Archive | January 2013

Bian’s Tale Part 1: Saigon

{This is from 2014}

{This version has been replaced with the latest version}

New version

How Long Is This Story & How Long Will It Take

I’ve had loads of feedback. Thank you and please keep it coming, I’m interested in your thoughts and criticisms, whether as reviews (Amazon and Goodreads), direct (, Facebook ( or even comments on the blog posts. I read them all and I respond to every email at the moment.

I’ll feed back on the range of feedback in another blog post, but two emerging threads are ‘how long is the story / how many books’ and ‘how quickly’, and I’d like to deal with them separately here.

How Long Is This Story

Okay, a word of warning to start with. It’s longer than I thought at first, and for reasons I’ll describe below, my estimations need to be taken as just that – estimations.

The whole Amber Farrell arc has three parts or three sub-arcs, unimaginatively called the beginning, the middle and the end. This is not a series that will trot on with no end in sight, and each third of the whole arc has a direction and a purpose.

The beginning deals with setting up the world view and explaining the factions. Much of what appears to be, turns out not to be. For example, in Sleight of Hand, Athanate are not vampires. This was my original theme for the beginning – deception and revealing the truth.

The middle will be the development of the factions’ positions, the increasingly fraught relations as Emergence (discovery by humans / paranormals revealing themselves to humans) threatens. Things get tougher and tougher until…

The end will deal with the fallout.

Nothing earth shattering about that progression.

Here I reveal why you should take my estimations with a pinch of salt – before I started writing I thought this would be a trilogy. One book per third of the whole arc. Ha!

My estimation failed because I was thinking purely in terms of the meta-story described above. Honestly, how long could it take to describe the Athanate, the Were and the Adepts? But I wanted each storyline to be woven with threads down from the levels of ‘OMG the whole world is in danger’, through ‘I’m becoming a vampire’ and ‘my sister hates me’, right down to ‘I can’t afford to repair my car’.

Half way into Sleight of Hand, with this layering, it was clearly going to take more than a book to set up the world. At this point, Sleight of Hand was called Bite Back. I split it into two, shuffled some mini-arcs around, and thought ‘well, two books for the Athanate, one for Weres and Adepts’. So my estimates were now that the beginning sub-arc was a trilogy, then there was a book for the middle and a book for the end.

Ahh. Book 3 is not going to be quite enough to fully reveal the Were, let alone the Adepts. So the Bite Back series, the beginning sub-arc, is now estimated at four books.

On that basis, I have to think the middle (which will form a series in itself ) will be two books and the end (also its own series) will be two books.

The answer then, is current estimates say the full Amber Farrell arc will be three series comprising eight books in total. Or maybe nine. Let’s say not more than ten. J

Is That All

No. There will be a prequel novella dealing with the attack on Amber in the South American jungle. There will be a series using Bian as a POV character; shorter books, maybe three of them. Both of those are started. I’ll put the starting chapters of both up on the web site presently.

I currently anticipate a book based in England using a different POV character, using the same world view and global events. This might be a format for another couple using different characters around the world. And maybe some short stories featuring existing characters, even including Amber.

Is That All (2)

No. I have tons of ideas for other books. I should have started writing earlier!

Alt-reality Sci-Fi, sort of YA, Joan of Arc (without the burning end)
Spy thriller male protagonist
High Fantasy dragons/coming of age, female protagonist
And so on.

How Long Will It Take

Each book is different, but I doubt I’ll be able to write anything that is shorter than Sleight of Hand, for instance, at 120k words.

Four months at 1000 words a day doesn’t sound excessive (until you try it), and two months for edits is pushing it. I really can’t see me getting more than two Amber books out per year.

I can, however, write two different books at the same time. A change is as good as a rest! This means that, hopefully, this year (2013) will see two Amber books, a Bian book and an Amber novella. That’s what I’m aiming for. Keep me to it!

The Christmas Effect

Sales around Christmas are very different to any other period in the year – this is not news. But how are they different for ebooks?

Firstly, the run-up to Christmas is bad for ebooks. I have a theory, of course, and it’s this: Amazon reckon their best chance of selling those lovely, big (expensive) hardbacks comes when people buy them as gifts at Christmas. So they start promoting hardbacks in the Christmas purchasing period (these days, that extends all the way back to November). And because they’re promoting hardbacks, they promote other books less, ebooks least of all – especially with the problem of gifting ebooks on Amazon.

Did I notice? Hell, yes. Sales of Sleight of Hand dropped by a third in November and the first three weeks of December.

But marketing buzz also says that book sales after Christmas are brilliant, and this effect continues well into January.

Common sense says that ebooks will massively outperform traditional books in this period – just look at the Christmas present sales of the Kindle and wonder what everyone who gets one is going to do on Boxing Day.


Book 2, Hidden Trump, needed to be there to surf this wave. Special thanks to my editor, Lauren Sweet, for working with me right up to her departure on vacation to ensure that it happened. Thankfully, I didn’t need to take up her offer to do the last pass editing on her flight. No, she had at least an hour spare before she had to be at the airport.

My wildest dreams are nothing to do with books :-), but my wildest plans for marketing my books involved this following scenario: I release Hidden Trump just before Christmas, announcing it on the web site, Goodreads and on Facebook. I email every single person who has fed back to me. Maybe, just maybe, I can generate enough quick sales from readers who enjoyed Sleight of Hand and are waiting for book 2 to get Hidden Trump into the first screen of recommendations in Urban Fantasy on Amazon. All those new Kindle owners see it there, see that it’s a second book, see the ratings for the first book and I get the double whammy – two sales in one hit.

Did it work? Hell, yes.

In the period from 1st November to Christmas Day, Sleight of Hand averaged 62 book sales a day. From Christmas to now (10th January), sales averaged 137 books a day. The Amazon sales rank in Contemporary Fantasy (where 1 is best) went from 44 to 21 for the same periods.

From the day of its release (20th December) to Christmas Day, Hidden Trump also averaged 62 book sales a day. From Christmas to now, sales averaged 177 books a day. The Amazon sales rank in Contemporary Fantasy went from 54 to 14 for the same periods.

For Sleight of Hand, there were 40 reviews on the US Amazon site in the period 1 st August to Christmas Day, and 23 since then. (Reviews! – blog post to follow)

For Hidden Trump, 4 people managed to read and review in the brief time before Christmas (special thanks to them!) and another 22 have reviewed to date on the US Amazon site.

A HUGE thank you to all my readers – you rock. And an extra helping to those who feed back, through Amazon, Goodreads, their own blogs or by emailing me on the web site contact page ( I read every one, and I reply to every email. Feed back is my fuel 🙂

Marketing lessons to take away:

A new launch may be used to invigorate existing products.

Use existing successes to leverage new launches.

Know market trends and use them.