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.

Saturday 20 September 2014

CWA Dagger in the Library 2014

With Mel Sherratt and Elly Griffiths, also long listed for the CWA Dagger in the Library 

Saturday 6 September 2014

A Solitary Pursuit?

It's a familiar cliche to say that the life of an author is a solitary one, stuck behind a desk typing. But what about those of us who struggle to find a quiet spot in which to write? Not everyone enjoys the luxury of an empty house - or even a private study.
My husband helpfully remarked recently that we have a decent sized garden shed, large enough to house a table and chair. By dint of pushing the garden tools right up against the wall, stacking spare plastic chairs in one precarious pile, and engaging in a battle with the lawnmower, it could be done. The shed even boasts the benefit of a small skylight to admit natural daylight. With the faint glow of my screen, that could be workable. But I'm not sure I fancy spending hours with spiders and garden sheers, especially as I have just (ficititiously!) battered a poor man to death in his garden shed. I should add that this scene was written BEFORE my husband's suggestion!
I do have a very nice desk in the house, complete with comfortable chair, and bookshelves spacious enough to house a copy of every edition of all my books, including all the editions in translation, and more in hardback and large print... Now I come to think of it with two books coming out a year from now on, I'll soon be needing more bookshelves.
   The trouble with my very nice desk in my quiet study is that with three other people living in the house, all under strict instructions not to disturb me when I'm writing, there is usually someone bringing me a cup of tea, and then of course they stop for a chat.
The easy alternative is to go out to a local cafe - but then I'm often accosted by a local friend and yes, they stop for a chat.
And when I am left to my own devices, there are my friends and contacts online: facebook, twitter, and my blog.
So I guess it's me... It's a wonder I get any writing done at all!