End of the Series? Or Just a Pause?

The new book cover - nice one, Simon & Schuster!

The new book cover – nice one, Simon & Schuster!

This blog piece was prompted by an email I received this afternoon.

The message was from someone who wanted to let me know how sad they were to hear the news that Baldwin and Simon’s series was to end. I know this has affected a lot of readers, so I thought it would be a good idea to explain the situation.

First, please understand that no author wants to upset his or her readers. Equally, for me to kill off Baldwin and Simon would be like murdering my own friends. I didn’t only create these two, I have lived with them intensively for the last twenty years (ye Gods! It’s really that long!) – they are old friends of mine.

However, the sad fact is that I have to live in modern world. There are commercial realities that impinge on an author’s life.

In the last few years, the sales of my books have declined. My books originally sold very well. I was a top-mid-list author, and I was selling 50-60,000 copies of my books when they came out, mainly because I was working hard at libraries, bookshops and festivals up and down the country. But sales declined as bookshops disappeared. Ottakar’s were embraced by Waterstone’s (like a small fish receiving a hug from a giant squid), and ebooks appeared. Those two hit sales hard.

My income, like that of many authors, was hit hard. Because sales were decreasing. It is clearly impossible for a publisher to keep on paying for authors whose books are not earning back their money: this isn’t a difficult angle to understand. Publishers are in business to make money. I had to think about different ideas. Rebuild my sales and career.

My first idea was, to look at writing a different style of novel, or perhaps change genre. Various concepts were put forward by me, but Headline didn’t really want me to change. They wanted more of the Templar series. But sales couldn’t grow without something new. Which meant my income wouldn’t either. After some months of horrible negotiation, I finally had to bite the bullet and move to Simon and Schuster.

Lots of lovely books!

Lots of lovely books!

And – deep breath – it’s been fantastic. Suddenly I have marketing, publicity, sales and social media support. My new editor is an enthusiastic supporter, and the whole team is fully behind my books. I haven’t had such wonderful backing for many years.

But, and it is a large “but”, no publisher has a chequebook held constantly open. Normally they snap shut like a Venus Flytrap when an author walks into a room. Authors like me have to keep our feet on the ground and accept that sometimes a change of direction can be worthwhile creatively as well as financially.

It was for that reason that I wrote Act of Vengeance and slipped it out as an ebook last year. It’s a modern spy book, and on Kindle it is selling really well. And now, for a similar reason, I’m working on alternatives to the Templar Series.

Ebook only for now. But I can hope!

Ebook only for now. But I can hope!

The next book, Fields of Blood, is a new take on the men who participated in the Crécy campaign. I have taken a small body of men and looked at them, their problems, their fights and their fears leading up to the battle. And there was a lot to consider in there, believe me.

For the future, I will work with two of the characters from this book, and use them to consider later battles in the Hundred Years War campaigns, and in the fighting with the Free Companies afterwards. There are three strong books already planned.

This doesn’t mean I won’t write another Baldwin and Puttock book. It doesn’t mean Simon and Schuster want to kill it off either.

In fact, Simon and Schuster have already republished the first six of the series in their own brilliant covers. They have bought the rights for the next seven books, and as I speak, they are negotiating with Headline for the rights to the remainder of the series. Headline don’t really want to sell them.

However, you aren’t interested in the old titles. You want to know what will happen with new books, don’t you?

Well, put it like this: if the republished titles sell well, and Simon and Schuster starts to make good money from the series, Simon and Schuster will want more in that series. If they can see cash flowing into their coffers, they will commission more in the series to keep that money coming in.

Therefore, if you want to see future books in the series, there are ways you can help.

The first thing is, to recommend my books to all your friends. If you know people who are keen on crime books, people who are keen on historical novels, who are keen on the Templars, or who just like a good, entertaining read: tell them about Baldwin and Simon. Put a comment up about them on your Facebook page, or on Twitter or any other social media you like. If you can, go and put positive reviews up on Goodreads and Amazon. These things really do help – and help much more than an author’s wittering about his efforts. Benjamin Disraeli once said, “An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children”.

Harsh, but fair: he was a popular novelist, as well as Prime Minister of Britain during the British Empire.

Simon and Schuster have proved they're serious about the series.

Simon and Schuster have proved they’re serious about the series.

There is something else you can not do. Do not recycle! If you give the books away, or sell them, that takes money out of Simon and Schuster’s (and my) pocket. We earn nothing from resales of our work. Also, if you buy from a second-hand shop, that hurts us too. Publishers cannot survive if their books are sold through charity shops, second hand stores and exchanged in markets. Publishers and authors depend entirely upon new sales for their survival.

So, sad though it may sound, if you aren’t going to want to keep the books on your shelves, then send them off to be recycled properly.

Yes, I know people are enduring hard times. I know that looking for a bargain is uppermost in most of our minds. But if you can, buy new: you will be supporting authors, publishers and bookshops. And we all want to do that.

With a little luck, if you can help tell people about my books (and other authors’ books you really love), you will help the trade.

More specifically, if you promote mine, it may well lead to increased interest from Simon and Schuster, which may lead to their commissioning more Templar series stories.

It’s also possible that I could write some more books and put them out as ebooks, of course. But it is a lot more effort to write and self-promote that way. For me, to be able to sit at my desk and write is much more appealing.

And it means you get more books to read, of course.

Happy Reading!

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Comments
8 Responses to “End of the Series? Or Just a Pause?”
  1. Debbie Rakestraw says:

    Michael, thanks for the explanation of the publishing world. It obviously makes sense, but doesn’t take away the sting of Baldwin and Simon not having new adventures. I’ve also followed your comments on ebooks, but the truth is that – for many of us – they are more affordable and more manageable than the real thing. As I’ve down-sized in my living space, the ability to keep my books on my Kindle has become very valuable to me – not to mention my children have refused to move my books in the future, claiming there are just too many and they’re too heavy. I have repurchased some of your early books for my Kindle so that I have them (note, however, I have kept ALL of the hardbacks I bought since the first one I found – especially the one you signed and sent me from England!), in addition to the newer titles you’ve published since I got the ereader.

    In no way do I want to prevent you from earning a living, but my reality is that ebooks work for me – so the more you have available via this media, the more I will buy. I wish you got a bigger cut out of them – based on the innumerable spelling and even syntax errors in most ebooks, whoever proofreads them is getting overpaid – the money should go to the authors!

    Whatever format you use, keep writing – I will always find a way to read your books. They have taught me so much about a time in history that fascinates me, and your characters quickly become friends I want to hear more about. Hang in there!

    Like

    • I’ll keep on writing for as long as someone keeps paying me! I love this job, don’t you worry. But as I said in the piece, there’s nothing to stop me writing occasional Baldwin/Simon stories as ebooks, and with luck, if the new publications are bought, that’ll help my editor move towards commissioning more of them. There is plenty of history for me to write about, after all!

      Thank you so much for your really kind comments, Debbie. It is hugely appreciated.

      Like

  2. Jack Eason says:

    The very best of good luck to you Michael. :)

    Like

  3. knotrune says:

    I take your point about the passing on of books, but I have to disagree with it. Quite apart from the morality of supporting charities and it being greener to reuse than recycle, the point is discoverability. In the same way that a free promo of ebooks works by getting readers to try one book and if they like it they go on to purchase others, many people do not want to risk paying the expense of a brand new book unless they are confident it will be worth their money, but they would try one they found in a charity shop for a quid. Then if they like it, they will be far more likely to buy the latest at full price which they might not have done otherwise. Or they can get them from the library – you do get paid when that happens I think? But so many libraries are closing or restricting their hours that they are becoming less accessible.

    New books are so expensive these days that I’m afraid not all your your readers are going to be able to buy all your books new, what with austerity. There is no way I would be able to support my book habit if I bought everything new I’m afraid. Isn’t it better to have lots of loyal readers who would buy some of them new and some second hand than to have people not even able to get hooked on your books? Also someone who is poor but reads a lot and has friends who read also and are rich could read your book and recommend it, thus generating sales. And there are people who get hooked on a series in scruffy paperbacks then want to collect the whole lot in shiny new hardbacks, but they have to get hooked first. Or people who are currently unemployed with time on their hands but no money who might then go on to buy the books which helped distract them through a difficult time once they have a new job? Young people who are starting out in debt, but when they start earning want new books rather than scruffy dog eared paperbacks they got second hand. There are so many people you would exclude from your readership who could potentially be valuable paying fans at a later date, but would never find you if they had to buy every book new.

    I have read some interesting stuff online, a while back so I’m afraid I would have to do a lot of digging to find the links, about free ebooks and piracy. It seems counterintuitive but people have found that piracy can drive sales! Because most people have an innate sense of fairness, they want the person who generated the material they enjoyed to get reimbursed, not least so they might go on to produce more. These people chose to pay even when it was optional. But some people are too poor to pay, but can be of value in other ways. Reviewers get free copies anyway. With the internet and blogging you never know who might pick up your book in a charity shop, give it a good review on their blog and generate sales. Reviewers have an acknowledged value in the system.

    Please don’t think I am just a whiny reader who has no sympathy with your need to earn a living. I am working on becoming a novelist myself so these issues are important to me too and I have been looking into my options for earning money by it :)

    Like

    • Apologies, this was one of a few comments that got stuck in the “Spam” filter. I only just noticed it.

      I can’t agree with your comments, I’m afraid. Piracy is simple theft. There are two issues with it, which I won’t go into here, but I’ll put up a blog on it this week. I have seen many reports which state that piracy counter intuitively is good for business. But oddly enough, all the people I’ve heard espousing the theory, including a very senior company financial director, a senior sales manager in education, amongst others, do not think it is a sales model that would work for their own businesses. However, they are keen to support the concept in mine.

      The facts are simple. Books are cheap – no, don’t moan, they are. There are very few forms of entertainment that will last for hours at a stretch, and which are so cheap. Per hour of entertainment, books at £8.99 are cheaper than DVDs lasting a couple of hours, films at theatres, and vastly less than actors or operas at a theatre. Or so I assume. i can’t afford to go to see theatrical events.

      The sad fact is, if people buy second hand books, they are putting bookshops, publishers, and authors out of business. If people buy pirated copies, that too will not put food on my table for me or my children. It is fine for consumers, no doubt. But there is as much sense as serving up a roast goose and wondering what happened to those golden eggs. If people want to read new novels, authors have to be paid, just as do electricians, plumbers, and builders.

      Like

  4. Ed Tily says:

    A very honest and, once read, obvious description of the realities of life for an Author in the real world, Michael.

    I, for one, will look out for the new series with the same sense of anticipation I have for the Templar series. I buy predominantly in paperback to suit my budget, but will be more than happy to buy in iBook format as well if there is any chance of reading more of your wonderfully researched tales, regardless of the period, if that is the only way I can get my paws on them.

    I can see the day, unfortunately, when paper-based books are restricted to whatever Tesco and Asda can sell cheaply, regardless of the impact on Authors and the lack of access that gives real book lovers to new stories, new Authors, etc.

    It may be time to embrace the eBook market and drive it as an Author, rather than letting Amazon, Apple, etc drive it for their sole benefit. Perhaps we need to see some involvement from any organisations that represent Authors taking a lead in finding ways of publicising the work of those who have followings smaller than the Pratchetts and Rowlings of the literary world.

    If you write them, I will come and find them – no matter what the format.

    Like

    • Hi, Ed,

      Yes, it would be really good to drive the market more. The problem is, most authors just don’t have the money or clout to be able to take on publishers or retailers. Already we’ve had Google trying to steal copyright and put all books straight up on the web, and amazon is doing their best to drive other retailers and publishers out of business. Sadly, I don’t see it happening until many more authors are bankrupted, either by ever-reducing income as retailers force royalty income to collapse further, or because of continual piracy. But I’ll be addressing that later this week in another blog!

      Sorry to take time to respond to your comment, by the way. For some reason your comment was thrown into the spam filter. Hopefully it won’t happen again!

      Like

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