Juggernaut: out now in paperback and Kindle ebook

Finally released into the wild is Juggernaut, my sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's [The] Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde!

It's out in paperback and in Kindle ebook from Amazon. 

Here's the back cover blurb: 

"A thrilling new sequel to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

1911. London is in limbo between two monarchs. Edward is dead and George not yet crowned. 

Ex-military doctor Toby Latimer is lately installed in private practice after Boer War service. His life is easy, his indolence assuaged by East End charitable work. 

Latimer is summoned to an irascible client. He finds he's been summoned to witness a will reading. The will is that of one Edward Hyde. 

And now, Latimer's life is anything but straightforward... 

Presented here as a chilling double-bill in one volume for the first time: Robert Louis Stevenson's [The] Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde together with Eamonn Martin Griffin's all-new continuation, Juggernaut."

So don't worry if you've not read the Robert Louis Stevenson original as that's included in the book as a bonus for you, though you don't need to have read it as homework before reading Juggernaut

If you're not a newsletter subscriber, please sign up here. There's a monthly email that comes from me; April's edition (sent out on the 1st of the month) will have information about a special Juggernaut-related gift just for subscribers.

Hope you enjoy Juggernaut! Let me know in comments below, or else in online reviews...

Books now available through Kobo and Smashwords

Have finally got around to uploading both Torc and The Prospect of This City to both Kobo and Smashwords, which means that they're available for all e-readers and mobile devices. This means that those who prefer not to buy their books from Amazon can join in the fun too. 

In future, if there's stuff that I self-publish, I won't do it exclusively through Amazon, but will release simultaneously across multiple retailers. At present, though, the paperback versions of both books are only available via Amazon. Am still investigating alternatives, though the economics of self-publishing on my modest scale don't lend themselves readily to anything but a print-on-demand option (which is what Amazon do).

Anyway, you can find me on Smashwords, and on Kobo for all your ebook needs, in addition to Amazon.     

Torc: a sneak preview of a new novel

I've got a new book coming out in a few weeks. It's called Torc. It's several things: a book set in Scotland with two young female protagonists; it's got timeslip elements as well as some historical features, being set half in the present, and half in the second century.

The book's in the final stages of being prepped and proofed at the minute; a cover's on its way as well. However, here's a heads-up on the opening...

Torc: chapter one

Ailsa stood barefoot on the sand, looking out to where the river met the sea. She loved this, the hour between night-time and daylight, and she loved the freedom that she had, that her parents gave her, to come down here on her own and be one with the morning.

The time was precious for a hundred reasons.

Because this was the hour that she could be alone. Because this was the hour she could think. Because this was the hour that she could learn about the ways that the sun and the sky and the sand and the sea worked with each other, and as one in unity. Together these elements made sense. Together they made Scotland.

An hour wasn’t enough. It would soon be over and then the day’s work would begin. When it was term time she was excused chores in the hotel that her mother and father ran, but now out of school as the summer holidays had begun, she had to do her full share, eleven years old and or not.

That was another reason to be up and out of bed, to slip on a tee-shirt and some shorts and just get down here quiet and quick. It wasn’t just about the landscape or the whisper of the sea breaking at the water’s edge. It was about claiming some time for herself.

That was all the more important now. Most children, she supposed, were like her friends at school and had the long summer weeks to go on organised family holidays or to laze around at home and do what they wanted. Ailsa’s life wasn’t like that. Her parents’ hotel was just a small one - with nine bedrooms, a bar and a restaurant - but this was their busy time of year. 

Through the winter they just about got by, mostly with walkers and climbers, sometimes the odd party of out-of-season artists or photographers, bird watchers, history nerds and archaeology fans. They came for the views and the rare species, the quiet wilderness, the heritage trail and the ancient monuments not far off. But money was tight, though she knew her Ma and Da did what they could to shield her from it, and everything relied on the summer so they’d have enough in the bank to see them through the dark slow months till the clocks went forward again and with that movement, a more certain shift in trade.

The summer customers were different. They were richer, for one thing, or at least more prepared to spend what they’d saved. And there were more of them. The hotel was pretty much booked up right through to the new school year beginning, and having all those people coming through the doors meant that everyone was expected to do more than just help out.

Breakfast was Ailsa’s allotted time; and yet another reason to be both awake and getting some time for herself right now. She was needed in the kitchen by six a.m. so that they could be ready to start serving meals by seven. Breakfast ran through till ten o’clock; sometimes people slept in late, and there were often day-trippers who’d walk in unannounced for something to eat too. They were a pain, but their custom couldn’t be turned away. Another hour, until eleven, to clean down the dining room and lay tables for lunch, and then Ailsa was free for the rest of the day.

Things were different this week though.

Ailsa was babysitting.

Not the toddler kind of babysitting; all kiddie cartoons on the telly and pretending to be enthusiastic at whatever doodles the kid had drawn or their repetitive games with toy cars or dolls or whatever. They had family staying, and that meant Ailsa was expected to entertain her cousin Tom.

Ailsa was now at the water’s edge, white foam sliding over her where the sea broke over her toes. The cold was comforting. It felt real, natural, honest. 

Da had his brother, Uncle Harry, and his wife Aunt May, staying. That meant their son, Tom, was with them too. And by ‘staying’, that was exactly what was meant. They weren’t in the spare room of the flat her family shared on the top floor of the hotel. Uncle Harry had insisted on them coming as paying guests. ‘You’re running a business, Davey,’ he’d said. ‘We’re no different from any other customer. The hotel’s got to pay its way, and that means us paying too.’

Ailsa always felt weird when she heard her Da spoken to as though he was a little brother. He was one, she supposed, to Uncle Harry, but that didn’t make it right. It sounded patronising, and besides, no-one called him by his first name. To her mother he was a soft-spoken “McCulloch” and to the few regulars that there were to be had, he was “Mr Mac” or sometimes “Cully”. To Ailsa he was “Dad” or more often and more simply “Da”. But “Davey”, “David” or any other variation? No.  

A seagull came in low over the water, grazing the waves on the down-flap of its wings, before arcing back up into the sky. It wheeled, apparently banking around for another run in the opposite direction, but then it broke off and started flying away. Maybe whatever had attracted it to the water, something glittering like moving fish, had shifted off and the gull had gone to try its luck elsewhere.

The bay faced due west, more or less. That meant the sun rose behind them, but it also meant that the sunsets could be incredible.

Flecks of sunlight caught the gull’s now-beating wings. And then the bird disappeared. Alisa stared into the still half-dark sky until watching after the bird made her eyes hurt.

That was when she realised something. Uncle Harry and the others had arrived late the night before having driven the three hours across from Edinburgh and there’d not really been the time for anything other than quick hellos.

Ailsa would see them at breakfast. Worse, she’d be taking their orders and serving them at their table.

The gull was gone, the sky empty. Ailsa couldn’t feel her toes. The comfort of the cold had turned to numbness.

Ailsa trudged back up the beach to the hotel. Today was Monday. They were staying over until Thursday morning. That meant three full days, and four breakfast sittings, to put up with cousin Tom and his stupid city smugness.

 

They’d had the hotel almost as long as Ailsa could remember. Once, when they’d been asked to write a story on their first memories, for an English class, Ailsa had filled three pages with her arrival here in Darachmouth and at The New Hotel. She could only have been two and was still being wheeled about in a buggy, but nevertheless she packed those three pages with her tight but not-yet-neat writing about the day she’d first seen the hotel; when they’d come over the little bridge which separated the car park from the hotel and found it, all white walls and black-painted windows and sign, all of it framed by the beach and sea beyond. Ma still had the exercise book she’d done the writing in, tucked away in one of the boxes in the attic along with her baby shoes and clippings from her first haircut.

Eight years ago. The way you heard grown-ups talking about it, an amount of time like eight years was nothing. They were wrong. Eight years was Ailsa’s whole life, or at least the parts of it that she could remember, and in all that time she’d never had cousin Tom staying over.

He and his family had visited, of course, and Ailsa’s own family had been over themselves to Edinburgh a few times, but not often, and never overnight.

There was something about this visit. Something different. Something off. Ailsa knew, the way you just know sometimes, without anyone in the room ever saying out loud that a problem exists, that there’s an issue.

It was there last night in the hellos when Tom and Uncle Harry and Aunt May had turned up. An awkwardness in the greetings, like they weren’t family, but strangers who’d met for the first time and had been told by others to be friendly to each other.

Ailsa got down on her haunches and pressed her hands into the wet sand. The squelching sounds the sand made when she pulled her fingers free always made her smile. Nearby there were worm-casts from lugworms, curly brown squiggles breaking up the smoothness of the sand. Maybe that’s what the bird had been on the lookout for.

Behind her, a shout. Ma, calling her in.

Ailsa turned and waved, holding her sandy left hand splayed out. Four fingers and a thumb. Five minutes. Please.

The wave and pointing-to-the-wrist gesture back was unmistakable. Okay. Five minutes. No more.

Ailsa turned back to the water and counted in her head - in elephants: one elephant, two elephants - to three hundred. By the time she finished the count, the water was up to her ankles and she couldn’t feel anything from her knees down because of the cold of the water.

Then she ran back up the beach to the hotel to get a shower and to get changed into her kitchen clothes and to begin the breakfast service.

She kept the thought of the water’s cold inside. If Tom started any of his tricks, she’d call on it to keep herself from getting mad.

At least, she'd try. 

--

There we go. As always, glad to hear your responses (and your thoughts on the notion of previewing work before publication!). 

There'll be more news about Torc once the book cover and the signed-off MS is sent off for publication.

In the meantime, my Great Fire of London-set novel The Prospect of this City is out now for Kindle and in paperback.   

A new cover for The Prospect of this City

Prospect has a new cover. Here it is: 

Hope you like it. I do. The cover's by Kit Foster of Kit Foster Design

The book's as before - I've kept the woodcut-alike frontispiece by Maxim Peter Griffin (which was the previous ebook cover) in both paperback and ebook editions - but the front cover's had a new splash of paint to make it more immediately appealing. I've got a blog post brewing about working how to work out how to self-publish by doing it the tricky way and finding things out for yourself; one aspect of that is the necessity for an immediate cover.

Max (the aforementioned illustrator-brother) and I spent an amusing twenty minutes or so in the local WH Smith going through book covers.

Though there's some great work out there, there's an awful lot of variations upon a theme. Thriller? A silhouette of a bloke on a road (they're called "thrillouettes" in the trade, I'm led to believe). Female protagonist? This year, something involving trees appears the way to go. Of course, there are perennials. A rosy-cheeked young woman with basket in hand if it's a Catherine Cookson-style saga. Armoured fella charging towards you with a battle in the background if it's an action-oriented historical novel (what someone once called the "Andy McStab" approach).         

I've been to more than one writing convention when there's been a book buyer from one of the major chains on one of the panels. The cover's the thing, they emphasise. Especially for online and railway purchases; what sells a book is the call to action (i.e. buy the book) given by a simple and direct cover. Books, often, are impulse purchases.

So that's an element of the thinking here. Prospect is a book, after all, about the Great Fire of London. So there's a need to have a, er, Great Fire of London-related image front and centre. 

Anyway, I hope you like the new cover! Here comes the hard sell: Prospect is out now and available here - at the time of posting, the files are still propagating their way through Amazon's systems, so the new cover might not show for a day or so!       

Derby Writers' Day 17th Oct 2015 - part 1

On Saturday 17th October I went along to the Writers’ Day held at Derby Quad that was supported by Writing magazine and Writing East Midlands.  The event was co-ordinated by Alex Davies from Boo Books (@BooBooksDerby).  As is the way when I go to these kinds of events I took notes for the talks and panels that I intended.

This post is the first of two. This time out, I’ll cover the two morning sessions that I attended, and next time out I’ll summarise the three afternoon sessions that I went to.  As ever, these are my notes only, and not a verbatim record!

10am.  Successful Self-Publishing with Tracey Bloom (@TracyBBloom), author of No-One Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday: interviewed by Alex Davis.

TB: self-publishing came out of not getting a UK publishing deal for my first two novels via UK agents.  I was inspired by Nick Spalding and his success story with Amazon.  I spent three months researching and planning before self-publishing.  According to Spalding, 99% of self-publishing sales are in ebook format.  Amazon dominates.  I read around self-publishing / pricing / advertising and marketing strategies.  I have a marketing background – it’s not rocket science – but you have to approach your books as though they are products.

My first novel was edited by my agent.  I always work with a skilled editor.  If possible, get a recommendation.

There is a Holy Trinity to self-publishing.  The title / the cover / the blurb.  Get these right.  The use of professional designer is important for your covers.  Remember that you are designing a thumbnail for Amazon and not a full size cover for a book.  Remember 99% of your sales will come from Amazon.

Look for other good examples.  Amazon has a White Glove programme that only literary agents can access.  To enables agents to sell publish directly to Amazon.  Otherwise, formatting your ebook is pretty straightforward their professionals will do this for you.  This costs me about £40.00.

Self-publishing led me to being picked up for traditional UK publication.  Publishers don’t like Amazon.  Commercial publishers are still biased towards physical copies and away from ebooks.  This has meant that I have gone back to self-publishing for the sequel to my first book.

The perception of self-publishing is changing but slowly, especially in the industry.

As for reviews and other coverage, book bloggers are gold but it’s a hard slog.  Bloggers need treating with respect, just like traditional journalists.  It is hard but not impossible because there although some bloggers do not touch self-published work, others do.

I spent approximately 20 hours a week over 3 ½ months marketing my first book.  But you need to keep writing as well.  You need to have more books for readers to buy.

Any advice? Do it. I learned so much by doing it. But be clear about a divide between writing and marketing.

Answers to floor questions

Agents?  I was dropped by my first agent, but foreign deals enabled a second.  I found my first agent through the writers’ and artists’ yearbook.  Some agents to work with self-publishing authors.

Editors?  Get a recommendation.  Writing East Midlands may have a database.  Look for people with previous experience.

There is always benefit to a self-publishing writer in having an agent.  Access to the White Glove programme, plus potential access to Amazon's own promotions etc.  The potential there is excellent.

Also there are more digital only publishers out there; people who are more attuned to ebooks.  Also sometimes a publisher will come to you if there are signs of success.

Pricing structure?  Models: seem to be very low for the first book and then build up from there.  99 pence for the first one then up from that point.  Also, you can do your own promotions via Amazon.

Amazon reviews? This can be good feedback and also useful for sales.  Is important to set up your ebook so that it is easy for people to sign up to mailing lists.

Amazon vs. traditional publishers?  Amazon have 80 per cent of the ebook market so you have to deal with them.  Plus the commission is a 70/30 split to you.

 

11am. Promotion and Publicity for Writers, with Julia Murday (@jules_murday) Campaign Manager, Penguin Books: interviewed by Alex Davis.

Debut hardback fiction sells about 400 copies.  We get involved us in as the commissioning editor gets an interesting prospect.  Lead times of 12 months plus.  Social media / online profiles / events / the cover / the look of the book – we’re involved in all this.

Big releases get the big push with Tube and rail advertising.  For new authors the challenge is to raise their and their book’s profile.  We give advice on GoodReads, book clubs, and non-traditional publicity means also.

Author led?  It's key for them to be invested.  Bookshop tours etc.  

Be objective.  Profile your consumer.  Who would buy this book?  Focus your attention accordingly.  Target your social media.  People want connection and conversation.  Social media can be great for this.

What not to do?  Don’t spend himself too thin.

There is a more cautious spend for new writers. The big players get the big spend. The new writer spend is on proof copies for review in advance of publication.  The goal is to create buzz and a domino effect.

The timescales are usually 12 to 18 months in advance. We put about 4/5 debuts a year. About half of these get a big push. To meet the sales budget and to break even is the key.

What defines a big buzz book? What strikes the right chord? A combination of the author themselves, a relatable story, the quality of the book.

Audience Q and A

Promotion - do I have to? If the author is unwilling to promote, then that can make things really tricky. It might even feed into a decision to purchase the book or not. So get some practice.  Do a reading, be involved with local reading groups, writing groups, and booksellers.

Is the paperback threatened?  Not necessarily.  Physical book sales are bouncing back (see also Waterstone decisions to stop selling e-readers).

Agent relationships?  A targeted agent is key. Their relationships with editors need to be in place and be strong.

What about anonymous authors and pen names?  It’s tricky but not impossible.  It’s not advisable for a debut writer.  Pen names are more common but total anonymity is difficult. Existing media and public profiles are useful but more so for non-fiction.

Brand name authors?  These are standout names within audience demographic that is clearly defined, for example Lee Child and Jodi Picoult.

Release strategies? Hardback and paperback release strategy depends very much on the book and the audience, but there is greater flexibility these days to model release strategies per book. Hardbacks are more profitable than paperbacks, so it makes sense to maximise these where possible.

Cross-genre? Cross genre books can be difficult.  Often we have to make a genre decision for positioning.  We do post-mortems afterwards though.  We work with the author regarding positioning.

Trends? Colouring books are a current fad, but book publishing is slow. Editors have to be cultural forecasters.  Unreliable narrators are popular at present, as are psychological literary thrillers.  Also we tried to predict and provoke trends for marketing purposes; the next Gone Girl, etc.

And that was it for the morning. I went off for a mooch round Derby, and was back in time for the afternoon's sessions on historical fiction, literary fiction , and the keynote panel at the end of the day. The notes on those will be up next time. 

---

My novel The Prospect of This City is available from this very website in paperback and also in ebook and paperback via Amazon

 

Hardbacks and paperbacks and ebooks, oh my.

Or, why do we have all of these formats? And is it time for a change?

Back in the day, whenever that was, there were only hardback books. If you wanted a book, it came with a hard cover. On the upside, the book was well-presented,  durable, and looked and felt good. On the potential downside, book were comparatively expensive, not least because they were a status item, but also because they cost money to be produced. 

Then along came the railways. Mid-Victorian publishers sprang up offering cheap paper-covered volumes, often smaller in size, that were lighter, thus more portable, for the new rail-travelling markets, both to commuters and to leisure travellers. Chains like WH Smith grew on the back of such novelties, and for many these inexpensive alternatives were a way into book ownership for the first time.

So part of the history of books is the history of the available technology; innovations in mass printing, the developing rail infrastructure, changing leisure patterns. Add to this the rise of literacy among all classes throughout the 19th century, and there you have it. 

It wasn't until the inter-war years that paperbacks took off as a mass-market alternative though. Imprints such as Penguin bought reprint rights to ranges of books; offering again portability, the eye-catching immediacy of the distinctive Penguin cover and branding, and also price.

Now, until comparatively recently, publishing was not as vertically integrated as an industry as it is today. In other words, there were publishers, and there were paperback publishers. The two co-existed uneasily. There was a delay, often of years, if not decades, between original and paperback reprint publication. For in-demand books, there'd be bidding wars, not for original publication rights, but for reprint rights in paperback. Stephen King, in On Writing, tells of such an auction for the paperback rights of his first-published novel Carrie.       

But that was forty years ago. Through mergers, acquisitions and internal development, there's no longer the organisational divide between hard- and paperback; the same company will tend to publish both. As such, gaps in publication between the two formats have come down to a few months, perhaps a year. 

So here's the question: why? And how do ebooks complicate matters? The hardback remains a premium product, and profits per copy on their sales outweigh those of the paper alternative, so there's both kudos and cash to be had in hardback sales. Plus, some people prefer the format, and they're hard-wearing, so handy for long-suffering librarians to allow out on loan.  

But there's no hard-and-fast rule for ebook follow-on publication. Traditionally (if I can even talk about there being ebook traditions) the ebook price shadows the cheapest available real-world version, being pitched at just a little less. Sometimes, there's a delay until the ebook is available, sometimes not. 

In the world of movies, matters are more standardised. Either a film is released across all formats at once (limited cinema release to gain some reviews, home sell-through, video-on-demand) or the more traditional cinema release, followed twelve weeks later by DVD/Bluray and virtual rental, and then a few weeks later to other on-demand services. 

So are there options here for publishing? Release the book in all formats at once, so that the reader can enjoy the writing in the format (and price band) that suits them best? Many self-publishers and genre publishers do this in some form or other.  

Or is there value, use, and profit (let's not begrudge margins for all) in maintaining a lengthy staggered release system? And where do ebooks fit into this? I'm a little dubious of current mainstream ebook pricing policies, which seem (to an outsider) unduly attached to the price of the alternative, rather than to the value of the electronic file itself. Of course there are the hidden costs of publishing (design, production, marketing, editing, agent commission, writer's advance and royalty, storage and distribution, retailer's percentage and so on)  but some of these are either minimal or co-opted in to the physical book's existing costs where an e-version is concerned. 

I think I'd rather pay the same price for the ebook as the print version rather than something different. The paper/e-ink is, after all, merely a delivery system. A price differential raises questions about what you're buying. 

Then again, though, there are the intangibles. The smell of the paper. The softness of US paperbacks compared to their UK alternatives. Folding the page over (yeah, I'm a folder-over) rather than clicking the top-right-hand corner to have a virtual fold icon pop up. The display function; books as interior design, as conversation piece, as conspicuous consumption, as social identifier and as accessory. 

A Kindle or an iPad draws attention to the technology, not to the book.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but who'd ever sneak a second peek at that person over there who's staring at a screen when there's that automatically-more-interesting other person. The one with the book. 

Maybe some things are worth paying for, after all. 

---

My novel The Prospect of This City is out now and is available in paperback from me (signed if you prefer!) or in both paperback and  ebook via Amazon

 

    

Prospect: out in paperback and Kindle ebook!

So it looks as though The Prospect of This City is available in paperback as well as in Kindle versions! Blimey. 

The covers are a little different at present - the ebook cover with the woodcut is the frontispiece of the paperback version - so you won't lose out by not seeing it if you go old-school and buy the physical version! 

Anyway, I hope you like it. If you read the novel, please leave some feedback on the Amazon review page. It's a really useful way of getting the book out there, and for you to sound off about it as appropriate! 

Here's links to the UK and US sites (though it's also up on other overseas Amazon websites too):

UK paperback / UK Kindle ebook / US paperback / US Kindle ebook

 

Rear cover text and look for The Prospect of This City

Here's a preview of the back cover text (it's a short piece taken from the beginning of the novel) for the paperback version of Prospect. 

Not looking too bad, is it?

Once the paperback's available, I'll let you fine folks know. In the meantime, the novel's out on Kindle. This link takes you to Amazon's UK site, and it's up on all international Amazon sites too. 

The artwork and layout work's been done by my brother, Maxim Peter Griffin. You can find him on Twitter at @maximpetergriff and also here at his website.