Posts Tagged ‘ kindle ’

A cappuccino, a latte, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood. No sprinkles on the Atwood.

Nathan Bransford this week has been posing the question more and more indies are struggling with:  do they need a publisher at all?

With agents and publishers turning away new writer after new writer more and more authors are self-publishing and proving there is a market for the work the gatekeepers rejected. At which point the gatekeepers come knocking at the door, kindly offering to represent us.

But by that time it may be too late. The author has experienced the true freedom being an indie can bring, and even if a publisher can make them more money (which is increasingly not the case) fewer and fewer authors would be willing to sacrifice their freedom for the sake of a contract.

For established authors with a back-list like Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch, Bob Meyer, etc, the rewards of indie publishing increasingly outweigh anything a trad publisher can offer. More and more established authors are moving to the indie side.

Nathan says,

I think publishers are going to have to think long and hard about what exactly they will actually be providing authors in an e-book world. There needs to be a major mindset shift from a gatekeeper-oriented “You’re lucky to be with us” mentality where authors are treated on a need-to-know and your-check-will-arrive-when-it-arrives basis to a service-oriented “What else could we possibly do for you” mentality.

No more books that get dropped in the ocean without publisher support. Embracing and investing in new marketing tactics for the Internet era. Becoming an integral part of how consumers find books.

And innovating with new ideas and experiments and models. Some publishers are, yes, but is it enough?

Authors should want to have their e-books published by the traditional publishers, not be forced to grudgingly give them up in exchange for being published in print. Big authors are soon going to have a choice, and publishers are going to need to make themselves indispensable once again.

Meanwhile prospective thriller writer Jake Hardman was wondering on his own blog about the future of ebooks vs paperbacks. Jake diagrees with me and others that the future of paperbacks is bleak.

If you only read one or two books a year it’s probably not worth buying an e-reader. It makes sense, however, for an avid reader to own one. Electronic books are generally cheaper and easier to get hold of than paper. What’s more, there’s the growing range of exciting books that are only published electronically. These reasons, however, don’t stack up for the occasional reader who’s unlikely to review the book blogs or buy on-line via one-click.

You can’t pick up an e-book (and probably never will be able to) in a supermarket, train station or airport, which is where I believe most occasional readers buy books. When placed by the checkout, cover facing outwards (something most authors can only dream about), paperbacks have the potential to attract their attention. E-books don’t. My guess is that avid readers who haven’t yet moved over to electronic formats will do so shortly, but the vast majority of occasional readers may never do so.

Traditional publishers – selling a limited range of blockbusters – will, for this reason, I believe continue to dominate the occasional-reader market.  Promoting their books in the aforementioned outlets, the death of the independent bookshop won’t affect their market, but they will lose a slice to the indie authors.

Jake makes some interesting points, but I disagreed on some things here. I did try and debate this over at Jake’s site but Blogger ate my comment, as happens all too often. However, the points Jake raised, especially in view of Nathan’s post, deserve a wider discussion. Do publishers and paperbacks have a future?

Anne R Allen ran a post on publishing ten years down the line. She predicted the following will survive:

Top-Selling Superstar Books in Hardcover, Suitable for Gift-Giving

Humor Books

Coffee Table Books

Impress-the-Guests/Keepsake Literary Books

Bibles and other Iconic Religious Books

Decorator Books

Books for Small Children

And of course, Snookibooks

No sign of paperbacks there. I’m not privy to Anne’s reasoning for the demise of the paperback but suspect it will be something like this:

Jake’s right that the occasional reader and impulse buyer is going to be tempted by the high-profile elite the trad publishers have paid to promote. Those are the books you see on the plinths, in the window displays, and in the supermarkets.

But bookstores have no future, and nor do supermarket book sales. At least, not for paperbacks. Because it won’t just be the independent booksellers that fall. It will be the giants like B&N and Waterstone’s. Sure, they may still exist in name, just as WH Smiths exists in name as a book seller in the UK. But the token array of books they sell will diminish and diminish until it’s just those books identified by Anne that survive.

The paperback, even for the mega-names like Patterson and King, will fade into oblivion. Perhaps lasting a year or so beyond the rest, but they cannot stay afloat on their own.

A common argument of the anti-epub brigade is that only a minority will ever own an e-reader. This is true.

But e-readers per se are not the future of ebooks. Tablets are. Or whatever the next generation of e-reading smart mini-computers may be called. If dedicated e-readers were the only way of reading ebooks then the digital future would be bleak. But dedicated e-readers like the b&w Kindle are already all but obsolete.

Even if you only read one or two books a year you will most likely soon be owning a tablet / smart phone or other device.

Paper sales will therefore continue to decline and a vicious circle of economics will render the mass paperback commercially unviable because the book stores will be either closed or just selling ebooks and coffee, and the supermarkets will want prices so low to buy-in that the printing costs will no longer be covered.

Bear in mind stores like Tesco (largest UK retail chain) has its own ebook store. Others are following suit. Presumably the same is happening in the US. Nothing too exciting now but who knows where it might be in a year’s time.

The thing is, there’s nothing to stop Tesco or any other major retailer having an ebook display of the mega names at the till.  Maybe they can listen to an audio teaser on earphones while they queue. A click of a button and the book is downloaded to the customer’s smartphone, tablet or whatever as soon as they pay for their shopping.

Books take shelf space. Shelf space is money. The supermarkets will stock books only so long as they are bringing in more than they cost to stock. Why would they waste shelf space on wads of paper that fewer and fewer people will buy when they can instead sell ebooks with no shelf space?

If I were running a supermarket chain I would be looking at a leisure-cafe instead of those diabolical shoppers’ restaurants. A leisure cafe where customers can buy expensive coffee with huge profit margins while sampling ebooks from the supermarket’s own ebook store, clicking buy and having the ebooks added to the check-out tally when they pick up their groceries.

The ONLY way paperbacks can survive is if POD technology improves to the point where in those same cafes you can order a print version of whatever book you wish and have it printed in-store, to a professional standard and at a sensible price, and have it ready to collect at the checkout.

Yes, the technology exists, but it’s a novelty toy that will never ctach on in any meaningful way.  The practicalities of operating (staff), storage (paper and ink for printing) and maintenance would leave the supermarket or bookstore little better off than before, and catering for a diehard and ever-diminishing minority of readers.

It’s a matter of time before similar browsing cafes appear at major train stations and airports, most likely by the big e-retailers teaming up with the big coffee bars already in position. Many bookstores already host coffee bars. Books and coffee are already as one in the public mind.

New technology will determine just how the future pans out, but the mass paperback is on its death bed.

Which brings us back to Nathan. Why should mega-sellers like Patterson and King stick with their paper publishers, beyond special edition hard-backs, once digital fully takes over?

Nathan said,

Publishers are going to need to make themselves indispensable once again.

I suspect one way they will do that is by buying their way into those browser cafes (Starbooks?) and making sure ebooks by their own published authors get the big promotions, just as they do now in the bookstores with paper products. That way they might just hang on to some of their big name authors, and rely on the niche paper products Anne referred to for their other income.

The big issue for the future is whether those publishers that survive, leaner and meaner, will be able to buy or bully their way into the e-distributors’ favour, or challenge them head-on.

As Amazon moves more and more into publishing it seems there are two likely futures for the major publishing corporations:

1.     The so-called Big Six get their act together to buy rival e-distributors like B&N and the smaller e-book outlets like the UK’s Waterstone’s and set up their own e-store based on known names, while refusing to supply Amazon (and perhaps Apple too).

2.     The so-called Big Six collectively come to an agreement with Apple to exclusively supply, and go to war against Amazon, B&N and the smaller outlets.

Paperbacks have no future, but let’s not write off the big publishers just yet. They have the money and the muscle to evolve.

How do you see the future of paper publishing?


Blog Round-Up August 25th

Contrary to popular opinion it was pure coincidence I happened to return to the UK just as civil unrest peaked once again. A timely reminder of the tensions that simmer below the surface of even outwardly wealthy and stable societies like Britain.

But yes, I survived the mindless violence of the UK riots, the exorbitant prices of the UK coffee bars and the dreadful UK summer weather that drove me out several weeks early. I even survived (with some mental scarring, admittedly) meeting co-author Saffi for the third time. And now I’m back in beautiful West Africa where, if I never leave again, it will be too soon.

Today, a quick pick of recent blogs elsewhere that have caught my attention as I play catch-up.

John Locke

The BIG story of the past week has of course been John Locke’s deal with Simon & Schuster, whereby they get to publish his books in print and he gets to keep his e-rights. Or something like that. Details remain sketchy, but if the initial indications live up to expectations then this is major new development in publishing.

Of course Locke is in the enviable position of being a million-seller indie writer. Will the same option be open to lesser mortals? That remains to be seen.

Kris Rusch

For Kris Rusch this is yet another example of the survival instinct of the traditional publishers kicking in. Kris argues the trad’ pub’ industry still has plenty of life in it and will remain “the gold standard” in the same way the big TV channels remain the gold standard for broadcasting. Kris is a long-established writer who built her empire the only way possible at the time, but now enthusiastically embraces the new world while keeping the best of the old. Of those either / or types, she says:

Some are still stuck in traditional-think, including an influential blogger whom everyone says is brilliant and who simply pisses me off because he can’t seem to look beyond his traditional publishing training. On the other side of the equation are the all-indie-all-the-time folks who ignore (or perhaps don’t understand) that traditional publishing will never leave us. Traditional publishing will remain the gold standard, partly because they have so much gold.

Interesting stuff. Be sure to check out Kris’s post in full.

Joe Konrath

Of course one of the biggest proponents of indie-publishing is the ever-lovable Joe Konrath, who sees the Locke deal as another nail in the coffin of traditional publishing:

Publishers will start folding. It’s inevitable.

What S&S did with Locke was a ballsy move, but also a desperate one. It’s desperate, because they are hastening their own demise, and are just trying to make a few more bucks before it all falls apart. Not to get all Godwin’s Law here, but there is a Vichy French analogy to be had. S&S is going to try to make a few bucks from Locke, whose business model is ultimately going to put them out of business.

My thoughts are that while paper is unquestionably in demise and the future of publishing is unquestionably digital, many of the traditional publishers will survive the Transition and simply shift their emphasis to digital, emerging smaller, leaner, but still able to deliver a service that will suit readers and writers alike. I’ll be blogging more on this third way option in the near future.

David Gaughran

Another big discussion recently has been what, exactly, sells books. And the consensus seems to be: word of mouth.

David Gaughran ran a post on this –  – which sums up the reality of book-selling:

Unless you have already had a bestseller on your hands (and your next book will essentially market itself), word-of-mouth is your only chance of breaking out.

We have all seen it in action. A friend presses a book into your hand – with a fevered look in their eye – and says you have to read this. Or someone gifts you a book on Amazon because they are so determined for you to read it, they don’t want to take the chance that you won’t act on their tip. I remember a friend refusing to talk to me until I read a particular book. It was that important to him.

When you get someone that passionate, they will recommend it to everyone they know. A book really takes off when all those people then become equally passionate and recommend it to everyone they know. Then word spreads exponentially.

Anne R Allen

Of course getting the book noticed in the first place is key, or people won’t spread the word in the first place. Anne R Allen’s latest post is on the demise of the book tour and how blogging does a far better job anyway.

That’s because it’s not just the ebook that’s killing the book tour. Social networking has affected it even more—simply because social networking has turned out to be a better way to sell books than traditional advertising.

Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb meanwhile makes the point that blogging for fellow writers, while a great way of increasing exposure, is only reaching a small fraction of the reading market.

As Kristen says,

We MUST reach out to fresh blood and bring new readers into the family. If we don’t our platform becomes almost inbred, then starts playing the banjo and firing a shotgun in the air and it’s all downhill from there.

A pretty sobering thought! Kristen concludes,

Next week we will talk more about some ways to break out of the comfort zone and start tapping into larger networks that can become readers. Go after new blood.

So, not only hitting home with her main point, but also guaranteeing we’ll be back next week to see what solutions will be revealed. Not for nothing is Kristen Lamb’s column a must-read for anyone hoping to make social media work for them.

One last selection from the industry bloggers.

Meghan Ward debates the thorny issue of copyright, plagiarism and cryptomnesia.

No, cryptomnesia isn’t some dreadful fungal infection of the nether regions, but the technical term for remembering something long forgotten and regurgitating it as something new and original.

Meghan says,

Okay, first let’s take a poll. How many of you recite The Lord’s Prayer while having sex? Can I see a show of hands?

Please don’t answer that in the comments section! Pop across to Meghan’s site to see the relevance. No blasphemy or graphic sex scenes there, despite the quote above. But an important debate on plagiarism, what constitutes it, and why cryptomnesia is a reasonable defence in law before you waste money trying to sue someone.

On other blogs, Lindsay Buroker has a great piece on why you should have a news-letter if you’re a writer. Compelling stuff. So compelling that I’ll be having one here at MWi just as soon as I’ve worked out the behind-the-scenes widget stuff to make it happen.

BTW the image, left, probably isn’t Lindsay, but seems the real Lindsay, like me, prefers not to see themselves staring back from the screen.

Prue Batten

Over at Mesmered, meanwhile, Prue continues her Big Red Chair interviews with Shea MacLeod in the hot seat.

Shea MacLeod

Prue has her own unique approach to interviewing writers that reveals much more about the author than just their latest book.

Mesmered: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

Shea: I love old school sci-fi B-movies.  You know, those horribly cheesy black and white movies where some kind of bomb irradiates the world except for one house in a valley somewhere.  Then the survivors are attacked by mutant bugs.  Awesome!

If I didn’t already have Shea’s book on my Kindle that’s the kind of interview that would have me hitting the buy button.

Megg Jensen

Meanwhile Megg Jensen just knocked up her first one thousand sales for her wonderful historic-dystopian coming-of-age books. Megg has been embarrassed by me before for lauding her wonderful debut novel, Anathema, so I shan’t mention it here.

I remember when we first reached that 1000 sales milestone, so can share Megg’s elation as described on her blog:

Over the first month, a number appeared in my head: 1,000. I wanted to sell 1,000 books. That, I decided, would be my goal.

Well, earlier this week I surpassed 1,000 sales. It took me nearly seven months, but who cares? I DID IT! 1,000 paid sales of my books. It’s unreal.

Now that I’m on the other side of 1,000, things don’t look too awfully different. There’s no BMWs, no champagne and caviar parties, no afternoons lounging by the pool while I watch the pool boy from the corner of my eye.

Yep, at the end of the day it’sa number. But a pretty cool number. And the great thing is, 1000 sales is just the beginning. Who knows how many books Megg will sell in the next seven months. Safe to say it will be substantial.

So many more blogs I’d love to mention (and lots more still to catch up on), but time and space are against me. Megg’s thousand sales seems a great place to stop.

Western travelling is one great time suck nowadays. Great for reading. Not so great for being on-line and keeping up with things. And much as I’d like to read all the back-posts I’ve missed, I’ve also got to get on with the next books. With three co-authors now screaming at me simultaneously there’s even less time to browse.

So, any other juicy must-read blogs I’ve missed this past few weeks? Any news or industry gossip I’m missing out on?

Let me know!

Living The Dream: The Gatekeepers Eat Humble Pie Yet Again

If you’ve come to MWi today seeking inspiration and reassurance, having just gotten your latest rejection from the gatekeepers, this is your lucky day. We have an extraordinary story of rejection, redemption and rejoicing for you.

Today it was officially announced that indie authors Louise Voss and Mark Edwards have signed a four book deal with Harper Collins for a six-figure sum. And having been a supporter of these guys since they first launched on Kindle earlier this year I’m absolutely delighted for them.

But this not just a great story about an author partnership that got the dream ticket. This story is special in so many way.

Because this isn’t  just a story about a couple of authors who wrote their books, sent off their queries, waited patiently and eventually hooked the big fish. This is a story of a couple of authors who wrote their books, sent of their queries, hooked an agent each (each!) and still couldn’t get the big fish.

They tried, and tried, and tried again. But they never quite got there. And with rejection comes dejection. Eventually these guys just gave up.

Literally. They threw their battered manuscripts in the drawer, closed their book of dreams and walked away from writing.

It was only when the Kindle came along they they got the urge to try again. They dusted off those old manuscripts, updated where necessary, and stuck them on Amazon. Not re-written.  Just updated to take account of things like mobile phones, that didn’t exist first time round. But let’s be clear, these were the same books as before. The ones the gatekeepers turned their noses up at.

But that’s the funny thing about the gatekeepers.  They claim to be protecting us from the drivel that us self-publishers stick on Amazon. Yet the moment that “drivel” starts to sell it suddenly acquires some hitherto non-existent star quality that the gatekeepers are desperate to get the rights to.

And after suffering so much rejection that these guys actually gave up writing, one can only imagine how gratifying it must be now to have the gatekeepers not just querying them, but handing over a six-figure sum to be allowed to publish the books they previously turned down.

Mark Edwards’ first appeared on MWi back in April, soon after Louise and he launched Killing Cupid onto Kindle. The second book was still being prepared for release.  Mark explained in raw, emotive terms, his journey from wannabe-writer to f**ck-’em-all-I-can’t-take-this-any-more defeat and back to new aspirant.

His story is reproduced below, as originally presented here on MWi.

It was an amazing story when I first ran it. That was just thirteen weeks ago.

Since then that second book, Catch Your Death, has become the number one best-seller on Kindle UK, and at one stage the first book, Killing Cupid, joined it at number two. The ultimate double-whammy. Last month alone they sold a total of 42,000 e-books.

No surprise, then, that these dreadful books previously deemed unpublishable are now hot properties.

Here’s Mark’s story once again, with my original intro.


Mark’s road to publication has been an emotional roller-coaster of a ride, and the road behind him is littered with shattered hopes and dreams.

For wannabe-writers Mark’s story is a salutary lesson in how, even when it seems nothing can go wrong, things can turn pear-shaped at any time, even when you think you’ve finally made it.

There are no prizes for being oh-so-close in this business.

Just heart-ache and derision. Mostly derision.

As mark says,

The problem is, I guess, that the wider world is utterly indifferent, whether you’re a writer, actor, artist, whatever…

Everyone thinks that it must just be because you’re not good enough.

For years I didn’t tell anyone about my attempts to make it as a writer because I got tired of the pitying looks.

The Sea of Obscurity

Now I have people asking me how many copies of Killing Cupid we’ve sold all the time which is kind of embarrassing at the moment! Still, we should sell 100 this month (March) which I think isn’t a bad start.  The difficult bit is staying out of the ‘sea of obscurity’ as Tom puts it.

Pause here to ponder Mark’s earlier words: Everyone thinks that it must just be because you’re not good enough.

Doesn’t that just sum it all up?

Sad but so true.

As writers we start out with such high hopes (yes, often too high hopes, as Mark readily concedes, below), only to have them dashed against the rock of rejection as one agent after another declines our work.

Of course many rejections will be thoroughly deserved.

But many more will be simply personal or commercial judgements by the agent at that time. Maybe she had a row with her partner before leaving for the office and something in your submission reminded her of it. Maybe he simply doesn’t like that genre and you didn’t do your homework properly before sending it to him. More often your work simply doesn’t have, in their humble (but expert) opinion, the commercial appeal to make them money.

Yes, make them money.

There is a very common misconception among wannabe writers that agents are some kind of charitable institution, offering their services free to anyone who can peck at a keyboard.

I’ll be looking at the role of agents more closely in future blogs, but here just to remind everybody they are running a business, and their money (usually about 15%) is only made if and when they manage to sell your work and it goes on to make money from readers buying it.

No wonder agents reject far, far more authors than they ever take on.

Which doesn’t make it any more pleasant when the rejection slip lands on the mat. But unless your work is seriously dire then it’s best not to take it personally and just move on to the next one.

Of course, getting an agent is just the start.

True, agents do have a hot-line to editors in publishing houses. But… They don’t have decision-making powers.

Getting an agent means you’re well on the way to being seriously considered by a publisher.

But as Mark found out the hard way, nothing’s final until the money’s in the bank.

For sheer determination in sticking with it, and as inspiration for all those of us are on the fence or haven’t the confidence to go for it, this is Mark Edwards’ story.

The Kindle has, ahem, rekindled my love of writing. Until very recently, when I caught scent of the indie writing revolution as it carried across the Atlantic, I had officially stopped trying to be a writer.

I had a great job that I could pour all my creative energy into, a family who happily occupied all my spare time, and I didn’t need the grief of trying to get published, a pursuit that had been an obsession for a long time. I had quit. I felt like a smoker who occasionally sniffs cigarette smoke and thinks ‘Hmm, I quite fancy…’ before stamping on the thought. I was cured of my writaholism.

Rewind fifteen years to my twenties. I had a rubbish job and lived in a dead-end town: Hastings, East Sussex, a place that had been cursed, according to local legend, by black magician Aleister Crowley just before he died. I wrote as a means of escaping the crap job.

I churned out novels almost as quickly as Amanda Hocking does now, writing them by hand on paper – paper! – with, wait for it, a biro and typing them up on this ridiculous contraption called a Fontwriter, a kind of glorified typewriter that displayed five rows of text at a time, the display blinking as you typed, rather like a Kindle does when you change page, come to think of it. Then you had to feed in and print out the pages one at a time.

If I wanted to copy a manuscript I had to take it to a shop and endure the embarrassing questions and pitying looks of the staff.  All of my early novels exist only on floppy disk, unaccessible, buried in a technological grave.

Sometime during this period, during which I spent half my income on brown A4 envelopes and printer ribbons, I landed myself an agent. A proper agent with bestselling clients. She LOVED my novel. She was going to make me a star. I was going to be rich and famous. I truly believed this was a certainty. The day the agent phoned me to tell me she was going to take me on was one of the happiest of my life.

But then… rejection. None of the publishers she sent my novel to wanted to buy it. I was gobsmacked. Sick as a parrot. I wrote another novel. She loved this one even more. The same thing happened. Then I rewrote the original novel and made it vastly better. At this point, the BBC enter the story for the first time.

BBC2 were making a documentary about first-time novelists. They wanted three people:  someone who was just starting out; someone with an agent but no publisher; and someone with a deal. I was the middle one. The successful one was Jake Arnott.  The other one was a friend of a friend of the director.

Again, I was assured of fame. I had cameramen following me around Hastings and filming me in my job(answering complaints for the world’s worst rail company). I did a photo shoot for the Radio Times, standing just behind Jake Arnott. It was so exciting.

But when the TV show went out, showing me receiving rejection calls for the edification of a shrugging public, it made me look like a desperate wannabe.

This is probably because I was a desperate wannabe.

I was like someone years later on the X Factor semi-final, blubbing because they’d been voted off and hadn’t landed the million pound deal, vowing ‘You haven’t heard the last of me.’ The programme didn’t bring about a single whiff of interest from publishers – these days I would have self-published and probably sold thousands of books. But at that point, no book existed. I got recognised in the street for months afterwards but I had nothing to sell.

The one good thing that came from that programme was an email from Louise Voss. Louise was in exactly the same boat as me. An agent, no book deal. We emailed each other all the time – I had just graduated to an iMac and binned the Fontwriter – and swapped moral support. We didn’t meet up for around two years but we were each other’s biggest cheerleaders.

Then Louise got the big break. A super-agent took her on and suddenly everyone wanted to publish her. Her book, the fantastic TO BE SOMEONE, went to auction; she got the long dreamt-of advance. It seemed like her time had come. I can honestly say I wasn’t jealous. Instead it made me think that if I kept going my turn would surely come.

I kept writing. I came maddeningly close to landing a deal once or twice. I kept writing. My agent gave up and dumped me. I tried and failed to find another one. I was that desperate bloke off that programme. I was tainted. I turned thirty. I had an early midlife crisis. Left my wife, left Hastings, went to live in Japan for a year…

While I was in Japan, Louise and I came up with the idea of writing a novel together. Her career hadn’t taken off as anticipated. She was still being published, but the books weren’t selling as well as her publishers hoped; which was a huge problem, since they had invested so much money in her. We came up with the idea for a stalker novel, written alternately from male and female perspectives, with a delicious twist in the middle and another at the end.

For the zillionth time I was sure I was finally on to a winner, especially when the BBC hove into the story for a second time:  a drama producer who had read and loved one of Louise’s other novels optioned our book, KILLING CUPID, before it was even finished.

Writing together was a dream. As Louise says, it’s as if while you’re asleep the writing elves come out and craft the next chapter for you. We would brainstorm the plot, decide what was coming next, then one of us would write a chapter before the other person edited it. The whole thing was so easy to write I couldn’t believe there weren’t more writing duos out there.

When the book was finished, Louise’s agent tried to sell it. Unbelievably, although I was by this point punch drunk on rejection and should have seen it coming, she couldn’t find us a publisher.

The book didn’t fit neatly into a genre: it was part thriller, part comedy, part suspense, part literary fiction.

Still, we had the option. It was going to be on TV.

Yeah, right….

The production went into development hell. The BBC changed their policy around two-part crime dramas. Somebody upstairs didn’t like the main character. The option expired.

I banged my head against a wall until it bled.

I was back in the UK and had just started my first proper job, at the ripe old age of 32, by which I mean a job I enjoyed rather than endured, being a digital marketer for a publisher.

I was OK.

Writing wasn’t everything.

But Louise and I had one more go. We wrote another thriller called CATCH YOUR DEATH, a Dan Brown-esque chase novel about a killer virus. Louise, by this point, no longer had an agent or a deal.  We finished the new novel the same week my first daughter was born. We sent it out to agents. Several said they liked it, but not enough. Getting published, it seemed, was getting harder and harder. And life, I had realised, could be enriching without being a writer. Real life was more interesting and infinitely easier without the relentless stress of trying to find a bloody agent and publisher.

That was it, I decided. I had given it my best shot. I read about other writers getting big deals and didn’t feel a thing.  I could see a novel by a celeb in  a bookshop and not feel the urge to projectile vomit.  I had stopped caring. Nobody could say I hadn’t tried. It was time to concentrate on my career and my family. I felt liberated.

And then the Kindle came along. Reading about this new way of publishing, it seemed so exciting. Finally, here was a way to take back the power from the gatekeepers. I persuaded Louise that we should put our novels on Amazon; we had nothing to lose. So we went through them and discovered they were as dusty as my old manuscripts. In KILLING CUPID, no-one had broadband or a mobile phone. Facebook didn’t exist, and how can you have a modern stalker novel without a bit of Facebook stalking?  We spent a few months polishing them, got my sister-in-law to design covers, and on February 19th 2011, when KILLING CUPID was added to the Kindle store, I finally became a published author.

A self-published author, but so what?  We are in control. The book’s success or failure is in our hands. If it’s good enough, and we put enough energy and intelligence into promoting it, we will reap the rewards. The day after it was published, we had an email from a BAFTA-winning film producer who wants to option it for the big screen.

With my track record, I’m not going to order a Porsche – or a second hand bicycle – yet. But my interest in writing has been reborn, this time without the ridiculous self-imposed pressure.

This time, I know there’s more to life.

This time, it’s fun.

Plus a little bit of an addiction to checking the sales figures.

In the next few weeks, we are going to add CATCH YOUR DEATH to the Amazon store. Louise has got the digital rights to her old Transworld novels back and is planning to get them on Amazon soon.

I am going to rewrite the best of my old novels, a psychological horror about neighbours from hell.

And we are going to start work on a third novel together.

And one day I’ll be able to tell the world about how it took me fifteen years to achieve overnight success.

Or maybe twenty years.

I don’t really mind.

Fifteen years to achieve overnight success? How about thirteen weeks.

Louise and Mark I’m proud to have been in there at the re-start and to have watched your incredible journey. It couldn’t have happened to two more deserving people.

Introducing The Kindle Summer Book Club

Yes, it’s July, and thanks to real-life interfering with the schedule the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun June blogfest is now over-running into July.

Tomorrow (he wrote hopefully – West Africa’s weather might decide otherwise) we’ll be back on track with a guest post from the one and only Gerry McCullough.

Today, however, is the official launch of the Kindle Summer Book Club.

Nine best-selling authors from both sides of the Atlantic joining together to bring their writings to a wider audience, and helping with a good cause in the process.

Would love to say it was my idea, but it’s the other Mark, Mark Edwards, who deserves all the credit. Mark has explained the background over on his own site at indieiq, and I reproduce that post here in full.

There’s actually a lot more going on than I can bring to you here now, thanks to limited power and net as the West African summer gets under way, so be sure to check out the facebook page and the links to the various authors sites.

And for those reading this today, Saturday 02 July, Mark will be conducting a live chat session on facebook this evening. For times, see below.

Here’s Mark Edwards:

Back at the beginning of May, before all the craziness started, I had an idea that I have been working on behind the scenes ever since. I was on holiday, chilling out in sun-soaked Portugal, and while I tore through books on my Kindle my girlfriend was reading a real papery book that she’d picked up at the airport on the way out. On the cover of this paperback was a sticker that read Richard & Judy’s Book Club.

Over the last few years, there has been one sure-fire way to have a lit-hit in the UK. Richard & Judy were daytime TV presenters who had the idea of starting a weekly discussion about a novel. (I believe the idea was imported from Oprah.) Each year they would choose around eight novels which would be discussed, in turn, on the show. These books, which were usually popular novels with a literary sheen, were displayed together in shops, stickered and promoted as part of a pack. It worked brilliantly. A number of novelists were propelled into the big time, the books sold in their millions and bookshops were saved from impending doom. Years on, Richard and Judy aren’t on TV any more (they are both working on their first novels!) but the book club continues to do brisk business.

So, I thought, maybe we indies should have a go at doing something like that. It’s so hard for potential readers to find good books; we could lend them a hand. So I contacted a number of big-name indie authors, some of whom I had already interviewed on this blog, others who had never heard of me, thinking they would most likely turn me down. To my delight, nearly everyone said yes, including the huge US authors HP Mallory, J Carson Black, Scott Nicholson and Victorine Lieske, plus the UK bestsellers Saffina Desforges and Sibel Hodge, and a brilliant newcomer, Cheryl Shireman, who epitomises all that is good about indie publishing.

Once everyone was on board, we had to organise the whole thing. Somebody – I can’t remember who – came up with the idea of creating an anthology containing extracts from all the novels. Then we decided to add in exclusive material – short stories or articles from each of the authors. I collected together all the material and passed it to J Carson Black’s husband, Glenn, who runs Breakaway Media, as he had kindly offered to publish the book. We wanted to make it free but Amazon makes that difficult, so instead we decided to charge the minimum $0.99 and give the proceeds to charity: a fund for victims of the recent tornado in Joplin.

It’s been a bit chaotic at times, trying to organise a group of busy writers on both sides of the Atlantic (and one in Africa) but yesterday our Summer Book Club collection went live on Amazon. We also have a Facebook group ( and we are going to take it in turns, week by week, to focus on one book.

Killing Cupid is the first book to be featured and I am going to do a live chat on Facebook on Saturday night, at approx 9.30pm UK time (I will publish a separate post about this). I have a horrible feeling no-one will turn up, but it’s worth a try!

The other books that will be featured in the Summer Book Club are:

THE SHOP, J Carson Black.
SUGAR AND SPICE (US EDITION), Saffina Desforges.
NOT WHAT SHE SEEMS, Victorine Lieske.
DISINTEGRATION, Scott Nicholson.
LIFE IS BUT A DREAM, Cheryl Shireman

I will be featuring interviews with these writers over the next seven weeks.

So what would I like you to do? Well, firstly, please join the Facebook page. We are planning on hostings some giveaways and this is a great chance to chat with all of the writers above and talk about books.

Secondly, if you can spare $0.99 (0r 71p) the Summer Book Club anthology is well worth getting for the stories and articles alone. It features a fabulous new story by me and Louise (mostly Louise!), a very funny story by Mark Williams, a couple of awesome crime stories by J Carson Black and Scott Nicholson, some sweet romance from Sibel Hodge and Victorine Lieske, plus two inspiring articles by HP Mallory and Cheryl Shireman. Cheryl’s article is well worth the price of admission alone, especially if you are a writer or an aspiring writer.

Buy it on

Buy it on

Get if free at Smashwords:

Enjoy, and welcome to the club.

Mark Edwards and Lousie Voss have, coincidentally, appeared on MWi numerous times recently, and regulars will by now be familiar with their story and the background to how they became the first indie authors in the UK not only to have a #1 Kindle best-seller, and not only to have two titles in the top five, but to actually hold #1 and #2 simultaneously. And this with two books the gatekeepers rejected time and time again.

For any new-comers who missed their story, related here many times, check out this post at fellow Kindle Club writer Cheryl Shireman’s site, where Mark explains all.

Meggosaurus Rex – Megg Jensen and the Jurassic Park Agents

Day Twelve

So what is it about agents these days? Anyone would think they were an endangered species.

In fact I was going to open with that observation even before Anne R Allen’s latest post Literary Agents: An Endangered Species? went live at the weekend and really put the cat among the industry’s pigeons.

Simple fact is, of course, they are. The days of the agent we knew and loved / hated are coming to an end.

That’s not to say they will all become extinct. Just that those that survive the e-publishing revolution will have evolved into some entirely new creature from the agents that, along with the Big Six, reigned supreme over the publishing world until incredibly recently.

The e-publishing revolution is the equivalent of the giant meteorite strike that caused the mass extinction in a bygone era. Except this time it’s just Planet Publishing that is being hit.

Is that a good or bad thing? It certainly seems good for readers and writers so far. But who’s to say? The only certainties just now are first that nothing is certain, and second that some agents are a lot more clued up than others.

As Anne explains in her post (see link above) some agents are turning predator. And it’s not  a pretty sight. Others are turning to new business models. Most just seem like startled rabbits in the headlights of the oncoming truck.

David Gaughran

For anyone still chasing agents, Anne’s post is  a must-read and has numerous links to other must-read posts. To those I would add David Gaughran and Joe Konrath. David is fast becoming the most significant industry commentator this side of the pond. Anyone not yet following his blog is missing out on some serious and valuable debate.

The other JK

Joe, of course, is known to everyone, and it seems loved / hated in equal measure. But one thing you can’t do is ignore him.

Not here to go over the issues they cover. Just to say those sites are where you should be if you’re still hankering for an agent, or even just wondering what the future holds. Joe’s latest has some useful insights from Barry Eisler too.

Two agents sites I must mention here though, as fine examples of likely survivor and definite dinosaur.

One is Rachelle Gardner. She did a great post entitled Will Self-Pubbing Hurt My Chances, and came out with a resounding NO!

Read it and rejoice. There is a voice of reason among all the vested self-interest clinging to the old model.

And speaking of which…

Another agent (NOT Rachelle!) ran a post this week on criticism, critiques and editing, which basically was the same hoary old urban myths about how agents are the gatekeepers that ensure quality, and that without agents and editors the cultural world is doomed. Needless to say I disagreed. I’m not going to dignify the site with a link here, just to say she began her post,

Do you take criticism well? I don’t, really.

Well, fair enough she did warn me!

But I posted a comment anyway, as one does (isn’t that what blogs are for?) and another reader debated my comment. I responded. But apparently this particular agent doesn’t want debate. It seems anything except hero-worship is unacceptable.

Comments regarding the usefulness of editors, agents, and other publishing professionals, when posted on a literary agent’s blog, cross a line. My blog is not your soapbox. Future comments that seem deliberately malicious or provocative will be deleted.

As I say, she did warn me with her opener. 🙂

Those of you who follow MWi will know provocative is my middle name.

If we don’t debate and argue, how will we ever get to the truth? 

But as for being malicious… Not that is offensive.

Why does a literary agent run a blog if they don’t want anyone to disagree with them? Stick to a standard website.

And I love the way this literary agent proclaims to the world her role and who she works for, and then says all opinions are her own. If her opinions are her own, why make a big fuss about who she works for at the top of the site? Would she tell us that if she was stacking shelves at Wal-Mart?

I’d like to ask her, but that would be malicious and just get deleted. 🙂

But it comes back the the issue of old-school agent dinosaurs. If this agent doesn’t understand that a blog that invites comments is a place of public interaction then what hope her understanding the needs of her clients in the new world of e-publishing?

Late edit extra: Prue Batten over at Mesmered has just run a post on Rachelle Gardner’s latest blog on what a Big Six marketing team can offer. Rachelle  Gardner is the sensible one of the two agents referred to above, I hasten to add. 

But Prue’s response is provacative to say the least. Rachelle lists an impressive array of things the Big Six might (note the might) do for an author. Indie author Prue is already doing most of them. And as Prue says,

if I can do a good proportion of the above, plus help run a farming business, look after acres of garden and write other books, I wonder if that raises issues about the efficiency and efficacy of what a publisher’s sales team actually does.

Now that’s what blogs are for.

Provocative, but not malicious. I’m sure Rachelle Gardner would be happy to debate that. The other agent would probably be on the phone to the thought police.


But now, back to today’s guest, Megg Jensen. Back in May Megg ran a lovely little post about her desire for an agent. That isn’t her guest post (that’s further down), but it seemed appropriate to steal part of the earlier post and reproduce it here, just because of the self-portrait. Don’t tell her!

In 2010 when I was searching for an agent that was me:


That’s how I looked at agents. Me, a respected freelance journalist who dealt with editors on a regular basis under a purely formal guise. Those magazine editors were my employers, not objects of desire.

Yet for some reason when I began to query, I got all foamy at the mouth, googly-eyed, and starstruck. I look back at myself and I get embarrassed, for me and for the agents.

Since I told myself last December that I would no longer query and I would take my career into my own hands, I’ve mellowed, A LOT, when it comes to agents. Do I still want one? OF COURSE. What self-respecting writer wouldn’t? Yes, it’s awesome to be an indie writer, but there are things we just can’t do. Who’s going to show your book to the movie execs? Who’s going to sell it to other countries? Who’s going to help you move up the ladder? Even Joe Konrath has an agent. Authors may be turning away from traditional publishing, but they aren’t, and shouldn’t be, turning away from agents

Megg’s last point is interesting. A lot has happened since early May. Perhaps Megg can let us know if she still feels that way after reading some of the posts mentioned above.

BTW, for those following Saffi and my own dealings with agencies, we reported a month or so back how we were approached by one of the planet’s most prestigious agencies over in New York. Just to say here we are still in discussions with said agency and we will make a formal statement next month on our position.

Meanwhile we would urge everyone to read the posts referred to above, and not to rush into anything, no matter how tempting it may seem at first glance.

Back to Megg:

First, Jurassic Park. OMG, I was in high school when this came out and I saw it in the theater three times. Can you say LOVE?! Before I saw it, I wanted to become an archaeologist. After I saw it, I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist. I’m not, but I did graduate with a minor in anthropology!!!!

Relevance? Well, a tenuous link with Anne R Allen’s post, as above, of course. But actually Megg just happened to do  a post on Jurassic Park and I happen to be a huge fan of Ariana Richards and Stephen Mazzello, the two child actors who upstaged both the adults and the dinosaurs, and made Jurassic Park a true classic of cinema.

And yes, I’m a fanatical about children in the cinema, as past posts testify. Any suggestions that I’m just trying to get in Spielberg’s good books, on the off chance he’s in need of an e-book to turn into a film, are totally without foundation. Steven my email address is on the site. And yes, I can cause my co-author to mysteriously disappear, but not until after the next book is finished.

No, the reason I dragged Megg here was to talk about finding reviewers – a subject dear to all indie-publishers’ hearts. After all, getting our books reviewed is key to finding an audience and hopefully a market.

When I first approached her I had no idea Megg would have her new book out this week. A happy coincidence for all, but honestly, it wasn’t planned that way.

Anyway, here’s Megg again:

Megg Jensen - definitely not a dinosaur

When Mark asked me to guest blog, I was totally surprised. I’m still not sure where he picked me from, but perhaps it’s better not to know his stalking methods. No matter, I was pleased. Stalker, fellow writer, fan – whatever I’ll take it.

Mark asked me to blog about review sites since, as he put it, I “mastered that aspect of the game well.” I laughed when I read his email because up until a couple months ago I had review sites all wrong. When Anathema (February 2011, DarkSide Publishing) debuted I sent out zero book blogger requests.

I didn’t know I could request a review. I didn’t know bloggers might be interested in Anathema. I didn’t know because I made an assumption and never checked out how it worked. I thought bloggers randomly reviewed whatever book they felt like reading. Was I wrong!

What every indie author needs to know is that there are book bloggers out there who will happily read your novel and review it. Let’s forget the frightening aspect of a potentially horrid review and focus on finding a reviewer.

I found most of mine on Twitter through other tweeps. I didn’t request reviews immediately. I wanted to get to know them so when I did send Anathema out, I knew I’d be sending it to a reviewer who not only liked YA fantasy, but also was a fair judge of books. If you troll reviewer sites you’ll find they run the gamut from snarky and mean to overenthusiastic. I wanted a good match for Anathema and I hand-picked each potential reviewer.

As a plus, I’ve now become friends with some of these bloggers. Many of them are writers too and we have a lot in common. My hope is that they remain impartial on future reviews because the last thing I want is for a reader to think, “Well, they’re friends with Megg so of course they’re going to like her book.” That’s not really fair to the reviewer or me.

Since then I have received reviews from people who’ve bought Anathema and from bloggers who’ve requested a copy. The vast majority of them are great reviews, and even the reviewers who gave me lower ratings had good reasons for it. Reading is a very personal experience and no author can expect everyone to love their book. Talk about unrealistic!

I’m still seeking out reviewers for Anathema, but now I’m switching to offering a free copy of both Anathema and Oubliette (coming June 2011, DarkSide Publishing) in exchange for a review of Oubliette. With nearly 60 Goodreads reviews under my belt, I’m now tackling some of the larger review sites. They don’t always take self-published books, but my hope is that with a positive track record I’ll be able to break into them as well.

I’m not Amanda Hocking, but I’m still able to slip my books into every review site that will have me. It’s great publicity and I’m meeting amazing people along the way!

Mark asked me to add a little about me. Well, Megg Jensen is a pen name. Why? I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. There’s a small chance it could be because in real life I’m a journalist and I don’t want the two careers to mix. But that’s boring so let’s just say I’m with a secret division of the U.S. government that does NOT exist.

Anathema is my first novel, Oubliette has just been released, and the third book in the Cloud Prophet Trilogy will drop this fall. I have releases lined up for the next three years. Prolific is a bad word to describe my work ethic; manic might be better.

I live in Chicago with my husband, two kids, and insane schnauzer, Ace. Yes, I named a character after him. If you knew my dog, you’d know why.

Thanks, Megg. And you’re right. It is better not to know my stalking methods.

Megg refers to two books there, Anathema and Oubliette. Click here to go to Megg’s site with full links for both e-book and paper versions. I’ve just bought Oubliette and its on my Kindle top-list. The reason being I have read the previous book of Megg’s, Anathema (hence my inviting her here) and was very impressed.

Regular visitors will recall I was host to Michelle Brooks at the beginning of the month and praised most highly her debut YA novel Bone Dressing. I said then that Bone Dressing and Megg’s Anathema were two of the best YA books I’d ever read.

I stand by that. Two superb examples of indie-published YA. Neither anything like the other.  Both unbelievably good.

As this is Megg’s guest post I’ll end with Megg’s own summary of Anathema.

Reychel is a slave girl surrounded by magic, lies and manipulation. Her best friend disappears in the middle of the night leaving Reychel to face her fifteenth birthday, the day her master burns his brand into the back of her bald head, alone. She’s sheltered from the outside world and doesn’t have any hope for escape, but when people desperate for freedom ask for her help can Reychel learn to believe in herself?

Irresistable or what?

To close, back over to you. What’s your experience of agents? Of getting reviews? Of reading YA?

Feel free to be provocative! Malicious? Go on, I can handle it. Unlike the agent above, I take criticism well. Sadly I’m used to it.

Harry Potter and the Dam-Busters – you heard it here first!

We interrupt the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun blogfest for a news update.

So now it’s official.

JK Rowling IS going digital, and there’s much chatter among the writing classes about what this means for us all.

The consensus is more e-reader sales, more kudos to e-publishing, and a Christmas bonanza in 2011.

Actually, here at MWi we were saying exactly this way back in April. It seems appropriate therefore to reproduce that post today.

The figures for Sugar & Spice sales are a little dated, of course, but the main thrust of the post seems as pertinent today as three months ago and is reproduced here as was.

Remember, you heard it here first! 🙂

Harry Potter and the Dam-Busters.

Chart-busters and babies – they both take two: Louise Voss explains why.

Day Ten

“Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”

So wrote Margaret Mitchell in Gone With The Wind, Which reminded me of literary agent Jenny Bent’s observation on the gatekeepers recently.

Jenny wrote,

“A year or two ago I was having lunch with an old friend, someone I think both intelligent and savvy, the publisher of a largish imprint at a major house. We had a disagreement about what was going to happen as e-books became more popular. His position was that readers would always need the big publishing houses because they needed to have their content filtered, so to speak–because as agents, editors, and publishers, we had a certain kind of literary taste or standard and we needed to pass that along to the reader.”

The reason Margaret Mitchell came to mind was that I’m late, again, with the blog post. And one of the reasons is childbirth.

No, I’m not a father again. In these temperatures?  It’s too hot here even to think about it!

But one of my little projects here is supporting the new born, in a country where desperate poverty is a way of life. Infant mortality is nowhere near as bad as it was ten years ago, but still far, far too high.

It was Daniel Defoe who first observed the certainty of death and taxes (variously attributed since to Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and others) but Margaret Mitchell’s words about the inconvenience of death and childbirth sprang to mind as I was looking to explain the latest blog delay.

Not here to burden you with tragedy. Just to remind you that most people in the world do not live a phone call away from emergency services and a well-equipped hospital. And sometimes real life gets in the way of blogging schedules.


 I chose Margaret Mitchell because she famously had her manuscript for Gone With The Wind rejected thirty-eight times.

The role of the agents / publishers has traditionally been to decide what the public could or could not read, because they believed they knew best.

And of course they got it wrong time and time again.

Fortunately somewhere along the line one or other of the gatekeepers took a chance on these numerous famously rejected authors and they went on to huge success. John Grisham, Stephen King, JK Rowling… The list is endless.

But still the gatekeepers turn down good books people want to read.

I mention here briefly our own Sugar & Spice, which met with the disapproval of almost every UK agent before we put it on Kindle and let the readers vote with their feet.  Just this week we got our one hundredth five-star review.  Evidently the public do not share the agents’ views…

Thanks to e-publishing authors can now by-pass the gatekeepers and go direct to readers. And many are doing so.

And time and again books the gatekeepers turned their noses up at are selling in serious numbers. Sure, none are yet matching Grisham or King, let alone Rowling. But e-books have only just begun.

Of course we all know of Amanda Hocking’s story, and John Locke just this week became a million seller with his own range of e-books.

Here in the UK the e-market is several years behind the US. Kindle UK only came into existence a year ago, so no surprise there are no comparable sellers here yet. Our own success with Sugar & Spice will be well known to most readers, but today’s guest in the MWi green room, Louise Voss, proves the UK e-book market has now matured, and that our success was no fluke.

When I first approached the fellow writing team that is Louise Voss and Mark Edwards and asked them to do a post on their new thriller, Catch Your Death, the e-book had just been launched on Kindle and was still finding its feet. Their other e-book, Killing Cupid, was slowly rising in the charts.

Today both books are in the top five. Catch Your Death held #1 best-seller position for a couple of weeks, dropped to # 2 overnight and as I write this is back at #1. They have sold over 30,000 copies in a ridiculously short space of time.

Both books were rejected by the gatekeepers time and time again. Go away, Louise Voss and Mark Edwards. We don’t want your rubbish.

Needless to say now the books have proven to be commercially successful the gatekeepers are fighting themselves to get their grubby paws on them. Now where have we heard that before…

As this is Girls Just Wanna Have Fun month Louise drew the short straw and was invited to talk about how she and Mark wrote their two thrillers. Of course none of us ever suspected that by the time the post came up they would be the only indie writer ever to take the #1 slot, and to have featured on BBC television (this very morning) for doing so!

For the first time in the UK, indie writers are being taken seriously. Britain is finally catching up with America. Don’t let on to the agents and publishers though. They’re still partying like its 2010.


Another odd thing. Saffi and Mark… Louise and Mark…

Is it coincidence that the only indie writers to break the UK Kindle top five have been male and female co-authors? Probably, yes, but then again…

Is it coincidence that both partnerships have guys called Mark?

You’re right. Who cares? Here’s Louise.

I’ve never been much of a fan of ‘boysey’ thrillers .  James Bond leaves me cold.  (And I realise I’ve never seen the word ‘boysey’ written down before, either…’boysie’?  ‘boyzi’? )  I guess you know what I mean, though:  peripheral characters meeting gruesome fates, lots of ammunitions hardware and/or military references, jaw-dropping martial-arts moves from the hero and imaginative torture rituals from the baddies.  I don’t want to generalise, but they’re usually written by men. 

So when Mark and I set out to write a straightforward  thriller, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it.  Would I be able to cope with the jargon?  The corpses, the blood?!   I’d wanted for a while to set a novel around the old Common Cold Unit in Salisbury, but it was Mark’s idea to make it a thriller involving rogue scientists and hidden collections of exotic viruses capable of wiping out the entire planet… ( I’d been thinking more along the lines of a gentle romance, perhaps with a hidden family secret or two to uncover….I have to say, Mark’s plans for it were a lot more exciting!)  

Our first novel together, Killing Cupid, had been a thriller of sorts, but more of the psychological variety – the tale of a stalker who becomes the stalked.  It was enormously enjoyable to write because we took a voice each – that of the male and female protagonists, so their discrete world views are very clear.   With Catch Your Death, however, it was more complex because we just used a third person narrative, sometimes omniscient and sometimes close third person from the main character Kate’s POV.   As with Killing Cupid, we took it in turns to write a chapter – but this time, instead of cracking on with our own characters’ plotlines, we made sure we edited each other’s words and added little bits of our own to try and make the voice more uniform throughout the novel.   We had to rely more on dialogue to convey the protagonists’ personalities, rather than the interior monologue that a first person narrative affords.

All these issues were an initial concern, but as Catch Your Death progressed one thing became very clear to me – it was just as much fun to write as Killing Cupid had been.  I did tend to leave the more imaginative scenes of bloodshed and violence to my writing partner (who showed a slightly worrying relish for them!)  But what we both discovered was that writing really bad guys is really good fun.  There are several very dodgy blokes in CYD who are very much larger-than-life: Vernon, the mean-spirited philandering ex-husband of the main protagonist Kate;  and Sampson, handsome, devoid of emotion, a cold-blooded assassin.   All my own previous novels had dealt with basic themes of family, loss, friendship, that sort of thing; and so there was something  extremely liberating about creating characters who lived outside of social norms and values.   We couldn’t get enough of them! 

I think that thrillers co-written by male and female writers often do work really well for this reason – they have an inherent balance, containing as they do the perspectives of both sexes.   I love the books by the Nicci French partnership, for example – they have that blend of gritty realism and emotional inner life.  Of course, I’m not saying that women can’t write violent car chases and men can’t do tender love scenes, far from it;  but one of the joys in a male/female writing partnership is the stretching of writing horizons and the challenge to react differently to the way one might in one’s own world.

Right, well, the next one won’t write itself, must crack on *rings co-author and suggests a night at the pub* …

Thanks Louise. I love that last line about the interaction of different genders in writing. I think you hit the nail on the head with that. What does everyone else think?

Have you ever tried co-writing? Would you ever considerate it? It worked for us!

Louise and Mark originally wrote their books many, many years ago. They submitted them to the gatekeepers and the gatekeepers said no. Dejected by being rejected, they turned their backs on writing, and threw those tatty manuscripts in a cyber-drawer. Today…

I leave you with this thought on Margaret Mitchell and her thirty-eight rejections.

Gone With The Wind is one of the all-time classic of  both literature and cinema. Supposing she’d given up at thirty-seven?

%d bloggers like this: