PATRIOT by AS Bond – The Pros and Cons of Becoming a ‘Hybrid’ Author.

AS Bond in Costa RicaI turned down a three book deal from an American publisher to go ‘indie’ with this, my first thriller and it’s been quite a journey! Patriot, A Brooke Kinley Adventure is self published and this was a very difficult decision for me, because I’ve been a traditionally published author of non-fiction for the past 16 years. There is a great deal written about the upside of self publishing and some of it is even true. Here’s my take on the issue, having experienced both sides.

Pro Self Publishing:

Most new authors just don’t realize that a book deal with a traditional publisher (large or small) does not mean there is a huge publicity budget assigned to you (or even any budget at all). There won’t be launch parties, national book tours or huge advances. All this is reserved for a tiny handful of (very) well established authors. Everything else you must do yourself. You then have a few weeks to make a splash in sales before your book quietly disappears from bookshelves. However, now that self publishing has become truly possible in the past few years, you still have to do all the ‘heavy lifting’, but you get to keep up to 70% of the proceeds, which is a ten-fold improvement on what a publisher offers in a traditional deal. There is also a real pleasure in retaining complete control over all the decisions, from who to hire as your editor, to the jacket and website design, to where to put the marketing budget. Finally of course, your book launch is managed by someone who believes in it 100%, i.e. you. Getting lots of rave reviews from readers about a book traditional publishers sneered at (typical if it’s a genre novel), is very satisfying. It’s even better when your novel wins awards.

The Downside:

There are, in my opinion, just three reasons to go with a mainstream publisher; the biggest is ‘kudos’. Nothing says ‘I’m a real author’ like the name of a familiar publishing house on the spine of your book. Secondly, most of the mainstream press is wary of reviewing self published books and that’s a real drawback, although it is changing, slowly. The same applies to most of the book awards (and all of the prestigious ones). Thirdly, maybe you don’t know enough about publishing (business, technology, marketing etc), or have the time to do all the other jobs required to launch a book.

Conclusion:

My advice to anyone considering these two routes? The best possible solution is to be published by a traditional publisher first. Get a following and make a name for yourself. Further down the road, you can use that as real capital to launch your self-published work. Your existing profile with both reviewers and readers will then lift you above the ‘pack’ of self published titles and solve the biggest problem of self publishing, which is visibility.

A.S. Bond is the author of ‘Patriot’ A Brooke Kinley Adventure, an award-winning thriller that debuted at #13 in its category on Amazon. For more information and the latest news, visit www.brookekinleyadventures.com  https://www.facebook.com/as.bond.773 Twitter: @brookekinleyadv

Read the first page for free on http://booksgosocial.com/2014/05/12/patriot/ 

Patriot, A Brooke Kinley Adventure, is available on Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Apple iTunes

Based on Real Events; Fact and Fiction in Patriot: A Brooke Kinley Adventure by A.S. Bond

The thing about fiction is that it is, well, made up. Of course. Especially so in genre fiction. Novels often all about escapism of one sort or another, whether it’s the delicious shiver of fear or a dreamy ‘neverland’. Thrillers are slightly different; the ‘thrill’ comes not just from the suspense of ‘will our heroine save the day’, but also in the recognition that ‘it’ (nuclear Armageddon, pandemic virus, financial meltdown of whatever the theme of that novel may be) could happen.

Canoe tied up on the Nascaupi RiverThis is especially so in Patriot, where it is not just themes that are based in reality, but actual events, too. Several have happened since I first wrote about them (and the book did have a long gestation of around three and half years, but that’s another story). It is a thriller in which life has imitated art.

Something thing that has -spookily- happened since I first wrote about it is a period of solar flares. These natural phenomena vary in intensity over a cycle of roughly 11 years or so. One of the characters in the book talks about this (and everything he says is accurate scientifically). Since I wrote Patriot, we have passed through another cycle and I woke up one morning to hear a news commentator talking about the threat to our electronic networks from solar flares!

What was most challenging for me was the technology side of the novel. A couple of readers have commented that aspects of this are a bit far-fetched. I have some bad news for you guys; it’s a lot closer to the truth than you realize.

A weapon of mass destruction features in this book (no spoilers!). This weapon, as described, is entirely accurate. The detail of how it is brought into America is the part I made up, but the thing you should worry about is the fact that this could also be carried in something as small as a rucksack. The effects would be more contained, but this particular threat is something on which many military and science researchers around the world are working, right now.

In fact, there is only one small piece of technology in this book that isn’t absolutely accurate, which is the discovery of a piece of advanced military hardware that kicks off the story. Even this is about half-true; there are very similar weapons being used by America and its Allies right now. Only some of the details vary slightly. And – so far – the fact they have not fallen into enemy hands. I wonder how long it will be before some version of the horrific opening scene in Patriot involving an American apache helicopter, plays out for real?

The other big truth in the novel is the ability of governments and their intelligence services to ‘listen in’ on the ‘phone calls of private citizens anywhere in the world. I knew this was possible when I wrote the novel – and the real network of listening stations is an open secret – but it was Edward Snowden who told the world the reality and extent of the snooping. After I’d written about it…

For many of the details in the book, I went to great lengths to ensure they were correct. This included talking to aircraft and marine engineers, studying plans for motor yachts and, one of my favourite pastimes, poring over maps to ensure the locations I use in the book are accurate. Brooke can walk from Foggy Bottom metro to the Kennedy Centre in ten minutes and small planes can crash in Labrador and never be seen again. The reality of the settings in the book is another topic, but they are all places I know personally (except Afghanistan).

In fact, the only fictional things in Patriot are the characters and the plot itself. Everything else is true. Now there’s a shiver down your spine!

PATRIOT by AS Bond. Get your copy online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Apple iBooks.

The Setting of Patriot and its Role in the Story by A.S. Bond

When I began to think about settings for Patriot, I remembered the old advice “write what you know”.  Therefore all the key settings of Patriot – Labrador, Washington D.C. and London – are familiar to me. The only exception is Afghanistan, which features in the prologue only. For that, I spoke to ex-military personnel who have fought in desert situations and I also watched a lot of YouTube footage. As a journalist myself, research is second nature!

Yet I needed to do very little of that when it came to the North American settings. I used to live in Washington D.C., so I know its pace, the people, the locations. Perhaps however, the stand-out setting for Patriot is that of Labrador, where a large part of the novel – and the action scenes in particular – takes place.

Labrador is that huge chunk of Canada on the eastern seaboard that’s the size of much of Western Europe, but which has the population of a small town. It’s a place I know pretty well, as I led a canoe expedition across part of it a few years ago. Travelling with just my Innu guide, Jean Pierre Ashini, we paddled through some of the harshest country in North America, following the pioneering route of Edwardian explorer Mina Hubbard. That’s another story however, but it is one I tell in my travel memoir, Lost Lands, Forgotten Stories, published by HarperCollins in 2002.

The start of my canoe expedition in CanadaI chose Labrador as a key setting in Patriot for several reasons. Primarily of course, because it is beautiful, remote and intriguing. Intrigue is always good in a thriller! Its remoteness also means that it is ‘believable’ (in thriller world) that the events depicted could really go unnoticed there, thanks to the lack of people.

Also useful from a thriller writer’s point of view, is the fact not many people outside of Canada (and not that many inside, either!) know Labrador very well. This really gave me a ‘blank page’ on which to project my story, as many readers will have no real preconception of the place. As it happens, my own familiarity with Labrador means that I was able to describe it authentically; how it feels, smells, sounds. The bugs really are huge and plentiful and the backcountry really is mainly frequented by fishermen, hunters and prospectors.

For many people in the 21st century, life is very technology dominated. Most live in big cities and the wilderness is – and to some extent always has been – a threatening, frightening place. This also is very useful in a thriller! As Brooke travels through this unknown land, she faces many kinds of threats, both known and unknown. The reader’s unfamiliarity with it and that unspoken menace all add to the suspense.

The story of Patriot is also orientated around technology, in everything from modern communications via satphone to the nature of the threat against America. This is another reason why I chose to place so much of the action n Labrador. This wilderness, where the weather, the landscape and the animals are dominant, is a huge contrast – and counterbalance – to these technology based themes.

Although I impose a fictional story on a very real landscape, anyone familiar with Labrador would recognize places referred to in the book. The cliff over which Kyle finally throws off the assassin sent to kill him is a figment of my imagination (although there would be countless that would pass for it in a movie – take note, Hollywood!). Yet Goose Bay and its huge airport do exist, as do the pretty painted wooden houses of Happy Valley. Even Okak is a real place, although it is little more than a name on a map, marking a deserted cove in the far north.

It is really that sense of an ‘empty’ map that inspired my own original expedition there and therefore the setting of this, my first novel. Originality is vital for any literary work and I think – I may be wrong – that Patriot is the first thriller to be set in this vast corner of the continent. I hope readers find it as intriguing and enthralling as I do!

Solving the Riddle of Discoverability by AS Bond

As a new self published author, I quickly realized that the main challenge facing me in selling my books is ‘discoverability’. Or, in other words, making your book stand out and be seen; a particularly difficult task when you don’t have a major publisher getting reviews on your behalf in national newspapers, or buying window space in Waterstones.  That’s where BooksGoSocial.com helped me, but it’s a part of a very big puzzle. Book marketing for yourself is a time consuming, difficult and even creatively challenging, but ultimately of course, very rewarding.

Patriot, A Brooke Kinley Adventure is my first self published novel, I was surprised at just how much hard work is involved! I’m not even talking about writing it; that’s a whole other blog post! I approached publishing Patriot as professionally as any publishing company and just managing the entire process was a full time job for several months. First, I had to research all the options for self publishing, right down to the minutiae of ISBN numbers, distribution options etc. This took two months. Then, I had to organize the editing, the formatting, the jacket design, the publishing (print and ebook) as well as my own business administration.

Yet it is the marketing that has been the real challenge. Like many authors, I’m focused on actually writing books. That’s the bit I enjoy, the thing I’m pretty good at (and I’ve been doing it for publishers both global and regional, as well as self publishing for almost two decades now). So, when it came to getting word out about my first novel, I was left wondering; where to start?

With my traditional background – and a few handy contacts from my career as a freelance journalist – I began with the solid stuff; press releases to relevant publications, asking for reviews, offering articles on related topics, that sort of thing. First lesson learned; start early. I mean really early, like 3 months before publication. That’s a difficult thing for self published writers to get to grips with, as you need a supply of print galleys and a digital version to get any big print publications to even look at your work. Plus, that’s assuming you ‘forget’ to mention it’s self published and you have a demonstrable track record and/or a killer hook to get their interest in the first place. How many self published authors have the book ready to go three months before publication? Well,  if you want your novel considered by  a national women’s magazine, or a big player like Fresh Fiction in the USA, you have to hold back and show some patience. It may pay dividends!

Many self publishers  have tiny or non-existent budgets and depend on social media to market their books. This was a real learning curve for me, and I’m still travelling. Twitter (great), Facebook (variable), website (essential) and a blog (definitely essential) all work together, but you need more. Sign up to book discussion and recommendation websites, such as Goodreads.com, engage with other writers and readers by reviewing books, commenting on threads. There’s a world of social interaction out there and while the measurable impact of any particular part is impossible to quantify, what is clear that without it, your book will almost certainly sink without trace.

What I have also learned is to evaluate all the offers from companies for a) track record; can they do what they are claiming? b) can you do it yourself? c) can someone else do it for less? There are a lot of people out there trying to sell you market exposure. Be very careful. It would b easy, for example, to spend several thousand dollars on getting reviews by top Amazon reviewers and other types of Amazon based promotion, but it is actually free and easy to find out who are the top reviewers yourself and contact them directly. Similarly, there are many guides and books out there (some free, most at very low cost), as well as uTube videos etc on how to make Amazon work for you.

Among all this cacophony of marketers trying to sell to you, BooksGoSocial.com are really useful. They offer to showcase your first page free (‘free’ is a great twitter hashtag to get noticed) and multiple twitter accounts promoting your work, not to mention plenty of good ideas for practical, low cost marketing techniques for you, as author to put into practice straightaway. They are a great example of a low cost, high promotion tool that can really help with that thorny problem of ‘discoverability’. I did my homework before I signed up and they passed with flying colours.

What it all comes down to is putting in the time and the energy. You are learning a new skill. The best thing is, you then apply it to your own business; your books. The market is out there, so get stuck in and get your book discovered.

PATRIOT Goes On Tour!

AS Bond will be stopping by to do some Q&A sessions and give interviews throughout the month of June. There will also be reviews, extracts from the novel and some news on Brooke Kinley’s next adventure!

Tour Dates & Locations:

9th June The Crime Scene http://tinyurl.com/mnlzpra

10th June Bookish http://www.evie-bookish.blogspot.com

13th June I Heart Reading http://iheartreading.net

16th Deal Sharing Aunt http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/

17th June Book Angles http://bookangels12blog.wordpress.com/

20th June The Writer’s Life http://www.thewriterslife.blogspot.com

23rd June Jersey Girl Book Reviews http://jerseygirlbookreviews.blogspot.com/

24th June The Top Shelf : http://www.the-top-shelf.com

25th June http://bookread-mumswritings.blogspot.com

26th June http://gabina49.wordpress.com

27th June http://www.homeonderanged.com