Monday, 21 April 2014

Serial Killer Outlook

Although I’m not one to count his chickens before they are hatched, I’m quite happy to say that I have reached the 40,000 word milestone on my serial killer novel – the half way mark is nearby. At this moment, I’m not sure what the approximate final word count will be, but I’m aiming for at least 100,000. I have also spotted a few plot weaknesses and must get round to addressing them in order to beef up the secondary narratives I have weaved in, and flesh out a character or two - that should add to the tally.

I’m liking the shape it’s taking. I am a big fan of the serial killer genre and this has allowed me to identify common threads and mechanisms that tend to be repetitive in the various books I have read. To stick to the genre, I have to naturally obey a set of rules. However, I’m taking a few liberties which I deem necessary to anchor my story into reality and make plot twists believable. Firstly, my main protagonist is a reporter and not a detective. He’s also smart but annoyingly arrogant to start off with; then as the years go by we get used to his flaws (his behaviour changes too). Secondly, the killer remains mysterious and none of the story is narrated or witnessed from his point-of-view. This should make him omnipotent! Finally, the plot – similar to ‘Out of Bounds’ - isn’t strictly linear; it includes flashbacks and dreams.

On another note, I have spent an incredible amount of time researching serial killers. It’s shocking the amount of detail you can get about what they did and continue to do. There are various places I have come across which I consider goldmines for background information. Reading FBI publications on profiling and procedure, and searching for Missing Persons is fascinating. You get to learn so much, including the fact that there are just so many repeat killers in the world that no database will ever be powerful enough to help law enforcement track them down. I’m afraid there are loopholes in the system and killers can thrive on that – well my killer certainly does.

The sun is out and the weather has improved. Seems like we’re in the final lap, heading for summer. I like to think of myself as a hardcore work enthusiast who types frantically no matter what the weather is like outside. But that would be wrong. Like my garden weeds, I enjoy popping my head out and taking in some of that warmth. Let’s just hope this doesn’t dramatically impact my work rate. Right now and if all goes well, I would say that the first draft of the novel could be completed by year-end. Then I’ll follow the path taken for ‘Out of Bounds’. That means: agent queries first, self-publishing if no progress is made. Whatever the outcome, I’ll want to share my story with you. Can you wait until 2015?

In the meantime, if you are also into serial killer books, let me recommend some. Needless to say they inspired me, as well as numerous other books, movies and well-scripted TV shows:

‘The Poet’ by Michael Connelly (arguably the most inspirational book)
‘By Reason of Insanity’ by Shane Stevens (epic story and multiple POV)
‘The Anniversary Man’ by RJ Ellory (complex murders in New York, great storytelling)
‘Messiah’ by Boris Starling (Purely from the London police angle, but great pace)
‘Killer on the Road’ by James Ellroy (epic journey and use of newspaper reports)
‘The Scarecrow’ by Michael Connelly (not as groundbreaking as the Poet, but a good follow-up)
And in general the works of Henning Mankell, RJ Ellory, Dennis Lehane…

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Keeping Momentum

The life of a self-published author is kind of weird three and a half weeks after the big event. To be honest, I feel both thrilled and anxious, anxious for something more to happen.

'Out of Bounds' was published simultaneously on Amazon and on Smashwords on March 14th. It took a few days for the paperback to be included on the various Amazon websites and about a week for the ebook to reach Barnes & Noble and others. 'Out of Bounds' is still in the queue for inclusion on Kobo - the gateway to WH Smith in the UK, FNAC in France and Portugal, Feltrinelli in Italy, and as far away as Bookworld in Australia, Indigo in Canada, Paper Plus in New Zealand, Rakuten in Japan, etc. So the roll-out of the book is pretty much under control. What is less certain, however, is the self-promotion side of things.

I followed up the launch with a splash on Twitter and Facebook, and have been naturally talking about 'Out of Bounds' with people. I also published two press releases and an interview via Smashwords, which has helped the momentum going somewhat. By the way, for those of you who have been involved in the project, and for those of you who have shown support via the social media and bought the book, I am deeply grateful. Your comments have been so helpful toward the promotion. I do truly feel the word of mouth spreading.

The initial buzz was crucial, but as is the case with what is good, things must come to an end. So here I am, 3.5 weeks after publication and now in a waiting period. The questions on my mind are: how long will it take for this word of mouth to spread? What does it take to create sales spikes in the data I am receiving? When the hell will Kobo make 'Out of Bounds' available? How can I market my book further without appearing redundant?

I guess the answers to all those questions are 'Patience' and 'keep at it'. As Victor Hugo once said: "Perseverance, secret of all triumphs."

My blog visitors come from all over the world and I am picking up the occasional follower on Twitter. I also guess it takes time for one to find the book, read it, and share the news - that's if the person liked the book. The momentum spark might happen again. Who knows? Maybe someone will post a review of the book on Amazon and increase awareness, maybe get 'Out of Bounds' on the "People who viewed this also viewed" list on Amazon (and be associated with Michael Connelly's latest - 'The Gods of Guilt'; or RJ Ellory's upcoming 'Carnival of Shadows', release date 22 May). That's a great recipe to generate extra sales. Then hopefully I'll feel a domino effect. At some point maybe someone influential (an agent, a writer, or someone famous) will pick up a copy and like it? I suppose Michael Connelly blessed the day Bill Clinton (when he was President) walked out of a bookstore and was photographed with a copy of 'The Concrete Blonde' under his arm. Ideally, this is the type of publicity I'm looking for. Ah, wishful thinking!

It's nice to dream. I know. Anyhow, this isn't preventing me from adding some more words to novel n°2.

I'm now about 30,000 words plus into the draft and I'm liking the way it is shaping up. In my Smashwords interview (published March 29th), I mentioned that the story will be situated in the United States and I will be studying the serial killer in depth. I think I have come up with a new angle for the genre. I cannot disclose anything yet, but I think my killer is twisted and evil like you've never seen before. My main protagonist will be an anti-hero journalist (but smart nonetheless) and his investigation to uncover the killer will have epic proportions. The plot (and therefore killing spree) will be spread over a twenty-year period. It'll be dark, gritty, and hopefully fun and intriguing.

Take care. Will write again soon. And by the way, if you have book marketing ideas or any comments about 'Out of Bounds', don't hesitate to let me know.