Thursday 24 March 2011

Thrilling News

So some of you already know what, for an underground urban author, has to count as a dirty dark secret. I also write thrillers.

The Company of Fellows is the first in a series. I've set up a website for them that has puzzles, an alternative guide to Oxford, links to the ebooks and paperback, and all sorts about the lifestyle portrayed in the books (loads of stationery, food & wine :)). Oh, and you can buy it for UK Kindle here.
So here's the pitch
Imagine the Hannibal Lecter novels set in Oxford University. The Company of Fellows is a dark psychological thriller set in the heart of England's oldest university.

Tommy West. Brilliant academic, until a breakdown 12 years ago. He has reinvented himself as a successful interior designer. His new life is comfortable, in every way, and safe. But life without the intellectual challenge is slowly suffocating him.

Charles Shaw. Outspoken professor of theology. Sensualist. Unpopular with all his colleagues. Loathed by his ex-wife. And, as of five minutes ago, dead.

As a student, Shaw was Tommy’s mentor. Now Tommy must draw on the professor for inspiration one more time in order to find his killer. But all he has to go on are a handful of papers for the controversial research the professor was working on when he died. And the Professor’s 18 year-old daughter Becky, for whom Tommy is the last hope to get some closure on the troubled relationship with her father.

The police are convinced the Professor’s death was a suicide, which should make Tommy's hunt easier. Only in this case, the police means his ex, Emily Harris, and her sultry sergeant Rosie Lu.

It is soon clear that the truth about the Professor's death lies buried in the past: somewhere between the night his daughter was born - and her twin sister stillborn - and the day Tommy broke down. But for Tommy the past is a dangerous place, a long way from the safety he has so carefully built for himself. Can he find the answers before time, and his sanity, run out.
And here's the STORY
I put the book up for sale on Kindle on February 25th. So it's now been on sale for a month (almost). Which means it's worth looking at some figures. Because they say a lot about Kindle. The book is $0.99/£0.70, the same price as Songs from the Other Side of the Wall, my literary book. Songs went on sale in May 2010. It's now had 6 five star reviews on Kindle, it's had 11 ratings on Goodreads, a whole host of great reviews from places as widely read as Farm Lane Books and Pank, and been featured on leading ebook sites. It has sold a total of 20 copies for Kindle US and 89 copies for Kindle UK in that 9 month period, a total of 109. Highest ranking about 1,040 on Kindle UK
I have done little promotion for The Company of fellows other than hang out briefly at the forums on Kindle, and tweet a little (the website is brand new). I've had 2 Amazon reviews (both 5 star which is great), got my first Goodreads review yesterday (5 star as well which is super), and have had no reviews outside of that. And my figures:
35 sales for US Kindle
243 sales for UK Kindle, 25 for each of the last 2 days
highest ranking 210
Go figure. I think that says a lot about how little Kindle differs from regular publishing in terms of genre v literary fiction's market.
I will be continuing to write both forms, and am rather enjoying working on the next in the Oxford Thrillers series. I hope that one may one day subsidise the other.


  1. V. Interesting and this new book sounds really intriguing, I can see why people on Kindle etc will be hooked very fast. The cover design is brilliant. What you've discovered makes a lot of sense, the way Salt are using Romance e-publishing to bolster revenue and enable them to do the hard copy literary and short story side. Looking at this option for my sort of sci-fi comedy but not as clear cut an option as for other genres. Fascinating times though and all the best with all your projects, as ever.

  2. Alison, I always remember reading about filmmakers who'd alternate projects - keeping their bosses happy with a commercial one then self-funding a small indie one.

    What's really telling is that a lot of people still talk about Kindle as an indie opportunity meaning an opportunity for literary fiction - I think there IS a market for it, and a great chance to get a midlist size readership for a book that wouldn't make it to print - but whilst the "who" may be changing with Kindle, I think the profile of which genres sell and soar is identical - with the one real exception of YA - at the moment Kindle (UK at least) is still not a teenager's thing - they're still on phones (and the opportunities are in text novels) - but that'll soon come

  3. A Reader's Manifesto -- "literary" has a rep is why.

  4. I think there are several factors at work here. Certainly, many readers seem to be scared of the word 'literary' and I've learned to use it sparingly. The problem is that, for many, it implies a book with arty concepts but no story. So I think that the way to market Songs is to choose aspects of the story which people can relate to and mention those in your descriptions. Avoid using the word literary except in tags and categories.

    Being a genre book, Company of Fellows has more places on kindle where you can promote it. But more than that, I think people are drawn to the fact it is set in Oxford - especially centred around the colleges. Most Brits are familiar with Morse and many with Brideshead, Even if they've never been to Oxford, they already feel they know it and can relate to it.

    Hmm, I think the words 'relate to' are the crucial ones here.


  5. Can't wait to get my hands on this, Dan!

  6. Mike, Ali, yes I take your point about the word literary - but I'm using it here rather than most places. I also absolutely take your point about finding things people relate to - now that the anniversary of teh fall of the Berlin Wall is past, what most people can relate to with Songs is the similarity to Norwegian Wood, which is what I hang most pitching on. Reviews rarely mention the word "literary" either.

    I think it's important, when looking for common ground with readers, not to sell to people who actually wouldn't be interested in order to boost numbers, basically rick-rolling them into a sale only to piss them off - I have no interest in that, and it doesn't help a career. I'm not complaining at all about the differences - merely pointing them out, because I think people see Kindle as a promised land for indies, and still think "indie" can mean quirky, literary stuff. And like I say, it *is* a promised land to the extent you can pick up some sales, which you wouldn't the old regular way - but it's not the place that will make stars of that kind of author. The indie stars of kindle are writing the same genre fiction as all bestsellers. I think there *may* be a place for break-out success in weird quirky stuff, but it's more likely to be for phones, and in phone-novel format.

    Robert, I hope you enjoy a little nostalgia for the old city!

    Ali, I hawked this round to agents when I first started writing seriously because I thought Oxford might be a hook, and I had requests for the full but no one took it on - the comments were great story, characters need work. They were right. And I have worked on the characters a lot - my "literary" work has helped that immensely. I still think there's a slot in the market for some really dark fiction set in Oxford - there's too much genteel comfort in Oxford novels, and whereas I have luxury, it's presented more like it is in the Lecter novels. The stories are much more like Val McDermid - or like SKIN BOOK or my Bleeding Out stories in full length. I guess maybe I'm right there *is* a slot there. It'll be interesting to see what happens to book 2.

  7. I wonder if the setting is helping? I was born in Oxford and so am drawn towards anything set in the city. Oxford is the most literary city in the UK and so all those book lovers may also be drawn towards your thiller? It is times like this that I wish I had an ereader, but when I get an ereader your thriller will be the first thing I download :-)

  8. Thank you! I never knew you were from Oxford! I guess I really am lucky to have been here so long and explored its weirdest corners.

    Jackie, did you know Oxford has quite a high profile campaign to be book capital in 2014?

  9. At this rate, it won't be long until mainstream publishers come knocking ;)

  10. Ha ha! I doubt it very much :)

  11. Bored. End result.

  12. Absolutely no shame in it, Dan your writing rocks. The moment I have time off from my blog and film promo duties, I plan on writing a review and sharing my admiration of your talent with the world. Darn it, me jealous much? ;)

  13. Congratulations on some inspiring sales figures! And if it allows you to spend some of your time writing more literary stuff, great. :-)

  14. Thank you Mocky!

    Nikki, sadly it won't free any more time without selling *lots* more, but it's a great adventure ride!