All The Fun Of The Fair

at The Amazon Stand – Kindle Direct Publishing | CreateSpace | ACX

Despite a head cold and losing my voice once or twice I survived the London Book Fair!

Held over three days at the very impressive Olympia in London, the Fair focused on everything book-related – from humble indie authors to global a2015-04-14 18.03.46publishing giants. Everyone in the industry was there, promoting their newest catches and pitching their trades. Hundreds of exhibitors selling their wares to thousands of visitors every day.

I attended as Amazon’s guest, to take part in panel discussions and to provide self-publishing advice to anyone interested, together with fellow crime writer Mel Sherratt and fantasy author Stephanie Hudson.

with Darren Hardy – UK Head of Kindle Direct Publishing

Each morning we took part in a 45-minute sit-down-and-talk Q&A session, hosted by the Head of UK Kindle Direct Publishing, Darren Hardy, to speak about our experiences in the self-publishing arena – from our shaky starts to our successful strategies, in front of a mixed audience of around 200 people each day. And each morning we were joined by a guest panelist: Mark Dawson, UK crime writer on day one; CJ Lyons, US medical thriller novelist on day two; and Rachel Abbott, UK thriller author on day three.

On the microphone, we got to speak about our adventures in self-pubbing, including specific events and key moments that helped shape our independent careers. Plus, we got to hand out useful tips or tricks that we’d discovered along our own journeys. Then, for the rest of each day, we populated the Amazon booth, being bombarded with questions from one indie author after another, all on a one-to-one basis, and all a great deal of fun. We talked mostly about Kindle and what the formula to success was (there isn’t one!), but it didn’t stop everyone from asking!

with Stephanie Hudson, Mel Sherratt, Rachel Abbott and Darren Hardy

with Stephanie Hudson and American medical thriller novelist CJ Lyons

with Sophie Plateau – UK ACX

While I was there I met some really nice people. Some cool people. Some really motivated people. Fellow writers who were just starting out on their journey, and those who had already enjoyed some success and were looking for new ways of creating fresh revenue streams. This gave me a chance to talk about my experiences with CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing print-on-demand print book service) together with ACX (Amazon’s eBook-to-Audiobook exchange service and Audible). So it wasn’t all about the Kindle and how to get to the top of the charts (not all the time, anyway!).

It was also a great opportunity to catch up with some of my author buddies who had showed up to check out the fair and to give me a little heckling from the back of the auditorium (thanks, fellas!). The Four Kindleers reunited: me, Dave Leadbeater, John Paul Davis and Alan McDermott. We were also joined by our own d’Artagnan wannabe, Paul Pilkington (UK thriller novelist), who supplemented my Lancashire-twang and Wigan humour (since we both hail from the same neck of the woods).

with Dave Leadbeater, Paul Pilkington, Mel Sherratt and Stephanie Hudson

with Mel Sheratt

Our role as Amazon invitees was to inspire others, but I came away inspired by those I met. It was a humbling experience to have people come up to me, shake my hand, and tell me that the one golden nugget of advice they’d picked up from me had made their whole trip to London worth it. Amazing. But what blew me away most of all was when a gentleman introduced himself (I missed his name because of all the chatter around us) and told me he was a composer and that my little speech about ACX had inspired him to do something positive with his back catalogue. I only learned later that he was Simon May, the composer of many British TV show themes such as EastEnders and Howards’ Way. What a compliment! Madness.

In spite of the exhaustion, I had a blast at the Fair. No roller-coasters, but plenty of thrills and freaks. It was lovely to meet everyone again – such as my Thomas & Mercer editor Emilie Marneur and my ACX liaison Sophie Plateau – plus all the those Amazon people I hadn’t met before, including the lovely Eoin Purcell (UK APub Leader) and Jeff Belle (VP, Amazon Publishing). So a huge thanks to everyone in the UK Kindle Team for making it possible and for giving me a pleasurable and unforgettable experience!

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with Emilie Marneur – Senior Acquisitions Editor, Thomas & Mercer UK

aarge

we write Indie!

crowds gathered at the Author HQ

taking liberties

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London Book Fair 2015

Last yeaLBF_300 x 170r, Amazon’s UK-based Kindle Direct Publishing very kindly invited me to be part of their team at the London Author Fair. It was a fantastic and unforgettable experience. I really enjoyed meeting not only the lovely KDP people but also other indie authors just starting out on their self-publishing careers. I got to speak about the pros and cons of self-pubbing, and how signing up with KDP Select had gotten me one step closer to being a published novelist.

This year, the Kindle Team has asked me to join them at the London Book Fair, and I’m over the moon with the invite.

Animated-Banner-LBF-2015 468 x 60

Unlike the 1-day LAF, the LBF spans 3 whole days and is attended by everyone and anyone connected with publishing (traditional. electronic and self), from all over the world. It’s the major event on the UK publishing calendar. All the big names will be there, including many famous authors. This time round I’ll be taking part in daily author seminars and Q & A sessions for writers interested in what KDP has to offer, plus talking with other indie authors about the benefits and the pitfalls of self-publishing.

If it’s anything like my experience at the LAF I know it’s going to be great fun!

Joining me on the Amazon stand will be fellow Brit authors Mel Sherratt and Stephanie Hudson. The event runs from April 14th through 16th and will be held at Olympia in London – so if you’re in town, don’t forget to pop by and say hello!

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The Author Evolution

Over the last three years that my self-published books have been available on Amazon, I’ve had a steady stream of emails or Facebook messages from unpublished writers asking for publishing advice. Some want to know what the shortcut is to success. Most want to pick my brains for useful tips and tricks to get their ball rolling. All have decided to go down the self-pub route and are excited by the thought of the journey ahead.

kindleauthor

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing

Depending on their experience so far, I tell them the same thing:

Firstly, there is no shortcut to success. Secondly, what works well for one may not have the same result for another. And thirdly, independent authors need to grow many heads, like a Hydra, each one with a different skills set. It’s not enough to be a decent writer. You can be the author of the best book ever written, but if nobody knows about it then you’ve wasted your time writing it.

Today’s self-published authors are business-minded pioneers, entrepreneurs, able to promote, to market and to be social media publicists. If you want the world to know about your brilliant book, you need to shout about it from the rooftops, and that means selling yourself publicly. There is no room for the shy-and-retiring writer in the information age. You need to grow a thick skin fast, get a big voice and scream about your book!hydraQuite simply, those indies who seem do the best are those who are better able to adapt and evolve to today’s changing publishing climate. It’s not enough to upload your book to an online publishing platform and then sit back, expecting it to make the New York Times Bestsellers List. You need to be proactive. You need to be:

Savvy -

  • research your genre
  • know your audience
  • identify niches
  • recognize your weakness and build on your strengths
  • budget for advertising
  • form marketing plans
  • run timely promotions

Observant -

  • spot changing trends and act on them
  • understand what your successful competitors are doing and emulate them
  • track sales statistics and tweak your promotions accordingly
  • see what works and what doesn’t, then change

Flexible -

  • adjust your sales strategies to mirror changing trends
  • edit your work after constructive criticism
  • change marketing plans to suit changes in the marketplace
  • if something doesn’t work, fix it

But none of this will be of any use unless . . .

You Write that Killer Book!

It goes without saying that your very first step towards self-publication is to write the absolute best novel you can. Don’t take short cuts. Don’t settle for second best. Don’t rush. remingtonAnd don’t undersell yourself. If you have a great idea for a story, go with it and don’t hold back. Use reader feedback to help shape it.

If you cannot afford a professional proofreader, enlist friends and family who are preferably readers of your chosen genre to proofread your book. Be open to creative suggestions. Listen to constructive criticism. Don’t be aloof to the points they raise. Be prepared to edit, edit edit. The best indies never hold back from tweaking their novels, and they get better and better every time.

AUTHOR TIP : Read your first draft out loud to help remove redundant words.

Choose Your Platform!

Pick the self-publishing platform that best suits your plans for world domination. Look at all the pros and cons of each online publisher. Be prepared to switch to another outlet if they don’t live up to your expectations. Don’t fall for any of the websites (or other authors) questionmanoffering their winning advice in return for a fee. The internet is full of free and no-catch writing advice from hardworking indies who genuinely want to help you make the transition from unpublished writer to independent author, and without fleecing you dry in the process!

AUTHOR TIP : Befriend a successful indie author in your genre and follow their guidance.

Upload your book, select the right genre categories and create the best product description you can. Make it snappy, interesting and relevant. Take a look at what your fellow successful authors are doing in your field and take a leaf out of their book. Don’t hold back from tweaking your product description to maximize its attractiveness to readers.

AUTHOR TIP : Bullet points get key information across quickly.

Blog, Tweet and Post!

fbimageSo, you’ve written a potential bestseller. Now make sure everybody knows about it! Until word-of-mouth kicks in and those great reviews start stacking up, you’re its only voice. Announce its arrival through social media accounts. Get friends and family to do the same. Join reader and author forums. Let people know your book is out there and it’s something they shouldn’t overlook.

Ask successful authors to consider taking a look at your book and to give you a marketing quote to put on your product description.

AUTHOR TIP : Don’t spend all your time tweeting. Statistically, it makes no odds to your book’s success if you have 200 twitter followers or 20, 000!

Ask readers on reader forums such as Goodreads to read a free copy of your book in exchange for an honest critique or review.

Run Promotions!

If you choose to use a publishing platform such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing make sure you take advantage of the free promotional tools. Sign up with KDP Select so that you can offer your book for kdpiconFree during a set time frame, or at a reduced price in a Countdown Deal. Promotions do work. They increase your visibility and get your book in front of readers.

AUTHOR TIP : Don’t be afraid to give your book away. The more people who read it, the more they will recommend it to their friends, and then the more reviews you’ll get.

Consider paying for email-based advertisements through any number of online marketing sites such as BookBub, Booksends and Bookgorilla, to name but a few. Although these can be costly, depending on your genre or choice of feature, they can bring good returns and boost visibility in the short term.

AUTHOR TIP :  Don’t invest your money in any websites promising to market your book and give it maximum exposure, unless they have a proven track record with other indies who you trust. Many writers see no significant return for their investments in these kind of ‘get rich quick’ schemes, and some of these sites charge hundreds of pounds.

Keep Doing It!

Repeat all of the above as often as you can! The more great books you write, the more reader-fans you’ll get, the more books you’ll sell, the more you’ll get noticed by those who can take your burgeoning career one step further.

AUTHOR TIP : Never give up. Believe in yourself.

Finally, now that you feel confident and motivated, take the next step to evolve from unpublished writer to independent author! You won’t regret it! :)

keith-houghton-writer

Keith is the #1 Best Selling Author of the Gabe Quinn Thrillers Series, available exclusively on Amazon for the Kindle, in paperback through CreateSpace and as audiobooks on Audible.

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The Day the Universe Changed

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ - the iconic beginning to Dickens’ tale of contrasts, and an exact description of the last twelve months of my life . . .

On a drab day in October 2013 I got an out-of-the-blue phone call from Emilie Marneur – a Senior Acquisitions Editor at Thomas & Mercer – expressing her interest in my Gabe Quinn Thrillers Series. She asked if I had any new GQ material in the pipeline or even nearing completion, as she was considering my books for the Amazon Publishing imprint. T&M-imageTalk about bad timing! I’d self-published the third GQ installment literally the week before her call and had nothing to offer (dang it!), except for a scatty head full of scattered ideas. Not to be put off, Emilie asked if I would be willing to write a brand new thriller instead, one she could then consider for the T&M label. It could be either a standalone thriller or the start of a new mystery series; it was up to me. Her only requirement was that whatever I wrote had to be in a similar vein to my current work and preferably in the first-person (after all, that’s what my readers liked) but equally able to stand on its own two feet as an independent work. I was gobsmacked.

The Universe reached down and patted me on the back.

Writing something completely new would mean putting my planned penning of Gabe Quinn 4 on hold for at least nine months. It would mean disappointing Gabe’s hard-core fans, who were eagerly awaiting his next outing and grilling me about it. It would mean scrapping my schedule and starting afresh. It was a scary thought. I was comfortable with Gabe. We related. I had the concept for GQ4 loosely worked out and was raring to go. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to be signed – not when being officially published was everything I’d worked towards for the past thirty years.

And so I said Yes!

I had no idea what I’d let myself in for. Challenging doesn’t even come close. After much debate, I decided to write a standalone thriller, and spent the next three months trying out one story line after another. The going was tough and nothing felt right. Each started out promising, but soon fell short of the standard I’d set with GQ. The problem was clear: I’d been writing Gabe for eight years and his was the only voice I heard in my head when I wrote. Each new narrator started out with good intentions, but soon started sounding like a seasoned cop from Tennessee. Not ideal. If I wanted to make any progress at all I knew I’d have to do something radical to completely erase Gabe from my brain. And so I experimented with different styles, coming at it from all angles, until finally opting to write in the present tense. I’d never written anything before in the ‘happening right now’ format and, looking back, I couldn’t have set myself a bigger mountain to climb!

Sometimes the Universe has other plans for us.

On a windy day in March, and after dumping all the previous false starts, I set to work, spending the next few weeks putting together the opening chapters of my new novel (essentially setting the scene, the plot and introducing the main characters).

Then, in May, and after a fourteen-year engagement, Lynn and I fulfilled our dream of marrying on Sanibel Beach in Florida. It was the happiest day of my life. The best of times. We’d taken ???????????????????????????????Lynn’s mum and my parents with us to share in our celebration and, aside from not having our children there due to work commitments, it was perfect. Energies renewed and happy to be a husband, I returned home to continue writing my standalone, determined to do the best job I could for Emilie and prove myself worthy of the imprint.

It was June and all was going well. A few hiccups, but nothing major. I was halfway through the novel and really beginning to get to grips with the new style. I could see it being done for September, right on time. All systems were go. Then, on the last day of the month, my son died. I was devastated.

A hole opened up in the Universe and sucked me in.

His death came unexpectedly and completely floored ourjay-small close family. He was 24. A paramedic who saved lives. He was dearly loved and his passing ripped out our hearts. It was the worst of times. Every parent’s nightmare.

Aside from the epitaph on his headstone, I didn’t write a single word for the next two months.

September came and with it my self-imposed deadline to finish the novel. I didn’t want to write fiction again. I didn’t see the point. It wasn’t important anymore. I was done, in a dark place.

Death puts everything in perspective.

Suddenly, being published meant nothing. I’d gladly exchange all my success if it meant having my son back. Lynn reminded me that writing would refocus, be therapeutic and give me the strength to wade through my unending grief. She was right. Plus, Emilie contacted me again to say she was still considering my Gabe Quinn books for Thomas & Mercer. We met up in London and I explained my circumstances, and that I was well underway with the standalone. I took a big breath and promised to have it on her desk by the end of the year. As Gabe would say: sometimes I am my own worst enemy. And so, committed, I embarked on the second half of the novel, my head in a spin, emotionally-strangled and unable to string a single coherent sentence together.

Those next forty thousand words were the hardest I have ever written.

I still don’t know how I managed it – maybe with divine intervention, hopefully with my son watching over my shoulder – but I completed the standalone in late November and, after proofreading, had it sent off to Emilie by the middle of December. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d tried my best, given it my all, sold my soul, but I knew my brain had been frazzled for the second half and I wasn’t sure how things had turned out. Over Christmas, we waited on tenterhooks to hear any news from Emilie, fingers crossed, hoping for some good to come out of all the bad.

It was torturous.

amazonpub-imageThen, on January 9 2015, exactly three years to the day since I ran my very first Amazon promotion on ‘Killing Hope’, which launched my writing career and put me on T&M’s radar, Emilie called me up to offer me a publishing deal.

And the Universe snapped back with a bang.

All that pain, all those hair-ripping-out days, all those tears, all those self-doubts, all those times I wanted to throw in the towel, all were blown away in that moment. Listening to Emilie’s words coming down the phone line confirmed I’d done it. Made it. After 30 years of never giving up, I’d reached where I always wanted to be: published. It didn’t take away my unending upset, but it did give me a sorely-needed light at the end of the tunnel.

And so I am pleased to announce that my new standalone – yet to be officially named – will be published in September 2015 by Amazon Publishing under their Thomas & Mercer imprint. I am thrilled and scared. It’s going to be an exciting and interesting next few months, and even though my sense of accomplishment is overshadowed by the tragic events in the summer, I know my son would be proud of what I’ve achieved, as are the rest of my family.

The Universe seeks equilibrium.

On one hand is the wonderful gain, on the other the incredible loss. In every way imaginable, my year has consisted of two contrasting halves with diametrically-opposed extremes. Bittersweet. Truly, the best of times and the worst of times. None of which would mean a thing without the love and support of my family, who I thank with all my heart for their encouragement, their spirit and their faith, in me. Thank you!!

Together, we did it!!

 This book will be dedicated to the loving memory of Jason Houghton.

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Crossing Lines – Audiobook Release

It’s been five months in the making, but I’m thrilled to announce that “Crossing Lines”(Gabe Quinn Thriller #2) is now available in audio format as a downloadable audiobook from Amazon, Audible and iTunes, and it sounds even better than the first!

This second production sees narrator David Doersch still at the helm, steering Gabe through turbulent waters and toward stormy horizons. As with the first book, he’s done another crossingLines-AmazonImageexcellent job of fleshing out the characters, individualizing their voices and, of course, staying true to Gabe’s developing mindset as he moves through the ongoing story lines.

As with the first book, ‘Lines’ underwent a complete refit in preparation for the audio recording. I made slight editorial changes to the manuscript to enhance the audio experience, fine-tuning here and there to allow the spoken words to flow much more smoothly.

It really has turned out to be a great audio experience and is essential listening for every Gabe Quinn enthusiast!

Take a listen to the first 15 minutes here:

To download from Amazon: USUK

To download from Audible: USUKAU

To download from iTunes: search ‘Keith Houghton’ or ‘Crossing Lines’ in the Store

Thank You for all Your support!

Please Note: Should you wish to take advantage of the Whispersync for Voice service, be sure to go to your Kindle Manager in your online Amazon Account and download the latest version of the eBook to your Kindle library. This way, you can normally pick up the audiobook at a vastly reduced price compared to regular retail cost.

Also available as an Audiobook: KILLING HOPE – (Gabe Quinn Thriller #1)

Killing Hope - Audiobook

To download from Amazon:

USUK 

To download from Audible:

USUKAUDEFR

 

 

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The Four Kindleers

The Clarence Pub - photo courtesy of Alan McFaden via Britain from AboveHistory was made this week when four of the rising stars of the Brit Indie thriller writing scene joined forces to hatch out plans for word domination over faux Pimms and Eaton mess at The Clarence Pub on Whitehall, London.

Those nice folks from Audible ACX were in town, all the way from New Jersey, to discuss the burgeoning audiobook market, the business of audiobooks and to hear feedback from Audiobook Creation Exchangethose UK authors who had already jumped in with both feet and converted their eBooks to audio format. How did we find their service? Was the process of creating an audiobook uncomplicated and fun? What was it like auditioning voice actors to narrate our novels? Is there anything we can do better? They were joined by their UK Audible counterparts, plus representatives from the UK Kindle Direct Publishing Team.

Invitees were asked to bring along a fellow author to keep them company and to help eat all the food on offer. I brought John Paul Davis – author of The Templar Agenda – and together we met up with David Leadbeater – author of the Matt Drake Thriller series – plus his guest Alan McDermott – author of the Tom Gray series.

Killing Hope by Keith HoughtonThe Templar Agenda by John Paul DavisThe Bones of Odin by David LeadbeaterGray Justice by Alan McDermott

The luncheon lasted a good three hours, giving everyone in attendance plenty of time to put faces to names and to discuss personal experiences using the Audiobook Creation Exchange. Kindle Direct PublishingAs I’d already discovered with my previous dealings with the lovely KDP Team, the folks from Audible were equally amiable and completely supportive of our positions as Indie Authors. This is the absolute best thing about working with Amazon: they are a pleasure to deal with, they listen, they are genuinely interested in you as a writer, and they are anything but snooty.

Since my first foray into the audiobook market has apparently done well, I was asked Killing Hope - Audiobookto speak about my experience using ACX and the ways in which I’d promoted my creation. Nerves aside, it was great to share and to hopefully get other Indie Authors on board with the brilliant ACX program.

All in all, it was a real pleasure meeting some of my fellow writers, together with the ACX Teams from both sides of the Atlantic. We had a fantastic time and I can’t wait until we do it all again!

Thank you KDP and Audible for all your support and for the invite!

The Four Kindleers - Dave Leadbeater, John Paul Davis, Alan McDermott and Me.

The Four Kindleers – Dave Leadbeater, John Paul Davis, Alan McDermott and Me.

To learn more about the various Amazon Publishing platforms, please go here:

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)  |  Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX)

:-)

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Gabe Has Found His Voice!

It’s been four months in the making, but I’m thrilled to announce that “Killing Hope” – (Gabe Quinn Thriller #1) is now available in audio format as a downloadable audiobook from Amazon, Audible and iTunes, and it sounds absolutely amazing!

The narrator, David Doersch, has done an excellent job of fleshing out the characters, individualizing their voices and, of course, staying true to Gabe’s roots by giving him an earthy Memphis accent. It’s like the whole book has enjoyed a new lick of paint and is now brighter and bolder than ever!

In preparation for the recording, “Hope” underwent a complete refit. I made editorial changes to the manuscript to enhance the audio experience. Nothing too drastic, just a little fine-tuning here and there to allow the spoken words to flow much more smoothly off of the tongue. The updated version features a brand new Prologue, with some scenes I deemed surplus-to-requirement being removed. The end result is tighter, fresher and spectacular. In fact, the recording has created an exciting new dimension to the book by coloring characters and injecting real feeling into the narration. It’s like “Hope” has been given a whole new lease of life and she’s much sprightlier for it!

Take a listen to the first 15 minutes here:


As the print version is chunky, the audiobook is lengthy, running just short of 13 hours, which is plenty of time for the listener to immerse themselves totally in the experience. And it’s addictive. What becomes apparent as the story unfolds is that everything feels bigger – the locations, the players, the plots – making this audio version essential listening for every Gabe Quinn enthusiast.

To download from Amazon: USUK 

To download from Audible: USUKAUDEFR

To download from iTunes: search ‘Keith Houghton’ or ‘Killing Hope’ in the Store

Thank You for all Your support!

Please Note: Should you wish to take advantage of the Whispersync for Voice service, be sure to go to your Kindle Manager in your online Amazon Account and download the latest version of the eBook to your Kindle library. This way, you can normally pick up the audiobook at a vastly reduced price compared to normal.

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3 Milestones in 3 Months

So far, 2014 has thrown up a few really nice surprises from out of the blue, not least of which are three major milestones in my self-publishing career. Just in case you have a life and missed them, here they are in their entirety – so grab yourself a cup of tea and some dark glasses and get to it …

#1 Kindle Newsletter

In January, I had the honour of appearing in the Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter, which went out as an email to everyone registered with KDP. The article was designed to introduce me to fellow independent authors, to give a little insight into my background and hopefully to inspire . . .

KDP Author Keith Houghton

Keith Houghton, author of Killing Hope, shares his experiences with KDP.

<ember Spotlight“I was banging on publishers’ doors for 30 years before Kindle Direct Publishing opened theirs. Like most aspiring authors, I thought of self-publishing as a cottage industry, mostly tainted by mothballs. My feet were planted firmly in the traditional agent-to-publisher route, mapped out with dead-ends and rejection slips. Naively, I believed if my writing was good enough then it would sell. What I didn’t gamble on were the odds being stacked against me. To get an agent, open a publisher’s door, so many things–all beyond my control–had to line up just right. The key was finding an agent who believed in my work. It took three decades and dozens of hopeful letters to get a foot in the door, and even then, it closed at the final step.

“I believe everything happens for a reason.

“I broke with convention and looked into KDP. The Kindle was the new kid on the block. It offered a means for unknowns like me to get my work in front of readers, fast. But I didn’t know what to expect. Amazon was in the throes of giving self-publishing a facelift–revolutionizing reading in the same way the jukebox popularized music. It was exciting but daunting. What if it didn’t work out? What if it was a flash in the pan? People don’t believe me when I say I’m shy. The thought of exposing my work to public scrutiny was scary. Worse than that, the fear of not selling a single book was a reality check.

“I bit the bullet and launched my first crime thriller Killing Hope through KDP in November 2011.

As it turned out, it was the best career decision I ever made.

“Within two months, Killing Hope had hit the Top 20 in the U.S. Kindle Store and reached the #1 spot in its categories internationally. Sales were exceeding all my expectations. Better yet, I was getting plenty of reader feedback and using it to shape my future books.

“And I was kicking myself for not taking the plunge sooner! I have ditched my day job and now write full-time. KDP’s versatility means I can edit my books, update their stats, and choose pricing promotions on my own schedule. KDP Select is like having my very own publicist working full-time behind-the-scenes, free of charge. Enrolling in KDP Select opened new doors for me and my books. Not only can I schedule zero-price book promotions to help boost sales, my books also attract great royalties on borrows through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. For writers like me, it is a win-win all-round. Running regular KDP Select giveaway events on my Gabe Quinn thrillers gave them unparalleled exposure, resulting in a quarter of a million downloads worldwide, 100,000 of which were actually paid sales.

“I am in complete control of my writing career. What’s more, I get the kind of royalty rate unseen in the rest of the publishing world. But perhaps the best thing in KDP’s favor for me is the absence of literary snobbery. Anyone with a story can publish it and have people on the other side of the planet reading it the next day.

“Your only judge is your readership.

And that’s the way it should be.”

--Keith Houghton

#2 London Author Fair

In February, I was invited to join the Amazon KDP and CreateSpace team at the UK’s first London Author Fair, held at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden, London.

This all-day event was put together by Authoright and designed to unite authors with publishing ideas in one venue.

Over 200 authors attended.

photo courtesy of LAF14 and authoright

photo courtesy of LAF14 and authoright

As well as being ‘on call’ at the Amazon booth for the whole of the day (to answer author questions) I also took part in two 1-hour Q&A podium sessions, giving fellow authors the low-down on my experiences with Amazon’s KDP and CreateSpace platforms, and how I’ve been able to use their tools to create reader visibility.

The day was a great success for all involved. Authoright and their Partners did a wonderful job of organizing the event and providing knowledgeable panels of experts. The event was full of great advice and publishing tips from industry representatives.

The Hospital Club – Covent Garden

My sincerest thanks go to everyone who helped make the day memorable and special – especially the KDP team for their kindness and humour. Great job guys! :)

#3 Amazon Gateway

In March, my self-publishing “story” was featured on the UK Amazon Gateway (the Amazon homepage), visible to any and all Amazon visitors. It remained high-profile for 2 weeks . . .

A self-proclaimed shy person, Keith Houghton isn’t normally one to enthuse publically, but the success he’s seen as a self-published author so far has totally exceeded his expectations and he says he’s “over the moon”.

“As far back as I remember I wanted to be a writer, closely followed by an astronaut, nuclear physicist and brain surgeon, or preferably all three, which I could then write about,” Keith says. “When I was 14, my English teacher told me that I’d never make it as a science fiction writer; she said she was tired of reading those stories.” With a passion for the genre instigated by watching Star Wars when he was 11, Keith ignored this advice and finished his first science fiction novel when he was 18. “At that age, I thought the world was my oyster,” Keith remembers. “I just assumed that one of the publishers I sent the book to would buy it and I’d be rich.” But that life-changing phone call never arrived and Keith put his writing on the back burner to focus on “real life”.

Real life for Keith meant having a family and working as a retail manager, but when he was made redundant he decided to start writing again. Unfortunately, sending his new science fiction novels to agents simply resulted in more rejection letters. “At that point I started a new venture repairing computers to pay the bills,” Keith says. “I carried on writing, but I was still far from fulfilling my dream of making a living as an author.”

Following his teacher’s advice

It was only when he hit his 40s that Keith decided to listen to his old English teacher’s advice and try something new. “In one of my science fiction novels there was a flashback to a crime noir scene. My partner said that she’d always liked that part so we hammered out the idea for a crime novel, which would become Killing Hope (A Gabe Quinn Thriller).”

Keith had heard about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and decided to give it a go. “I launched Killing Hope in November 2011 and decided to promote it using one of the five free promotional days as part of KDP Select in the following January.” He wasn’t expecting much, but it hit the top five in the free charts in both the US and the UK in one day and suddenly people all around the world were downloading his book.

The free promotion ended, but the paid sales continued growing. “Over those few days, Killing Hope was selling like hot cakes,” Keith exclaims. “I was at my daughter’s house when it first got into the Kindle top 100 in the US and UK at the same time and I was absolutely giddy. It also reached number one in its category. I couldn’t believe it; it felt like I’d won the lottery.” Keith has now loaded the second and third volumes of his Gabe Quinn series to Kindle and to Amazon’s bookstore, using Amazon’s print on demand service, CreateSpace. “I love the flexibility that self-publishing brings,” Keith remarks. “I also really value the feedback from readers, which allows me to adapt my writing to make sure it’s what people want to read.”

A whole new life

“Self-publishing my book has changed my life completely,” Keith says. “Amazon’s high royalty rates mean that I am making 10 times more as an author than I was with my computer repair business. It’s allowed me to think about things that I’ve never been able to before, like buying a new car and putting a deposit down on a new house.”

For Keith, this is living the dream, but he still wants to go back to his first love of science fiction. “I’m currently writing a stand-alone thriller and want to continue my Gabe Quinn series, but in the future I’d love to dip back into science fiction: I hope the learnings that I’ve had with KDP will help me to write the book my teacher always wanted to read. In a way, that would make everything complete.”

See my Gateway Story on Amazon here “Crime Pays For Self-Published Author”

I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who made the first three months of 2014 an amazing experience! :)

A Royal Engagement?

Looking forward to what the next three months have in store …… In the meantime, don’t forget to :-

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“Killing Hope” in Amazon’s Best Kindle Books of 2013

My hat’s off to Gabe Quinn. It’s been a great year for the Celebrity Cop cum FBI consultant with a badge in more ways than one.

October saw the highly-anticipated new release of his third instalment – in the form of “Taking Liberty“, which was favourably received by his fans – and his first outing, “Killing Hope“, enjoyed a Top 10 slot in the Amazon UK Kindle Store for almost the entire month, culminating in the #4 position.

For a large chunk of the month, the #1, #2 and #3 slots in Hard-Boiled were occupied by GQ1, GQ2 and GQ3, in that order, with all 3 in the Police Procedurals Top 10.

Now he’s managed to land himself a place in the Top 150 Best Books of 2013 as chosen by the Kindle Editors at Amazon UK. Nice going, Gabe! Hope you get the tee-shirt to go with it!

You can check out the Top 150 Editor’s Picks here, and see the kind of company Gabe’s keeping these days. Hope he doesn’t get too big for his boots! :-

In other news, “Taking Liberty” is now in paperback format at Amazon. This means all three Gabe Quinn Thrillers are now available in both Kindle and Print formats, exclusively at Amazon Marketplace – the perfect bookends for all you Gabe junkies out there!

As for me, I’m currently putting together a new standalone thriller, which I’m hoping to start writing in the New Year. I promise to keep you all updated as things develop!

Meanwhile, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who have supported both me and my writing this last year – by email or by Facebook – you know who you are! Your friendships are valued and your kindness is sincerely appreciated!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy 2014!

Take care,
Keith :)

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Introducing – Author Interviews

Some time ago, I set about adding Author Interviews to the keithhoughton.com website – partly to give new and emerging Indie Authors a voice for their fans, but mostly to introduce them to you, my own readership.

Although there are just a handful at the moment, I’m hoping that the number of participating authors will contrinue to grow over the coming months and years, as new voices enter the stage.

In the meantime, please check out their interviews when you have a moment. You never know, you may learn something interesting about one of your favourite Indie Authors.

You can read all the interviews here >>>

If you know of any aspiring authors who would like to participate, please ask them to drop me a line to contact@keithhoughton.com

Thanks … and happy reading!

 

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An Englishman in Cebu

On returning from a typhoon trip to the Philippines to visit family I am struck with the deafening realisation that England has become deathly quiet in my absence. The streets are empty, the pavements spacious and the verges clutter-free. A warm sun shines happily from a perfect Spring sky. There could be a zombie uprising round the corner, but I’m too jetlagged to go take a look. This is not the England I left behind just a few weeks ago. That England was hectic, with traffic-crammed roads and a pace of life so fast it made Usain Bolt look pedestrian.

Where are all the jostling jeepneys, the manic motorbikes and the hoots of horns? Where are the mango trees, the crispy dogs and all the smiling people?

Blink twice and take a deep breath. This is not the Philippines. Jetlag plays havoc with the senses. My consciousness is stretched around half the planet while my circadian system is wondering why I’m eating an evening meal at two in the morning. The only thing worse about travelling 7000 miles one-way, crossing 19 countries and passing through 8 time zones is the wearying flights. I am not one of those people who can cheerfully sleep on board a plane, curled like a baby around the armrest, with those fashionable eye masks and matching flight socks making me look like a Halloween reject. 48 hours without sleep is still a bad movie.

Blink. Blink again. And breathe.

Two weeks back, heading for Cebu at the heart of the Philippines, I didn’t know what to expect. In fact, I make a point of not expecting – that way I am rarely disappointed. Until my daughter had moved out there a year ago with my twin granddaughters, the Philippines had never really factored in my everyday life. I knew where it was – out in Asia on the Ring of Fire, teetering on the Pacific rim. Knew there were over 100 million Filipinos and Filipinas in a country whose dominant religion was Catholic. Knew that English was widely spoken and that I had to grin and bear umpteen vaccinations before being given the green light to go.

What I didn’t know was how much I didn’t know.

The cultural diversity smacked me in the face like a custard pie. From the moment we touched down at Mactan airport to the second we took off on a bustling ride through the busy Mandaue streets and on into heaving Cebu City. No hiding it. No trying to. Five-star hotels sitting shoulder to shoulder with shanty dwellings. Americanised shopping malls with more eateries than you could shake a French stick at, while homeless children begged for food outside. Flash sports cars being overtaken by rusty pedal cabs.

But after a few hours, the eye-battering, brain-numbing culture shock begins to ebb. You start getting used to the jumble of clashing styles. The westernised veil is drawn back. You start to see a societal structure supporting the shambolic surface. One that seems utterly alien, but somehow works.

For many, life here is without frills and even tough compared to my English homeland. But people seem happier here than back home. There is a stronger sense of community; something we have lost in the West in favour of wealth and status. This is how we used to live, before technology and Thatcherism blinkered us. Filipino families support each other. They invest their energies into their neighbourhoods. Strangers are generous with their smiles. They are genuinely happy to help. Suddenly, these pleasant people make my fellow Englishmen seem barbaric, shallow. People cook on the roadside, but it’s okay. Punters push Ray Ban fakes at the traffic lights, but it’s okay. There are block after block of street vendors feeding workers and commuters from corrugated iron facades, all across this crowded city, but it’s okay. Overflowing and garish tricabs transport locals, while air-conditioned taxis ferry tourists in fragranced cocoons, but it’s okay. It’s a mishmash of a place where the West crashes headlong into the East, and it’s all okay – from the toothless guys comparing cockerels outside McDonalds to the swanky Ford dealership rising amidst tin-roofed shacks, the Philippines is a reminder of how we used to be before everything went wrong, and what price we are still paying for our precious progress.

All at once, little Britain seems spacious, tidy. A big country on a small island, with structure and organisation. Where freedom is a liberty financially gifted by the State and poverty means having last year’s flat screen TV. But something is missing. Something we may never have again. It’s all very quiet. Too quiet. I think I can sense that zombie uprising just around the corner …

 

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How The Fonz and my Granddaughters Saved the Planet

“By the time I realised my father was right, I had a son telling me I was wrong.”
Henry Winkler

Every generation thinks it knows better than the last.
We thought it ourselves.
And live to hear it echoed by our kids.

It’s an enduring perception; thinking we know better than those who raised us.
Hardwired into the brain from birth and a thousand ancestors who never got to make it to a ripe old age.

It’s not their fault.

Just like our parents before us, we can blame the decline in society, bad parenting and even the TV. But when every negative influence is stripped away, all that is left is their primeval programming.

Inherited from us.

When I was young, I knew The Fonz as the happy-go-lucky rebel in the TV show Happy Days. Week in week out, the leather-jacketed Fonzie found every cool way he could to buck the system and show those old fuddy-duddy grown-ups that youth was king. In many ways, The Fonz was the voice of a generation. A social hero. The epitome of the youth-knows-best attitude – characterised throughout the ages by one incarnation of The Fonz or another.

Every generation has its own Fonzie voice. But essentially they all speak the same words. They all know best and they all want to reach the winning line first, knowing that those who have already passed it are indeed past it.

Despite their recklessness, they believe in the future. Their future. Very likely not the future we had in mind. But they know best. The future is theirs, remember. Not ours.

It’s frightening, letting go.

But there is hope.

I have seen it sparkling in the inquisitive eyes of my granddaughters.

Today, The Fonz – otherwise known as Henry Winkler – is a founding member of The Children’s Action Network and a voice for children with learning disabilities, especially those with dyslexia. Henry is dyslexic. So, too, was The Fonz. But it stopped neither from believing they could make a difference. Henry works with kids because he knows they are our future. To paraphrase Linda Creed’s timeless words, he believes that if we teach them well they will lead the way.

I can’t help admiring the man. The Fonz has come of age.

Now that my own children have reached the point where they know best, it’s tempting to think that the arrogance of youth will bring about the end of the world. That all those indomitable Fonzies will scupper society and plunge us back into the Dark Ages.

But then I have to remember that I am victim of the age-old dichotomy between adult mind and child brain. That my parents thought exactly the same way at my age. And that the only thing lost is our own youth.

The Fonz and my granddaughters have shown me the way.

Of course our kids will make mistakes. We did. Of course they’ll damage the planet. We did. But hopefully they’ll learn from their lessons and become better Human Beings, who will pass on their own words of wisdom to their kids and so on and so forth, generation after generation, just like we did.

Ironically, they too will go unheard.

In my book ‘Killing Hope’ the future seems lost with the death of a child. And indeed it is. For children are our future. In every sense. They are the candles lighting the way into tomorrow. Just like Mr Winkler, we should protect those flames and nurture them into blazing fires.

So next time I draw a big sigh when my son or daughter corrects me, or points out ‘that’s not how it is these days’ I’ll make a point of picturing a grown-up Fonzie, surrounded by happy children, with his big thumbs turned skywards and that crazy confident ‘trust me, I know what I’m doing’ grin creasing his joyful face.

I trust the Fonzies and my granddaughters to do a good job.
To become responsible custodians of the planet.
Their future is ours.

You never know, they may do a better job of it than us!

“Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
Linda Creed

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