Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I've Been Buying More Covers!

A lot of writers talk about writer's block as if it was an illness, something that strikes out of the blue and prevents them from getting words down on the page.

With me it's about inspiration. Usually the words come tumbling out, but on the rare occasions they don't I always have fallback work ready to get my teeth into. Often if I find I am stalling on my main book, switching over to a short story can get the creative juices flowing again.

But where do you get the ideas for the short stories, you may ask?

Well, here's what I do. Every few months I pop over to the website of The Cover Collection. You can VISIT THE COVER COLLECTION HERE.

They have an awesome collection of pre-made covers for just £50, with many in a sale for just £30.

I buy a few, often using the titles that they have come up with, and I put them in a folder marked 'SHORT STORIES TO WRITE'.

Then when I find myself in a lull, I pick up one of the covers and write a short story to go with it!

I just bought another five. See what you think? It's hard not to be inspired, right?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What Books Are Best Suited for Self-Publishing?

This is a guest post from the awesome Faith MacAnas, a technology blogger for Secure Thoughts - Enjoy!

Self-publishing isn’t for every book. There are some genres that significantly outperform others, and it is important that authors in pursuit of self-publishing their books using tools like Kindle Direct Publishing are well-aware of the types of books that sell well as self-published titles.

Romance novels are the best-selling books by self-publishing authors. Books in this genre that have been published independently make up 66 percent of the market share. In fact, Big Five publishers earn just 18 percent of the profits generated by romance books. For reference, the Big Five publishers are Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.
Meredith Wild is one of the best-selling romance novelists. She self-published her debut novel, “Hardwired” in 2013, and eventually became stocked in brick-and-mortar bookstore chains across the country. By 2014, she was listed on the Bestsellers lists of the “New York Times” and “Wall Street Journal”. She has sold millions of books worldwide and her novels have been translated into 20 languages.

Science Fiction and Fantasy
In the self-publishing market, Science Fiction and Fantasy are a close second behind Romance with 56 percent of all sales in these genres coming from self-published authors. Some of the most successful self-published Fantasy and Science Fiction authors include J.R. Rain (400,000 copies sold), B.V. Larson (250,000 copies sold) and David Daglish (175,000 copies sold).

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Earning 26 percent of its sales from self-published authors are the Mystery, Thriller and Suspense genres. One of the most successful self-published authors in this genre is Adam Croft. He used Kindle Direct Publishing to distribute his 2011 debut novel “Too Close for Comfort”, which saw huge success on the platform. Over the course of the next five years, he has self-published a further eight books and has sold over 350,000 copies. In 2016, his novels generated $1.4 million in sales.

Self-publishing is the perfect outlet for non-fiction writers, with 26% of all sales in this genre coming from self-published outlets. There are a number of advantages to publishing non-fiction books yourself, and it is ideal if your topic is a niche one. Previously, you would have to sell your idea to agents and publishing houses, who may not see the need to publish a book on a subject that they deem too specialized to sell well. However, self-publishing allows you to directly reach out to those who are interested in that particular niche.

One of the major benefits of self-publishing non-fiction e-books is that you can make updates and revisions as necessary. When new information on your subject becomes available, you can update your book’s digital file to include it and keep readers in the know about the latest developments. With print books, you would have to wait for sales to dictate if a new edition is necessary before you make any changes.

The Bestselling Self-Published Authors 

Some of the most successful writers in recent history are self-published authors who specialize in the above genres. They knew their readers and were able to forge successful careers with self-published novels that were eventually printed by Big Five houses and optioned for movies.

The most popular example is E.L. James who wrote the “Fifty Shades of Grey” erotic romance trilogy. Before becoming one of the bestselling print novels ever, it was originally published on fan fiction sites since it was based on the “Twilight” series. Her stories eventually went viral and James was eventually offered a contract worth over $10 million by Vintage Books. By the end of that year, the trilogy had sold 70 million copies around the world.

Hugh Howie, author of “Wool” went a more traditional route for self-published authors. In July 2011, he published the opening chapters of his dystopian sci-fi trilogy as an e-book novella using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing tool. Over the course of the next few months, he released four more installments, which put his name at the top of the Amazon Bestsellers list. Eventually, Howie was selling up to 30,000 copies of “Wool” every month.

After negotiating with plenty of publishing houses, he was offered a six-figure advance by Simon &Schuster to finish his trilogy. The rights for the “Wool” have been purchased by 20th Century Fox, and several big names have signed on to produce the film. Nicole Perlman, who wrote the screenplay for “Guardians of the Galaxy”, will write the film, while Ridley Scott and Steve Zallian are producers.

If you’re writing a Romance, Science Fiction or Mystery book, you can look forward to tapping into a great market for self-published authors. These are just a few of the success stories out there, and you can certainly follow their examples in forging a fruitful career as a writer.

Are you working on self-publishing your next book? Leave a comment. We’d love to hear more about your project!

Author Bio: Faith is a technology blogger for Secure Thoughts, a leading cybersecurity resource, and her content aims to help creatives keep their work safe online. She also has a passion for reading novel thrillers. As a huge fan of authors like Stephen Leather, Hugh Howie and Adam Croft, she is fascinated with their success in self-publishing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Getting A Boost From Amazon

The wonderful folks at Amazon have decided to slash the prices of most of my self-published paperbacks for UK readers for the month of May.

It's a terrific promotion for those readers who want to hold a real paperback in their hands.

I've written before about the advantages of having Amazon promote a writer's books. You can read that HERE   Amazon have run several promotions for my eBooks over the years, and they have always boosted sales. But this is the first time they have offered to promote my self-published paperbacks.

This is what they said to me late last month.

It's a great promotion, and a chance for readers to get paperbacks at a really cheap price.
I have self-published the books through Createspace, which is an awesome print-on-demand system which most self-publishers use. The promotional Amazon price is less than I pay when I buy copies from Createspace!

Authors don't make as much money from the POD paperbacks as they do from eBooks but it's worth doing as so many readers do prefer paperbacks to eBooks.

Amazon have chosen six Stephen Leather paperbacks as part of the May promotion.

New York Night is just £5.99 for the month of May - You can buy it - HERE

San Francisco Night is also just £5.99 - You can buy it HERE

Spider Shepherd: SAS Volume 1 is now £5.39 now, down from £8.99 - You can buy it HERE

Spider Shepherd: SAS Volume 2 is also £5.39, down from £8.99 - You can buy it HERE

Take Two is also down from £8.99 to £5.39 - You can buy it HERE

The Bestseller is slashed from £7.99 to £4.79 - You can buy it HERE

Monday, March 21, 2016

Createspace - Another Way Of Self-Publishing

I was one of the first writers to crack the eBook market with self-published books. At one point back in 2010 I had four of the five top positions in the UK Kindle bestellers chart, something no other writer has managed.

But it took me some time to try selling self-published paperbacks. I was never convinced that the time and cost was worthwhile. But I had a lot of people telling me they wanted to see my self-published books as Stephen Leather paperbacks.

I was a bit nervous about making the jump to self-publishing paperbacks but I've been pleasantly surprised at how well my paperbacks - published through Amazon's Createspace platform - have sold.

The two Jack Nightingale stories I have put on Createspace - New York Night and San Francisco Night - sell in greater numbers than the five Jack Nightingale books published by Hodder and Stoughton. And my copies are selling at £9.99 each!

Here are the covers of my two self-published Nightingale books.

Anyway, here's me talking about Createspace on a blog - CLICK HERE

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Awful 'Journalism' From Ian Johnston Of The Soon-To-Close Independent

A truly awful piece of journalism appeared in the Independent this week under the byline of Ian Johnston, describing Amazon as Darth Vadar and accusing it of closing down small publishers.

Strong stuff. Totally wrong, of course. No one has done more to help independent publishers than Amazon. Any book published by anyone anywhere can be bought through Amazon. How does that not help small publishers?

So what is the source of this attack on Amazon?


Ah. So the source is a political spin doctor? Hmmmm. We all know how reliable they are, right?

The adviser is Rohan Silver, who is launching his own book shop.

Ah. So the source is a spin doctor who plans to go into competition with Amazon. Obviously a man with an axe to grind. And what better way to get publicity for his new venture than to attack Amazon in public?

Silver even describes his new shop as 'an Amazon-killer'.  Now I know that spin doctors do tend to tell porkies, but seriously? His shop has as much chance of killing Amazon as I have of walking on the moon.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan - and supporter - of book shops (and libraries).  I shop at book shops and I do signings when asked. And I agree that Amazon's discounting and superb customer service has hurt book shops. But the Amazon marketplace is available to all sellers, and offers opportunities for small publishers to sell their wares around the world.

If small publishers are hurting, then let's hear from them. But let's also hear from all the new publishers that have been formed to take advantage of the Amazon marketplace.

I function as a small publisher. I sell thousands of eBooks a month and 90 per cent of them are sold through Amazon. I am not alone. Thousands of other authors are publishing their own work and most sell their work through Amazon. Small publishing operations like ours would not be possible without Amazon. And hundreds of small publishing companies have been set up to help authors sell their eBooks - that would never have happened without Amazon.

This article by Ian Johnston is one-sided partisan nonsense. And it's not even his own work!

You can read Ian Johnston's article in The Independent  HERE

As you can see HERE  it's a rewrite of an article that appeared in The Daily Telegraph. That's all he did. He didn't speak to anyone, and he didn't add anything. He just rewrote what the Telegraph had published.

What would a decent journalist have done? Spoken to Amazon, for a start. Or spoken to small publishers. Or spoken to someone with a different point of view. Or perhaps realise that the 'story' was a nonsense and should be ignored.

Ian Johnston didn't do any of that. He just rewrote the Telegraph article and the Independent published it. Shame on the Independent, but then it's a pretty awful newspaper these days. Readership has slumped to just 40,000 and it will shut for good next month.

Good riddance, I say. It's a pity, because I was a Fleet Street Journalist when The Independent was launched in 1986 and back then it was a terrific paper and I like most journalists admired it for what it was trying to do. Friends of mine worked for it and they were all enthused by The Independent's commitment to fine journalism. But those days are long gone. Now it's staffed by ill-trained youngsters in the main, wannabe journalists who would never have been hired back in the Eighties.

The Independent will continue as an on-line edition, but I'm fairly sure it won't succeed in that form either. Not with journalists like Ian Johnston, anyway.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Power Of Amazon

What's the best way of boosting sales of your eBooks? You'll hear people tell you that social media is the key, or blogging, or sending out free copies for reviews.  But the best way by far is to have Amazon promote your work.

My Spider Shepherd books were selected for a blitz promotion on Amazon on Friday, where ten of the books in the series were offered for the bargain basement price of 99p for 24 hours.

The first book in the series - Hard Landing - was already selling for 99p. The final book - Black Ops - stayed at £4.99.

Did it work?  Heck, yeah! Amazon must have worked their promotional magic because within hours all the books in the blitz were in the UK Amazon Top 50 list.

And two - White Lies and Soft Target - were in the Top 20!  White Lies reached number 16 and Soft Target was at number 19.

All the books dominated the Crime Action Fiction category, nailing pretty much all the top slots!

So an Amazon promotion definitely works. The problem is that it's not generally an option open to self-published writers. The Spider Shepherd books are published by Hodder and Stoughton and while Amazon have occasionally offered promotions for my self-published books, generally they prefer to promote books they publish themselves (through Thomas and Mercer etc) or books that are published by the main publishers. There is a downside too, with prices that low, and with the Government (VAT), the publisher, and Amazon, taking their cut, there isn't much left for the writer when a book is sold for 99p! Not that I'm complaining, it's a great way of getting new readers and the promotion had a knock-on effect with Black Ops, which soared up the charts even though it was at £4.99!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Can You Judge A Book By Its Cover? Absolutely!

The saying that you can't judge a book by its cover really doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Yes you can, you absolutely can, which is why publishers spend so much time and money producing covers for their bestsellers.

The cover is often the first thing that attracts a potential reader - either on the shelves of a traditional bookstore or on the virtual shelves of an eBook shop.

My new thriller First Response is being published in the UK by Hodder and Stoughton on February 26. Here's the blurb -

London is under siege. 
Nine men in suicide vests primed to explode hold hostages in nine different locations around the city, and are ready to die for their cause.
Their mission: to force the government to release jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh Prison.
Their deadline: 6 p.m. Today. 
But the bombers are cleanskins, terrorists with no obvious link to any group, and who do not appear on any anti-terror watch list. What has brought them together on this one day to act in this way? 
Mo Kamran is the Superintendent in charge of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met. As the disaster unfolds and the SAS, armed police, and other emergency services rush to the scenes, he is tasked with preventing the biggest terrorist outrage the capital has ever known.
But nothing is what it seems. And only Kamran has the big picture. Will anyone believe him?

And here's the cover that Hodder and Stoughton are going with.

It's a traditional thriller cover with a Lee Child/Jack Reacher feel to it. It's a nice clean cover and the typeface for STEPHEN LEATHER echoes the Spider Shepherd books. I like the London skyline and the way the light (an explosion?) comes out from his right side. The figure could be the enemy, or the hero. It's left vague.

You see a lot of thrillers these days with the lone figure, staring or running into the distance.

The publishers of Vince Flynn, for instance, have just rejacketed his books and every single one has solitary figure on it.

The concept is so popular with traditional publishers that often you see the same figure being used, for instance here British writers such as JEREMY DUNS and MATT HILTON with identical running men!

I have to say that I think the lone figure has become something of a cliche and it wouldn't personally attract me to a book. I prefer something that stands out from the crowd.

I got a chance to try out my own design for First Response because Hodder and Stoughton decided they didn't want the US rights to the book, which means that in the US it could be a Stephen Leather self-published book.

I got in touch with the wonderful Debbie at THE COVER COLLECTION and we started throwing around some ideas.

Here are some initial thoughts -

We decided that a suicide vest would be a better image but we loved the Big Ben background, so we came up with these.

After more discussions we decided to drop the gun completely and to change the wording of the heading at the top.

We then had chat about the colours (I preferred the orange) and whether or not the trigger was a good idea. I also thought the explosives were a bit too orange and glossy. So this is the final result -

I love it. I think it's more dramatic than the UK cover, and tells more of the story. I also like the typefaces, again I think they are more dramatic, more thrilling, if you like!  It's less subtle than the UK cover, that's for sure, but I don't think that's a bad thing. It seems to me that US thriller covers have a more 'in your face' feel, a baseball bat compared with a scalpel if you like. Anyway, that's the US cover done and dusted, I'll be putting the US edition up for advance purchase sometime in January. Watch this space!