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 I'm looking forward to seeing if there's a place for Finding Noah, my unpublished contemporary fantasy.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!

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Nine Months on - Three books later

Well, what a massive change. Having almost given up writing and instead, playing around with self publishing or just going over to art, this year has been about a three book deal. 

Three book deal, to be delivered in ONE YEAR! 

I pretty well thought it was impossible (although the publisher assured me it wasn't) but decided to give it a try. What was there to lose.

My sanity, for one. I had no idea how much hard work it was going to be to accelerate my leisurely writing pace (and I'm not a slow writer) by about five times. I signed the deal in March. I was to have structural edits, line edits, copy edits, proofreads and final polishes of book 1 done to publish on 30 September. Then (presumably in my spare time) was to write book 2, hand it in June 30th, repeat the above edits and start book 3 (presumably in the wee small hours of the night). I couldn't really see how it was to be done but got on with it, and apart from the emotional trauma of having to write three synopses, which I cannot do, it went quite smoothly. I have just finished book 3 in first draft!

That means I have done about a thousand words a day for 207 days, excluding rewrites and edits (which were huge for book 1). Every single day, birthday, Covid, sad days, happy days, babysitting granddaughter days. I wasn't sure I could keep up the pace but actually, the books are better for it, just very untidy in first draft. 

Secondly, I was working for free. 'How silly is that?' you might suggest. I sold the books to Bookouture, a largely e-book imprint of Hachette. They sell e-books and paperbacks but primarily online. They pay out after publication and with healthy royalties, but for the first year you're writing for free and hoping they sell. The large and welcoming stable of Bookouture authors was very reasuuring, many have come from mainstream publishers too. I was pleasantly surprised when they told me they had already sold book 1 for audio and they basically act as my agent, so I should get 80% of the audio advance. 

Thirdly, I was going to get fantastic editorial support. This is not always the case. I might be writing tatty first drafts, but an expert editor is doing far more work than I've ever experienced before, making broad suggestions, adding smaller ideas and even suggesting word changes. Then two more people faff about with language and punctuation (and they're also very good). 

I don't like the titles (The Island of Lost Secrets and The Island of Lost Memories, at the moment) and I wasn't consulted. But the covers are lovely, if unfamiliar in style because the commercial women's fiction genre is a bit new to me. To celebrate, I'm donating all my royalties for Kindle pre-orders to our local children's hospice in memory of my eight year old daughter, Léonie.