Friday, December 21, 2012

A Spider Shepherd Short Story

I've always been a big fan of short stories, but in the past there hasn't really been a market for them. The simple fact is that collections of short stories - no matter how famous the author - never sell as well as novels. That's just a fact.

I believe that the arrival of the eReader will change that and short stories will become marketable on a much bigger scale.

I have already tested the water with my Inspector Zhang short stories, and my collection of erotic short stories (though truth be told they're not that erotic!).

I'm now pushing the envelope a bit further by releasing the first in what I hope will be a series of Spider Shepherd short stories.


I'm setting the books during the time that Spider was in the SAS, and the first stories will cover the period when he was in Afghanistan, from November 2001 until October 2002. They're fun because they are war stories so full of action and weapons, whereas in the novels he's a policeman or MI5 officer and therefore can't shoot as much!  The stories which will be more like those written by Andy McNab and Chris Ryan, two writers I really admire.

I'll be keeping the price below £1 and hopefully they'll sell. We'll see!

You can buy Friendly Fire in the UK HERE

And in the US  HERE

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Boxed Sets - A Great Deal For Readers

One of the great things about ePublishing is the way you can easily generate boxed sets.  Boxed sets tend not to sell well when it comes to traditional paperbacks, but they are a terrific way of selling eBooks and eBook short stories.

I've recently put up two boxed sets.  There's an Inspector Zhang boxed set which contains four short stories featuring my Singaporian detective Inspector Zhang and his faithful assistant Sergeant Lee.


You can buy it in the UK  HERE

And in the US   HERE

And I've also put together a collection of three of my Asian Heat erotic short stories in one boxed set.


You can buy it in the UK  HERE

And in the US  HERE

So why do boxed sets work?  For the reader, they are a way of picking up a number of stories at a price lower than buying them individually.

But because of the way that Amazon pays royalties, a writer can make more money despite selling the books cheaper as a boxed set.

The reason is simple. If you price a book at below $2.99, Amazon pay you a royalty rate of 35 per cent. If you price the book at above $2.99, you receive 70 per cent of the selling price.

So take the Inspector Zhang boxed set for instance. The price of the individual stories is 99 cents.  If I sell four at that price, the reader pays $3.96 and I get about $1.30.

But I sell the boxed set for $2.99.  And I get $2.09.

So the reader pays less and the writer gets more. It's a win-win situation!

How easy are boxed sets to put together?

Very easy.  It's helpful to have a functioning index at the front.  And you need a cover that shows that it's a boxed set.

I use Brandi Doane for my boxed set cover designs. She's really good and charges $200 for a 3D cover. You can visit her website  HERE

It's worth remembering that Smashwords won't allow you to use 3D covers on their site so you'll need flat covers for Smashwords.  Brandi did those for me, too. Here's the one she did for the Asian Heat boxed sets.


So, if you're a self-published writer it's worth considering putting your work together in boxed sets.

I'm also hoping that my publisher, Hodder and Stoughton, will put together boxed sets of the books of mine that they publish. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, November 26, 2012

My New Erotic Short Story


I've just finished writing my new Jack Nightingale supernatural novel, Nightshade, which should be in the shops next April.  As always when I get to the end of a novel my creative juices are flowing so I immediately sat down and wrote a short story which I've just published as an eBook.  Called The Threesome it's about a man who longs for a threesome with his wife and another girl, and what happens to his life when he gets his wish.  I had fun writing it!

I often get asked about writers block - I think the trick is always to have several projects on the go, like short stories, so that if you dry up on your main work you can switch over to something else for a day or two.  I have at least three more short stories on the backburner, and on the rare occasions that I dry up I get stuck into them!

You can buy it HERE in the US.

And HERE in the UK.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why It's Getting Tough Out There For Self-Published Writers

There's definitely been a change in the way that eBooks are selling - it has become much harder for self-published writers to get into the bestselling charts.

My overall sales are holding steady but a lot of self-published writers have seen their sales stall and fall.

If you want to know the reason why - CLICK HERE

There's not much I can add other than to say that I thing it's going to get increasingly harder for self-published writers to hit the big time.  But only time will tell......

Saturday, August 4, 2012

False Friends is out - paperback and eBook




False Friends is out, and selling well.  It’s already in the Top 100 on Kindle and is in all good bookshops and supermarkets.

My publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, are pushing the hardback this time and have priced it at £12.99. Amazon have discounted it to £7.27, which isn't much more than the mass market paperback sells for.

The eBook is selling for £6.99, and already a couple of thousand have been snapped up.

I'm a big fan of selling eBooks cheaply, but in this case I think the price is right. It's worth pointing out too that VAT is charged on eBooks but not on hardbacks and paperbacks, so 20 per cent of that £6.99 goes to our Government. Personally I think that's unfair and that the VAT should be consistent.  The fact that the eBook is cheaper than the hardback makes it a good deal.

There are two new characters in the book that I’m really pleased with. Harveer “Harvey” Malik and Manraj “Raj” Chaudhry, British-born Pakistanis who have infiltrated an al-Qaeda cell on behalf of MI5.

Because they are innocents in the undercover business, Dan “Spider” Shepherd is brought in to babysit them.

Harvey and Raj are great characters and I’m thinking of bringing them back in a novel of their own.  I’ve written Muslim characters before, but generally they’ve been terrorists planning to cause mayhem in the UK.  In False Friends, Raj and Harvey are true heroes, putting their lives on the line for their country.  It was something getting inside the heads of characters so different from me in terms of ethnicity and religion, but I was helped by a pal who is a UK-born Bangladeshi Muslim who gave me an insight about what it’s like to be a British-born Asian Muslim in the UK post 9-11.

I’m already plotting the Spider Shepherd book for 2013 – based on the Russian oligarchs who now call London their home.  There have been a number of Russian assassinations taking place in London and I’m going to involve Spider!


You can buy False Friends for the Kindle in the UK HERE


You can buy False Friends for the Kindle in the US HERE

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Judging A Book By Its Cover


You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or so they say. But in fact most people do, and I’m convinced the fact that I go to a lot of trouble choosing designs for my covers was one of the reasons I sold more than half a million eBooks last year.

The simple fact is that most readers are influenced by the cover of a book, and with an eBook the choice of cover is doubly important.

In a book shop a potential buyer can hold the book and flick through the pages. With an eBook all a buyer gets to see is a thumbnail picture.  And if that picture looks amateurish or unappealing then the potential buyer will move on to the next book.

I’ve never done my own covers – I just don’t have the talent or the skills.  But I see lots of self-
published writers who mistakenly think that playing around with Photoshop is all that’s necessary to produce a cover that sells.  I always use a designer – and it’s paid off.  My bestselling eBook The Basement alone sold more than 150,000 copies in 2010.

Recently I decided to write a series of erotic short stories that I plan to sell through Kindle and Smashwords and wanted to try a new designer.  But through an accident of fate I ended up dealing with two designers – which gave me the chance to compare styles and prices.

My first port of call was a designer called Carl Graves.  Carl has done lots of covers for eBook guru and self-publishing phenomenon Joe Konrath.

Carl had a sale a few months ago and I snapped up one of his ready-made covers for just $150 and used it for my erotic short story Banging Bill’s Wife.  It was the perfect cover for that story and so when I wanted covers for three more erotic stories I sent him an email asking if he’d be interested. The stories – which at that point I hadn’t actually written – were THE ALPHABET GAME, THE PREGNANT WIFE and THE THREESOME.

I sent Carl a rough treatment of each story and waited to hear back from him. After a couple of weeks I emailed Carl again but when I still didn’t get a reply I started looking for another designer.  That’s not as easy as it sounds – I Googled and Googled but didn’t find many decent designers. Most appeared to be offering the same old designs done from the same templates, and I got the impression that a lot of the sites were simply middlemen and not actual designers. 

I tried one designer who had done two covers for a self-published writer friend of mine but he turned me down – I later discovered he is a committed Christian so I guess the subject matter was a problem for him!

Eventually I stumbled across Dafeenah Jameel at Indie Designz and sent her the treatments.  She offered to do three covers for a total of $175 (£110), which I reckoned was an absolute bargain.
But within hours of agreeing Dafeenah’s price, I got an email from Carl - he’d been having internet problems which is why I hadn’t heard back from him. Carl had already started work on the covers and was quoting me a price of $900 (£570) in total.  He usually charges $400 a cover but was giving me a discount.

Because both designers had already started work I thought it wouldn’t be fair to cancel either of them. And besides I realised it would give me a chance to compare their work – and prices.
Both came through with initial designs within a few days, and both were very open to suggestions.  Both had final designs finished within a week and to be honest I was well pleased with all of them.

It was interesting to see their different approaches. Carl does a lot of thrillers and horror books and has more of an “in your face” style.  Dafeenah has a softer approach with more of a “Mills and Boon” feel.
I think that’s best shown with the covers they did for THE ALPHABET GAME. Carl has a girl with a scorpion tattoo sitting astride a guy, and below them a Thai house on stilts.  (The house was one of the themes I specifically asked for).







Daffenah’s was much more romantic, with the couple sharing a kiss.





I put both covers up on my Facebook page and asked my fans for their views – and they were unanimous that Carl’s was the one they liked for an erotic story.  I agreed and that’s the one I’m using, but I really liked the cover that Dafeenah did so I asked her to put a different title on it. I’m planning a story called THE COUNTRY GIRL and I think her cover will be perfect for that.

For my story THE PREGNANT WIFE, I prefer Dafeenah’s cover, mainly because the female figure is so much more erotic.   But Carl’s cover does capture the theme of the book, about a guy who becomes besotted with a pregnant girl.








For THE THREESOME I prefer Carl’s cover, and I like the way he has the title in triplicate.  But I wouldn’t have a problem with using Dafeenah’s.

Dafeenah's version - 



Carl's version -





So who will I use in future?  Actually, I’m going to be using both. They were both very professional and they’re both very talented.

I think Carl is probably the better call for thrillers, and for novels that I know will generate a lot of sales.  He isn’t cheap so if a book is only selling a few dozen copies a month it will take a long time to earn enough to pay for one of his covers. And he's pretty slow at replying to emails, I guess because he is so busy.

Dafeenah’s covers seem more romantic and I’ll definitely use her for any more erotic stories that I write.  But her low prices mean that she’s a great bet for those books and stories that I give away for free.  I have already asked her to design a cover for an eBook of short stories that I’m planning called SHORT FUSES.  Because I’ll be giving the eBook away price is an important consideration and Dafeenah charged me less than £40. I would definitely recommend her for any self-published authors who are on a tight budget!

I’ll be putting the stories on Kindle and Smashwords over the next few weeks. I’m not sure how well they’ll sell but I am sure of one thing – they’ll be selling better than if I’d done the covers myself.

  Dafeenah’s website is at www.indiedesignz.com

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Appearing At Harrogate - The Plot Thickens


I’m just back from the Harrogate  Crime Writing Festival – three days of talks and events involving some of the country’s top crime-writing talent.  Why was I there?  Truth be told, I’m writing a short story called Inspector Zhang Goes To Harrogate where my Singaporean detective solves a locked room mystery in the Old Swan Hotel where the festival is based.

While I was there I appeared on a panel called 'Wanted for Murder: the e-book', where a group of us discussed ePublishing, a subject I do know a fair bit about.

It turned out to be quite a surreal experience.  Fun, but surreal.  Running the festival this year was Mark “Scaredy Cat” Billingham, one of the best writers in the business as well as a top stand-up comic.  Mark came over to me in the green room before the panel and had a quiet word with me. Basically there is a danger of the panels turning into a luvvie love-fest and he wanted me to take a view and be a tad confrontational if at all possible. He wanted the panel to be the talking point of the festival.  I’m never one to duck a good argument so I said I’d go for it.

In the chair was Channel 4 presenter Mark Lawson, and on the panel with me were a publisher, another writer who hasn’t sold many eBooks, an agent and a bookseller.  It was pretty much going to be four against one from the start.


                                                         Me and writer Matt Hilton at the festival



What surprised me was how the audience seemed so set against cheap eBooks.  Rather than taking my view that books are best sold at a price that readers find attractive, the general feeling of the audience seemed to be that books were already – as one man said – ‘cheap as chips’ while Norwegians had to pay £40 for one of Jo Nesbo’s books. When I explained that I had sold half a million eBooks last year, most of them for less than a quid, I was surprised to hear a few boos and hisses rather than the applause that I had expected.

The most surreal moment for me came when the President of the Publisher’s Association, Ursula Mackenzie, was trying to defend their policy of maintaining eBooks at a high price.  Basically she was saying that books needed to maintain their value and that 20p and free eBooks needed to be stamped on.

I understand her view, but I’m a big fan of selling eBooks at lower prices providing you can get high volumes of sales. And I’m happy enough to give books away if it helps to bring in new readers.

So I explain to Ursula – and the audience – that I can write a short story in five days and am happy to sell that at the Amazon minimum of 72p which generates me an income of 25p.


CORRECTION


At this point in my blog I mentioned a comment that I remembered had come from Ursula about earning 5p a book.  Having heard the recording of the panel I realise that I had misremembered this and the comment was made by Mark Lawson. I owe Ursula an unreserved and total apology for this and I will be writing to her personally to apologise. Truly my memory let me down and I am so so sorry. I can only think that the stress of the panel caused caused my memory to play tricks on me.


The point I wanted to make - which applies to Mark's comment and not to anything that Ursula said - was that of course I don’t work for 5p a day.  My Inspector Zhang stories sell about five or six hundred copies a month. Each. So one story sells 6,000 copies a year. So over the next ten years it could sell 60,000 copies which means I’d get £15,000, which is £3,000 a day.

Mark turned to the conversation around to the cost of books and how much went to the publisher, and asked Ursula to justify why the publisher’s took the lion’s share.  She put forward the old arguments about editing and marketing and I tried to explain that with eBooks, an author with a large fan base can use fans to edit and proof-read.  Everyone seemed to think that meant I thought writers could do away with editors, and of course that’s not the case. But not every writer needs a hard edit, some writers need little more than proof-reading and fact-checking and that can be done through fans. And my Jack Nightingale series is edited by a full-time editor on my agent's staff so those books need very little editing by my publisher. Yes, I know that some authors need a lot of editing. But I don't.  

The audience were quite strange when I talked about piracy, and I thought I was about to be lynched when I said that I regarded pirates as helping to market my books.  Someone shouted ‘Tosser!’ which was a bit harsh. What was a bit surprising was that it seemed to come from Mark Billingham’s direction.

I didn’t really get a chance to explain what I meant, which was a pity. Of course mass piracy would destroy publishing and destroy my income. But controlled piracy, where pirated books represent a small fraction of the total books available, can be a help to get a writer better known.  My opinion is that readers who buy pirated copies wouldn’t buy the real book anyway. But once they have become a fan, they might. The reader who starts off buying a pirated copy of one of my books might move on to buying hardbacks. It happens.

But I didn’t get the chance to say that. I did meet a lot of self-published writers at the festival – writers like Kerry Wilkinson, Allan Guthrie, Mark Edwards and Louise Voss.  All have stormed up the Kindle charts selling low-priced books.  I’m not going to put words into anyone’s mouth but I can tell you that most of the self-published writers I know have no fear of piracy and most embrace it.  Publishers don’t get it.  They don’t get the whole DRM thing either, where eBooks are ‘protected’ except of course they’re not.  Ursula, representing the publishers, was vehement that DRM was a good thing. Even traditionally-published author Steve Mosby tried to explain that DRM doesn’t work and isn’t fair in that it stops a reader transferring a book that he has already bought between different devices.  But Ursula wouldn’t have it.  I should say at this point that I was talking to one of the really big names at the festival and he has a Kindle and he has a neat little program that removes the DRM protection. I would love to tell you who it is but my lips are sealed!

Ursula was easy to argue with, as was the token agent, Philip Patterson. He was a lovely guy and I do feel guilty about blind-siding him with the question that most writers have – what exactly does an agent do to earn his 15 per cent when a writer sells most of his books through Amazon with whom there is almost no room for negotiation.  He didn’t come up with an answer and I did apologise to him afterwards.  The simple fact is that if a writer is self-publishing eBooks then he doesn’t need an agent.  Of course if that self-published author is then approached by a publishing house, that’s when you do need an agent in your corner.

What was strange is how a couple of agents started tweeting quite nastily about me.  One wondered how I would sell my foreign rights without an agent.  That’s a good question. I’d sell them myself, it’s not difficult. And in my experience, foreign rights barely cover the 15 per cent of the main UK deal.

Frankly I think publishers and agents are going to have a difficult few years as the whole eBook business works itself out.  And so are the book sellers. But of all the people on the panel, other than myself of course, I thought that the token bookseller was the guy who was most ready to take advantage of it. He was Patrick Neale of JaffĂ© and Neale Bookshop in Chipping Norton.  He’s a very smart guy who really understands his trade.  I think that the large book chains, the ones that are left, are going to be in big trouble soon but guys like Patrick can survive and prosper.  He’s seen a boom in hardback sales, but is also selling coffee in his shop and looking to profit from eBook sales. It was clear from listening to him that he is adapting his business to take advantage of the way books are changing, as opposed to the publishers who are fighting to maintain the status quo.

I guess the reason the audience were so unsympathetic to my views on piracy and low prices is because they weren't my core readership. I guess the big question is how my views would be received by a younger audience.  Hopefully they wouldn’t shout ‘tosser!’

Anyway, Mark Billingham came up to me afterwards, shook my hand and agreed that we’d achieved our objective – the tweets were already flying around the world and the festival was buzzing. Oh, and I pretty much finished Inspector Zhang Goes To Harrogate.  Much as I’d like the victim to be an overweight agent with badly-dyed hair, it’s an author who meets an untimely end.  And yes, I’ll be selling it at 72p.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Thoughts On ePublishing

I did an interview a while back for someone - can't for the life of me remember who it was for but here it is anyway!

  You seem to have landed the title 'self-publishing pioneer', do you like the tag or does it feel like a distraction from your previous publishing successes? I think it’s a fair tag considering that I’ve been the most successful self-publisher in the UK. No one has sold more self-published eBooks than me in the UK. And Lee Child is the only British author who sold more eBooks than me on Kindle worldwide last year and 1) he doesn’t self-publish and 2) most of his sales were in the US. I don’t think it distracts from my mainstream success at all – it’s just that I have found an alternative way of reaching readers.

  For those coming to your work for the first time, give us a quick bio ... Former journalist turned writer with more than thirty novels under his belt. Check out my website, www.stephenleather.com I have written 25 novels which are published by Hodder and Stoughton. Of those 14 are stand alone thrillers, eight are in my Spider Shepherd undercover cop series, and three are in my Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series. I have also self-published two novels in Thailand (as paperbacks and eBooks) and a further four books solely as eBooks. I have also published eight short stories as eBooks. My self-published eBooks are Once Bitten (a vampire novel), The Basement (a serial killer novella), Dreamer’s Cat (a science fiction murder mystery) and The Bestseller (a crime novella set in the world of ePublishing).

  There are a few brand-name authors (Jackie Collins springs to mind) who are now looking at self-publishing but what prompted you to take this route long before the others? I saw it coming and not many writers did. I knew that the number of e-readers in the United Kingdom would double on Christmas Day 2010. One in twelve adults in Britain would be receiving an e-reader as a Christmas present and I realised that they would be looking for cheap eBooks to buy. What I did was to put three of my unpublished books – The Basement, Once Bitten and Dreamer’s Cat - on Kindle in late October. I spent November and December marketing the books so that on Christmas Day I had all three in the Top 5 of the Kindle Bestseller list. Come Christmas morning some three million people got a Kindle as their Christmas present – and that’s why I sold 7,000 copies on Christmas Day, another 5,000 on Boxing Day, and 44,000 in December as a whole. It was a total one-off and will almost certainly never be repeated. It happened because back then there were very few writers self-publishing. Plus I was selling them at the lowest price that Amazon would allow. Plus I was able to produce a professional product - well written, well-edited and with well-designed covers.

  You've enjoyed remarkable success with your eBooks - tell us a little about that. I’ve sold more than half a million eBooks, but that is split between my self-published eBooks and the eBooks that my publisher Hodder and Stoughton have been selling. In 2011 I sold more than 150,000 copies of The Basement through the UK Kindle store, more than 80,000 copies of Once Bitten and almost 20,000 copies of Dreamer’s Cat. Hodder have sold more than 120,000 copies of the eBook of Hard Landing, the first in the Spider Shepherd series, plus another 40,000 or so of my backlist. Amazon then took over The Basement and Once Bitten and published them through their Amazon Encore imprint. Early this year The Basement topped the US and UK Kindle charts.

  It's safe to say the old stigma attached to self-publishing seems irrelevant now but did it concern you at the outset? Never. I’ve always been a big fan of self-publishing. I really hate the way so many of today’s self-published writers call themselves “Indies” , as if they were ashamed of calling themselves “self-published”. I try not to use the term “Indie”. There’s nothing wrong with describing a book as “self-published”. Books that were self-published include Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of things Past, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Beatrix Potter’s The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter and John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. I’m a writer and my mission in life is to write – and sell – as many books as I can. I really don’t care how those books are sold. I don’t know anyone who has as many legs to their publishing career as me. I self publish paperbacks in Asia, printing books and delivering them to retailers. I have a traditional publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton. I self-publish eBooks through Amazon and Smashwords, and Amazon publish five of my books. That was quite deliberate – it’s a bit like going to the roulette table and betting on zero, double zero, black and red. Whatever happens, I’m going to win. It works for me because I have a backlist of thirty novels and am capable of producing three or more novels a year. It wouldn’t work for everyone. In a way the timing was perfect for me – I’m old enough to have a long backlist but young enough to be able to produce a lot more books. A young writer starting out doesn’t have a backlist, and a writer at the end of their career doesn’t have the energy to do what is necessary to succeed in the new world of ePublishing.

  How did your traditional publishers take to your ePublishing ventures? I was lucky in that Hodder and Stoughton have been very supportive from the start and they were quick to realise that success in the eBook market would spill over to increased sales of my Hodder books. That is exactly what has happened – selling cheap (but good) eBooks has brought in thousands of new readers who have gone on to my the rest of my books. In effect my low-priced eBooks have been a marketing tool, though it’s fair to say that they have also turned into a decent revenue stream, too. The self-published books of mine that did really well – selling 350,000 eBooks in total – were The Basement, Once Bitten and Dreamer’s Cat. But Hodder and Stoughton did just as well with my first Spider Shepherd book, Hard Landing, selling around 150,000 copies of the eBook.

  Some of your successes were with books that had been rejected traditional presses: do you see that as a failing on their part? Not really. The three books – Once Bitten, The Basement and Dreamer’s Cat – were really novellas and therefore unlikely to be published traditionally. Even if Hodder had published them I doubt that they would have sold many.

  How do you think the traditional publishing world is coping with the shift towards eBooks? Not well, so far. I don’t think they understand pricing for example. They don’t get that readers are not happy about paying more for an eBook than a paperback. And they don’t understand the importance of marketing. They think that the key to success is still an article in The Guardian’s book pages and it’s not. Those days are gone. The readers have moved to the internet and if the publishing companies don’t follow they will lose them.

  Is publishing in a healthy state? They’re still making money. People are still buying books. Whether that continues to be the case remains to be seen. For sure the publishers that don’t adapt will go to the wall, there’s no question of that. Ditto bookstores. And that’s especially true for agents. The ones that don’t adapt will die. Writers are the ones most likely to benefit from ePublishing because for the first time they can pretty much deal direct with readers. To be honest it’s not ePublishing that I fear it’s the fact that a growing percentage of our country don’t – or can’t - read books. That’s the real threat that writers face.

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Erotic Short Stories!


Like most writers, I'm not entirely sure where the publishing world is headed. EReaders have changed everything, and the old rules don't apply any more.

I'm trying hard to forecast the future - I was certainly right when I saw the eBook boom coming at the end of 2010 and I sold more than half a million eBooks last year.

The question is what will happen next. Well, I have had my thinking cap on.

I'm pretty sure that the eReader revolution will revitalise the short story market.  With a paperback, buyers are very aware of how many words they are buying. In fact I'm pretty sure that my publisher puts lots of white space in my books so that the number of pages increases and buyers think they are getting a lot of pages for their money!

With an eReader word count isn't important, and I think buyers are going to start snapping up more short stories, especially if they are really cheap.  Also, I think readers don't always want to be reading a novel. For instance, if they are about to start a journey on a plane or a train that's only going to last an hour or so, maybe they would prefer a short story. Or if they're planning to read before sleeping, maybe they'd prefer a complete short story rather than a chapter of a novel. I've already self-published four locked room mysteries set in Singapore, featuring Detective Inspector Zhang. All are selling steadily and getting good reviews.

Now the really great thing about the eReader is that no one knows what you are buying, or what you are reading. This makes it a lot easier to buy and read erotica.  There are no more knowing looks from salespeople and no more disapproving stares on public transport. You can read what you want, when you want, on an eReader.  I'm sure that's what has helped the recent boom in sales of the Shades of Grey erotic novels by British writer EL James.  

So combining the two observations, I predict that there will be a boom in erotic short stories. And as I am always one to put my money where my mouth is, I have already self-published three of them!  The first is Banging Bill's Wife, where a young man is persuaded to help a husband satisfy his wife's fantasy. It's set in Thailand, a country I know well.  I self-published a book called Private Dancer, which is set in the go-go bars of a Bangkok red light area, and it has been a consistent bestseller, as a paperback in Thailand and as an eBook on Kindle and Smashwords.

I had a lot of fun writing Banging Bill's wife, and bought a terrific cover for it from the designer who does Joe Konrath's covers. I have to confess they're probably not that erotic as there are certain words that I have trouble typing!  I do try not to use too many swearwords in my thrillers ever since a reader wrote to say that by blaspheming I was guaranteeing myself a place in Hell.  I actually took her words to heart and asked my publisher to remove a phrase from my book Soft Target and ever since I have tried to only use swear words where they are really necessary.

I'm also not a fan of porn for porn's sake, I always prefer there to be a story along with it, so my erotic novels are really more about the story than the sex.  But I did give the sex scenes my best shot!


Anyway, you can buy Banging Bill's Wife  HERE IN THE US and HERE IN THE UK.

Next I wrote and published The Alphabet Game, where a sex tourist's life is changed forever when he sets out to sleep with girls whose name correspond to the letters of the alphabet. All goes well until he meets a girl called Zed...



You can buy it HERE IN THE US and HERE IN THE UK.

The third is The Pregnant Wife, about a young man who discovers a way of getting free sex in Thailand.  He has the life of his dreams until he meets Nok. And when Nok falls pregnant, Dave is in a quandry...


You can buy it HERE IN THE US and HERE IN THE UK.

Anyway, all three are now available on Kindle and on Smashwords. I'll let you know how I get on! And yes, I'm already working on the fourth - The Threesome.  Eventually I hope to have a dozen or so at which point I'll probably publish them as a collection under the title Asian Heat.  We'll see....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bookseller Magazine Interview

The Bookseller magazine recently interviewed me for an article on eBooks and my new Hodder and Stoughton book, False Friends. Here's the full transcript of the interview -


 Tell me about your book?

 The new book is False Friends, the ninth in the Spider Shepherd series. Shepherd is a former SAS trooper who becomes an undercover cop, then works for the Serious Organised Crime Agency and is now with MI5. In False Friends, Shepherd is responsible for the safety of two Asian students who have infiltrated Al-Qaeda. When the two are exposed, Shepherd has to put his life on the line to protect them. I wanted to explore what it was like to be a British-born Muslim in present-day England, and to show that the vast majority of Muslims are totally against the activities of Islamic terrorists. There is a sub-plot involving right-wing extremists who are planning their own terrorist atrocity. I think it’s my best yet. 


Has your recent digital success, added to the way the digital market has progressed, changed the way you write? Or the type of writing?

 In terms of the Spider Shepherd thrillers it’s business as usual. False Friends took about two months to research, five months to write and another month to edit. There are no short-cuts! A Spider Shepherd thriller has to be between 125,000 and 135,000 words, pretty much. EBooks are different. Length is less of an issue and the eBooks of mine that have done the best (The Basement and Once Bitten) are really novellas (between 50,000 and 60,000 words). Prior to the explosion in eBook sales, there really wasn’t a market for novellas. Most publishers wouldn’t be interested in publishing books of that length. I have also self-published several short stories as eBooks. Again, prior to the eBook boom there was no real market for short stories. I have written five about a fictional Singapore detective who gets to solve locked-room mysteries, and have self-published an erotic short story. I plan to do more. They are fun to write and allow me to push my creative limits. Prior to the eBook explosion there would have been mo market for work like that so I would either have given them away free on my website or not written them.


You’ve got four more Spider Shepherds to come: what kind of schedule have you got in mind, because I guess you write faster than a traditional publisher would expect to publish?

 I have a contract with Hodder and Stoughton for three more, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue beyond that. Spider ages in real time but he’s not yet forty so there’s plenty of life left in him. I’ll be doing one a year, the hardback/trade paperbacks are published in July and the mass market paperback in November. They take about six months to write and because of the nature of the books there’s no short-cut. Hodder wouldn’t want more than one Spider book a year. But I am writing my Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series during the months when I’m not working on the Spider book, so I do keep busy. I am productive, it comes from my years as a journalist when I would produce several thousand words of copy a day, every day.


You are known for self-publishing your backlist and Amazon publishing other titles: so why are you publishing this with a traditional publisher?

Actually my publisher Hodder and Stoughton publishes my backlist, more than two dozen titles in all. This is my twentieth year with Hodder and Stoughton and all my books are still in print. Though I caused quite a stir in the ePublishing world last year – I was the second-bestselling British author worldwide on Kindle behind Lee Child – in fact my self-published eBooks are a very small part of my creative output. The vast majority of my work – eBooks and paperbacks – are published by Hodder and Stoughton. The self-published books of mine that did really well – selling 350,000 eBooks in total – were The Basement, Once Bitten and Dreamer’s Cat. But Hodder and Stoughton did just as well with my first Spider Shepherd book, Hard Landing, selling around 150,000 copies of the eBook.


Has the deal/royalty arrangements offered changed since your independent success? For example, you write: "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." That seems a good deal?

 It’s a good deal for me, of course. But it’s a good deal for Hodder and Stoughton. It ties me to producing quality thrillers for them for at least the next three years which gives them time to promote and market my work confident that there are more books coming. It’s always much easier to sell books by an author who is producing books on a regular basis. And with so many writers rushing to self-publish, I think we’ll see more publishers signing their authors up to longer publishing deals.


You write of your Kindle success: "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 Amazon.co.uk. 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." Can you describe how you took advantage of this initiative and why you think your books have been so successful as e-books?

The number of e-readers in the United Kingdom doubled over Christmas 2010. One in twelve adults in Britain received an e-reader as a Christmas present. The thing is, I knew in advance that was going to happen and how I could take advantage of it. I put three of my unpublished books – The Basement, Once Bitten and Dreamer’s Cat - on Kindle in late October. I spent November and December marketing the books so that on Christmas Day I had all three in the Top 5 of the Kindle Bestseller list.

I figured that on Christmas morning hundreds of thousands (though even I didn’t predict three million!) of people would be opening their Christmas presents and discovering that they had an e-reader. And I knew that the first thing they would do would be to start buying books and that many would go to the Kindle bestseller list for suggestions. And that’s why I sold 7,000 copies on Christmas Day, another 5,000 on Boxing Day, and 44,000 in December as a whole. It was a total one-off and will almost certainly never be repeated. It happened because back then there were very few writers self-publishing. Plus I was selling them at the lowest price that Amazon would allow. Plus I was able to produce a professional product - well written, well-edited and with well-designed covers.

Following my success, pretty much every person who has written a book has rushed to self-publish. The vast majority are pretty awful and sink without trace, but there is now so much rubbish out there that it’s hard for a new writer to get noticed. In the old days of publishing, a writer would have to get an agent and the agent would go looking for a publishing deal. That process weeded out most of the unpublishable works, those books that are so badly-written that they shouldn’t ever see the light of day. The writer of an unpublishable book would hopefully learn from the rejection and go on to write better books.

The problem now is that Amazon and Smashwords really don’t care about the quality of the books that they sell. You can – literally – put anything you want up for sale, from your laundry list to the worst poetry imaginable. They don’t care. They will allow you to sell it no matter how bad it is. That means that a lot of self-published writers don’t realise how awful their work is and think that the only reason they are not selling is that they are not doing enough marketing and self-promotion. That is the downside of the ePublishing revolution. Some have described it as ‘The tsunami of crap.’ How bad is it? My best example is the eBook bestseller that described the villain as ‘roofless’.


You say that your e-book success may have spurred your p-book success, and that your publisher has supported this development. That suggests that publishers are more flexible than you might imagine?

I was lucky in that Hodder and Stoughton have been very supportive from the start and they were quick to realise that success in the eBook market would spill over to increased sales of my Hodder books. That is exactly what has happened – selling cheap (but good) eBooks has brought in thousands of new readers who have gone on to my the rest of my books. In effect my low-priced eBooks have been a marketing tool, though it’s fair to say that they have also turned into a decent revenue stream, too.


Yet you still refer to them as "legacy pubishers"? Does this mean you think they are going out of business?

Ha ha! No, I tend to use legacy to mean traditional, that’s all. You have to use the jargon unfortunately and most people use legacy to mean the big publishing companies like Hodder. Legacy to me just means that they have been around for a while! One bit of jargon I refuse to use is the ‘dead tree books’ thing. I hate that. There’s no reason that paperbacks can’t just be called paperbacks. Another bit of jargon that has taken off is this business of self-published writers calling themselves “Indie” writers, as if they were ashamed of calling themselves “self-published”. I try not to use the term “Indie”. There’s nothing wrong with describing a book as “self-published” and nothing to be ashamed of. Books that were self-published include Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of things Past, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Beatrix Potter’s The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and John Grisham’s A Time to Kill.


It also suggests that traditional publishers have been behind the curve?

They are like huge oil tankers ploughing across the ocean. They are so massive that they are very hard to turn and they react very slowly. It is difficult for them because the business was unchanged for many many years and when change came it came very quickly. I saw it coming and was able to adapt, they got taken by surprise. But they are changing, slowly but surely.


You may be the first truly hybrid author/publisher: traditional deal for some books, self-pub'd for others, Amazon pub'd in the US. Is this something you deliberately sought to create, and do you think it can work for other writers?

I don’t know anyone who has as many legs to their publishing career as me. I self publish paperbacks in Asia, printing books and delivering them to retailers. I have a traditional publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton. I self-publish eBooks through Amazon and Smashwords, and Amazon publish five of my books. That was quite deliberate – it’s a bit like going to the roulette table and betting on zero, double zero, black and red. Whatever happens, I’m going to win. It works for me because I have a backlist of thirty novels and am capable of producing three or more novels a year. It wouldn’t work for everyone.

In a way the timing was perfect for me – I’m old enough to have a long backlist but young enough to be able to produce a lot more books. A young writer starting out doesn’t have a backlist, and a writer at the end of their career doesn’t have the energy to do what is necessary to succeed in the new world of ePublishing. John Le Carre for instance recently announced that he wasn’t going to be replying to emails from fans any more. I absolutely understand his decision but it won’t win him new readers. These days part of the key to succeeding as an author is to interact with your readers.


You write: "It was that advance that launched my career as a full-time writer and changed my life forever." But the new model could be advance free for most writers, does this worry you?

It doesn’t worry me at all because with my earnings stream I can survive without advances. Most of my backlist books have earned out their advances and are still selling. But it makes it that much harder for a new writer who is just getting started. The payment of advances means that a young writer can devote himself full-time to his craft without worrying about how he was going to pay his bills. If publishers stop paying out large advances to new writers it’s going to be that much harder for them to produce quality work. I was lucky. Twenty years ago Hodder gave me a large advance for my book The Chinaman which meant that I could devote myself to writing full-time. I haven’t looked back.

I do worry that the rush to self-published eBooks means that publishers will stop paying out advances and new writers will find it that much harder to get started. But on the plus side, a new writer who writes eBooks books that sell can make money almost immediately through Amazon and Smashwords. Within weeks of putting an eBook up for sale, royalty cheques start dropping through the letterbox.


Will you be out touring the bookshops? Do you view how street booksellers in the way you have in the past view publishers, and if so, how should they change?

If you had asked me that ten years ago I would have said that touring around bookstores was a vital part of marketing an author’s work. These days I’m not convinced. The supermarkets now sell more books than bookstores and there’s no real point in visiting them. There’s even less point in visiting a bookstore. Having said that, I do spend more time than ever interacting with readers and fans. I do that through Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. Every day I talk to readers and listen to what they’re saying, I bounce ideas off them and discuss plots, covers, and characters. I have even started using some of the more enthusiastic as proof-readers. Readers have moved from the bookstores to the internet, and I’ve moved with them.


You wrote: "The Bookseller has been making predictions of what the industry will be like over the next year or so. Well, I have a few predictions of my own, but I'll wait until the New Year before revealing them!" Go on then . . .

Ha ha! Yes, I said that in my blog at the start of the year. But then I realised that thousands of self-published authors pretty much copy every move I make so if I tell them what I’m doing they will rush to do it too and I’ll lose any advantage I might have had. I have a pretty good idea of what’s happening at Amazon and generally it’s not going to be great for self-published authors and I think the established publishers will tighten their grip on the eBook bestseller lists. That’s already happened in the States and it will happen here, sooner rather than later. I have a strategy for dealing with that, but I’m keeping it under wraps.

But if you want predictions, sure. I think the days of chains of booksellers have gone for good. Their overheads are just too crippling. I think we will see a revitalisation of independently-run bookstores once they have worked out how to profit from eBooks.

I think agents will be the hardest hit by the eBook revolution. There is almost no negotiation with Amazon over royalty rates so if you are dealing with them it’s pointless to pay an agent fifteen per cent. It used to be agents who acted as the gatekeepers – more trendy jargon – and they pretty much decided who got published and who didn’t but that has changed. Self-published authors who do well are quickly spotted. The market acts as the gatekeeper - if a hundred thousand people buy an eBook you don’t need an agent to give it a stamp of approval. If publishers realise that they will start to do what they used to do and go looking for talent themselves. The biggest mistake publishers made was to do away with their slush piles and only take submissions from agents. That is already changing.

Publishers will change, that’s a given. I think most will survive but they will have to change the way they work. Their function will be to spot talent and to market it. That might mean having imprints that are only for eBooks. There is so much rubbish being self-published that eventually the market will turn to the publishers for an assurance that they are buying a quality product. So I envisage a reader going to Hachette’s site, for instance, knowing that only quality books will be on sale there. Or a site that sells only crime novels. Or horror.

I think the eReader revolution will change our reading habits. It will revitalise the short story market. If someone is getting a plane or a train and knows that their journey will only last an hour or so, of if they have a short lunch break, I think they will start looking for short stories rather than starting a full-length novel. I think erotica and even porn will become more marketable because there is no embarrassment factor when purchasing and nobody knows what you are reading. There’s no embarrassing cover to hide. I’m already working on a line of erotic short stories.

I don’t think publishers need to worry about pricing because I think people will realise that quality has to be paid for. Personally I see mainstream books settling out at about a fiver each. And I see that fiver being split equally between the publisher, the retailer, and the author. But that’s a few years down the line. Long term I’m very optimistic about the publishing industry, I think far from hurting the industry the eReader will totally revitalise it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Paranormal Radio Interview

Amazon are publishing my Jack Nightingale supernatural detective trilogy and the first book - Nightfall - is already out. I was recently interviewed by ISIS Paranormal Radio - you can hear the interview here!
Listen to internet radio with ISISXParanormal on Blog Talk Radio

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Midnight In America


Amazon are preparing to publish Midnight - the second book in the Jack Nightingale series - in the States. They are doing the final edit and already have the cover.

The first book in the series - Nightfall - was published by Amazon's 47 North imprint last week and is already in the Kindle US Top 200.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Amazon's Top 10 British eBook Writers - And I'm Number 2

Amazon.co.uk has just announced that Lee Child is the most successful British Kindle book author worldwide, followed by me and Ken Follett.

The company has released a list of the top-10 bestselling UK-born Kindle e-book authors, based on purchases from 1st January 2011 onwards in the US, UK, France, Spain and Italy.

Lee is great but truth be told he's way behind me in terms of UK sales. The bulk of his eBook sales have been in the US, where I don't sell that many.

Anyway, here's Amazon's top 10 of British authors.





SEE THE FULL STORY HERE

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Basement is Number 2 in Germany!



The Basement just took the Number 2 spot in the German Kindle store. It's in English, too! The reason for the sudden surge is that today it was made the Kindle Daily Deal in Germany. That's pretty much a guarantee of success. When The Basement was made the Kindle Daily Deal in the US it reached the Number slot, though only for a few hours. Unfortunately I was asleep so never managed to get a screen shot, but I do have a picture of it at Number 2! Hopefully this will lead to more sales for me in Germany. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nightfall - the US edition




Nightmare - the third book in the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series will be published by Hodder and Stoughton in the UK next week - following on from Nightfall and Midnight.

It rounds off the trilogy but sets the scene for a continuing series based around Jack - solving crimes and battling the forces of darkness. I have great fun writing the Nightingale books and the research is a blast!

Meanwhile, Amazon is preparing to publish the first book - Nightfall - in the United States. They will be using their 47North imprint and will have the book out in March, followed soon afterwards by the other two. It's going to be exciting seeing them launched onto the American market!

Amazon have had great success with the two eBooks of mine that they have published - The Basement and Once Bitten. The Basement topped both the US and the UK Kindle charts which I think is pretty amazing. I'm hoping that 47North will have similar success with the Nightingale series. The KIndle has opened up the publishing world to independent writers in a way that a few years ago they could only have dreamed of, but there's no doubt that success is easier to achieve once you have Amazon's awesome marketing weight behind you.