My Paperback Deal #amwriting @bookouture

Soon after I got the writing bug and had written a couple of books, I sat down and made out a list of goals I wanted to attain – steps, if you like, on my personal ladder of writerly success. They included: find a publisher who wanted to publish my books, write a best-seller, win a book prize award, have my books published in other languages and… the truly elusive one, get a coveted paperback deal.

Me in The Works 2All my books to date (with the exception of SECRETS OF THE DEAD which was available in The Works bookshops) are on what is known as POD, print on demand. That’s to say, if you order the book on Amazon or head to a bookshop and request it, they will have to send an order to the printers and an individual copy will be produced. A ‘paperback deal’ however, is the real McCoy (who was McCoy?) and publishers will do a run of several thousand copies at one time, and some of those will find their way into supermarkets and bookshops and appear on bookshelves all over the country.

I wrote out my ‘Wish List’ in 2016 just before I signed with Bookouture, and they have pretty much made all my other wishes come true. My books are available in Germany, Norway, Israel, Turkey, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy and Poland to name a few. countries. I’m well over halfway with my million-seller goal and… I’ve had several best-sellers.

Today, I’m over the moon to tell you I have got my first ever proper paperback deal!

cannock 3Bookouture have been in talks with Sphere (who will publish the book) for ages and ages and… THE BIRTHDAY will be coming out in paperback in spring 2020.

I couldn’t be happier. Ten years on from when I started writing and I have put a fat tick next to this goal. What’s next on my list? Well, I’d rather not reveal that just yet but rest assured I have a few more to tick off.

*********

By the way… I’m delighted to let you know that the Kindle version of THE BIRTHDAY is only 99p right now in the UK as part of the Kindle Monthly Deal!

Grab your copy here: http://ow.ly/LrQJ50viA5l

If You’d Told me Back Then… #amwriting

 

DIARYI got a shock this morning. Well, not so much a shock as a reality check. After yet another early 4am start, I reached the 20K point in my current script, the sixth in a crime series, and checked my diary to remind myself what day of the week it was. (I tend to lose track of time when I’m in the writing zone.) I’d made a note in it:

STARTED WRITING MY FIRST BOOK TEN YEARS AGO TODAY

Really? Has it been ten years since I penned the first lines of Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines? At the time, I fully expected it to be my one and only book, yet here I am a decade later, with twenty titles under my belt and more to be published.

I wonder how many words I’ve actually typed since that time – undoubtedly millions. I’ve worn letters off keys and broken four laptops.

Initially, I didn’t type the book (I am the world’s slowest typist and even now can still only type using three fingers). I actually wrote out the entire script by hand – a laborious but tested procedure – and filled A4 notebooks with chapter after chapter which I then corrected in red ink like a deranged teacher. It was only after I’d scrawled corrections and drawn arrows to move paragraphs, and added extra sections, that I would begin typing. All of that worked for me and I preferred to read the handwritten scripts than to scroll down pages on a computer. Nowadays, that’s not possible. With 3-5 books to write a year, I have to start immediately by typing ‘Chapter One’ and off I go.

In 2009, writing a book was top of my bucket list – a one-off comedy that would sink or swim. I had a desire to accomplish something I had not yet managed to do. Little could I have imagined that the decision to write it would direct me along a new path. The book swam and I continued writing.

As I look back over the last ten years, I feel a sense of achievement that hitherto, I couldn’t contemplate. I have loved writing every single one of my books and the more I write, the more ideas I have, so no sooner do I type an ending to one, than I’m ready to go again.

Undoubtedly, there will be further casualties over the forthcoming years: more laptops will be sent to the recycling unit with worn out keys and numerous notepads that now only contain essential notes, and I hope there will be many more books for you to enjoy.

If you’d told me 10 years ago that I would become a best-selling, full-time writer, I’d have laughed and said, “I wish!”

Well, it happened, so my message to all you writers out there is don’t give up because this time next decade…

Crime Pays #writers-life

AwardIn January 2017, I moved from comedy to crime. It was a bold move. I’d made my name as writer of comedy and enjoyed much success, written features for and appeared in national magazines, been on numerous BBC radio stations, even interviewed on BBC Breakfast Television (twice!). I’d won the prestigious People’s Book Prize award and had a contract with Bookouture/Hachette to write 2 more romantic comedies… and… I was performing a stand-up gig around the Midlands, entitled, Smile While You Still Have Teeth to sell-out audiences.

Moving from one genre to another is a challenge. You learn skills and techniques while writing one genre that can’t be transferred to another and you have to treat the whole writing process in a completely different way. Where I had once written whatever came into my head and written larger than life, hilarious characters and scenarios, now I had to think up twists and devious red-herrings and imagine the mind of a killer. I had to plot my books carefully, research like mad and lose the humour!

Bold or not, it was the right move. LITTLE GIRL LOST shot up the charts to become the #2 best-selling on Amazon Kindle and even became a USA Top 150 Best-Seller. DI Robyn Carter was taken to my readers’ hearts and more books in the series were commissioned and written.

Earlier this month, I had the most incredible news – my crime novels had sold over 500,000 copies. I had to sit down. Half a million copies? How was that ever possible?

Having pinched myself several times, I checked the email again. It was true and I was astounded. It was beyond my wildest expectations and I felt a huge surge of gratitude to my publisher, to all of the reviewers, bloggers and friends who have helped promote my books and most of all to my readers.

I have always dreamed of selling million copies. I love entertaining people, whether that be by making them laugh, feel-good about themselves and life or by thrilling them and making their jaws drop. To know half a million people have read my books is amazing.

My sincere to all of you who have helped make this happen. THE DARE, the third book in the DI Natalie Ward detective series comes out in April. There’ll be two more after it and one further crime thriller to be written by the end of the year. I have plans for more after that and hope you will continue to read and enjoy my books. I have my fingers tightly crossed that one day in the near future I’ll be able to say I’ve attained my goal but until I hit that elusive one million sales, I am immensely satisfied with what I have achieved so far and can only say that crime definitely pays!

newspaper

Do Giveaways Help Promote Books? #giveaway #writingadvice

Birthday promo 3I often see tweets “#RT for a #Giveaway” or similar, scrolling through my Twitter feed. It seems every day, authors are eagerly offering not just signed copies of their books, but other goodies to boost sales, sometimes even huge hampers of gifts, from £100 Amazon vouchers to promises of putting winner’s names into the next novel.

Most of us will have tried this. We’ve offered books, purchased out of our own pockets. We’ve signed them and posted them to far-flung places, again at our own cost, to those fortunate enough to win. Yet, how much does a giveaway influence a book’s performance?

We’d love to believe offering a signed copy of a book will garner interest in it, and those unlucky enough not to win your book will race off instead to purchase it.

Websites like Goodreads would also have you believe it is imperative to offer free books and run a giveaway campaign several weeks ahead of release. Some virtual book tour companies also advise you to offer free copies of your book to run alongside reviews, and bombard you with statistics of how many people read and respond to such posts.

Do giveaways sell more books?

After numerous giveaways held on various websites, I have had mixed results. Goodreads campaigns yielded no increase in sales, nor did I have much success offering giveaways on virtual tours or Rafflecopter prizes on blogs.

This might have been due to the timing or poor promotion on my part or simply not doing it properly,  but if you are considering doing a giveaway you should remember that a lot of people you attract are simply looking for freebies. They might or might not even read or review your book. They could well tell their friends how great it is, but the reality is you will spend a lot of your hard-earned money on promoting and the financial rewards are unlikely to outweigh the cost.

Are giveaways pointless?

In brief – no. They are a terrific marketing tool and success is not always based on number of book sales.  Much depends on your expectations. Gear your giveaway to create a social buzz, gain more followers on your social media platforms and increase your email or newsletter list, and all of those will eventually lead to sales. You are playing a long game and building up your author platform.

If you get your promo right, your name and book will get massive exposure, which is again great news. I learned recently, a reader needs to hear of and see a book about seven times before they click to buy. A promotion will increase those chances.

The key to a giveaway is to decide what you want out of it. If you are creating a name for yourself then they are worthwhile. If you are hoping for an immediate increase in book sales, be prepared to be disappointed. (Having said which, I know of authors who have had a spike after a big giveaway.)

The Internet is stuffed full of giveaways so target your promotion carefully. You need to be heard and stand out among other giveaways.

Results of recent giveaway.

My new thriller THE BIRTHDAY is due out on September 27th. Pre-sales have been decent but I wanted to raise interest prior to the actual release.

I offered two notebooks (see above) as prizes. I started my campaign Sunday afternoon because that seems to be a time when many people are online. I offered one notebook on Twitter for merely following me and retweeting. I offered a second book using my Facebook page for anyone sharing my post and commenting.

Given my goal was purely to raise awareness of the forthcoming release, I was pleased with the results.

My Facebook page post reached 1011 people and was shared 124 times.  The Twitter post received 2,080 impressions and was shared 104 times. In total, 3091 people saw the post and are aware of my book. I’m pretty happy with that. I can’t say if any will convert into sales but for now I’m satisfied to know THE BIRTHDAY has been paraded in front of these people and the icing on the cake is that before I ran the giveaway yesterday at 2 p.m. THE BIRTHDAY was at #630 in the UK Amazon charts. By 8 p.m. it had risen 250 positions to #380.

The giveaway runs until Thursday so you have time to win one of these fabulous notebooks. If you’d like to do so, pop along to my Twitter page and retweet the link here or my Facebook author page which you can find by clicking here

Getting Your Book Published Part One #writingtips

Writing Mag

I regularly get emails from new authors asking for advice about getting published. I’m not an expert on the subject but am happy to share my thoughts and experience, so here are a few (I hope helpful) suggestions to assist you.

When I first started out, it was much more difficult to find a publisher. The optimistic wannabe author had to purchase a copy of the latest edition of The Writers Handbook, track down agents or publishers willing to accept unsolicited scripts, then print off hundreds and hundreds of pages, charge down to the local post office, weighed down by the precious manuscripts, and then part with life savings to send them on their way.

Fortunately today it doesn’t cost you a small fortune in printer ink and postage.

So, your script is ready and you don’t want to go the route of self-publishing. You want to find a publisher. Where do you start? This is going to sound odd, but begin by raising your author profile. You can be checking out publishers while you do this. Follow the advice I laid down in my last post and ensure you are actively building an author platform. The connections you make online will prove invaluable and if you join writing groups on Facebook, you will get a great deal of advice.

It’s also a good time to put together your biography. Chances are a publisher will want know something about you, so write down salient points and if you have not yet had anything published, send articles, stories, poems to magazines or websites who might publish them. You might also want to enter a couple of writing competitions. Publishers like to know you are in for the duration and intend making a career out of writing. If you are working on a second script, make sure you have a synopsis for it too and you mention it.

Okay, now you can get your teeth into it and seek out a publisher.

Sign up to and go to author events and get known, not just by potential readers, but other authors in your genre. There are huge crime and romance writing events all over the country. I met my first publisher at the Festival of Romance in Bedford, which I attended with a group of romance writers. My books didn’t technically fit into the romance category and the event was stuffed with Mills & Boon fans, but I made contacts and friends, and as luck would have it, was on a table next to a small publisher called Safkhet. During the long gaps when no visitors came to buy our books, I got chatting to the publisher herself, who at the time published the fabulous Sheryl Browne (who now writes for Bookouture too). As we were about to pack up for the day, the publisher said, ‘You’re the only person who hasn’t tried to pitch a book to me. Do you have anything else you’re working on?’ As it happened, I had a non-fiction I was considering self-pubbing. She asked me to send it to her which I did on my return home. The same afternoon she offered me a book deal. It was the start of my journey.

Author events are great places to pitch your ideas as well as making new contacts. I know of several successful authors who have secured deals thanks to pitching events.

There are also online pitching events such as the one Canleo Publishing (my other publisher) offered on Twitter recently. In this age of digital publishing it is wise to consider these opportunities and keep an eye out for them. Again, if you are building a brand, you ought to follow some publishers, agents and other authors in your genre. Tweets and retweets can be the source of valuable information.

If you would prefer to approach a publisher directly, you MUST (yes, I’ve used the shouty capital letters) read their guidelines before submitting. Be sure they are a) accepting unsolicited scripts (that is from authors not agents) and b) they are looking for books in your genre.

Search engines will provide all the information you need to find a publisher. Be sure you choose a publishing house you feel comfortable with. Don’t be tempted to go to a small publishing house because you think you’ll stand more chance with them. They are often the ones who close their doors. Check out the authors they already represent and maybe even contact one or two of them on Twitter or FB to ask what their experience has been like.

Once you’ve chosen a publisher, go to the submissions page on their website. Some sites ask for a synopsis and three chapters, others for a five word summary and 10,000 words, or even the full manuscript. Whatever they request, send it in. You might find yourself having to submit the information onto an online form on their website, in which case, plan your words carefully beforehand on a Word document or equivalent, so you don’t send in something full of errors.

Writing Mag coverAs soon as you’ve submitted to a publisher you should get an automated email from them, letting you know how long you can expect to wait for a response. It can take months! It is a frustrating and angst-ridden time but please wait it out and once again, work on social media, your website or your blog, or write something else. In fact, it’s a very good time to submit short stories to competitions in magazines so you can get some writing kudos.

Some may disagree, but I don’t hold with applying to a whole bunch of publishing houses at the same time. Try one or two at most. Editors in one company do actually talk to other editors in another, so they will probably soon find out you’ve submitted to every publishing house possible and that won’t work in your favour.

If you are sending a covering letter or email, you must give a publisher clear reason to consider your work. Tell them why you would like them to publish it? Have you heard about them from a fellow author? (Good – recommendations help.) Are they the best digital publishing house for your genre? Don’t go overboard though.

If you haven’t heard back within the period of time they stated on the website or email, then don’t be afraid to ask if they’ve got to your submission yet. However, don’t leap in a couple of weeks after you sent it. You will have to exercise patience.

SUMMARY:

  1. Make sure you have a brief but interesting letter about yourself and your publications so far. If you haven’t yet got any works published, write articles for blogs/magazine/papers – anything to show you can write and be able to mention them in your covering letter. Also send work off to one or two writing competitions such as those in the Writing Magazine.
  2. Choose one or two publishers you feel would be willing to publish your work.
  3. Apply and adhere to their guidelines. Ensure your forms are correctly filled in and your covering letter  (if they request one) is not too long.
  4. Be patient. I don’t know how many times I say this to writers but it really is a game of patience. The most successful writers are those who have a long game plan and keep building up their portfolio of work.
  5. Put together a biography, a photo of you, a list of works you’ve written, awards you’ve received, anything else relevant that a publisher might require.

I’ll expand on all of this at a later date but for now – good luck.