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John Barlow's blog

New cover

Self publishing Posted on Wed, July 17, 2013 08:04:24

There was something I didn’t quite like about the original cover for FATHER AND SON, so we had another look at it and we decided on a starker, somewhat bolder design. I think this one is a better reflection of the book:

I am a Monster Publicist

Self publishing Posted on Sun, February 12, 2012 12:42:40

HOPE ROAD has now been out
two months as a Kindle novel, although considerably less time on other vendor sites. I
finally managed to get it on the Tescos ebook site last week, which means the places
where you can now buy it is now as follows, with the Kindle still accounting
for most sales: Waterstones Tescos Kobo Apple

Sony B&N Diesel Smashwords W H Smiths Book Dep.

I would have been better to have got the novel
listed at all non-Amazon sites and then do the Kindle upload; in that way I could have had something like an official launch date. Many book bloggers are
happy to program a mention/interview etc. to coincide with a launch date, and in future I’ll try and plan ahead more.

Nevertheless, through my somewhat uncoordinated
attempts at being a publicist, I’ve discovered what amazing people book
bloggers are. Enthusiastic, generous, dedicated. And they read so much! It
makes me embarrassed at the amount I manage to read in an average week.

I started contacting bloggers seriously in the New Year, and six weeks later I have had a pretty decent response.
I may have missed some of them, but I’ve listed here over thirty reviews,
guest blogs, interviews and other mentions of the ebook. There are quite a few
more coming up, and given that six weeks ago I knew nothing at all about ebook
marketing, I’m quite pleased with the exposure the book has had. A massive thank you to all those who were kind enough to let me onto their blogs!


Not the Baseball Pitcher

His Futile Preoccupations

Mike Levitt

Rough Edges

Crime Fiction Lover

Nights & Weekends

Today I Did This For Me


The Rap Sheet

Harrogate/Theakstons Crime Writing Festival (1)

Harrogate/Theakstons Crime Writing Festival (2)

Murder, Mystery and Mayhem

Manga Maniac

2 Read or Not 2 Read

Rita Reviews

Indies Unlimited

Our Little Books


Nigel Bird

Mysterious Musings / /Julia Buckley

Mostly Reviews

Morgan Bailey

I Meant To Read That


Indies Unlimited


Manic Readers

Good Ereader

Mr Bunny Chow Reviews

Night Owls Reviews


Fishing Hideaway

Bill Crider

3D Tablets

Workaday Reads

Accused of Theakstons puffery

Self publishing Posted on Sun, January 29, 2012 20:59:40

Promotion of HOPE ROAD continues afoot. Quite a lot of reviews,
guest posts, interviews are either up or planned. It’s a bit of a slog, but it throw
up the occasional curveball.

I had a post up recently on the Theakston’s Old Peculier
Crime Writing Festival website. It was called ‘From Traditional Publishing to
Self-Publishing: Ten Reasons Why You Should Jump Now’. Here’s the link.
I posted a link on Kindleboards, the place where indie writers go to share tips
and gossip. Among a whole lot of positive comments came one very angry one,
essentially accusing me of puffing up indie publishing and saying nothing of
worth. The numbered points below are mine, and each one is followed by the
response of this person over at Kindleboards. See what you think…

1. I’m mid-list writer. I won a well-known prize and I’ve
been with prestigious publishers. But without a big seller, you’re always
vulnerable. The mid-list has been under threat for years, and even before the
ebook boom began, it was getting close to impossible to make a living as a
mid-lister (I also work as a ghost-writer and food journalist, for example).
With the current seismic shift in publishing, it’s doubtful whether the
mid-list will survive much longer, certainly not in any form able to sustain
the careers of writers whose books don’t break out and fly.

#1–Paranoid guess, not a logical, business-focused reason.
Sort of like saying “Gee, my boss continues to give me raises each year and
like my work, but he might eventually fire me so I should quit now and start my
own business.”

2. If you’re not the author of best selling books or a
celebrity, advances are now so low that there’s less financial motivation than
ever for taking a traditional publishing deal. Money isn’t the only
consideration, of course. But for me it definitely comes into the equation. I
like money. And there’s hardly any to be had right now.

#2–And advances for self-published books are non-existent.
If advances are a concern for you at all, a $5,000 up front advance is better
than a zero advance from Amazon.

3. There’s less pie. Dawn French ate it all. Celebrity
novelists, cookbook diaries, boo-hoo memoirs, X-Factor autobios… If you’re
looking for an old fashioned novel deal, it’s getting harder and harder to find
a publisher. When you ask industry insiders, they tend to say, yeah, editors
are still buying stuff, but… Then there’s that resigned shrug, as if the very
fabric of our book culture is crumbling beneath our feet. And in a sense it is.

#3–It amazes me how many “mid-list” authors don’t seem to
read pass the NYT

4. The future of publishing is unpredictable. Nobody has the
first clue what things will look like in five years’ time. Not industry
leaders, not expert industry watchers, not agents. Nobody. So now is a great
time to break out and experiment with something new. In fact, there could
hardly be a better time.

#4–The publishing business has never been predictable. In
fact, all business is unpredictable. Amazon could drop its royalty rate to
authors tomorrow. It could add restrictions to KDP that limit your distribution

5. The stigma has gone. Traditional publishers are now
signing successful ebook authors. Bringing out your own ebook is no longer a
kiss of death if your long-term plan is to move (back) to a traditional
publisher. Lawrence Block just brought one out himself. Loads of established
authors are experimenting. Don’t be left behind.

#5–The stigma has faded, but this doesn’t mean
self-publishing is an automatic good choice for someone.

6. Be your own boss, commissioning editor, publicist,
packager, sales manager… Perhaps you’re not naturally drawn to any of these
roles. Perhaps you just want to write. That’s exactly how I felt. Now I’m
loving it. I’ve been forced to do new things, to approach my work from new
angles (the publicist’s role is particularly revealing for an author).
Self-publishing will enliven you and make you a bit scared about what you’re
doing. It’ll kick you out of that rut and get you excited about new things.

#6–A valid point for those that are interested in running a
business, but also a reason NOT to self publish if you do not have the will,
knowledge, or business savvy to do these things.

7. There are new opportunities opening up all the time.
Wattpad, fiction streaming, enhanced books, a million forms of interactivity…
Not for you? Newsflash: you can still go up to the spare room in the evenings
and write your book using your favourite pen. There’s just more you can do (or
get someone else to do) after you’ve finished.

#7. I don’t understand the point. Whether or not a technology
exists is not the basis of launching a business.

8. I loved being with HarperCollins and FSG. Publishing
houses are magical places, full of really bright people who know a huge amount
about books. I worked with three brilliant editors, and I learned an incredible
amount about writing from listening to their comments and advice. As an indie
you’ll need to develop a comparable support network. My novel HOPE ROAD was
edited by an editor from a big house, the cover was done by an artist who works
for several big houses, and it was professionally proof-read. Don’t skimp on
these things. Know what you can’t do alone.

#8–This isn’t a “reason to self-publish.” It is a warning.
Self-publishing can get expensive and time consuming. All of the expenses the
publisher use to pay for you now have to pay yourself. Those editors and
proofreaders and cover artists and book designers and marketing people that the
publisher paid to put together and promote your book? You have to write those
checks now.

9. If you still harbour a deep desire to be taken under the
wing of an established publisher, think about it this way: over the course of
the next few years the publishing industry is going to change immeasurably.
There are two possible outcomes for you: 1) the new, emerging reality will suit
you better than the present situation; 2) it won’t. Either way, you have zero
control over this. So, in the meantime (wo)man up and get kindling.

#9–I’m not even sure what the point of this reason is.

10. Finally, you might just earn an awful lot of money.*

*(Sorry for being so vulgar.)

#10–I could also hit the lottery. You can make money in a
host of different ways. The question is whether or not you have the business
savvy to do so.

Indie publishing and self publicity

Self publishing Posted on Wed, January 18, 2012 12:07:31

If you’re an established writer, you move across to indie publishing because you’ve made a decision about how the book business is going, and how being an indie is likely to pan out for you in comparison to staying with a traditional house.

Well, I’m certainly discovering some of the big differences. I’ve just spent the last two weeks emailing dozens, no hundreds, of book bloggers, asking for a review, or a guest blog, an interview… anything to get HOPE ROAD some visibility.

I’m not the only one, either. Allan Guthrie says he did two hours of promotional work every day for his novella BYE BYE BABY, which has so far sold 35,000. In my case, the work is beginning to bear some fruit. The website for Theakston’s crime writing festival in Harrogate have just run this feature by me. But it’s a slog.

The only positive spin I can really put on all this work is that if you are proud of your work, it’s not actually a bad thing to have to stand up and shout for it, rather than leave all that stuff to someone at the publishers, who has another twenty books to publicise as well.

Let’s see how it goes for the next few months. I’ve given myself until June to go full-out on publicising HOPE ROAD. Can I beat Allan? We’ll see…


Self publishing Posted on Thu, January 05, 2012 11:15:48

There’s really nothing quite so self-indulgent as having a
public conversation with yourself. Nigel Bird (author of DIRTY OLD TOWN, amongst others) invited me to try a self-interview
for his crime fiction site SEA MINOR. The result is posted there today. I don’t
think I disgraced myself.

Sales of HOPE ROAD have been hampered by my own
incompetence. I still haven’t got the book up on Apple, B&N, Tescos,
Waterstones… It all takes longer than I had imagined, compared to the
quick-silver service that Amazon provides. It is a recurring theme in
discussions of e-publishing: Amazon really do seem to do things better than the

Anyway, the book has now sold 50 copies, which sounds like nothing,
but I’m quite happy about it, given that until today there had been almost no
publicity at all. Plus, I am incredibly happy to remind myself that even if the
book is not a runaway bestseller in the first eight weeks, a) it will still be
freely available thereafter, b) the rights will still be mine.

Finally, Joe Konrath has decided to subsist on nothing but
beer and water for 30 days. The kind of thing every writer should be doing. Go

Amazon Prime and free books

Self publishing Posted on Sun, December 18, 2011 12:15:09

A couple of days ago I enrolled an old crime novel of mine
on the Amazon Prime scheme. This allows the book to be downloaded by those
paying a fixed subscription to Amazon Prime (they can download as many
participating books as they want).

I’m thinking about doing the same for HOPE ROAD, so I was
interested to see how it went with the other book, a humorous noir called WHAT
EVER HAPPENED TO JERRY PICCO?, which is distinguished by having the worst cover
in the history of ebook publishing.

A feature of enrolling in Prime is that although your book
has to remain exclusive to Amazon for 90 days, within that timeframe you can
schedule 5 days in which your book is free to all Amazon customers. This, it is
argued, garners valuable visibility for your book, given that it is likely to
shift up the rankings.

Well, after 30 hours on the program, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO JERRY
PICCO? has had about 700 free downloads and is 3rd on the hard-boiled mystery
category in the UK (5th in the US), and about 300th on the UK’s overall free
book ranking. I have no idea how this will play out once the ‘free’ days are
over, but I’ll report back. In the meantime, look at this:

Yes, I’m beating ebook trailblazers Konrath and Croutch!

Bill Crider

Self publishing Posted on Fri, December 16, 2011 21:38:47

Today HOPE ROAD was featured on the blog of Bill Crider, patron saint of American genre writing. When I look at what Bill has written, as well as a PhD in crime fiction and a career in literary studies, it makes me think that I should be working a lot faster and in a lot more genres…

Anyway, thanks Bill!

Self publishing. Why?

Self publishing Posted on Wed, December 14, 2011 15:47:44

Back in 2010, when I started writing HOPE ROAD, I emailed a writer friend of mine. He’s about the same age as me and he also writes both fiction and non-fiction, as well as articles for food magazines (again, like me). Both of us had started our writing careers with a bit of literary glory, in my case the Paris Review Discovery Prize, and both of us had gone on to publish with Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, the most prestigious publisher in the US.

To the extent that we were both making a living from writing, and that we had respectable publishing histories behind us, we were doing okay. We were bothwriters. Yet when I mailed him, it wasn’t in the spirit of excitement, to say, Hey, I just started a new novel! No; it was something more like, Can you believe what an idiot I am!

Things in publishing had got very bad. Book deals were becoming incredibly difficult to get, and advances were going down and down. Starting a novel seemed like an act of ridiculous optimism. And on top of that, it would mean switching genres, because HOPE ROAD is a crime mystery. I would be a genre writer!

The idea for the novel had been in my head for years. I’d always had the urge to write crime fiction, and in fact I wrote three (unpublished) crime novels in my twenties. However, the first story I ever published won a ‘literary’ prize, and as a consequence of that I moved towards a ‘literary’ career. Those early manuscripts stayed under the bed.

I’m not complaining about any of this. I worked with some great editors at great houses, and my last book in particular has taken me far and wide as a speaker, including an amazing trip to Australia. Switching to crime writing, though, was a big step.

Because I was doing a fair amount of food journalism, which paid the rent, I ignored the consequences of all this and just wrote the damn book. Along the way I left my New York agent, reasoning that since the new novel was going to be set in Britain, I ought to have someone on the ground in London to sell it. I sent the MS to half a dozen agents, got some positive responses, and decided on an agent. She’s an ex-editor, and her input dramatically improved the book.

As I worked on the novel, I was also keeping an eye on:

1. How opinions towards self-publishing were changing within the book industry.

2. How the market for ebooks was developing and expanding.

3. The number of expletives in Joe Konrath’s blog posts whenever he mentioned ‘legacy’ publishers…

Barry Eisler claims that ebooks are the biggest change in our relationship with books since the printing press. Perhaps. I certainly have an ereader, and have not read a paper book since the summer. I’ve changed pretty much to digital. The question, then, is whether I should go the next step and do what so many writers are already doing and self-publish.

I’m still not sure. Traditional publishers have taken a kicking recently. You’d be hard pressed to find a blogger speaking out in favour of the established publishers at the moment. But look what Vintage has done for Jo Nesbo in the last few years. Look at how big publishers are now kitting up to take their content into new formats (where all but the most tech-savvy independents will be ill equipped to go), how they’re talking to book-streaming start-ups, how they’re being inventive on pricing… Apart from any of that, a publisher gives you an editor. With HOPE ROAD I was lucky, I had an editor in the form of my agent. But long term, do I want to go it alone?

The answer is no. So why self publish, especially when I have an agent? Well, I want to be a part of the revolution. I don’t want to hang about for months waiting for an editor to say yes, and then another 18 months waiting for a publication slot. I don’t want to ask myself, ten years from now, what would have happened if I’d stuck the bloody novel on Amazon when ebooks were taking off and self publishing seemed like the most exciting place to be for any writer.

Does a writer want readers or a publisher? Both, in my case. But which does a writer want more? I want readers. And I want readers now, not in 18 months’ time. I want readers because I think this is the genre I should have been working in from the start. HOPE ROAD is effectively my fourth crime mystery, and it’s easily the best.

So, for the time being, we won’t be submitting the finished book to any publishers. We’ll set it free and see what the market makes of it. What’s the worst that can happen?