Friday, December 23, 2011

The Bestselling eBooks of 2011

The Bookseller magazine has just produced its list of the top 50 bestselling eBooks in 2011. And two of mine are numbers 3 and 4. How cool is that?

This is what the magazine has to say:

The number one title is Confessions of a GP, the Benjamin Daniels hit that has been in and around the the weekly chart for much of the year, thanks to some smart pricing decisions and marketing from publisher The Friday Project: in print the book has sold just 8,500 copies in UK, but has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

Top 10

1 Confessions of a GP Benjamin Daniels The Friday Project
2 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson Quercus
3 The Basement Stephen Leather AmazonEncore
4 Hard Landing Stephen Leather Hodder
5 One Day David Nicholls Hodder
6 The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest Stieg Larsson Quercus
7 The Girl Who Played with Fire Stieg Larsson Quercus
8 A Game of Thrones George R R Martin Harper Voyager
9 Room Emma Donoghue Picador
10 The Hanging Shed Gordon Ferris Corvus

Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is in second place (and with the US film version of the book now out we can expect sales to once again begin climbing), ahead of two Stephen Leather titles, one self-published and now part of the AmazonEncore programme. David Nicholls One Day, a print and film success over the year, comes in at fifth, ahead of the next two Millennium titles, with A Game of Thrones, Room, and The Hanging Shed, making up the remainder of the top ten.

11 to 20

11 Sugar & Spice Saffina Desforges MWiDP
12 Truth Dare Kill Gordon Ferris Corvus
13 The Alchemist's Secret Scott Mariani Avon
14 Bloody Valentine James Patterson Cornerstone
15 Star Sullivan Maeve Binchy Orion
16 Life and Laughing Michael McIntyre Penguin
17 Sister Rosamund Lupton Hachette Digital
18 The Unremarkable Heart Karin Slaughter Cornerstone
19 A Clash of Kings George R R Martin Voyager
20 The Help Kathryn Stockett Penguin

Despite having no titles in the top ten, Transworld is actually the most successful publisher in the top 50 with five titles, though among the big groups the spoils are won by Hachette, which has 11 titles in the list compared with Random's nine. There are fewer self-published titles than one might have thought given all the noise they generate, but of course this is not just a Kindle chart, it includes chart positions from the likes of Waterstone's and W H Smith, where self-published titles gain little light. There are, of course, no self-published books in the equivalent print chart.

21 to 30

21 The Last 10 Seconds Simon Kernick Transworld
22 The Redbreast Jo Nesbø Vintage
23 A Tiny Bit Marvellous Dawn French Penguin
24 Limitless Alan Glynn Faber
25 Those in Peril Wilbur Smith Macmillan
26 Caught Harlan Coben Orion
27 The Case of the Missing Boyfriend Nick Alexander Corvus
28 Silver Steven Savile Bad Press
29 Unlikely Killer Ricki Thomas Wild Wolf
30 Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro Faber

The chart is dominated by fiction, and in particular adventure/thriller novels. There are 30 such books in the digital top 50 compared with just 12 in the print equivalent. In non-fiction the highest charting book is Life and Laughing by Michael McIntrye, which at 16 is 22 places ahead of the next contender, Madeleine by Kate McCann. The McInyre title was of course last Christmas' big Christmas hit—unlike in the print chart there are barely any Christmas biggies from 2011, in particular not a Jamie in sight. James Corden does, however, sneak in at 47—he has shifted 130,000 print copies too.

31 to 40

31 Second Son Lee Child Transworld
32 Locked in Kerry Wilkinson Self-published
33 Mr Right for the Night Marisa Mackle Self-published
34 The Affair Lee Child Transworld
35 Cold Kill Neil White Avon
36 Mile High Guy Marisa Mackle Dodder
37 The Family Martina Cole Headline
38 Madeleine Kate McCann Transworld
39 Into the Darkest Corner Elizabeth Haynes Myriad
40 The Crimson Petal and the White Michel Faber Canongate

The average selling price of the top 50 on Amazon was just £3.50, with 10 available for less than £1. In the printt char, the equivalent price was £6.60 with just one book (The Official Highway Code) retailing at under £4.

41 to 50

41 Afterwards Rosamund Lupton Hachette Digital
42 That Summer in Ischia Penny Feeny Tindal Street
43 Steve Jobs Walter Isaacson Hachette Digital
44 Suicide Run Michael Connelly Orion
45 Candles on the Sand Katie Stephens Self-published
46 Snuff Terry Pratchett Transworld
47 May I Have Your Attention Please? James Corden Cornerstone
48 Daddy's Home A K Alexander Self-published
49 Catch Your Death Voss/Edwards Harper
50 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John le Carré Sceptre

Ignoring the self-published titles, there are two e-book originals in the top 50 Lee Child's Second Son and Karin Slaughter's The Unremarkable Heart. Given the announcements coming out from publishers towards the end of this year, I think we'll see more originals and shorter works in next year's Top 50.

I have to say that I'm not convinced that the Confessions Of A GP did outsell The Basement - More than 160,000 copies of The Basement sold on Kindle alone, and it was in the charts for much longer than the GP book. But I'm happy with third place!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Basement Hits Number 2 in the US Kindle Store

The Basement got to Number 2 in the US Kindle store today - how brilliant is that?

Sadly it hasn't got much to do with me, it's more a reflection of Amazon's marketing power.

They cut the price to 99 cents and made it the Daily Kindle Deal which means it was massively promoted.

Over the space of a few hours it went from Number 60 to Number 2, just behind The Hunger Games.

Amazon did a similar deal with Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch's book Stirred last week.

The Basement has been out for a year now and never got higher than Number 2,000 while I was publishing it. But as soon as Amazon Encore took it over, it shot to the top of the charts. That's great news for me, but I don't think it bodes well for Indie authors. A lot is said about how Indie writers don't need publishers any more but in this case Amazon is acting as a publisher and they have achieved far more success in a few hours than I've achieved in a year. So next time someone tells you that publishing is dead you can take that with a pinch of salt. The publishing world is still going to be dominated by publishers, and as the eBook cake grows bigger, they will be taking a bigger share. That doesn't mean that independents won't still flourish, but it's going to be a much tougher market than it was a year ago.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Amazon Encore Take Over Two Of My Books!

As of this week, I am no longer self-publishing The Basement and Once Bitten, my two eBook bestsellers that between them have sold almost a quarter of a million copies on Kindle alone.

After selling close to half a million eBooks over the past twelve months I’m now taking a step back from self-publishing. I’ve spent twelve months promoting, marketing, plugging, Facebooking and tweeting and I’m exhausted. It’s time for someone else to do the hard work so that I can do what I do best – write.

Amazon Encore is now publishing my vampire novel Once Bitten, including for the first time a paperback version, and my serial killer novella the Basement, which topped the UK Kindle charts for several months and sold more than 150,000 copies.

Then early next year Amazon’s new imprint 47North is publishing my three Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series – Nightfall, Midnight and Nightmare.

Most of what follows recently appeared on Joe Konrath's blog, but it's worth retelling here.

Self-publishing was always an experiment for me. In fact I was one of the first authors to self-publish on the Kindle – I put up my book Private Dancer back in 2005. I hardly sold any and months would go by without a single sale.

But everything changed for me in the summer of 2010 when Amazon opened its first Kindle store outside of the US and allowed us Brits to buy from The new store, plus the fact that the Kindle was about to become the most Christmas-gifted item of all time, gave me the impetus to start self-publishing.

Exactly twelve months ago I put up three more eBooks on the Kindle through Amazon’s KDP platform, books that my UK publisher Hodder and Stoughton had turned down. There was a vampire story (Once Bitten), a serial killer novella (The Basement) and a science fiction murder mystery (Dreamer’s Cat).

It’s been a resounding success. I don’t know of any UK-based author who has sold more self-published books. (Though fellow Brit Lee child of course was one of the first to hit the one millions sales mark).

Over the last twelve months I sold 155,662 copies of The Basement through the UK Kindle store. Mainly at the Amazon minimum (75p plus 11p tax in the UK) but over the last couple of months the price has gone up to £1.49 (about $2).

Over the same period I sold 82,583 copies of Once Bitten and 19,810 copies of Dreamer’s Cat. The Kindle success spilled over onto the other eReaders and by the summer I was selling tens of thousands of copies a month on iBooks.

My earnings were much better than I expected when I first signed up with KDP. My best month in the UK (January) netted me an Amazon check for £11,295 and my worst month (February) produced £5,236.

My sales in the US were much lower – just 5,197 copies of The Basement and 2,397 copies of Once Bitten over the year. But earnings were more consistent, around $1,200 every month. I realised fairly quickly that low prices don’t necessarily equate to higher sales in the US so I kept my prices at $2.99 and above.

I pretty much tried everything to boost my US sales. I blogged, I tweeted, I gave away free copies, I posted on the Kindle US forum (not a pleasant experience, it has to be said). Nothing worked. Even a guest blog on Joe’s site only shifted a few dozen extra copies.

That’s why I’m so excited about the Amazon Encore deal. Yes, I’ll get a lower royalty rate (they don’t pay the 70 per cent royalty on Amazon Encore books, no matter what the price they sell at). And yes I lose control over the marketing and pricing. But I’m hoping that Amazon’s marketing expertise will kick in and hopefully replicate my UK success in the US. Their massive database knows which customers like vampire stories and which prefer serial killer stories. They’ll be able to offer my books to the right customers, hopefully at the right price. I’ve seen them do it several times in the UK, where the Amazon imprints have launched American writers into the UK Top 10 in a matter of days. It’s as impressive as hell, they can do in hours what it takes me weeks to do. If they can do that for me in the US then the sky’s the limit. Say the US market for Kindle eBooks is five times that of the UK’s – if that’s the case then there’s no reason that Amazon Encore couldn’t sell a million copies of The Basement and Once Bitten. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

But one of the fascinating things for me about my whole Kindle experiment has been the support I’ve received from my UK publisher, Hodder and Stoughton. I’ve been with them for more than twenty years, ever since they paid a six-figure sum for my books The Chinaman and The Vets. It was that advance that launched my career as a full-time writer and changed my life forever.

Not only were Hodder supportive of my eBook experiment, they also joined in and cut the price of one of my thrillers to 49p. The book, Hard Landing, is the first in my Spider Shepherd undercover cop series – and over the last 12 months Hodder have sold more than 120,000 copies. It spent weeks at the top of the Kindle UK chart and only recently dropped out of the Top 100. And not only that, there was an immediate boost in sales of all the other books in the series – and they were selling at £4.99 each. Over the year they sold more than 35,000 Spider Shepherd eBooks at that price.

But the really big surprise for them came this summer when they released the latest book in the Spider Shepherd series – Fair Game. Sales of the paperback were twenty per cent up on the previous book at a time when the UK thriller market as a whole was well down.

It’s become clear that my success with eBooks has fed through to my legacy publishing books in a big way. But it’s also clear that my publisher is keen to help me build on that success. So this year I have signed deals to write five more books for them in return for an advance of close to US$750,000.

I know there are those who’d say that I’d make more money doing books myself. But I’m not so sure.

Publishers publish. That’s what they’re good at. They find writers, they help shape their stories, and they sell them. All that’s changing is the method of selling stories, from paperbacks to eBooks. The big publishers are like oil tankers, it takes a lot of effort to make them change their direction and speed, but once they have moved they have one hell of a lot of momentum. Yes, I can arrange the editing myself, design covers, market, promote and publicise. But that’s hard work and it’s not what I’m good at. I’m a writer. I write. And I’d rather concentrate on writing and let my publisher get on with publishing.

Yes, the industry is changing. Yes, sales of paperbacks are down and sales of eBooks are rising. Without a shadow of a doubt the eBook market will dominate in the future. But I think what we have seen over the past year has been a bubble, a bubble that is now slowly deflating. Not a bubble in sales – but a bubble in the performance of self-published eBooks. A year ago, when I started my eBook experiment, it was relatively easy to get three of my books into the Amazon Kindle UK bestseller list. And they stayed there – for months. Only last month did they leave the Top 50. But an eBook I released last month – optimistically titled The Bestseller – went into the Top 10 but didn’t stay there for long. And most of the eBooks that were doing so well earlier this year have pretty much disappeared from the bestseller lists. The self-published authors who were shouting that the traditional publishing industry was dead and that the future lay with them are now seeing their books dropping out of the Top 1000 and sales slowing to a trickle.

In their place we’re seeing the old faces starting to dominate the bestseller list – Lee Child, Stephen King, Michael Connelly, PD James. The usual suspects. And among them are the Amazon-published authors benefiting from Amazon’s marketing muscle.

Why is it happening? I don’t know. It might be that the marketplace is changing, it might be that Amazon has changed the way it compiles its bestseller lists. But the cause doesn’t matter – it’s the effect that counts. And I think that bit by bit we’ll see the legacy publishers tighten their grip on the eBook bestseller lists, and the self-published books will find it harder and harder to make any sort of impression.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I’m far from being the typical self-publisher. And what works for me probably wouldn’t work for a writer who has never had a traditional publishing deal or who is only just getting started. But I’m happy enough now to get off the self-publishing treadmill and let someone else do the hard work. I’ve got books I want to write!

Friday, November 25, 2011

I Make The Bookseller 100 Most Influential List

I made the Bookseller magazine list of 100 Most Influential people in the UK book trade. How cool is that?

Monday, November 7, 2011

40th Review For The Bestseller

Yeah, my eBook The Bestseller just received its 40th review in the UK - and thankfully it's with five-stars. And it's from someone using their real name, too, which I always take as a good sign. I have fewer reviews for The Bestseller in the US, but so far they have all been five stars!

Here it is:

5.0 out of 5 stars Quick and enjoyable..., 7 Nov 2011
By A. J. Philpott "mightyyid" - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Bestseller (Kindle Edition)
Nice good easy read, and great for train rides and given the seemingly smaller length, it is not as intrinsically captivating as a long novel that Mr Leather is renowned for, but at the same time it's an easy read that captivates from start to finish. All in a ll a good solid read that was quite enjoyable.

So thanks very much for the review, Mr or Mrs Philpott - you made my day.

I'm less taken with a reviewer who hid behind the name 'Waylander' who took the time to give every single one of my books on the Goodreads forum a one-star vote. The reviews only stayed up for a few days before they were taken down. I'm not sure if "Waylander" had a change of heart or if the Goodreads moderators removed them, but it doesn't matters in the grand scheme of things because my books have so many four and five star votes that the odd one star doesn't make any difference. I do think it's a shame that websites like Goodreads and Amazon allow anonymous postings. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, on authors and on books, and providing they aren't libelous or offensive they have every right to express their opinions. But there are people who use anonymity as an excuse to behave badly, and really something needs to be done about that. If someone wants to give a book a negative rating that's all well and good, but at least they should have the courage of their convictions and use their real name. I post reviews under my real name and stand by them. And whenever I post on a public forum I use my own name. I would never post a negative review under an alias. That's just cowardly.

Anyway, on a more productive note I'm flat out on a new Jack Nightingale story which Hodder and Stoughton will be using to publicise my new Nightingale book - Nightmare - which will be published in January. I hope to have it finished by the weekend.... It's about a gypsy's curse and I'm having great fun with it....

When the short story is done I'm embarking on a new project that I'm really excited about. I'm getting together with three of the brightest names in ePublishing to co-write an eBook about werewolves. It's a whole new venture for me because other than on screenplays I haven't worked with other writers before, and it'll be my first time writing about werewolves. I'm sure it's going to be a blast. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Great Article In The Daily Mail

There's a great article in the Daily Mail about ePublshing, quoting me at length. YOU CAN READ IT HERE

The article was written by journalist Andrew Wilson, who has just published his own book on the Kindle.

Andrew sent me a whole list of questions for his article, here they are in full:

How easy is the process of self publishing?

Self-publishing is now very, very easy and inexpensive. Amazon have totally transformed the market with their Kindle Direct Publishing platform. It takes a few minutes to open an account, and a few minutes to download a book and its cover. Then within hours your book is on sale and available to millions of Kindle-owners around the world. You can reach all the other eReaders by going through an on-line company called Smashwords, which is just as easy to use.

What’s the best way to start?

First, write a good book. The big problem with the explosion in ePublishing is that the vast majority of books that are being self-published are just plain awful. Badly written, badly-edited, badly formatted. Most of the so-called “Indie” writers (who previously would have been described as ‘unpublished’) rush to get their work on-line and frankly most of them are wasting their time. A badly written book isn’t going to sell, no matter how cheap it is.
I think of writing a book as being akin to running a marathon. Anyone who finishes a marathon deserves kudos. It’s a long haul. It’s hard work. But just because you’ve run a marathon doesn’t mean you should be running at the Olympics.

Writing for the most part is a craft. A skill that has to be learned. Very few writers published the traditional way see their first book in print. It’s often their fifth or sixth that is good enough to be published. Jack Higgins famously wasn’t published until after he’d written more than a dozen novels and he didn’t achieve any real success until his 36th – The Eagle Has Landed.

EPublishing has removed that learning curve. Now any book can be published, no matter how awful. And I think that’s bad for writers.

Assuming though that you have written a good book, the second stage is to open accounts with Kindle Digital Publishing and with Smashwords. It requires a little work to get the books formatted, but you can someone to do that for at little as £25. And you need a good cover. Again most ‘Indie’ writers Photoshop their own and generally they look awful. I pay a professional designer £350 a time for my covers. You don’t have to pay that much, but you need your cover to look professional. Then you’re good to go. You download your book and cover and wait for the royalty cheques to arrive.

What kind of books sell best? Why do thrillers sell so well on Kindle?

A look at the various eBook bestseller lists shows that books that sell well as paperbacks also sell well as eBooks. A good book sells no matter what the format. But at the cheaper end of the market there does seem to be a lot of interest in crime, thrillers and in paranormal romance. It might be because fans of those genres do tend to read more than the average reader.

What mistakes did you make if any? What have you learned?

Generally I got it pretty much right. I would say that my first books were downloaded with too many typos but I was lucky in that very quickly a few readers came back to me pointing out mistakes they had spotted. The beauty of ePublishing is that you can make any necessary changes almost immediately. With hindsight I should have paid for a professional proofreader to go through the books before I started selling them.

What advice can you give about pricing?

The cheaper the book, the more it will sell, obviously. Amazon allows you to sell for as little as 99 cents in the US and 75p in the UK. For s first-time writer self-publishing on the Kindle, that’s probably the best price. Certainly it’s hard for a first time Indie writer to sell a book for more than £1.

What advice would you give about cover design?

You get what you pay for. Doing it yourself, unless you are a talented designer, marks you out as an amateur. In the world of ePublishing people most definitely do judge a book by its cover.

How long should a book be? I know The Basement is 40,000 words – what’s the ideal length for Kindle?

The beauty of eBooks is that the buyer is more concerned about quality than length. That’s different to paperback books where publishers go out of their way to make it look as if the buyer is getting value for money – they seem to feel that the more pages, the better. I think 40,000 words is a great length for an eBook as it can be comfortably read in one sitting. I have also started selling short stories on the Kindle. I think the eReader is going to revitalise the short story market. Someone who is about to get onto a bus or train for an hour might not want to start a new book but would happily read a short story. I also think that we might see more serials being sold, with writers putting up a new chapter every week or month. But generally a novel should be around 100,000 to 120,000 words.

How do you get the book noticed? And noticed – and noticed??

I think writers should concentrate on improving their craft rather than worrying about promoting their book. Every “Indie” writer now has a blog, they have a Facebook presence which they use to constantly push their work, (a quarter of my Facebook “friends” are writers who do nothing other than post about their books) and they spend hours on the various eBook forums. It’s all about the marketing. They ask for other writers to tag their books, they get friends and family to post favourable reviews (it’s amazing how many self-published eBooks start off with half a dozen five-star reviews on Amazon, mostly from readers who have only ever reviewed the one book) and they share Tweets with other writers. Every “Indie” writer is following the same formula. Sell, sell, sell. Does it work? In the early days of ePublishing it probably did because it was a new phenomenon but these days there are just too many writers out there promoting that you really can’t see the wood for the trees.

The way to get your book onto the bestseller list is to write a book that people want to read. Word of mouth will do the rest. Too many Indie writers seem to think that you can create a buzz by just pushing your book down people’s throats. That doesn’t work. Word of mouth happens because people read a book that they have enjoyed and they tell their friends. You can’t create that, it’s down to the quality of the book.

What are the best websites/blogs to use to try and publicize one’s book?

You need your own blog. That’s a given. And you should guest blog on as many other blogs as you can. The various Kindle forums run by Amazon are good, and there are lots of other good sites around including and New sites are springing up every day. The trick is to go onto the various forums and make them aware of your books without overstaying your welcome.

How many e-books have you sold?

Since I started self-publishing last November, I’ve sold close to 400,000 eBooks and my publisher has sold more than 100,000, mainly of my Spider Shepherd series, so in total about half a million.

Can you say how much you’ve earned from e-books?

(Honestly I’d rather not say – it’s quite complex to work out because there are so many different prices and royalty rates)

Is it possible – as some claim – to make a million from Kindle?

Providing you have good work that sells, of course. It has always been possible to become rich by writing. But the simple fact is that the vast majority of writers don’t earn enough to support themselves by writing. And that’s not going to change. All ePublishing has done is to change the way that books are delivered to customers. That doesn’t mean that a customer is more likely to buy your work. Can you make a million from the Kindle? Sure. Price your book at 75p and sell four million copies! Amazon will give you a third of the money they make – and that’s a cool million.

How do you see publishing in 5/10/20 years?

As time goes on more people will have eReaders and I think that within five years there will be more eBooks sold than paperbacks. But I don’t think paperbacks will die out for a long time yet. Most people do seem to prefer to hold a real book in their hands – I certainly do. Publishers will have to adapt, and most are starting to change. Agents too will find their work much harder. In the past it was agents and publishers who decided which books were published and sold. But ePublishing has changed that, now anyone can publish their book and it is the readers who decide what sells. That is a major shift in power that I think people in the industry are only just coming to terms with. But there is definitely a role for publishers in ePublishing. I would say that ninety per cent of the eBooks that are self-published are awful. And I would say that ninety per cent of the books published by traditional publishers are excellent. So who are buyers more likely to trust when it comes to buying a book? That’s why we’ll always need publishers, because they more than anyone understand the importance of maintaining quality.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My New eBook - The Bestseller!

I've almost finished my new eBook, a thriller modestly titled The Bestseller.

It should be ready to go online in the next week or so, just in time for when Amazon Encore takes over Once Bitten and The Basement.

Here's the first chapter -


Marina Del Ray, California, One Year Ago

Lightning flashed and Kirsty flinched and she jumped again two seconds later when a crack of thunder split the Californian night sky to her left. It had started to rain the moment she’d walked into the marina, small spots at first but the moment that she’d set foot on the wooden pier that led to the yachts it had started to come down in sheets and now she was soaked to the skin. She wiped her face with her hand. Part of her, the sensible part, knew that she should just turn around and go home. But the other part, the part that kept her awake at night, was forcing her to go on, She had to know for sure. She had to know the truth.

The main pier jutted out into the centre of the marina and smaller piers branched off it, left and right. The wooden planks creaked as she headed towards Wilson’s yacht. Kirsty had been there three times before, once to go sailing with Wilson, the second time for lunch and the third time…. She shuddered. She didn’t want to think about what had happened the third time.

Something small and furry ran across her path and she stifled a scream. She stopped and took slow deep breaths as she tried to quieten her racing heart. She didn’t want to be at the marina, she wanted to be at home in bed, either asleep or watching TV or reading a book, but she had to be there. There was no going back, she had to know if she was going crazy or if Eddie Wilson really wanted to kill her.

Lightning flashed again and this time she was ready for the crack of thunder that came a few seconds later. Wilson’s yacht was called THE WRITE WAY; it was just over thirty feet long with a single mast, the sail rolled up and hidden within a blue nylon sock. The yacht was in darkness. Wilson was the only owner who lived on his boat, all the rest were toys for weekend sailors. About half were yachts and catamarans but the rest were motorboats, floating gin palaces that rarely travelled more than a few miles or so from the marina.

The rain got heavier as she walked along the wooden pier towards the yacht. She stopped when she reached the stern and looked around. The marina was deserted and there had been no one in the office at the entrance. The metal mesh gate that led to the boats was never locked. She took her cellphone from her bag and covered it with her left hand to protect it from the rain as she peered at the screen. No one had called and there were no text messages. She’d arranged to meet Wilson for dinner at a Mexican restaurant that he’d said was one of his favourites, so hopefully he’d be sitting at the bar sipping a margarita while she did what she had to do. She switched off the phone and put it back in her pocket.

The yacht was tethered to the pier with ropes at either end and a third in the middle, and there was a power cable and a water hose snaking from a box by the stern into the rear cabin. She stepped carefully off the pier and onto the deck, holding on to the cabin roof to keep her balance as the boat shifted under her weight. Her heart was racing and she took slow, deep breaths to calm herself down. ‘It’s okay,’ she muttered. ‘We go in, we look at his laptop and we get out. Easy peasy lemon squeazy.’

She reached into the bag and pulled out bolt-cutters that she’d bought from a hardware store that morning along with two padlocks so that she could practise cutting the shackles. It took her only seconds to remove the lock and she tossed it into the water before pushing the hatch open. The wood grated and rain splattered inside. She ducked down into the cabin just as another bolt of lightning flashed out over the sea. It was harder to close the hatch than it had been to open it and she had to use all her weight to force it shut.

She stood in the darkness, listening to the sound of her own breathing. The boat was rocking from side to side in the wind and the metal lines rattled against the mast. She swallowed but her mouth was so dry that she almost gagged. She reached into her bag and pulled out a flashlight. She’d put duct tape across the glass with a small hole cut into it so that the light would be focussed into a thin, tight beam. It was a trick she’d read in a thriller once, and she grinned to herself when she switched it on and discovered that it worked. The thin beam illuminated a section of the wall not much bigger than a dinner plate and even someone walking along the pier wouldn’t be able to see the light.

At the far end of the main cabin was a door that led through to the sleeping area. There was a double bed there, she knew. With dark red silk sheets, the colour of dried blood. That was where she’d gone on the third visit to the boat. She shuddered. Water plopped from her wet hair onto the floor and she wiped her face with her sleeve as she played the beam of light along the wall and down to the built-in desk, being carful to avoid the brass porthole even though it was the side of the yacht facing away from the pier. Wilson’s MacBook Pro was there, open but switched off. There was a wooden chair in front of the desk and she sat down and pressed the button to turn on the computer. As the screen lit up she switched off the flashlight and placed it on the desk. There were three drawers on the right hand side of the desk and she pulled open the top one as she waited for the Mac to boot up.

There was a sketch pad in the drawer and she took it out. She flicked open the pad and her eyes widened when she saw the drawing on the first page. It was a caricature, a wide-eyed blonde with a pony tail sitting at an old-fashioned typewriter and above her head was a thought bubble filled with cuddly toys. The blonde had large breasts straining at the material of her too-tight shirt and Kristy self-consciously put her hand to her chest. She’d seen Wilson with the sketchpad during class but had always assumed that he was taking notes. “Bastard,’ she whispered.

The laptop finished booting up and she leaned forward and checked the icons on the desktop. There was only one Word document and it was titled ‘The Bestseller’. Kirsty shook her head in disgust. She’d always thought that he was joking when he’d said that was the title of his book.

She clicked on the file and it opened. She read the opening paragraphs with a growing look of disgust on her face. “Bastard, bastard, bastard,’ she muttered. She stood up, switched on the flashlight and went through the galley and pushed open the door to the bedroom. There were cupboards above the bed and she pulled them open. There were two spare pillows inside and she took them out and tossed them onto the bed. There was a large book against the side of the cupboard and next to it a bulky leather roll. She took out the book and opened it. It was a medical book. Anatomy. There were yellow Post-its marking several of the pages, all concerned with the joints. Knees, elbows, hips, the neck. She threw the book down and took out the roll. She knew from its weight what it contained. Her heart was pounding as she sat down on the bed and put the roll in her lap, holding the flashlight between her teeth as she used both hands to untie the two leather straps that secured the bundle. She opened it out to reveal a dozen gleaming steel knives with black wooden handles.

“You evil bastard,’ she muttered as she stared down at the knives. She knew now that everything that Wilson had written in his book was true. He was planning to kill her and dismember her body, hiding the pieces God knows where. She heard a peal of thunder, closer this time.

She retied the bundle and stood up. The knives weren’t proof but what Wilson had written on his laptop most definitely was. It was as good as a confession. She had to get a copy and take it to the police. Then they’d stop him. She patted the back pocket of her jeans to reassure herself that the thumbdrive was there, then opened the door and stepped into the main cabin, the tight beam of her flashlight playing across the floor. She yelped when the beam found a pair of black cowboy boots.

‘Surprise!” It was Wilson. His voice was a soft whisper, barely audible over the noise of the wind and the pattering of raindrops against the hull.

The flashlight fell from Kirsty’s hands, hit the floor, and rolled against the wall. She bent down, her heart racing and grabbed it, thanking God silently because the bulb hadn’t broken. She tucked the bundle of knives under her right arm and held the flashlight with both hands as she played the thin beam around the cabin.

Wilson had gone. For a brief moment she wondered if she’d imagined him and then there was a flash of lightning and she saw him standing with his back to the wall by the desk. His jet black hair was wet from the rain and he had a five o'clock shadow. Water was dripping down his face and he was grinning. Then just as quickly the cabin was plunged into darkness and she searched for him with the beam as a roll of thunder made her stomach vibrate.

He was standing by the computer, his hand resting on the keyboard. “You peeked,’ he said. She played the beam of light over his face. His clothes were soaked, through but he was grinning. It was a cruel grin, almost savage. He was tall and wiry, and dressed all in black: shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, and a long coat from which water was plopping onto the floor.

Kirsty tried to speak but the words caught in her throat. ‘I, I, I…’

“Yes, I know,’ said Wilson. He took a step towards her, still smiling.

She held up the bundle of knives. ‘I know what you were planning to do,’ she said.

‘What? What exactly do you think I was planning to do, Kirsty?’

“You know.’

‘Tell me. Maybe it’s all been a terrible misunderstanding.’

Lightning flashed and it was followed immediately by a crack of thunder. The storm was right overhead. The boat was rocking from side to side and Kirsty was having trouble maintaining her balance. She held up the roll of knives.. “You’re mad,’ she said.

He smiled easily. ‘I’m a little unhappy at the way you broke in her, but I wouldn’t say I’m mad.’

“You know what I mean,’ she said. ‘Deranged, Insane.’

‘Oh come on, Kirsty. You need to relax. Come on. Big breaths.’

Kirsty gestured at the laptop with the bundle. “You were going to do it, weren’t you? You were going to kill me and write about me.’

‘It’s a novel, Kirsty.’

“You were going to do it! For real!’

‘A work of fiction.’

‘I read it,’ said Kirsty. ‘I read what you wrote. You’re going to kill me. Then you’re going to butcher me.’ She held up the bundle and waved it at him. ‘With these! You bastard, you had it all planned. You were going to kill me and write a sick book about it.’

Wilson shook his head sadly. Kirsty realised that he had shifted his body so that she couldn’t see his right hand. She moved the beam but as she did he stepped forward. He was holding a frying pan and he swung it at her, hard. She jumped back but he was too quick and the pan slammed into the bundle of knives and sent it hurtling from her hand. The bundle burst apart as it hit the wall behind her and the knives spilled out and crashed to the floor.

Wilson swished the pan from side to side. Lightning flashed again. Kirsty braced herself for the crack of thunder but it never came.

Kirsty stepped back, her shoe crunching on one of the knives. ‘It’s going to be all right, Kirsty,’ said Wilson.

He moved to the side, out of the beam of the flashlight, and Kirsty’s heat pounded as she tried to keep the light on him. ‘Not scared of the dark, are you, Kirsty?’ said Wilson.

Kirsty bent down, grabbed one of the knives with her left hand and straightened up, holding it out in front of her. ‘Don’t come near me,’ she said.

‘Now that just looks awkward,’ said Wilson. “You’re not a leftie. You’d be so much better off with the knife in your right.’

‘Stop talking to me,’ said Kirsty. She waved the knife in front of her. He was right. The knife felt wrong in her left hand.

He took a step towards her and she shuffled back, her left heel scraping against another knife.

“You should swap them around,’ said Wilson. ‘Have the knife in your right hand, the flashlight in your left. Trust me, you’ll do more damage if I try to do this.’ He lunged forward, making a grab for her left hand but she jerked away and lashed out with the knife. He jumped back, grinning. ‘See, if you’d had the knife in your right hand you’d have got me then.’

‘I just want to go home,’ said Kirsty, her voice trembling.

“But you’ve only just got here, honey,’ said Wilson. He jerked a thumb towards the main cabin. ‘How about a quickie, just for old times sake.’

‘Please, just let me go home.’

‘Honey, will you take a look at yourself. You’re the one with the knife. You’re the one who broke in. Who’s the one being threatened here?’ He stepped to the left, out of the beam of the flashlight, and Kirsty swung it around to keep the light on him.
He lashed out with the pan and it smacked against the knife. Kirsty cried out in pain as it went spinning across the cabin.

Lightning flashed and as it did she saw him with the pan raised high. As the cabin went dark again he brought the pan crashing down on the flashlight. The impact almost wrenched her arm from its socket but she managed to keep hold of the flashlight as the glass smashed and the light went out. She threw the broken flashlight towards where she thought Wilson was standing but when it hit the wall of the cabin she knew that she had missed.

She dropped down onto her hands and knees and groped around in the dark, trying to find one of the knives.

Lightning flashed and she saw Wilson standing in front of her, a manic grin on his face. The pan had gone and its place was a bread knife with a serrated edge. Just as Kirsty screamed, the cabin was plunged into darkness again. She scuttled backwards on all fours, her breath coming in ragged gasps.

‘Kirsty, it’s all right,’ whispered Wilson. “Just go with the flow. It’ll soon be over.’

She sat back on her heels and held up her hands . She was shaking uncontrollably. Something flashed across her right palm and then she felt the pain and realised that he’d slashed her with the knife. She shuffled backwards, hyperventilating.

‘Don’t fight it, honey,” he said. ‘It’ll be so much easier if you just let it happen.

Kristy could feel blood trickling down her palms and the cut flesh was stinging so hard that her eyes were watering.

Lighting flashed again and she saw Wilson crouched in front of her, an evil grin on his face. He lashed out with the knife and Kirsty threw up her hands just as the cabin went dark again. The blade slashed across the fingers of her left hand. Again there was just a stinging sensation and she bit down on her lower lip, fighting the urge to scream.

Wilson laughed manically and she felt the knife bite into her left shoulder, ripping through her shirt and slicing through the skin. This time she screamed and flailed out her hands. Her left hand touched something and she grabbed for it. It was the blade of the knife, she realised, and as her fingers tightened on it. Wilson pulled the knife back and the serrated blade tore through her hand.

She fell back, screaming, then rolled onto her front and began to crawl away from him on her hands and knees. Her fingers scrabbled over the wooden floor and she gasped as she felt the handle of a knife brush against the little finger of her right hand. She grabbed it and gently reached out with her left hand to touch the blade. It was about six inches long. The blade felt wet and she shivered as she realised it was because it was covered in blood from the cuts on her hands.

‘Ready or not, here I come,” whispered Wilson in the darkness.

Kirsty held her breath and turned her head slowly from side to side, listening intently. She heard a slight scraping sound, his shoe scraping across the deck, maybe. And she could him breathing, slowly and evenly. She turned the knife around in her hand so that she was grasping the handle in her fist, the blade pointing down. She kicked off both her shoes.

She heard another scrape. He was moving towards her. She sat back on her heels and held her left hand out, fingers splayed, still holding her breath. Then lighting flashed again and she saw him standing over her, the knife raised high. Kirsty grunted and slammed the knife down and buried it in Wilson’s left foot. Wilson screamed in pain as the cabin went dark again.

Kirsty jumped to her feet and pushed out with both hands. She connected with his chest and she kept pushing and felt him fall backwards. She screamed as loud as she could and heard him fall to the floor. She stepped on his chest but stumbled as he rolled over and she fell against the cabin wall. The boat rocked and she pushed herself off the wall and she rushed towards the hatch.

She heard Wilson grunt and then there was another flash of lightning but she didn’t turn around. He still had the knife and she wasn’t sure how much damage she’d done to his foot.

‘Kirsty, don’t leave angry!’ shouted Wilson. He started to laugh as her fingers scrabbled at the hatch and pulled it back. She felt a nail break as she pushed it back as far as it would go. ‘Kirsty!’ roared Wilson, but she forced herself not to look around.

She scrambled up the stairs and screamed as she felt the knife tear across her back. She lashed out with her left leg, kicking backwards, and her foot connected with something and she heard him fall back and hit the floor.

She was exhausted but the adrenaline coursing through her bloodstream kept her going and she fell onto the deck and crawled along it. The blood from her wounds was mixing with the rain as she scrambled along on all fours. She threw herself off the boat and onto the pier, pushed herself up and started to run, her bare feet slapping against the wooden slats like gunshots.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Basement Still Selling Well....

The Basement is still riding high in the charts, even though the price has gone back to 99p compared with its Amazon promotional price of 49p for the past six months. I'm happy enough with the 99p price.

The Basement has been at Number 3 in the charts for the past week, which is pretty good going considering it has been on sale for ten months now. I'm averaging 520 sales a day to maintain the Number 3 position. I think Amazon sales are generally down as six months ago it took sales of closer to 800 to get into the Top 3.

In two months time AmazonEncore will take over the publication of The Basement, and my vampire book Once Bitten. It's going to be interesting to see how many they sell.

Here's what the Bookseller said today -

Thanks to the big screen success of One Day, David Nicholls' e-book remains comfortably at the top of our e-bestseller list. One Day has been in the Kindle chart for nearly 400 days, very impressive for an e-book priced at £4.99.

John Le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy enters out Top 10 strongly at number 6. The highly acclaimed film with a stellar cast is due to toll out acrss UK cinemas this week. Le Carré looks set for a healthy stay in the e-book charts and the only book likely to knock David Nicholls off the top spot in the coming weeks.

Scott Mariani, an early adopter of the agressively priced e-book has had massive success with his series. The 5th and 6th books from him in the mould of Dan Brown.

Whilst the cheap-as-chips promotional tactic also pays off for Malcolm Welshman's 'rollicking story of eccentric animals' Pets in a Pickle. This enters our charts at number 4 thanks to very strong sales in the Kindle chart priced at 99p.

Pos Title Author
1 (1) One Day David Nicholls
2 (8) A Game of Thrones George R R Martin
3 (2) The Alchemist's Secret Scott Mariani
4 (-) Pets in a Pickle Malcolm Welshamn
5 (4) The Basement Stephen Leather
6 (-) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carré
7 (10) Second Son Lee Child
8 (3) Confessions of a GP Benjamin Daniels
9 (6) Cold Kill Neil White
10 (5) Three Weeks to Say Goodbye C J Box

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Basement Soars Back Into The Charts

It's been a rough two months. Amazon has been running a Summer Reads promotion where hundreds of books had their prices slashed, many to less than £1.

The promotion started at the start of July and ended on the last day of August. I had no doubt that such a large promotion would play havoc with the bestseller lists, and I was right. The promoted books soared through the charts pushing the Indie books - including mine - out of the way.

Once Bitten, my vampire story, fell to about 50 and The Basement was pushed down to 17 and at one point I feared it would leave the Top 20 for the first time in ten months.

Happily the promotion ended on August 31 and within hours my books started to climb the charts again. Yesterday The Basement reached Number 3 in the Kindle UK store and last week it was the fourth best-selling eBook in the UK, according to The Bookseller magazine. But what's fascinating is that my sales actually increased when I went down the charts. I sold about 12,000 copies of The Basement in July and 14,500 in August, even though in August I was five places lower in the charts. I think the promotions help sales because they create more interest in eBooks generally.

Here's what The Bookseller says:

Philip Stone, charts editor: David Nicholls' One Day comfortably remains both the bestselling printed book and bestselling ebook in the UK. The novel, recently adapted for the big screen, currently tops the ebook bestseller lists at,, and the Apple iBookstore. It is currently available to download for £4.99 at all four e-tailers, about 64p cheaper than the print edition's average selling price at UK book retailers.

Stephen Leather's 'serial killer thriller with a breathtaking twist', The Basement, one of the bestselling ebooks of 2011, re-enters the chart following a five-week hiatus, while Charles James 'C J' Box's Three Weeks to Say Goodbye hits the top 10 for the first time.

Once again, the top 10 is dominated by thrillers, although a couple of erotic novels, which many predicted would sell well in e-format sit a little lower down the chart. In fact, Cosmo's Sexiest Stories Ever is currently the fourth bestselling ebook at the iBookstore, despite a poor review from one **Aimee** who states that 'It's short [30 pages] and not that hot'

Pos Title Author
1 (1) One Day David Nicholls
2 (6) The Alchemist's Secret Scott Mariani
3 (2) Confessions of a GP Benjamin Daniels
4 (-) The Basement Stephen Leather
5 (-) Three Weeks to Say Goodbye C J Box
6 (8) Cold Kill Neil White
7 (-) The Leopard Jo Nesbo
8 (9) A Game of Thrones George R R Martin
9 (-) Passenger 13 Scott Mariani
10 (7) Second Son Lee Child

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My ePublishing story.....

I've just had the following article published in Writing Magazine. The magazine is one of the best resources for writers who are just starting out and I definitely recommend it. YOU CAN SEE IT HERE

Anyway, here's what I wrote:

I first realised that eBooks were going to boom towards the end of 2010 when I read somewhere that the Kindle was set to become the most gifted Christmas present ever – on Christmas Day literally millions of people were going to be getting a Kindle as a present. Up until then the Kindle was something of a rarity, rarely seen in public. Amazon had opened its UK store in August 2010 but they weren’t doing much business. I had put up one of my books – Private Dancer, a story set in Thailand – on Kindle as an eBook but was only selling a few copies a week. But I realised that on Christmas Day a whole new market would open up, and I decided to take advantage of that.

I had three books – The Basement (a serial killer story, Once Bitten (a vampire story) and Dreamer’s Cat (a science fiction novel) – available as free PDF downloads on my website ( They were books that my regular publisher, Hodder and Stoughton, had declined to publish because they were so different from my regular thrillers.

The thrillers that they publish are generally big books, both in terms of size and in scope, and would be up to 140,000 words long. The eBooks I’ve published are much shorter – for instance The Basement is just 40,000 words, which makes it a novella rather than a novel. Publishers generally don’t want to publish novellas, but they are perfect for eBooks. Publishers also prefer their writers to stick to a particular genre so that they can build a brand. When a reader buys one of my Hodder books they know they are getting a hard-edged thriller. It would cause confusion if they picked up a Stephen Leather book and discovered that it was about vampires.

I took the books, updated them, and paid for three covers by Stuart Bache who does a lot of my covers for Hodder and Stoughton. I put them on line in late October and spent two months promoting them on social networking sites and on the various Kindle forums. They went very quickly into the Amazon Top 10 and I persuaded Hodder and Stoughton to cut the price of one of my Spider Shepherd thrillers, Hard Landing, to 49p. It also tore through the rankings and by the time Christmas morning came around I had Numbers one, two, three and five in the Kindle UK bestseller list.

I had competition in the form of a special Kindle Twelve Days Of Christmas promotion where several publishers slashed the price of their eBooks over the holiday period, but even so I sold 7,000 copies on Christmas Day and another 5,000 copies on Boxing Day. In December I sold 45,000 copies in total and another 45,000 in January. I don’t think any other writer sold anywhere near as many copies in the UK over that period.

The Basement, Once Bitten and Dreamer’s Cat have sold close to 300,000 copies since they went on sale in October 2010. Generally I have been selling the books at the Amazon minimum price which is 75p (plus VAT) of which I get to keep 25p.

I originally went into self-publishing eBooks as a way of increasing my readership and there’s no doubt that my success self-publishing eBooks has fed through to increased sales of my Hodder titles. I suggested to Hodder that they cut the price of one of my titles – Hard Landing – to see what would happen to sales. Since Hodder agreed to sell Hard Landing -, the first book in my series about undercover cop Dan Shepherd - at the special promotional price of 49p they have sold almost 100,000 copies but what is more interesting is that this has fed through to increased sales of my other Dan Shepherd books which are selling at £4.99. Hodder has sold more than 35,000 copies of eBooks in the Dan Shepherd series and I’m convinced that almost all of those sales are new readers who were introduced to me through my self-published eBooks. So rather then diverting attention away from the Hodder titles, the success of my eBooks has helped boost sales of my regular thrillers.

I definitely see my eBooks as running alongside my regular thrillers. I think that what makes me different from most writers in that I am able to do both. Most writers produce a book a year, and in fact that’s how I used to work. A thriller would generally take me three months to research, seven months to write, and two months to edit. Over the past few years I have increased my output and am now writing two thrillers a year for Hodder and Stoughton – my Dan “Spider” Shepherd undercover cop series and my Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series. I find that I still have time to write other books and so am able to produce stories solely for the eBook market. I think most writers aren’t that productive and so they will follow one route – either publish with an established publisher, or publish eBooks themselves. I don’t think that many writers will be able to do both.

Also, self-publishing eBooks is very hard work. When a traditional publisher releases a book they do all the production, marketing, promotion and publicity. They edit the book, they produce the cover, they arrange press reviews, they make sure that the book is in all the stores and supermarkets, they pay for advertising. But when you self-publish, you have to do that yourself which takes a lot of time and effort. Most successful eBook authors who self-publish seem to spend almost as much time marketing and promoting their work as they do writing. Not every writer is prepared to put that amount of effort into self-promotion.

It’s important to get the pricing right when you self-publish eBooks. Basically, the lower the price you set for your work, the more copies you will sell. When you publish eBooks yourself on Amazon for the Kindle, the lowest price you can set is 99 cents in the US and 75p in the UK. The book actually sells for more than 75p in Europe as Amazon has to charge VAT on top of the price. For books costing between 99 cents and $2.99, Amazon pays the writer 35 per cent of the selling price. For books priced above $2.99, Amazon pays 70 per cent. On Smashwords, who sell books to all the various eReaders including Apple and Barnes and Noble, the minimum price is also 99 cents.

When I began self-publishing eBook last year I priced all my books at the Amazon minimum and I am sure that is one of the reasons I was so successful. People do like a bargain and there’s no doubt that cheaper book sell more than expensive books. To be honest though, I didn’t go into ePublishing to make money, I went into it to see if I could widen my readership. Yes, it’s great that I am making money from my eBooks but the original idea was to try to pull in more readers and that has worked really well.

There is a downside to selling your books cheaply, in that you run the risk of getting the wrong sort of readers. I had that experience with my book Dreamer’s Cat, a science fiction murder mystery in a future world where virtual reality is a way of life. I was selling the book at the Amazon minimum and it started getting a lot of very bad reviews, mainly because of the sexual violence in the story. What was happening was that people were buying it because it was cheap then posting bad reviews when they realised they didn’t like it. Amazon and Smashwords allow prospective buyers to download a sample before they buy, but when a book is cheap most people don’t bother. So I raised the price of Dreamer’s Cat to close to £2. Sales immediately dropped but the bad reviews pretty much stopped. Because the book was more expensive people were downloading the sample and that weeded out the people who didn’t like it.

Also, in America readers do seem to equate price with quality and many refuse to buy books at 99 cents as they assume they aren’t very good. The market in the UK definitely seems to be different on that score with readers seemingly happy to snap up a bargain.

Getting your book onto Kindle is very easy through their Kindle Digital Platform. Word document files work just fine. Getting onto Smashwords is sometimes a bit harder but there are plenty of formatters around who will help. Generally I pay between £20 and £40 to get a book formatted for Smashwords. Smashwords can provide a list of formatters.

All independent ePublishers have to be very hands-on. You have to be constantly monitoring the reviews given to your books as they can highlight problems that you might not be aware of. You have to keep an eye on sales to see what marketing techniques work and what doesn’t. Sometimes you might decide to change a cover or a product description, or perhaps start promoting on a different forum. Because Kindle and Smashwords allow you to monitor sales in pretty much real time, it’s very easy to see when you’re doing something right and when you’re doing something wrong.

The hardest part is to get your book noticed in the first place. Once your book is in the bestseller list it will sell without too much promotion. Before Christmas I spent quite a bit of time posting on the various Kindle forums and at the time there weren’t too many authors doing that so it was easy to get noticed. Unfortunately the forums have now been swamped by so-called “Indie” writers pushing their books and it’s much harder for a new writer to get noticed.

My book The Basement is still high up in the bestseller lists so that helps sell my other eBooks. That’s one of the keys to succeeding – you have to have more than one book, and ideally you need to release new books at regular intervals.

I’m working on another eBook as we speak, modestly titled The Bestseller. It’s about a writer who decides that the best way to succeed as a writer is to commit a murder and then write about it. I’m also working on a series of short stories about a Detective Inspector with the Singapore Police Force, a sort of Singaporean Poirot. I have already published four of them as short stories on Kindle and Smashwords and they’re selling quite well. I do believe that the Kindle is going to revitalize the short story.

I think that there is plenty of opportunity for other writers to start selling well on the Kindle and on the other eBook platforms. Personally I believe that most writers would benefit from a publishing deal with a proper publisher but if they can’t get a publishing deal then they should definitely look at publishing their own work.

So what advice would I offer to an author who wanted to follow in my footsteps? First write a good book. That’s easier said than done, but it’s the key to success. Most of the self-published eBooks aren’t well written, which is why most of them were rejected by agents and publishers and why the writers had no choice but to self-publish. From time to time I do read self-published eBooks and am often surprised at just how bad they are. I have just read one where the villain was described as “roofless” rather than “ruthless” in just one of a dozen mistakes I found in the first chapter. In my opinion any writer worth his or her salt has to have been writing for several years before he or she can expect to be producing work that’s publishable. It’s a craft that has to be learned and I’m afraid there are no short cuts. I was a journalist with millions of words in print before I wrote my first novel.

Once you’ve written your book, get it edited by someone else, ideally a professional editor. Typos and grammatical marks make you look like an amateur. And don’t scrimp on your cover. A cheap and cheerful Photoshopped cover marks you out an as amateur. Get a professional to design it for you.

If your book is good and your cover works, then it’s down to marketing and luck. You have to promote your book in any way that you can, but from then on it’s all a question of whether or not that all-important word-of-mouth recommendation kicks in. And I’m afraid a lot of the time it’s down to luck.

Next Christmas I’ll be working again, but this time I know I’ll have competition. There will be hundreds, possibly thousands, of other writers all ready to promote their own books to the new wave of Kindle owners. It should be fun!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Amazon's Once Bitten Cover

Amazon will soon be publishing Once Bitten on their Amazon Encore imprint and they've just sent me their latest cover idea. I think it's brilliant!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Longevity In The Bestseller Charts

The latest eBook bestseller chart from The Bookseller magazine shows The Basement holding steady at Number 6. That's pretty good going considering that it was published in November last year. Lots of Indie books have come into the charts, some even reached the Top 5, but one by one they have dropped down again but The Basement has stayed. Why? To be honest, I am not sure. My other eBook bestseller, Once Bitten, was Number One over Christmas but now stubbornly stays below 50. I have no idea why it went down but The Basement went up.

I have seen other Indie books soar up the charts but then disappear almost as quickly. A lot of the books that were selling really well over the Christmas and New Year period have now dropped out of the Top 100 which means that they are selling less than 100 copies a day. It's not through lack of promotion, either. It's as if books have a shelf life and after their time is over sales start to drop no matter what the author does in the way of self-promotion. Other books- Stieg Larsson's for instance - drop down but then come back. Why? Again, I'm still not sure.

I've been keeping an eye on the Top 100 in the US and that's dominated by regular-priced books written by traditionally-published authors. I think that's what's going to happen in the UK eventually. So when you hear Indie writers shouting that the old order is dead and that they're taking over the world of publishing, I'm pretty sure you can take it with a pinch of salt. Yes, independently-produced eBooks can do well, but I think they're selling mainly because they are cheap, and the market for cheap books is actually only a fraction of the total market. And as I've said elsewhere, the hard fact is that the vast majority of independently-produced eBooks simply aren't very good and people are starting to realise that. Obviously the fact that readers can download samples before buying does weed out the really bad books but I am pretty sure that as time goes on readers will become more concerned about quality than price, which has already happened in the US.

I am amazed - and pleased - at the success of The Basement, which has sold well over a hundred thousand copies. But everything is going to change in November when Amazon will take over The Basement and Once BItten for their Amazon Encore programme. Effectively they will become the publishers of both books which means they will do all the publicity and marketing and I will take a back seat. It's going to be fascinating to see how things progress....

Here's what The Bookseller said:

Philip Stone, charts editor: It may have been downloaded more than 10,000 times in its first week on sale (according to publisher HarperCollins), but George R R Martin's A Dance with Dragons is conspicuous by its absence on this week's e-bestseller chart. Although it currently sits in the Top 10 in W H Smith's Fiction e-books chart, its lowly (comparative) positions in the Apple (14th), Waterstone's (61st) and (24th) e-book charts mean it falls short of earning a place in The Bookseller's cross-retail Top 10 e-bestseller list

Benjamin Daniels' Confessions of a GP once again tops the chart thanks to solid downloads at Amazon (4th in the charts), Apple (1st) and Waterstone's (4th). Elizabeth Haynes' Into the Darkest Corner is the only new entry in this week's list, charting in seventh position. Sales of the £7.99 r.r.p. title will have been helped by the fact it has been discounted to just 99p on Amazon's Kindle store thanks to its position in the Kindle Summer Sale promotion.

Positive reviews will also have helped downloads—the book has received an incredible 141 five-star ratings out of 155 customer reviews. Such a five-star whitewash is so rare it is almost suspicious, but to those who say ratings/reviews matter little when it comes to decision-making, I offer you this evidence: I've just downloaded it.

Pos Title Author
1 (1) Confessions of a GP Benjamin Daniels
2 (3) Cold Kill Neil White
3 (2) A Tiny Bit Marvellous Dawn French
4 (4) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson
5 (5) That Summer in Ischia Penny Feeny
6 (6) The Basement Stephen Leather
7 (-) Into the Darkest Corner Elizabeth Haynes
8 (10) Life and Laughing Michael McInty

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Me Interviewed On Radio 4's You and Yours show

I was interviewed about ePublishing on Radio 4's You and Yours show last week in the BBC's Broadcasting House in London's Regent Street.


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Basement Rises Back Up The Charts

The Basement has risen up the eBook charts again, and sales are well up on where they were a few weeks ago. I'm not sure why because I haven't done anything in the way of promotion. It's selling very well on iBooks and I've never done any promotion there. It's funny because it gets much better reviews on iBooks, too. I have no idea why!

I'm stil not sure what gives some eBooks longevity. The Basement has been in the Top 10 for pretty much every week since it went online in October. During that time a lot of books have come and gone but The Basement has stayed put. Why? I wish I knew!

Anyway, here's what was in the Bookseller:

Philip Stone, charts editor: As was the case last week, three books in's "Kindle Summer Sale" ("hundred of books for £2.99 or less") enjoy spots the e-bestseller list, led once again by Benjamin Daniels' memoir, Confessions of a GP.

It is one of three non-fiction titles in the Top 10, but one of only six in this week's digital top 50 — proof, perhaps, of the long-held theory that fiction is the most
exposed area of the print book market to the e-book sphere.

In fact, whlie physical non-fiction book sales thus far in July have been ahead of last year, and children's book sales have been relatively flat, sales of paperback and hardback novels have been down by around 10% and 15%, according to sales statisticians Nielsen BookScan.

Two books in Stieg Larsson's Millennium thriller trilogy re-enter the Top 10, alone with Pierre Dukan's bestselling The Dukan Diet and comedian Michael McIntyre's Life and Laughing. The latter was second only to Stephen Fry's The Fry Chronicles as the bestselling celebrity memoir of 2010.

Pos Title Author
1 (1) Confessions of a GP Benjamin Daniels
2 (5) A Tiny Bit Marvellous Dawn French
3 (2) Cold Kill Neil White
4 (-) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson
5 (3) That Summer in Ischia Penny Feeny
6 (8) The Basement Stephen Leather
7 (-) The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest Stieg Larsson
8 (-) The Dukan Diet Pierre Dukan
9 (6) Afterwards Rosamund Lupton
10 (-) Life and Laughing Michael McIntyre

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Basement Is Still Riding High!

This just in from The Bookseller Magazine. The Basement is still in the Top 10 and gets a very nice write-up!

Philip Stone, charts editor: Three books in's "Kindle Summer Sale" ("hundreds of books priced just £2.99 or less") earn places in the e-bestseller list Top 10 this week: police intelligence analyst Elizabeth Haynes' début novel, Into the Darkest Corner; Penny Feeny's 1979-set That Summer in Ischia; and new number one Benjamin Daniels' Confessions of a GP. All three are selling for just 99p at an average discount of 90% off their print edition r.r.p.s. Lucy Diamond's Sweet Temptation, Lyndsay Russell's Making it Big and C J Box's Three Weeks to Say Goodbye, three other 99p members of the same promotion, narrowly miss out on places in the Top 10.

Long-time e- book bestseller, Stephen Leather's The Basement clocks up a 20th week in The Bookseller's e-bestseller list in 2011. Benjamin Daniels is Leather's nearest rival in the longevity stakes, the doctor's Confessions of a GP having charted 16 times this year.

Leather's The Basement is the latest in a long line of e-books to have acquired a helpful subtitle on Amazon—this time "serial killer thriller with a breathtaking twist". Others include Saffina Desforges' Sugar & Spice (The Controversial Psycho-sexual Thriller), and Jason Krumbine's Fruitbasket from Hell (For Fans of Jasper Fforde and Terry Pratchett). How long such subtitles will last remains to be seen—earlier this year removed "For Fans of Stieg Larsson and Dan Brown" pretty promptly from the title of Louise Voss and Mark Edwards' Catch Your Death.

Incidentally, The Basement has received a solid four stars out of five on average from 346 reviewers at Apple's iBookstore although, intriguingly, one of the most recent ("slow to start and took a bit of getting into but on the whole enjoyable") received just three. The reviewer in question? A Mr "Stephen leather". Hmm....

Pos Title Author
1 (2) Confessions of a GP Benjamin Daniels
2 (-) Cold Kill Neil White
3 (-) That Summer in Ischia Penny Feeny
4 (3) Catch Your Death Voss and Edwards
5 (1) A Tiny Bit Marvellous Dawn French
6 (5) Afterwards Rosamund Lupton
7 (-) The Midwife's Confession Diane Chamberlain
8 (9) The Basement Stephen Leather
9 (-) Into the Darkest Corner Elizabeth Haynes
10 (7) A Game of Thrones George R R Martin

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Three More Inspector Zhang Stories Go On Sale

I've just put three more Inspector Zhang stories on sale as eBooks. They'll hopefully be available on Kindle by the weekend and are already selling on Smashwords. I'm keeping the cover style the same.... I already have Inspector Zhang Gets His Wish up as a free book so now we'll see if people will actually pay 99 cents for a short story!

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Basement Is Still In The Top 10!

This just in from The Bookseller Magazine... The Basement is at Number 9, pretty good considering that it's been in the Top 10 for most of the past six months. Again this week I don't think the list is accurate as The Basement was Number 7 for most of the week on the KIndle and was higher than that on iBooks. I think there's a lot of guesswork with the Bookseller list...

Philip Stone, charts editor: For only the third time this year, the bestselling e-book in the UK is the bestselling print book in the UK.

TV comic Dawn French's début novel, A Tiny Bit Marvellous, sold more than 30,000 physical copies in its first three days on sale at UK booksellers, and tops this week's e-bestseller lists thanks to solid downloads from Apple's iBookstore and both and But it only charts in 208th position in the chart, two places behind Ashley Hind's In the Dark—a saucy novel by erotica ebook specialists Xcite.

Benjamin Daniels' Confessions of a GP re-enters the chart following a three-week hiatus, while Erin Kern's Looking for Trouble débuts. The book is currently available to download to Kindles for just 71 pence, and is yet another example of an author who, tired of rejection letters from publishers and agents ("close to 40" according to the author), decided to publish the book herself. After a mediocre November in which just five copies were downloaded to Kindles, more than 5,000 copies were downloaded in the first two weeks in May—helped by the fact she dropped the r.r.p. from $2.99 to just $0.99.

Pos Title Author
1 (-) A Tiny Bit Marvellous Dawn French
2 (-) Confessions of a GP Benjamin Daniels
3 (3) Catch Your Death Voss and Edwards
4 (-) Looking for Trouble Erin Kern
5 (6) Afterwards Rosamund Lupton
6 (-) One Day David Nicholls
7 (2) A Game of Thrones George R R Martin
8 (1) The Unremarkable Heart Karin Slaughter
9 (7) The Basement Stephen Leather
10 (4) Life and Laughing Michael McIntyre

The FutureBook e-bestseller list is compiled by The Bookseller and uses a points-based system based on e-tailer chart positions and estimated e-tailer market shares. It is compiled at the same time each week. This will be replaced by a more robust e-chart when it is available.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Basement Still In The UK Top 10

Figures out today from The Bookseller magazine shows The Basement is still in the Top 10. It's funny because it's been an eBook bestseller for more than six months now but the only time they have used my name is when it's fallen five places! Maybe I'm just being paranoid! I think the only writer who has spent more time in the UK Top 10 is Stieg Larsson.

Also, I have to say that I'm pretty sure The Bookseller is wrong because The Basement has been Number 5 or 6 on the UK KIndle store chart all week and in the Top 4 of the iBooks chart.....

Anyway, here's what the magazine had to say today!

Philip Stone, charts editor: For the third week in a row, crime-writer Karin Slaughter's The Unremarkable Heart, Random House Group's first ever direct-to-digital fiction title, takes top spot in The Bookseller's e-bestseller list.

Last week's number two, Stephen Leather's The Basement, falls five places to seventh overall, while George R R Martin's A Game of Thrones, the first installment in his epic medieval fantasy series, A Song of Fire and Ice, climbs three places into second position - off the back of solid downloads at, and Apple's iBookstore. All three retailers (as well as WHSmith) are selling the ebook at £5.49 — two pence dearer than the print edition's average selling price at UK bookstores last week. The second book in the series, A Clash of Kings, re-joins the chart in 10th position, while Rosamund Lupton's AfterwardsCaitlin Moran's and How to be a Woman are the two new entries.

Lupton's first novel, Sister, was one of the bestselling bestselling novels of 2010 thanks to a spot in WHS's Richard and Judy book club, while sales of Times columnist Moran's memoir/rant has benefited from an extract in her employer's own magazine.

Pos Title Author
1 (1) The Unremarkable Heart Karin Slaughter
2 (5) A Game of Thrones George R R Martin
3 (4) Catch Your Death Voss and Edwards
4 (3) Life and Laughing Michael McIntyre
5 (8) Killing Cupid Voss and Edwards
6 (-) Afterwards Rosamund Lupton
7 (2) The Basement Stephen Leather
8 (6) London Calling James Craig
9 (-) How to be a Woman Caitlin Moran
10 (-) A Clash of Kings George R R Martin

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Basement hits Number 2!

The Basement has just reached Number 2 in The Bookseller magazine eBook bestseller list. This is what the magazine says today -

Philip Jones writes: There is nothing remarkable about the number one title this week in our e-book bestseller chart with Karin Slaughter reigning supreme for a second-consecutive week. The 49 pence e-book exclusive is riding high in both the Amazon Kindle and Apple iBook charts: though it is not currently number one in either list, its culmulative total takes its above The Basement, which sits below it in both charts.

There are some notable new entries in this week's list, with the most newsworthy James Craig's London Calling, the first part of his Inspector Carlyle series that has been released digitally early by its publisher Constable & Robinson. The B-format print edition is not released until August.

The Kindle edition is promotionally priced at £1. Constable & Robinson has signed up to publish the first three books in the series. Mommy, May I? by A K Alexander is the follow-up to Daddy's Home - both self-published.

Pos Title Author
1 (1) The Unremarkable Heart Karin Slaughter
2 (7) The Basement Stephen Leather
3 (2) Life and Laughing Michael McIntyre
4 (5) Catch Your Death Voss and Edwards
5 (3) A Game of Thrones George R R Martin
6 (-) London Calling James Craig
7 (-) Mommy, May I? A K Alexander
8 (10) Killing Cupid Voss and Edwards
9 (-) Star Sullivan Maeve Binchy
10 (5) The Family Martina Cole

Actually Karin Slaughter's book isn't really a book - it's a short story and an excerpt from her new novel at a special low price. But her fans are buying it so who am I to argue?

Some great news from US Indie writer John Locke - he's become the latest author to sell a million copies on Kindle. He did it in about five months. I'm some way behind - close to 300,000 - but then I don't have as many cheap books for sale as he did. In a way it would be great if my publisher were to cut the prices of all my backlist - I'd hit a million within months. But that's not going to happen and at £4.99 a copy it's hard to get the big sales figures!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My New Free Short Story

I'm a great believer in giving away things for free. And giving away books and short stories is a great way of pulling in new readers. I gave away close to 40,000 PDF downloads of my book Private Dancer before publishing it as a paperback and I'm convinced that's one of the reasons it continues to sell so well.

Anyway, I'm planning to put up a free short story on Smashwords - the first of my Inspector Zhang stories. Inspector Zhang is a detective in SIngapore who loves mysteries but they are few and far between in the low-crime city state. He finally gets his wish when a dead body is found in a locked hotel room. The story is titled Inspector Zhang Gets His Wish and is about 8,000 words long. It has already been published in an anthology out of Singapore and sold by my good friend Phil Tatham at Monsoon Books. I'm planning to do a collection of short stories about Inspector Zhang and I though this might get some interest going - and also give me the incentive to write more. I already have five done but figure that I need a dozen to make a book.

I have asked Stuart Bache, who does many of my covers for Hodder and Stoughton, to come up with the cover and he's given me two great ideas to think about.

The one problem is going to be offering it on Kindle, as Amazon won't let self-publishers offer their work for free. I'll almost certainly have to sell it at the Amazon minimum (99 cents, equivalent to about 62p in the UK). Hopefully Amazon will eventually spot that it's free on Smashwords and will then do the same as part of their price-matching guarantee! We'll see.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Basement Is Still In The Top 10!

The Basement has now been in the Top 10 eBook bestseller list for six months, which I think is pretty good going! It's now selling 1,000 copies a week on iBooks alone!

Here's the latest list from The Bookseller Magazine -

Pos Title Author
1 (2) The Unremarkable Heart Karin Slaughter
2 (1) Life and Laughing Michael McIntyre
3 (4) A Game of Thrones George R R Martin
4 (5) Catch Your Death Voss and Edwards
5 (10) The Family Martina Cole
6 (3) Bone and Cane David Belbin
7 (9) The Basement Stephen Leather
8 (-) The Tiger's Wife Téa Obreht
9 (-) Confessions of a GP Benjamin Daniels
10 (-) Killing Cupid Voss and Edwards

Friday, June 10, 2011

Amazon Clamps Down On Titles

Amazon yesterday clamped down on a very clever marketing technique that got a book to the top of the UK Kindle lists. The book is Catch Your Death by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards, a writing due who have pulled every trick in the book to get their book into the Kindle bestseller list. Mark has a great blog at where he details his struggle to get his work noticed among the hundreds of thousands of eBooks.

Their smartest move was to actually title their work Catch Your Death (For fans of Dan Brown & Stieg Larsson). It was a brilliant thing to do, a technique that is often used by the big publishers. Hodder and Stoughton did a similar thing to promote my Spider Shepherd thriller Hot Blood. They put a sticker on it which said "Better Than McNab Or Your Money Back" and later went on to use a slogan which said "If You Like McNab, You'll Love Leather".

There's no doubt that cross-promotion like that works, and the clever use of the names of Brown and Larsson in the title is what helped propel their book to the top of the charts, even though truth be told neither the writing style nor the content has any connection at all with the two best-selling authors.

The fast rise to the top (it reached Number One after just four days in the Top 100) helped drag their first book, modestly titled Killing Cupid: The Gripping Stalker Thriller, with it, and it's today also in the Top 5.

I wasn't the only one who spotted the effectiveness of this technique, it was highlighted by Philip Jones of The Bookseller magazine who wrote - Voss and Edwards' Catch Your Death enters the charts thanks to a cheap price (95p on Amazon) and a stroke of bibliographic genius. The full title on Amazon is "Catch Your Death (for fans of Dan Brown & Stieg Larsson)". Ker-ching!

Ker-ching was right, with Voss and Edwards selling 1,500 copies A DAY!

Someone else who spotted the technique was James Craig, the Scottish author of London Calling. His book had made it into the KIndle UK Top 10 under its own steam. Early this week Craig cunningly changed the title of his book to London Calling (For fans of Ian Rankin) which at the time I thought was a bit of a stretch, but good luck to him.

Frankly I didn't think that Amazon would allow cross-promotion like that to continue for too long, I tried some time ago to add the words The Kindle Bestseller to one of my titles and it was immediately removed from publication until I took out the word "Kindle".

Yesterday they clearly stepped in to stop what Voss and Edwards and Craig were doing and both their titles have reverted to the norm - Catch Your Death and London Calling.

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

One of the fascinating things about ePublishing just now is that no one really knows what the rules are and the Indie writers are pretty much making it up as they go along. It's going to be fascinating to see what Voss and Edwards come up with next!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Six Months On And Still Flying High!

The Bookseller magazine has just released its eBook bestseller list for last week and two of my titles are in the Top 10. Not bad considering they have both been in the Top 10 for six months now. The Basement has been helped by booming sales on iBooks where it is the bestselling book on the overall chart and Hard Landing is Number 2 in the iBooks Crime And Thriller Chart.

Pos Title Author
1 (-) Life and Laughing Michael McIntyre
2 (-) The Unremarkable Heart Karin Slaughter
3 (9) Bone and Cane David Belbin
4 (-) A Game of Thrones George R R Martin
5 (-) Catch Your Death Voss and Edwards
6 (-) The Confession John Grisham
7 (-) Water for Elephants Sara Gruen
8 (5) Hard Landing Stephen Leather
9 (7) The Basement Stephen Leather
10 (-) The Family Martina Cole

I have to say that while it's nice to be in The Bookseller chart, I don't think it's very accurate. For instance the Number 5 book Catch Your Death isn't available on iBooks and Sugar and Spice is Number 4 on the Kindle but not showing on The Bestseller list.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Silver - A Glittering Success!

I get quite a lot of email from Indie writers asking advice on how to sell their books, and I’m coming around to eBook guru Joe Konrath's view that the best advice is DON’T WRITE SHIT. I’m thinking of using that as my screen saver!

One writer who got in touch with me at the end of January was Steven Savile. Steven’s an interesting one because like Joe and me he is a professional writer with a respectable track record. He had a US book deal for his novel Silver, which was released in hardcover in the US and also published in Spain, Germany, France and Poland. As well as writing several novels he has a pretty impressive TV CV – he’s written for top shows like Primeval, Torchwood and Doctor Who.

Back in January Steven was thinking about self-publishing Silver on Kindle and was looking for advice. I wasn’t much help other than repeating the same old mantra – price is everything – and pointing him in the direction of Joe Konrath’s blog. Joe should be the first port of call for any Indie writer – his blog has all the information you need to get started.

Well, four months have passed and yesterday when I looked at the UK Kindle bestseller list what do I see nestling between my books Hard Landing (Number 6) and The Basement (Number 8)? Yes, at Number 7 was Steven’s book, with a brilliant cover and 35 reviews, mainly four star and five star.

I think that’s amazing – to go from thinking about publishing an eBook to being in the UK Kindle Top 10 in just four months. So what’s the key to Steven’s success?

First, I think the cover is great. And he’s written a brilliant product description, which is one of the keys to getting a reader to part with his money. Your product description is, after the cover, the main selling tool, and I am surprised that so many Indies don’t spend more time getting them right.

This is what Steven has - ‘There is a plague coming....For forty days and forty nights fear shall savage the streets. Those steeped in sin shall burn. The dying begins now.

‘With this chilling message a wave of terror unlike anything the world has ever seen sweeps the streets of Europe. Thirteen martyrs burn themselves alive in thirteen major cities simultaneously.

‘And this is just the beginning.

‘A religious cult calling itself the Disciples of Judas has risen in the Middle East. They twist the words of ancient prophecies to drive home the fear. Everything you believe in will be proved wrong. Everything you hold true will fail.

‘Day by day the West wakes to increasingly harrowing acts of terror. As fear cripples the capitals of Europe, the only question is where will be the next to fall? London? Rome? Berlin?

‘In a race against time - believing the terrorists intend to assassinate the Pope - Sir Charles Wyndham's unique Special Ops team, codename Ogmios, track a labyrinthine course through truth, shades of truth and outright lies that takes them from the backstreets of London to the shadow of Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin and all the way into the heart of the Holy See itself.’

That’s great, it really makes you want to read the book. I have to say that if it was me, I’d have put the word count and approximate number of pages there, because I think readers like to know how long a book is.

He also has a bloody good author description, too, which I think is one of the keys to selling. Readers like to know something about the person they’re giving their hard-earned money to. Steven has this – ‘Steven Savile was a runner up in the 2000 British Fantasy Awards, a winner of a 2002 Writers of the Future Award, and the 2008 Scribe Award for Best Young Adult Novel for his novel Primeval: Shadow of the Jaguar. He has written for Dr Who, Torchwood, Stargate, Primeval and other popular media franchises, including roleplaying games and comics. He has a TV series in development in the US and along with long-time collaborator Steven Lockley he has begun work on a series of short supernatural mystery stories featuring the Sally Reardon, a young forensics investigator coming to terms with her psychic gift. The first two stories in the series, Of Time and Dust and Missing are out now, with the third in the series, Deadlines, due out soon.

‘During the month of April Bad Press will be releasing special editions of Steve's original fiction for 70p, beginning with OUTCASTS, a psychological horror novel about a good man's descent into madness, and a series of four omnibuses of his short fiction ranging from horror, crime, and thrillers to science fiction and magical realism, displaying the incredible versatility of this talented young British writer.

‘Silver is the first in an on-going series of adventures built around the Ogmios Team, and has been published in the US, Spain, Poland, France and Germany in hardcover. Gold, the second in the series, will follow in the Autumn of 2011.’

But a good cover and product description alone doesn’t guarantee sales, even when sold at a low price. Steven had gone for the Amazon minimum of 99 cents, equivalent to 68p in the UK. So how does a writer new to eBooks get noticed? And how does he get his book into the UK Kindle Top 10 so quickly? I got back to Steven to find out.

He told me: ‘I tried a couple of tricks to get it moving. I wrote a free short story linked into the series which I set up a gmail address for, putting it into an autoresponder - so people could get a taste for free and in the process I accumulated a list of a few hundred thriller readers who I could email and say 'Hey hope you enjoyed Ghostkiller, promise not to spam you mercilessly but thought you might be interested in knowing I've just put the full novel up to 70p in the UK' and that gave it just enough of a sustained burst to reach the top 100 thrillers, then I experimented with a couple of covers - the first was too masculine, so I went for a more generic inside the ceiling of the Vatican which did enough to hook more casual readers. Then it was a case of finding a branding for the stuff that looked good and I felt comfortable with. Really though, the blurbs, reviews etc that were already out there carried the book and it had its own sort of momentum.’

Emailing readers direct was something that had never occurred to me, so I asked Steven to explain how that worked.

He told me: ‘I used gmail because it's the easiest, but yahoo, and any other mail server works fine - I just wanted a clean address not my normal email. The idea is the same as your 'Steve's away from the office chasing a pack of Wildebeest and will be back on Friday. In the meantime if you need something urgently call George on xxx' but instead of just cutting and pasting the text in, we designed an entire ebook, cover and all, and attached a google docs link in the responder saying 'Thanks for emailing in, because certain email programs will strip attachments from what they view potential spam addresses we've put the free book here -' and put the direct link. The beauty of it was that probably around 700 or so people claimed it over the duration of a month. It's all about forward planning - I could have put Silver up straight away but I wanted enough time to pass so that these folks could grow from a dozen mail ins to several hundred. Then being a bit of a tech media junkie I read about Tesco's planned release of the Kindle and figured, okay, we're about to see a numbers explosion in the UK so let's try and time this a bit clever, hit the mailing list a week before the kindles hit Tescos and hope to get maximum visibility around the same time. It worked. Of course it couldn't work again.’

Steven’s right – timing is really important. I made such a big splash in the eBook market because I timed my sales push to coincide with Christmas Day last year because I knew that hundreds of thousand of people would be getting a Kindle as their Christmas present.

I asked Steven about his cover. Covers are vital when it comes to getting noticed, and I felt that the eBook cover was so much better than the covers that had been used on his paperback books (I’ll put them at the end of this piece).

He told me: ‘I sat down with the web designer/marketing guy from Variance (who did the US hardcover) and looked at the Spanish hardcover edition, the Polish paperback and other similar books and we burned through about a dozen alternative designs with daggers, creepy faces etc up on the top bar, but got mate's rates. He would normally charge around 500 US a cover, I paid considerably less. I have zero skills with photoshop, but a decent eye (I think) so I would keep bouncing it back saying can we tweak this, can we try that.’

Finally I asked Steven what his next project was. He told me - ‘I'm deep into Gold but took off a six week period to write something very different, Immortal, which is a something of an awakening story, think Children of Men meets The Road, which I've just wrapped up and instead of going the traditional route of sending it off to my agent and trying to place it, I've deliberately set out to do this as a Kindle original. Silver's sold almost 30,000 copies in the two months I've had it out, making it something of a game changer for me.”

I asked him what his strategy was going to be for the new book, and he told me: ‘I was up around 600-650 a day until Friday last, and sales have tanked down to 200s at a crawl this week. I'm assuming it's all good weather related so have sent the shaman out to do a rain dance. Outcasts is just beginning to move, but obviously the big test is going to come at the end of the month with Immortal, the for in the kindle original... I've been mulling the pricing on it - obviously 69p is the sweet spot, and it's working with Silver, but I don't think Immortal's going to have the same broadbase thriller appeal, like I said, it's a bleak near future thing (no sf trappings) and most likely 'slash-your-wrists' isn't the hottest genre out there ahem, so I could launch it at £1.49 so it's pulling in a quid a copy sold simply because it's going to sell less copies than Silver... or I could take a massive risk on the 69p thing... ‘

Part of Steven’s success is down to clever marketing, but the main reason that he’s doing so well is because he’s following Joe Konrath’s golden rule – DON’T WRITE SHIT.

Outcasts has been out for less than a month and is already in the Top 500. And watch out for Immortal, I’m sure it won’t be long before it’s in the Top 10!