I’ve been working towards this for a few months now. Here are the first three novellas of my Lukas Boston Mystery series and as part of the official launch Book 1 is discounted to $0.99 for a limited time. With a mixture of crime, thriller, suspense, the paranormal and dark humour, these books have been great fun to write and I’m really looking forward to doing more. You can go to the Lukas Boston Mystery page on this site for Amazon links and other outlets such as Kobo, iTunes and Nook. All the non-Amazon resellers are handled by Draft2Digital and it might take a little more time for the books to become available, but they’re definitely on the way. I’d love to hear from any readers what you think.
Over the last few weeks the planets have lined up and made some changes. I’ve suddenly gotten more time to write my novels due to other commitments coming to a halt (don’t you just love it when someone else’s “cashflow problems” become yours?), I’ve embarked on writing a new series on crime thriller novels called The Lukas Boston Stories that I’ll self-publish, and we’ve had some guests staying who are IT and web design experts – so they took on the role of giving my website a new look and migrating it across to my domain, too.
All this equated to a spring clean of what we all call our Authors Platform and it’s been a real eye-opener. Most of us know about doing Facebook, maybe blogging regularly, contributing to forums… and you tend to approach these things piecemeal as you discover the benefits. But when you’re looking at this stuff altogether like I did during the revamp you get a much better idea of what’s involved – and it’s a hell of a lot. I know there are some writers who simply whack a book onto Amazon and it sells without any promotion, but the general rule-of-thumb is that if you want to be successful at this writing bizzo and self-publishing, you need all kinds of extra skills to make sure the world knows your novels and ebooks exist. Even if you have a free ebook or a 99 cent ebook published you need to let readers know. How you let them know is obviously important, but the devil is seriously in the detail too and it can be time-consuming and daunting.
However, I’m so very glad we can do it. Back in the good ol’ days of traditional publishing (I’m sure that one day we’ll consider them “good ol’ days” just like many Russians today still believe the era of Josef Stalin’s rule was the best of times) when a book was published you promised to be available for two weeks of promotions. I even managed a couple of TV talk show appearances, but mostly it was radio interviews over the phone. Some things don’t change – it was vital that you instantly sounded interesting or the producer would be cutting the line. Like the first sentence of a blog or facebook post now needs to be attention-grabbing. After that two weeks, life returned to normal and your book sales were again at the whim of bookstore browsers. It didn’t occur to many of us that continuing some kind of promotional campaign would be beneficial. That wasn’t our job. We were supposed to write. To be fair, I don’t recall any publisher suggesting I get out there and promote myself either. It’s not how things worked.
You might even say it was a mixture of apathy and ignorance that invented the mid-list author. After all, if you were good enough to be published, surely you were good enough to be a best seller? Plenty of authors have complained that a lack of advertising dollars were the only thing between them and super-stardom. Someone else was supposed to make us really famous.
What we should have done is throw ourselves at the task of self-promotion with all the application required today – except can you imagine doing it without the modern internet? Writing endless snail-mail letters to book clubs and libraries, cold-calling radio stations to convince them you’re worth an interview, creating “author profiles” in prominent bookstores by… hmm, standing in the corner and shouting about yourself?
So for those writers today who think the grindstone of self-promotion is something new, and maybe an onerous task, it really isn’t and you should be grateful that it’s a job that can be done these days so easily online. Sure, a lot of us hoary old trad-published authors didn’t have to do it, but we should have, and it would definitely have been a nightmarish task. Nowadays we’ve got so much more influence on how successful we can be – assuming, of course, that at the end of all things considered you’re actually a good writer. Blog about yourself, brag about your writing and blag a bunch of awesome reviews. It doesn’t sound like much of a business plan, but it is.
Sorry for not blogging awhile. I’ve been attending a friend’s wedding on the other side of the country and it’s taken weeks to catch up. So… what better a writing subject after a longish break than discussing toilets? More specifically, what we do in them and when. Which, according to 99.99% of fiction is nothing – and never.
You see, I was reading a Neville DeMille novel. I’ve been a fan of DeMille for years. In this particular book it’s a fairly typical “chase” story with our hero and a somewhat reluctant heroine racing across the country either fleeing from, or madly pursuing, some villainous dude and, of course, they regularly find themselves holed up in hotels taking stock of the situation. It’s during these occasions that our hero manages to slip into a nearby store and buy some clean shorts and a shirt. DeMille’s slight obsession with our hero’s personal hygiene was intriguing.
To be honest, I’m quite happy to assume my heroes somehow deal with the sticky issue of soiled undies and even taking a dump somewhere without drawing my attention to the realities. I mean, during the God-knows-how-long trek by Frodo to Mordor to ditch the One Ring, was it mentioned at any time that he needed to nip behind the nearest Ent for a noisy Number Two’s? Nope, of course not.
Fictional heroes don’t do a lot of things. Like fart, scratch unseemly places, discreetly pick their nose when no one’s looking… which is a good thing, since most of this stuff comes under the “Too much information” category. Of course, there are exceptions to the unwritten, writing rule and some authors use such moments to advantage, but generally even our most flawed characters don’t require toilet breaks.
They don’t need a shower unless someone plans to stab them through the curtain. They eat about two meals per book. Many of them don’t have to call their mother. They rarely go shopping for normal stuff.
Wouldn’t it be a challenge to write a novel and include all the mundane, everyday things for the sake of authenticity? It’d probably get some kind of major, literary prize.
But no one would read it.
I used to think that ebooks and electronic publishing were going to change a lot of things about the industry – and for sure, a lot of things have changed. But I was surprised to realise just how much more important a good title and a great Ebook cover have become. That’s kind of the opposite to what I’ve been expecting, since you also get a chance to sample the book, surf the website, read reviews… I’ve been thinking that titles and covers had been relegated to a very secondary role.
When you browse a bricks and mortar bookshop with printed books there’s the time and the joy of checking the covers, reading the blurb on the back… Actually picking up the book, right? When you’re browsing Ebook titles on a web page, especially on a tablet device, the book cover and title get about 1/10 of a second look-in, before your mind becomes interested or you reject the novel out of hand.
Good grab-you-by-the-eyeballs book covers and intriguing titles are an absolute must, if you want to compete on the virtual bookshop shelf. Its all about getting someone’s attention almost instantly, before you lose the opportunity. You don’t get a second chance.
Food for thought…
By now you should be aware that Amazon have launched the Kindle book reader in Australia. I’ve seen one- it’s pretty neat stuff. I used to be anti-Ebook not because of any kind of traditionalist thing, but because I could see they might cause more problems than advantages. Meaning, they wouldn’t become popular. But after having a Kindle in my hands and- more importantly, knowing how companies like Apple will respond by producing something better -I can now see how EBooks will (in my never-so-humble opinion) eventually take over the book industry… and maybe sooner than you think.
Cost is a dominant factor. At the moment in Australia it costs too much to buy a book (and no, we’re not getting into the Parallel Imports argument here) and to walk into a bookstore and make a choice actually represents a gamble- like, a big decision. No one wants to waste $25.00 or more on a novel that turns into a dud read. With EBooks costing around 75% less per copy, let’s say $6.00 a book, the chances of people risking their money will increase enormously. They’ll gamble six bucks on a new author.
However, here’s the rub. Quality control is a serious problem. You can go a respected Ebook publisher’s site and buy a novel with confidence that some kind of story appraisal and editing process was applied to the book- it was worth publishing. But there’s nothing to stop pretty well anyone “launching” their own supposed best-seller from their own website regardless of how good it is. In other words, the danger of Ebooks will be that the virtual bookshelves of the internet will be flooded with crap books written by bad authors who have no idea of their own lack of talent… and there’s plenty of them.
Okay, right now I sound like a wanker, but as a published author believe me that I’ve been approached by many wanna-be writers with manuscripts that are just awful- yet their owners simply can’t see the faults. They’re blind to their own writing’s failings and, in fact, get outraged when you point them out. I once was asked by a friend to evaluate one of his friend’s MS- a monster manuscript of about 300,000 words (say 600 pages) and the whole things was truly bad, I found it incredible that someone could write so much material and never once get a feeling that it had problems. I politely told this writer his MS was crap and threw it away… not out of spite, but because that’s what you do these days. Nobody returns MS’s anymore- the postage costs more than the reprint. It’s pretty standard practise to safely destroy someone’s print-out rather than mail it back. Next thing you know, this guy tops the list of conspiracy theorists and accuses me of “stealing” his story! What a dickhead. When I explained without the aforementioned politeness that his MS was absolute shit and not worth stealing anyway he still didn’t believe me. It took the intervention of the third party, the person who originally asked me to check out the MS for his “friend”, to get this guy to pull his head in.
He is the sort of person who will find a way to publish his masterpiece of crap as an Ebook and put it out there as a worthwhile read… and what’s to stop him? What will warn you, the book-buyer, that his novel is shit?
Maybe that’s the role of established publishers in the future? (Because they will lose the job of printing and distribution). Publishers will act as a marketing and promotional company as alway- and it’ll be tougher -but their best reputation may lie in providing quality books. Publishers will become the “quality control” filter for Ebooks written by new authors.
Meanwhile, established authors like myself will get to enjoy the best of both worlds for a while.
Soon I’ll be releasing my backlist as Ebooks from my website. There’s more in-depth details about these books on my home website at www.graemehague.com.au . I’ll give away some of them for free- there’s that marketing thing again. I reckon it’s going to be a very, very interesting time over the next few years.
What do you think?
I just finished a new manuscript for my German publishers- another “crime/thriller” as they’re called. I had it professionally edited in Australia and one of the comments offered by my editor was that the ending came as too much of a surprise. I needed to include more clues.
This is interesting, because of many different factors.
The standard whodunnit has been dealt a serious blow in recent years by the advent of forensic science. It’s like the villain only needs to fart somewhere in the same suburb and “forensics” will inevitably link them to the crime. Detectives don’t have to interview anybody, do any deductive thinking… Agatha Christie must be rolling in her grave.
It’s a problem for writers unless- of course -you’re Kathy Reichs or someone and the whole point of the novel is that scientific examination of the smallest detail. But forget forensics, if you can, and think about the normal detective novel. The question is, how much do you give away? How many red herrings do you litter the story with? Basically- and this is the crux of the matter -should a dedicated reader of crime fiction be able to determine who the villain is before the end of the book? Is the author writing a story or a puzzle- or both?
I have to say a lot of television crime these days doesn’t give you a chance. Even Christie’s adaptations seem to have been re-written to the point where someone inconceivable is revealed as the murderer in the closing minutes… you’d never have guessed. And don’t get me started on “Midsomer Murders”. I love the show, it’s got a great vibe and everyone enjoys that quaint, English setting- but you’ll never guess the killer, right?
So how do you do it now? As a fiction writer, I mean? Well, in my new book the first thing I did was avoid the forensic thing. I created a situation where forensics are no real help. Then I got on with the job of writing an old-fashioned whodunnit where there’s clues, red herrings and God knows what else to make the ending a surprise.
Too much of a surprise? I DID take notice of my editor’s comments- a good writer always does, because an editor is usually the first person to see a manuscript objectively as a whole. The author has long since gotten too close to the story. So I did a few tweaks, salted a few more clues… hopefully not too many.
Giving away the villain’s identity too soon is a crime itself.