Monday, April 14, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Hop

I've been tagged by my friend, the lovely and talented Lynne Hinkey, to blog about my writing process. Just scroll down to my entry of March 6th (My how time flies!) to read about my forthcoming historical novel, "Race to Tibet". If you would like to listen to an interview I gave to Etienne Gibbs in his show "In the Author's Corner", please scroll down to the very next post. Thank you in advance for reading/listening about my books. And as always, we serve a steaming mug of fresh coffee on this blog to all our readers!


Monday, April 7, 2014

In the Author's Corner with Etienne Gibbs on Blog Talk Radio

Join me on Blog Talk Radio where I discuss the writing and researching of Transfer Day (Spy Island):

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/intheauthorscornerwithetienne/2014/04/07/sophie-schillers-danish-transfer-1




Thank you again to Etienne Gibbs for a great interview. I really enjoyed it!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Guest Post by Literary Agent Josh Getzler

Plot BIGNESS

Josh Getzler

Recently, my assistant, Danielle, and I were discussing a number of queries we had received where the setup and buildup were outstanding, the manuscript was rolling along, we were wondering “Hmm, I wonder how this will play out,” and then…
BANG—Conspiracy of Templars!
BANG—The evil bully is actually an alien!!
BANG—The GOVERNMENT is out to get the 12 year old!
(No, this is not about any specific query, but a type. If you think this is about YOUR query, read on, then revise!)
OK, so here’s the thing: If you are writing a big international thriller, a YA adventure with Save-the-world written all over it, or epic fantasy, then fine. Go ahead with the Uncle Who’s Really a Triple Agent from the 28th Century.
But the books we were reading where this was happening were smaller in scope; mysteries and domestic dramas and YA novels that were, in some fundamental ways, cozier than that. It’s not necessary for a kid to find enough nitroglycerin to destroy the world three times over in the neighbor’s garage; he can find a stash of stolen art or his father's old service revolver. The bad apple down the block could have issues smaller than being three light years from the planet Xenon.
My point is pretty basic. Most novels have a built-in scope, where the reader is nodding along and where the suspension of disbelief is reasonable. When a writer, for reasons of ambition or because it seems cool, or in order to work out a tricky plot point, goes beyond scope, it is jarring. Eyes roll. We ask “Why?” We don’t want to read further, or we ask the author to walk it back.
Sometimes the writer will make a reasonable point: “We always hear that books need to be BIG in order to ‘make an impact in the market,’ and that’s what I was trying to do.” OK, fair enough. But almost all the time, the issue is far less about the true Bigness of the story and more about trying to compensate for a plot deficit.
And also understand, I’m not saying don’t be ambitious. I don’t want only tidy dramas in small towns or, you know,Good Expectations. But when you are thinking “OK, what if the dog can fly?” PLEASE be sure that you set it up that the spaniel drank a whole mess of magical non-poisonous jet fuel for dinner. 


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tagged!



I have been tagged by Australian writer Elizabeth Jane Corbett to share my writing process in the “Tagged” blog tour. When not writing, Elizabeth works as a Librarian, Welsh Teacher, and blogger. You can visit her blog at: http://elizabethjanecorbett.com/elizabeth-janes-story/

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to my new novel:

Race to Tibet

Tibet by Nicholas Roerich courtesty of the Nicholas Roerich Museum, Manhattan

What am I working on?

"Race to Tibet" is a historical novel that tells a thrilling tale of high-altitude adventure and survival set in the world's most forbidden country: Tibet. It is based on the true story of three courageous explorers who are determined to be the first living European to reach Lhasa during the age of Victorian Exploration. 
When these intrepid adventurers reach Tibet, they discover a land of mystery and intrigue, a land of danger that promises them only one thing: death. In the end, only one of these explorers will fulfill his lifelong dream of reaching Lhasa, but he will spend the rest of his life haunted by it.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I have yet to find any substantial work based on the same theme. There is one book by the English writer, Mike Scholey, called "Beads of Water, Drops of Gold", but it tells the story of the 1904 Tibetan invasion from the point of view of Sir Francis Younghusband, whereas my story starts in 1889 and tells a much broader story about three distinct explorers, Francis Younghusband, Gabriel Bonvalot, and Bronislav Grombchevsky, who were all vying to be the first living European to reach Lhasa. I was inspired to write a novel set in the Himalayas after reading the novel "Paths of Glory" by Jeffrey Archer, but that's where any similarity ends. Archer's book is solely about George Mallory's attempts at conquering Mount Everest whereas my book narrates the adventures of three distinct explorers who set out on life-threatening expeditions between 1889-1890.
 

Gabriel Bonvalot, your average intrepid Victorian explorer

Why do I write what I write?

This story was a dream come true. I found it by chance, so, in a certain sense, I feel as if I was personally chosen to tell this tale. The amazing story of Gabriel Bonvalot was languishing in libraries around the world for over a hundred years and was dying to be retold in a novel. Had it not been for the geniuses of Google (specifically Larry Page), who came up with the brilliant idea of digitizing the worlds' books and making them searchable and accessible to all of mankind, Bonvalot's story might have stayed buried forever. So, in answer to the question, I'd have to say: when I find a story that captivates me that has never been told before, I immerse myself in that world and go to work bringing the story to life one scene at a time.

How does my writing process work?

I start with research, deep, intensive research. I download and purchase every book on the subject. Using legal-sized notepads, I write down everything relevant to the story or to the time period, such as eating habits, drinking habits, attitudes, unusual observations, medicines, bureaucratic dilemmas, folk remedies, speech habits, etc. Ditto with paper books. I highlight and underline everything I need to tell the story. This process can take a year to a year and a half. Then I sit down and start plotting the novel and creating scenes. I love to start by introducing the characters and building them up as interesting personalities. I keep the action moving forward and build suspense.

I hope you will enjoy "Race to Tibet" when it's released and I love to hear readers' comments and observations.
 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Sneak Peak at "Race to Tibet" Coming in 2014

Race to Tibet

Race to Tibet is a thrilling tale of high-altitude adventure and survival set in the world's most forbidden country:  Tibet

Race to Tibet is based on the true story of three intrepid explorers, Gabriel Bonvalot, Francis Younghusband, and Bronislav Grombchevsky, who are competing to be the first living European to reach Lhasa. It is also the story of a woman who is determined to find her missing husband who disappeared inside Tibet—no matter the cost. What these explorers discover is a land of mystery and intrigue, a land of danger that promises them only one thing:  death.

CHAPTER 1


Paris, France
December, 1888

Strolling down the Boulevard des Italiens, Gabriel Bonvalot resembled any other well-dressed Parisian in his sack suit, top hat, and overcoat, but his mind was miles away. Worlds away to be exact. In his fertile imagination, drifts of snow became the snow-capped mountains of the Hindu Kush. The wind howling in his ears was the Pamir wolf, and the River Seine glistened like the turquoise lakes of Turkestan.
As France's most celebrated explorer, Gabriel Bonvalot was obsessed with traveling to the four corners of the globe. And when he wasn't out trekking on some windswept pass high up in the Himalayas, he was thinking of ingenious ways of getting there. Even sickness and ill health couldn't stop his mind from wandering to far-flung lands. When confined to his bed during a lengthy recuperation from rheumatic fever that he'd picked up while crossing the Pamir Mountains, Bonvalot's greatest pleasure was to leaf through his trusty Schrader Atlas and let his eyes wander over the mountains, rivers, valleys, and lakes. From the volume's dusty pages, mountain peaks would burst forth, joined by forests of pine and oak trees that sprang up like dandelions, bowing and swaying from a blast of cold Siberian wind, while shimmering blue rivers snaked down to fertile orchards of apple, almond, and apricot trees.
To Gabriel Bonvalot, a map was a living, breathing world. And when his eyelids grew too heavy, and sleep was about to overtake him, an imaginary snowfall would fall across his bed, prompting him to close the atlas, pull up the covers, and fall into a deep, restful slumber.
When pressed, Bonvalot would always insist that geography was more than the mere study of maps, surveys, and charts as found in countless volumes languishing in dusty libraries around the world. Geography was, in fact, an adventure waiting to be explored. A costly adventure, to be sure, but one that filled all his waking and all his sleeping hours.
But the world of exploration was not without its hazards. Bonvalot would always caution the prudent explorer to forever be on his guard and keep his Winchester close at hand. From roving bands of brigands, to hostile border guards, to mercenaries and pirates, travelers needed more than luck to reach their goal. They needed a quick trigger finger or an open purse. And then there were the unseen maladies that could stop even the hardiest explorer in his tracks, like cholera and dysentery as explained by great men of science like Pasteur and Koch in their medicinal doctrine of microbes. As demonstrated by the mighty Prejevalsky, these tiny devils could reduce even a Goliath of a man to his sick bed. But aside from the obvious perils, Bonvalot's greatest worry was money. The art of coaxing money out of fickle coffers was almost as difficult as extracting gold teeth from reluctant mouths. An expedition of any size was an expensive endeavor that could end in failure and bankruptcy. After his last journey across the Pamirs had almost cost him his life, the price of high-risk travel was greater than ever. Looking back on that fiasco, when his journey across the Roof of the World had left him frostbitten, starved, snow-blind, and locked up in a Chitral dungeon, Bonvalot knew he would need an extraordinary success to seal his name in the annals of geography.
This time he would go for the grand prize.
Bonvalot's dream was to be the first living European to reach Lhasa, the forbidden—and therefore enticing—capital of Tibet. But it would not be easy. Times were hard; money was scarce. Even the royal family had had their share of money woes. There were rumors that the young pretender to the French throne, Prince Henri d'Orléans, had amassed such a large gambling debt that his father, Robert, Duke of Chartres, was forced to drop to his knees and beg his patron, Baron Maurice de Hirsch, for the money to cover the young numskull's debts of honor. Bonvalot shuddered at the thought of having to beg for the privilege of doing what he loved best.
Down the street, a crowd had gathered at his favorite newsstand, with all eyes peeled to the latest edition of Le Figaro. Bonvalot hurried to join them, and when he spotted a familiar face on the front page, he froze. He snatched the newspaper off the stand and stared at the headline with a mixture of shock and incredulity, his hand gripping the paper so tight his arms shook with excitement:

General Prejevalsky Dead

Bonvalot's pulse quickened. Can it be true? Is that Russian braggart really dead? He threw down a few centimes and grabbed the newspaper, certain that the news would send tremors throughout all the Geographical Societies of Europe. But undoubtedly it would also catch notice at the highest echelons of British Military Intelligence. Rumors had been circulating for years that General Prejevalsky had been involved in intelligence gathering activities under the guise of exploration and discovery. As it turned out, the various occupations were not mutually exclusive.
Dodging a cavalcade of horse carriages, Bonvalot dashed across the snow-covered boulevard to Café Tortoni, his home away from home, to read the article in peace.
When Bonvalot entered the café, the Maitre d'hôtel rushed over to greet him, removing the famed explorer's coat as if he were the Duke of Magenta himself.
"Monsieur Bonvalot, what an honor to see you," said the Maitre d'hôtel, beaming from ear to ear. "I've saved your favorite seat—the best in the house."
"Please don't fuss," said Bonvalot, unaccustomed to all the attention his fame brought him. "I'd prefer that quiet table over there."
"As you wish, Monsieur."
Bonvalot took a quiet table and spread the newspaper out over the linen tablecloth. Before he even looked up, the wine steward was at his side bearing the pride of the house: Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1883. He waited for Bonvalot's approval and then proceeded to pop the cork.
"Compliments of the house," said the steward, filling a sparkling glass to the brim. Then he bowed and disappeared in a whoosh.
"Merci," said Bonvalot, lifting the glass to inhale the wine's fragrant bouquet. After tasting the libation, he once again feasted his eyes on the article:

Major-General Prejevalsky, whose death was recently reported in the cablegrams was the most distinguished of all the Russian scientific explorers and one of the greatest modern authorities on Central Asia. He was a trusted officer of the Czar and had well-earned the reputation for being a bold, daring, determined, and enthusiastic pioneer of travel. He broke fresh ground in Turkestan some 15 years ago, traversing the Pamir, skirting the Chang Tang, Tibet's great Northern deserts, and penetrating the Lob-Nor. Although he succeeded in exploring portions of Northern Tibet, he was unable to make his way south into Lhasa. At the time of his death, he was about to embark on another attempt. The sudden death of Prejevalsky on the eve of another journey to Tibet, will send shock waves throughout the scientific world.

Shock waves is an understatement, thought Bonvalot, finishing off his drink and pouring himself another. With Prejevalsky dead, his biggest competitor in the race to Lhasa was out of the picture. But he was sure there were others out there, ambitious British soldiers seeking fame and glory outside the regiment, and the more covert kind of explorer, those who entered the Forbidden Kingdom disguised as Buddhist pilgrims or traders. The British were always sending their pundits to map and explore Tibet using specially designed rosary beads with 100 instead of the usual 108 beads to count their paces, compasses hidden inside their prayer wheels, and thermometers for gauging altitude secreted inside a hollowed out stick. Many of the pundits suffered unimaginable cruelty at the hand of the Tibetan authorities when their disguises were uncovered. Some simply disappeared without a trace.
But there were other problems barring his way, money being at the forefront. Organizing an expedition costs a small fortune. Bonvalot needed a sponsor who was fabulously wealthy yet didn't make too many demands. In time, he was sure he would resolve that problem as well. And once the funds were safely deposited in his bank account, he would organize the expedition of a lifetime. He would hire the bravest, most reliable guides, the best caravaneers, the sturdiest horses and use the leftover money to bribe his way to Lhasa if the situation required. By the end of next year, Bonvalot could picture himself climbing the steps of the Potala Palace to meet the famed Dalai Lama himself. He would raise the Tricolor for the glory of France and secure his place in the annals of geographical exploration for all time. Success had never tasted so sweet.
Naturally, Bonvalot would return to France with trunks filled with Tibetan gold and gemstones, rare Buddhist manuscripts, priceless statues, and if the gods of exploration were really smiling on him, maybe even the Dalai Lama himself. Bonvalot closed his eyes and pictured himself standing in front of the annual meeting of the Société de Géographie in his black tie and tails, smiling as he pulls aside a curtain to reveal His Holiness together with a royal entourage of saffron-robed monks. It would be the talk of every geographical society for years. For decades. For the rest of his life. His bank account would never again be overdrawn. He would at last be able to live down his humiliating childhood.
Bonvalot sipped his wine and smiled. At the age of thirty-five, he had made a name for himself in the competitive world of geographical exploration. Two years ago he had received the coveted gold medal of the Société de Geographie for his remarkable journey across the Pamirs to India in the middle of winter, a journey that almost cost him his life. Tall, handsome, with light brown hair, a trimmed beard, warm blue eyes, and the confidence of a troop of Legionnaires, Bonvalot looked at home on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in the country. To meet the public's insatiable craving for adventure, Bonvalot had penned numerous best-sellers about his globe-trotting travels through Central Asia. Those books brought in enough royalty checks to ensure he would never have to stoop to accepting a salaried position, but he wasn't rich by anyone's estimation.
Still, the life of an explorer had its share of pitfalls. Expeditions were fraught with hardship and danger; Bonvalot had risked life and limb on numerous occasions, but until now death had been an abstraction, like the sun-bleached skeleton of an ibex nestled along the shores of a Siberian Lake. Prejevalsky's sudden death made him think hard about his own life. How long would his streak of good fortune last?
Bonvalot chuckled at the irony of it all. Prejevalsky the larger-than-life Russian Hercules was gone and he was still alive. It was almost impossible to believe. It was, in fact, a miracle.
As an explorer, Prejevalsky was in a class all by himself. Though short of stature, his massive chest and overbearing attitude projected the image of a human locomotive. He sported a head full of thick black hair that he would grease back like an Indian Maharajah, and together with his bold features, dark eyebrows, olive complexion, and suspicious nature, Prejevalsky resembled the natives of Central Asia among whom he travelled. But he had won the greater measure of their respect by his deadly accuracy with a rifle and his unflinching use of brute force. In a heated confrontation, Prejevalsky never lost the upper hand. If necessary, he would beat his rival with a whip to win his obedience and respect. As far as rivals go, Prejevalsky was unstoppable, and now he was dead.
Bonvalot stared at the frozen image of Prejevalsky in the newspaper. "So my friend, your dream of Lhasa is over. You failed miserably."
"What do you know about my dream of Lhasa?"
Shocked, Bonvalot looked up. Sitting across from him was a disheveled tramp who had appeared out of nowhere. His face was bloated and bruised, his skin an unnatural shade of purple and covered with festering sores. His clothes, if they could be called that, were in tatters—worse than a beggar's. His hair was a tangled, filthy mess more resembling fodder than human hair. And most troubling of all, the man smelled of the sewers, of death.
Bonvalot recoiled. "Must you sit here? Find yourself another table."
"Not so fast, Monsieur Bonvalot," said the beggar in a voice that grated like wheels over gravel. "I didn't come here to ask you to open your purse. I came here to offer you something. And when you hear what I have to offer, you'll be glad that I did."
"You are here to offer me something? Go away you filthy beggar!"
The stranger's face turned menacing. He grabbed Bonvalot's arm in a vise-like grip.
"I think you'd better sit back quietly, Monsieur Bonvalot, if you don't want to cause a scene."
Bonvalot pulled his arm out of the stranger's grasp and glanced around to make sure nobody was watching. The restaurant was full of diners laughing and joking, and waving their forks in animated conversation while drinking endless glasses of wine, while an elderly Gypsy meandered around the tables serenading the diners with soft violin music. To Bonvalot's relief, no one had noticed that a filthy street beggar had wormed his way into one of Paris's most famous restaurants and commandeered Bonvalot's private table. Even the maitre d'hôtel, who was not more than twenty feet away, seemed completely oblivious to the matter at hand. Bonvalot squirmed in his seat and tried to get a grip on his mounting anger.
The stranger continued. "As I said before, I came here to make you an offer."
"I thought I told you to leave."
The beggar narrowed his eyes. "Would you like me to raise my voice and cause a scene?"
Bonvalot glared at the intruder. "Then get on with your little speech and get out."
"You said before that I failed," continued the beggar over the din of the café, "But in many ways I succeeded beyond all measure. During my third journey, I penetrated deeper into Tibet than any other European explorer in modern times. I came so close to reaching Lhasa, I was sure we would make it. At our southernmost point, I calculated our position to be no more than 160 miles away. This is a remarkable achievement given the odds we were facing. Even those celebrated Indian pundits the British sent into Tibet only managed to survey the southern and western portions of the country; they were never able to infiltrate the interior before disaster struck. But alas! Our camels held us back; those faltering beasts were completely useless at high altitudes. They grew sick and feeble, growled incessantly, and refused to get up no matter how hard I beat them. It was on account of these circumstances that I was forced to abandon the entire expedition or risk dying among those savages. But that was then. This time it can be different. I came here to offer you my services as guide on your expedition to Tibet. And if you're smart you'll accept it. I'm giving you the chance to use all my wisdom and experience. It's all up here." The beggar tapped his head. "Where I failed you can succeed. I guarantee it."
"Who the devil are you?" said Bonvalot, fighting to keep his voice contained.
The beggar smiled, showing teeth that were cracked and stained. "The greatest explorer in the world. The toast of Russia. The favorite of the Tsar. At least, I was all those things."
"Yes, and I'm Lillie Langtry, but that doesn't answer my question. Who are you and how do you know so much about Tibet?" said Bonvalot, his heart now racing.
The beggar smiled wryly. "I think you know."
Bonvalot dropped his spoon. He bent down to retrieve it and noticed the beggar was wearing boots that appeared to be made of yak fur and were caked with a strange yellow mud. He slid his pocket knife out of its sheath, cut a sample of the fur, and wrapped it in his handkerchief.
"I entered a region that was less known than the darkest Africa," continued the beggar. "Using only my iron will, I broke the backs of those damned Asiatics. But my men and I suffered terrible privations for our heroism. Many times we went hungry when there was no game. Dozens of horses and camels collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Some of them simply froze to death. The Hami desert that separates the Tian Shan from the Nan Shan was so hot at night you couldn't sleep on the ground. There were no animals, no plants, no civilized life, just salt clouds that formed into mirages that mocked us and tormented us. The wind knocked us off our feet and tore at our eyes. There was no fodder for the animals, no water to drink. And the inhabitants! They mirrored the cursed terrain with their games of treachery. They refused to sell us food, refused to provide us with guides, called us foreign devils behind our backs and sometimes right to our faces. They used every means of deceit to rob us blind. The only thing the Chinamen and the Mongol understand is the nagayka whip. Central Asia is a lawless, godless land, and only European rifles and Krupp guns can do any good there. Missionary preaching is like howling in the wilderness. The Asiatics are beyond saving."
Bonvalot's eyes grew wide. "Prejevalsky…?"
"The name is Nikolai Mikhaylovich Prejevalsky," said the beggar, bowing his head and twisting his lips in a gratuitous smile. "As you may have heard, I was never noted for my manners, never comfortable in polite society. I was only happy out there in the wilderness, far from wretched civilization. Far from the stench of humanity."
Bonvalot felt his neck grow hot with anger. "I've had enough of you. I don't know who the devil you are, but you're a despicable fraud. I'm not the least bit impressed with your little charade. Get out before I call the gendarmes. Scat!"
All at once, the beggar erupted into a violent fit of coughing that was so loud, it drowned out the clanking of pots from the kitchen, the animated conversation from the diners, and the Gypsy's hypnotic violin playing.
Bonvalot looked around, terrified the interloper would choke to death at his table and cause a hair-raising scene that would land him on the front page of Charivari—or worse. That the waiter failed to check on the situation only made him more agitated. It seemed, in fact, that no one else could hear the beggar's loud coughing, as if he wasn't really there. To mollify the situation, Bonvalot gave the filthy tramp a few half-hearted thumps on his stone cold back.
"Is that all you can do after I came here to help you?" cried the beggar, shoving Bonvalot's hand away as he spat a large clot of blood into his napkin. "You sorry French bastard! You didn't even offer me a drink! Is this what you Frenchies call good manners? I should shoot you with my revolver to teach you a lesson. Where is the damned thing?"
Bonvalot jumped out of his seat, heart pounding like a drum. The beggar rummaged through his tattered clothing for his gun with a fury that bordered on savagery. Lacking a weapon, Bonvalot searched in vain for help, but there was not a gendarme in sight. The other diners were eating and drinking to their heart's content. No one had heard the beggar's dire threat. No one knew his life was at stake.
The beggar gave up searching for his pistol and returned to his coughing spasm. Bonvalot breathed a sigh of relief, but felt his face grow hot at the humiliation of having a lowly street beggar encroach on his private table and lecture him about the rigors of Central Asian exploration. He called for the maitre d'hôtel, who came rushing over at once, corkscrew in hand.
"Oui, Monsieur Bonvalot?"
"Will you kindly escort this vagrant out of the café. He came in without permission, took over my table, and is now threatening to shoot me. He's stark raving mad and has no business being in this fine establishment."
"Certainly, Monsieur," said the maitre d'hôtel, who looked from Bonvalot to the table, then back at Bonvalot. "Excuse me," he said, looking around with a baffled expression on his face. "but which vagrant are you referring to?"

Stunned, Bonvalot stared at the chair that was now empty. Inexplicably, the stranger had vanished.



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Amazon's 25 sub-categories of Historical Fiction

What is Historical Fiction? Is it a boring lecture about history you're forced to sit through in 8th grade? Is it a bodice-ripping, plot-less powdered-wig romp? Well, yes—and no. People who immerse themselves in history say it's anything but boring. Sometimes it's even shocking. Reading the memoirs of a Victorian explorer, a former slave, or a Concentration Camp survivor puts you in their shoes and shows you a side of the world you never knew existed. By reading between the lines, making logical deductions, and perhaps embellishing some of the unknown, the writer of Historical Fiction can bring a one- or two-dimensional character to life. The possibilities for setting, plot, and characters are limited only by the imagination of the author. And thankfully, the possibilities for intrigue and entertainment are endless.

But what exactly is Historical Fiction? The generally accepted definition is a novel set in the past, usually 50 years before the date of publication. And now, to make things even more complicated, Amazon has added 25 subcategories for Historical Fiction. Now you can search not only by setting and genre (as in thriller or suspense) but by time period as well. For those of you who like Historical Romance you may continue to search under the Romance subcategories for new releases.

For illustrative purposes, I have listed a few examples from each subcategory (with the exception of Religious and Short Stories). Pick a category at random and dive in. You never know, you might learn something your 8th grade history teacher forgot to teach!

Biographical:  The White Princess, The Aviator's Wife, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Paris Wife, Paths of Glory, Bring up the Bodies, The Kingmaker's Daughter, The Spanish Queen, The Twelve Rooms of the Nile

Fantasy:  The Golem and the Jinni, Deck Z, The Spirit Keeper, The Witch's Daughter

Classics:  Dr. Zhivago, A Tale of Two Cities, Forever Amber

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense: The White Princess, The Key to Rebecca, Hornet Flight, The Odessa File, The Eye of the Needle, The Abominable, Pillars of the Earth

Regency: Mr. Darcy's Noble Connection, Mr. Darcy's Promise,  and all the Mr. Darcy Spinoffs, The Arrangement, Lord Love a Duke

Women's Fiction:  The Sisterhood, The Paris Wife, Rainwater, War Brides, Unravelled

African:  Roots, Cleopatra: A Life, Nefertiti: A Novel, A Spear of Summer Grass, The Heretic Queen, The Princess of Egypt Must Die, The Burning Shore

Asian:  The Last Empress, The Ghost Bride, The Far Pavilions, The Sandalwood Tree, The Maharajah's General

Australian & Oceania:  The Thorn Birds, The Light Between the Oceans, Fiji, A Wicked Deception

British: Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies, The Tudor Books, The Regency Books, Paths of Glory, Remarkable Creatures, The Orchid House, The Captain's Daughter, The Kingmaker's Daughter, The 
Other Boleyn Girl, The White Queen, Pillars of the Earth, Fall of Giants, Queen Elizabeth's Daughter,

Caribbean & Latin America: Island Beneath the Sea, The Pirate's Daughter, Brazil, 100 Years in Solitude, The General in his Labyrinth, Pirate Latitudes, Spy Island, Caribbean, Wide Sargasso Sea

Chinese: Shanghai Girl, The Valley of Amazement, Dreams of Joy

European: Mozart's Sister, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Marrying Mozart, The Lost Wife, Hornet Flight, The Visit of the Royal Physician, Loving Søren, The Time in Between

French:  An Officer and a Spy (New), Day of the Jackal, Sarah's Key, A Place of Greater Safety, Claude and Camille, Sunflowers, Madame Tussaud, The Lavender Garden, Paris

German: She Wore only White, City of Women, All Quiet on the Western Front

Irish:  The Girl on the Cliff, The Princes of Ireland, The Yellow House, Galway Bay

Italian:  The Shoemaker's Wife, The Midwife of Venice, The Contessa's Vendetta, The Light in the Ruins, The Book of Madness & Cures

Japanese: Memoirs of a Geisha, King Rat, Shogun, The Gilded Fan, the Mask Carver's Son

Middle Eastern: The Haj, Exodus, Jasmine Nights, Jerusalem Maiden, Birds Without Wings, The Source, The Dovekeepers

Norse & Icelandic: Burial Rites, Oleanna,

Russian:  Rasputin's Shadow, The Winter Palace,  The Russian Concubine, Dr. Zhivago, The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin, Most Beautiful Princess

Scottish: Drums of Autumn and Anything with Highlander in the title

United States Gone with the Wind, The Writing Master  Centennial North and South, Lonesome Dove, The Kitchen House, The Wedding Gift, The House Girl, Mrs. Poe, The Signature of All Things, Hawaii, The Help, Water for Elephants, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Literary Agent Discusses Amazon's Kindle Deals of the Day

by Josh Getzler
Reblogged from http://heydeadguy.typepad.com/heydeadguy/josh-getzler/
An article appeared in today’s New York Times about the “instant bestsellers” created by Amazon’s Kindle Deals of the Day (and parallel deals on Nook etc). The story described the immediate, material effect on a book’s sales when it is discounted for a day and advertised as a “Daily deal” in email blasts and on front pages. For the sake of ease (and because of my own experience) I am going to use the Amazon version throughout this post. There must be some differences, but the idea is the same.
The article in the Times simplified the event to its most easily digestible ingredients: Amazon lowers the price on a book from, say, $3.99 to $1.99, sends out an email, and Boom! goes the dynamite. Then the price goes back up, and the event is over.
Except that’s not what happens. What happens—unusual for an event in Publishing—is better. Because these deals are sticky. Let me explain, using a real-life example.
E. M. Powell’s historical thriller The Fifth Knight, which I’ve discussed before in this blog, is one of my little engines that Can. It sold steadily, first in its serialized form and then, when the serialization was complete, had a lovely eight-or-so-week run of steady, strong sales. The book had sold a good number of copies—low five figures, very nice. We were happy, but (as happens inevitably) sales began to slide. Where The Fifth Knight had spent twelve weeks hovering between 1,500 and 3,500 in the Amazon rankings, it then dropped below 10,000, 15,000…It was time to start regrouping for book 2.
Then, one Sunday morning in March, I get an email from the author. “What on earth is happening to my book?” What do you mean? “It’s going crazy—the rankings are in the hundreds.”
What had happened was that that day, without a heads-up (Ahem, Thomas and Mercer…), The Fifth Knight was made a Kindle Deal of the Day. The price had gone to $1.99. I watched, stunned, as the rankings hit 300, 100, 50, 25…all the way to 6. We doubled our sales.
But something else happened, which the Times didn’t discuss, and which to my mind is the genius of the Daily Deal. As a large number of copies sold during the course of that Sunday, the rankings for The Fifth Knight improved not just in the overall Kindle list (which was, of course, lovely), but also in Fiction, mystery, thriller, historical fiction, romance, historical romance, hot movers and shakers…you get the idea. And each of these lists showed a thumbnail of The Fifth Knight. Thumbnails with links to the book’s page, where you can buy it.
So in one day, The Fifth Knight went from having a negligible presence on Amazon.com to one you pretty much can’t buy—it was on at least ten separate “landing pages,” where you go when you want to browse, for example, Historical Fiction. It’s akin to being face out in ten different areas of a bookstore, so wherever you look, there is the book. It begins to be bundled more frequently with other books with similar themes, starts to be included in “if you like ___ then you will like The Fifth Knight” emails. It works the algorithm, as it were.
THAT is the genius of the Daily Deal. Because then, once the price of the ebook had risen back to 3.99, people still bought The Fifth Knight because it was Hot. The fire, which had become a merely warm ember, restarted, and burned brighter. The second run lasted another six weeks before sputtering again—having sold another significant number of books.
And the stickiness of this deal doesn’t end there. When the author’s next book comes out, anyone who bought The Fifth Knight will hear about it, whether the copy was on deep discount or regular price. The bar will be set higher for book 2, with greater expectations for sales leading (we can hope) for more marketing coops, perhaps a higher advance…and maybe, maybe, another Daily Deal.