Saturday, 29 December 2012
Saturday, 24 March 2012
I have to confess I knew little about the Titanic before the film in 1998. To me, it was always just the ship that hit the iceberg and sank, and a source of fascination for my oldest friend, Lynn, who was slightly obsessed with it! I sort of saw the film because everyone else was, and I was blown away – not by the cheesy love story, but by the fact that there was more to the Titanic than just the ship that sank. It came to symbolise the end of the Victorian era, and the values that English society had been built upon. Even as far back as 1998, I wondered how a First Class passenger, sitting in one of the many half-empty lifeboats would have felt, hearing the screams and cries for help of those who were doomed, just because they had been born poor. Of course, two years after the Titanic sank, came the First World War, when suddenly the very rich and the very poor were fighting alongside each other and the divisions of class started to erode. The poor found a voice, and after sacrificing so much for King and country, found it harder to return to bowing and scraping to those ‘above them’.
But first came the Titanic, and after a century of industrialisation, when machines transformed how we lived and worked, it could be argued that these metal gods were seen as infallible; and the Titanic came to represent man’s absolute faith in that which had been manufactured. The disaster came to show that when push comes to shove, Mother Nature can defeat anything that is man-made. I would imagine that by mid-April 1912, society would have felt the jolt when the ‘unsinkable’ ship was knocked out by an iceberg, and along with it, those who survived could speak of the horrific prejudices that prevented the poor from being saved.
I had no intention of writing a book based around the Titanic disaster – quite frankly it had been done to death; until, for a birthday present, I took Lynn to the Titanic Artefacts exhibition at the O2 in 2010, and I read the story of a woman who snatched a baby from another passenger just to get onto a lifeboat, refusing to hand it back for several days afterwards, claiming it was hers. Reading this, my vivid imagination came into play, and I wondered what it would be like if that happened, and the other woman refused to hand the baby back full stop. I originally wanted to write it as a sort of Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, where a woman is killed and it’s revealed she was the true mother of this rich man blah blah. It didn’t work, so I returned to my normal ‘romance’ genre – although there is very little traditional romance in Never Forget.So many books and films based around the Titanic focus on what happened before, and during the disaster; but I’ve always wondered what happened to those people who survived. These were the days when Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was unheard of, and people just ‘had to get on with it’. To witness such a horrific accident would affect survivors forever and their lives would never be the same. I thought it would be far more interesting to write a book about the aftermath of the Titanic, and so Never Forget came to be. The story of two women from very different walks of life, who are brought together during one of the most extraordinary events in modern history, and from a random act – one woman snatching the baby of the other, their lives become intrinsically linked. The book spans from 1911 to 1940, and touches upon subjects like the First World War, the increasing power of America, the growth of the Socialism, women’s rights and finally the Second World War. So my book is about more than just a ship that sank. And indeed the Titanic itself was more than just the ship that sank. To me, it was the end of an era, and the start of modern society as we know it.
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
One of the best things I've ever done is publishing with Smashwords, their distribution network is fantastic, and as I stated before, I discovered, by chance that my free books were flying off the shelves on Barnes and Noble. I received a lovely comment on my website from a lady comparing me to Lesley Pearse, and she had read my books on Kobo, which they never would have appeared on should I have stayed purely with Amazon. In my opinion, offering free books is the best way of introducing yourself to an audience. Look at this way, take a pop-star such as Adele. She is a major success on both sides of the Atlantic, but in the UK, her big breakthrough came at last year's Brit Awards, when she gave such a moving performance of 'Something Like You', people sat up and took notice. If 5 million people watched the Brits, let's break it down and say that three million had it on as background noise, one million hated Adele, and one million loved her. Of that one million, five hundred thousand would no doubt go out the next day and buy her album '21' and possibly'19' too. They tell their friends, who didn't watch the Brits and it escalates from there. All that started with someone watching her performance for free, on their television.
The same goes for books. Unless you’re already established, or else a TV or media celebrity, without the aid of major public relation campaigns and a huge marketing budget, no-one is going to know who you are or that you've published a book. Whereas if you publish a book for free, even if you get 1000 downloads, discount 500 of those, because people just love free books and don't bother to read them. But of those 500 that are left, even if 200 people don't rate your books, you are left with 300 people who want to read more of what you done. Who have friends, family and colleagues they will recommend you to. This isn't going to happen without them finding you in the first place.
I contacted Amazon, pointing out that Maudie, Mrs Osbourne Regrets and Winner Takes it All are all free on Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Sony, iTunes etc and asked if they could price match for a while, and I received a generic reply saying they controlled the pricing of their books and that they use their discretion. In other words – get stuffed! They are shooting themselves in the foot. They don't know if I'm a rubbish writer, or the next Catherine Cookson, but if they took a chance and made my books free for a week, there is always that chance that people would love my work and go on and buy other books - all of which Amazon takes a cut from. But they're not interested. Here in England they have the monopoly on online book sales and know they don't need the likes of me to boost their coffers.
Well, it's their loss, but it does sadden me that I am missing out on readers in my home country because Amazon do nothing to help promote authors who won't play ball with them. I'll goon buying things with them, and downloading books onto my Kindle. I'll even upload ‘Julia’ onto Kindle on 5th March when it's released. But I won't expect anyone to notice it. I'll just wait for it to come out on Nook.
Thursday, 16 February 2012
Either way, the giving away of free books certainly seems to work. It’s fairly lazy marketing, but I can only shout out how good my books are, so often and also people need to see proof of the pudding, and the only way they’re going to do that is by reading them. Facing redundancy, it’s good to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and just maybe, my book sales are on the increase. It’s a slow process, because unlike a song which is instant, books take time to read, and a thousand other things get in the way. I wouldn’t recommend offering free books if you’ve only published one book, because by the time people have read it – if you haven’t got another one to offer – they’re likely to forget about you. I would say it’s only a good idea if you have a whole arsenal of books on offer, and also the ones you do offer for free, try and link them to something else. I’m giving away Maudie, which is book one of a trilogy (the other two aren’t free), or Winner Takes it All, which is the sequel to Summerset, and as I said before, more likely to entice people to buy the original book.
Sceptics will laugh, but many years ago I went to see a palm reader, who told me that my success in life would come overseas and I poo-poohed it, not being one of life’s travellers. But of course, the whole self-publishing phenomenon has been driven by America, and so my outlets have become mainly based in the US. In America I have had thousands of downloads, and lots of people know my name. Here in England, I still have work colleagues who don’t even know I write! Maybe the psychic is right and my literary success will be in the States. Whatever happens, I feel more positive about the future, and this is down largely to giving away free ebooks. And for anyone who has more than three books to offer, I would say certainly consider it. But please, make sure you edit the book first, one thing I have come across, being a Kindle owner is the awful amount of typos in self-published book, making the most well-written book appear shoddy and un-readable.
Monday, 9 January 2012
But watch out, the strangest things may well lead someone to your book. Over Christmas I decided to watch again a BBC comedy that was on a couple of years ago called 'Off the Hook'. It was a pretty hit and miss affair about a group of teenagers going to university for the first time. In episode 4, their reclusive flatmate, who they called 'weird bloke' is revealed to be a pretty, if rather deranged girl (who is still known as 'weird bloke' right up to the end of the series). I wanted to find out where I had seen the girl before and so went onto imdb. I discovered she is called Georgia King, and on reading her resume, saw that she had recently made a film called 'Austenland'. Seeing as I have a strange hatred/fascination for things Austen-related (usually so I can just slag them off) I clicked into this film and read the premise - that a modern day American girl, with a fixation on Mr Darcy goes to a Jane Austen theme park in England, to 'discover' herself. I also saw the upcoming film stars JJ Field, who is one of the scrummiest actors around, so I was so sold on the film. But I decided to check out the book it was based on, and so downloaded a sample of 'Austenland' by Shannon Hale. I enjoyed what I read and downloaded the whole book. In all honesty the book turned out to be a disappointment and I doubt I would read any of her books again. (Still going to see the film of course). But what I wanted to highlight was that from a tiny thing like out of boredom, watching an obscure sitcom I'd seen before, on youtube, I ended up buying a book.
So, you never know, the strangest thing in the world - something you never even imagined, might just lead to that coveted book sale.
Friday, 6 January 2012
So I've stopped sulking and have decided just to get on with the business of writing. I have a lot to do, and that's when I'm happiest, when I have one novel cooking and several others in various states of completion. I'm currently writing my next book, which will be out in the autumn. Without giving too much of the plot away, it's set in the fifties, about a young woman who uses a family secret to make a better future for herself; and for the first time ever in one of my books there is also a murder mystery thrown in. I'd like to think of it as Downton Abbey meets Miss Marple but with a bit of added grit.
Writing Paradise Lost taught me a lot about myself. What prompted me to start it was that I bought an album called 'Comedy' by the old Liverpudlian band, Black, primarily for the track 'You're A Big Girl Now'. But there was also this other wonderful track called 'Paradise Lost' and I thought, for some reason 'Paradise Lost' was an Evelyn Waugh style novel about aristocrats and the death of the British Class system. But I wiki'ed it and discovered it's an old poem by Milton about man's descent into hell (or something like that), so I thought, okay, I'll write the novel I thought it was. So I wrote thirty pages, in the first person, about this girl who comes home from Girton College in 1951 to her old family home and these terrible things happen at her family home blah blah. I got the most terrible writer's block, which in turn made me depressed and I realised I was writing out of my comfort zone. I'm not good writing in the first person, and I also realised that girl wasn't the sort of person I can write as. I wasn't interested in her story, so I wasn't sure if anyone else would be. So I threw it all away and re-started the story. The new one is far more me, with secrets, class struggles, revenge etc etc.
Added to this, I'm getting books two and three of The Line of Passion ready for publication. 'Kate' the next book will be out Monday 30th January in e-book form.
Finally, there comes my 'magnum opus'- Never Forget. There is a special reason why this is being released on Tuesday 10th April, as it the 100th anniversary of a very special – and tragic event, which the book is based around. On April 4th I will be doing an interview with author Kelly Moran on her blog and giving the very first copy of Never Forget away. I am genuinely excited about this book because I know it's probably the best thing I've ever written. More about it soon....
So, for now, I'll say adios, and get on with my many tasks. Remember, Maudie - book one in The Line of Passion trilogy is free on Smashwords.
Friday, 23 December 2011
1. Don't believe the hype about 'Kindle Millionaires'.
I think Santa Clause is more genuine than the likes of Amanda Hocking and her pals who 'without any effort' have sold millions of Kindle books. Think about it. How are you going to sell millions of books if no-one knows your name? Readers are unreliable, we all are. We download books, we start them, we discard them, promising ourselves we'll go back, then life gets in the way and you've forgotten about it. But miraculously, all the people who bought Ms Hocking's books, have faithfully finished them, shared them with friends who've also spread the word blah blah blah. I'm sorry to be cynical but I suspect Ms Hocking and her cohorts have agents guiding them in the right direction, thinking up clever marketing plans and making the world think they're more popular than they actually are and it starts a snowball effect. It's been going on in the music industry for years, 'indie' bands who rocket to the top of the chart, who at first seem cool and self-guided but in reality it turns out they are backed by a massive major label who have carefully orchestrated their image and they're actually about as indie as Take That. Without doubt, I have certainly sold more e-books that I ever had hard copies, but my only chance of ever becoming a millionaire is by finding an agent and publisher who will lavish thousands of pounds worth of marketing on me. Which brings me onto;
2. Just because an agent reads your whole manuscript, it doesn't mean they're going to like it.
I was so excited when an agent (I'm not naming names) twice requested my new novel 'Never Forget' (out April 2012 folks), firstly for one of her readers to puruse and secondly for the lady herself. I spent a couple of months boring my friends, without getting carried away with myself, secretly planning what I would do with an advance, should I get one. Only for her to send me an email saying she wouldn't be taking it on because apparently the dialogue wasn't authentic. It's gone to another agent who has kindly ignored me completely, so I've given up the ghost and I'm going to publish it myself. If you're wondering what it's about, it's about two women who meet on the Titanic as it's sinking, and one steals the other's baby and keeps him, bringing him up as her own, and the other woman sets about trying to get her son back.
3. Don't rely on Twitter
As an indie author you're told to use social networking to promote your work, and I say that that's a complete load of nonsense. Like in point 1, you need a band of loyal followers who will retweet your tweets and share your information with their followers and so on and so forth. This is no disrespect to any of my author friends on Twitter, but not one of them have ever retweeted anything about one of my books, except for the writer Mhairi Simpson (@AMhairiSimpson) who kindly retweeted a tweet I did about my UK book store. Other than that, nothing. As usual, the traditional pubbed authors all stick together, promoting each other and ignoring those of us who need a helping hand. My advice is use Twitter by all means, but don't expect it to make you famous, you still need to actually persuade people to read your books and I've yet to figure that one out (as a way of making money anyway).
So as you can see 2011 hasn't been entirely successful for me, there have been a lot of ups and downs and even now, I am toying with the idea of giving up writing. So much rejection does make you question your abilities, then again, I did do my birth chart the other day and it did say that because my house is in something or the other, I am likely to acheive success posthumously. So that's it, I'm going to become famous when I'm dead. Typical!!
Anyway, on that light note. I'd like to wish everyone a lovely Christmas and I hope for all my struggling author friends, 2012 brings them success. As soon as I discover the secret to being discovered, I will share it with you.