Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Writers & Publishers -The UKs No1 Charity Donors

Times were tough for professional Writers and Publishers even before the recession struck.  There have been those who were quick to apportion some of the blame to the practice of some charity shops selling brand new returns - not secondhand books - at knock down prices.  Elsewhere in my blog I have made a link between the rise of Oxfam as a high street bookseller through specialist book shops, as one of the main reasons for the closure of independent bookshops, including my own local treasure.  But there is another way of looking at this.

The 2010-2011 Oxfam accounts show a £20.9 million  net trading profit from their charity shops.  A considerable part of this must surely have come from book sales.  Since then, the rapid expansion of their bookshops across the country will have increased that contribution.  Factor in all of the many other charity shops selling secondhand books, and the total contribution of remaindered and secondhand books to charities must be collosal.

So, not only do we as writers and publishers provide some fleeting pleasure to our readers, but through the recycling of our books - first to be sold and read again and again, and then to be pulped - we make an inestimable, if unintended, contribution to those less fortunate than ourselves.

A reason to be proud.  A reason to keep writing.

Merry Christmas

Sunday, 27 November 2011

My Kindle Sales Addiction...So Far So Good!

It's been four weeks now and so far - with the exception of one minor blip which I don't really count - I have managed to stick to my resolution to only check my Kindle sales once a week.  Given that prior to going cold turkey it was multiple times a day, I regard this as little short of a triumph.  But is only early days.

How do I feel?  Well since the trend continues upwards, and at at an ever increasing rate, I feel pretty good.  Had the reverse been the case I suppose I might have felt very different, but then if I'd been checking every day I'd have felt bad six extra times every week.  So, my advice to fellow addicts is to try the oncea  week approach.  Monday is definitely best because then you get a full week's results including the USA.

Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Writers & Publishers Beware! There's a new disorder out there...KOD!

I've just discovered an insidious new disorder specific to authors and publishers of Kindle eBooks.   Kindle Obsessive Disorder.  I know, because I am currently in recovery.

It manifests itself  as an overwhelming compunction to check those sales figures several times a day.  It was bad enough when we only had the sales ranks to worry about for our hardbacks and paperbacks, but now that Amazon provides a continuous hour by hour update on sales of books in the Kindle Store it has become an obsession. 

Not so much of a problem when lounging by the pool in sunny Sicily, but a nightmare two chapters into your next book.  OK, it's important to know how they're doing, and to nip in the bud any significant signs of a dip  by changing the key words, or inviting readers to leave a review, for example.  But when it's first thing in the morning, every time you take a break, and last thing at night...that's spells disaster for the creative flow. 

So now I'm rationing myself to once a week.  Every Monday morning after breakfast.  That way I'll get a a whole week's total, and a much better indication of trend.  Then  I can get on with the real work untrammeled by peaks and troughs and pointless projections.   It's tough, but it has to be done.

The shaking has stopped, and the night sweats, and the incoherent mumblings.  I know it's only week one, but it's progress. 

Watch this space. I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2011

I think it's brilliant that writing, acting, and film making related to this popular genre is now receiving such good coverage on television.  I was also delighted to see due recognition given to foreign fiction.  I realise that The Killing wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but there was no denying the quality of the writing, or of the acting and film making in the original version which deservedly took so many awards.  For me, the US version set in Seattle (co-incidentally the headquarters of Amazon?) was every bit as well constructed and played out, and lost little in translation.

I'm sorry that Dennis Lehane wasn't nominated, and that Lee Child and David Baldacci lost out, but their time will come - and deservedly so not just because, as the final presenter put it so gracefully in the words of Billy Wilder, " Awards are like piles.....sooner or later every arsehole gets one."

I can't help feeling that there is a smidgen of truth in that, and that although ultimately award ceremonies in all areas of the media, and beyond, are primarily a marketing exercise, that shouldn't blind us to the recognition of exceptional talent that they showcase, and the opportunity they provide to reflect on what we really value, and how lucky we are to have a such variety of writing to explore, enjoy, and share.

Monday, 10 October 2011

A Trace Of Blood

Number six in the DCI Tom Caton Manchester Crime Series has been out there as a Kindle version for just one week and is already selling well.  The paperback version is in the system but I'm still waiting for it to appear in the Amazon Book Store.  For those of you who love the feel of a proper book I'll let you know as soon as it does appear.

I'm hoping that the fact that it's set in The USA as well as Ireland and the UK will help to bring my work to the attention of the many American readers who are into British Crime Fiction.  That isn't the reason I chose to do that however.  The maternal side of my family were from Kilfeighney North, and then Listowel - both in County Kerry.  Some emigrated to England, others to Canada, and the Catons to America.  I've always been fascinated by that and the historical genealogy in this book is in some ways a tribute to those roots and their spirit of adventure.

But it is still  a crime thriller in the DCI Caton mould.  I hope you enjoy it.

Next stop final proofing of The Cave - my first crossover novel for teens,young adults and adults.  And then on to writing chapter two of the next Tom Caton novel set in the murky world of Premiership football.  Watch this space.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Deganwy Authors Day and Book Fair

The weather was disappointing, and the competition from the Rugby World Cup was unfortunate, but the people were lovely, and networking with other authors and publishers was a real bonus. I should not be surprised by now but yesterday confirmed yet again that the benefits of sharing experiences, technical tips and contacts with each other should never be underestimated.  Incidentally, the Quay Hotel was a great venue and having stayed overnight I can recommend it.  Big, contemporary, and well appointed rooms, good dining, and great views.  Will be back.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Three Titles in the UK Amazon Kindle British Detective Charts

Today, for the first time ever, I decided to check the UK Kindle Bestseller Charts.  I knew my titles had been picking up speed but I had no idea that they had been moving up the charts at a rate of knots.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that three of them are currently in the top twenty British Detective chart.   A Fatal Intervention at number 7, The Tiger's Cave at number 16, and Bluebell Hollow at number 17.  What's more, two of them appear in the top fifty in the Crime Thrillers and Mysteries charts.

 For some inexplicable reason The Cleansing - which is dramatically outselling all of them - doesn't appear in any of the charts, but since it is currently number 963 in the overall Kindle charts for books of all categories it must be right up there in the crime charts.

I shall be checking the charts a little more frequently from now on, but first I have to finish final proofing A Trace of Blood which should hit the stores on October 3rd.  

And then the following month there's my first Teen/Young Adult/Adult crossover novel The Cave to proof  Just in time for the Xmas rush.

Onwards and upwards!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Manchester - Secrets of the City

I recently had the rare opportunity to join an Urbis tour of some of the Secrets of the City of Manchester.  I had an ulterior motive. My fourth novel - A Fatal Intervention - includes a dramatic episode beneath the streets of the city, and I wanted to check that I'd got the details right.

There were just 23 of us. We met at the entrance to the AMC Cinemas in the Great Northern Wharehouse and were led to a normally sealed doorway that took us into the bowels of the city and the course of the former Manchester and Salford Junction Canal. Originally intended to link the Mersey and Irwell Navigation with the Rochdale Canal, one section 500 yards long runs from Watson Street to Charles Street -from the great Northern to The Palace Hotel, and another - flooded for the most part to chest height - runs from the Great Northern, under Deansgate, past the old cholera graves at St John's Gardens, and under Granda Studios.

We made our way cautiously through the pitch darkness, aided only by the light of our torches. We came across former loading bays and docks, tow paths, and huge brick lift shafts built to raise and lower goods to and from the wharehouse and the former railway high above us. We were shown the air raid shelters, warden's post, and toilets that had been constructed during the blitz. On the wall were the remains of a Code of Conduct poster reminding people of their duty to behave responsibly or risk being evicted to face the horror unfolding high above them. We saw the brick steps, now ending at the cavernous roof, up which the city workers and residents would have climbed to emerge on that foggy early morning of December 23rd 1940 to find their city ablaze and smouldering in the wake of the infamous Christmas Blitz.

The air is surprisingly clean but this is a cold, damp and haunting place. Not least due to graffiti of the devil's head and the number 666 painted in red on one of the walls, and a skeleton dangling high above us in circular cage surrounding the rungs of a metal ladder. Save a few wood lice clinging to brickwork, and a weird silk like fungus that grows only in the summer months, nothing lives or moves down here.

At several points in the floor we came across metal drains adding weight to the rumours of a tunnel, even deeper beneath our feet, dating back to the 1500s. Who knows this might just appear in a future Caton novel. Stranger things have happened. At least I know that I've got my facts right, and I have some footage for my website, and a UTube promo for A Fatal Intervention when it comes out in the New Year.

Next stop Manchester Cathedral [ One of the settings for The Head Case] and its bell tower, and St Ann's Church with its own treasures including a Renaissance masterpiece, the Second World War incendiary bomb that pierced its roof and failed to explode, and an Alfred Waterhouse inspired stained glass window of King Solomon full of Masonic text, images, and symbols that are every bit as mysterious as anything in Dan Brown's first two novels. Plenty of food for thought and inspiration. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

R.I.P. The Indie Bookshop

On Saturday 6th August 2011 Sweetens of Bolton ceased trading. This was the last of the independent bookshops not just in this town but in the whole area. A bookshop has occupied these medieval premises for as long as I can remember. First as Chapter and Verse, and for the past 30 years as Sweetens. Typical of such shops up and down the country it was a warm, cosy, haven from the hustle and bustle of the High Street, and a veritable treasure trove of books. It is now just another victim of the malaise infecting our town centres. Unrealistic business rates, extorionate car parking charges, the growth of out of town shopping at supermarkets and hyper markets, and specialist charity bookshops have all played their part. In this instance, the impact of internet shopping - and of ebook readers in particular - has been the final nail in the coffin.

I have other reasons for mourning the passing of this little gem. When I started to write and publish my crime novels there were only three places willing to stock them: Borders, WH Smith Travel, and Sweetens. Within nine months Borders had closed. It was not really economic for me to continue to supply WH Smith but I'm grateful that they were willing to accept independent publishers and a then unknown author. But Stella and Al at Sweetens not only welcomed my books but championed them and I shall be forever in their debt for that.

Sadly, although I continued to supply them right up to the end, in my own way very small way, I contributed to their downfall. The lure of Amazon - and Amazon Kindle in particular - was simply too great. For an independent publisher it was a no-brainer. No start up costs, the VAT collected and paid by the seller, choose your own price and royalty rate of 70% or 35%, world wide distribution, and royalties paid just two months in arrears.  No bookshop - or supermarket - can compete with that.  It may be the future, but we have lost something very special, and I doubt that we will ever see the like again.

I can only hope that those few that are left - like Simply Books in Hale Barns - are better placed to survive and are cherished as a part of our heritage. Perhaps the demise of the bookshop, and mass closure of public libraries, will sees a resurgence of book festivals and book fairs. Where else will our children experience the pleasure we took for granted of holding real books in their hands as they browse before they choose?