Friday, 30 August 2013

Book club Q&A - To the Grave

Overreaders Anonymous

One of the great things about being a writer is the interaction I enjoy with my readership, and for me it doesn't get any better than when I receive an email from someone to say that their book club is going to read one of my books. This happened recently when Alice from Rockford, Illinois contacted me to say that their book club, 'Overreaders Anonymous' was going to be reading To the Grave, and she asked if I would answer a few questions afterwards. I said I'd be very happy to, and with the book club's kind permission I've included a photograph of the group that Alice sent me afterwards. In one of her emails, Alice told me that Rockford Illinois was listed in Forbes as the third most miserable American city. I think they must have got that wrong. It looks great to me. :o)

A big THANK YOU to the 'Overreaders Annonymous' book club - where every member of the group serves as president, so that whenever anyone dies their obituary will read "She was president of her book club." From left to right they are Alice, Pat, Helen, Mary, Jan and Martrice. One other member, Kathy, couldn't make it.

Below are some of the questions and answers that came out of the discussion. I've not included any that contained spoilers - which unfortunately was most of the story related questions - so don't worry if you've not read the book yet.


From Jan:

Q. How do you keep track of who knows what when, both in the 40s and the present?
A. I keep a lot of notes, although by the time I've written something into a book it's usually become stuck in my head pretty well from having gone over it so many times. Keeping track of things can certainly lead to a few headaches though, but I sort everything out by the final draft, or hope to.

From Pat:

Q. On a related note, when you start a book do you know how it's going to end? Do you have the beginning and end in your mind and just plot the middle or do you start and see where it takes you? 
A. I rarely know how a book is going to turn out when I start writing it, largely because things always change along the way. I have a good idea, but I've not written one book so far that ended up exactly how I envisaged it at the start. The characters really do help to define what happens to them in my books, and I'm sure that's true for many if not most writers.

From Alice:

Q. You write women, and in particular teen girls, really well (shout out to Boots No.7, available here in the U.S. at Target!) Where does that come from? Do your wife/sister/women friends help you out?
A. Haha, I have no idea! I've been asked before how I understood Mena - a teenage girl in the 1940s - so well, and I really don't know. I suppose I get wrapped up in a character and in doing so come to understand them. I don't have any sisters and haven't sought guidance from anyone else. I suppose I just put myself in my character's shoes, whoever they are.

Q. Would JT ever consider buying and wearing some jeans, especially since he seems to get into a lot of precarious situations where his tan suit gets ruined?
A. I'm not going to tell him you said that, Alice (btw Alice is the name of my lead past-narrative character in book 4). Actually I'm pretty sure he is going to get a change of wardrobe in my next book, although the tan suits have become a part of his identity. I don't think he's a jeans type really. I think whatever he ends up wearing he's likely to feel uncomfortable in it and will be begging to have a tan suit back by the end of the book!

A couple of our other members didn't have any specific questions, but Helen said, "It's been awhile since we've read a really GOOD story like this!" Then she downloaded your other books for vacation. :-)

Friday, 23 August 2013

I've accepted an offer from Amazon Publishing!

This blog entry also doubles as ‘My story - part 5’ as it brings everything that’s been happening to me since I started out in writing and publishing right up to date, and as you can probably imagine,  I'm very excited about it! :o)

In part four I said that I’d been contacted by a literary agent.  I received an email from someone at Jenny Brown Associates enquiring whether I would be interested in having an agent given how well things were already going as an independent author.  I wasn’t sure myself because I was earning a living from my writing and I didn’t want to spoil that, but I saw no harm in meeting and talking about the idea.  Then pretty soon I was in London having lunch (and a few drinks) with Mark Stanton, who had recently been shortlisted for an ‘Agent of the Year’ award.

Not the actual lunch. This is one I
shared earlier in the year with Mrs.R. 
Stan (as he goes by) was very enthusiastic about my books and I really liked his energy, so we left it that he would see how far he could get in placing my books with a big mainstream publisher, knowing by the end of our conversation that it would have to be good deal if I was going to give up my ebook rights and enter the unknown.  So, when the contract came in the post a few days later, I signed it and I suddenly I had an agent again.

I'll get to the title of this blog entry now because not long after that I received an email from a senior acquisitions editor at Amazon Publishing who had noticed my books, possibly after the success of my first promotion with Bookbub, which shot To the Grave to No.15 in the paid chart.  Following the email we had a telephone conversation and I learnt that Amazon Publishing wanted to publish my next book and were possibly interested in the three I had already published myself through the Amazon KDP platform. 

My biggest concern about signing with any mainstream publisher has been advertising and pricing.  These two ingredients are of course essential to books sales unless you’re already a big name author and can command a hefty price tag for your books, and I’d already seen a few indie authors sign with publishers only for the price of their books to shoot up and their chart positions to slide down.  These were not concerns I had with Amazon Publishing, who are already experts in the ebook market and continue to price their authors competitively. The advertising potential speaks for itself.  I'm also very excited to see where Amazon Publishing are going to be a few years from now.

After that initial telephone conversation, just over a month passed where I was receiving regular updates on the progress of in-house talks.  Amazon UK were talking with people in, from what I can gather, and most of all with Thomas & Mercer, the Amazon Publishing imprint for crime fiction, mysteries and thrillers. 

The upshot is that an offer was recently made for a four book deal with options on book five, and I’m very pleased and excited to say that I've accepted it and that my Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Crime Mystery series is going to be repackaged and published with Thomas & Mercer from April next year.  There will also be audio books for the first time and hopefully translations, too.

I’m staying with my agent Stan at Jenny Brown Associates, not least because although I'm partnering with Amazon Publishing un-agented, you never know what the future holds and I still retain all film and TV rights should any offers come along.

I haven't signed anything yet, but the ball is rolling so to speak, and I'll be sure to let you know once I have.  It should all happen within the next few weeks.  I'd like to say a very sincere thank you to everyone who has helped make this dream come true for me.  I'm very excited about what the future holds, and a little nervous, too, I guess.  I've had a poem by C.S. Lewis in my head while I've been thinking about what to do.  It's from The Magician's Nephew, the first of the Chronicles of Narnia that's always stayed with me.

Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.

I had to strike that bell!

UPDATE:  Just as I was about to hit the publish button for this blog entry, an email arrived from Amazon Publishing containing a draft copy of the agreement for me to check over.  Lots of reading to do now.  And maybe a little party.  :o)

Friday, 16 August 2013

Amazon top 100 bestseller! - The Last Queen of England.

Bookbub did it again!

I wasn't sure if my success using Bookbub a couple of months ago for my promotion of To the Grave could be repeated with The Last Queen of England, but it seems the power of Bookbub to reach readers is still going strong as the third book in my series is currently at No.23 in's paid chart.  I had thought perhaps that the novelty might wear off and their effectiveness wane, but so far that clearly doesn't seem to be the case.  They clearly have a good advertising model working and long may it last.

Something else I'm doing for this promo, and something I've never done before, is to make ALL the books in my Jefferson Tayte series 79p or .99c at the same time.  That's just started today and probably won't last long.  The idea is to attract as many readers as possible while my third book is enjoying the bestseller limelight.  So far, that's working well as sales for all books have risen significantly.

Now if only there was an effective equivalent to Bookbub for the UK market, although Bookbub is effectively worldwide, so I guess most of us Brits don't respond to mail-shot advertising in the same way.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Last Queen of England now in my August promotion.

I've included the third book in my genealogical crime mystery series The Last Queen of England in my August summer reading sale.

"It takes you on a roller coaster ride!"

Indie Book BargainsThe Last Queen of England: A Genealogical Crime Mystery #3

A centuries-old royal conspiracy.  The ultimate heir hunt...

Now just £.79p / $.99c

HISTORY: from the Greek - historia. Knowledge acquired by 'investigation'.

It should have been a quiet weekend in London - a long overdue visit with the only true friend American genealogist Jefferson Tayte ever had. Now his friend lies bleeding in his arms and Tayte must follow his research to understand why, making him the target of a ruthless, politically motivated killer.

Working with historian Professor Jean Summer and New Scotland Yard on what becomes a matter of British national security, Tayte soon finds himself in a race to solve a three-hundred-year-old genealogical puzzle. It takes them all on a deadly, high stakes chase across London as Tayte tries to connect the pieces and work out the motive behind a series of killings that spans twenty years.

In what is Tayte's most personal assignment to date, The Last Queen of England combines historic fact with fiction, challenging British history as we understand it. It uncovers a conspiracy that if proved could ultimately threaten an institution that has lasted more than a thousand years: the British monarchy.

Nullius in Verba: take no one's word for it.