Yesterday I posted the first part of an interview with Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, whose unusual dual-narrative thriller, Killing Cupid, is available on Amazon Kindle for the stunningly good-value price of 70p. In Part 1, they described how they wrote the book together and opted to publish it on Kindle. We now discuss how things unfolded from there.
Lorna: How did you set about generating interest in the book?
Mark: It's hard work. Very hard work. My poor girlfriend feels neglected as I spend so much time trying to drum up interest in the book and I must admit it's become something of an obsession, especially checking sales figures and our rank on Amazon. I even drive myself crazy, especially on slow days. There is no secret recipe for success. You need to have a great cover, title and blurb, and then you have to let as many people as possible know about the book. We started with our own friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter, and I am sure all of our sales in the first few weeks came from them. I have spent a lot of time networking with other writers on Kindleboards.com and various Facebook groups. I interview writers for my blog, www.indieiq.com which specialises in featuring the best indie writers. We have both done interviews and guest posts for other bloggers. (By the way, I approached Mark and Louise for this interview, not the other way about! L.) We have submitted review copies to various review sites. And we generally hustle wherever and whenever we can - while trying not piss everyone off by just trying to sell sell sell. You can buy exposure on sites like Kindle Nation Daily and Pixel of Ink but I have no idea how effective this is. I have also tried Google ads but it's too expensive. I am convinced the only way to really take off is for your book to start appearing in the 'Customers who bought this also ...' slots, which we've just started to do. But it's getting harder and harder to make any kind of impact. When I published Killing Cupid I went straight onto Kindleboards and posted an announcement. Within minutes, 4 or 5 other books had appeared above it and my post had vanished off the page. As Stephen Leather says, 'the slush pile has gone online' and you are competing with just as many writers as you are when you submit to agents or publishers. The world is awash with wannabe writers and getting yourself heard is a hell of a struggle.
Lorna: How well is the book doing now?
Mark: We have sold a grand total of 800 copies now (4th May). Since April 30 we are doing an average of 40 a day. On Saturday we had the thrilling experience of hitting No 1 on Amazon's movers and shakers chart, meaning it was the fastest rising book on Amazon.co.uk that day. We keep floating around the bottom end of the overall top 200 on Kindle. I am desperate to hit the top 100!
(Lorna's note: This is a brilliant result and is a just reward for their astute presentation and the quality of the book they've written.)
Lorna: Do you intend to bring out a print version of Killing Cupid?
Louise: That's a good question ... I think that if Killing Cupid ended up being really successful, and a conventional publisher was offering to publish it, we certainly wouldn't say no (as long as we got to keep the e-publishing rights to ourselves, of course!) But we're not desperate to see it in print at this stage, I mean, we haven't got any plans to go down a Print-on-Demand route or anything.
Lorna's comment: Personally, I feel they should try POD - I think it helps if a book is available in different formats, and there is an increasing sense that readers are quite prepared to buy both an e-version and a printed version of books they enjoy. See, for instance, Joanna Penn, who has also marketed her e-book Pentecost with great commercial savvy - offering a printed version as well. (As for conventional publishers - would they let Mark and Louise do a deal with them which didn't also include e-publishing rights?)
Lorna: Would you e-publish again? Are you hoping that, like Amanda Hocking, your independent route will bring you a conventional contract - if one were offered to you, would you accept it?
Mark: Yes, we are definitely going to e-publish Catch Your Death, our next novel. I would like to be conventionally published, because there are a lot of people who only read print books. But then again, self-publishing puts all the control in our hands and we can get stuff out there much much quicker.
Louise: I've just had the rights to my four other novels revert to me, and fully intend to e-publish these too. Prior to this, the publishers asked if they could e-publish on my behalf and I said no. Knowing that they wouldn't do any promotion for them made me think, well, I'd have to self-promote anyway, so I'd rather not have to give away most of the proceeds ... It would be great to have them readily available at a low price, and hopefully gain a whole new audience.
Lorna: Exciting news that Killing Cupid may make it to the screen! Tell us more about this!
Louise: That whole thing has been quite strange - and fortuitous. What happened was that, a few years ago, a BBC producer read one of my other books and asked for a meeting, during which she said that although she really liked the book, she didn't quite see herself developing it for TV and did I have anything else she could read? At that stage we'd recently finished Killing Cupid, so I gave her the manuscript and to our delight, she loved it, and optioned it for a two-part drama (which was another reason why we thought we might find a publisher for it ...)! Then it went into development hell, and, according to the producer, popularity for two-part dramas nosedived practically overnight. It all fizzled out after a couple of years, which was disappointing, but at least we'd got a bit of cash for the option, and some interest in the book. Fast-forward a few years to this February, in fact, the same day that we put Killing Cupid out on Amazon Kindle, and I received an email out of the blue from the same producer, who was about to leave the BBC and set up her own film company, having won a BAFTA last year. She said she had always seen Killing Cupid more as a feature film and was now in a position to develop it. Plus, last year my partner (a TV director) and I wrote our own treatment for it which is currently out with a couple of other producers, so we are waiting to hear back from them. We'll let you know what happens! Exciting times!
Lorna: Can you tell us anything about your next book? When will it be available?
Mark: Our second book is called Catch Your Death and is a more straightforward thriller than Killing Cupid, which is more a comedy thriller. Catch Your Death came about back in 2006 after Louise started thinking about writing a novel set at the Common Cold Unit, which was a research centre near her hometown of Salisbury. For years, they invited volunteers to stay and be given a cold so the scientists there could carry out research in their quest to find a cure. I had, at that point, just read The Da Vinci Code (marvelling at the awful prose but also the compelling plot) and was also aware of the coming bird flu scare. I wanted to write a fast-paced conspiracy thriller and thought Louise had come across an ideal setting. We decided to have another go at writing together, and created a chase novel involving deadly viruses, mad scientists and robotic killers. Great fun. I had to do an awful lot of research into virology and became slightly more paranoid than previously. Catch Your Death will be released for Kindle in the first half of May.
Louise: It will be interesting to see how this one goes down. As Mark says, we made an effort to write a 'straight' thriller, so it's less quirky than Killing Cupid but faster-paced and more high concept. Hopefully we'll give Dan Brown a run for his money!
Thanks so much to Mark and Louise for these insights - I wish them continued and increasing success with Killing Cupid and look forward to reading Catch Your Death when it comes out! For further discussion of whether to opt for self-publication, please take a look at my second post on the Oxford Literary Festival - http://literascribe.blogspot.com/2011/04/oxford-literary-festival-part-2.html my report on the Kingston Conference on Self-Publishing - http://literascribe.blogspot.com/2010/09/self-publishing-conference-at-kingston.html and Joanna Penn's guest post on my blog - http://literascribe.blogspot.com/2011/02/indie-publishing-what-it-is-and-why.html. As I've said before - self-publishing offers you speed and control over what you choose to write and how you publish it. But you do need to be very aware that it demands enormous amounts of energy and commitment and that you will be up against it when it comes to making your voice heard. Without the filtering processes of having to go through agents and editors, a great deal of dross is being let loose on the world. If you choose to go down the self-publishing path, then do it clear-sightedly, and with a truly professional approach to your work. Plan your campaign, create your author platform, spend money on professional services like cover design, formatting, editing. And, as with conventional publishing, don't ever blithely assume you'll make a fortune!
Killing Cupid is available at http://amzn.to/fnxVQY and http://amzn.to/eGhcPxand on Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/51410 . Mark's excellent blog is at http://www.indieiq.com
Just time to remind you of my upcoming fictionfire courses: Essential Story Construction this Saturday (booking closes tomorrow Friday 6th) and Creating Narrative Perspective and Voice on 21st May (booking closes midday Friday 20th) - I'd love it if you could join us in the gorgeous setting of Trinity College! Full details are on my fictionfire website