Kindle Scout one year on – was it worth it?

Jacqueline WardIt’s one year ago today since my crime novel Random Acts of Unkindness was published by Kindle Press following a successful Kindle Scout Campaign. Was it worth it? The short answer is an emphatic ‘yes’! This article will look in more detail at just how Kindle Scout and Kindle Press helped my writing career.

Visibility

I have written about visibility in other articles, but this really is an advantage of both the Kindle Scout campaign and Kindle Press publication. The campaign is a win/win situation, with publication if you are selected and notification of self-publication to all those who supported you – often up to 3k nominators who want to read your book – if not.
If you are published by Kindle Press you will receive Amazon Promotions. This is because Kindle Press, like traditional publishers, use Amazon  to promote their authors work. There has been much discussion about this on internet forums but the bottom line is that Kindle Press use Amazon promotions. In my case, they also promoted via a UK Bookbub advertisement which took me in to UK top 50 Amazon Paid chart and top 100 in the US.
Visibility is everything.

Author Platform

Getting a platform is difficult. It’s a combination of sales, promotion, visibility and PR. My strategy was to build an author platform and then to try for an agent. I want to try everything – self-publishing, indie publishing and traditional publishing. I want the whole experience but I wasn’t going to get it without a platform.
Kindle Press publication gave me that platform. In my letter to agents I was able to showcase my PR, visibility and thousands of unit sales in real time. The book I was submitting needed to be great, but in today’s publishing world even traditionally published authors need to show they can market themselves and their book. Kindle Scout and Kindle Press gave me the experience to do this.
I got the agent and I got the deal.

Opportunity to Learn from Other Authors

I’m not a ‘forum’ person. I like to stay focused on the task at hand and I’m not big on chit-chat. When I was selected for Kindle Press publication I was admitted to the Kindle Press Winners forum. I gave it a chance and I’m so glad I did – the group are the most focused, dedicated, kind, successful and sharing people I have ever met. There are participants from all over the world and in the space of a year I have learned about algorithms, paperback formatting, marketing, promotion and lot of other things. I have had short stories included in their anthologies and discovered wonderful writing from my Kindle Press co-authors.
I learned how to market myself and my work.

Soft skills – confidence and understanding

As most authors know, writing isn’t all about sales. It’s mainly about – well – writing! But unless you are happy for your writing to remain on a flashdrive in your desk drawer, you need the confidence to send it out and have other people read it. This is not easy.
Combined with this is direction. What and who are you writing for? Will you only ever consider a traditional deal, or are you willing to self-publish? Everyone is different and, to make direction decision even more difficult, there is a certain amount of snobbery around the traditional/indie/self-published dynamic.
Confidence leads to understanding and once you have an awareness of how and why the traditional/indie/self-publishing dynamic is constructed between writers (look out for a future blog post about this!), it is easier to make your own choice based on your own confidence in the quality of your work.
I decided on a three-step process for all my work. Put it out there and try to have it traditionally or independently published (which is where Kindle Scout came in) and if that door closes, open the next one and self publish. I now have the platform and marketing skills to make this work, so why not?
I know the full range of publishing options and I’m not afraid to try them.

One year on…

Jacqueline WardThis time last year I had one book published. Tomorrow I will have five published works, in ebook and paperback, with a traditional two-book deal with Corvus Atlantic Books in the pipeline. It’s been quite a year, mostly spent with one eye on Amazon rankings. I’ve met brilliant people and read fabulous books and published my own offerings which people have bought and loved. That’s all I ever wanted but the Kindle Scout and Kindle Press experience brought so much more.

 

What would Margaret do? Meeting my literary hero Margaret Atwood

Late September I went to the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester to watch Margaret Atwood in conversation with Erica Wagner. Flashback to six months previously when I had seen the tickets go on sale and hovered in excitement over the ‘buy’ button until exactly 10am and then feverishly filled in the space in my diary, and I never dreamed I would actually meet her.

Margaret Atwood is my literary hero. Ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale I have been in awe of her. I’ve read most of her books and she, along with Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchet, Alan Garner and Tolkien, made me a lifelong reader of speculative fiction. Her writing also inspired me to write my current novel, SmartYellowTM.

As a reader and writer of speculative fiction, I understand that it is often considered as the poor relative of of genre of fiction. A useful article in the New Statesman with Neil Gaiman and Kazou Ishiguro in conversation says this better than I ever could. But writers such as these and Margaret Atwood have championed speculative fiction, bringing it into the bestsellers book charts and pushing the boundaries of the imagination a few steps outside reality.

So off I went with my daughter to see Margaret. There theatre was packed and silent in anticipation, and she came out to rapturous applause.

She talked for almost an hour about how she came to write, what she did before that, telling us that she spent time in academia, but fell into writing novels after she heard about an unexpected film proposal. She talked about how she got her ideas from things that have happened around her and that she garners the speculative nature of the ideas in her books from almost anything that has a grain of reality or is, at least, possible. The more I heard her talk, the more I realized that she was like most of us – amazed that we can do what we love to create.

Even at this stage in her career, she sounded humbled by the attention her work received and by the questions asked by the audience. That afternoon we were treated to Margaret Atwood’s world viewpoint, which is very down to earth and funny.

There was a book signing afterwards and we waited. We were last in the queue and, as we approached, I started to feel quite emotional that I was actually going to meet her. She’d been signing books for over an hour and was a little tired and I was completely overwhelmed by fandom, but we managed a small chat and I don’t remember a word!

What I do remember was the return of the burning ambition and passion to write, write, write, so thank you Margaret for your perseverance and your shining example to readers and writers everywhere. When doubt strikes in the future, as it inevitably will, my motto, from now on, is ‘What would Margaret do?’

SmartYellowTM available electronically and in paperback from http://www.amazon.co.uk/SmartYellowTM-J-Christy-ebook/dp/B011F3SE6M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448748137&sr=8-1&keywords=smartyellow

 

 

Brokenhearted

So I got through this week. I got through it and I don’t know how. I somehow did my work and I completed my edits. I wrote a story outline and set it to my agent. All the while I was on a kind of remote control, sleepwalking through the day. Brokenhearted.

Manchester BeeYou see, I love my city. I was raised on a 1970’s world where love meant romance and boys – wasn’t that what the pop songs said? It wasn’t until I was much older that I realised there are different kinds of love. I love my children and I love my partner. I’ve loved the animals I’ve looked after, dogs and cats.

I first knew that I loved Manchester when I was stranded in Cyprus, miserable in the sunshine and missing the rain. I missed it and I dreamed of the Arndale every night. I missed the flat vowels and Piccadilly Gardens. I missed Oldham, too, where I was born. But I ‘lived’ in Manchester. I discover punk there and inadvertently saw the bands who would forge Madchester in local bars.

Wen I returned I went clubbing and sat on the pavements late at night eating chips, tipsy with joy at the sound of the Manchester accent. I got a job there. I worked in the city for fifteen years, spending every lunchtime drinking it in. The libraries, galleries, and theaters followed pubbing and clubbing as I matured. I watched the gargoyles high on the roofs and marvelled at the underground tunnels and the gems of libraries.

I studied there and became a doctor there. I shopped, danced, ran a race, laughed, cried, sang. Manchester people are my people.

I met the person I will spend the rest of my life there, at the Apollo Theatre watching a Manchester band and he moved to my Manchester to be with me because he knew that I couldn’t bear to leave again.

I danced at the Hacienda, Sankey’s, South, and a multitude of tiny venues.  I saw hundreds of bands and singers at the Apollo, the Ritz, Band on the Wall, The Roadhouse. And Manchester Arena. I saw Prince there two years ago, one of the best nights of my life.

ManchesterI watched football at Old Trafford and saw Bruce Springsteen and Oasis at the Etihad. I ‘lived’ in Manchester.

Most of the people I have come into contact with this week have shared my sorrow at what has happened here. An unspeakable act of violence against, primarily, people attending a concert at the Arena. But also against my city. Mostly, people have been kind to each other, helped each other. Talked and understood the vivid grief. Felt my quiet fury and shared theirs with me. Understood.

But some people haven’t been kind. Some people who have somehow arrived my life have told me that ‘they’re not interested’ or ‘it’s washed over them’ because ‘they are used to it’. Which, if true, is their business. But anyone who knows me knows I love my city. So why would they say this to me? It can only be to make me suffer more. I pride myself on tolerance, but I know when something, or someone, isn’t in my best interests and when to step away. This is one of the few times in my life that I will close ranks and disassociate myself with those who simply don’t care.

I feel desperate sorrow for the families if the victims of the attack on Manchester. I still can’t speak about and I can only just write about it. Innocent children were killed. My thoughts are with the families that have lost someone in this atrocity, I have no words for that. The city is numb with grief for them and I am part of that grief, but I will also be part of its recovery. Pull together. I’ll find a way to contribute, to help the families who have lost people and to explain to my grandchildren that life is somehow sometimes like this.

I love Manchester but I’m heartbroken.

 

My official reaction to Ian Brady’s death

I have been asked to give my reaction to Ian Brady’s death and I would just like to say that after all the research into his disgusting crimes I thought I would be glad, but now all I feel is more sorrow for the families of his victims, especially those who will never know the truth. My heart goes out to them tonight and always.

 

Alan Garner, books and me: growing up in other worlds

I never could have imagined how opening books as a child would have an effect on the rest of my life. Long before I heard of Tolkien’s Hobbit, I went hand in hand with Alan Garner’s Colin and Susan to Alderley Edge in the pages of The Weirdstone of Brisinghamen.

I would have been about seven when I first read that book. I was a solitary child, so Colin and Susan became my first imaginary friends. I couldn’t have known then that I was accessing retold folklore and how this would affect my own journey.

The Weirdstone of Brisinghamen, like so many other children’s fantasy stories and books, is a quest narrative. In this case, Susan and Colin carry a tear shaped gem to safety. Inspired by an ancient story local to Alderley Edge, The Wizard of the Edge, they are helped by the Wizard Cadellin to overcome many obstacles.

I devoured Garner’s books and begged my parents to take me to Alderley Edge, where I was sure that I would find Cadellin and the Owls. I never went there as a child, but as an adult I visited and re-imagined the Weirdstone story locations. When, in 2012, Garner released the final book in the triolgy, Boneland, I was delighted and reviewed it here. It closed an episode for me, and helped me to understand how these stories had influence my interests in life.

Between my first reading of the Weirdstone and reading Boneland I read Lewis and Tolkien, Pratchett and Gaiman, Atwood and Thomas. In the background of my reading were ancient tales, picked up and rehashed in modern terms, telling me about good and evil, morals and ethics.

In particular, the Weirdstone talked to me about wizards, witches, dwarves and elves and normalised these for me. Impossible, according to reason, my parents and my Sunday school teacher, but, at the edges of my imagination, where reality frays into fiction, the truths were already blurred, making me question the overarching narratives of my early teenage years.

I know now that this opened my eyes to the world and helped me to have a wider viewpoint. Garner’s stories helped me to imagine and to develop what would later become an understanding of stories and what they do by telling and retelling over the centuries. To grow up in other worlds, which made this world more interesting. To understand the past and how other people had imagined it.

My adult imagination connected Garner’s imaginings, with local folklore at its root, with the legend of King Arthur, and Merlin as the Wizard of the Edge, as many have in the past.

I’ve never met Alan Garner, but every time I pass The Merlin pub on my way to Chelford I remember the Weirdstone and Susan’s bracelet and how a little girl sat on her bedroom window sill in Oldham and imagined the world.

The Road to Publication: My Book Deal Moment…

It’s Christmas 2016 and I’m making list and checking it twice – a list of literary agents. It’s taken me two years to write my latest novel Perfect Ten and now, after much polishing and reading, it’s time to send it out to try to get a book deal.

I’m no stranger to submitting novels to agents. This would be the seventh time I had sent a novel out. I’d honed my list of agents to those who had encouraged my work but I was still undecided about sending out another novel. I’d successfully completed a Kindle Scout campaign in 2016 and had two crime novels published by them which were doing fine, so why bother?

My publishing rationale has always been to explore all avenues. I’d enjoyed being published by the lovely people at Elsewhen Press and by Amazon imprint Kindle Press, but this novel didn’t fit either of those publishers. It’s a psychological thriller/women’s fiction crossover so I thought I would try for a suitable home.

I sent Perfect Ten out on 3rd January 2017 and sat back for the usual two to three-month wait while agents scrutinised their slush pile. But I started to get responses from agents the same afternoon asking for full manuscripts, which I sent. I’d taken an extra day off work and when I returned to my desk on the 5th January my phone rang and it was Judith Murray from Green and Heaton Literary agents. She loved the novel and was eager to meet up the following Monday.

Judith is a super-agent with an impressive track record of working with authors such as Sarah Waters and Lucy Atkins and I was only too pleased to travel to London to meet her. We had a wonderful lunch and I just knew that she as the right person to represent me. She was passionate about the novel and we talked for hours about it and the plans she had.

Over the next weeks I worked on Judith’s notes. I had offers to meet other agents but I had to refuse. Judith and I were on the same page and as we went forward with the novel we agreed that she would represent me and send the novel out to editors.

It was very exciting – even more exciting than I had dreamed about all those years. The novel went out and there was interest and we accepted an offer from Sara O’Keefe at Corvus Atlantic Books. I went to meet Sara and her team at their offices in Bloomsbury and they are absolutely wonderful. We talked about plans for Perfect Ten and about a second book and I knew that this was absolutely the right home for my writing.

I have a two-book deal! There was champagne,  apricot souffle and tears of joy. I cannot explain what this means to me. After ten years of submitting manuscripts and some near misses it all happened so quickly. It’s been a long road and even though I am compelled to write it’s been difficult at times. I can’t thank Judith Murray, who has become a lovely friend as well as my agent, enough for her hard work and dedication in finding Perfect Ten the perfect home. And thank you to Corvus Books for believing in it.

Perfect Ten will be published in Spring 2018 by Corvus Books.

 

New Cover for Random Acts of Unkindness

It’s Kindle Press’ 2nd anniversary, and the 1st anniversary of the publication of Random Acts of Unkindness, so Kindle Press have kindly revamped the cover.

I love it! What do you think?

The past year since Random Acts of Unkindness was published has been extraordinary. The book itself has caused lots of discussion and this week I’m going to address some of the questions that have been asked about it.

I the meantime, thank you to Kindle Press and thank you to everyone who bought Random Acts of Unkindness and Playlist for a Paper Angel so far.

Random Acts of Unkindness (DS Jan Pearce Crime Fiction Series)

I’m delighted to announce…

…that I am now represented by Judith Murray at Greene & Heaton Literary Agency.

It’s been a wonderful start to the year with a warm response so far for my next novel. I sent it out at the beginning of January and met Judith. Later that week she agreed to represent me.

This is a very exciting time and I will post updates as I have them.

 

Happy New Year!

It’s the start of a new year and I woke up on the 1st of January to find out that Random Acts of Unkindness was in the Australian Amazon top 10! I also got the news that it will also be included in the US Amazon Prime Reading Program for three months from January, so with Playlist for a Paper Angel released on 27th December and making its mark I can reveal my writing plans for 2017.

My big news is that the prequel to the DS Jan Pearce series will be released at the end of March. It’s called Paper Dolls and tells the story of how Jan came to work in Manchester. If you would like to know more about this and receive updates about the DS Jan Pearce series please sign up to my mailing list on the right panel of this page.

I am contributing to two anthologies in the first quarter of the year. One of them has a theme of new beginnings and will be released in the spring, and the other one is a sci-fi anthology.

As well as all this, plans are in the pipeline for a psychological thriller that is newly finished – more about this in future posts.

For now, thank you for all your support in 2016, particularly with my Kindle Scout campaign that changed my life. All the best to you and your in 2017.

 

Publication Day for Playlist for a Paper Angel!

It’s finally here! Playlist for a Paper Angel is published today!

The sequel to DS Jan Pearce novel Random Acts of Unkindness, Playlist for a Paper Angel finds Jan still searching for her son, Aiden, when a small child is found alone in the street.

 

‘One child found, one child missing – what’s the connection?

DS Jan Pearce is still searching for her missing son. When she finds a little girl, Elise, alone in a pram in a busy town centre, she must unravel a mystery that takes her to the edge of her emotions. Then another child, Dara Price, goes missing.

Lisa Connelly, Elise’s mother, has been forced into a life of prostitution and has been leaving her little girl alone. Her gangland boss is holding her prisoner but she wants her little girl back.

Jan finds herself balancing her search for her son with finding Dara. Her right hand man, Mike Waring, is on another case so she and her temporary partner, profiler Damien Booth, must solve the puzzle and find Lisa before time runs out for Dara.

Playlist for a Paper Angel is set in Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham and Saddleworth. Featuring the moors as a backdrop, Jan is joined by Dr Damien Booth, a profiler on a secondment from London, to help her solve a missing person case.’

The ebook version is published today – if you haven’t read Book 1 Random Acts of Unkindness yet it’s on sale at 99p at the moment so snap up both books for under £5.

Look out for the prequel to the series which will be published in March 2017 and Book 3 later in the year.