Saturday, 1 May 2021

ANNOUNCEMENT: New Writing Name and New Genre!

Hi everyone!

Just a quick announcement that I am moving names and genres yet again!

I have a new writing name, Betty Walker.

 My debut World War II saga WARTIME WITH THE CORNISH GIRLS came out a few days ago, on Thursday, April 29th 2021, under this new name.

Isn't she a beauty?

This is the first in the Cornish Girls series, and is published by Avon Books.

It's been so much fun, writing in a brand-new genre. And I can't wait to see the cover for Book 2, due out later this year, CHRISTMAS WITH THE CORNISH GIRLS.

And now I'm Betty Walker as well as Jane ... a new name to add to my many writing names!!! But this is how writers manage to survive in a rapidly shifting, and often shrinking, marketplace - by reinventing ourselves and learning new skills. 

Have you had to change pen-names or genres to survive or thrive? Let me know below.

Jane xxx

1941. The Blitz rages over London.
And even in Cornwall, the war is being fought…

When Violet loses her sister in the Blitz, she must take her nieces to safety in Cornwall. On the coast, she meets carefree chorus girl Eva, who is also running from the dangers of London.

But Porthcurno hides a secret military base, and soon Violet and Eva realise there’s a battle to fight in Cornwall, too.

Together with local Hazel, who works on the base, they must come together to help the war effort. But will their friendship be enough to keep them safe?

The perfect uplifting wartime read for fans of Nancy Revell and Donna Douglas.

‘A fascinating story, beautifully written, with interesting characters I really liked. A most enjoyable read!’ Kitty Neale, Sunday Times bestselling author of A Daughter’s Ruin

‘A warm-hearted story – at times I laughed and at others I held my breath … I loved the characters and I’m delighted it is the first in a series’ Pam Weaver, Sunday Times bestselling author of Goodnight Sweetheart

Grab your ebook or audiobook copy here on Amazon:

Monday, 22 March 2021

Week Forty-Nine: Harnessing The Power of YouTube to Promote Your Books

 So, the age of technology has finally caught up with me, or I've caught up with it, not sure which!

I spend a great deal of time promoting my books, and during the Covid-19 pandemic, I've seen many fellow authors turning to videos and live streams on Facebook.

Unfortunately, I live out in the sticks of rural Cornwall, and my wifi is too pathetic to allow live streaming even for only a few minutes. 

 But I did want to harness the power of visuals - watching an author, hearing an author - and after experimenting with my own digital radio station a couple of years ago for the same promotional reasons (sadly a bust; great fun, but wildly expensive and hardly anybody listened!) and podcasting (again, most people seem to prefer pictures to audio, though I freely admit I didn't make as much of an effort with my podcasts as I could have done) I felt I had some hard-won skills with audio editing and arranging that I could bring across to video editing.

I already had a Jane Holland Author Youtube channel with about 10 subscribers. Bit rubbish, but I'd only posted half a dozen videos in ten years! You get back what you put out, I guess. :)

So I recorded some new book promo videos and also some 'how to write' videos, which I felt might draw in some new punters. In my video 'blurb' or description, I put links to my Amazon Author page and my social media, hoping to pick up at least a few extra readers over a long period of time. This has been a slow process, but I have noticed a small uptick in sales soon after new videos are released, so that's a sign that it's working. But my viewing figures are still too small to really make a difference. If I start hitting 100's of views per video, at some point in the misty future, that may change. Fingers crossed!

There are two types of YouTube content, in general. The first is topical, relying on a 'moment' for views - a book launch, for instance, or news item. You may get a flurry of views when it first goes live, but not much further down the line. The second is 'evergreen content' and this - as the name suggests! - deals with a more longterm issue, such as 'how to write' topics, and may not be so sensational, but is useful for bringing in new views and subscribers long after the video is published. For instance, your channel 'trailer' is evergreen content, a slow burn perhaps, but should keep getting views over the years, while book promo videos barely get any new views after the first year or so. 

 In general, it's best to aim for a mixture of topical and evergreen videos. If reading an extract from your book, it's a good idea not to make this too long, though this may work for some authors with a big following. Try to be personable and informal, but give good content - everyone loves an insight into an author's lifestyle or working methods!


Now, I also happen to have a Certificate in Astrology from the Faculty of Astrological Studies (UK, London-based) that I passed back in the mid-90's. Ever since, I've been reading new astrology books, looking at astro charts and generally developing my skills there, and I even anonymously run an Etsy side-hustle as a horary astrologer (don't ask) which brings in a few extra quid most months.

So I decided to also launch an astrology channel, as these are quite popular and I follow a number of big name astrologers there myself. And in the video description, I put the SAME links to my author page and social media, trying for a double whammy effect. This is because my particular astro channel caters for creative or artistic people like myself - novelists, artists, actors, playwrights etc.

This new astrology channel - Jane Holland Creative Horoscopes - has been rather more successful than my straight author channel. It seems in these troubled times that people are hunting for answers wherever they can find them, and astrology does provide an interesting alternative view on our current situation, so fair play to them. 



My set-up is fairly simple. I use the webcam from my computer - because I can't afford a 'proper' vlogging camera, frankly - and a Blue Yeti mic. (I experimented with a wireless clip-on mic, but it kept cutting out and distorting my voice. Others may find them more useful.) 

For most of my videos, I have a prepared script and run it via a Teleprompter app on my iPad, which plays behind the camera on a tripod while I record, as I found reading it from the actual computer screen made me look shifty!

It's early days yet, but I expected that. It can take several years to grow an audience on YouTube, even with regular concerted effort. But I have committed to posting at least 12-14 videos every month for my astrology channel, and 2-3 for my regular author channel. It's fun at the moment, though hard work, but it's one way of keeping my name in the public eye during a time when few of us are able to get out and about. And it also keeps my brain active - never a bad thing!

Here's one of my specific book promo videos - this one for my spooky thriller THE HIVE. Look at the expression on my face! Gulp ...

The big thing with Youtube is getting more likes, views of videos and new subscribers. THOSE are the things that drive traffic to a channel. The more you get, the more likely YouTube is to show your content to new people browsing the site or searching for keywords. And that means the more people see your name or your content, and are more likely to ... yes, you've guessed it ... to buy your books!

So please visit one or both of my channels above, 'Like' some of my videos and Subscribe to my channels - you'll need a Google or YouTube account to do this - and hit the bell for notifications of new videos as they arrive.

Thank you!

Do YOU have a YouTube channel, maybe to help you sell your books or for some other purpose? Let me know in the comments below, feel free to link to it, and let me know how it's been going for you.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Week Forty-Eight: Breathing New Life Into Old Projects

Back in the early noughties, I had a sudden flash of apocalyptic vision and wrote a Young Adult adventure fantasy called The Book of Tongues. It ran to about 50,000 words, which was about right for the time, and involved a princess, magic, a quest, and the eponymous Book, of course.

But it was the first in a series, and I wasn't sure where it would go after Book One, or even if I'd taken it far enough in Book One for the first instalment to make a satisfactory read. I ummed and ahhed over it, did some rewriting, but ultimately had no idea what to do with it ...

In those days, I no longer had an agent. And easy self-publishing on Amazon did not yet exist. Only so-called 'vanity' outlets which would have embarrassed me - not to mention cost me more money than I had, still an impoverished poet with barely a penny to my name!

I was also busy churning out babies at the time, so my novel-writing career consisted merely of writing the occasional saucy novel under a dubious pen-name in order to a.) survive and b.) keep my hand in the fiction game while bringing up a parcel of tiny infants.

So The Book of Tongues went into the proverbial bottom drawer, as I really had no idea what to do with it.

Fast-forward about ten years to 2013, and my career as a commercial novelist had been kickstarted. I now had a new agent and was actively writing and selling novels, including a YA paranormal romance Trilogy. One of those books - Witchstruck - even won the Romantic Novelists Association YA Novel of the Year Award in 2013.

Now more aware of the YA market, I picked up Book of Tongues and re-read it. Having developed greater skill as a novelist, various issues leapt out at me immediately, and I saw at once how to fix them. But the long-term trajectory of the series still escaped me. I had a great set-up, but something was 'off' about the overall world of this fantasy.

So I sat down and worked on a range of possibilities for where the series would go next, and in doing so, I stumbled across the reason why my first book felt wrong in some way. I had been basing everything on a certain well-worn trope in fantasy ... and now I realised how to escape that trope by introducing a different story strand altogether, and so bring something wholly unexpected to the story!

I rewrote the book with this new plot idea in the mix, and enlarged the book at the same time, as during those intervening ten years, YA Fantasy had become much larger and longer, almost unwieldy in length. So the 50K book grew to 75K.

I sent it to my agent, with high hopes of finding a publisher ... and had those hopes dashed.

The idea was exciting, my agent said kindly, and the writing excellent, but the characters were under-developed and some of the confrontations between my main characters and the antagonist were too complex and therefore confusing. 

In other words, the idea was sound but the manuscript still needed work.

At the time, I was snowed under with other projects. I'd just come out of two 3-book contracts with Random House, and was embarking on a third 3-book contract with Hodder. I was also working on some side projects for self-publishing, as Amazon KDP had come along and I'd started self-publishing shorter and unsold fiction manuscripts. 

So I put Book of Tongues back in the drawer.

Fast-forward another seven years to early 2020. (Do you see how long this book has been in development?)

The pandemic of Covid-19 strikes. We are in lockdown. Everyone has decided they have a novel in them, so I'm not alone in spending my days slaving over a hot keyboard.

I have about three projects on the go, under contract. But I finish all those during the lockdown, and look about restlessly for something 'different' to work on before I need to start my next contracted thriller. (I get bored writing in the same genre all the time, and need to blow off steam periodically with different genres and styles of writing.)

The Book of Tongues calls to me.

I re-read it yet again, while studying my agent's notes from 2013. Suddenly, I can see what needs to be done, which was not easy while I was still so close to the project. I find a new thread between my main characters that allows them to bond in a richer, more provocative way.

And I rewrite the book for the third time!

Here's what I think the problem was. When you're fresh from writing a book, especially if that book has been developed over a long period, you can suffer from 'brain fatigue' and feel exhausted at the thought of rewriting it yet again! So although you may get great notes on a manuscript, your brain can't get to grips with what they mean in real terms, and unless you're up against a contractual deadline - which introduces adrenalin and fear into the mix, so allowing your brain to function again! - you are likely to throw the messed-up manuscript away from you and start something else, something less taxing to consider.

This time, I had no brain fatigue but was eager to work on something different.

So I saw the editorial notes clearly and was able to act on them, also drawing on my increased skill and experience as a novelist since back in 2013 to improve other elements of the story and create a smoother read overall.

I also changed the title to THE SPELLWORKER, as I felt the original title, The Book of Tongues, might struggle in today's market. But I retained that concept in my series title.

The book is now nearly 90,000 words long!

So, off it went to my agent again.

Reader, she declined it.

The YA market is tough right now, my agent told me, and the book has elements which might make it less appealing to publishers in 2020 than would have been the case back in the early noughties. There may also be other similar or clashing projects out there right now. Better not to send it out to publishers when I can write something more apposite to the times and find a buyer more easily.

Back to square one, it seems.

Happily though, I still believe in the book, and in 2020 I have options that were not readily available to me in earlier iterations.

I ask my agent's blessing to self-publish and generously she gives it.

As with everything I've self-published, I believe in this book, even if others might not, and I want it to find readers out there, and I also want to be able to write Book Two knowing there are people waiting for it.

The YA market is incredibly tough, I agree. And finding YA readers without going through the usual channels of a traditional publisher is going to be extremely tricky - perhaps even impossible.

But unless I want this book to languish forever unread in a dusty bottom drawer or - these days - in a forgotten computer file, then I must take the plunge and self-publish. Life is short.

Finding value in abandoned manuscripts involves seeing what worked when it was first written that won't work now, because times and the market place have changed, but also what was good about the project and should be preserved. 

It also allows you to see the whole thing with more clarity than was possible when you were still too close to it, perhaps even bringing a little indifference to its fate, so making edits easier to implement.

But you must have full confidence in the project and in yourself as a writer. 

Just because others have said NO to what you've written, and even if it never sells more than a few dozen copies, almost seeming to justify that negative opinion, you must retain confidence in your ability and judgement as a writer. 

Because THAT is all we have, deep down. 


That's what it's all about for writers. So embrace your confidence, and enjoy what comes with it. And don't let anyone tell you no. If you believe in the work, then let's see it.

And here is The Spellworker, a YA Fantasy which I have just indie published under my YA writing name, Victoria Lamb ...




Available NOW in ebook, paperback, and via Kindle Unlimited: support indie authors!





Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Week Forty-Seven: Experimenting with Unusual Story Ideas

Sometimes you get an idea for a story set-up that doesn't fit what's selling out there, or you know most publishers would pull a face if presented with the idea. Yet you can't get it out of your head.

Amazon UK

That's what happened to me when I came up with my idea for the Stella Penhaligon mysteries.

Stella Penhaligon is an astrologer who helps the police with their enquiries.

As someone with a background in astrology, this was a fun idea for me. I could use all my knowledge and skill with astrology (basically my hobby for the past few decades!) and merge it with my knowledge and skill as a novelist (my job, in other words). 

The merger was a dream come true for me.

The only fly in the ointment was that my idea didn't fit with the kind of books I'd already been writing under my Jane Holland - very straight, hard-edged contemporary psychological thrillers. And I suspected that most publishers would have a hard time with an astrologer as a main character helping the police.

To add to this, I'd never before written a story with a police officer as a main character!

Yet I knew I wanted two main characters in this series - Stella, the astrologer, and DS Jack Church, the local officer with whom she has most contact.

Finally, I was aware of a need to make money as a novelist, which means not wasting time on books that might never get published. But also that self-published books provide a small amount of money to keep me ticking over from month to month, while book contracts can take anything up to six months to produce any income from the point of acceptance by a publisher, sometimes longer.

I approached my agent and we discussed this. I suggested that I self-publish a short series of novellas about these characters, and see how readers took to them. Thankfully, she agreed. (Coz she's amazing!!)

And so I sat down and wrote the first novella. It's called UNDER AN EVIL STAR. (See below for US link.)

The series is set in Cornwall, where I live, which feels like a suitably spooky, gothic region for a crime novella involving astrology.

A severed head is found by the police. Stella's father, a local vicar, is missing. She casts a chart to find him and falls under suspicion when the severed head turns out to be his ... But who would kill a vicar and why?

I put the novella on pre-order, and had a few sales come in at once. Not so shabby! So I made a space in my writing schedule and wrote a second and third novella, THE TENTH HOUSE MURDERS and THE PART OF DEATH. I then put all three on sale at Amazon.

All are now out on sale. Early days yet, but after a sluggish start, I changed the covers and sales have become more promising. I will need to leave it a while to get an overall sales picture, but if it seems worth doing, I may write a full-length Stella Penhaligon mystery in the next year or so, and see if any publishers would like to acquire it for a series.

Sometimes, you need to take a punt on an unusual idea, and hope it works out. Some ideas flop. Others need some massaging to succeed. What you need for them as a writer is CONFIDENCE and TIME. Be bold and write it, regardless of your fears that it won't succeed. Stay true to your vision and see it through to the end, never abandon the project partway through.

You can't tell if an idea is 'bad' until you've finished it, and that's a simple truth most newer writers don't get. Most writers have a tendency to panic, jump off too soon, and start afresh with a different idea. A "better" idea, or so they tell themselves. But they are likely to get scared again with this new idea and repeat the cycle.

Until you've gone the distance with a story and reached the end, you can't be sure if it was working or not. Because you can't see the pattern clearly when you're too close to the loom. Keep weaving, steadily and confidently, and not listening to internal or external voices, and when it's done, step back for a better look.

Only time will tell whether it was worth my while making these three novellas. Meanwhile, new readers are finding them every day. Will you be one?

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Week Forty-Six: Fiction in the Age of Coronavirus

We live in unprecedented, rather than interesting, times. In a few short weeks, ordinary life has become, well, extraordinary. Not to mention frightening. We have no idea what will happen next. Worst of all, some of us may die, or have loved ones who will die, a grim new reality made clear to us by politicians and news bulletins alike.

As writers, and especially perhaps as genre writers, we are accustomed to presenting the everyday and mundane in our novels, as an anchor for the otherwise outlandish world of our plots. As part of our skill set, we construct an accepted - and acceptable - fictional version of 'reality' as our characters know it and as our particular genres demand.

But what should we do when that 'everyday reality' has shifted sideways - almost overnight - and is now far from anything we have ever known in our lifetimes? When our realistic characters are now more likely to be in lockdown for anything up to half a year, and therefore unable to commit or investigate murders during that time frame, to meet friends or loiter in cafes, go to concert halls and theatres, travel anywhere beyond the end of their garden path - if they're lucky enough to have one - have sex, or fall in love? When apocalypse has actually become a thing?

We are at least used to the solitary life as writers. Self-isolating holds fewer terrors and issues for us than most other people working from home, I should imagine.

But as writers we are faced with a choice, it seems to me.

We stick our literary fingers in our ears - 'la la la' - and pretend we still live in that Other World, the one we inhabited roughly three weeks ago, and write characters who fit that lifestyle, despite the fact that it's becoming harder to envisage going out for a latte or booking a flight to Greece or dropping a book off at the library or sticking a knife between the vicar's shoulder blades ...

Or we accept that the world has changed, and therefore set our books in a speculative future world, when (hopefully) the coronavirus crisis has passed but is definitely still a thing. A world where characters may well be happy to murder each other - perhaps more so than ever! - but police are less well-equipped to investigate because of reduced numbers or shaky infrastructure, when sleek, Armani-clad executive heroes are few and far between because even the biggest companies have lost billions, and friends are less ready to shake hands or air-kiss on meeting, or new lovers to fall into bed together (just in case the infection is still around), and the world is financially on its knees.

 One of my writer friends said recently that it was becoming harder and harder, as she wrote her current novel, to remember what used to be normal everyday behaviour in a normal everyday world. Because that life and that world are both rapidly slipping away from our memories ... We are already adjusting to our new reality. Soon, even the most insistent coronavirus denier will find it hard to depict our world before the plague with any confidence, nor will readers believe in their now unrealistic reality.

And yes, what about reading fiction?

It seemed at first that people were eager to reach for plague fiction, for disaster and apocalypse novels, out of a ghoulish desire to mock this new reality with previous fictional versions of it.

But actually, it seems to me that people want to read about apocalypse because they are experiencing it first-hand, and instinctively need a fiction that reflects their strange and uncertain new reality.

Of course, as the horror continues, that urge may change. People may grow weary of finding reality in their fiction, and will turn to fantasy instead. Even though that 'fantasy' may simply be a contemporary book set before the virus, in the comforting pre-2020 world they remember ...

I think we ignore coronavirus at our peril as writers. (Though agents and publishers may well ask us to, fearing the saleability of any genre fiction that flirts too closely with reality.) Even historical writers may find themselves instinctively choosing plague periods for their next novels. Of course, we may all have pre-corona novels in hand, and can't suddenly introduce global death and disaster partway through a light-hearted romance or a chilling murder mystery, even though that is exactly what has happened to all of us, out here in Corona Land.

All of our lives have been INTERRUPTED by the virus and nothing will ever be the same again. How could it be?

We won't all come out from self-isolation or lockdown in four to six months and find life continues as usual. The virus may slow, but it won't disappear completely. And by then, many things we once took for granted - food chains, coffee shops, street vendors, household names, even global transport infrastructure - may have been irreparably damaged by a long income freeze or simply gone bust in the meantime. And some publishers and bookstores may even be on that list ...

I don't have any answers, I'm afraid. I only have questions.

But when we've finished writing our current books, do we continue in the same vein, as virus 'deniers' in fiction terms at least, on the grounds that most people, terrified by what is happening around them, must inevitably want to read about a world BEFORE the virus, because they find that lost reality easier and more comforting to experience?

Or do we start to write books set in the real world, in the post-virus world, where our characters and their choices reflect our own uncertainties in the age of coronavirus?

P.S. My latest publication is UNDER AN EVIL STAR (oh, a prediction!!) out last month, first in a new crime thriller series.

Only 99p/99c for the ebook.

Please consider buying if you'd like to support my writing. Thank you.

Under An Evil Star on Amazon UK


Under An Evil Star on Amazon com (USA)

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Week Forty-Five: Making Use of Fabulous HOW TO WRITE Resources!

Sometimes, even experienced writers need to take an overview of their writing, research how to move between genres, or just take a breather and look at how other writers build their careers.

For new writers, learning how to do things professionally, or getting hints and tips that prompt fresh writing or help them shift up a gear career-wise, can make the difference between finishing and giving up, or getting a book ready for publication. (See below for a list of fab 'how-to-write' research books, all ON PROMO right now!)

I am a bestselling author who writes in several different genres and publishes with some of our so-called 'Big 5' UK publishers. Yet I frequently consult 'how to' books, and in some cases would never sit down to plan a new book without checking some of my favourite 'how to' manuals.

My mother, Charlotte Lamb, published over 170 novels during her 30-year writing career and was a global million bestseller. She absolutely adored 'how-to-write' books and bought every one that she found on sale. She had a whole bookcase devoted to those books near her desk in her study.

My mother was adamant that good writers never stop learning. She loved sitting down in her spare time to study such manuals and make notes, even for genres she didn't write in. And she passed that obsession on to me ... :)

As for me, I not only write bestselling fiction, but also 'how-to-write' books!

In fact, I have several Writing Prompt books available for Thrillers, Romances, Poetry, and How To Write A Novel In A Month.

Look, my 'how-to-write' book is only 99p this week! 
Best of all, one of my top-selling 'how-to-write' books is on a 99p promo right now, along with some fellow writers with their own writing books, all at reduced prices!

My 99p book is '21 Ways To Write A Commercial Novel' and is based on this very blog, containing huge amounts of writing tips, plus various industry anecdotes about being a professional writer - not just from me, but also from a range of other novelists. 

Bursting with up-to-date information and entertaining anecdotes from the world of writing and publishing, this guide also features helpful comments on writing from both new and established writers, including Rowan Coleman, Katie Fforde, Judy Astley, Lesley Cookman, Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Alison Morton, Elizabeth Moss and many, many others.

A goldmine of advice for writers from an author of over thirty commercial novels under various pen-names, including an award-winning novel, WITCHSTRUCK, and a UK number one Kindle bestseller, GIRL NUMBER ONE.

Why not check out some of these fab 'how-to-write' or publishing industry books below, all on promotion this week?

Or see this wonderful 'how-to-write' page from Rhoda Baxter, displaying all these titles with covers and Buy Now buttons.

Nina Harrington - How to Write Short Romance
Liz Fielding - Little Book of Writing Romance
Kate Harrison - Pitch Power
Liam Livings - Marketing the Romance
Jane Holland - 21 ways to write a novel
R Baxter and J Lovering - How to write Rom Com

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Week Forty-Four: THE HIVE: when books get rejected

As part of an eleven-book contract with my publisher, I have written a new dark thriller.

It's called THE HIVE.

The Hive on Amazon UK: 99p

If visiting that link though, you will see this book is self-published, not traditionally published.

On sending my finished thriller to my publishers a few months back, I noted it was rather darker than previous psychological thrillers I had written as Jane Holland, leaning toward horror in places, and suggested we might want to use another pen-name instead.

They didn't reply for two weeks. Then they wrote back, declining THE HIVE and terminating my contract with them, except for the final romance in a series due later this year.

Just like that!

I was devastated. I talked the situation over with my very supportive agent. I explained how much I'd been depending on that contract to keep me afloat financially. Everyone knows it can take anything up to a year from acceptance for a new publishing contract to be signed and the initial advance paid. Assuming there even is an advance in these digital-first days.

Only I don't have a year to pay my bills. They need to be paid every month, or things start to fall apart. A full-time writer's life is precarious like that. Which is why I first turned to self-publishing back in 2011 and still regularly publish short fiction online under an array of names. But I rely on my traditional contracts to add cash advances to that income.

So we both agreed that self-publishing this rejected book was the best way for me to keep solvent, while I work on a completely new book to be submitted to other publishers later this year. And I thank my agent profusely for being so understanding.

But that plan, of course, depends on THE HIVE actually selling more than a few copies. So I've decided to publish it as a Jane Holland thriller, as that is my best-selling name.

Worried about the future, with three dependent children still in school, I've now started several online shops as well as my self-publishing sidelines. More on that anon. Jobs are hard to come by in rural Cornwall, and in my fifties with no work experience to speak of, online hustles are probably my best bet. So I'm learning new skills in that area, and working hard to get by.

Curiously, this is not the first time a book of mine has been rejected by publishers (though not while under contract!) and then self-published. Last time, it was GIRL NUMBER ONE. I self-published that in 2015 after multiple rejections, and it reached #1 in the UK Kindle store within a few months of publication. It has since sold over 100,000 downloads.

If THE HIVE manages similar success, I'll be ecstatic. But times have changed since 2015. All I'm hoping for is that this book helps me stay afloat as a struggling writer. (Buy it here!)

I'm not well-off. I didn't marry a wealthy person. I rent my house, I drive an old banger, I have no capital or investments or savings. But I am a hard worker. I write several 'big' books a year, and also self-publish multiple novellas and short stories under other names to supplement that. I am constantly working on something new. Yet still I struggle to pay my bills.

The book market is saturated. Only top names seem to do well these days. Writers get the tiniest slice of the publishing pie, often only a few pennies per sale. Publishers do not support writers by growing them and investing in their careers, as was once the norm, but discard them at the first sign of low sales. Nobody is safe, not even established writers.

Readers who want to keep their favourite writers in the game need to help them compete in this dog-eat-dog marketplace, via word-of-mouth and retweets etc. Because what publishers want most is the next shiny new thing ... and while I may be shiny on occasion, I'm not new!


Please, if you like thrillers - or me! - help me get THE HIVE out to new readers. Especially in the US market, which is yet to discover me en masse.

Share, retweet, mention, read, discuss ... Amazon, social media, Goodreads. It all helps. And I've initially priced THE HIVE at 99p/99c to encourage impulse buys!


The Hive: a brand-new thriller for 2019 from Kindle #1 bestseller Jane Holland

Scarred by fire from infancy, with a persistent stammer, Charlotte has always been in the shadow of her glamorous theatrical parents. So it's a shock when her mother commits suicide.

Left to care for her sick father in the dark maze of her childhood home, Charlotte begins to unravel. First, there's the mysterious arrival of a box of dead bees. Then buzzing noises in the attic. People are watching her. Listening to her.

Everyone thinks she's losing her mind. But an old photo suggests another, more sinister possibility ...

Jane Holland's bestselling thrillers have sold more than 220,000 paid downloads across several continents, and she loves finding brave new readers! 


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Week Forty-Three: To Blog Tour or Not to Blog Tour?

A book blog tour is when a writer promotes a book at a different blog every day for a set number of days, often during a crucial time in the life of their book, typically publication week or month.

I've had various book blog tours in the past, always organised by my publishers around publication week, and though I'm sure they helped get my name out there a bit more, I don't recall any massive sales boost during the tours or in the immediate aftermath. They are lovely for the ego, but can take a great deal of energy to prepare for - all those blessed blog posts and endless Q&A's that steal time away from actual writing - and it can become very repetitive, going on Twitter or Facebook each day to point people towards the latest blog stop.

Blog stops can involve some fun and interesting posts, it's true. But also they may result in some same-old, same-old posts, or a few less than exciting questions, like 'What is your favourite colour?' or even, 'Where do you get your ideas from?' (See this post for more about that old chestnut!)

So if, a few months ago, you had asked me if a book blog tour was worth the expense and hassle, I would probably have murmured, 'Unlikely, no.' But very quietly, as I know many people - publishers, in particular, and book bloggers, in general - put great store by such promotional tools, and rejecting that opinion can make you look like a Difficult Author.

However, something happened last month that has drastically changed my attitude to blog tours. Possibly forever.

My latest psychological thriller, FORGET HER NAME, came out with Thomas & Mercer.


To celebrate this event, and in the hope of reaching a wider US readership than I've enjoyed so far with my psychological thrillers, I decided late last year to pay for a blog tour.

It felt like a gamble. A real shot in the dark. But for several years I had been online friends with a lovely blogger called Rachel Gilbey, whose enduring love for my romcoms (written as Beth Good) had made me love her in return and got me to the sweet spot where I was pretty much inclined to trust her with anything. So when she started running blog tours, under the fun name Rachel's Random Resources, I became interested in the idea of asking her to run a tour for me. But being a busy person, I kept putting it off. Until FORGET HER NAME was nearly due out, and I thought, what the hell, and sent Rachel an email ...

Rachel is a total star. And a hard-working star at that. She asked me for a few basic details about the book, and some jpgs of me and the cover etc, and charged me an extremely reasonable fee. She did everything else at that stage. She asked around her blogger friend contacts, and got together a group of bloggers interested in my book and willing to take part. She sorted out dates for each blog stop, and made a poster for the blog tour. She also sent me a list of blog posts I would need to write - about nine in total - sorted out review copies for everyone, and which blogs would carry reviews or just straight promo for the title.

And for some weeks, that was it. I forgot about it. No sweat, no worries. I just cracked on with writing my next book. Until the deadline for my blog posts approached, and I had to sit down and write them.

That was quite hard work. But nothing comes of nothing, so I did my best to make all the blog posts lively and informative and strongly differentiated from each other. I sent the posts to Rachel, and she liaised with the bloggers on my behalf, and again, that was it. I just sat back and waited for publication day. No hassle!

Publication Day dawned. There were three blog stops on that day, all promoting FORGET HER NAME, and it was the same every day for the next fortnight. (Rachel very kindly allowed me a longer tour than most, as so many bloggers were keen to be involved, which was nice.) All I had to do was retweet bloggers' tweets and occasionally mention the tour myself ... Though I'm sure I could have got away with not even doing that. Except I was enjoying the process too much to take a back seat.

Rachel's Random Resources blog tour was the only promotion I had for the book. But it worked. Boy, did it work!

FORGET HER NAME rose steeply into the UK Kindle Top 100 almost immediately. Later it reached the Top 40. It rose into the top 2000 on Kindle US, higher than any other of my books previously, except for a couple of one-day Bookbub promotion spikes organised by my publisher. The first month sales figures blew me away. And my publisher was pretty pleased too.

But it didn't stop there. Although FORGET HER NAME has since settled into a nice position just above the UK Top 100, its stablemate LOCK THE DOOR, my previous thriller from 2017, has shot past it into the Top 100. In fact, at the time of writing this post, LOCK THE DOOR is at number 14 in the UK.

LOCK THE DOOR at #14 overall, and #2 in Women's Fiction, 26th Feb 2018

Although other factors may be at play here, including a price reduction to £1 by my publisher, I also attribute that massive success to Rachel's blog tour. Especially since I've been able to promote my books using some of the lovely quotes from bloggers that you can see in this post! (Which Rachel also organised for me, another of the useful services she offers to save busy writers time during promotions.)

So the blog tour was a catalyst for the success of my backlist thrillers, which are now all selling strongly after a few lacklustre months. And I don't think any of that would have happened if I had not reached out to Rachel and booked a blog tour with her excellent service. Running a launch tour with Rachel's Random Resources is the best thing I could have done for my book, and has made the publication of FORGET HER NAME a resounding, spectacular success.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Rachel, and ... I'll be back!!

And if you are a writer considering the expense and hassle of a blog tour, I would certainly recommend taking the plunge if you have a book which might respond to that kind of promotion.

Yes, it costs. But not a massive amount. Not given the possible success you could have. (Unless you have to pay for review copies or a Netgalley presence.) And yes, it's hard work when you have to write blog posts for the tour. But you can ask for a tour without author-contributed posts, or just write a few and request reviews or promo for the rest. And I can testify to the fact that it is wonderful to see bloggers' reviews going up on Amazon, Goodreads and Netgalley within days of your book's publication ... There is no guarantee that bloggers will give you the thumbs-up, of course. That's the risk you take when giving out free copies in large numbers. But I was lucky and most seemed to enjoy my book!

Getting the word out on your new book, or a backlist of books, is always difficult. But when you can hand over some of that work - if not the bulk of it! - to another person, especially someone as friendly and efficient and gifted at working with others as Rachel Gilbey, then you should find launch week a little less tiring than usual.

Not to mention the chance of it being mind-blowingly successful!



Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Week Forty-Two: The Art of Collaboration, plus a Q&A with Viki Meadows

I recently published a romcom novella under the name Beth Good, written collaboratively with a writer I know personally from Romantic Novelists Association events, Viki Meadows. It was the first book I've written with another author, and Viki herself is quite a new author, so neither of us knew what to expect when we started. By the end though, I think we were both pleased with the result, and would happily recommend collaborative writing to others.
The idea came to me while watching a television interview with the hugely successful thriller writer, James Patterson. He has a great franchise with his novels, but found he simply couldn't keep up with demand. So he began working with other writers on stories he had originated, editing and shaping them into Patterson-style novels, with those writers getting credit on the cover - and no doubt having a fantastic experience working alongside Patterson himself.
I was in a similar position with my Beth Good romcoms. I have a good readership for them, a (largely UK) fanbase who buy all my romcoms under that name. But with contracts underway to write thrillers as well, and several other projects in hand, I simply couldn't manage to write as many Beth Good stories as I wanted. So I rather cheekily decided to try the James Patterson approach myself, and enlist the help of another writer to work on a novella I had already plotted out in detail from beginning to end. 
That story became the delightful CHRISTMAS AT THE LUCKY PARROT GARDEN CENTRE, and I hope that it will be the first in a series of romcoms with this Yorkshire garden centre setting. 

I had known Viki for some time through the RNA, and always thought her prose marvellously smooth and well-written. I'd edited her manuscripts before too, and we had communicated well. So she was a natural first choice for this project, and I was thrilled when she agreed to give it a try.
I started out by talking to Viki about the plot and the characters I'd devised. After all, she might have hated those elements, and that would have made writing our story even more of a challenge.

Luckily though, she loved them, and indeed ended up infusing them with a wonderfully natural colour and vivacity, not to mention striking verisimilitude, being Yorkshire-based like the heroine of the story. 

After the success of her first chapter, we continued on like that, with me talking her through the plot in close detail - mainly to get the pace right - as she had never written such a long piece of fiction before, and then editing and consolidating at every stage. As the book grew, so did Viki's confidence, and it became a very enjoyable and easy-going process. After she had finished her part, I then shaped the novella, concentrating on pacing and tone initially, and then added my own contribution. It was vital that the book was recognisably a Beth Good romcom, that readers would sense that and enjoy it as much as any other Beth Good story. So that was my focus. But of course Viki's voice is very distinctive too, and that comes through in the writing.
Overall, I thought this kind of collaborative effort was not only a wonderful way to mentor a new writer, but a learning process for me too. I learned a great deal about structure from having to explain it, and I was pleased that my reputation in certain quarters for being a prickly pain-in-the-butt did not seem to impinge on my working relationship with Viki! 
Looking back, I consider our partnership to have been a brilliant success, and I certainly hope it won't be the last book I write collaboratively. Together we have ended up producing an exciting, fast-paced, and thoroughly entertaining romantic comedy that feels as much like a Viki Meadows story as a Beth Good!
Despite being busy with her own new writing, Viki Meadows has very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the collaborative process too, and this is what she has to say ... (Viki's responses are in italics)
Can you describe how the collaboration process started for you, and your first steps when you began writing?   
My collaboration with Beth Good/Jane Holland began when I was on a writing high. I'd just got a mark of 81 for an MA assignment when I was contacted by Beth asking if I'd be interested in working with her. 
After the first excitement had worn off, I started thinking of what it would really mean. The plan was for me to work off her plot / outline and of course this raised all sorts of considerations and potential problems, but it was simply too good an opportunity to pass up, especially based on nebulous fears.
I said yes, and knuckled down (sort of) to try and do it. Because of my concerns, which included things like, would I be able to write to someone else's plot, could I write humour, would the author like my work, I asked if I could do a one-chapter trial, after which, if there were problems, we could both pull out with no hard feelings.
Once I started writing I quickly engaged with the story. At times it was a bit like a puzzle. Working out how to make something happen when it needed to required ingenuity and mental agility, and I particularly enjoyed it. Beth seemed pleased with my work, and that approval motivated me and kept me going. Working with such an easy-going person was great. I felt supported without having someone breathing down my neck. I think it was helpful that we are both quite laid back. If one of us had been more uptight it might have been more challenging to collaborate like this.
What was the most difficult part of collaborating for you, and why?
I had all sorts of preconceived ideas and fears about my ability to complete the project, and so my biggest challenge was squishing those doubting voices. I also needed to be disciplined. It’s all too easy as a writer to slip into writing when you’re in the mood or feeling inspired. Even though I knew that wasn’t a good way to approach a writing career I’d never really developed a regular writing habit and for too long I’d been hit and miss. When Beth approached me about this collaboration, she took a risk on me, and I really didn’t want to let her or myself down. So I had to be professional and disciplined, and this was also a major challenge.
What do you think you've learnt from this that will be most useful to you in future?
That I CAN finish a project to an acceptable standard, that I can write MUCH faster than I thought, and therefore I now have NO excuse not to produce a lot more work.

I also learnt a lot from the way Beth took the raw material and turned it into a polished end product. The way she knew what to exploit and how to exploit it to make the story funnier and more focussed was fascinating and the mechanics of how she did that provided a real learning curve. I’ll certainly be trying to apply some of her techniques during rewrites on my own work.
Would you recommend collaboration to other writers?
Yes, for sure. I’ve mentioned some of the many benefits above but writing can be such a solitary thing to do and collaborating with another author made it more social and much more fun. There was a great feeling of satisfaction in creating something together rather than on my own, and a sense of companionship as well. I loved seeing the project take shape and how another author’s input could transform it in ways I hadn’t considered.
What are your writing plans for the future? Do you have a new story of your own lined up, for instance?
I’m feeling quite fired up and excited. I’m writing the first draft of a new novella and also trying to finish rewrites of a romantic suspense novella. Beth’s output and professional, disciplined approach to her writing is keeping me motivated and giving me something to aspire to. I’m also working on an MA in Creative Writing which takes up a fair bit of time but also helps keep me writing regularly. 

Now, why not read the free sample on Amazon of  
Christmas is coming to the Lucky Parrot Garden Centre near Whitby. And along with those first flakes of snow comes a tall, dark, and highly tempting stranger ...

Hannah is a sensible, hard-working Yorkshire lass, and her heart is set on a career in landscape gardening. Not on falling in love, not even with a man as drop-dead gorgeous as Daniel Elliott. He's a film producer, for goodness sake, more used to Hollywood parties than stomping about in muddy wellies.

But as the evenings draw in and the snow thickens, can Hannah resist the warmth and sparkle of this very unusual man? And if she can't, what's to say Daniel won't disappear every bit as mysteriously as he arrived?

The first in a brand-new series, this cosy, festive romcom is the fruit of a collaboration between popular author Beth Good and romance newbie Viki Meadows. Perfect for fans of Jane Linfoot, Jenny Colgan, and Milly Johnson.


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Week Forty-One: When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Self-Publish

I have a new book out.

It's a thriller: ALL YOUR SECRETS.

Much like my other thrillers, this is a full-length psychological thriller, with a twisty page-turning plot and a strong local atmosphere.

But unlike my other thrillers, this novel is self-published.



Apparently the setting wasn't what my publisher wanted. My other two thrillers were set in Cornwall. They wanted a thriller set in London. This new book is set in the gorgeous South of France, a place I have visited many times and with which I have a natural affinity.

Last summer, I submitted two synopses and a 25,000 word sample of my South of France thriller to my publisher. Following a miscommunication of some kind, I mistakenly thought my editor was excited by the sample I'd sent and was planning to acquire the book.

Some months passed while I knuckled down and finished the book before my contract arrived. (Which is something many full-time writers end up doing, working on a book before the contract arrives.) I loved every minute of it though; it was a delightfully tactile, sensual book to write, and deeply sinister too.

In December, a few thousand words shy of finishing ALL YOUR SECRETS, I asked again about the contract. It was only at this point that I discovered my publisher did not want the book.

However, I received a contract for the other synopsis. The book I had not written. With only 8 weeks in which to write it, apparently.

I did the only thing I could.

I wrote the new book. And I did it within the required 8 weeks. It's currently at copyedit stage and will be published in January 2018.

Bizarrely, this is not unusual in publishing. It's the kind of thing that happens to writers all the time. Talented writers. Hard-working writers. Established writers. Full-time writers with bills to pay and no other way to pay them but through their own skill with a keyboard.

Most established writers can tell publishing stories to make your toes curl. Trilogies that flop and are abandoned as a lost cause, leaving one or even two books unpublished. Novels that are commissioned in conversation - like my own bestselling thriller, GIRL NUMBER ONE - and then rejected later, leaving a writer stuck with a book written to a very specific brief that they now need to sell elsewhere. Not always easy.

In the same vein, I was once tipped the wink at an editor-author coffee meeting that my latest outline wouldn't be acquired unless I converted the setting to Faeryland, because 'we're desperate for those'. I wrote 50K of the blasted thing before the editor was made redundant. Needless to say, the remaining editors were politely baffled by the Faeryland setting, and my agent was less than impressed too. I never did finish that one. Though maybe one day ...

So two years after I was forced to self-publish GIRL NUMBER ONE (a book rejected by over a dozen publishers, mind you, which subsequently sold 50,000 copies in a few months as a self-published title, hitting #1 in the UK Kindle Chart), I found myself with yet another unwanted novel on my hands.

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now. But hope springs eternal!

This time, I was not contractually permitted to offer it to another publisher - not under the name Jane Holland, at any rate, which has become my 'thriller' name.

However, I was given permission to self-publish ALL YOUR SECRETS.

When the going gets tough in this industry, the tough often end up having to self-publish. Not the most ideal situation, especially when a book has been written with a rather different arena in mind. But I have three children to feed and clothe, and this book took about 4-5 months to write and edit - an expensive time investment for me - so heigh-ho, self-publishing it was.

I proofed the book, made a cover, wrote a blurb, and started telling the poor, long-suffering souls on Twitter that my book was about to go live.

I had a pleasing number of pre-order sales. Those are my fans, and I thank them wholeheartedly for sticking with me!

Then it came out.

A self-published novel that isn't priced at 99p - instead, it's a modest £1.99 - is not the easiest thing in the world to persuade random punters to buy. Nor do I have the surprise of writing in a new genre to help me, as I did with GIRL NUMBER ONE.

So any sales you can waft my way will be hugely appreciated. This book has been written with all my skill and knowledge behind it, the experience of writing several dozen novels, and I feel certain many thriller-reading people will find pleasure in it.

I thank you all in advance for any retweets or Facebook shares or reviews or other promotional help you can offer this new and highly atmospheric book-baby of mine ... The blurb follows.

Thank you!

Jane x


What happens when love is perfect? Too perfect?

When her glamorous cousin Emily drowns, Caitlin flies to the South of France for her funeral, full of bitter-sweet nostalgia for the summer they spent there as wild teenagers. Her aunt Tamsin, once a film star, now suffering from dementia, invites Caitlin to stay at her chateau high above the beach at Cap d'Antibes.

Suddenly the gorgeous, charming Robin is back in touch, son of a Hollywood film producer. 
Tamsin warns her to stay away from him, but Caitlin can't resist her teenage crush. Soon the pair are falling madly, deeply in love ... all over again.

But something doesn’t feel right. What was Robin’s relationship with her beautiful cousin? And what is her aunt trying so desperately to conceal? The chateau on the Cap may be beautiful, but it hides dark secrets.

Was Emily's death an accident? Or could it have been murder?

-- ALL YOUR SECRETS is an atmospheric psychological thriller that simmers with tension and will keep you guessing, from the bestselling author of GIRL NUMBER ONE and LOCK THE DOOR.