Friday, 28 February 2014

Top-selling authors

Top selling authors belong to a rare club and I suppose we all, secretly, in our heart of hearts, want to join! Jeff Bercovici of Forbes has some interesting thoughts to share in his articles on the topic. So what lessons can the rest of us pick up? The most sound seems to be - Write in a genre that has mass commercial appeal.
(FORBES bases its estimates on sales data, published figures and information from industry sources between June 2012 and June 2013.) 

Top of the list in 2012 is E L James (aka Erika Leonard, nee Mitchell) who has reputedly earned $95 million (£60 million) for her bondage trilogy. As everyone probably knows, she originally wrote it as fan fiction in the style of Twilight author Stephanie Meyer. The books leapt straight into every bestseller list, which throws an interesting side light on modern culture purely because of the theme running through all three books. However, that is not what interests us in this instance. Instead we should speculate if s the books would have had such success if the electronic reading device – which gave every reader a discreet way to imbibe such spicy stuff - had not been invented. 70 million copies sold between Jan-Aug in the USA.  As my good friend Jeffrey once said when he heard I'd taken up writing - “Remember – shagging sells!”

In second place that year was James Patterson, who publishes five or more titles a year with $91 million (£58 million) earned between June 2012 and June 2013. 

It seems fantasy fiction for young adults is a good market, especially if it attracts adult readers. No 3 on the list is Suzanne Collins, who published The Hunger Games trilogy. And earned $55 million. If you can manage a hit film of the story, that will really push book sales. You may have heard of Nora Roberts, too. Well, she stands at 8 on the list, having earned $23 million in 2012. You would think, wouldn't you, that they had all earned enough and they would stop writing and let some other author have a chance at the top prizes.

Michael Pietsch, CEO of Hachette Book Group thinks it’s the surprise and originality of some stories that leads to the giant sales. That’s why there are all these delicious stories of the book that was rejected by 96 publishers – because people are looking at what worked in the past. Then suddenly one brave publisher decides to take a risk, and finds a success on his/her hands.
Unhappily, there is no science behind forecasting the next bestseller, but there is a lot of luck.
Read some of the original articles at the links below:

Monday, 24 February 2014

The best selling e-books of 2012

Publishers Weekly has an interesting article - OK, it came out mid 2013, and it's already 2014, so you may have seen it. But I've just found it and I want to keep it ot at least the link to it. I may want to look back at it some day. And there is a certain curiosity in knowing how many titles authors sold....

The magazine asked publishers for information on e-book sales. Because they were not specific enough in their questions, they got more info than they bargained for, but when they looked at it, they found lots of  interest. Here's a little quote:

"All the publishers that shared digital information were houses that rack up enough print sales to compete in the bestseller race. And while we estimate that we have more than 1,000 e-books with sales of 25,000+, we know this does not reflect all e-book sales in the book industry. Still, a look at this quantity underscores that the book business is quickly moving to digital. It would be safe to say that the lackluster performance in mass market has a lot to do with the fact that readers are enjoying the convenience of the electronic devices instead of the more traditional convenience of the paperback.

Also, it is clear where backlist sales have gone. Peruse the list and you will see double-digit numbers of titles for most of the bestselling veterans. Nora Roberts may be the most prolific in this area: she has 40 titles on the e-book list, adding up to about 3.2 million in total e-sales; James Patterson has 29 books on the list, with a total of more than 2.6 million; Janet Evanovich scores close to 1.8 million with 19 books."

One phrase leapt out at me: the book business is quickly moving to digital. 

In view of this change in the business, which after a slow, tepid start now seems to be gathering speed like the proverbial stone rolling downhill, I am now seriously thinking about publishing Matho's story myself. I can do it. No worries on that score. I can - indeed, already have, a cover that I think is good enough to be THE cover. The big worry is promotion. The stumbling block to self-publishing is getting the information out there. While I tinker about with yet another edit of the story, and finish off my Viking tale, I shall be exploring better ways of promotion. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Completely Novel

Here we have news of yet another way to get yourself published. CompletelyNovel will team up with Greene & Heaton literary agency to link authors with agents. Unpublished authors may publish their own work in both digital and pbck format and sell it via CN - for a monthly subscription fee. The agency will then consider - consider, mark you - the titles with the highest rating with a view to representing them. Representation, of course, hardly guarantees publication.

The idea seems to have come from Nicola Barr, agent at G & H. She claims they are always looking for new authors and impressed by those who take the initiative and self publish.

“CompletelyNovel offers a great opportunity for emerging writers, and we’re very much looking forward to working alongside them and finding something that makes us fall off our seats with excitement and in horror that we might otherwise have missed it.”

CompletelyNovel offers self-publishers the opportunity to publish two titles a month for free and sell their works through the CompletelyNovel website, or two titles a month for the cost of £7.99 a month and have their works also sold through Amazon “and other retailers”. It’s ‘Pro’ package offers authors the option of publishing 10 titles a month for £14.99 and having those titles sold on the platform and also through Amazon “and other retailers.” The website also give authors the ability to create their own covers online.

As far as I can see, this gives G&H an income they may not otherwise have had, but offers the author very little. any author can publish on Amazon for free, and keep whatever profits they make. Why pay good money for the chance of representation? If representation were guaranteed, that would be different.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Hatchet Job

Have you ever heard of The Hatchet Job website? I had not - until today. A quick glance, after following a link on Twitter, and I see it is a collection of negative reviews on books. I glanced through the one on Morrissey (of whom I have never heard, but appears to be a pop singer) and Anne Widdicombe, and will probably go back later for a more detailed session with the site. How many more poor unsuspecting authors have been humiliated like this?

A A Gill, reviewer, claims
"Morrissey is plainly the most ornery, cantankerous, entitled, whingeing, self-martyred human being who ever drew breath. And those are just his good qualities."
He goes on : "It (the biography)  is a heavy tome, utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likeability. It is a potential firelighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness." Logorrhoeic? I'd have to reach for dictionary to understand that one. Potential firelighter of vanity? Really?
Read it for yourself here:

It leaves me wondering if there is a site that keeps negative reviews of reviewers? It seems to me that they are often guilty of the same faults as the people they chastise. Perhaps there ought to be such a site.

Monday, 17 February 2014


Sarah Shaffi reported on 22nd January that Quercus had put itself up for sale. I missed the news back then, so sculling around the internet on a dull night can pay dividends. I've also discovered that Zara Phillips has had her baby and its already a month old. How could I have missed hearing about that? What might I discover next?
Anyway, it seems Quercus is expecting a significant trading loss for 2013 and decided “it would be in the best interests of the company's shareholders to seek potential offers by means of a formal sale process. We now feel that the skills and experience of Quercus' team will flourish best within a larger organisation and so we've decided to put the company up for sale. In the meantime it's business as usual at Baker Street."

The independent publisher put its losses down to "continuing issues within the book trade which led retailers to adopt very conservative ordering policies", and "a lower than expected upturn in digital sales over the Christmas period to the end of the year".

Prospects of a merger with another publisher were squashed: "We like being an independent publisher, and that's how we want to operate. Obviously there have been headwinds in that direction across the trade, but one set of bad results for us doesn't mean the end of independent publishing."

All this after having one of the bigger hits of the last few years - the Stig Larsson novels. It just goes to show that even three best selling novels are not enough to keep a publisher afloat. 

Friday, 14 February 2014


Hardly had time to breathe today, and certainly won't get any work done. First of all took Tim to the field at 9am where he had a great gallop around at full speed. Then dh and I left Tim at home and went to the Metrocentre and spent an hour on a little retail therapy. We don't do it often, so it's fun when we do.

Chopwell Woods yesterday
Then back home in time for lunch, fending off an ecstatic dog who was so pleased to see us he nearly didn't eat his biscuits. Once lunch was over, I got into my dog-walking gear - well might you ask - green wellies, Goretex jacket (I worked out the other day it is at least eighteen years old and still giving great service) woolly ski hat, thermal gloves, and then collected all the things I need - dog lead, poo bags, a few dog biscuits, a hanky, car keys. Then off we went three miles down the road to a lovely area at Stocksfield. It belongs to Lord Allendale, but he allows public access and dog walkers love it. It wasn't cold, and I take it as challenge to walk where there is no mud, and as you can imagine, with all the rain we've had, that is quite a challenge. Tim was in one of his I Don't Care moods and scampered through all the mud he could find  instead of keeping to the pine needles and leaves and dry bits. That meant that when we got home and hour and a half later, he had to suffer having his paws washed in a bucket. Still, he was nothing like as bad as he was when we got back from Chopwell yesterday! See picture!
Tim changed colour due to mud

Then it was time to make some chocolate brownies for tonight. Dh will make bruschetta with his homemade sourdough bread, too. Friends are coming for drinks, arriving about 8pm. Once the brownies were in the oven, it was a chance to sit down and watch the men's figure skating at Sochi. such a pity Evgenie Plushenko has had to withdraw through injury. I was looking forward to seeing him skate, but now there is a new wonder child from Japan - Hanyu, I think his name is. A quick supper of pizza and chips (we're lazy with our fresh food programme sometimes!) and once the skating is done I'll run upstairs and have a shower etc in time for our guests arriving. Phew! A glass or two of wine will be most welcome by then.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Wattpad, Blogs and PR

The Stat Counter tells me there have been 25,892 visits to my blog since 11th August 2009. The blog page itself shows 51,443 visits, but that might be from a shorter time span. Page views, however, total 93,345! The only way I can think to interpret that is by thinking the visits are what they say they are, but the Page Views must mean that once people visited, they read  more than one page while they were on the blog. if anyone knows any different, let me know!

I'm having such a good time working (and walking the dog!)  that I keep forgetting to do any promotion. Must go and stand on the Naughty Step. PR is such a part of Self Publishing that it mustn't be forgotten. I shall have to train myself to do some every day. On the other hand, I have ventured into Wattpad. It isn't easy to find out how to do things, but it seems worthwhile, with some interesting writing to look at. Should you wish to check out my page, try linking to this :

The cover I've chosen to use is the one up today.

Wattpad is a Canadian venture and I think Margaret Attwood has something to do with it, but not entirely sure. Lots of people use it, and put up stories for others to read and comment on. It's early days. My piece hasn't been up a week yet and already 120 people have read it. Not many comments though.

Monday, 10 February 2014


It really seems like Spring is here. Clumps of snowdrops are blooming on the riverside walk I do most days, and gorse has been in bloom for a week or two. Usually it flowers in May! Bulbs are three inches high in the garden even though the lawn squelches when Tim runs across it.

All we need is for it to stop raining and the wind will dry everything up nicely. Down south it may be different, but here the river is flowing fast enough to take all that water way out to sea. The Tyne was back up to flood levels again today, and bringing more and more rubbish with it as it comes. I took a picture yesterday of one of the the new bank levels where previous floods have deposited all the debris. It doesn't look good, but I suppose one day it will either be swept away again, or soil will be deposited around it and a new bank will come into being.
I think this picture shows that we have green grass through the winter, even under snow. Not that we've had any so far. I know some of my American friends doubt me when I say we have green grass through the winter, but we do. The paths are wide and muddy and the grass is getting pretty worn, but it is there, and it's started growing again.

It would be really cruel now if winter came and creates a big freeze. It's happened before, but I hope it doesn't happen this year.

I'm getting close to the end of my Viking story, and once I've read it through I'll put it up on Amazon. I shall have to start thinking of a cover.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Was it Always Like This?

A friend passed this link to me today. It is a blog collective with the name Do Authors Dream of Electric Books. Kathleen Jones wrote the piece and I quote a few snippets here to give a flavour of the article. (The whole thing is well worth a read.)
"...two (friends) in particular have really made me aware of the cruel and destructive power of the contemporary publishing industry, which cares more for its shareholders than the creative egos of the authors it depends on for its income.... It's difficult not to come to the conclusion that the supposedly 'traditional' model of the publishing industry has begun to cannibalise itself.
One symptom of this is a recent post on the blog Random Jottings about the historical fiction author Cynthia Harrod Eagles - always chronically under publicised.  Recently the publishers have suggested that she should bring her very successful Morland Dynasty series to an end because it is no longer making quite so much money (but still selling and still in print).  This produced an outcry from her readers, but was apparently very wounding for the author. The publishers could have promoted her books (they're as commercial as Philippa Gregory)  in order to make themselves more profit, but they preferred to wield the axe instead. Why? Something is going on in publishing that is very damaging to authors."

From my own experience, I would say that in any writers group around the country there will be authors who have been "let go" by their publisher. Others live in anxiety because they fear their latest offering will not be contracted. One sometimes get the feeling that they are dropped because their face no longer looks fresh and youthful. There are also the as yet unpublished writers who have good books to offer, who receive compliments from agents but always with the cop-out remark 'afraid it is not quite right for our list.' Well, we want to know what is right for their list? One or two titles a year? Written by someone preferably under twenty, with a photogenic face, who is willing to go round and round the country talking to anyone who will listen? 

Maybe it was always like this for aspiring authors. Many famous authors have said they could paper their downstairs loo with rejection slips before they hit lucky. Maybe it is only because so many people are writing these days, now that computers have made the task so much easier  - in the practical sense at least - that there are so many more rejections, and the electronic world lets us all talk to each other and complain about our rotten luck. Forty years ago, any kind of transworld conversation was via that old-fashioned thing called a letter. Today I sit at my desk, hit buttons and in less than ten seconds I can complain to the world and anyone who will listen ... was it always like this, or are publishers really going to the dogs?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Fiction v reaity

Isn't it interesting how certain fictional characters become real to certain readers?
There's an interesting furore going on in the press at the moment because J  Rowling has finally admitted that Hermione should have married Harry Potter and not Ron Weasley. Her readership has neatly divided into squawks of anguish or howls of joy. It's fun to read how intense these people get - see the excerpts below -

But then on a little reflection I have to own up and say I too indulged in this sort of thing over the Crawford of Lymond novels by Dorothy Dunnett though I have to say I found Lymond's marriage to Phillippa perfectly acceptable. It must be the mark of a good book when the character are regarded as real, don't you think? And how often does it happen? Much as I enjoy the Outlander series, I don't get so involved in Jamie and Claire as to argue about whether they should or should not have had sex on the window ledge or parted the first time or even if she should have returned to Jamie the second time. No other book has ever been that real to me, except perhaps for Pride & Prejudice, and even then that didn't happen until I saw the 1995 BBC version with Colin Firth as Darcy.

Which books became real for you?

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Bridge

I've had a bit of a Scandi fest this last week. The video has been recording all the episodes of The Bridge, but I never got around to watching them until this week, principally because  dh doesn't like it. So I've been staying up late and watching on my own. Reached the final episode last night, and the story isn't finished. There has to be a third series, or else how will we know who killed Gretchen? Or if Martin will go to jail for killing Jens? There's also the clues about what happened in Saga's early life, but no real answers.

I suppose the muted colours are deliberate. The fact that Saga's wardrobe is all the same sickly green as her car, except for an occasional foray into shiny brown leather, struck me around midweek.The effect is to make Copenhagen and Malmo look uninviting, but Saga look ethereal, which adds to the pathos of her character. If pathos is the right word. In many ways, she's like a machine, thinking all the time, with emotion completely locked out except for the few glimpses we are allowed. Martin almost got through. He was her only friend. Though Hans, the big boss, seems to have a vague understanding of her.

She claims she didn't get much out of having a boyfriend live with her after eight weeks of great effort on her part. How many women, I wonder, would echo that? and it was an effort for her. Every time she came home - her home - something had moved, and for her that was upsetting. Nor could she ever be alone. I laughed when she booked into a hotel for a couple of nights just so she could have some quality time alone. How many people in a new relationship must have wanted to do that? Being Saga, she just went and did it.

Lost dog!

Sunday 8 th May Slow start to a sunny day with a promise of high temperatures. Bill took Perla out at 7.30 as he has done all this month ...