Tuesday 28 February 2012

Pricing Points

"If you sell for pennies, readers will assume that's what your book is worth."
"Nobody will pay £2.99 for an unknown indie, so you have to price cheaply or you won't sell anything."
"People will take a chance at 99p. They won't at £2.99."
"You've worked for a year, sweated blood, paid a fortune for a cover. Why on earth would you sell cheap? Don't you value yourself?"
"The 99c books are all un-edited rubbish."

Contrasting views I've seen around the internet. I started at 99c on amazon.com with a UK price which was matched at the exchange rate - came out at about 76p initially. It gets you readers - people take a chance. But yes, I sweated blood and yes, I paid for a cover. There are years of my life in my books, but I figured if I priced them too high I might as well not bother selling them at all. At the moment it's about reaching readers and building a platform, not making money.

In January, I changed my UK prices to reflect the new EU VAT rate (since amazon.co.uk is based in Luxembourg, the VAT rate is 3%). I figured it'd be transparent to the user, but I'd get more money.

And a week or so ago, I upped all my prices radically. Now I'm selling at $2.99/£1.49, the minimum price to get a 70% royalty rate. So I get a far bigger % of each cover price even if I don't sell as many. My sales rate has remained stable.

The reason for this? I've probably exhausted the market of buy-em-cheap readers, who hoover up everything at 99c and may never actually read it. I've done the promos on the "cheap-reads" websites. Now I want to attract people who actually want to read my books specifically. Those who buy at the higher price are more likely to sample first and make an informed decision. It's still not really about the money (though it helps!), but about targeting specific audiences now.

Who knows? I may go higher again. But I think I'll wait a few months and see what happens. The beauty of this is that I can change my prices more-or-less whenever I want.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Edge of Dreams: Reviews & Marketing

Today my YA fantasy novel Edge of Dreams is featured over on Books4Tomorrow with an excellent 5* review.

I don't promote my fantasy writing as much as my thriller. I'm not sure why. My roots are firmly in fantasy - as a reader, writer, convention-goer and convention-organiser of many year's standing. I know a fair few people in the fantasy genre - writers, artists and industry people. And yet I don't give this novel the airtime it deserves, which is a shame as it has been nearly-traditionally-published a couple of times, getting to acquisitions meetings before a thumbs-down from the people holding the purse-strings.

Maybe it's because my markets are so different. My thriller is strictly adults-only, but this is aimed at a YA market. I'm not sure how to straddle two different genres which are poles apart in readership and content. I can't say with confidence that a reader of one book will love - or even like - the other.

So here it is anyway. Please go read my review. I don't have many of them.

Friday 24 February 2012

CSI For Dummies?

I found a bizarre website via Crimespace - a website/forum for crime writers and readers that I've just joined. There was an intriguing post there that made me hurry over to this place. Crime Scene is a site allowing you to examine the evidence and solve the case, as the tagline states. A bit like those murder mystery weekends and dinner parties, I assume?

I won a murder mystery weekend in a writing competition once. Andy and I duly travelled to the absolutely beautiful small city of Wells in Somerset to stay in this ancient pub-inn-hotel (Swan? Black Swan?). When we got there we realised we were supposed to have dressed up in Victorian costume, so strike one from the start.

On with dinner and the first set of clues. I can't really recall much about the actual weekend (I'm going back 20 years here), but I do know that we spent most of it sight-seeing and not paying much attention to the entertainment. At the time we were both working in crime investigation so we dutifully collected all the clues etc and tried to piece the puzzle together on the Sunday.

We were completely and utterly wrong. How embarrassing! Especially as we were so convinced we were right. Trouble was, we'd come at it from the work angle and were looking at the things we'd been trained to look at, while missing the obvious and reading far too much into the little things we probably weren't supposed to notice and maybe weren't even supposed to happen. So after looking like complete idiots, we set off home again.  It was a fun weekend - especially since it was free - but I'm not sure I'd do it again.

There's a further link on the Crime Scene site to a rather bizarre CSI Shop which sells forensic supplies and detective kits to the public - anything from kits to scarves to blood-clot sweeties. You can also buy bodybags (complies with specific regulations and suitable for incidents of biohazard exposure), toe-tags, kits to collect semen and a DNA testing kit - in fact everything the budding CSI or detective might need. You can even get it gift-wrapped for free in an evidence bag. It's all a bit weird but curiously compulsive, and reminds me of those action/horror films where there's always the apocalypse couple with their store of guns and biohazard suits, with 3 year's worth of food in the nuclear shelters just in case the world really does end on December 22nd 2012. Or to survive the zombie attack of course. There's always a teeny-tiny niggling voice in the back of your mind, isn't there?  What if they're right?

But I do so want one of those scarves, so I can wear it to work.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Giving Characters Their Heads

I'm maybe a third of the way into Paying The Piper, the follow-on story to Hamelin's Child. I'd say sequel, but it isn't - and although it will be a more satisfying read if the books are read in order, it isn't essential and either book will stand alone.

Some old characters (no, they didn't all survive the first novel and no, I'm not saying who did), some new, but in order to write a new story and not just a rehash of something that's gone before, I needed a new point-of-view character - somebody with whom the reader can identify and provide a fresh perspective; somebody whose own issues and problems are fundamental to the story. Enter Amanda, who made the mistake of sleeping with her boss at the Christmas party. Of course her husband has found out and done a runner with their nine-month-old baby, after cancelling their credit cards and emptying the joint bank account. So she's come to London to find her in-laws because she knows that's where Paul will be. And that's where she meets Michael, who's totally freaked out after receiving a prison visiting order from the thoroughly nasty Eddie, who we've already met.

But there are plans being made for Michael - at both ends of the food chain. He's offered a job by Eddie's old boss and refusal isn't an option. Meanwhile up in Manchester, daddy's princess Caro is dealing heroin with bad-boy Mal. She's taken a fancy to Michael and what Caro wants, Caro gets. One way or another.

Now I know Michael inside out. I've lived with him through the terror of the past 12 months and watched him rebuild his life with the help of his counsellors. And Amanda is straightforward enough so far: in her black-and-white world, there are no shades of grey. I'm not quite sure yet how far she will go to get her daughter back or when she will realise that real-life isn't like the television and the good guys don't always win. But she was also going to be a new love interest for Michael, despite the age difference.

And then Caro breezed into the story. She was supposed to be one of the bad guys but quickly made it clear that underneath she's really rather sweet, and if you could just get her away from her violent bit-of-rough boyfriend, she'd be halfway to respectable. But Caro's dad has money and Mal isn't going to let go easily. And Michael is already realising that Caro may be the one person who can really understand him.

I don't need all this sexual tension, thank you very much. I certainly don't want to be playing Amanda off against Caro. But I'm going to have to give them their heads and see where it goes at least for the next few chapters, before I try to rein it all in a bit. Mal is in control of the situation right now, Michael has a hot-line to London and Amanda's about to throw her teddy out of the pram and call the police. At least she would if Mal hadn't just trashed her mobile....

Back later!

Sunday 12 February 2012

Of Time, Space and Other Dimensions

Thank you to Dan Holloway for commenting on a post I made on www.authorselectric.co.uk about other dimensions. He mentioned Feynman and that got me thinking of some of the science fiction authors I read and how I hate space-opera, but love just the right level of techno-babble in books - enough to make me think but not beyond my ability to follow the physics and/or reasoning involved.

I'm thinking in particular of sf author Stephen Baxter, whose books tend to polarise me. Several of them I just cannot get into, but then I'm not a fan of alternate-history stories (which rules out steampunk and the like - sorry folks). But Flood and more particularly Ark were awesome and I can easily lie awake at night trying to puzzle through the physics of faster-than-light (FTL) travel. And yes, I probably do need to get out more.

Take Douglas Adams. The Hitchhiker books in particular. Quite apart from the offbeat humour, it's the little things: The universe is infinite. The number of planets supporting life we know is finite (since we know of planets in our own solar system that don't support life). Therefore the average population of the universe must be zero (on the grounds that any finite number divided by infinity is as near to zero as makes no difference).

Moving on to Stephen Baxter's novel Space. The Fermi Paradox. Does intelligent life exist elsewhere in the universe? Or Time and the Carter Prophecy - this one isn't actually real (at least I can't find any genuine references to it online outside of this novel and the link is to an sf website where the underlying principles are debated at length). But it is nevertheless valid mathematics and attempts to prove that the earth/life as we know it will be destroyed relatively soon - relatively in terms of the life-span of humanity on the planet anyway. And now we are into doomsday prophecies and closing in on conspiracy-theories as maths and physics veer off into theology.

But I love all this stuff. I took a physics degree at university and my only regret is that I simply wasn't good enough at maths to fully understand all of it. I mean string theory? Quantum mechanics? Its all fascinating. And any author who can weave it into a story gets my money every time!

Go Away, I'm Writing!

Much as I love my husband, he does have this habit of talking at me. He'll be watching some naff tv programme and next thing it will be Did you hear that?, coupled with a sly glance to check I'm watching it too. Or he'll witter on about nothing in particular: Shall I put the heating on? Yes, if you're cold. What time does daughter finish dance class? Same time as every other week. Shall I fetch her? Matter for you - she has legs, is nearly 16 and is quite capable of walking home from the village. What if she's cold? Well, she'll remember to take her coat next week ...

Maybe I'm a heartless mother and a rubbish wife. But I do spend an inordinate amount of time being taxi, chef, bank and whatever else is required. Sometimes I like a bit of me-time. At the computer. Much of the time I'm surfing, doing my accounts, facebooking or any amount of social-networking and I'm the first to admit I'm a grumpy cow when I'm disturbed. But sometimes - just sometimes - the muse strikes and I'm on a roll. I'm typing furiously and surely he can see that when he wanders in with a cup of tea and puts the television on? We have another television in the lounge, so it's not like he has to be in here with me. But I like to be with you, he says plaintively. Fine, OK, I can just about do tv wittering in my ear, even if it's a documentary about pianos in world war two, or how to build a nuclear reactor from stuff on a scrapheap, or DIY brain surgery or whatever stuff they put on obscure tv channels called Dave (who is Dave, anyway?). And then it'll be Did you see that? No, I'm not watching. Look at this. I'm writing. When are we next getting our hair cut? GO AWAY!

And suddenly my muse decides to go and find somebody more appreciative, and I'm left stranded in a scene in a posh house in South Manchester with a bag of heroin and a new character whose identity I had mapped out in my head and is now dangling head-first into a sub-plot with no hope of reprieve. Thanks, darling.

Don't get me wrong, my husband is very supportive of my writing. But in the same way as he'd support me if I took up knitting, or yoga or star-gazing. In 21 years of marriage I've never known him read a book, ever. Which is fine with me. But at least if I took up yoga, I'd be out of the house somewhere and he wouldn't be able to constantly interrupt me with trivialities. I love him to bits - truly I do - and I don't mean to bite his head off so often. I just wish he'd get what I'm doing sometimes and just sneak in with a glass of wine, cup of coffee or a biscuit and let me get on with it.

My new character is called Caro. I know that much, but who she is is still a mystery so far.