, cuts were needed, and new coffee shops in some stores are said to be attracting customers, as funding from Russian billionaire Mamut (some £56 million) has bought the chain valuable time to try and right itself financially.  

But let's not forget, in all the self congratulation, that the cut in operating costs has been at the expense of stores...  and oh yes, the booksellers who have lost their jobs, some of whom worked for the company for many years. 

Meanwhile, book sales continue to fall... 

Sunday 2 February 2014


For a long time I've been telling children I meet in bookshops that reading will make them clever. Reading uses the part of your brain that transforms squiggles on the page into sounds, and the part of your brain that interprets those sounds as words, and the part of your brain that connects those words to meanings. It also uses different parts of your brain to remember what has happened before in the story, visualise images of what is happening, and speculate about what might happen next. 'It's like a complete work out for your brain,' I tell them.

It's hardly rocket science to work that out, is it?

In the inimitable manner of academics, someone in the US has recently researched the effects of reading on brain activity and established that reading triggers changes in the brain.

'Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading, scientists have said. The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory. The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the primary sensory motor region of the brain.'

Now, what was I saying?

Saturday 1 February 2014

Writers Tips - Authenticity

In any artistic endeavour it is important to create an illusion. In books, film and television a story transports the reader or the viewer into a different world. In music a wrong note can completely destroy the mood. To help sustain the illusion, writing a book requires a great deal of research to make every detail as authentic as possible. Research was covered at more length in the CRA Writers Tips dealing with that topic. Its importance cannot be overestimated.
But there is more to this than just researching information. In addition to research into real circumstances, there is another kind of continuity that is also vital if a book is to be convincing. All the details within the world of the book itself have to be consistent. Details of characters can’t be contradictory. To give an obvious example, an orphan can’t visit his or her mother. Physical characteristics, tastes and habits, ambitions and anxieties, everything about a character must be consistent.
Writing a series makes this kind of continuity even more important – and far more difficult. Without detailed records, it becomes impossible. Keep a record, whether physical or electronic, of dates, locations, characters and relationships. In a stand alone book you may be able to manage unaided. In a series, it’s far too risky to rely on your memory. Not only do you need to make notes, but you have to be able to access your records when you need them.  You never know when you might need to check some small detail. Electronic storage is probably the best, as you can search for names or key words. Some authors display charts, or use exercise books. Experiment with different systems and use whatever works for you.
No detail is insignificant, however trivial it might seem.  A reader somewhere will notice slips, and if an error is spotted by a reviewer, that can colour their impression of the entire book. A friend of mine described a train journey one of her characters took. Because the journey was a familiar one, she didn’t bother to check it and by mistake transposed two of the stations on the route. A reviewer in the Guardian liked her book, but criticised her heavily for failing to research the details. As a result the review was less than complimentary.
If, like me, you have every minutiae of your work in progress in your mind, but might forget details of earlier books in your series, thorough record keeping is essential. And if, like me, you find yourself writing a spin off series as well as a first series, consistency becomes doubly complicated. Fortunately my editor has a good memory, and is quick to pick up any inconsistencies. Don’t rely on yourself to remember everything.
Make notes, keep records, and find a trustworthy reader with a good memory to help you create consistency in your characters and locations.
This article was first published on the CWA website