Tag Archives: Déjà Vu

Acquired by Unsung Stories

I’m excited to announce that the first book in the Saskia Brandt series, Déjà Vu, has been acquired by George Sandison at Unsung Stories. This is a new imprint and I’m lucky to be one of the launch titles along­side m’colleague Aliya Whiteley.

I’m cur­rently work­ing on an updated edi­tion of Déjà Vu and, with any luck, I’ll be pub­lish­ing sequels Flashback and The Amber Rooms with Unsung too.

Exciting times.

Kindle Select Tips

It was late after­noon yes­ter­day when I remembered that I’d signed up Déjà Vu for a one-day stint as a free­bie. This is pos­sible as part of Amazon’s Kindle Select pro­gramme. There isn’t a huge amount of data avail­able on this, so here are mine.

For the last three months or so, sales of Déjà Vu had been slow­ing (oh so tra­gic­ally, but you’ll hear no com­plaints from me about how well the book has done). In the UK, it’s March-May sales were 426, 124, and 96. For the US, those fig­ures are much smal­ler: 45, 21, and 26. The over­all sales stand at 9000 UK, 1487 US, totalling 10, 505 (the extra 18 come from Germany).

I’ve inter­preted these sales as show­ing suc­cess in the UK and, well, show­ing a lack of it in the US. One of the nice things is that 50% of the people who read Déjà Vu want to buy Flashback, even though it’s £1.20 more expensive.

By the time I remembered about the one-day free­bie, yes­ter­day, Déjà Vu had been ‘selling’ for a few hours in the US. At that point, 576 cop­ies had been moved in the US and only 126 in the UK. This puzzles me a little. Whereas the book doesn’t really sell in the US, there are more people ready to grab it for free. Perhaps, then, it is reas­on­ably attract­ive to the American con­sumer but not so attract­ive that they’re keen to pur­chase in large number.

When I went to bed that even­ing, 2854 had moved in the US and 288 in the UK. This morn­ing, tot­ting up the final fig­ures, the US total was 5713 and the UK total 358. Déjà Vu reached at least num­ber four in both (free) sci­ence fic­tion charts each side of the Atlantic. With caveats, that sug­gests the US Kindle mar­ket is around ten times the size of the UK market.

Overall, then, I’d call it a suc­cess­ful pro­mo­tion. It’s worth bear­ing in mind that not many of those read­ers will read the book. Fewer still, maybe none, will post a review. The last pro­mo­tion I did was for Proper Job, my first — and per­haps last — com­edy novel. That shif­ted many free cop­ies but got no reviews.

How has the Déjà Vu pro­mo­tion impacted on sales? There’s a small effect. It might last a day or two.

I’ve sold 20 cop­ies in the US so far this month, and that com­pares with 26 cop­ies for all of May. Oh, and I see one refund! Flashback sales are up a bit to 5 cop­ies this month; last month it was 15.

In the UK, I’ve sold 25 cop­ies of Déjà Vu in June (cf. 95 last month) and 13 cop­ies of Flashback (cf. 73 last month).

For rank­ings, Déjà Vu is now at 1,997 in the UK, whereas pre­vi­ously it was float­ing around 10,000. It’s at 7,564 in the US, and has been hov­er­ing at 35,000 or so.

There are some stats I could prob­ably com­pute for the effect of the Kindle Select pro­mo­tion, but that would be overkill. Right now, I’d say it’s worth it, and the Kindle Select pro­gramme remains a great tool for authors pub­lish­ing on Amazon.

In terms of max­im­ising the bene­fit of the pro­mo­tion, you should — obvi­ously — try to get the word out on your social net­works without being too much of a tit about it. I try not to be a tit but my Twitter fol­low­ers could prob­ably tell you whether or not I’m suc­ceed­ing. Yesterday, I was lucky that SF Signal retweeted a mes­sage about the pro­mo­tion to almost 7000 fol­low­ers, and I’d be will­ing to bet that con­trib­uted a great deal to the final US fig­ure of 5713.

I guess this is mar­ket­ing, but I prefer to think of it as let­ting people know about a book they might like. A Tweet is a tran­si­ent thing. I’m no fan of spam, and I don’t do newsletters.

Well, peeps, there’re the data. Not sure whether they gen­er­al­ise, but there they are.

Déjà Vu: The Next Generation

No, it’s not a mash-up where Whorf mar­ries Saskia Brandt and Data downs­izes to a com­puter the size of a credit card. This post com­prises a thought or two on the pro­cess behind what falls under the label ‘Coming to America’ — or, more accur­ately, work­ing with my American agent on the edi­tion of Déjà Vu that we’ll sub­mit to pub­lish­ers over the next few months.

Non-writers — and a few writers at the begin­ning of their career — tend to feel that their work is in final draft early on. Most exper­i­enced writers will agree that the edit­ing pro­cess rep­res­ents as much work, if not more, as those early drafts that seemed fin­ished. The pro­cess is a enjoy­able one because the changes take the book, inch by inch, towards the best it can be.

So, des­pite the flat­ter­ing Amazon reviews, I’m keen to take another look at Déjà Vu and tweak it inline with the com­ments given to me by my agent, Katherine.

I often think of the writ­ing pro­cess as being like pro­du­cing a film, which is odd given that I have no exper­i­ence of film pro­duc­tion. But the first draft is like a rough cut: the mater­ial exists in ugly, clumsy but sub­stant­ive form. Later drafts are like film edits: boil­ing down the bulk, com­press­ing and adding mean­ing. The com­ments of the agent are akin to those of a pro­du­cer — ‘Should this dis­solve be a jump cut?’ — and intel­li­gib­il­ity — ‘Why not insert a brief scene where Bob reveals a per­sonal secret to Jane?’

As you might expect, Katherine made clear that I’m free to ignore all her com­ments, but I haven’t because they are good ones. In this new draft, I’ve made Saskia’s hybrid mind clearer to the reader; filled in some plot blanks that read­ers often don’t under­stand on their own; and, with min­imal touches, I’ve tried to stop the reader boun­cing out of the story on account of unne­ces­sary com­plex­ity or unex­plained happenings.

The trick, of course, is to leave the good stuff untouched and improve the bits that are just about working.

Here’s one example. In the cur­rent draft, Saskia’s phys­ical appear­ance is not described expli­citly. Katherine thought that a phys­ical descrip­tion early on in the book was needed. Why didn’t I include one? Well, I hate authory bits where the reader is told about a char­ac­ter. I want these descrip­tions to serve the story too.

Excerpt from the cur­rent edi­tion of Déjà Vu:

Ghost-touched by the air con­di­tion­ing, her sweat dried cold. She entered the lift, which rose on a pis­ton and opened high in the build­ing. Her office was one among dozens on the floor. Its plaque read: Frau Kommissarin Brandt. She licked her thumb and squeaked away a plastic shav­ing from the newly carved B.

Excerpt from the unpub­lished, newer draft:

…She licked her thumb and squeaked away a plastic shav­ing from the newly carved B. There was a pic­ture along­side the name. It showed a ser­i­ous, beau­ti­ful woman in her late twen­ties. No make-up. No ear­ring in the exposed, left ear. Many pho­to­graphs had been taken and Saskia liked this one the least. As always, she scowled at her­self before open­ing the door.

I’m fairly happy with this descrip­tion. It is plaus­ible that Saskia would see this pic­ture; it’s still vague, but gives enough for the reader to ima­gine her appear­ance; and it con­tains her reac­tion to it, which tells the reader some­thing about her char­ac­ter. With luck, I’ve avoided this kind of thing [from Dan Brown’s angels and Demons]:

Although not overly hand­some in a clas­sical sense, the forty-five-year-old Langdon had what his female referred to as an ‘eru­dite’ appeal …Langdon still had the body o a swim­mer, a toned, six-foot physique that he vigil­antly main­tained with fifty laps a day in the uni­ver­sity pool.

If I ever write like this, shoot me. Shoot me vigilantly.

The New Statesman on Déjà Vu Sales

A heads-up from Ben Johncock tells me that no less than Nicholas Clee has been writ­ing in the New Statesman about the trans­ition from tan­gible to elec­tronic books. (I’ve been strug­gling to find an offi­cial link to the piece; here’s an unofficial-looking one.)

It’s fair to say that Nicholas Clee is tra­di­tional in his perspective.

Ebooks are des­troy­ing this eco­nomic model. …Will 99P become the optimum price for an ebook? If so, who is going to make any money out of pub­lish­ing or writ­ing books for such a market?

I agree with the first point here. The ebook is a dis­rupt­ive entity. But any­body who has been around since the early 1990s has seen, in the music industry, an example of elec­tronic mer­chand­ise des­troy­ing an eco­nomic model based on the phys­ical. Perhaps ‘des­troyed’ is the wrong term to use in this con­text. The mar­ket is still there. But how much growth does the CD mar­ket have? How much in the hard­back market?

The second point speaks to a fun­da­mental issue of busi­ness. One should not ask ‘How are all the employ­ees of the leg­acy pub­lish­ing industry — from recep­tion­ists to the CEO — going to main­tain their income?’ because this leads to the prob­lem that afflicts all pub­lish­ers: they decide as a group, impli­citly or expli­citly, to act as a car­tel. Prices are kept high. This cre­ates situ­ations where the elec­tronic ver­sion of a book costs the same as or more than the tan­gible. Try explain­ing this to a con­sumer. It’s hard. ‘We need these prices because of the way our busi­ness was set up’ makes for poor advert­ising copy.

Now for the part that men­tions your humble correspondent:

As for the fin­an­cial implic­a­tions — on the Me and My Big Mouth blog, the nov­el­ist Ian Hocking … has con­fided his sales fig­ures and rev­en­ues from self-publishing ebooks with Amazon. Two of them have sold more than 8,000 cop­ies. This is a fig­ure that many con­ven­tion­ally pub­lished nov­el­ists would envy. But Hocking’s profit to date is only just over £300 (his rev­enue is just over £2,000).

Had Hocking chosen a con­ven­tional pub­lisher, he might well have sold fewer cop­ies, but he would have earned more, thanks to the publisher’s advance.

Yes, my profit is just over £300, but this fig­ure is essen­tially mean­ing­less (the rev­enue is more inform­at­ive) as a proxy for suc­cess. First, I’ve ploughed vir­tu­ally all the money from the first book into the second, and so on. ‘Profit’, then, in this con­text, rep­res­ents the amount that I’ve decided not to spend. I might have adjus­ted that up or down arbit­rar­ily. Second, my sci­ence fic­tion nov­els con­tinue to sell in greater num­ber each month, and unless I can find other book-related expendit­ure, this ‘profit’ fig­ure will rise sharply. Overall, I believe it was more sens­ible for me (as a writer nobody has heard of) to price low and sell in quant­ity than opt for the pre­ferred option of a leg­acy pub­lisher, which, per­haps, is to price high and sell few.

The ques­tion of the pub­lisher advance is an inter­est­ing one. It would cer­tainly be in my short term interest to land a large advance, which I may not earn out. But, if I may say, the industry-wide beha­viour of dol­ing out these advances is one of the reas­ons the busi­ness model is unsupportable.

To return to this ques­tion: Is 99p too cheap for a book? I really don’t know. If you’re employed by a busi­ness that requires the new Ken Follett book to be £16 or more, you’ll prob­ably think it’s too cheap and con­sider me an upstart who is under­cut­ting you. If you’re an indi­vidual, cre­at­ive per­son who is put­ting out a product and is in con­trol of the con­sumer exper­i­ence, you will think care­fully about the impact that your price will have on the per­cep­tion of the product. I think 99p for Déjà Vu rep­res­ents good value. After all, you can get it from a lib­rary for free, and that doesn’t lessen its worth. Neither does pick­ing up a second-hand copy from the church bazar.

Last word from Mr Clee, which requires no com­ment bey­ond a brief nod to its past tense:

An industry that paid unre­cov­er­able advances for books, and then pub­lished them in formats that the pub­lic thought too expens­ive, had its eccentricities.

Déjà Vu 5-Star Review on Red Adept

This is, I think, the first non-customer review of Déjà Vu for its cur­rent edi­tion. Red Adept is a site where authors can sub­mit their works for review. The admin­is­trat­ors make clear that reviews are non-debatable, and always pub­lish them to the book’s Amazon page after one month. I like the break­down into ‘plot’, ‘char­ac­ter devel­op­ment’, ‘writ­ing style’ and ‘editing’.

I wanted to share this excerpt:

Saskia enjoys a met­ric ton (or rather, tonne, as Mr. Hocking is British) of char­ac­ter devel­op­ment dur­ing the course of the story, since she begins from a point that’s worse off than a blank slate: the little she knows about her cur­rent life is a lie. As the plot pro­gresses, she wor­ries who she truly is, and if she’ll be lost to the resur­fa­cing of her body’s viol­ent per­son­al­ity. By the end, she’s far out­stripped every­one else in com­plex­ity and sheer awesomeness.

Did you know that Déjà Vu’s price has been slashed by 16% to make it 72p? That’s 72p British pence, people.

Twittering through Time

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a free social net­work­ing and micro-blogging ser­vice that allows users to send “updates” (or “tweets”; text-based posts, up to 140 char­ac­ters long) to the Twitter web­site, via short mes­sage ser­vice (e.g. on a cell phone), instant mes­saging, or a third-party applic­a­tion such as Twitterrific or Facebook.

You’ll have noticed that I include my Twitter feed in the footer text of this web­site. So, when I’m drink­ing a cof­fee and feel that the world needs to know; or I’m stuck on a train out­side Basingstoke; or I’m watch­ing Dr Who…then I can tweet.

Twitter is one of those tech­no­lo­gies that gives Web 2.0 a bad name. That is, whenever I explain it to people who don’t use social net­work­ing thingies, they look at me like I’m a com­plete idiot.

Just like you’re look­ing at your web browser right now, very probably.

For a long while, I’ve been inter­ested in some­how cap­tur­ing — live — the pro­cess of cre­at­ing a novel. I’d like to put together a form of par­al­lel art that mir­rors the inser­tion, dele­tion and move­ment of words around the manu­script, and per­haps make a time-lapse film of it. I’m still a long way from being able to do this. Some spe­cies of screen cap­ture tech­no­logy poin­ted at my word pro­cessor might do the trick, but the band­width implic­a­tion makes me dizzy.

So, as part of this exper­i­ment­a­tion with reflect­ing the ongo­ing devel­op­ment of a novel, I have cre­ated a Twitter account for my heroine, Saskia Brandt. The cur­rent novel (my third in this series; the first was pub­lished as Déjà Vu) is set in 1907. That’s where my time trav­el­ler has wound up.

Who is Saskia Brandt? (If you haven’t read Déjà Vu and think you might, look away now.) Saskia is phys­ic­ally fit, about 30 years old — nobody is quite sure of her age — and a former detect­ive with the European Föderatives Investigationsbüro, a spe­cial­ist organ­isa­tion set up in 2019 to address EU-wide com­puter crime. She was for­cibly put through an exper­i­mental pro­ced­ure that left her with a small, glass-covered chip at the back of her brain. It con­tains a digital copy of a murdered woman’s mind. It con­tains what is, essen­tially, Saskia’s per­son­al­ity. The ori­ginal per­son­al­ity of her phys­ical brain is sup­pressed; though it can usurp con­trol in her dreams and moments of stress. Various skills were flashed onto the chip before inser­tion, includ­ing weapons hand­ling, lan­guage com­pet­ency (she under­stands more than 6000 lan­guages), and spe­cial pro­grams that post-process sens­ory inform­a­tion. In 2023, she trav­elled back­wards in time and is cur­rently being hunted by her former employ­ers. Now she’s in St Petersburg in 1907.

Saskia Brandt is going to tweet her ‘status’ as the cur­rent novel is being writ­ten. You’re very wel­come to add Saskia to your Twitter friends, if you have an account. She’ll add you straight back. Her Twitter address is: http://twitter.com/saskiabrandt You don’t, by the way, need an account to fol­low her. Her status updates are now included in the page footer, and you can visit the above address manually.

Here are some rules:

  • She will update her status about once a day; her time frame is ‘live’ in the sense that she will tweet about things hap­pen­ing to her in that day’s writ­ing session
  • Her statuses will con­tain teas­ers, not spoilers
  • Though she is updat­ing her status as though she had a mobile phone in 1907, the char­ac­ter in the final novel will not be stop­ping every few pages to send a tweet
  • Saskia will reply to your ques­tions if you ask them, but will not spoil the story

Interested? Then make Saskia a Twitter friend. I’m cur­rently 4400 words into the manu­script (which will total around 100,000), so Saskia will be tweet­ing for the next few months. Here’s the latest tweet. For her, it’s November 1907 and she’s trav­el­ling into St Petersburg on behalf of a crim­inal organ­isa­tion which (I think) she’s just betrayed.


Michael Stephen Fuchs — whose rather good nov­els I have reviewed for Pulp.net and on this blog — has writ­ten an art­icle for the manfully-named www.shotsmag.co.uk. He writes about the dif­fer­ence between British and American authors in their treat­ment of guns. In sum­mary, the Brits are less expert.

I’ve made my own, mod­est con­tri­bu­tion to this trend by bungling a descrip­tion of fire­arms not once but sev­eral times in the ori­ginal pub­lic­a­tion of Déjà vu. I described the cyl­in­der of a revolver as the bar­rel (hey, it’s some­what barrel-like!) and was very loose in my treat­ment of the term ‘fir­ing pin’. Fortunately, an American reader poin­ted this out — in a genu­inely kind man­ner — and I’ve put it straight for sub­sequent ver­sions of the book.

Says Michael:

This cul­tural dif­fer­ence also res­ults in some very palp­able dif­fer­ences between writ­ing about guns and gun­play by British authors versus American authors. With American crime and action writers – if you know what to listen for, at any rate – it’s easy to get a sense that they are writ­ing from first-hand exper­i­ence. With Brits, it’s equi­val­ently easy to get a sense they are writ­ing straight from research. This is because, gen­er­ally, at some point in the book, the British writer will let slip one small but enorm­ously glar­ing boner about the makeup or oper­a­tions of fire­arms. When this hap­pens, it’s like get­ting a brief glimpse around the edge of the card­board build­ing facade in a Hollywood set: noth­ing else has changed, all the other details are still right. But, sud­denly, the whole thing just looks irre­triev­ably fake.

I’ll get m’coat.

Hell, I am bust­ing to fire a pro­jectile weapon. I want to know how much it stings one’s palm; what it smells like; how loud it is; does it make that PEEEEOW(OW)(ow) sound lib­er­ally employed on the foley track for The Professionals? I also wouldn’t mind hit­ting some­thing, as long as it’s made of clay.

I won­der if Michael has any in his cupboard.