Tuesday 4 April 2023

Books 4, 5 and 6

Well, a three book deal was signed so I'd better get on with it! Book 4 did, eventually, end up in a primitive first draft in ten weeks but only with about fifty extraneous characters and few descriptions, mostly because they would normally go in the next edits. It was painful sending a poorly finished draft off, especially as the editor (naturally) noticed all the flaws and nonsense that had crept in. I just hope it gets sorted out in the structural edit, although I have less time to turn that in as well. They wanted book 4 to come out on 18 July, which seems unnecessarily quick to me. I'm used to waiting a year for my favourite authors to throw out the next book! 

So at the moment (4 April) book 3 (Dreams of the Cottage by the Sea) has just come out, Book 4 (Coming Home to the Cottage by the Sea) is up for preorders and book 5 is in outline stage ready to start writing it. It feels like there's an awful lot going on in my head! 

They do look like a proper series, even if all the stories are independent. 

I'm enjoying the process and I'm starting to see some financial benefits, especially as books 2 and 3 have been commissioned in audiobook as well. But it's very hard to make a living from writing, as everyone who has ever tried knows, so I'm still working to keep the series going. I am getting fretful about my crime book which is so nearly finished, and hopefully I can get into the last few chapters at some point in May and send it off to an editor to spruce it up. 

Meanwhile, I have computer woes. i hate using the Mini Mac I bought last year, Word doesn't work the same and I'm an unsophisticated creature of habit. So I'm looking out for a new PC, which my son might build for me. The last one he did (only overwhelmed by all the new software that it had to take on) lasted for ages and loads of books. But it's too old for Windows 10 really, and can't cope with all the track changes in the new version of Word so needs a reboot. 

Saturday 25 February 2023

New book deal, just trying to keep up

I was thrilled to be offered a new three book deal in January. I wasn't so thrilled to find out I had to write all three in 2023, hand in dates 31 March, 31 July and 30 November. Ouch. Especially since I didn't start the first book until 16 January so I only had ten weeks to write what will be book 4 for Bookouture. 

At least I don't have any edits to do for the other books as Dreams of the Cottage by the Sea (and no, I don't make up the titles) comes out on 4th April and is all done. It's so lovely to come to it all polished and I even was able to enjoy a story I know inside out. Sometimes you're just sick of a book, to be honest!

Book 4, which doesn't have a name yet, is coming along nicely (up to 55k words) but I never know if they are any good until I've had a proper edit and hard prune, before I hand it in. I made the mistake of trying to write alternate chapters (two separate timelines) but I think the characters work better if you invest in the 100% and write two separate stories, linking them up through editing. Deep down I'm a novella writer, I just link two stories together.

Interestingly, book 1 has received all the publicity and has sold really well. It's also come out in audiobook and I was thrilled to find out yesterday that Memories of the Cottage by the Sea and Dreams of the Cottage by the Sea will both get the same treatment, and I get a lovely advance as well. Hooray! It's available on Audible too. 

For those of you who have asked recently, Bookouture now has a SFF imprint and had taken on its first writers. I'm looking forward to seeing if there's a place for Finding Noah, my unpublished contemporary fantasy. Who knows what will happen after book 5 and 6 are done?

Saturday 4 February 2023

New book, new year

Well, where has the time gone? I'm loving how book 2 is finding its own way in the world and book 1 has sold well. It seems like it's sold well to me, anyway! 

I'm working on a new one, while putting the final polish to Dreams of the Cottage by the Sea. I'm still not in love with the titles, to be honest, but i can't come up with good titles so bow to their greater knowledge. It's selling in pre-order very well, so I'm pleased that readers who liked book 1 have followed up. 

 Marketing is still a mystery to me. I thought they would launch book 2, Memories of the Cottage by the Sea, but instead they gave a boost to book 1. And it worked, they used Bookbub to bump book 1 into the 31 on Kindle in the UK and 32 in the US. I actually have no idea what Bookbub is but - yay! Great.  

Meanwhile, back at the desk... I am trying to get my head around a new computer. Worse, it's a Mini Mac (why, why?) that has MS Word on it. It's been a challenge just trying to find everything, but i think I'm there. My old one hasn't handled the many upgrades to new versions of Windows and Word very well, it no longer copes well with track changes and sometimes just stops working. I can't remember why I thought going for an Apple computer seemed like a good idea. I don't have an I-phone or I-pad or anything. But the new book is rolling off onto that and the old computer is finishing off book 3. 

I now feel like a proper commercial writer, writing stories (sort of) to order but being able to come up with stories, shape the characters and largely not stick to any sort of formula. I finally got paid - not very much, just one month's money - so I can donate all my pre-order money to the Children's Hospice SW. As the sudden breadwinner, I can see that over time, I'll have enough revenue to replace my husband's unexpectedly whisked away income. 

I still yearn to write crime books though. I'm going to have to pay(!) for a structural edit of the crime book I have almost finished. I like the idea of developing my main characters, they seem so real now after several years of working with them. Anyway, back to checking the final files of book 3 then - whoosh! off it goes. It's released on 4th April 2023, and it's £1.99 on Kindle.  



Tuesday 13 December 2022

Total change of gear!

For once, I'm loving the freedom of writing for myself! Having done three women's fictions (and rather enjoyed them, although I don't read much in the genre) I'm writing a new crime series. I'm about three quarters there which means, if I finish by the end of the year, I will have finished four books in a year. Blimy.

I've known other writers who can knock out a book - a good book - in eight to ten weeks but I didn't think I'd be one of them. I did write Finding Noah in ten weeks but then, I never sold it. Three of this years books have sold. I'm not sure about this one.

I'm going to show it to my present editor, partly because I genuinely want to know if she likes it and need feedback, but there is a line in my contract that says I have to offer them my next book first. I don't have to sell it to them, if they like it, but I'm curious to see what they would do with it. 

I'm also curious if an agent would like to represent it. Part of me still needs that validation of peer review. January will be interesting! 

Crime, like women's fiction, has expectations attached. Five suspects and two red herrings is the normal formula, and I'm very suspicious about fomulaic books. I've just read Diana Setterfield's the Thirteenth Tale (again) and followed it up with the beautifully cast but slightly disappointing film. The luxury of being able to write like that, as twisty and turny as the story needs, complicated characters that don't make sense but are so powerfully written, you just go with it. I don't even think it's a perfect book, I just couldn't put it down. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get away with all the coincidences (how many motherless children? A toddler surviving in the wild?). I still enjoyed it enormously, and put it back on the shelf to enjoy another time. Seriously, it reminds me I'm just an amateur learning my craft.

Friday 2 December 2022

First two months of new book

Wow, interesting times! Instead of lamenting spending most of my advance many months ago, I'm getting advance warning of royalties to come. The downside is, I haven't seen a penny for the one million Kindle Unlimited pages that have been read. One million? OK, that translates into a very small payment of which I get - 45%, but still. Proper money at some point. The book has sold a few hundred paperbacks and about 4k ebooks, mostly at 99p. I don't put these numbers up casually to boast (well, maybe a bit) but because aspiring writers don't see enough transparency from other writers. Writing does not pay brilliantly but the advance system is a crap shoot. You either get offered too much, never pay it back and get dumped by your publisher, or you get offered too little but won't see royalties potentially for years. Because my previous publishers bundled my books together, I'll never pay out the advances even with good sales on the first books because the second and third sold less well. 

Publishers like Bookouture work differently. You write the book upfront. They work on the book, offering multiple rounds of edits and marketing and design work upfront. You all get a percentage of the final sales, which vary depending on their sales strategies. At the moment they are using Kindle Unlimited, a system I don't entirely understand but which pushed my book up to no. 51 in Kindle sales for a heady week. Before that they had a 99p countdown which generated lots of e-book sales. Because we share the costs (because I'm writing fast the editor has to do a lot of work and she has to be paid) we also share the profits.

It's not perfect for me, the main problem being I have only just received half of the royalties for the audio rights we sold back in the summer, and I haven't got a penny of royalties at all and won't until book 2 is already out. But if I was offered another deal, I could see how you would be able to predict your income to some extent and even (gulp) receive a regular income. Of whatever scale. If I hadn't become the sole breadwinner this year, it would have been easier...

Talking of book 2, it's already made reasonable preorders and has a very pretty cover. 


Wednesday 12 October 2022

First two weeks of new book

I had some doubts about trying Bookouture, mostly because I would work all year and not receive any money - hardly helpful when you are living on your savings and have unexpectedly become the breadwinner! But I can see it unfolding. Book 1 came out and flew off, especially on a 99p promotion, reaching #51 on the Kindle charts. Very pleasant surprise. So was Monday, when my editor sent me the list of how many books I had sold in paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, where I get paid for the page views. There will be some money, and I'll get it at the end of March, just over a year after I signed. It's not megabucks, and given the circumstances I would have preferred an advance. But nowadays, debut authors (which I am in this genre) would hope to get paid £3-8k for their first book, and I'm sure I'll be in that range. Not least because they sold the audio rights for book 1, too. 

So, why wouldn't I just self publish? Easy (for me) as I really need the wonderful, and free services of their editors. I'm building a working relationship with mine, Jess, and getting a feel for what she thinks will sell - and make me money as well as them.

I do have one complication though. I'm halfway through a new book. It's psychological crime, and I'm loving it. But I don't know if it would fit with the Bookouture model or if they would even like it. I would need an agent again to sell it outside, and advances are not what they used to be. I would get less editing but potentially more money up front. I'm wrestling with this one! Getting an agent actually seems one degree harder than selling a book anyway. I shall ponder while I rewrite the book with my new knowledge of my publisher's style of working... 

Meanwhile, I'm reading The Other Bennett Sister by Janice Hadlow, which I have read before. Still love it. It's about the plain and awkward sister of Lizzie and Mary Bennett.

Tuesday 27 September 2022

All Change at Bookouture!

Well, you get all your ducks in a row... and then everything changes a week before publication. My new publisher has a very active marketing strategy. If sales appear low, they test the titles and covers and make changes. So my new title - and cover - are below.

I am a bit befuddled, but I am assured that whatever title a reader selects, they will get the new cover and name, so that's OK - and exactly the same book. But I have garnered a few good reviews, prominently displayed on Amazon, so that's encouraging!

The whole relationship with Bookouture is different from a normal publisher. They specialise in publicity and marketing, and everyone, debut or previous bestseller starts out with the same approach. They package the book, promote it and pay good royalties. On the downside there is no advance, but they are increasing their profits (and mine) by marketing strongly. There's less reason for them to give up on a book and write off the advance, as sometimes happens in traditional publishing. I've always felt that trad. publishers produce a big launch, like firing the book into the air, hopng it will burst into magnificent fireworks. Of course, very often, the book ends up in the trees. They have already moved on. Bookouture seems to take a longer view, seeing book 1 as a platform from which to promote book 2 and creating an author 'brand'. 

They aren't publishing hundreds of celebrity cookbooks, bios or novels. They are focused on fiction, and the selling of books. Wish me luck, it gets fired into the air on Friday 30 September, but I have confidence that they will go and find it if it gets stuck in a branch somewhere. I am doing a book launch at the Market Street Kitchen, Appledore, 6.30. Thursday, as a fundraiser for the Children's Hospice. Free tea and cake!