The Non-Promo Launch

It was back in April that I wrote a blog post for Author’s Electric on the process of promotion that I undertook ahead of the publication of my new thriller Powder Burn. By September I had a short story on the blocks and ready to go; called The Sniper, it’s a prequel about the antagonist in my Janac’s Games thrillers. I had a cover, blurb, and an edited and formatted manuscript. What I did not have was time to do any promotion. Since I could not see how things were going to improve any time soon, I was left with a choice of holding back the book indefinitely, or going ahead and publishing with essentially no promotion or marketing.

I chose the latter for three reasons:
1. I’m impatient.
2. I thought it would be interesting to see what happens when you just push a book out on the major ebook websites without any marketing support.
3. My eventual plan for the book is to drop the price to zero and run it as a loss-leader for the Janac’s Games series, and so I knew I would have a second chance at the marketing when the price goes to zero.

So by way of an experiment, I hit publish on the 25th September, sent out a few tweets announcing the book’s arrival, posted links to the various sales pages on Facebook and that was about it. I sat back and waited to see what happened. And now I can report the results of the experiment. 

Nada. Nothing. Zippo. Zero and Zilch. 

I think I have sold about ten copies in total across Amazon, and I doubt it's done much better at B&N, iBooks and all the rest, although I won't know for a while as their sales reporting is much slower. And this is for a series book whose other members have been downloaded or sold in the hundreds of thousands. It appears from this one example that I either play the promotion game, or remain unread. So I will be working much harder at the marketing when the price goes to zero in a few weeks time... 

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April Review Round-Up

I don’t think I managed quite so much reading this month, what with Powder Burn coming out and starting work on the new Janac’s Games short story - called The Sniper

I’ve just seen that the new B&N publishing system, called Nook Press, allows interaction with Beta readers, so this book might go out on Nook first, and then Amazon. Meanwhile, I did manage to read a couple of thrillers this month, both top notch books from top notch writers...

I picked this one up because it was a group read on Goodreads, and I’m very glad I did. The Harry Bosch books have been a huge hit and it’s easy to see why from this opening tale - Connelly nails his central character from the very beginning.

Harry Bosch is a Vietnam vet, a tunnel fighter, one of the handful of Americans that struggled to battle the North Vietnamese in the dimension that they totally dominated – underground. Harry’s also a nascent media star for breaking a couple of big cases and, thanks to consultancy work on translating those case histories into movies, he’s the owner of a (small) house overlooking the Hollywood studios. It’s a great backstory and Harry never fails to engage and hold the reader’s attention.

The terrific central characterisation of Harry is backed up by a fine portrayal of FBI Agent Wish as Harry’s sidekick/lover/and sometime antagonist. This is combined with a really solid plot -- I didn’t see the twist coming at all, although the hints were there – the central bank ‘caper’ has just the right amount of twists and complexity for a highly entertaining read.

If I had a reservation about the book it would be some pretty clunky dialogue. It’s a nit-picking point, but Connelly hasn’t (rather than ‘has not’) shortened any of the words in the speech. It makes lots of the characters sound pompous and formal. It might have been the way to do it in 1992 when the book was written, but it’s a definite negative now. I also had trouble with some of the minor characterisations, the IAD chief, Irving was a bit of a cliché for instance.

Overall, these are minor quibbles, and I had no problem giving the book four stars.

I’m a huge fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, and I think I might have mentioned previously on this blog that they were the inspiration for some aspects of Powder Burn and my new ‘Burn’ series. So I needed no encouragement to pick this one up when it was also chosen as a Goodreads group read. And as usual, I wasn’t disappointed.

Jack Reacher appeals to the angry and vengeful core in all of us – there are no judges or juries in Reacher’s world, just violent retribution dispatched swiftly, without compunction or mercy and, in this case, unusually cold-bloodedly.

The book was written right after the 9/11 tragedy and I think its influence can be seen in the way that in Without Fail it is acceptable for Reacher to assassinate the bad guys. In many of the other Jack Reacher books that I’ve read, Reacher’s own life is at stake from quite early in the story, and so the ruthless killing of the bad guys is softened morally by his need to survive. This is not the case in Without Fail where he could and should have left them to the Secret Service or the FBI – both agencies are intrinsic to the story – but instead goes after them with intent to kill.

Child does a good job of making this aspect as believable as possible, and as the issue only comes up at the very end, it doesn’t spoil what is otherwise a fine story. The rest of the book has the usual impeccable mix of tight plotting, tighter writing and great minor characters, and once again I had no problem awarding four stars.