I've had quite a few emails over the last few months asking when my new novel will be published. I'm really happy to report that UNTIL YOU'RE MINE will be out in the UK in June 2013! I'm very pleased indeed to be working with the fab team at Century and I'm in the thick of some edits right now so we can have some proofs before Christmas. Early summer next year might seem a while to wait, but in the publishing world, I know only too well how time flies. One minute you're writing the first draft and the next your book's on the shelves. But a lot of work goes on behind the scenes during that time and, as I type, there are five designers beavering away on my new cover. Can't wait to see that!
And the other good news is that my novel is being published in the USA by Crown and will also be available in lots of other places from Brazil to Europe to Australia! Meantime, here's a little blurb... Life is pretty much perfect for mother-to-be Claudia and her husband James. Perfect, that is, until their new nanny Zoe moves into the top floor of their Georgian home. She comes highly recommended but when James's job takes him away and out of contact, Claudia starts to get nervous. What is it about the nanny that unsettles her so? Meanwhile, a series of vicious attacks on pregnant women is all over the news. Married detectives Lorraine Fisher and Sam Scott have never seen anything like it. And when their teenage daughter suddenly decides to leave home and get married, keeping home and work separate becomes impossible. They soon realise that the killer will stop at nothing to get a baby of their own and it becomes a race against time to prevent another murder.
Just a very quick update to say that an exciting new-look blog and website are flickering on the horizon and in techie development as I type. If nothing else, it will all be a lot easier for me to update regularly!
And following on from my post last summer when SOMEONE ELSE'S SON was nominated for the Redbridge Libraries 'Big Red Read 2011' Crime Fiction Awards, I had absolutely no idea until recently that I actually came second! I'm very chuffed and thoroughly believe in delaying my gratification - even if it was for nearly a year! It's extremely good to know that enough readers voted for me to fight off some extremely fierce competition. Though not quite enough to pip Erin Kelly and The Poison Tree at the post, who came in first. But it was my fave novel of last year and the perfect book by which to be beaten, so I'm not complaining.
Meanwhile, here are a few lovely foreign covers to show off and add to my sidebar collection...
Considering all the NaNoWriMo excitement around at the moment, I just had to make it N in my A-Z. November is a month of furious novel writing, a creativity-filled four weeks with thousands of writers around the world bent over their keyboards hammering out a little over sixteen hundred words a day. I'm not actually signed up for it but quite wish I was, given all the goings-on and banter at the moment.
So what is NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and began in 1999 in San Francisco. In brief, it's based around a website where writers register and commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in just a month. The site will help you plan your novel, keep track of your progress, you'll get loads of support during this brain-crunch time, there are forums covering all aspects of writing and publishing, and you have the chance to join regional meets during November. Sounds like fun. It also sounds like hard work.
Or does it? I suppose that very much depends on how much time you have each day to devote to your task. If you're working a fifty hour week already, add these words on top and it's going to be a pretty hard slog both physically and mentally. The opposite is also true. If you have all day to give to NaNo then it's an easy prospect...surely?
In my experience (and I'm writing my ninth novel now with seven so far published) no two days of writing output are the same. Writers don't have a measurable rating, sadly, and experience doesn't always mean the words will come on demand (though I don't believe in writers' block). Some of my best writing stints happen when I'm severely under pressure either from deadlines or other commitments. While it's luxurious to amble through a novel with no one breathing down your neck for a delivery date, this can also result in a bit of procrastinating and the self-imposed deadlines get kicked back and back on the calendar until you wished you hadn't set one in the first place.
If you're a newbie writer, then leaping into NaNoWriMo will probably feel a bit like running a half-marathon without having trained. In fact, I've always likened writing to exercise. Writing's a bit of a muscle in my book (haha) and needs to be exercised regularly. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Really! And I don't mean that the ideas, the language, the skill will necessarily become easier - I mean the actual discipline of sitting down and writing solidly for two, three four, ten hours at a time will become second nature the more you do it.
For the more experienced or published writer, NaNo might seem like just another day at the coal-face. Words come, hopefully the right ones, and the book progresses. But in both cases, the added bonus of fellow participant motivation (if she/he can do it, then so can I), the brilliant community where you can post about your head-bashing word count of fifty or boast about the five thousand you knocked-off before breakfast, shouldn't be underestimated. Writing is a lonely business. Support is vital. And then the sense of achievement at the end when you type the fifty thousandth word and write, well, The End, will be immense. Though remember, most published novels are usually between eighty to a hundred and twenty thousand words, so there's a little way to go once you've 'got down the bones.'
But that's the whole point of the novel writing month, so say its fans (and I am one!). Get it down, bash/churn/hammer it out however it comes, do not go back and revise, do not stop and do not give up. I completely agree. I've never written a novel that way exactly but I can certainly relate to the process. When I'm writing, I like to write about two thousand words a day. I will cheat a little and edit the previous day's work the next morning but not very much. The big edits come later.
So, NaNoWriMo - it's fast, it's furious, it's fun and gives a huge sense of achievement to have completed such a large body of work at the end of the month. I'm sure the website will have lots of advice about editing your novel once it's written. My suggestion would be to forget about it for about a month or so then re-read it, say, in the New Year. Do not cringe in horror, do not delete or burn. Do remember how many hours of work you put into your novel and do believe that it can be added to, edited, polished and improved by applying a good dose of your November discipline. This is normal. All writers go through it.
And if publication is your aim, you're going to need an agent. Being absolutely certain of your work, knowing it's the very best it can be, is essential. If another month of polishing is what it needs then do it - the agents aren't going anywhere. I can't stress this enough. Agents aren't looking for a way to reject you - they're really hoping your work will be stunning. But a rushed manuscript isn't going to do you any favours. A few typos can certainly be forgiven but a novel without a compelling story, believable characters and brilliant ending can't.
There have been a number of NaNoWriMo successes. Julia Crouch and Elizabeth Haynes (their books are fab - I've read them both) spring to mind and both bagged publishing deals from spending thirty days one November writing seventeen hundred words a day. Of course, there was a lot of work subsequently but it certainly got them off to a flying start!
So if you want to write a novel and fast but haven't signed up, don't despair. There are still twenty-eight days left in November. That's only 1785 words a day compared to the original of 1666. Happy NaNoWriMo to all participants and good luck!
So the holiday season is pretty much over and autumn seems to have set in rather early in Warwickshire. I even lit the fire over the weekend as I seemed to be doing a weird shaking thing. Shivering, I've heard it's called. A post-Crete adjustment, I suppose, and I don't really mind. I like log fires and I like autumn. I seem to produce my best writing during this season so bring it on!
Meantime, my novel SOMEONE ELSE'S SON has been shortlisted for The Big Red Read 2011 and I'd be mighty chuffed if anyone fancies taking a quick trip to the website to vote, especially if it's for my book! All you need to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and say which book and author you're voting for. I'm really pleased to have been shortlisted in such good company!
I was messing about in Crete trying to be a bit arty with my camera and thought I'd post a couple of my favourite pics (click to enlarge). The first one had me staring thoughtfully. Taken rather lazily from my towel on the only bad weather day we had all fortnight, it screamed New Novel Cover at me and youngest She-Devil was rather pleased to have been of assistance. Rather moody and dramatic, it could so easily be the Cornish beach in the novel rather than a beach in the Med.
There were lots of cats draped around the place and they seemed to love nothing more than a nice snuggle in a rubbish dump (not that I went sightseeing around bins).
Yes, the sky was always this blue...wasn't sure what the white stuff in the sky was when we came home.
This is a huge topic and not one I'm going to scratch the surface of in a quick-fire, catch-up post on my slightly neglected A-Z of (my experiences) in publishing. In fact, what I know about the subject has been largely gathered from my own books being published. So these are just some of my thoughts/experiences regarding marketing.
Obviously, marketing a book costs. And from what I gather, to do it properly costs a lot. These days, there are many ways to market a book--newspaper adverts, tube posters and other poster campaigns (taxis, buses, mainline stations etc), television adverts, in-store promotions such as the lovely 'front table' or the 3 for 2, other paid-for promotions...maybe competitions, perhaps alongside another 'compatible' product (think books and chocolate!). This is just scratching the surface and, as an author, it's completely out of my hands. I'm not the one with the budget (or not), the publisher is. And they decide how best to implement a marketing campaign for their titles. I've been much more involved with the publicity side of things (think marketing but for free!) as that's where an author can really help get things rolling at a book's launch and beyond. But that's another post.
I've been very lucky. My first novel BLOOD TIES was published within a fanfare of tube posters and in-store promotions. It's very hard to have a novel picked up by a supermarket or chain bookshop for their precious shelf space, but my first was stacked high in all three big supermarkets in their chart promotions, as well as appearing on the front tables in Waterstone's, WH Smith and poor old Borders. I remember accosting a woman in Asda. She was holding a copy of my novel and another book, weighing up which one to buy. 'Pick that one,' I suggested. 'Have you read it?' she asked, surprised I'd even shown an interest. 'I wrote it,' I told her. I don't think she believed me.
I went on a whirlwind tour of the underground with my publicist at the time. She proudly showed me some of the many posters plastered all over subterranean London (and a good number of mainline stations nationwide, too). I was hot from dashing around but immensely proud to see my book, my name, decorating tube stations. I have one of the posters. It's still rolled up in its container as I don't have a wall big enough to put it on!
The marketing campaign, along with lots of lovely publicity, really helped spread the word about BLOOD TIES. The book sold a lot of copies and it makes me wonder: Would this have happened without the marketing spend? Would publicity have been enough? Would 'word of mouth' have achieved the same figures?
Like I said, it's a huge subject and I'm not even a tiny bit of an expert on it - just a speculator, a consumer, a person whose books have been marketed. As a consumer, marketing works on me to a certain extent. If I see a poster or an advert for a new book and I like the sound of it - either by a favourite author or a new one - I'll certainly make a mental note to look it up online later. Then, based on the blurb, a quick flip through, perhaps online reviews, I'll decide whether or not to buy. So, for me, in that respect, marketing works. It draws my attention to books I perhaps wouldn't get to hear about. Or would I?
These days, most people (not all, I realise) have internet access and many will do as I do and check out books online, even if that's not where they end up buying. And of course with the rising popularity of Kindle and other e-readers, you're more likely than ever to research online. I suppose the perfect marketing food chain goes like this: Reader spots advert for book, reader comes across a piece in a magazine written by the same author featured in the advert, reader looks at author website and reads an excerpt of the book, reader buys book from local independent bookshop (as well as a Kindle edition or similar) and then reader, publisher and author are happy. All for an average price of around £4.50.
I have no breakdown of the cost of producing a book and neither do I know the average spend (or the smallest and the greatest) for a marketing drive. I'm convinced that for certain titles, the figure would be immense. We're all used to seeing huge advertising campaigns for the giant names but surely it's a circle that will only continue to grow once the wheels of paid-for promotions have begun to turn. What would happen to these authors if they didn't have marketing? I doubt Dan Brown would suddenly stop selling if his books weren't on the sides of buses or that John Grisham's loyal readers would quit waiting for his latest title if there were no posters. What would happen if unknown and debut novelists had a massive marketing spend instead? Would it be wasted? Would it be the start of great things for authors who wouldn't otherwise have been heard of? Is it fair that the book-buying public only get presented with a small number of books as we go about our daily business, the occasional advert for a new novel catching our eye?
I don't know the answer to these questions. The publishers hold the key to successful advertising. They have marketing departments filled with people who know their stuff. Authors trust them and keep writing books. It's the readers, the great book-buying public, who hold the key really, I suppose. We're the ones who respond to the advertising, we're the suggestible ones who maybe unconsciously react to what our brains have soaked up. So perhaps next time I'm in a bookshop I'll walk on past the front tables and the cardboard promotion stands and do eeny-meeny on some authors I haven't read before. Not that I don't anyway and I'll no doubt grab an armful of 3 for 2s on the way out.
BLOOD TIES had a television advert in Germany. The first cover for this title in Germany had the heads of two rather freaky porcelain dolls on the front. I had no idea what the advert said (apart from the 'Krimis und Thriller' bit). The dolls' eyes popped open at the end and everything. Three books down the line in Germany and 'Das Verbotene Zimmer' (TELL TALE) is currently hanging around number 10 on the Amazon.de crime and thriller list. Clearly dolls with popping eyes work well over there!
Just a quick plug for WordFest beginning this weekend in Crawley. A whole week of fab literary events is planned, including everything from an illustrative lettering workshop to an open mic night to author panel events...which is where I come in.
On Saturday 2nd April, I'll be doing a 'Meet the Crime Writers' panel discussion with fellow Headline author Julia Crouch as well as Peter Lovesey and Andrew Martin. We'll be talking about our books - we're all quite different in terms of what we write - the writing process and how we ramp up the tension. Of course, it wouldn't be a panel event without lots of questions from the audience, so come along and give us a good grilling!
The event is being held in the Food Court at County Mall, Crawley and begins at 6.30pm. Tickets are £3 each and you can buy our books there too - and get them signed, of course!
Live in or around Crawley? Then why not pop along to Waterstone's and get me to sign a book (preferably one that I wrote, although I'm happy to sign anything really). I'll be there from 4PM with copies of SOMEONE ELSE'S SON and fellow Headline author Julia Crouch.
Here's a link to County Mall where you'll find Waterstone's at 83-84 County Mall, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 1FD Telephone01293 533471.
Then...it's off to Crawley Library for an event for World Book Night. It starts at 6.30PM and costs a mere £3 which includes a free book (Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell or Shadow Magic, a young adult book by John Lenahan) so you can't say fairer than that. Plus I'll be reading from my latest novel along with several other authors.
Crawley Library is on Southgate Avenue, Crawley - close to County Mall (exit via Debenhams). The postcode for SatNavs is RH10 6HG. Contact the Box Office on 01293 651751.
If you think about it, you can come to the signing in Waterstone's, grab an early supper (or carry on shopping) then come on over for a glass of vino and some quality fiction. Sorted!
This time it's Big Bird and a little ballet dancer but oh how I love it, despite it being rather sinister-looking! It's the cover of Tell Tale and my Russian contact (aka my Dad's wife - see my piece in the Sunday Times Style magazine this week for more on that story!) informs me that it translates as, well, The Informer. Quite fitting. I seriously would love all my Russian covers as big framed pictures in my house. Of course, put these images on my books in the UK and my readers would stand in the bookshops scratching their heads wondering what on earth I'd written about. If you take a flick down the side of my blog you can see how the different countries have their very unique ideas for covers, with the German edition of Tell Tale (The Forbidden Room) looking quite different to the previous two.
And soon I'll be adding Dutch and Norwegian covers with the ink still wet on contracts for more titles sold in these countries.
I'm now a paid-up official member of the Crime Writers' Association (why didn't I join before, I'm asking myself?) and I'm very excited about going along to my first get-together and meeting other members. I hear that they like the bar. I'm not sure they mean the legal one.
Meantime, I'm nearly done ploughing through an office stuffed full of paperwork and accounts - it suffers for my art, you see (well that's my excuse) and I will be starting work on my new novel next week. I've been tinkering and planning and plotting for several weeks now and I'm ready to begin in earnest. I'm not keen on the little gaps between books but alas they are necessary to sort the mess that grows while I'm immersed in writing. I think new curtains and a lick of paint might well be in order too. I may even post a pic of the 'writer's workspace' if it turns out well. I'm always intrigued to see other writer's places of creation.
My name is Sam Hayes and I write novels steeped in suspense, emotions, family drama and crime. I put my characters in terrifying situations and examine their reactions. I pull apart their relationships and see if they recover. I write about real life.