Sunday, July 31, 2022

CUT AND SHUT - Finished!

And there we go; that's the third book in the Louise Miller series, CUT AND SHUT finished. Bar the editing, proofreading, rewrite and a few more bits and pieces. Long way to go yet, but it's done.


 

Friday, July 29, 2022

THE SANDS OF LlANDULAS


I was kindly allowed to contribute a short story to the UK Crime Book Club's Summer Shorts initiative over on Facebook. Written with a summer theme in mind, this is taken from an anthology of short stories I am currently writing. No idea when it will be completed, but I like to keep the noggin' going in between drafts of longer works, by writing short stories.



THE SANDS OF LlANDULAS

by Jonathan Peace


June, 1978

1

The boy sat on the beach, just a short walk from the caravan park. The footprints he had left as he’d made his way to this spot were the small indentations of shoeless feet, scattered at irregular intervals to try and avoid the sting of the hot sands as much as possible. At times it looked like a giant had carried the boy; in other places they were but the tracks of scattering mice. He wore a West Ham United football kit, the purple and blue top crinkled and torn in several places. The white shorts were as battered as the top and stained in places. One sock was pulled up high, nearly all the way to his knee; the other was rolled down to his ankle. No boots sat beside him, but he did have a bundle wrapped in a wet tea towel. 

The beach, or at least this part of it, was empty, save for the boy. The day was hot, the sun now directly overhead leaving no shadows to be cast on the golden sands of Llandulas beach, North Wales. The exposed flesh of his arms, legs and face was reddening under the ferocious heat. If he knew or noticed, he gave no indication as he continued to dig at the sand with a plastic shovel, throwing glances at the tea-towel wrapped bundle beside him inbetween frenzied bouts of digging.

In front of him and beyond stretched the Irish sea, its blue surface still and unmoving, a perfect mirror image of the sky above. No birds flew across the vista, no ships danced on the waves. It was as though the boy were lost within a timeless scene, a portrait painted of the perfect day.

But the day was not perfect. The day was far from perfect.



2

The boy turned and looked back the way he had walked. Sand dunes grew like monstrous molehills, their crests feathered with sand grass now bleached brown by the constant heat. It had lasted for days, this heat that sapped your strength with each hot minute beneath its gaze. For his mother it had been just another annoyance to be handled, a frustration to be calmed. For his father… it had been the last straw of a million last straws. 

They had arrived at the caravan park three days ago, full of excitement. Full of joy. Their first holiday together for years. It had taken every scrimped pound, every saved penny. He had done jobs for the neighbours, cutting grass and washing cars, adding his fifty-pence earnings to the holiday jar. When his aunt sent him a five pound note for Christmas, he had dropped it in without question.

Slowly they watched the jar fill up and when his father upended it, he had laughed as all the coins rolled out in a metallic thunderroll that seemed to go on forever. They had counted the money together, stacking coins in towers of bronze and silver. Fields of notes lay scattered across the dinner table in the kitchen. He knew he would never see that kitchen again, or hear the laughter that rang through it when they added all the towers and fields together to find they could finally afford a weekend away. 

A sudden wind bristled the crests of the dunes, whipping sand into the air to dance and float away. The path was still empty but he knew that soon they would come.

With a sigh, he turned back to the hole in the sand before him and continued to dig.



3

He jammed the shovel into the widening hole. Scooping up sand, he threw it onto the pile behind him.

It was the heat that was to blame for what happened. Not his father’s temper which was just as hot when fired up. Not his mother’s anger which was as cold and calculating as a shark in the deep depths of the sea. That was what he had called her. A shark. At least, that’s what he thought his father had said. Despite their shouting, it was hard to hear through the plastic folding door of his room. He had stayed in the small room of the chalet that had been given him, playing with the Han Solo figure his father had bought him only that day. 

Walking along the promenade he had spotted it in the window of a newsagent of all places. Not a toy shop, not like Allwares back home in Ossett which had a whole wall dedicated to Star Wars. He had spent hours staring at them, going in each Saturday to look at the rows and rows of Stormtroopers and Jawas, Darth Vader and Princess Leia. Deciding which to get next, planning how long it would take to save up, how many more cars to wash, and lawns to cut. Upstairs was even better; that was where they kept all the spaceships. The huge Millenium Falcon and Tie-Fighter boxes. Luke’s Landspeeder and the Imperial Transport. So many wondrous things.

He had R2-D2 and Chewbacca, but he’d lost the wookie’s bowcaster gun somewhere in the garden. And now he had Han Solo, Chewie’s mate, and when the shouting started he had stayed in his room and played. The top of the bed had become the desert wastes of Tattooine, the space beneath it, the hangar bay of Mos Eisley. His suitcase, the Millenium Falcon.

He was dressed in his football kit, ready to go play with his dad in the small football field in the caravan park. He had been waiting for hours. His dad had gone to the cafe bar for a quick holiday drink, the same cafe where they had shared tall, cold glasses of knickerbocker glories, and cola floats. Sometimes they had ice-cream sandwiches. It wasn’t his fault he had come back drunk. Again. He worked hard, his father said, had worked overtime and covered people’s shifts so that they could go on holiday, and if he wanted a drink then he would have one.

That was what his father had yelled, sweat from the heat bathing his face.

His mother yelled back, sweat from her anger soaking her face.

That was when the boy had come out of the room. Just in time to see his father hit his mother.

Again.



4

The first wail of a police car drifted across the quiet sands and the boy dug harder. Nearly there. Nearly deep enough.

Sweat fell from his face, hiding the tears that stung his eyes and made it hard to see. His hands kept moving; dig, scoop, fling. Dig, scoop, fling.

Sand blew around him as the wind picked up, carrying the sounds of help and doom towards him. Dig, scoop, fling.

Dig…

His mother had fallen against the small table of the chalet, hitting her head and making her cry out in pain. He had seen his father snap out of his rage in that instant, worry flooding his face, disbelief at what he had done replacing his anger. He stepped forward to help.

Scoop…

Pain and embarrassment became a rage of her own and she had reached up, one hand on the table, the other on the chair, to lever herself onto her feet. Her hand had touched the knife and the next moment it had swept across his chest, opening up his shirt. At first he had simply stood there, disbelief on his face and then the blood had begun to run, a trickle that quickly became a torrent. He fell forward and she caught him.

Fling…

They fell to the ground together and rolled back and forth, each one struggling for the knife that lay at his feet. Mother’s head was beat against the floor. 

Father’s face had long scratches gouged into the skin.

And then somehow the knife was in his hand.

His arm stabbed forward; his leg, her chest. Their cries became grunts and startled shouts as the blade found its mark again and again. First him, then her. Her then him. Blood was everywhere and then suddenly all was silent.

Dig. Scoop. Fling.

He had stood there, staring at the unmoving bodies of his parents, no longer arguing. No longer shouting at each other. 

No longer breathing.

Dig. Scoop. Fling.



5

Crying openly now, he threw the plastic shovel aside and reached for the bundle.

The tea towel had once proudly declared the Sands of Llandulas a resort for families to relax. Now it was a bloody shroud. He unwrapped it, being very careful. Cautious of its contents.

Someone called his name. A man, a policeman, stood at the crest of the dune. Called his name again before running down the path towards him, so he would have to be quick, but he had to look one last time.

He peeled back the last layer of the towel. 

A knife.

Han Solo.

Both covered in blood.

‘Billy!’

He didn’t turn at the sound of his name. Just wrapped the towel once more and dropped the bundle into the hole. Using his hands, he scooped the sand back, covering them, burying the scraps of his last holiday into the hot, golden sands of Llandulas.


Copyright © Jonathan Peace 2022

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

It's PUBLICATION DAY!

December, 1988

Christmas beckons.

What should be a time of excitement & joy is forever tainted when a teenager’s body is found in the graveyard of Ossett’s Holy Trinity Church.

A suspected suicide.

As they respond to the devastating event, WDC’s Louise Miller and Elizabeth Hines, struggle to help the wider community understand the terrible choice that was made.

 

Another Missing teenager.

As she investigates further, Louise starts to believe there is something even more sinister behind the events…



WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:

Another fantastic outing from WDC Louise Miller. A gripping police procedural! I'll read these books as fast as Peace can write them!” Samantha Brownley, UK Crime Book Club

You will really get dragged in to policing in the 1980's

There are some amazing twists and turns that you do not expect and will keep you thinking.”

utterly authentic and relatable

With a suspense-filled plot, and not one, but three inspirational and powerful, leading women, there is a character that will appeal to all.”

Monday, July 11, 2022

The blog tour starts today!

The blog tour for FROM SORROW'S HOLD, the second in the Louise Miller series, kicks off today. One of the reviewers posted this: how amazing do those pancakes look?!

Buy From Sorrow's Hold here

Friday, July 8, 2022

My Road To Publication - Rachel Sargeant Article

I was very honoured to be asked to contribute a short piece about my road to publication to fellow Hobeck author Rachel Sargeant's blog. 

Rachel Sargeant is the author of The RoommatesThe Good TeacherThe Perfect Neighbours and Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty.

Read more about Rachel and her books, along with many more articles from a diverse range of authors, over on her website.

Monday, July 4, 2022

It's A FIRST!


I am so proud to be able to say that I have been awarded a First in my university degree, BA (Hons) Creative and Professional Writing. Three years (started with Film Production then switched degrees in Year 2), I stuck with it, didn't quit and finished what I'd started.

For those who really know me, who know the anxiety and depression I struggle with, (still do, and have for four decades), this is a BIG THING for me. Too many times in the past I let worries and fears stop me, so to do this - well, I'm mighty damn proud of myself.

The below video is how I'm feeling right now with a BA (Hons) degree - First; a published novel, the second one out next week and the third currently being written. Back when I was a store manager for Games Workshop, whenever we hit target for the month I would play this as loud as possible. Thank you to everyone who has supported, encouraged, cajoled and kicked my ass when needed.



Sunday, July 3, 2022

Reading 12 Books in 2022 Update

There are people out there who have read 12 books already this month! And here I am proudly declaring I aim to read 12 books in the entire year of 2022. Well, that's the way it is. Spare time is very limited and I manage about an hour a day for reading (that doesn't take into account the hours spent reading for research).

Reading is very important to me as it allows me to not only detox after a days work, but it is a great way to unconsciously study the craft. The word choices people make; the way they structure sentences and paragraphs, and how it all ties together to create suspense, pacing and narrative flow.

My goal for this year is to complete all the current Lin Anderson Rhona MacLeod books. I'm on book 9 right now and the rest are waiting patiently on my shelf. I took a brief detour to read the first two Colin Dexter Morse books - tough going; the character is initially very unappealing and the style of writing also took some time to get into. 

I was compelled to read MW Craven's latest Poe and Tilly book, The Botanist, which I thoroughly enjoyed and finished in a couple of days, but I am focused now on finishing Paths of the Dead and the rest of Lin Anderson's books - just in time for her new standalone book, The Party House, due out next month.

I'm a little behind where I need to be, so hopefully I can find some time to devote purely to reading - perhaps a little less time watching MCU movies, or the latest Only Murders In The Building episodes.

Dirty Little Secret is available now. From Sorrow's Hold is out on July 12th.

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Second Louise Miller book: From Sorrow's Hold


When I was writing the outline for what would become Dirty Little Secret, a lot of ideas for possible other stories started to appear. Some of these were put into the book, but others had more to them to be explored and so I started fleshing out outlines for future books. 

One of these was the discovery of a body in a graveyard - that was all I had, just that image of a body lying across a gravestone surrounded by snow. When I came to finishing the outline, I knew I had elements from the first book I could bring over to this, and so started work.

As the story progressed, it changed a little from the initial idea and became something a lot more deeper. 

December, 1988. What should be a time of excitement and joy is forever tainted when a teenager's body is found in the graveyard of Ossett's Holy Trinity Church, but when another teenager goes missing, WDC Louise Miller starts to believe there is something even more sinister behind the events...

From Sorrow's Hold is out July 12th, and available to pre-order now.




Saturday, June 18, 2022

A Quick Update

It has now been a couple of weeks since DIRTY LITTLE SECRET was released into the world, and the feedback has been very pleasing. It's quite weird to get emails from people who have read the book and felt compelled to reach out - so thank you to each and everyone of you who has done so.

This has also led to a few other developments, most of which I can't talk about just yet, but all are very exciting. In particular is the very real possibility I will be doing some in-person author talks in libraries in Horbury, West Yorkshire and in and around the Derbyshire area. Details are being sorted out and as soon as I know more I will let you know.

Best way to keep in touch is join the mailing list using the link above.

Book two, FROM SORROW'S HOLD, is released in just over three weeks time on July 12th. A blog tour has been organised, details below, so make sure you bookmark them and take a look to see what people are saying about the book.


If you've read either of the books, please consider leaving a review. Reviews are vital for authors as they help get the word out and raise awareness about an author and their work. Places to leave them are Amazon (naturally), but also your local reading group's facebook page, GoodReads, online retailers and even in your local bookshop if they offer that service. Some post cards next to the books with comments from readers.

Work is underway on the third book CUT AND SHUT, and the deadline to getting this to my publisher is end of July. After that I have plans to write a standalone novel before diving into book four of the Louise Miller series. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The First Louise Miller book: Dirty Little Secret


When a horror story about a phone box library whose books sucked the souls of the reader into their pages wasn't working, I looked at how to rewrite it. I had a character I loved, (Louise Miller - then she was a book blogger); a perfect location (the phone box atop a beauty spot) and a bizarre medical affliction (sleep paralysis).

But the story wasn't working at all, certainly not helped by the fact I had gotten the idea and just dived right in, feet first, no care for possible riptide, or rocks below the surface. And I'd gotten into trouble around the 60K word mark. I had no idea where to take the story next.

So I looked at what I had, and what could possibly be inside the phone box and a body was the most intriguing thing I could think of. This led to Louise becoming a police detective returning to her hometown of Ossett, West Yorkshire (my hometown). I wrote an outline, charting the story with numerous bullet-points and before I knew it, I had a complete story ready to go.

Louise Miller returns to Ossett, a newly trained detective constable who has to fight the sexism and misogyny of small town policing as she investigates the body of a young girl found crammed inside a public phone box.

But as she investigates, uncovering a wealth of small town secrets, she learns that some secrets should stay hidden. Including hers...

Dirty Little Secret is out now.


Buy from Waterstone | Buy from Amazon | Buy from Hobeck (signed)

Other links:

Interview with Hobeck Books

Interview with Sam Brownley of UK Crime Book Club

Interview with Donna Morfett of Donna's Interviews, Reviews and Giveaways

Reviews

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Yesterday's Author Takeover

 

I had a great time taking over Donna's Facebook group for the day yesterday. I posted a little background into my writing history, extracts from the first three Louise Miller novels, posted a short horror story, as well as my current TBR pile and a playlist of music that Louise Miller listens to.

I finished off with an AMA and there were some great questions; a couple really threw me a curve ball as well. You can still check it out by visiting the page here

Thanks again to Donna for inviting me and letting me loose in her group. I'm looking forward to our live interview on PUBLICATION DAY!!! May 31st, when Dirty Little Secret is released into the wild.

After that will be an author chat with Lynda Checkley in her book review group on June 7th.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Author Takeover Day - Saturday 21st May


 This Saturday I'll be taking over the Facebook group of Donna's Interviews, Reviews and Giveaways.

I'll start with a few posts about how I moved from writing Grindhouse horror screenplays to becoming a published crime fiction author, followed by readings from all three of my books. To finish off there'll be an AMA, so get your questions in now.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Reading Morse

Before I talk briefly about what I'm currently reading (spoiler - it's Morse!) I thought it best to give you a small update on the writing. 

With the final dissertation completed and submitted, I can now relax and get on with writing the third Louise Miller book, CUT AND SHUT.

I'd gotten around 80 pages in and had to put it aside while I concentrated on getting the uni work finished while at the same time getting to grips with a new schedule due to working a full time job in order to help cover the rising costs of bills.

As well as bringing in a little extra scratch, I get time to sit down and read during my lunch break, and I've been reading the Colin Dexter Morse novels which my wife got me for Christmas. I'm now into the third of fourteen books and find them a little tough to read. Enjoyable, but tough. The language is very different to modern crime fiction (having being written in the 70's) - lots of big words and phrases I have to decipher with the aid of Google.

People smile ingenuously; thoughts are pallid multitudes that drift along senseless waters; faces are comprised of a lean acetic. The language is best described as "gentlemanly", written of a time before conversation had devolved into slang and colloquial phrase. I have to admit, it has been a struggle and several times I thought I'd be best served putting these aside and finishing the Lin Anderson Rhona MacLeod series, but I'm sticking with them, determined to get through all fourteen books.

The stories are interesting and after I've gotten through the initial "Oh, I can't read this..." block which is around page 50, I'm rip-roaring along, enjoying the twists and turns of the story and seeing if I can figure out the crime if not before Morse, then at least before his put upon sergeant Lewis figures it all out.

If you haven't tried them, I suggest giving them a go. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

DIRTY LITTLE SECRET - Pre-orders now live!

 

All the techno-gribblies have been accomplished and my publisher tells me that DIRTY LITTLE SECRET in both digital and paperback forms, is now available to pre-order.

For those wanting a SIGNED copy of the book, please order direct from Hobeck Books and follow the notes on their website on how to get a signed copy.

DIRTY LITTLE SECRET is available from the following:


You can also order it from your local bookstore by giving them the ISBN number: 978-1913793692


Thursday, March 31, 2022

FROM SORROW'S HOLD COVER REVEAL

 Very pleased to reveal the cover for the second book, From Sorrow's Hold


Cover by Jayne Mapp

Due for release summer 2022

More details coming soon...

Saturday, March 26, 2022

A Long-running Plan

This post was originally sent to my newsletter subscribers on March 20th. Join the mailing list to get the monthly newsletter sent every third Sunday, as well as a FREE short story: ONE NIGHT IN MANCHESTER, the thrilling prequel to DIRTY LITTLE SECRET released on May 31.

Following on from the exciting cover reveal, I am still buzzing with excitement from all the messages of support I was lucky to receive.

It seems you all love the cover and can't wait to get reading about Louise Miller and her first case as a Detective Constable in her hometown of Ossett. The fabulous cover design, Jayne, is now working on the cover for the second book in the series, FROM SORROW'S HOLD, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with.

And speaking of series, lets talk briefly about my plans for Louise Miller.

Not Just A One Off

When I started writing the book, I knew I wanted this to be part of a long running series, and not just a one-off story. As I got further in, a lot of story ideas started springing up and I wrote these down in a file which quickly became a document all of its own.

Characters, story threads, potential crimes to investigate, historical events of the time, cultural references; these all got jotted down and a story-arc that spanned not just a trilogy but a potential forty book series was developed, and a unique structure constructed.

The first story line is covered over nine books, starting in 1987 and ending in 1995. After that is a trilogy of books set between 1984-1986 when Louise first joins the force, and her time in Manchester as a rookie. Following that we will pick up Louise's story in 1999 with another nine-book storyline.

That's all I will say for now, but I wanted you to know I have BIG plans for Louise, Hines, Karla and the rest of the Ossett Station CID team.

Cheers

JP


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

COVER REVEAL

 I am so excited and pleased to be able to reveal the full cover for DIRTY LITTLE SECRET. 


Cover design Jayne Mapp

Due for release 31 May, 2022. 
More details coming soon...


Friday, March 4, 2022

It Finally Happened!

So it finally happened; I became an official statistic of the pandemic. Wednesday, after feeling lousy for a few days and having taken Tuesday off from work, I took a COVID test and it came back positive. I've taken dozens of these tests over the two years and seeing that double red line appear was a weird, surreal, moment.

I'm very lucky to be fully vaccinated and boosted, so if I was ever going to get the virus, now is probably the best time to do so, as the effects should be a lot less severe than if I hadn't had the shots.

It's now Friday as I finish this short post - keeping focus is tricky at the moment, even for something less than a thousand words in length - and I've now got three positive tests. Obviously I took time off work and hopefully things get back to normal soon: I hate sleeping on the sofa and even worse; I can't taste anything. Even worse on top of that, I can't focus long enough to do any writing, so I really want this to end sooner rather than later.

So please, if you haven't already, get your vaccines; I'd hate to think what this would be like if I hadn't. And please, still wear a mask where you can - I didn't at work and that's obviously where I caught it from. I won't be making that mistake again when I return.


Sunday, February 20, 2022

Hurry Up And Wait: the Traditional Model's Fate


I was going to write today about the realities of being a writer (managing expectations, juggling workloads and the sometimes unsavory necessity of getting a day job) but, ironically, reality got in the way once again and time was sucked from me. Rather than not post anything, I figured I'd upload the essay I recently wrote for my creative writing degree regarding a potential future for the traditional publishing model.

Two years of a global pandemic have seen people all across the world fall in love with reading once again. With little to do and nowhere to go during the intermittent lockdowns, or because of company layoffs, the many varied stories locked within the pages of a book have kept people entertained and distracted from world events at record levels (Debczack, 2020). A person’s leisure time has always been a valuable commodity to exploit, and while many people binged shows on Netflix or streamed from Disney+, there is only so much Tiger King, Squid Game or The Mandalorian a person can endure before turning to alternative entertainment. And that entertainment was reading. In 2020 in the U.K alone, sales of books rose by 2% to £6.4 billion, with the largest increase coming from digital sales as that platform grew by 12% or £3 billion (Publishers Association, 2021). It wasn’t just consumer publications that sold well; education and academic books and journals all outperformed previous years, largely in thanks to high increases in sales on digital platforms (Sweney, 2020).

Yet while print publications were strong in 2020, it was outperformed by digital sales and it is this embracing of technologies once thought of as the death of “the book” (Huffington Post, 2016) that herald the first glimpse of major changes that need to come in order for the traditional publishing model to survive.

While there are several global factors such as supply issues and the ongoing conditions imposed by the pandemic forcing the need for publishers to re-examine their business models directly, there are two aspects of the traditional publishing model which are driving authors to look outside of the usual route to market: the length of time taken for a book to be published, coupled with the powerful need of an author to make a living.

Hurry up and wait is a military term that perfectly describes the current model of literary publishing amongst the larger of the publishing companies (Merriam-Webster, 2021) . The length of time from submission to publication can be extraordinarily long as it is now no longer just the author with a manuscript but an entire publishing empire with editors, book designers, layout artists, marketing gurus and event co-ordinators all having their say. Multiply that by the number of authors on the list and the inevitability of the slow stumble towards publication day becomes obvious. Donadio’s essay into this very subject, reveals that the technology isn’t the problem: it’s the humans involved that turns this into a sluggish enterprise (Donadio, 2008).

With reports of falling author revenues year on year, many are taking their business away from the traditional publishing model to one more suited to the working author. Between 2009 and 2017 alone there was a 42% drop in reported author income (Authors Guild, 2019), and the upcoming changes to copyright laws thanks to Brexit could lower this even further. This is why platforms such as Amazon, Ingram Spark, Draft2Digital, Lulu and a dozen similar sites are ideally suited for the entrepreneurial writer with a story to tell and the will to make it happen. For the more journalistic non-fiction writer, sites such as Blogger, Wix, Medium, Squarespace and Wordpress can be created to look as professional as any of the online big name media sites such as the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed. Even giants such as CNN or the BBC have embraced the digital revolution, their once labyrinthine websites now becoming more streamlined and user-friendly e-magazines with news articles, entertainment stories and sports updates.

The independent author or publisher can now bring a book to market in a fraction of the time of the traditional model which in turn means that this bypassing of the gatekeepers also puts more of the profits into the hands of the author with regular, and higher, royalty payments. Of course, in return for the control and the profits the indie author must now also bear the cost of publication: editing, cover design, site hosting, marketing and promotion, all the costs the traditional model would soak up both in terms of practical and financial, now lay heavily on the indie author’s shoulders.

Online communities such as 20booksto50K on Facebook champion this independent spirit, outwardly challenging the notion that there is no money to be made in publishing (a sad example of the sort of fake news that has snaked its way into the global consciousness and curriculum of Universities across the country) with monthly announcements by its members, with evidence (see Appendices 1, 2, 3 and 4), of the sorts of author royalties that would make Stephen King blush (Forbes, 2015).

By keeping to rigid publishing schedules of old and not embracing a faster publishing model, these companies are forcing authors to go elsewhere in order to create a sustainable living. It is a self-destructive, self-fulfilling prophecy that can only be stopped by great, and drastic, change.

With the power balance shifting from large corporate publishing houses to the indie-spirited thanks to the perfect combination of vastly reduced time between finished manuscript and publication, higher royalty payments, and the control to release written works in whatever shape or format is desired, what does this mean for the traditional publisher? Will they be forced to close their doors as the pandemic rise of the independent publisher sweeps over them? Of course not; just as the golden age of the Hollywood Studio system of the 40’s adapted to changing times forced by outside factors (TV Tropes, 2021), today’s giant studios of Hollywood still continue to exist amidst a sea of smaller, independent filmmakers who have embraced the advancements in technology to bypass the same gatekeepers: agents, producers and executive heads of studios, in order to produce and release their films, their way.

The question to be asked is, will they do this willingly or be reluctantly forced into change by a rapidly evolving world at a time when supply chain issues, paper shortages and rising costs all round start to limit the options that were previously widely available, the staples of a once stable publishing method.

Steps are already being taken to counter any perceived threat to the status quo and this will only increase over the next five years as the adage “adapt or die” becomes the rallying cry through the corridors of the big Five. Again, like the Hollywood Studios of old, the first opportunity to survive is the acquisition of other studios, or in this case, other publishing houses. With their many imprints, some obtained by buying out smaller independent niche publishers, Harper Collins alone publish over 1’500 books a year (HarperCollins, 2021). Already steps are underway for five to become four as Penguin Random House looks to buy out Simon & Schuster, and by 2026 it is very feasible that the four may become three or even two as smaller publishers are bought out and merged under large corporate umbrellas. To some this may sound an alarm with concerns raising from the size of one company, its increased buying power and the inevitable loss of jobs (Gouty, 2021). However, circling the wagons in this way is a viable tactic when confronted with a strong and prolonged attack from supply issues, rising costs and reduced individual spending power due to the types of huge economic swings the world is currently facing. Economic gurus prophesise that this is only set to worsen in the short term as Governments struggle to combat the many challenges they find themselves bombarded with in today’s volatile climate, another reason why the independent author/publisher movement is growing.

Just as an author finds greater success by focusing on a niche, so too did the Hollywood studios, leaving the B-movies for the smaller independent studios while they concentrated on bigger budget star vehicles. Translating this from film to book, for the publishing house, having big brand name stars on their lists so they can cash in on the cult of celebrity has become a near standard practice, and a very lucrative solution for all involved. Amy Schumers advance was between $8-$10 million; Tina Fey’s Bossypants landed her a $6 million advance (Oswald, 2016). The name alone will attract a great deal of attention and, if they have a large following on social media, bestseller status is almost guaranteed. Take for example Richard Osman, best known as a popular host and presenter of afternoon TV quiz shows. He wrote a cozy crime novel which landed him a seven-figure deal including a followup book after a ten-way auction (Barnet, 2019). Would that have happened without his status as a celebrity and a cadre of 1.1 million followers on Twitter? I would doubt it. A small publisher wouldn’t have the lure that the larger companies have, both in terms of marketing reach or upfront finance and so a celebrity or their agent is highly unlikely to approach them looking for a deal. That leaves the big houses who are perfectly suited to this niche.

The question of whether or not the books are of any significant quality is a highly contentious subject with arguments thrown back and forth for either side, neither of which affect the ultimate success of the book. And then there is the argument that these high-profile books are sucking the oxygen from the release of the new unknown author (Unknown Author, 2020). The existing success and awareness of the celebrity’s brand such as Strictly Come Dancing’s Richard Cole and his cosy crime novel or Hillary Clinton and her thriller, will practically guarantee it hits the bestseller list.

By focusing on this highly profitable niche, and building lists of well recognised names all under their numerous imprints, the big publishers can maintain their hold of the traditional publishing model as the authors have their “day job” to fall back on alongside these ridiculously huge advances which will never pay out.

However that doesn’t keep them from finding successful talent from the independent scene and bring them under their umbrella. Take for example Ruby Dixon and her Ice Planet Barbarian science-fiction romance novels, self-published via Amazon in 2015. Her series was extremely popular especially amongst the 20books to 50K movement; she was seen as a guiding light for those authors wanting to pursue the independent route due to her success. And then in 2020, as people were finding her books, one TikTok user posted a review and her books went viral, with sales skyrocketing. That was when Penguin went knocking and secured her books, publishing them under a traditional contract with added content (Bussel, 2021). A genuine interest in the genre, or a cynical grab for a slice of the independent pie? It will be interesting to see how many more independent authors get offered such deals, or those emerging writers in similar genres given the opportunity to submit such works, historically turned down in favour of the more literary.

As we move into the third year of the pandemic, and with no clear evidence that there will a conclusive end to the situation anytime soon, it could be easy to look at the future of publishing with pessimistic eyes. If the pandemic of 2020 and 2021 has taught us anything it is this: habits can be changed. People and institutions can adapt and mindsets, however indoctrinated, can be set free. Old institutions eventually die, no matter how hard those within struggle to keep death from its door, to be reborn under the umbrella of new ideas, fresh thinking and led by energetic entrepreneurs.

The traditional publishing model is in its last days in its current form; the lessons painfully earned by those writing their own path will be co-opted by the big four, whose monopoly on waning revenues will now not be the stranglehold it once was but instead a futile and weakening death grip.


Those who choose not to see this, who insist that not all traditions die, will find themselves the ones on the outside, trying to find a way in, and to them, the message can only be: “Hurry up and wait.”








Sunday, February 6, 2022

What's Happening Next?

 

I really should post more on here. I know that. I know that in the same way that I know I should eat more fruit and veg, and in the same way I know that I should drink more water. I know, I agree it's important and yet I still find it easier to grab corn snacks, or a biscuit; even better, Tangfastics that have been in the fridge for a few hours; bloody gorgeous! And it's the same with the blog. 

So let me try and convince you - and by you, I mean me - that I'll change. That I'll start writing more, and posting regularly.

Well, actually I can't promise that. Not even remotely. To prove that point, I started writing this blog last week but then other things got in the way and the time I'd set aside for writing it vanished.

But I want to write regularly here, I really do, because having some form of author platform is going to be really important when DIRTY LITTLE SECRET gets published in May. I want this to be the place people come to see what I have to say rather than wade through the various cesspools that are Twitter or Facebook.

Don't get me started on Facebook - I've had two attempts to hack my account this week alone, and well over 100 "friend" requests from people I have never interacted with and I think are 'bots, but unfortunately there are a couple of safe havens that require me to suffer the mental-assault that is Facebook: one of which is the UK Crime Book Club. With over 20K members, ardent readers of crime fiction all, the UKCBC is a great community of like minded souls who enjoy a good tale well told. I've found many fantastic recommendations for future books to read, and have been given some great opportunities thanks to their schedule of author interviews.

In fact, I have an upcoming author chat next week as I am taking part in a New Voices Panel on Friday 11th, hosted by Caroline Maston and with Christie Newport and Sarah Bonner. It starts at 7pm so I hope you can join me there - just follow the link above to join the group - if not, they upload their videos to their UKCBC YouTube channel a few days later. 

Louise Miller Novels

At the moment I have just made revisions to Dirty Little Secret based off some notes from the editor, and returned it to my publisher, and have been applying the same to From Sorrow's Hold. I should finish those revisions on book two later today. and then continue writing the third book Cut and Shut. As to release dates, I believe May is still slated for Dirty Little Secret but I'm not sure about From Sorrow's Hold - I would expect later in the year, perhaps around September or October. September would be good as that is when I hit the big 5-0; what an amazing birthday gift that would be: the release of my second novel. Well, that's all in the arms of the Hobeck team; I'm just pleased they love the books and want to publish them at all!

As to the third book in our contract - I'm expecting that will be out in 2023, and book four... well, I'm researching that one now but before I write that, I'm going to be writing something a little different.

Something A Little Different

I have a potential project I'm eyeing up between writing the third and fourth Louise Miller book. Well, two actually because I'm looking at two differing ways to tackle a single idea. I have the title; I have the storylines and a rough structure. What I don't have is the setting. Actually, that's not quite accurate; I have two settings: I am torn between going contemporary or historical. 2019 Derby or 1813 Portugal.

The former, I feel, has been done to death a thousand times, and the current market reflects that with the oversaturation of similar themes and protaganists, whereas the latter has a fresh take on the crime genre but would be a riskier "sell" to an agent or publisher. Both would be a ton of fun to write.

Decisions, decisions...

So now you're all caught up. I'm heading into the final semester of my creative writing degree, with Advanced Poetry, Independent Study and a Portfolio Project being the last modules I'm now working on. I got back my grades for Genre Fiction (80/75 respectively) and Written World In 21st Century (70/69), so I'm hoping I can stay on track for an overall First. I'll publish the essay I wrote for Written World, titled Hurry Up And Wait: The Traditional Model's Fate in a few weeks time like I have the other essays written throughout this course.

In the meantime I'll be writing a series of linked, themed poems which tie in with a future Louise Miller novel. I can't say much about them as it will contain huge spoilers for books three onwards, but I'm excited to be stepping once more out of my comfort zone and exploring this medium from a story-tellers point of view.

Thanks for reading. 

JP

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