24 December 2013

Bribery and Corruption



Jenny Parker is having a hard time. She's desperate to take her baby son and leave her husband but can't afford to.

In the course of her work as an accountant, she undertakes a due diligence exercise and thinks she has uncovered some irregularities. She voices her suspicions to a colleague but he overrules her.

A representative of the company she's investigating gives her an envelope containing ten thousand pounds in cash. He makes it clear that this is payment for a positive report, which she knows is going to result even if she objects.

Whether she takes the money or not, the outcome of the exercise is going to be the same.

The money is enough to change her life, to allow her to make a new home for herself and her son.

What would you advise Jenny to do?

If you were faced with the same circumstances, what would you do?

Let me know what you think.

In the meantime, have a Happy Christmas.

Oh, and if you want to know what Jenny does, read Due Diligence. You'll be astonished at the consequences.

20 December 2013

Where's Jenny Parker?



I believe that setting is important for a novel. It can help add a feeling of authenticity to the story and provide a solid backdrop for the action. As a writer, I can immerse myself more easily in places I know.

That's why Jenny Parker is in the centre of Manchester to begin with, working as an accountant in a modern glass and metal building.


Her life is difficult enough as a working mother but further complicated by an affair with her boss, Martin, who's apartment is conveniently close to their office.


This, unfortunately, is as good as it gets for Jenny. Things soon change for the worse.

They say that you are never more than a few metres away from a rat. In similar fashion, the nice, comfortable, safe parts of Manchester are very close to the bleak, dangerous ones. And that's where Jenny soon finds herself, fighting for her life.

I find it very satisfying when I recognise a place I know, or have visited, in a book. It's often fun to make a point of visiting them just to stand there and breathe in the atmosphere, feel how a favourite character might have felt.
It's important to watch out for rats while you do.

13 December 2013

Point of View






People ask me what changed between the unpublishable Technical Difficulties and the very successful Due Diligence.

Two things.

First, me. I changed. By the time I'd finished Due Diligence I'd written four complete novels. I'd also attended weeks of writing retreats, attended regular writers circle meetings and been on plenty of writing courses.

The second big change is point of view.

The 'hero' in TD was offhand, jokey, unaware and didn't develop with the story. He was exactly the same at the end of his epic 250,000 word adventure as he was on the first page. I wrote in third person and past tense, keeping a fair distance away. This meant there was less chance of a reader to making an emotional attachment.

I decided to change point of view into one much closer and more challenging. If I'm not feeling emotionally engaged with what's happening, a reader can't be expected to be either. I wrote Due Diligence in first person and, to make it even more immediate, present tense. This is a very close viewpoint and not an easy one for a thriller. Everything has to be seen through the eyes of the one protagonist, there's no opportunity to fill in the back story or bring in another pair of eyes to broaden the scene.

To make it even more challenging, I chose a female protagonist.

Writing Due Diligence didn't come easy. There's no opportunity for automatic pilot, no chance of an easy run. And it shows. Readers are engaged by Jenny's plight, they want to see what happens next because they care about her. The plot unfolds with breathless speed courtesy of the point of view from which it's written.

So those are the changes. They've worked for me and reader response has shown they also work well for them.

Maybe, I'll write something a little more comfortable after I finish Limited Liability which will be my third Jenny Parker novel.

Perhaps I'll go back to Technical Difficulties.

On the other hand...

8 December 2013

Limited Liability


I'm finishing off my third crime thriller, Limited Liability, at the moment. It has to be the best novel I've ever written. I'm not just saying that out of misplaced arrogance, it has to be. It's required. I need it to be. My editor is being even more demanding than usual. Let me explain why.

My first novel, a SF thriller called Technical Difficulties was written in 2007/8. I had at last found a writing process that worked for me and was able to wean myself off crap telly to make time to write. For years (and years and years) I'd tried to write on a keyboard but I spent too much time tinkering and editing, fiddling about, changing the font, the appearance, anything to avoid writing what I wanted to.

In 2007 I started to write with a fountain pen. I just wrote and wrote. When I had a few chapters, I dictated the script into a voice file and sent it to a lady who transcribed it into a Word file. I not only had a method that produced results but I also had a built in incentive to write more. My novel was finished inside a year despite the time constraints imposed by a full time job and a family.

I sent Technical Difficulties to lots of friends and family members. They all agreed that it was amazingly good.

I sent it off to a professional SF editor, John Jarrold, who disagreed. He thought the main character was an arse and that readers would not be at all interested if he lived or died. John's preference was for him to die, quickly and painfully.

By the time I received this feedback I'd already written the sequel, Acceptable Behaviour, and was well on with the third book, Divine Intervention.

There was another, rather upsetting aspect. My main character, the unfeeling arse that readers hated was pretty much autobiographical.

It took me some time to come to terms with the fact that I'd written three unsaleable novels.

I did some courses and writers retreats, found a great teacher called Barbara Turner Vessalago, worked hard on my craft, joined the local writer's circle. And kept on writing.

My fourth novel, Due Diligence, turned out to be very different. I hired a professional editor, submitted it far and wide until it was published with the help of Stephen Leather, a very successful thriller writer.

Due Diligence has been very well received and sells very well. The sequel, Proceeds of Crime, is also doing well.

Which brings me back to Limited Liability and why it has to be the best yet.
LL is the first novel I've written knowing that it will be published. I have a readership out there waiting for it!

That's why is has to be very very good.

And it will be.

3 December 2013

Hospital Food

The word hospital has the same root as hospitable. This implies that you're welcome, stay as long as you like, it's what we're here for.

Hospitals don't want you to ever leave, it's their job to keep you for ever. Or at least until you die.

It seems to me that the economic difficulties that this approach of free hospitalisation brings are being dealt with by the cunning device of hospital food.

They're not allowed to kill you with medicines but they can certainly speed up your departure using food.

Of course, the whole of our society eats really badly. We're stuffing rubbish into our bodies on a daily basis. But that's our choice, if we want to kill ourselves that's fine. My problem is with medical care that fails to recognise the correlation between what we eat and how we feel.

I've had a sneaking feeling about this for a long time but only recently received evidence that supports my misgivings.

Here are two plates of food:


Pick the one you think might aid patient recovery. No, not the one you might prefer to eat! Just because there are chips on the plate doesn't mean its tasty.

Try these two:

Now compare with this:

I believe that hospitals have a duty to administer a bodily intake that's appropriate and conducive to our well being. They have an opportunity to demonstrate a healthy diet that will help prevent further illness. From the reports I'm getting, they don't seem interested.
If hospitals feed their patients stodgy crap, any patients lucky enough to leave without being dead are going to think that's what they ought to be eating.
It's a crazy world.


Bees


I'm on week ten of a ten week beekeeping course. After the classroom stuff, I'll be getting hands on experience in the spring. Or getting stung, as the experienced beekeepers so delicately put it.

Bees are important, they are needed to pollinate our food crops and they are massively under threat.

This lady explains it much better than I can:

http://www.ted.com/talks/marla_spivak_why_bees_are_disappearing.html


It's just one of the many things going wrong with the world, I suppose. Like I said previously, it's easy to get discouraged and give up.

There is another way, though. Pick something you can do and do it. Even if it's as simple as being more mindful about what you consume. And plant some bee-friendly flowers.


8 October 2013

Despair and Presumption



I was brought up a Catholic, so you don't have to tell me about sin.

Most people know about the seven deadly sins, there was a film about them after all. I could name them but sloth has set in.

There are two sins much more serious than the deadly ones. How can you get more serious than deadly?Listen, this is religion. Believe me there's a lot worse things than dying when it comes to religion.

The two biggies that immediately cast you down into the fiery furnace to be tortured for infinity are despair and presumption. So watch out for them in your lives. You might not believe in all this sort of stuff but that really doesn't matter. What you believe is immaterial when you find yourself sentenced to suffer an infinite amount for ever. 'Whoops! Didn't realise. Sorry. Now can I go?' Probably not, don't you think?

So why am I harping on about some old fashioned religious belief of doubtful application to real life in the modern era? Good question, to answer that I'll have to look at the two sins, attitudes, states of mind, call them what you will.

First, despair. This is when you've abandoned all hope. When you know that whatever you might do or try to do it'll make no difference.

Next, presumption. This is when you assume that someone else is taking care of business, that you don't have to do anything yourself, that you can just carry on the way you want to and things will turn out just fine.

We're all agreed that the world's in a mess. The human race is up shit creek. We're destroying the earth with our rapacious consumption. The only option being offered to us by governments is more of the same.

So, which is it? Despair or presumption? Which one do you hang on to as justification for doing nothing, for standing by and letting the situation get worse?

It doesn't have to be like that, we can choose to adopt one of the cardinal virtues.

HOPE

This book is a good start.

Active Hope

Little things are all it takes. Don't give up. Together we can make the world better.

Next time I'll tell you what I've decided to do about all this.

15 August 2013

Why Write?

Open Circle Publishing

Writing is important to me, as you may already have realised from reading previous posts. You will also be aware, in that case, that Open Circle is being developed in order to support both readers and writers.

We were having a discussion about why people write and came to an interesting conclusion.

Ask a writer why they write and you might get answers along the following lines:
I write because I want to be a best selling author
I write because I have something to tell the world
I write because I love telling stories
I write because there's something inside me that wants to be heard
I've always wanted to write

I believe there's a common thread that links all writers, though. If I stop to consider carefully, I realise that writing helps me feel whatever it is I'm experiencing. Whether I'm writing a blog, a short story or a novel, writing connects me to myself, helps me to become aware of how I am. In a nutshell, writing is an important process in my own personal development.
Put simply, writing makes me feel better than I would feel without writing. It may ultimately be making me a better person, able to enjoy life more fully.
So, at Open Circle we believe that writing is good for you.
What we want to do is encourage people to write. A good way of doing this, we think, is by sharing the journeys and processes of other writers.
So, tell us your story. Let us know where you're at, where you've come from, what you need to make the next step, how writing changes you.
Email us at info at opencirclebooks.com.
We're looking forward to hearing from you.

22 July 2013

Harrogate Crime Festival 2013


This, believe it or not, is the bookstore and signing tent at Harrogate Crime Festival. The weather has been awesomely hot and the whole festival awesomely good.
What a difference a year makes. At the 2012 event, I was an aspiring author who felt very uncomfortable at first. Then I met people, particularly Julia and Amy, who made the place friendly and fun. This year it was brilliant to meet up again and even more fun was had.
It was at Harrogate last year that I met Stephen Leather. I was impressed with his honesty and no-nonsense attitude so I sat outside the hotel until he emerged then leaped on him. I explained in thirty seconds who I was and what I needed. He offered to help and was true to his word.
This year, with SL's help, I've had two books published and they've sold exceptionally well. Just as important, we are gathering participants in Open Circle so that others can have the same sort of support that I enjoy.
We want to connect readers with authors, writers with other writers, people who need help with people willing to give it.
I want to share the good fortune that has transformed my life.
Everyone I met at Harrogate expressed interest and support for Open Circle. Already, we can see increasing numbers registering on the web site www.opencirclebooks.com
There are exciting times ahead.

27 June 2013

Reviews


Are you sure that's what you meant to say?

Some time ago, I reported that Due Diligence had received a review which, although favourable, included an horrendous plot spoiler. Despite my best efforts at persuasion, Amazon did nothing about it. I have learned since that Amazon never do anything about reviews like this one.
The advice from other authors is to grimace and bear it, hope that enough reviews come behind it to render it less visible.
This leads me to ponder the whole review situation.
Book reviews have traditionally been written by professionals who are employed by newspapers and magazines to inform reader's choices. These are careful crafted by experienced and knowledgeable experts. Amazon reviews are different. They are written by consumers who know what they like but aren't necessarily  able to bring a great deal of erudition and background knowledge to the job.
This doesn't mean they're not valid, quite the opposite. Amazon reviews are also very important. Most books are bought from Amazon and reviews can make all the difference to that purchasing decision. If someone doesn't like Due Diligence (and yes, there has been one reviewer in particular, check it out at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1909607045/ ) they're perfectly entitled to say so. And, if my instincts are correct, they're more likely to put up a review than someone who enjoyed the book.
So, all I can do is encourage anyone who's read Due Diligence to post a review and remember that the star system is simple:
5 stars if you like it
1 star if you don't
Don't you think you've written enough?

I'm being distracted again, I'll be cuddling a cat if you need me.



20 June 2013

Distractions

It's been a while since my last post (sounds like a bugle call) but here I am.
The main reason I've not sat down to update you on my progress (or lack of it) is that things have been somewhat frantic of late. Only now are they beginning to quieten down.

Not all the action has centered around my writing. Not by any means.
The main event has, of course been the wedding. Lots of planning, lots of work, lots of joy. Not much time for anything else and I'm still waking up worried it might all go wrong when it clearly went completely right.

I hardly had time to stop and notice that May 2013 saw me transformed from writer to author to bestselling author.

(Pardon the fuzzy screenshot)

Due Diligence had a spell in the top twenty thrillers and also made the top 100 overall. Several thousand people bought a copy and left lots of amazingly complimentary reviews.

Things have changed. Now I'm writing the third Jenny Parker with the knowledge that I have a readership. There's an added incentive to get it finished. I'm not only writing for myself any more, there are readers out there that actually want what I produce.

So here come the distractions.

Checking my sales every five minutes. Being happy if I've made another sale, feeling slightly disappointed if not. 
Checking the bestseller lists, trying to remember where I was last time I looked.
Feeling happy when I read a good review but not really believing it.
Feeling deeply upset at the one bad review for Due Diligence and wondering if I should ever bother writing anything ever again.

But most of all, Marshmallow.



He seems to think I could be doing something better with my time.

So, if Limited Liability is a little bit delayed, you know not to blame the wedding or even the success of Due Diligence.

It's Marshmallow.




21 May 2013

Selling Books

Pardon my euphoria.

Due Diligence has gone down very well, more than two thousand have been sold already in May.

There's also a load of very positive reviews.

So that's it. I can give up writing now, I've achieved much more than I ever imagined. I've exceeded my wildest dreams by some margin.

But I won't, of course.

Writing isn't about sales, neither is it a competitive sport. I didn't write Due Diligence with the intention that it would be popular. I wrote it because...

I love to write and I need to write.

I think Due Diligence works because it took a lot of effort and emotion to create. It wasn't easy or comfortable. There are no clever tricks or devices.

That most excellent blogger, Kristen Lamb, recently suggested that writers are all crazy, that's why they write. They're also not rich otherwise, she suggests, they could afford therapy. I get what she's saying.

My own take on this is that good writers are aware of the issues they have and are working on them, not just through writing. This appreciation of the human condition and the way in which different people cope with it helps the writing to connect with readers who are having their own personal versions of the same difficulties.

You don't have to be in the same trouble as Jenny Parker to appreciate how she's feeling. I rather hope that none of you ever get into that degree of difficulty. In Due Diligence, Jenny has a tough time. In Proceeds of Crime things get even more sticky. The new book, Limited Liability, takes things to a whole new level. Things really do get very difficult indeed. Even I'm getting very worried about poor Jenny as I write. The book's about two thirds written, I guess, but it could all end very suddenly at any moment the way things are.

I'd like to express my appreciation for all the wonderful support I'm getting, not just from family and friends but also from lots of unexpected sources.

Writers need support. This takes different forms as we move through stages of development.

Open Circle Publishing are keen to help. Whether you are a reader or a writer, there's a lot to be gained by registering on the website.




For those of you without a Kindle, there's a paperback version of both books out now and the other ebook formats will be released in June.




1 May 2013

Due Diligence hits the bestseller charts!

chart
It might be a little blurry but it's all I could manage by way of recording a momentous event. As Due Diligence was tearing up the bestseller charts, I was on a retreat in the Wye valley without internet access apart from an occasional dodgy mobile signal that wasn't even half a G, never mind 3G.

So that's a picture of the free charts during the promotion of Due Diligence assisted by my friend Stephen Leather. Altogether about 2500 people downloaded my book over the weekend. That made me feel so good. What's happened since has made me feel even better.

Since the free promotion finished, sales of Due Diligence have remained outstanding. As I write this, my book is 40th in the paid crime thriller charts and number 240 overall! Sorry about all the exclamation marks, but I mean...

Here's another picture. Have a look at the company Jenny Parker is keeping.
crime chart
So, book marketing lesson number one is that I need help. I'm just so fortunate to have it.

14 April 2013

Published!







As a writer, my aspirations have been something along these lines:

Finish a story
Write a whole novel
Write something that feels really good and exciting
Have someone else read it
Have someone other than a friend or family member comment favourably
Get published

Now I've been published, it turns out that there are a whole new list of aspirations to go with it. Like:

See my ebook on Amazon
Have someone buy it
Get a good review
See the print proof, fondle it lovingly
See the paperback available on line

All done, all very satisfying but here's the best one of all:

See my book in a bookshop

It's in the Ebb and Flo Bookshop, 12 Gillibrand Street, Chorley http://ebbandflobookshop.com/

And yes, I did have to bribe the proprietor, or at least speak kindly to her. But it's there for you all to buy.

Now my aspirations are taking another notch upwards.

I'm examining the weekly top 50 sales chart in the Bookseller, for example
I'm also checking my Amazon sales every ten minutes

It's all very exciting, and, best of all, only just beginning.

Due Diligence (Jenny Parker)





8 April 2013

Iain Banks



I'm sad to learn of the imminent demise of one of my favourite authors, Iain Banks. He went to his doctors a couple of months ago complaining of a pain in his back. He assumed it was because of long stints at the computer but it turned out to be incurable cancer.

If you haven't read The Wasp Factory, now's the time.

If you're a Science Fiction fan, you'll already have read Consider Phlebas and all the other Culture novels. If you don't particularly like SF, these will convert you.

Iain is a very special writer, his imagination is matched only by his technical prowess and the lyrical quality of his prose. I'm going to miss him.

It brings home to me the importance of living as fully as I can today and not constantly putting things off for a better time, when I get chance, when I've more money, you know the feeling.

So, although the news is very sad, it's put a new spring in my step.

I'm just back from an amazing week at Freefall with Barbara Turner-Vesselago http://freefallwriting.com/ and have developed a new writing partnership with Jez Pike (not his real name) for a brilliantly funny novel about advertising agencies, big business, rock bands and organised crime. Jez and I are sharing the work to get the book done more quickly. He's doing the funny bits and I'll be writing the bits in between.

We've not agreed a title yet but it's probably going to be called Funky Junk.

Also I'm hellbent on finishing Limited Liability, the third Jenny Parker book. The first two have been amazingly well received, thanks for all your great feedback and reviews. More, please.

The paperback version of Due Diligence will be available from April 11th.







1 April 2013

An Amazing Day

DD Cover Final
After a good week, today is turning out incredibly!

First there's the movie/tv series offer for Due Diligence. I don't have all the details for you yet, but someone's imagination has been fired up and an incredible proposition is being made today. We're talking Hollywood blockbuster here, though it seems I'll have to make some tweaks to the plot, the setting and most of the characters. New York is sufficiently like Manchester for that to work, Jenny will probably do well as a man but I'm not entirely sure where I'm going to fit in a vampire and a hobbit. Their insistence on a part for Ja Ja Binks is entirely understandable under the circumstances.

Even more remarkably, my publishers, Open Circle, have been the subject of a multi-million dollar takeover bid from Amazon. As Open Circle are yet to make any money, this might seem a little surprising. I do have a theory, though. Due Diligence is currently published on KDP Select. This means that Amazon have exclusive sales for 90 days. Maybe they are worried about a huge drop in earnings when DD can be bought elsewhere?

So, a very special day. I may be able to resist the Hollywood blandishments, though. My chickens have begun to lay golden eggs.

31 March 2013

A Good Week

DD Cover Final
There's some weeks that pass without too much going on. They drift by almost unnoticed. Last week wasn't one of them.

It started with my aortic aneurism scan. I was invited by the NHS to take part in a screening programme (because I'm old) to see if I had one of these things. They sent me an appointment letter and a leaflet explaining everything. I looked at the picture on the front of the leaflet, it showed a skeleton with a red pipe down its middle. The pipe had a balloon in it half way down. I didn't get round to reading the rest of it.

I turned up at the Health Centre in Eccleston and was sent to sit on a row of green seats in a corridor. There was a lady already there who looked about thirty. She explained she was here with her dad and that I would be next one in. Her dad emerged looking unhappy. 'They say they've found something, that I have to go back.' he said. 'Are you sure they weren't looking at your tumour by mistake?' his daughter asked. The conversation did nothing to raise my spirits.

Inside, a young nurse asked if I'd read the leaflet. Naturally, I lied and said I had. Then, regretting the impulse, I said that I'd forgotten what it said and that she'd better tell me anyway to be on the safe side.
'Do you drive?' she asked.
'Yes' I answered
'If we find an aneurism you have to tell the DVLA and they'll take away your licence.' She said.
'Oh,' was all I could manage in response. By now I was really hoping not to have one.

I was ushered into another room where another nurse smeared gloop over my abdomen and spent five minutes running an ultrasound detector up and down. I asked if it was a boy or a girl, they told me that everyone, yes, e v e r y o n e asks that.

Eventually, after much tense staring at monitors and expelling of breath the nurse announced that I was OK, nothing had been detected, I didn't have whatever it was they were looking for. I have to tell you I was relieved. I'd managed to convince myself they were bound to find something awful wrong with me.

Not being in possession of a deadly aneurism felt really good. It was worth going just to feel the relief. A good start to the week.

On Wednesday, the print proof of Due Diligence arrived, it looked magnificent. All it needs is a couple of blank pages stripping out then its ready to go.

On Thursday, we finished Proceeds of Crime final copy edit and published it.

Also on Thursday, the jury delivered its verdict. If you remember, I've been involved in an eight week trial at Newcastle Crown Court. I'm happy to say that they seem to have listened to our evidence and decided that the farmer accused of operating an illegal landfill site is not guilty. It's a great relief because in my view the poor guy should never have been charged and he and his family have been subjected to four years of anguish unnecessarily. At least they can get on with their lives now.

So, not your average run of the mill slip by without noticing sort of week.
I plan to make sure all my weeks are as interesting, I can do it simply by staying aware of what's going on.

28 March 2013

Two Weeks


Today is the second weekiversary(!) of the publication of Due Diligence. There should be a better word for it than that, if you know of one please let me know. I promise to use it extensively.
A red letter day, plenty of cause for celebration, should bring meaning into all our Thursdays from now on.
What did we do to celebrate?
Published another book, of course. No, it didn't take me two weeks to write this one, about a year if you must know. Proceeds of Crime is the second Jenny Parker novel and is twice as good as the first. Reason? I've had a lot more practise both at writing thrillers and telling Jenny's story.
It would be really great to be able to tell you to expect the third book in a fortnight's time but it'll take a bit longer for me to finish Limited Liability. After that? Well, I've written the first chapter of a new series but am waiting to see what my publisher thinks of it.
There may be more than three Jenny Parker novels, a lot depends on how or if she comes out of Limited Liability in a fit state to carry on.
A few blogs ago, I intimated that there was more to our marketing strategy than a few blog posts and a bit of twittering. I also revealed that 11 April is the day that Due Diligence will be officially published. After 11 April, the fun will begin in earnest, I promise.
Meanwhile, Proceeds of Crime is an essential part of the process. Promoting two books is much more efficient than a single one. Having the sequel to Due Diligence makes a lot of sense.
Another thing. I promised to tell you a bit more about reviews and how we got on with the one with the spoiler in it.
The answer, in short, is nowhere. Amazon write polite letters of sympathy but decline to do anything. All we can do is hope that we get enough other reviews to make the awkward one disappear. I also left a nice comment asking him to change the one word that causes the problem. I'm really grateful to anyone who does a review, I really believe that this guy was being genuine but lacked experience.
If you have bought Due Diligence, please do a review. I'll be very grateful and also very happy as long as you don't include any plot spoilers.
 If you haven't bought it yet, here it is:




25 March 2013

Review



We've been through a lot of stuff this week. Eventually we calculated that selling enough books via this blog would take, on last week's evidence, about 96 years.

So, we need a Plan B. That's assuming what we've been doing up to now is Plan A, of course.

I had planned to write this post about exactly what Plan B might look like. Something has come up, though.

Due Diligence has had a review posted on Amazon.com. That's good.

The reviewer liked the book. That's also good.

He said:

'All in all it was a good read made better by the racing dialogue...nice'

Unfortunately, he also revealed an important plot element that may spoil other people's enjoyment of the book.

Hey! Don't you dare go looking for it.

What does an author do in this situation? I expected to have to endure a bad review at some stage. I have a contingency plan for just such an event. This involves a bed, a thick duvet and several hours sobbing.

I didn't anticipate a good review that gives away too much of the plot, though.

I've emailed Amazon asking for their assistance. I've also posted a polite request as a comment on the review.

I'll let you know what happens.

22 March 2013

The results are in



It's been a whole week since Due Diligence went live.

During that week I've posted a new blog every day, tweeted and facebooked to spread the word and watched as the sales figures began to rise.

Let's recap.

I worked out, and none of you disagreed, that my book needed to sell about 24,000 copies for my investment in time and money to pay off.

Let's give ourselves a fighting chance, let's allow two whole years for those sales. That's 1000 books a month, about 250 per week. So we have our target.

The point of this exercise was to measure the effect of this blog, allied to Facebook and Twitter. How many could it sell in a week?

First I have to correct the figures for the friends and family effect. Obviously, as soon as they heard that Due Diligence was available, they couldn't resist getting a copy.

These are the ones I know about:

Pete's mother in law
Debbie's dad
Louise
Daragh
Simon's mate
Lesley
Rebecca
Debbie ( a different Debbie to the one whose dad bought it)
Dennis
Paul (Jane's Paul, not Sarah's Paul)
Tina
There's probably a few more family members that haven't bothered to admit they have it yet, so I'll assume three more have been bought by them.

Now for the reveal. The total number of copies sold is....

19

Take away the 14 accounted for above and we're left with...

5

So that's what we've sold through the blog. Three in the US and two in the UK.

I've spent about six hours writing blog posts and a similar amount of time on Twitter. I'm discounting the hours gazing at the Amazon sales report watching for any movement.
So, that's 12 hrs of work at £12 per hour = £144, i.e. £28.80 per book.
There were about 1000 pageviews recorded for the blog over the week, that means 200 visits per sale.
I've been tweeting to my 1,669 followers, so we can call it 340 followers per sale.
Ten tweets a day, say, 1 book every 14 tweets.
So, 24,000 copies will take about 96 years.

There's the numbers. Make of them what you will. Social media promotion is effective but it needs plenty of work.
I'm glad I don't have to do all the marketing myself, I'd have no time to write any more books.





20 March 2013

The Numbers Game




Agog?

I bet you are. We're about to find out how many books this blog can manage to sell in a week.

If you remember, we started on the 15th March, I've been posting most days since then. I've also been tweeting regularly and sticking each new post on Facebook.

I have 1666 twitter Followers and 84 Facebook friends.

This blog has had the following visitor numbers:

15 March 168
16 March 135
17 March 162
18 March 118
19 March 127

Monthly statistics


Country
Pageviews
United States
470
United Kingdom
396
Germany
311
Poland
303
France
18
Ireland
12
Canada
10


Hmm. What should I make of those numbers?

Well, for a start surely most of the traffic is friends and family, isn't it? At least that's what I would expect.
However, I can't think of many Americans that might know me. Then there's Germany and Poland, that's a bit of a mystery as well.

So, that's where the people viewing the blog are living. That's how many visits we're getting. But how many books are we selling?

Well, we need to leave that question open for a few more days, I promised to give it a week and I'll take a look then and let you know.

In the meantime, if you're a friend or a family member who's bought Due Diligence please let me know if you haven't done so already. You need to be excluded from the figures otherwise I be giving my fellow authors and bloggers false hopes.

So, unless you're a friend or family member, feel free to buy the book. You'll be doing everyone, including yourself, a great service.

18 March 2013

Marketing Update

If you sign up for this blog I'll be letting you in on the closest guarded secrets of the publishing industry.
How much money can be made from publishing?
How much can be earned from my first published novel?

Watch this space for a day by day financial update!



This is the link to Due Diligence on Amazon.

 
Some of you have already bought it. Others haven't yet invested the £2 it takes to join in this exciting publishing venture. Don't worry, there's still time, just click on the link above and then remember to come back here when you're done.
 
Good, you're back safely. Buying Due Diligence will do two things. First, you've now got a really good thriller to read. Second, you are one of the key statistics that will determine how we can all sell books in the future.
 
While this experiment is proceeding, I'll let you into a secret. This isn't at all what I want to do. Writing the occasional blog post is fine. I usually wait until I have something to say that feels important. Now that Due Diligence is coming up to official publication day (11 April 2012, yes you're getting advance copies) I'm having to devote alot of time to this and to Twitter. Quite honestly, I'd rather be writing Limited Liability (the third Jenny Parker book) but I'm doing this to see what a publisher can reasonably expect a writer to do in the cause of book promotion.
 
Don't get me wrong, I'm having fun and the process is an exciting one. Due Diligence is being purchased, these numbers, allied to the blog visitors, will give us all valuable information.
 
So, keep up the good work.
 
Or at least start reading the previous posts so that you're up to speed. 


17 March 2013

Marketing Part 2 The Oneness of Being

We are all the same.

Yes, I know you were expecting more rip-roaring stuff about social media and marketing books. Bear with me, this is relevant.

We are all connected.

And I don't mean by Facebook or Twitter, I mean really, genuinely, spiritually. Everyone. We're all human beings trying to get along as best we can. Some of us seem to be making a better job of it than others, but I'm no longer convinced I can make that judgement even of myself.

There is joy in helping others.

Like I said, fundamentally, we're all the same.

So, let's help one another.

That's the basis of Open Circle publishing.

We're all in this together.

So, let's have some fun and at the same time see how different methods and strategies work for marketing books.

We're going to begin with this blog. The pageviews are recorded down below. Remember, these are the totals for all posts for all time. Not just for this page and certainly not unique visitor numbers.

But you're one of them.

Congratulations, you can make a big difference but only if you want to and are happy about it. Check in with yourself, are you getting an inner smile, a good feeling about all this? OK then you're in.

Let's go. Three simple steps if you want to be in on the experiment. I'll be publishing all the data we collect together, including book sales and visitor numbers, so you'll be able to see exactly what's happening.

STEP 3
POST A REVIEW ON AMAZON BEFORE 23 MARCH

STEP 2
READ IT, YOU'VE GOT ABOUT A WEEK TO DO IT

STEP 1
BUY A COPY OF DUE DILIGENCE



See what I did there? The steps are carefully revealed in reverse order, so you know exactly what you have to do and didn't click on the link first and disappear....

Oh, you've gone.

16 March 2013

Marketing Strategy Part 1


If you sign up for this blog I'll be letting you in on the closest guarded secrets of the publishing industry.
How much money can be made from publishing?
How much can be earned from my first published novel?

Watch this space for a day by day financial update!



This is the link to Due Diligence on Amazon.
Due Diligence

As you should already know, you're not supposed to click on it. 
Where have you gone? 
Oh, there you are, back safely from Amazon's voracious maw. There, I told you I'm a writer. Only writers use words like 'maw.' If heard in conversation you'd likely reply 'more what?' and a long explanation would ensue. Better to use mouth or throat or even abyss. I do like maw, though. It does the job better.

Where were we? Oh, yes. Marketing. It's probably the most important part of writing a novel. Apart from actually writing it. If nobody sees it, however good, bad or indifferent it is, it won't sell. If it's crap, however, and it does sell, nobody will come back for more of the same. So it's important that it's good or we're all wasting our time. That might seem a bit of a ramble but you get my drift, don't you?

Apart from being really really good, there's something else you must have before you even start to think about marketing.

Another book. Or, even better, several more books.

Take a look at the number underneath this blog. Yes, the big black number. It's the number of people who have looked at this blog. It includes everyone who likes it and comes back for more. Every time they come back it counts them again. There's also the ones who arrive, realise their mistake and leave as quickly. It's a decent sized number but it's not going to generate that many sales. Maybe a couple a day, I doubt it would ever reach double figures. We'll see.

Let's do a test.

Apart from this blog, we'll not do anything to promote Due Diligence for a week. Starting tomorrow, I'll be asking you to buy it and letting you know how many others do.

After that, we'll get down to the serious stuff and engage the help of professionals.

If you really do want to buy it now, I suppose that's OK. You'll get the updates automatically, so nothing is lost by having the first edition.

Here you are:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Due-Diligence-Jenny-Parker-ebook/dp/B00BU815XC/ref=sr_1_11?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1363342955&sr=1-11

Ah, go on then.
Bless you.




15 March 2013

Due Diligence goes live


If you sign up for this blog I'll be letting you in on the closest guarded secrets of the publishing industry.
How much money can be made from publishing?
How much can be earned from my novel?

Watch this space for a day by day financial update!



This is the link to Due Diligence on Amazon.

Wait! Hold on there! Stop that, come back and read a bit more. OK if I'm too late to stop you buying it, never mind. That's OK, but not what I had in mind just yet.

It's been uploaded in order that we can all share in the experience of publishing. This is the first step, but only the first step.

Let's take it slowly, not get too excited and take one thing at a time.

Uploading to Amazon is fairly easy but it's essential to have all the information they require to hand before you try. Otherwise, like me, you'll make a series of false starts. Or, worse, be tempted to chuck it up there and hope for the best, again as I was.

Having a beautifully polished shiny sparkling script is a good beginning. Then a good cover is essential. If you recall, last time I showed you an earlier version of the Due Diligence cover and mentioned that we decided it needed a human figure against the urban background. Emma has done a brilliant job and I'm very happy with the result. Now that we can see it on Amazon there are bound to be some changes she wishes to make. So this cover won't be the final version.

The next thing needed is a good 'Product Description.' Amazon ask you for this, it's what people who look at the book will read before they decide whether or not to buy it. This needs careful thought. The blurb (to use the technical term) for Due Diligence was drafted by Dea, our editor, and then subjected to a lot of discussion and suggestions before the final version was decided. It's short, describes the essential  elements of the novel and doesn't give too much of the plot away. That's my influence, I hate it when I'm told too much in advance. Film trailers are the worst, the best films I've seen are the ones I've not had spoiled by the trailer.
Anyway, I reckon that browsers aren't going to take the time to read lots of information. Have a look, let me know what you think. DD Blurb

Once the book and cover have been uploaded, the commercial bit starts. You have to decide how much to charge for the book. This is the interesting bit and one that needs a lot of thought. There are two levels of royalty to choose from. If you set the price at $2.99 or above, you get 70%, below $2.99 you only get 35% but can charge the minimum price of $0.99.

It might seem obvious to go for the higher royalty but, if you are a new author looking to maximise your readership the lowest price may well be the best option. Fear not, though. The price can be changed at any time, so all is not lost if the price you set doesn't seem to be pulling in the crowds.

As you will see, I've set the price for Due Diligence at $2.99 and its equivalent in all territories to begin with. It won't stay at this initial price, though. This will be changed as required by marketing and promotion.

The point I want to make today is that uploading a book to Amazon is only the start. The real work begins now. Having Due Diligence available isn't enough, people have to be told about it.

That's where you all can join in. Come on, it's going to be fun!

Next time I'll tell you how we'll be promoting Due Diligence and how you can help.

I'll also be explaining why one book isn't enough.

14 March 2013

Cover Girl


If you sign up for this blog I'll be letting you in on the closest guarded secrets of the publishing industry.
How much money can be made from publishing?
How much can be earned from my novel?

Watch this space for a day by day financial update!


This isn't the cover we decided on for Due Diligence, but I really like it myself. The picture evokes the contrast between the plush city centre offices and the gritty urban landscape that surrounds them. As soon as you get off the main streets, Manchester, like any other major city, seems derelict and threatening. A perfect setting for my crime thriller.

You can probably appreciate the artistic skill that has gone in to this design. The portentous darkening sky, the cityscape, the brighter ribbon of the River Irwell, reflections of the story and its setting. The cover artist, Emma, has actually read Due Diligence (and the sequel, Proceeds of Crime) and loved it. That helps a lot, I'm sure.

Following discussion with the experienced professionals that comprise Open Circle, it was agreed that there needed to be a figure in the landscape. A human being to help engage the reader. So Emma produced some more original artwork.

Covers are of paramount importance. Publishers know this. The big ones have large departments containing lots of artists and graphic designers, smaller ones use talented contractors. At Open Circle, we are lucky to have Emma so we get our covers designed in-house by someone who is not only a talented artist but also an avid reader.

But I digress. You're here for the money, aren't you? You're interested in the financial details, not the artistic nuances.

Let's get back to that, then.

Remember what we needed to earn from Due Diligence? I calculated it as £24,000 or 24,000 copies of the ebook. That's after the publisher takes half the royalty from Amazon and gives me the other half.

So why not just self-publish? Earn twice as much from each copy?

I could, in fact. As Open Circle is my business I effectively am self-publishing. The reason I'm doing it this way is to see if we can help other writers who aren't so fortunate. I've been able to afford the time and expense of producing a top class book. Without the professional cover art, the services of a brilliant editor and a lot of time and expense from others, Due Diligence would be a ragged piece of unevenness that didn't quite make complete sense. I'd still love it, of course, but I'm only the author so I'm very biased.

The other reason for splitting the proceeds with a publisher is marketing. If nobody knows about Due Diligence they won't buy it however good it might be.So Open Circle have to spend a big chunk of their half of the money on making sure the book sells and keeps on selling. In addition, Open Circle has already paid for the editing and cover design.

Open Circle, and any publisher of repute, has to invest in a book without any guarantee of return. The author risks that his time won't be fully recompensed, the publisher risks hard cash in the hope that they will both get paid. So, publishers like Open Circle are the good guys. There's plenty of bad guys out there who require payments from authors for upfront services and marketing. I'm hoping we can do much better if we all work together.

Next time, ebook publishing and what to expect.




13 March 2013

Making Money from Writing

If you sign up for this blog I'll be letting you in on the closest guarded secrets of the publishing industry.
How much money can I make from publishing?
How much can I earn from my novel?

Watch this space for a day by day financial update!



This is Newcastle Crown Court. It's been my home from home for the last six weeks.
The problem with being involved in a big trial like this one is that it takes over your life. It's not just the living away from home, it's the constant immersion in the process and the constant welter of information that has to be dealt with. As an expert witness, I have barristers giving me 'homework' each evening, writing notes for them on the technical aspects of the case and commenting on evidence that has arisen during the course of the proceedings.

Now, though, I'm finally released by the court and able to get back to something approaching normality.

I did promise to reveal to you the amount of money I have earned from writing. Don't worry, I keep my promises. You'll be given the exact amount any moment now.

But first, let me remind you and myself (my head's still full of evidence) of the financial situation so far.

Writing Due Diligence cost about £12,000 in time and expenses.
Then I added in overheads of £35,000 which have to be split between the three books in the series.

So, Due Diligence needs to earn £24,000 to break even. At £2.99 (ebook price) if the publisher gets £2 and gives me £1 it has to sell 24,000 copies. That sounds like quite a lot! Over two years it's an average of 40 per day. With a decent marketing campaign, and one that's sustained throughout the period, maybe it's possible, I really don't know. It's a really good book, so I have to trust that readers will appreciate it.

That's where a publisher comes in. Marketing. Being able to create some visibility for Due Diligence and keeping that going. Open Circle and I will need all the help we can get to make things work but a strategy has been developed and I'm going to keep you informed all the way through.

Writers can help each other with sales. It's not a competitive sport, readers are going to buy many more books in a year than a dozen of us can possibly write. We should band together, cooperate, put aside any pettiness or jealousy and sing each other's praises at every opportunity.

Writing, self-publishing and hoping for the best isn't going to get the kind of sales figures we need.

Next time I'll be telling you about the marketing strategy and the other writers that are putting in their time and effort on my behalf.

As for earnings:
The total amount I have earned so far is £50 from a runner-up prize in a national short story competition. I'll not be getting rich from short stories either.



10 March 2013

Financial Update 3 More Costs

If you sign up for this blog I'll be letting you in on the closest guarded secrets of the publishing industry.
How much money can I make from publishing?
How much can I earn from my novel?

Watch this space for a day by day financial update!
 

Remember I estimated that my crime thriller, Due Diligence, has cost me about £10,000 to produce?
(See earlier blog for details)

This £10,000 is referred to by accountants as 'variable costs.' As my heroine, Jenny Parker, is an accountant I have some expertise to draw on here.

There's another kind. These are called 'fixed costs'or 'overheads.' These costs are there whether I write or not.

As an example, take my car. Every time I drive it I use petrol and that costs me money. If I leave it on the drive, though, I still have the overheads to consider, even if there's no immediate need to shell out more cash on petrol. There's the purchase price, interest on the loan, road tax, insurance, all those things are fixed costs.

I've produced a really good crime thriller in Due Diligence but I've had to make a considerable investment before I could write it. I wrote three full novels prior to DD. Though I didn't realise it at the time, these were practise. I expected them to be published and to earn their way but that was an unreasonable expectation, in hindsight.

So, let's call these a £30,000 investment in my writing craft.

Then there's writing courses. Everyone has to learn, especially me. I might have lots of things I want to thrill and entertain you with, but this can't be done without assistance from tutors with greater experience. My most treasured discovery in this respect has been Barbara Turner-Vessalago http://www.freefallwriting.com/
Each year, for the past five years, I've attended her Freefall Writing Course at Poulstone Court in Herefordshire. Barbara is a Canadian lady with great skill, wide knowledge and a special insight. She gently coaxs the best from me. I learn so much about myself and my writing in this week, it's impossible for me to imagine where I would be without her. Her book, Writing without a Parachute, is one I would highly recommend to you.
http://www.valapublishers.coop/writingwithoutaparachute

I've been on lots of other courses and workshops as well. If I include travel and expenses, I estimate these have cost me about £5,000 over the last five years.

If we add all these overheads on to the cost of Due Diligence, it comes to £45,000.
This isn't what an accountant like Jenny would do, though. She would usually write down these costs over several years, or in my case, several books. I've aready got the next book in the Jenny Parker series, Proceeds of Crime, and have nearly finished (honest!) the third, Limited Liability.
It's only fair, then, to divide these overheads between the three of them.

So, each novel costs £20,000

Next time I'll reveal to you how much I've already earned from writing!
 

7 March 2013

Open Circle




This is my publisher's logo. You'll be seeing it a lot, I hope.

Let's be clear about this, I'm rather closely involved in Open Circle. I set it up, then invited various other people to get involved. At the end of the day, it's my initiative but relies on the inspiration and hard work of lots of others.

The Open Circle team consists of people who love books, who love reading and who also write in one form or another.

Two of the Board are academics, another has her own PR business, we have a graphic artist and a dancer.

Everyone shares the same vision, to help writers and readers connect, to encourage writers, to promote good books and not only our own.

The ways we're going to set about these worthy objectives are dependant on resources. In order to kick start the project, gain some experience and be able to put together sensible and fair deals for authors Open Circle is publishing my first three Jenny Parker crime thrillers.

The first, Due Diligence, is out in April.

The proceeds, hopefully plentiful, will go towards the promotion of Open Circle and my second book.

Once we know what we can offer, we'll be seeking out authors with good books and offering them the same services as a major publisher but on much fairer terms.

If you're a reader, you'll be able to participate in lots of ways.

If you're a writer, Open Circle will be an exciting resource for you.

Your first step is to follow this blog. Then you'll be with us every step of the way.

Did I mention that one of the most successful writers in the world is fully committed to supporting Open Circle?

Watch this space.




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

5 March 2013

Financial Update 2- Production Costs

If you sign up for this blog I'll be letting you in on the closest guarded secrets of the publishing industry.
How much money can I make from publishing?
How much can I earn from my novel?

Watch this space for a day by day financial update!



It's all in the preparation!



Let’s do some calculations. 
‘Whoopee!’ I hear you shout, ‘everyone loves calculations.’
Hold the sarcasm, please. These are about money, so they’re interesting.

Let’s assume I can write 250 words an hour. A novel of 80,000 words would take me about 320 hours, therefore. That’s to first rough draft stage. Then there's all the time spent doing edits and tweaks, rewriting bits, polishing it up, writing a second draft, then a third draft, etc. This all takes at least as much time as writing the damn thing in the first place.
So, I have 640 hours of my time invested in my novel.

Now, how much do you want me to earn? OK, that was probably a bad question. Let’s assume that I'll work for £30,000 per year. That equates to £16 an hour.
640 hours at £16 is £10,240.
If I could complete three novels a year, then I'd get my £30,000 salary. Quite honestly, I struggle to write one, but , hey ho, we’re being accountants here. 

But time isn't all that I've invested. I write with a fountain pen on paper then dictate my words, send off a voice file to a transcription service and receive a word file in return. This costs me about £300 per novel.
Then I need a talented editor. Someone who has affinity with my work, someone with a real desire to make it as good as it can ever be. Good editors don't come cheap. A proper edit, covering structure right through to checking the final proof for typos, costs me £1500.
Now I've got my script I need a cover. Again, cover designers vary from cheap and dull to inspired and professional. You pays your money and takes your choice. My really brilliant cover designer charges me about £400. I could get cheaper but a cover is very important.

Let's do some totting up:
Time                 £10,000
Transcription      £300
Editor               £1500
Cover               £400
Total                £12,200

Now all I have to do is upload it to Amazon and watch it sell.
At £2.99 per copy, I get 70% which is £2.
If I sell more than 6000 copies, I get all my costs back, including my time.
At £0.99 per copy I get 35% which is £0.35
If I sell 6300 at this price, I get my costs back but none of my time is paid for.

There are many authors out there who offer their books free. In this case even if they sell an infinite number they earn nothing at all.

A recent survey revealed that half of all ebooks earned revenues of less than $500.

What I really need now is a good marketing plan.

Next time I'll tell you about that.

4 March 2013

Financial Update

If you sign up for this blog I'll be letting you in on the closest guarded secrets of the publishing industry.
How much money can I make from publishing?
How much can I earn from my novel?

Watch this space for a day by day financial update!




This is where I've been spending the last three weeks.

Previously, I've told you about some of my writing experiences. I've described how I write (with a fountain pen in a nice notebook) how I send off voice files for transcription, how I ended up (?) writing crime thrillers rather than science fiction and how I manoeuvred my way into being published.

There's a lot to learn, that's the beauty of life. I'm learning all the time, mostly about me, how I am and what makes me the way I am. But also technical stuff. Writing technique, what works and what doesn't. Stuff like that. Now I'm faced with some rather interesting details which all seem to be Catch-22 situations.

In case you missed Joseph Heller's polymesmeric bestseller, it put a new expression into our vocabulary so you owe it to yourself to check out its origin.
There's a situation in the first few chapters of Catch-22 where a military policeman is investigating the inappropriate censoring of mail. He confides to Yossarian that he's made a major breakthrough and now believes that the person signing himself as Washington Irving and the one who calls himself Irving Washington may possibly be one and the same.

Today, in court, it took most of the day for the prosecution to establish something similar. The defence were happy to admit it all right at the start of proceedings but the prosecution wouldn't let them and insisted on spending the whole day boring everyone almost to death.
But that's a situation in Catch-22 but not Catch-22 itself.

Catch-22, to paraphrase, says that you have to be insane in order to be excused active service but if you apply to be relieved of duty on this basis it shows you can't be that mad and therefore you can't qualify.


I've been asked the following question:
'How many pages is your book?'


Publishing seems full of these Catch-22 questions.
In order to publish a book you have to have an ISBN number. In order to get an ISBN number you have to fill in a form which asks you when your book was published, who published it, a copy of the title page and the bit at the start that includes all sorts of details that you can't possibly know until its actually been published.

So, it seems, in order to publish your first book you have to have already published it!

Another thing is the cover. The cover design has to fit the book, and the designer has to know the spine width. In order calculate the spine width you have to know how many pages the book is. To work out how many pages it is you have to produce a print ready pdf file in the font and layout the printer is going to use. In order to produce the pdf file you have to know what the book will look like when printed and you don't know that until you get a proof copy. To get a proof copy you need the cover.

You also need a barcode of the ISBN.

So, it's no use getting all your ducks in a row, they also have to quack simultaneously.  

My publication date has been set! Details to follow.

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