Swallows & Amazon : The super summer of 2012 and what Saffina Desforges did next

They say hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I say:

Who needs hindsight when you have the internet?

These days, I am very careful about what I write. Always. I know several authors/bloggers that have quickly come to regret comments on facebook or twitter or had to backtrack on statements made six months ago on the barely-still industry we have the pleasure of being involved in.

Abraham Lincoln was a wise man indeed when he warned us:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

No, nowadays, it really is best to listen and learn. What was true yesterday might be ridiculed a week on Friday. Publishing changes quicker than Ussain Bolt running a bend and what you really need is a crystal ball.

That, or cahones as big as shot puts and the nerve to write and publish whatever it is you like – and to hell with the rapidly becoming redundant gatekeepers! ;-)

Speaking of balls of steel, what a summer it’s been eh? For Great Britain especially. We have had a wondrous summer of sport and music; Diamond Jubilee, the Euro’s and the unforgettable Olympic games.

The Paralympics has recently started and in a few days the closing ceremony will lower the curtain on a season that will be remembered by a generation for many, many years to come. I for one am dreading the imminent post-summer hangover that will start as the nights pull in and you watch the last swallow take to the skies for another year…

But panic not! After Summer comes Autumn, which means Halloween.

Halloween gives way to Bonfire/Guy Fawkes night and no sooner have the sparklers fizzled out and the embers died on the bonfires, then the countdown to Christmas begins…

And so we do it all again.

We find ourselves another year older (you have no idea how much dread the thought of my next birthday celebration fills me with! I cannot be forty, I CANNOT be forty) and hopefully, wiser and the seasons continue to change.

It’s been that way always.

What you do with it is another matter.

Since I last posted on this official blog (for a weekly dose of  my hugely popular Banning the Bullsh*t blog, go here) quite a few things have happened, not least, in the publishing industry.

The already-mighty ‘zon joined forces with the weedy-by-comparison (in the digital publishing stakes) Waterstones in a huge one-eighty that left lots of people frantically stuffing their ill-thought words back in their mouths and going back on previously professed declarations of abhorrence for the Kindle (see earlier statement about thinking before you speak/type/tweet) and with more than a smidge of egg on their faces. Still, it will no doubt have a huge impact on digital publishing in the year to come.

Enter the only other (but slightly battle-worn) worthy opponent into the digi-arena to have one last crack at the ‘zon with its patched-up sling-shot.

Barnes & Noble have just announced that the Nook will be gracing our shores come October and not only has it got software giant Microsoft in its corner, but it’s had a make-over too and the new-look-Nook has a trick up its sleeve. A secret move that may just catch Amazon square on the jaw and leave the ref pounding the canvas in a ten-count.

It glows.

Yes. Not only does it have up-to-date eInk technology, but it allows you to do the one thing that the Kindle can’t without performance enhancing asssitance. You can read it in the dark.

B&N aren’t stupid. Rumour has it that they have hand-picked three MONSTER retailers in the UK to help them in the war against Amazon, John Lewis and Argos being their best-equipped allies.

You can read all about it here.

So what does that mean for us mere minions? Well, as writers, it can only be good news, right? What with Kobo allowing us to directly upload to their sites and these two beasts fighting it out for supremecy it only provides more ways for us to get our books in front of readers, wherever they decide to download them from and whatever device they select to read them on.

So everything’s groovy and being a writer now is the best time ever to earn your millions?

No. Not unless you wrote ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and didn’t tell anybody.

Why? Precisely because of the above.

There are more books than ever before digitally available and more places to get them from, so unless you are already very well-known and have the rights to a massive backlist and want to stick them out there for twenty pence a pop or have a huge publisher with an even bigger marketing budget behind you, you’re gonna have to work harder than ever to get your books noticed. And then some.

So how do we do it?

Sorry, I don’t have a draft ready to stick on (insert your preferred digital platform here but discount others at your peril) entitled ‘A guaranteed best-seller in forty eight hours without paying for reviews or writing mummy-porn or your money back’…all I can tell you is what Saffina Desforges is doing next. The rest, you’ll need the aforementioned crystal ball for… and a big dose of luck!

A few days ago we clinched our very first Amazon.COM category #1 with a book that is totally out of our comfort zone. Soooo un-Saffi’fied that unless you looked closely, you wouldn’t even know it was one of ours.

Anca’s  Story  is no-holds-barred, Young Adult, Historical, literary fiction. If you’re gonna stick a label on it.

Some time back, we were told by an uber-respected agent (not our current agent, I might add) that we couldn’t release anything  that ‘wasn’t a crime thriller’ and we were ‘risking literary suicide’ if we did so.

Anca’s Story has only been out a couple of months and is selling very well thank you, on both sides of the pond and will soon be available on all digital platforms and in paperback on Amazon.

For the next five days in the UK/Europe, you can get Anca’s Story FREE here (UK).

And here for France

And for Germany here.

Just a little thank you to our loyal Brit’/European readers and a final hoorah before we take it out of KDP Select. That is one for another day…

Within the next fortnight, the second book in our Rose Red crime thriller series, ‘Rapunzel’ will be available on Amazon and within the next month, Kobo, Waterstones and iTunes, plus a handful of other retailers. Book One, ‘Snow White’, plus ‘Sugar & Spice’ will also be available in paperback from Amazon in time for Christmas.

Look out on Amazon for the first in our new short story series, Rose Red Rhymes too.

‘Ring-a-ring o’roses’ will be out in October!

See? There is no magic formula. We just keep writing and writing what we think readers want to read.

And we make sure they are in as many places at possible.

Oh, and a couple of other things we have learned along the way and we might have mentioned before:

  • Get a great cover
  • Write an exciting blurb
  • Get your book proof-read. Upload a clean version of your book and if readers find mistakes, correct them and upload a new version until it’s as perfect as can be
  • Keep the price affordable

Other than that, just keep writing!

Write blogs, tweet, write posts on facebook, comment on other blogs.

Write short stories, write under a pseudonym, write local newspaper articles, write guest blogs, write goddam erotica if you’re good at it and you think your readers will like it (your current readers might not, but new readers might, then they might read your other stuff!) hell, write chic-lit or  fantasy if the mood takes you, as long as you’re writing!

Phew! Did I mention that you should be writing?

As we speak, one of our two preferred cover designers is beavering away on some new stuff for our late 2012/2013 releases (you can find links to Athanasios and Jeroen on this blog) and Jeroen has just shown us the fabulous new cover for Book three in the Rose Red Series, ‘Beauty & the beast’.

What do you think to this?

Print

 

Awesome huh?

2013 is hopefully going to be another great year for Saffina Desforges and a very exciting one too!

We can’t reveal too much other than what we have already given away, but we’re going to be putting some new stuff out there that will not be what you’re expecting!

More to follow on The China Town Mysteries, The Dark Halo trilogy and a few other surprises along the way.

So what does all of this mean for the shape of publishing over the coming 12 months? Truth? We don’t know. We don’t have said crystal ball.

There will be a next-big-thing. Shades of Grey will topple at some point, the erotica market will reach saturation point and readers will be looking for something new. No-one can say what that will be. The agents and publishers don’t even know!

But I’ll tell you this for free: If you haven’t got a book out there, it won’t be you.

AND, whatever it is, you can bet your bottom dollar/pound/yen/euro that it’ll have been an ebook first.

So what are you waiting for?

Saffi

Battle of the books – England v France : the great Euro divide

We ♥ the French.

It’s true.

Not because they lunch for three hours, or because of their beautiful churches and gloriously gorgeous people, nor is it because you can drink over there at fourteen and seemingly deposit your car between two parked cars by shunting them out of the way and NOT get arrested – no, it’s none of that (although all of the aforementioned reasons do help).

So, why the love-fest on the Saffina Desforges blog today for our friends across the channel?

Well, I’ll tell you…

It’s their love of books.

Not just their love of books, but their infinite passion for the written word (in whatever format it might take) and their open-mindedness when it comes to subject matter.

Now, you may accuse me of being biased and maybe I am. I am still a little love-sick for Paris after my recent trip and miss the waving of hands when talking and the kissing of both cheeks every time you greet somebody, but there are a few things about our experience with our French publishers that we wanted to put out there into the blogosphere to help dispel a few myths.

For those of you who have either been living under a rock, detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure or are just not the slightest bit interested, a few things have been happening recently.

There was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Leveson Inquiry, Euro 2012 started and the Olympic torch started its journey around the UK. Oh and lest we forget, Paraphilia, the French version of Sugar & Spice was released in print and digital! ;-)

 You can read about my promotional trip to Paris here on my SMoD&L blog.

So, of course, we are totally enamoured by the French to start with because they took the chance on publishing our book and for that we are eternally grateful, but what has become glaringly obvious is the difference between the horror stories that you read daily on writers’ blogs about ogre publishers, non-compete clauses that rival any of Tolstoy‘s offerings and the age between the signing of a contract and holding a book in  your hands, and our recent dalliance with a publisher.

Well let me put that straight right here and right now:

With our publishers (MA Editions),  we had none of that. In fact, the polar opposite.

I have talked about how professional, friendly, approachable, flexible (shall I go on) and just downright awesome MA have been with us from the very first email contact we had in previous blog posts, but it won’t hurt to recap:

  • From first email requesting the MS to signing the contract approximately 4 weeks
  • Total control over the re-name of the book
  • Constant contact with the translator throughout that process
  • Frequent updates on release progress
  • Meeting in person in the UK with the Publishing Manager
  • Time from contract to print approximately 7 months
  • Arranging of promotional visit to France for myself and sorting meetings with publicists, bloggers and other influential literary persons

They have been brilliant! The owner of the Publishing company even turned up at le Gare de Nord to collect me from the Eurostar and drove me to my hotel, before staying with us all day throughout the meetings and translating for me during my interviews. Nothing has been too much trouble, honestly.

We couldn’t have asked for better treatment, even as total unknown/debut authors, they have treated us with the utmost respect and professionalism and we hope to continue and strengthen our relationship with them going forward.

Even now, with Paraphilia in its first week of official release in France, we are talking to them about our next projects and they are involved already. We are looking to  set the third book in the Rose Red crime series, Beauty & the Beast in Paris, so we checked with them on the legalities of mentioning place names in the book and asked if they knew of anyone who could help us with the French police procedural references.

Two hours later, we have a French lawyer to contact for the project and they are currently seeking out an English speaking detective to assist.

That’s what I call service.

The whole publishing system in France is completely different too.

In a very long (and slightly scary) drive to my hotel in Paris, I chatted with Eric and Valerie, who between them have over 45 years experience in publishing, about the UK’s reluctance to publish Sugar & Spice, the print v digital debate and the French pricing structure.

Eric could not get his head around the whole ‘we love your book but we daren’t publish it because it’s got the word paedophile in it and we can’t be associated with that’ saga, nor could he understand why you had to have an agent to get anywhere (or so some people think) these days. He also wafted away my concerns about the price of both the digital and print version of Paraphilia and explained that publishers have no (or little) control over pricing and that the margin for promotional/reduction purposes is not even as high as ten percent. Ergo, the French buying public expect to pay the prices set. Not a bad model. At least for the publishers and authors.

A week in to our release and we are awaiting reaction and reviews to come in, but sales are looking promising.

Today we charted on Amazon.fr with the Kindle version of Paraphilia and we couldn’t be more thrilled:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for print sales, it will be some time before we find out how that is going, but one thing we do know is, our publisher will be doing everything within their powers to ensure the book is a success.

Our wonderful translator, Christophe Sisyphus even sent us this picture of Paraphilia in the Virgin store!

So all that remains for me to say to all you wannabe/new and disillusioned writers out there , is ‘don’t believe everything you hear’.  Most horror stories aren’t true or at least, not the ones you hear about publishers anyway. ;-)

I leave you with the question: Why are the UK so far behind in just about everything?

Of course, if it comes down to England v France in the Euro’s at any point (I realise we have played them, but we COULD meet again), I won’t be quite so in love with the French, but I cannot deny, a little of the blue in the red, white and blue running through my veins, now belongs to Francais. ;-)

Au revoir.

Saffi

PS. If you are so inclined and can read French, you can get Paraphilia here:

Amazon UK print

Amazon UK Kindle

Amazon FR print

Amazon FR Kindle

‘Snow White’ Top 100 – yes please!

When we released our debut novel ‘Sugar & Spice’ what seems like eons ago now, we never dreamed that it would make the top 100 in the Amazon paid store.

We never even thought we’d sell 100 books, let alone reach the top 100, but we did. It took us roughly 160 days.

‘Snow White’ was released 20 days ago and this morning, I awoke to find us sitting at number 98.

We might not stay there, who knows, but it was still a nice sight to wake up to.

We’ve learnt a lot since then – loads.

I was interviewed yesterday by a journalist for an article on the rise of Kindle and digital publishing and he asked me that very same question: What do you know now that you didn’t know when you started out?

The experience of uploading our second book to Amazon was very different. The first time round we stumbled through the process like a blind-folded drunk on ice and made some BIG mistakes.

The result? ‘Sugar & Spice’ sat bobbing around the lower echelons of the Amazon charts unnoticed for weeks, months even. Then when it did start selling, we also had problems and the climb was arduous, pedestrian.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. This time, we did everything differently:

Paid for a cover in advance, promoted before the release. Blogged, tweeted and facebook’ed’. Had it proof-read and professionally converted for upload. All things we had done ourselves the first time. Sure, it costs you money, but it pays for itself almost immediately.

Those few things sell books – fact.

We are learning all the time and when we release ‘Rapunzel’ before the end of the year, we’ll be even wiser (and older!).

Ok, these things don’t guarantee success, but they sure help. ;-)

  • Buy Part One: JAX – INDIGO KIDS from Amazon

  • Buy Part Two: HADI – INDIGO KIDS from Amazon

  • Buy Part Three: STARR – INDIGO KIDS from Amazon

  • Buy Part Four: CECI – INDIGO KIDS from Amazon

  • Buy ROSE RED CRIME THRILLER BOXED SET FROM AMAZON

  • Buy Sugar & Spice from Amazon

  • Buy the French edition of Sugar & Spice (Paraphilia)

  • Buy Snow White from Amazon

  • Buy Snow White in PRINT from Amazon

  • Buy Rapunzel from Amazon

  • Buy Ring A-Ring O’Roses from Amazon

  • Buy The Night Before Christmas from Amazon

  • Buy Anca’s Story from Amazon

  • Buy Anca’s Story in PRINT from Amazon

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