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Article About EBooks On The Crime Time Website

An interesting article on self-publishing eBooks has just gone up on to the Crime Time website, which is run by my old mate Barry Forshaw. I'm mentioned, and quoted.

CLICK HERE to read the Crime Time article.

The writer of the piece did a detailed Q&A with me but didn't use much in the article so for anyone who is interested, here are my answers in full -

If you were starting out today, would you still follow the traditional publishing route or would you go fully indie?

Definitely the traditional route. There's a lot of excitement about what's happening with the eBook market but the simple fact is that the vast majority of eBooks being sold were written by established writers with the backing of big publishers. Before Kindle and eBooks came along there were very few real Indie writers and an awful lot of unpublished authors. Now there are almost no unpublished authors because anyone can put their work online as an eBook. In effect what has happened is that the slush pile has gone on line and unpublished writers have become Indie authors There are exceptions, of course, and there are some very good Indie eBooks out there. But they are the minority and it seems to me that a lot of so-called Indie writers would be better off honing their craft and really making an effort to get an agent and a publisher before rushing to put their work up for sale as an eBook.

Can you recommend any excellent indie crime novels or authors that you've discovered?

Allan Guthrie's novellas Bye Bye Baby and Killing Mum are good, but he was already an author (and agent) before his eBooks took off. That shows in both the quality of his writing and the covers of his books. Joe Konrath in the States has some great books that he's self-published as eBooks but again he was already an established author. One true Indie who has a quality product is Saffina Desforges with her paedophile thriller Sugar and Spice. A book called Remix by Lexi Revellian is receiving great reviews (far more five star reviews than I get!) and Mel Comley's two crime books Impeding Justice and Final Justice are climbing the Kindle bestseller list. But the majority of Indie books out there would benefit from a good editor being involved, both in terms of the writing and the production values.

The Kindle bestseller lists are dominated by crime and thrillers (9 out of the current top 10 as I write). Why do you think this is?

I wish I knew, because you are absolutely right. I think it might be something to do with the type of person who is more likely to buy a Kindle, maybe. But it is fascinating that the eBook bestseller list has so little in common with the regular bestseller list. That is partly down to price, of course. The Indie writers are selling their books for as little as 71p (equivalent to 99 cents in the US) and sometimes Amazon reduces the price even further to 49p. But cheap comedy fiction doesn't seem to do well, and while there are a lot of cheap vampire and horror books out there they tend not to get into the Top 20. My vampire book Once Bitten is an exception but I guess that is more of a thriller than the run-of-the-mill vampire story. Science fiction is generally the poor relation of the book world and they don't sell, even at 71p. My science fiction book Dreamer's Cat is doing well, but again that is also a thriller. I don't seem to be doing a good job of answering this question, do I?

It could be that the type of reader who is buying the Kindle at the moment is more adventurous than the average reader and is keen to experiment, especially where a book is competitively priced. If that's the case then as Kindle use starts to spread more widely the eBook bestseller list will begin to more closely resemble the regular bestseller lists. Or it could be that thrillers and crime novels are easier to read than more serious novels and so are better suited to the Kindle. I hope that's the case because then the spread of Kindle use will increase sales of thrillers, which would obviously be great news for me!

How do sales of your Kindle books compare to your print books?

I have three true Indie books up on line - The Basement, Once Bitten and Dreamer's Cat. At the moment I'm selling an average of more than 1,100 copies a day in total, more at weekends. Since I put them up in November last year I've sold more than 150,000 in total. One of my Spider Shepherd or Jack Nightingale thrillers would probably sell about 100,000 copies a year of the hardback, trade paperback, mass market paperback and eBook combined.

Could you foresee a time where you only wanted to produce ebooks and not bother with print books?

Definitely not. I love to hold a real book in my hands, I love to have them on my shelves. If I'm feeling depressed I take all the books I've written, more than 25 in all, put them on my coffee table and look at them while drinking a bottle of good wine. It never fails to cheer me up. And I love going into a book shop and seeing a whole shelf of my books on sale. You can't do that with eBooks.

You've written that you knew ebook sales were going to explode last Christmas so you positioned yourself to be ready. But did you do anything in particular to attain such high positions in the bestseller lists? Were sales driven by your existing fans?

I think I was definitely helped by my existing fan base, but the feedback I was getting over Christmas and the New Year period was that probably 90 per cent of the buyers of my three self-published eBooks were readers new to my work, which is great. And a good many of those new readers have gone on to buy my Hodder and Stoughton published books, which is also great! I did spend some time on various forums promoting my work up to and over Christmas, and still do from time to time. But I'm not sure how effective plugging on forums is. Most forums only have a few hundred visitors and maybe just a few dozen regulars, so forum posting will get you a few sales but not the hundreds every day that you need to get into the Top 20. I see some Indie authors trying to plug their books several times a day but without any real sales, and there are many authors who sell really well without ever posting on a single forum! I do get asked a lot about how I managed to get four books (Hodder also cut the price of my first Spider Shepherd thriller Hard Landing to 49p) into the Top 20 so quickly and frankly the answer is timing and luck! Coupled with a low price, of course!

I'm flat out writing my new Jack Nightingale book so haven't had much time to blog. Haven't had much time to shave or shower either!

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