Happy Anniversary ‘Sugar & Spice’ ~ Life as the front end of the pantomime horse: Twenty four months on

Well, what a ride!

Two years ago today, we clicked  ‘publish‘ on our Amazon KDP account.

200,000 downloads and 175,000 + sales later and here we are!

And those totals are just for Sugar & Spice. I haven’t tallied up the sales for the other books, but it’s fair to say we are within kissing distance of a QUARTER OF A MILLION SALES.

Let me repeat that: 250,000 people have downloaded our books.

That would fill Old Trafford 3.3 times over.

They call OT The Theatre of Dreams.

It is certainly a place where you can live out your fantasies and leave life behind for an hour and a half. I know. I’ve done it many times. What I didn’t ever dare dream about, was that, one day, people would want to read what I had written. That the inner-bowels of my imagination, spilled out onto the page like a gutted pumpkin, would interest anyone.

Twenty four months ago (that is 730 days, 17531.6 hours) Mark Williams and I had a dream.

We dreamt that if the agents daren’t take on our book, that the public might give it a chance. They might read it. Hell, they might even enjoy it!

I just came across some old emails. One of them, was a rejection from our now hard-working agent. She loved the book, but daren’t take it on. Then the ebook revolution started and publishing changed forever. The gatekeepers realised (well, some of them) that they didn’t hold the only key anymore. Hey, newsflash! The readers will decide! Look at Twilight and Fifty Shades. (I’ll just dump this rather heavy case right here shall I?)

Have a look at this:

I made up a name. A name that no-one else had, that would only link to us on the search engines. It is no secret that the name was a combination of my fave character from Ab Fab and the surname of someone I worked with that I rather liked.

I made this cover myself. No-one had ever heard of us.

I spent 3 days working out the HTML coding for formatting the book. I took a tutorial on how to work out KDP. I started a blog. I did interviews for other blogs. I joined a million sites, set up a facebook account, I tweeted, I actually started to think that one person might want to read what I/we had written. Then…

NOTHING HAPPENED.

What??? Are you insane? We have just published a book that was over ten years in the making. Our blood, guts and glory are woven into every word that has spilled out onto that page. What do you mean you don’t want to read it?

Me and this shy, long-haired, latte-guzzling bloke that I met on the net have something to say, you WILL listen! ;-)

And listen you did – eventually.

After some meagre and frankly embarrassing sales figures for the first 4-5 months, Sugar & Spice took off and we have never looked back. We hit the number two spot on Amazon UK and I THINK, we were even number one for a brief hour, losing out on the top spot to Gordon Ferris and his Hanging Shed. We were the first indies to ever hit that spot and we stayed in the Top 100 for over three months until Amazon mysteriously ‘lost’ our book for almost four weeks. Who knows how long it might have stayed there? Anyway, despite that minor blip, Sugar & Spice has been in the Top 100 of its category ever since and we still sell 100s of copies a month. It reached number two in the Waterstones chart and is still at number 5 in Police Procedurals on Kobo. It has since been translated and published in France as Paraphilia.

We owe a lot to that book. We owe a lot to each other, Mark and I.

Speaking of my partner in crime (literally), I found this today. This was one of the first email exchanges between Mark and myself after he had reviewed Equilibrium (now called Dark Halo and STILL not finished!) on youwriteon and we began talking. How polite we were to each other back then! ;-)

Hi Mark,

Nice to have a bit of information to put to the name!

Many thanks for the link to your blog, I will be reading regularly from now on and will take your advice on writing my own.

I have always been a tad wary of venturing into the social vamp scene as I was unsure of how much of Equilibrium to put ‘out there’ so to speak. I am mindful of the fact that I could end up with people already having read most of it before I actually finish it! But hey, if you say it sits well with agents etc to have a following, then it sounds like a good idea to me.

Personally, I am not a writer of any description. I am a 37 year old H&S Manager and have had no formal training other than a writing course that I bought off the internet some years ago, hence my speedy acceptance of your kind offer to review my work!

I am learning all the time (mostly from YWO) and am trying to apply everything that I am learning to what I have written so far, so I hope you understand when you find a plethora of mistakes later on in the book!

As I explained before, I am well aware of the fact that my writing needs a lot of ‘fine tuning’ but I hope eventually to have something in a publishable state. I have been at this book for so long now (I started it almost 10 years ago! And have not touched it for long periods of time, sometimes years) that I decided this year was the year to blow the dust off and finally finish it and move on to something else hopefully. I didn’t have a great deal of time to write before and only ever spent an hour or so here and there on it, but recently, now that I have finished studying/training for work etc I am spending a lot more time on it and receiving positive reviews on YWO is giving me the impetus I need to move it on to a conclusion (I think I may be able to use the angel angle somewhere there too).

So, please be patient with my writing and please do not hesitate to point out where I go wrong, I will take everything on board as I am just so grateful for your giving up your time to help me.

I intend to read your chapters tonight on YWO and will submit a free will review later too, if it helps!

Can’t wait to hear what you think and if you continue to enjoy it. I have some reservations about the whole Diary of murders (this will make sense as you read on) and I am not sure how else to weave them into the plot, so please feel free to comment on that too.

Hope to hear from you soon and thanks again.

S

—–Original Message—–

From: Mark

To: sjg1973@aol.com

Sent: Mon, 26 Jul 2010 12:58

Subject: Re: Equilibrium

Many thanks, Sarah.

As per previous email, I’ve managed to successfully download Equilibrium, and can’t wait to read it. It makes a welcome change to be reviewing something from choice rather than as an assignment!

A little about myself, to put any commentary in context.

I’m a self-employed tutor / freelance writer with a past record in TV, theatre and journalism and now working on becoming a novelist myself, hence my finding your work on youwriteon.

So a professional writer of sorts, but NOT a novelists’ agent or publisher (I have to jump through the same hoops as you to get that far!).

I’ve just started a new writers’ blog and shall be commending Equilibrium on it. (Obviously as you’ve put your work on youwriteon you’re happy to have it in the public domain.)  Being a new blog (I’ve just moved to this area) it won’t have much of a following initially, but hopefully will soon build up, and increase Equilibrium’s public profile.

If you haven’t got a blog yourself I strongly recommend you do so. They can be enormously useful in promoting your work and yourself, with a literally millions worldwide as your potential audience. I would imagine that linking to writers circles and especially chat-groups centred around vampire-style stories would prove enormously beneficial in the long-term. (Demonstrating an on-line following for your work is a sure-fire way to get an agent’s interest!)

Always bear in mind that publishers and agents receive literally hundreds of submissions every week, which is why it is imperative to have a final product as near perfect as it can be, to get someone to give it a second glance and forward it to the next review stage.

As I think I said in my initial review, the reading public’s interest in this genre is beginning to wane, with angels apparently the up and coming theme, but don’t let that worry you. I think Equilibrium, if say published two years down the line (a realistic timescale given you are only two-thirds through), will be ideally placed to capture the hearts and minds of the mid-teen Twilight readership who will by then be late-teen / early twenty-somethings looking for more mature storylines.

Anyway, I shall not distract you from your writing any longer.

I’ll get back to you as and when I can and let you know my thoughts

Best wishes,

Mark

Well, what a long way we have come since then! We have now published 5 full-length novels, 2 anthologies, 2 (s0on to be 3) kids shorts and 9 novella/shorts (although some under a different name) and we are  hard at our second Rose Red Rhyme and book 3 of the Rose Red series, as well as many other projects. As you saw earlier, Mark isn’t one for working on one thing at once! ;-)

So where do we go from here? Well, the honest answer is, we don’t know. Not for sure. We have a million and one projects bubbling along and one day, hey, we might even finish Book One of the Dark Halo series. That’ll be a day to celebrate when that finally hits the virtual shelves. I originally started that one in 1992! But for now, we will just keep doing what we do. Bringing readers reasonably-priced, quality stories, because our readers deserve the best. Let’s face it, without you, we wouldn’t be having this conversation…

Here’s to the next twenty four months and whatever they might bring!

Saffi

Leave a comment

7 Comments

  1. annerallen

     /  November 5, 2012

    Yours is such a fantastic, inspiring story. An unlikely “Pantomime horse” indeed. But your partnership holds some kind of magic that the other 99.9999% of writers are lacking. Congrats on your phenomenally successful partnership! .

    Reply
    • Doesn’t it just. I mean, who else could spend two years sniffing a certain Mr Williams butt? ;-) Hey, there’s always one that has to have the tap end!

      Reply
  2. annerallen

     /  November 5, 2012

    Oh, and I LOVE that you took your name from AbFab. One of the greatest TV shows ever!

    Reply
  3. Charley R

     /  November 5, 2012

    HUZZAH FOR THE PANTOMIME HORSE!
    Speaking for Miriam and I, your pet teenage whippersnappers . . . you guys have helped us fulfil our dream, with “St Mallory’s Forever!”. We both want to be authors, and you guys encouraged us and gave us our chance to be just that. We can’t wait to see what happens next. And we’ll owe it all to you.

    VIVE SAFFINA DESFORGES!

    Reply

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