Tuesday, 18 December 2012

It's a Steal!

Okay, so here's the deal. The Kindle edition of my debut novel Pariah has just been reduced in price. Massively. To only 89p!

The offer will be on for a limited time only, so what are you waiting for? Go to the Amazon site here to buy your copy.

I'd hate for you to miss out!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Doyle is back!

For any fans of Callum Doyle out there, I’m really pleased to report that book number three in the series – entitled ‘Marked’ – is done and dusted and will soon be available for purchase. Before I say any more, here’s what it looks like:

Nice, huh? Following my previous novels (it seems I’m now a ‘brand’), it has the usual motifs of the New York skyline and the shattered glass, but I really like the appearance of the young girl gazing out across the East River (Pan Macmillan had a fight on their hands to get that particular model’s image, but that’s another story...)

So why the girl, and why that title? Well, here’s the cover blurb:

Her tattoo wasn’t just a mark for life; it marked her for death too.

In New York’s East Village a young girl is brutally raped, tortured and murdered. Detective Callum Doyle has seen the victim’s remains. He has visited the distraught family. Now he wants justice.

Doyle is convinced he knows who the killer is. The problem is he can’t prove it. And the more he pushes his prime suspect, the more he learns that the man is capable of pushing back in ways more devious and twisted than Doyle could ever have imagined.

Add to that the appearance of an old adversary who has a mission for Doyle and won’t take no for an answer, and soon Doyle finds himself at risk of losing everything he holds dear.

Including his life.

Marked is the blistering new crime thriller from the author of Pariah and The Helper.

In this novel, good old Cal Doyle is really pushed to his limit. As it says in the blurb, his adversary is sick and twisted, but also extremely manipulative. It seems impossible that Doyle can win against this man, and his frustration even boils over into his family life, where things are not as harmonious as usual.

The book also sees the return of some characters from Pariah. Remember Paulson, the Internal Affairs cop? And the evil Bartok brothers? I’ll say no more...

There’s one other aspect of the novel I do want to mention here, however. One of the things it focuses on is the effects on the parents of one of the murder victims. Far from being minor players, as such characters often are, they are at the forefront. When I was writing their parts I found myself becoming increasingly in tune with their emotions and distress. I hope that translates onto the page.

When I received the copy edits for Marked, I noticed that the very last chapter contained no comments or annotations whatsoever. When I queried it, I was told that the copy editor got so caught up in the story that she forgot to put them in! I’m hoping that she’s not the only one who finds the story so involving.

The publication date for Marked is January 3, 2013 (alongside the appearance of the mass market paperback of The Helper), but it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Bloodshed at Harrogate: The E-Book War

I haven’t posted here for a while, but I just have to say a few words about my trip to the Theakstons Crime Festival at Harrogate. This was my second time there, and despite suffering from one of the worst colds I’ve had in years, the experience was a blast. I got to see old friends, make new ones, and finally meet in the flesh several people whom I have been dying to turn into something more than virtual acquaintances for ages, including Ryan David Jahn, Will Carver, and Miles, of Milorambles fame.
There were plenty of highlights for me: Colin Dexter, now frail of body but still razor-sharp of mind, collecting the award for his outstanding contribution to crime writing; Harlan Coben delivering a frank and highly inspirational insight into his path to success; seeing the cast and crew of Luther, a session at which we somehow managed to blag VIP seats right at the front. I could go on. But there’s one other panel that has had me thinking a lot over the past few days, and I need to let those thoughts out.
The panel was on e-books, and already it has become infamous. Almost every other crime-writing blogger has discussed it, or at least mentioned it. If you want all the sordid details you can, for example, find pointers to various summaries on Pamreader’s blog, but in short the hubbub is all about certain comments made by the successful e-book author Stephen Leather, which I’ll come back to in a moment.
Most of the debate centred on the problems associated with offering e-books at ridiculously low prices, with the claims that it devalues books and harms authors. As an author myself, perhaps I should be worried, but actually I’m not. I think that most of the arguments being made against low-priced e-books are simplistic and ignore the larger market forces that are at work. During the session, the fact that e-books can be bought for less than the price of a cup of tea was voiced with some anger, and the complainant was warmly applauded. An example doing the rounds at the moment is the novel Perfect People, by Peter James, available through Amazon at only 20p. Stephen Leather commented that he can spend five days writing a short story, then sell it at 72p, making 25p for himself. At this, one of the panel asked him whether he really believed he should be working for only 5p a day. It seems clear that this is publishing gone mad.
Or does it?
Take the Peter James example. Truth be known, Amazon started selling his novel at 20p purely to compete with Sony, who were already selling it at that price. The publisher was still paid at the previously agreed rate, and Peter James got the full royalty. In fact, both benefited from hugely increased sales of the book. It was Amazon that took the hit on profits, but they were willing to do this for good business reasons. So what’s the problem?
Now take the Stephen Leather example. The accusation that he was willing to work for 5p a day was, when you think about it, totally baseless, and Mr Leather has pointed out the fallacy on his own blog. He might make 5p a day on one copy, but of course that is multiplied many times over by the number he expects to sell. In fact, he calculates that his short story will make him something like £3000 per day of creative effort – not bad by anyone’s standards. So again, what’s the problem?
Perhaps the real problem is about the message that is being sent out. I think the fear is that the availability of some books that are as cheap as chips will persuade readers that all books should be at these prices; this will drive down the price of books to unsustainable levels, and the literary world will fall around our ears. I don’t believe this will happen. The availability of T-shirts for two quid at Asda doesn’t stop Debenhams selling T-shirts for twenty quid. The two can co-exist quite nicely. And there are countless examples like this where people are prepared to pay more for what they perceive to be better quality goods. On the other hand, there is nothing to stop people occasionally selling quality goods at rock-bottom prices. In business these are called loss leaders. You do it to entice customers in, and then you do your best to keep them. Books are often sold in this way for a limited time to augment a readership.
Conversely, there is nothing to say that digital books have to be cheap. All those arguments that retail prices don’t reflect the costs of production are entirely specious. So what if a digital book doesn’t have the same overheads as a paperback? Why does that mean it has to be cheaper? Since when did the price of an Armani suit bear any relation to the cost of making it? We’re back to market forces. Supply and demand. Vendors will sell at what consumers are willing to pay, and it has ever been thus.
The digital revolution and self-publishing have brought us cheap and instantly available books. That’s not going to go away, no matter how much anyone complains. We have to accept that. Actually, no – we have to embrace it. There are opportunities there that have never been present before, and some insightful people have already recognised that. Stephen Leather is one of those people. He has a product and he has a strong consumer base, and all he is doing is connecting the two.
I think what really inflamed the audience at Harrogate was the attitude of Mr Leather, and his admission of business practices that might not be to everyone’s taste. There were at least three issues that raised blood pressures. One was his use of his fan base to edit his digital books, coupled with a remark about the absence of contributions from his editor at the company that publishes his paperbacks; another was his setting up of fake social media personae as vehicles to spread the word about his publications; and a third was his defence of piracy as a means of free marketing. All of these provoked audible intakes of breath and consternation. One even drew the claim that he was a ‘tosser’. It was clear who the bad guy was here.
Or was it?
Was all what it seemed? Stephen Leather later revealed that he had been urged to be controversial in the panel – a claim that Mark Billingham, this year’s chair of the festival, freely admitted to. When I told one of my friends about Mr Leather’s use of fake accounts, she asked not why he would do such a thing, but why he would be so stupid as to confess it in such a public forum. Why indeed? Perhaps the answer is that he is not stupid at all, and that he knew exactly what he was doing. Perhaps this panel session had some of the elements of a wrestling match, in which the moves and the outcome are known in advance, but the audience is entertained nonetheless by being whipped into a frenzy.
There is a saying that there is no such thing as bad PR. It’s not always true, especially for large corporations – witness the effect on BP of the oil spill, or the share prices of Toyota after its call to return faulty cars – but it can be true for relatively unknown individuals. Alan Sorensen, a Stanford economics professor, investigated the effects of New York Times book reviews and discovered that even negative reviews could raise the sales of previously unknown authors by about a third. This debate has certainly put the name of Stephen Leather on everyone’s lips. Could that have been his aim all along? He would not be the first to court controversy for the sake of publicity.
Whatever Mr Leather’s objective, the sad thing is that his approach did nothing to help the cause of other self-published authors, many of whom are nice, good-intentioned people. Most of them don’t make huge pots of money, and the successful ones I have met still carry that dream of one day getting a traditional book deal. It would be a shame to turn this into an us and them situation. Those of us who are authors want to reach readers in the most effective ways possible, and in a manner that provides us with a decent living. For some, that means selling cheaply but in large quantities. For others, it means selling more expensive books in smaller quantities. These are two ends of a rapidly changing spectrum in which we can all co-exist.
The publishing world is in a state of flux at the moment, and nobody knows how or when an equilibrium will be reached. Like the weather, it’s a complex, unpredictable system, with too many variables and unknowns. But however the dust settles, I am convinced it will do so in a way which will be agreeable to most. There will be casualties – perhaps more bookshops will close and some agents will have to tighten their belts – but I think that publishing houses will adapt. I am also sure that authors will be protected, because they are the foundation upon which everything else is built. If they suffer, they will stop writing, and everything will collapse. The market will not allow this to happen. (Cue music for ‘I Will Survive’)

Friday, 17 February 2012

Rubbing shoulders with Harlan Coben

When the trade paperback of Pariah was published in March 2011, I was prepared. I had done my research. I'd read all the stories of debut authors who expected on publication day to find copies of their books in every window and on every display table of all the bookshops in the land, only to be crushingly disappointed. Most newly published authors, especially when their book is printed in hardback or trade paperback, will be lucky to find one or two copies in a shop, tucked away on a back shelf somewhere. And so the fact that my book's bright yellow cover wasn't blinding me with its omnipresence in the shops I visited wasn't the anti-climax it could have been.

Yesterday was the day of publication for the mass market paperback edition of Pariah. And, to be honest, I had once again mentally prepared myself for a similar rush of indifference. I pictured myself waiting nervously for opportunities to ask the sales staff if they happened to have any copies in their stock room somewhere, a bit like that J R Hartley bloke in the advertisement.

Well, I was wrong! Deliriously wrong. It was everywhere. Almost every shop I visited was stacked to the rafters with it. (Well, not quite, but in comparison with the featureless landscape of last year, this vista was positively mountainous). Here are a couple of shots just to show you the kind of sights that kept greeting me yesterday:

There's one other photo I need to share with you. You may know that the new paperback cover carries a superb quote from the Guardian:
"Recalls Harlan Coben... though for my money Jackson is the better writer."

Well, I couldn't resist taking the following shot (Mr Coben, if you're reading, do forgive me):

So, all in all, yesterday was a brilliant day. The kind of day all aspiring authors long for. Curiously, though, it's a phenomenon that you don't want to last forever. You want those books to disappear from the shelves as fast as they went on. But only to make room for your next one!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Publication day

Tomorrow is February 16th, which seems to have arrived in no time. It's an important date for me because it sees the publication of the mass market paperback edition of Pariah. A number of big outlets have agreed to stock it, including Tesco's and W H Smith, so it will be interesting to see how it does. I've had a flurry of fantastic Amazon reviews for the book recently, so I hope they'll help too. All my fingers and toes are crossed.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Ring out the old, ring in the new

2011 was an exciting and busy year for me. By far the biggest event was the publication of
Pariah, my debut novel. It appeared in March in the UK, and in August in Germany (under the
title Ausgestossen). So far, the novel has received glowing reviews, and I've had wonderful
feedback from readers.

The year also saw developments in my relationship with my publisher, Pan Macmillan. I
negotiated another contract with them, for a further two books, and I had a change of
editor, which can be a disconcerting event for any author. However, my new editor, Wayne
Brookes, has a fantastic reputation, and when I met up with him for lunch I found him to be
hugely enthusiastic, committed and full of energy. If he can't do great things for me then
I'm not sure who can.

Other things that happened in 2011 included doing radio interviews, blog interviews,
magazine profiles, and other forms of publicity. In July I attended the Harrogate Crime
Writing Festival, where I met many wonderful people, some of whom have become firm friends.
And, of course, throughout the year I have been working furiously on books two and three.

Which brings me to 2012...

Pariah has so far appeared only as a trade paperback. This is a large format edition,
similar in size to hardback, but with a soft cover. As paperbacks go, it is relatively
expensive, which can limit sales (although I am given to understand that sales of Pariah
have been respectable).

On February 16, 2012, Pariah will be published as a mass market paperback. This is of a more
conventional paperback size, and at a price more acceptable to consumers, especially when it
involves an unknown author such as myself. Whereas the trade paperback was used to generate interest and garner media quotes, etc, the hope now is that it is the mass market paperback for which the volume sales will be seen. In a sense, I think this will be the real test of whether people want to read my work, and so I am sure you can appreciate that I am growing increasingly nervous as D-day approaches.

The sequel to Pariah is called The Helper. Publication date for this is March 1, 2012.
Again, this will appear initially in trade paperback form, but it will have some advantages
that I didn't have this time last year. For one thing, my name as an author will be known a
little better, mainly because of Pariah, but also because I have put a lot of effort into
networking. Moreover, the publication date is a mere two weeks after that of Pariah, and so
the two books should appear side by side on retailers' shelves. This increased exposure
should help to assure readers that they are buying into an author who has a future (I
hope!). I am very proud of The Helper, and I hope that readers will enjoy it.

Book three (title still under wraps) is currently being written. At the moment, I can reveal
only that it continues the series with Callum Doyle, and that it picks up some of the
threads that were created in Pariah. It's a slightly different, more character-focused
novel, but still with lots of action and plot twists. My deadline for delivery of the
manuscript is March 1 - the same day that The Helper is published, and the day my daughter
finds out whether she has got her choice of secondary school! I have an anxious couple of
months ahead!

There are lots of other things lined up for 2012. A book-signing event with two other
authors (both more well-known than little old me) is planned for the end of February
(details to follow); I am taking an active part in Crimefest in Bristol in May, which should
be loads of fun; and then there is Harrogate again in July. Other things will no doubt

And did I mention that I also have a life outside of writing? I need to squeeze that in
somewhere, too.

I hope that your own year ahead is just as full and exciting. A very Happy New Year to you!