Thursday, 6 December 2012

Tesco Chart, Signings, and Book No.2!

It's been a while since I've last blogged, but it's been a busy few weeks!

Most recently, ORIGIN has been released in Tesco superstores nationwide, and is currently at position 23 in the Paperback Chart! Exciting stuff, and just two places behind The Lord of the Rings!


Also, my second novel has just been bought by Headline Publishing, with a potential release date of October 2013 - great news!!! I can't say much more about it at the moment, but it will be an extremely fast-paced action conspiracy thriller in the same vein as Origin. I will post more details as and when they are available!

I have also been doing various book signings around the north of England, and it's been great to get out there and meet readers. It's been a real pleasure so far, and I'm looking forward to all the others that are lined up over the next few weeks - Manchester Waterstones (8th December), Harrogate Waterstones (5th January), York Waterstones (12th January), Sheffield Meadowhall Waterstones (19th January) and Leeds Waterstones (26th January). If you can make one, I'd be delighted to meet you!

Below are a few pictures from the book tour so far:

Book Launch - Waterstones Bradford, 27th October:


Saltaire Bookshop, 1st November:


Otley Health and Martial Arts, 3rd November:


Waterstones Nottingham, 24th November:


WHSmith Harrogate, 1st December:


Waterstones Sheffield Meadowhall Park Lane, 6th December:



In addition, I was also interviewed last week for BBC Radio Wales' book show, 'Phil the Shelf', with Phil Rickman. The show was broadcast on Sunday (2nd December), but is available from BBC iPlayer until 9th December. The show is about 'apocalyptic fiction' and is very interesting - my piece starts at about 4mins 40secs: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p44tv.

Right, now I need to get cracking on book number two!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

'Murder At The Heights' Headline Event

Last night (7th November), I attended Headline Publishing's 'Murder At The Heights' event, hosted by Headline to celebrate their crime and thriller writers.

The event was held at 'The Heights', an extremely chic restaurant/bar on the 15th floor of the St George's Hotel on Regent Street in London.


Headline put on a great event, with rooms turned into crime scenes (complete with police tape), people dressed up as cops, and a particularly fun photo booth where everyone spent plenty of time with the clothes and props!

There was a great cross-section of the industry there, including journalists, retailers, bloggers, agents, authors, and the Headline team themselves. There were around twenty authors in attendance, including Claire McGowan, Martina Cole, and Karen Rose - who travelled all the way from Florida!


The event was a huge success, and everyone seemed to have a great time. I hate to think what the bar tab was!

I would just like to thank Headline for hosting the event, and for inviting me. I am already looking forward to the next one!


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Launch Party at Waterstones Bradford 'THE WOOL EXCHANGE'

The book launch for my début novel ORIGIN was very enjoyable!

It was held at Waterstones Bradford, which is - according to many - the UK's most beautiful bookshop.

The store itself is in the old Wool Exchange Building (pictures below!), built when Bradford was a very prosperous and rich city, which is why this building is so beautifully constructed. It was a real pleasure to be able to hold the launch party there.

As seen on the pictures in my previous post, we had quite a good turnout and many books were sold and signed. My editor Alexander Hope and my publicist Ben Willis came over from Headline Publishing in London to celebrate the book release, and it was great to see them there.

Alexander gave a speech about ORIGIN (he said many nice things!), which was followed by my own short speech.  

Drinks were served and, of course, ORIGIN: The Cake(!), courtesy of my Mum (thank you!).

For a bit of light entertainment, we decided to make a play from ORIGIN. I had prepared some short dialogue scenes from the book, and we got volunteers to act it out! There were some future Oscar nominees in attendance, I'm sure!

Afterwards, as it was a day event and children were also attending we had an after-party in a local pub - the historic City Vaults just opposite Waterstones - where drinks and snacks were served. 

I just wanted to add a big THANK YOU to all the guests who attended, the Waterstones staff, my Mum for the cake, Alexander and Ben for coming from London, Headline Publishing for sponsoring drinks and food, the staff at City Vaults, and my wife for being such a great event runner!




Saturday, 27 October 2012

ORIGIN LAUNCH PARTY - Video and Pics!

Here is a video and some images for today's launch party for ORIGIN at Waterstones Bradford - full report to follow tomorrow!


video






















Friday, 26 October 2012

Competition!!!

With the publication of ORIGIN yesterday, I will be offering a FREE SIGNED COPY to the winner of a little contest!

To win, you just need to take a picture of ORIGIN in a bookshop. Be imaginative, and amusing if possible! Send the pics via twitter (@JTBrannan_) or facebook (www.facebook.com/jtbrannanbooks), and I will pick my favourite!

Closing date for entries is Sunday 4th November.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

PUBLICATION DAY OF ORIGIN!!!

Well, today was the big day - publication of my début novel, ORIGIN!

It's been a bit of a blur, but I found myself at WHSmith's in Harrogate this afternoon, where I was delighted to find I had entered the paperback bestseller chart at 101 on my first day!


It was an auspicious moment - the first time I've seen my book in a shop! To say it was exciting was an understatement, and finally brought home to me that it is really happening!

After signing the copies they had in the store, I returned home to find that the team at Headline Publishing (including my editor Alexander Hope and my publicist Ben Willis) had sent me flowers to celebrate - a very nice surprise!


In fact, everyone has been lovely, and I've received some wonderful messages of support - thanks to all!

I also saw an excellent independent review of ORIGIN today, from the US (www.cncbooks.com/blog):


As the saying goes, “Whoa, doggies!” If you’re looking for a nice, gentle read that leaves you with a feeling of comfort and peace, Origin by J.T. Brannan is not the book you want. If, on the other hand, you have a yen for a thriller that leaves you pretty nearly breathless on every page, then grab this and go curl up in a comfy chair.
There are thrillers and then there are thrillers. This is the kind that takes you on a wild action adventure ride of improbabilities and I loved every minute of it (well, maybe not so much the scene with the teeth). Lynn Edwards and Matt Adams, two characters I have to say have been added to my list of favorites, are perfectly suited to each other and kudos to the author for making them true equals in intelligence and abilities even though their strengths are different. They complement each other .
They also have luck, a lot of it, and it’s both kinds. Just when you think the bad guys are going to get the best of them, they manage to pull the fat out of the fire but the truth is the bad guys are insanely capable of winning the day. Conspiracy, mad scientists, corrupt government and incredible chase scenes abound but how can you have a good thriller without them? Throw in a bit of science fiction and international intrigue and a dash of pre-history and you’ve got a wild few hours of pure entertainment ahead of you.
And, my goodness, what a heck of a twist at the end.
I quite simply love this book. There’s no question you have to suspend your disbelief but, hey, that’s what a great action adventure thriller is all about, isn’t it? I do have one grumble—I would really like to see Lynn and Adam again but Mr. Brannan says he doesn’t intend to have a sequel, at least, not anytime in the near future. Oh well, I’ll just have to look forward to his next book even if they won’t be there. I think the wait will be well worth it.
One last note—if you’re one of those readers who just has to peek at the end to see what’s going to happen, DON’T DO IT! I promise you’ll regret it because the last few pages will ruin the book for you. I’m not kidding.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2012.

All in all, a fantastic first day! And I still have the Book Launch party at Waterstones Bradford Wool Exchange to look forward to - this Saturday, 27th October, from 1pm onwards - all welcome!!!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Official Trailer for ORIGIN!

Exciting news yesterday as my editor sent me the official trailer for ORIGIN, from the awesome marketing team at Headline Publishing!

Please check it out below!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf_TC0us4yk&feature=youtu.be


Monday, 15 October 2012

BOOK LAUNCH PARTY!

It's now less than two weeks to the release of ORIGIN, and the book launch party has been confirmed - it will be at Waterstones Bradford in the spectacular Wool Exchange building (see picture below!), on Saturday 27th October, from 1pm to 3pm.



There will be wine and snacks, and hopefully some of the Headline Publishing team will be making the trip up North! There will also - of course! - be plenty of nice new copies of ORIGIN, just in time for Christmas!

Everyone is welcome, I hope to see you there!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Upcoming Events

Well, less than a month to go! ORIGIN will hit the shops in just three short weeks, on the 25th October - scary stuff!

Events are now being arranged in the lead-up to publication, which include the following -

Monday 8th October, 3pm - Radio Interview on BBC Radio York (103.7 or 104.3 FM)

Thursday 1st November, 7.00pm - Book Signing at Saltaire Bookshop (http://www.saltairebookshop.com/)

Other signings and events will also hopefully be arranged soon, I will keep you posted!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Day in the Life of a Thriller Writer - A Short Film

Ever wondered what happens behind the closed doors of a thriller writer?

Wonder no more!

My lovely wife has put together some home video footage into a short, light-hearted look behind the scenes!

I hope you enjoy it!


Monday, 3 September 2012

First Quote for ORIGIN!

As I mentioned in a previous post, advance review copies have recently been sent out for ORIGIN, prior to publication in October.

I'm delighted to have just received my first quote for the book! The following was sent to my editor by Simon Toyne, bestselling author of SANCTUS and THE KEY:

'ORIGIN is a thrill a minute ride of a book. It's like Brannan has taken every conspiracy trope (and to name them would teeter into Spoilerville, so I won't), then shaken them up into a tasty cocktail that slips down easy, leaving you feeling pleasantly light-headed and wanting another.'

Not only a really great quote, but from a fantastic author!

Now to see if we've got time to put it on the jacket before the book goes to print - fingers crossed!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Getting the Book on the Shelves

Matt Hilton (author of the Joe Hunter series; his latest, NO GOING BACK, has just been released in paperback) made a recent Facebook post about authors getting shelf space for their books, and what a problem it was unless they were already a famous 'name'.

This is an interesting subject, and one I was quite ignorant of before getting a publishing deal myself. I had always naively assumed that if a mainstream publisher took a book on, it was pretty much guaranteed space on the shelves of all major book shops. It turns out that this is far from the case however, and getting a new book from a début author into the stores is rather more problematic than I had hoped.

There are many outlets that sell books - independent book stores, chains such as Waterstones, other retail giants such as WH Smith, supermarket chains, as well as many on-line retailers such as Amazon. If we forget the on-line retailers for a moment, and look at the traditional bookshop, what do we see when we walk through the door? Displays aimed to show off the latest from the more high-profile authors, which have many copies available. And if your book isn't there, it's already an uphill battle.

And then - because of the prominent space, marketing, and amount of copies available for the 'major' books - they will naturally sell more copies, which will push them onto the 'best-seller' lists, which then garners them more publicity and additional shelf space.

From the point of view of the retailer, this makes sound business sense, of course. Authors that are already popular and have a good 'track record' make good bets for investment - the business will probably continue to make money from their subsequent books, and will therefore push those over less well established authors.

So where does that leave the début author? It is not so easy as the publishing house announcing that they have a new book coming out, and the retailers all demanding the right to stock it. The début author is an unknown quantity after all - maybe the book will make money, maybe it won't. It is not a sure bet, and retailers are therefore understandably cautious.

The publisher therefore needs to try and convince retailers to take the book. And sometimes they are successful, and sometimes they aren't. And if they are, future success may depend on how many copies a retailer takes, and where in the bookshop the title is placed. For example, even if a large chain such as Waterstones decides to stock a book nationwide, but only to place one copy on the alphabetical shelves of 'general fiction', huge sales are unlikely to result. After all (except for the author's family and friends), who is to know it's there at all? But at least it is there, and there is always the chance of word of mouth generating more sales.

If the publisher puts a lot of money into publicity and marketing (not so common in today's cash-strapped times) things are generally better - good customer visibility will generate and improve sales, which will then hopefully prompt further improvement. But if this is not forthcoming, the outlook can be dark.

This reinforces itself when it comes time for the publisher to market and sell the author's second book. Because retailers go on 'track record', they will look at the author's début sales figures. But if that book wasn't displayed visibly (or sometimes just not stocked at all), then sales won't be anything but poor, and the retailer will not take the second book either.

A Catch-22, it would seem!

But there is always hope, and début authors should never despair. It is important that we believe strongly in the quality of what we have written, and hope that this alone will cause people to sit up and take notice, marketing or no marketing. As I said earlier, word of mouth is a powerful thing!

And while the book business is a business like any other, with the bottom line being all-important, it is also true that retailers are always on the lookout for good début novels to stock - because the 'next big thing' might just come from anywhere!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

First Advance Copies Received!


What an exciting day - first advance reading copies of ORIGIN arrived in the post today!

This is the first time I've seen the 'finished product' (although such early copies are labelled 'uncorrected proofs' as they haven't gone through the final copy editing process, and may still contain printing errors), and I am delighted. At last, it's a real book!

It's still not really sunk in yet though, to be honest. I've wanted to have a book published ever since being a young boy, and now it's arrived, it somehow still doesn't seem real. Awesome definitely, but surreal - almost as if it's been written by someone else. Maybe it will finally sink in when it hits the shops in October!

These early copies are produced in advance of full publication so that they can be distributed to reviewers, journalists, bloggers, book shops, buyers for bookselling chains, and other people in the industry.

Additionally, copies are sent out to other authors in the hope that they will write some nice comments for the jacket. In the case of ORIGIN - due to the very quick publication schedule - any such comments probably won't be received in time to make it onto the front cover. But - if we do get any nice ones! - they will certainly appear on bookselling websites, and in future reprints of the novel. Apparently the percentage of authors that do make comments is very low, but we live in hope!

If anyone reading this blog is interested in getting a copy for reviewing purposes, please contact the following people at Headline Publishing -

Publicity enquiries - Ben Willis - 020 7873 6491
Marketing enquiries - Vicky Palmer - 020 7873 6110


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Sale to France!

Just had word this morning that ORIGIN has sold to France, which is a notoriously difficult country in which to get a translation deal!

It will be published by Orbit, an imprint of Calmann Levy, one of the most prestigious publishing houses in France.

This takes translation sales up to seven countries now - Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, China, Japan and France - and it's still three moths from UK release!

Merci beaucoup!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival 2012

Just had a fantastic few days at the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, at the Old Swan in Harrogate - conveniently, only about fifteen minutes from my house!

It was the tenth anniversary of the festival, and with over 12,000 tickets sold, it really is one of the premier literary events in the country (and perhaps the biggest crime writing festival in the world?).

Thursday was the opening night party, with the announcement made for the TOP Crime Novel of the Year Award. This was a popular victory for Denise Mina and The End of the Wasp Season, who won over stiff competition from SJ Bolton, Chris Brookmyre, John Connolly, Steve Mosby and SJ Watson. Colin Dexter also won a deserved lifetime achievement award, and took to the stage to give a lively (and very amusing) speech.

I attended the party with my wife, and it gave us a chance to meet some of the Headline staff, who were also up for the weekend. It was the first time I had met my publicist Ben Willis, and fellow Headline author Stephen Dunne (The Reaper), and it was also great to see my editor Alexander Hope again (although I think we consumed a few too many pints of Old Peculiar for our own good!).

The next night was the Headline dinner, which was preceded by parties hosted by Hodder and Little, Brown. The latter was held in the 'Speigeltent' just a short walk from the hotel, and was very atmospheric! The dinner itself was really good, and it was nice to meet some other Headline authors - Jason Dean (The Wrong Man), GJ Moffat (Protection) and Christopher Radmann (Held Up). Amanda Kyle Williams (Stranger in the Room) had also flown over from Atlanta for the festival, and it was great to see her at the dinner.

The next afternoon my family and I met up for lunch with our good friend, crime writer Elly Griffiths (whose début novel The Crossing Places was nominated for the TOP Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2010). She's such a lovely lady, and our children didn't want to leave her!

My wife and I met up with Elly for drinks in the bar that same evening, before the Come Die With Me murder mystery dinner, at which she was hosting a table. Our own table was hosted by Amanda Kyle Williams, which was nice as we had just met the night before. The murder mystery element was created by Ann Cleaves, and was based on her latest 'Vera' novel, The Glass Room. It certainly caused some head scratching!

Even harder was the Late Night Quiz, at which my wife and I joined the Headline team (the Quizee Rascals). I would like to say that we did well (or even quite well would have been nice), but I'm afraid this would be an out and out lie! Still, it was great fun!

We then retired to the hotel bar until the early hours of the morning (thanks to my parents for babysitting!), where we met and chatted to writers, publishers, editors, agents, buyers, journalists and reviewers - interesting, to say the least! I even managed to steal some words with the legendary Harlan Coben, who had flown over from the US for the festival, and discovered that he is an extremely pleasant chap indeed.

All in all, the festival was a great opportunity to connect with others in the publishing industry, as well being a great deal of fun. I'm looking forward to next year already!

Monday, 9 July 2012

'Real' Books and E-Readers - An Opinion!

A couple of weeks ago I posted a question on Twitter - if you were stranded on a desert island and could only take one book, what would it be?

The range of answers was vast (only 'Robinson Crusoe' and 'The Lord of the Rings' appeared more than once), but it was also interesting that a couple of people said they would take their Kindle. When quizzed about the battery, and lack of electricity on a desert island, it seemed that solar power would be the answer!

But this amusing 'cheat answer' led me to consider some of the intrinsic differences between e-readers and the real thing. It seems that e-readers provide a service, in much the same way as a Sky box does with television. And, like with the satellite receiver, if there's no power, there's no service! A book, on the other hand, is an object in and of itself, and stands on its own merits, not reliant on anything else.

Which leads me on to what is perhaps wrong with the 'bricks and mortar' book-selling industry at the moment, and why it is losing so much ground to its electronic counterpart. If we think of a book as an object, then we should expect something of quality for our hard-earned money, and not just in its content, but in its presentation and physical appearance too.


As the founder of the Hay Festival, Richard Florence, said recently, "I think it's impossible for anyone in Britain to argue for the artefact of the book because we just make c**p books."


And I think he's probably right - for if we see the physical book as an 'object of desire', perhaps the one true advantage it has over its e-book version, then it stands to reason that it should actually be physically desirable, and this is sadly often not the case.


On a recent trip to Poland, I was struck by the high quality of the paperbacks on offer. The novel below had a much better cover than its UK equivalent, with a vivid 3D effect, and flaps on the front and rear as you would find on a hardback book here. The quality of the paper used throughout was also streets apart, and it was not just in this novel, but in every single book I saw!




I'm not sure if it is due to the high physical quality of books on offer, but e-readers are not catching on in Poland (or, indeed, in many other parts of Europe and the wider world) as they are in the UK and the US. Circumstantial evidence perhaps, but food for thought!


I am not against e-readers or e-books at all, but if publishers and booksellers want to know how to get people back to buying 'real' books, the answer is simple - MAKE THEM MORE ATTRACTIVE, AND OF HIGHER QUALITY!


People will then see them as something to 'own', perhaps for a lifetime, rather than to just 'use' and then throw away.


I would welcome your thoughts on the matter!




Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Foreign Rights

ORIGIN is currently being submitted for sale to foreign territories, and I am delighted that agreements have so far been made to translate and publish in the following countries:

Germany (Luebbe)

Russia (Azbooka-Atticus)

Czech Republic (Euromedia)

China (Hachette-Phoenix)

Bulgaria (Pro Books)

I am really pleased that the take-up in foreign territories is so good, as hopefully this indicates that ORIGIN has a universal appeal. Hopefully more deals will be made soon!


ORIGIN has also just been made available on Kindle from Amazon - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Origin-ebook/dp/B008FQ15RI/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341347083&sr=1-1.

Also exciting is the fact that proof copies of the novel should be ready in three or four weeks, which will be the first time I'll see it in print. I can't wait!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Early look at the cover of ORIGIN!

Here it is! An early look at the front cover of my novel ORIGIN!
Hope you like it!


The Editing Process

I've just finished the copy edit of ORIGIN, and I thought it might be interesting to describe the various processes a novel has to go through before it is published, as there are a lot!

In terms of my own book, there have been the following stages (so far!):

  1. I wrote several synopses and submitted them to my agent, Luigi Bonomi of LBA
  2. Luigi and I mutually agreed which one I should write
  3. I then wrote a more detailed synopsis
  4. I met with Luigi to discuss and fine-tune it
  5. I then planned and wrote the novel
  6. Next, I edited the first draft before sending it to Luigi
  7. He and a colleague made suggestions for changes, which I incorporated
  8. I edited it again, before it was sent out
  9. After it was sold to Headline, my editor Alexander Hope made further suggestions
  10. I then incorporated his changes into the novel
  11. It then went to the copy editor, who made further changes
  12. I then hand-adjusted the manuscript with my own changes to this copy edited version
This is the stage it is at now, and there will still be a further stage of checks before the proofs are produced prior to publication.

It is amazing what a team effort producing a novel is, very unlike how I imagined it in my boyhood! 

But I really think such a process leads to much better work. Often it is difficult to see the wood for the trees if you are just writing on your own, and mistakes can often get missed. With a collaborative effort, the standard of work naturally becomes more professional, and hopefully the finished product reflects this!

That being said, mistakes can still creep in, but I now know that this is certainly never through a lack of effort!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Conflict and Story

It is my firm belief that the essence of any story can be summed up in one word - CONFLICT. Without conflict, there is no story.

To see what I mean by this, take any well-known piece of work and remove the conflict, and examine the result. Let's take the Harry Potter series as a example - a young boy from a happy, secure background of expert wizards is groomed from birth to be a great wizard; he goes to Hogwarts, studies hard, graduates with flying colours, and lives happily ever after. I think if JK Rowling had written it in this way, the series probably wouldn't have sold in the hundreds of millions!

This is because a story without conflict is not a story, it is a description of a slice of a character's life. A story needs to be something more than this for it to qualify as such - it needs to take the reader on a journey.

How to achieve this? Let's look at a writer who has a single protagonist. This character needs a goal - what is he or she trying to achieve? If there is no obvious answer, this will be a major problem in creating a powerful story.

So the writer has now given the main character a goal. Now what? The writer cannot simply describe how that goal is achieved, for the reader will feel there is something lacking. The writer therefore needs to wire CONFLICT into every aspect of that character's journey, if it is to be interesting.

One large part of this will be - for want of a better word - the 'baddie'. This point was drummed home to me a short while ago by my three-year-old son. I was making up a bed-time story for him and my daughter, and half-way through, he stopped me. 'But where's the baddie?' he asked me. And he was right. There was no baddie, and therefore there was no story.

Now the 'baddie' doesn't have to be a 'villain' in the normal sense, but there should be one major source of conflict in the story that makes it hard for the protagonist to achieve his or her goal. It could be a character (as in many action thrillers), nature (wild weather, a natural disaster, fierce seas, an animal, etc), society itself (the character wants to achieve something that goes against societal norms), technology (robots, computers, etc), the supernatural (as in many ghost and horror stories), and even the self (an internal source of conflict, as in when the character's desires are at odds with their own morals or values).

When the main source of conflict has been identified, the writer will then need to make sure that conflict does not arise sporadically, just in the presence of that single source, but in every single scene.

Let's say the character needs to get from one location to another. The writer might compose a beautifully written scene to achieve this, describing the movement from the kitchen to the garage, how the engine sounds when it starts up, how the character then takes the car gently through the suburbs before opening it up on the wide country roads, and on and on.

Another option would be for the character to get into the car, try and turn the ignition key, and then be faced with a car that won't start. This is low-level conflict - the character wants to achieve something (get from A to B), and there is an impediment in his or her way.

Or two armed men in balaclavas could be waiting in the garage, as a more concrete impediment to the character's desires.

So the writer has a choice to make. With the first option, no matter how beautiful or wonderful the language used by that writer might be, the scene achieves nothing in the context of story. And so the writer either has to insert some conflict, some impediment to the protagonist's progress, or cut the scene altogether. If there is nothing to get in the character's way during the journey, the scene might as well open in the new location and do away with the journey itself.

So for the overall story, a writer should try and establish conflict through not only a protagonist, but also an antagonist. And then conflict should be further woven into every aspect of the work, every chapter, every scene.

A novel without conflict is merely a description of events - it is not a true story.

So please - don't forget the 'baddie'!


Sunday, 3 June 2012

New Website

My new website has launched today - www.jtbrannan.com - please have a look and let me know what you think!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Front Cover

I've been away on holiday for the past three weeks - hence the lack of posts - and upon my return, I had a very exciting email - a mock-up of the front cover for Origin!

Front covers are something of an art form - they not only have to grab a potential reader's attention in a visually dynamic way, they also have to convey the content of the novel in that single cover image. No easy task!

As well as the obvious excitement - my first cover! - I was also a little bit tentative. The big question, of course, was - will it be any good?

The answer, I am very happy to say, is a resounding 'yes'! In fact it's superb, the people at Headline have done an absolutely fantastic job on it, and I would like to thank each and every one of them!

I can't post the image at the moment, as it has yet to go through final approval, but you will definitely see it here first - watch this space!

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Origin of 'Origin'

One of the questions I get asked most often - now people know that I've written a novel - is 'how do you come up with the ideas?', so I thought it might be of interest to describe the process, using Origin as an example.

The germ of the idea came one night when my wife and I were sharing a bottle of wine. We were discussing various things surrounding genetic modification, and how lifespans would probably be artificially lengthened in the not too distant future, and how this would probably only be available for the rich. This would therefore perhaps create some kind of 'two tier' society, which led us on to create an entire future world in our heads, along with something of a story.

It was more of a pure sci-fi story however, and as this is not a genre I write in, the whole thing was relegated to the 'one day, maybe' file.

When my agent and I were later trying to sell my first book, the feedback we received was that straight action thrillers - unless you were already an established 'name' in the genre - weren't selling. We therefore decided to come up with another story, and so I went away and came up with a few different synopses.

One of these was a re-working of the story my wife and I had come up with some time before, but instead of making it a sci-fi adventure, I gave it a contemporary setting and a more thriller-orientated storyline. I kept much of the back-story of the previous idea, but the new synopsis could be more accurately described as an 'action thriller with a sci-fi twist'.

When I presented half a dozen synopses to my agent Luigi Bonomi, he instantly liked Origin and we decided that I would start work on this one - very exciting, as it was my favoured option, having been playing over in my head for some time now.

Interestingly, although there is almost none of the original story left in the novel, the impact of that evening's discussion with my wife is nevertheless felt throughout, and is the 'skeleton' upon which the new storyline is hung.

I think that this is often how stories originate, whether it's a book, a film, a TV show or a play. First there is the 'idea' - which might come from an article in a magazine or newspaper, an overheard conversation, or maybe something you've seen on the television (or even something that arises in discussion after a bottle of wine!) - and this is what sets the whole project in motion. 

More often than not, this idea might take the form of 'what if . . ?' For example, 'what if the world we think we know is actually a virtual reality construct, and we are really being kept as unwitting slaves?' (The Matrix); 'what if a human girl falls in love with a vampire?' (Twilight); 'what if a young science student is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains its powers?' (Spiderman).

We can see, however, that these 'ideas' are not stories in and of themselves - such an idea is merely an interesting concept, a possible scenario around which to build a story.

And so after you have come up with your exciting idea, then comes the forming of the story itself - something I will discuss in my next post!

Monday, 30 April 2012

First Media Interview!

I was at the studios of Bradford Community Broadcasting this morning, having been asked to come down for a radio interview about Origin - my first!

I have a link to Bradford as I was born there and also attended university there, so it was very nice that BCB was the location for my first interview.

I was asked to get there at 11.45am, and I was under the impression that it would be recorded and then replayed at a later date (or maybe I just hoped this was the case!). However, when my wife and I arrived, we were ushered immediately into the studio and told the song that was playing was on for another thirty seconds, and then we would be live! Still, at least this meant I didn't have time to get nervous . . .

I have attached my interview (which was not only my first on Origin, but my first of any kind, on any topic!) to this blog, I hope you find it interesting!


Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Truth About Writers' Earnings

Because I've been asked a lot of questions lately about the workings of the literary world, and it seems that there is a lot of misinformation out there, I thought some statistics might put things into perspective!

Info gleaned on the publishing industry from my agent Luigi Bonomi of LBA includes the following:

  • The number of novels received to his agency in one year is around 5,000
  • The number of writers taken on is less than 10 
So there is - roughly - only a one in five hundred chance of a book being taken on by an agent. Once this hurdle is passed though, there are the following statistics to look forward to:
  • Out of 200,000 titles published annually, 190,000 of these sell less than 3,000 copies
  • Of 85,000 début titles, 60,000 sell an average of only 18 copies
  • It is generally reckoned that 20,000 copies need to sell for a publisher to recoup their costs
So it is clear that, with only 5% of titles selling more than 3,000 copies, almost none of the books released by a publisher make enough to cover their costs - a frightening thought!

This helps to explain the low advances generally paid to authors - the average is apparently just a few hundred pounds. 

This is also why authors actually receive very little per copy, despite what people often think!

Royalties are normally between 7.5 to 12.5% of the book's price, so on an average £6.99 paperback, the author would earn between 52p to 87p per copy. 

To earn a minimum wage of £12,000 per year, an author would have to sell 14,000 to 23,000 copies. And if the books are bought discounted, they may get even less, and if it's second hand, they earn nothing!

Please consider this the next time you are buying a book!

On a positive note though, the flip side to these statistics is that the small percentage of books that do sell well, make enough to support the entire industry, and make everything else writers do possible!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Foreign Rights Sales

When my agent Luigi Bonomi sold Origin to Headline Publishing, it was for 'world rights.' As the subject of rights is something that is rarely discussed, I thought it might be useful to share my own experiences.

A book can be sold in various territories; sometimes books are sold for UK rights, or Commonwealth rights (sometimes with exclusions), or UK/US rights, and so on. In the case of world rights, the publisher has bought the right to publish in, distribute to, or sell to other publishers in, all world territories.

In terms of what this actually means, most publishers will be able to distribute worldwide, but will sell the rights on for foreign translations.

This is what is happening to Origin at the moment. It is due to be published by Headline in Commonwealth countries on 25th October, and the foreign rights division is also engaged with various other countries to sell translation rights.

The United States is treated separately. Hachette (which owns Headline) also owns two US publishing companies (Little, Brown and Grand Central Publishing), and so they will get 'first refusal'. If they do not want to publish it, it will go out to other US publishers.

It's a complicated business!

But the good news is that Origin was apparently the most requested title of the London Book Fair (!), and so the final edited manuscript will be going out to the interested parties in the next few weeks.

Fingers crossed!

Also I have just been offered my first radio interview, with Bradford Community Broadcasting (http://www.bcbradio.co.uk/)! I'm going there on Monday, so I'll report back how it went!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

'Origin' Available at All Good Bookshops!

Excitingly, it seems that Origin is becoming available for pre-order from a variety of different sources:

Amazon - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Origin-JT-Brannan/dp/0755396839/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335270076&sr=8-1-fkmr2

Waterstones - http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/j-+t-+brannan/origin/9174508/

Foyles - http://www.foyles.co.uk/Public/Shop/Detail.aspx?itemId=22756008

You should also be able to order it from other places with the ISBN numbers:

ISBN 9780755396832 (trade paperback, £12.99)

ISBN 9780755396849 (mass market paperback, £6.99)

Out of the 33 million books available on Amazon, the trade paperback of Origin managed to make it to a sales rank of 4,748 only about twelve hours after appearing!

So many thanks to all of you who have already pre-ordered a copy!!!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

'Origin' Now Available to Pre-Order!

I received some very exciting news today - Origin is already available for pre-order from Amazon!

Release date is 25th October 2012, and it seems that there are going to be two formats published - a mass market paperback for £6.99, and a large-format trade paperback for £12.99!

Please see here for link - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Origin-JT-Brannan/dp/0755396839/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335270076&sr=8-1-fkmr2.

Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that a couple of friends have already pre-ordered it! So the first copies have been sold, which really is an awesome feeling.

Even if you don't pre-order it, it would be really great if people could go on the Amazon site and 'like' it - both versions if possible!

The book has also been seen in Japan - http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/switch-language/product/0755396847/ref=dp_change_lang/376-9066527-2402320?ie=UTF8&language=en_JP (on sale for 1,070 yen!), and in Sweden - http://www.adlibris.com/se/product.aspx?isbn=0755396839, as well as the US version of Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Origin-J-T-Brannan/dp/0755396839/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_t_1.

There is no cover artwork as yet, but as soon as it is available, I will post it here.

It somehow all seems a lot more real now!

Monday, 23 April 2012

An American Indian Hero

For those of you who have read the earlier teaser about Origin's storyline, you may remember that Evelyn Edwards seeks the help of her ex-husband when her scientific team are all executed after finding an ancient body buried in Antarctica. What you might not know is that he is a member of the Oglala Lakota, an American Indian tribe with an amazing history.

To help check that the facts and tone are as accurate as possible, my editor Alexander Hope and I decided to contact a number of authorities on American Indian history and culture, to ask them to check the relevant pages.

The response to the request has been overwhelmingly positive so far, and I have been encouraged greatly by the fact that having an American Indian hero is something that is far from normal, and will highlight in a very positive way this incredible part of American society.

I am really happy that the hero of Origin may in some way help to celebrate American Indian culture and values.

I just hope that the advisers who agree to look at the pages like what they read!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Manuscript Editing


Received the manuscript for Origin back from my editor this week, annotated with suggested revisions, so have now started the editing process!

Very exciting to get it through the post, it's one more step towards publication!

The process itself might be of interest to aspiring authors, so I will detail my own experience so far.

After the story idea, the research, the plotting and the writing, I finally had the first draft of my novel. I then proof read it myself several times, as well as asking some close family members to do the same. I then made changes according to the feedback.

The next stage was to send it to Luigi Bonomi, my agent. He read through it, then sent it back with suggested changes. We met up to discuss these, and I went back to work to come up with a revised version.

This was checked and re-checked, and then sent back to him. He liked it, and so had it proof-read in-house. Again, this resulted in some changes being made.

The final draft was then sent out to publishers, and was picked up by Headline with a pre-emptive deal.

I subsequently met with my editor, who had various suggestions to make. He said he would send me a copy through the post annotated with his notes, and this is where I am now.

After these revisions have been made, it will then be proof-read and then copy edited, so will undoubtedly have to undergo yet further revisions!

Most of the changes are minor (e.g. avoiding repetition of words/phrases, etc), whilst some deal with the sequence of events (the exact time that plot points should be revealed).

I used to believe that writing a novel was a fairly solitary affair from start to finish, but how naive I was! Before a novel sees the light of day, a lot of work will have gone into it from a large range of people, and towards the end it becomes much more of a collaborative process.

I think the result will be well worth it!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

More Details on 'Origin'!

Just found a link this morning (via a Bulgarian rights agency!) to Headline Publishing's rights guide for the London Book Fair, where they are hoping to sell the novel to foreign publishers.

'Origin' is the first novel in the General Fiction section, and the write-up is as follows:

The secret of humanity's origin has lain buried for millenia. And now it threatens to destroy us all.

Scientist Evelyn Edwards and her team are researching ice caps in the Antarctic when they discover a body that must have been buried 40,000 years ago. But it looks like nothing they've ever seen before, it's not a primal man but something else. While transporting the body back to America the entire team are killed but Evelyn manages to escape.

On the run and alone she turns to her ex-husband Matt Adams, a former member of an elite government unit, and together they find themselves caught up in a race against time that takes them from Area 51 to the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva where they uncover the biggest conspiracy of all time.

Origin is a high octane cross-genre thriller that you won't be able to put down and will leave you guessing right up to its stunning conclusion.

As a completely unbiased observer, I think it sounds pretty exciting!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Meeting a Literary Agent for the First Time

It occurred to me that, having posted earlier about the process of getting an agent, it might be useful for me to expand on what actually happens when you get to meet one for the first time.

First of all, it is probably fair to say that if you get the call (or email) from an agent asking for a meeting, this is very positive! Agents are extremely busy people, so will not waste their time on such a meeting unless they are seriously considering representing you. Of course, such knowledge will still probably do little to quell your nerves!

In my own case, I was invited down to the offices of Luigi Bonomi in London, and I panicked all the way! By this time he had read the finished first draft of my novel, and also given it to one of his colleagues to read as well. I knew they had come up with a number of things about the book they wanted to discuss with me, and would both be in the meeting (making me twice as nervous!).

The meeting opened up with the usual pleasantries on all sides, and then I was asked a few questions. In a way, it is a little bit like a job interview. It is strange, really - the agent will be working for you, but it certainly doesn't seem that way if you're eager to break into the business!

The questions were very much what you might expect - how long had I been writing, was this my first book, what I did for a living, how I saw my career as a writer developing, what books I enjoyed reading, and so on - and as with any 'job interview', it is best to prepare some answers ahead of time, so you don't get flustered during the meeting itself.

I had also familiarised myself with details about Luigi's agency and the books and authors he already represented, just in case I was asked. I wasn't, but it always pays to be prepared!

The main bulk of the meeting was really to discuss changes to the manuscript. Or, probably more importantly, to find whether I was willing to take advice and make such changes if I was taken on as a client.

My feeling about this is that I absolutely love writing, from coming up with the initial idea right through to the final draft. However, I also believe that it is important to write something that people want to read. So was I willing to take advice to make what I had written more commerically appealing? You bet I was!

As a writer, you're often in a vacuum, away from the commercial pressures of the world, just writing what you want to write - but (and this is a big 'but'!) if you want your work to be published, then you need it to be commercially viable. This means that your agent has to have a product he or she thinks they will be able to sell. And as I have said before, agents are often more in tune with what the market (not forgetting the editors and publishing houses who will buy the book in the first place, before it ever sees the 'public' light of day) wants. As such, their advice is invaluable.

I therefore made myself very open in terms of the discussion we had, and we all came to a mutually agreeable vision for the novel.

I should perhaps also say that although you should be pleasant, friendly, amenable and open to advice, this does not mean you should be impassive. By the end of my meeting, it had still not been explicitly stated that Luigi would represent me, and so when he asked me if I had any more questions, I asked him directly, 'Do you want to represent me?'. Fortunately the answer was 'Yes'!

So if you do get the chance to go and meet an agent, remember to be polite, professional, open to editorial advice, but do not be afraid to ask for what you want!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

'Origin' by J T Brannan

Just wanted to give a few 'teaser' details for my book, titled Origin, which (not sure if I've mentioned it before!) is due out at the end of October 2012!

Scientist Evelyn Edwards discovers a body in Antarctica that must be at least 40,000 years old but it looks like nothing she’s ever seen before, and could be a new species of man. Evelyn and her team have stumbled upon the greatest conspiracy of all time and one that somebody is trying to keep secret at any cost.

More details to follow!

Questions on Research and Plot



A friend of mine is just reading the manuscript for my first novel (again, not the one coming out in October!), and sent me the following email:


I have millions of questions. Perhaps you can answer a couple in the first instance: Did you plan out the entire story in outline form and then flesh it out? Did you do tons of Google research about Sweden, guns, etc? Did you read any of these: Dorothea Brande - Becoming a writer, Strunk and White, etc, etc?


Because this touches on various issues that writers might be interested in, my wife thought it would be useful to post my reply:
When I originally planned it out, I followed advice on plot and structure in Robert McKee's Story, which is excellent. It's written for screenplay writers specifically, but equally useful for novelists.


I did plan it out very carefully, and even filled out cards with scenes on, etc, so I could move them around physically and keep everything tightly controlled. Some people just write 'on the fly' and don't plan anything, but I think thrillers need to be plotted very carefully.


In terms of research - yes, I pretty much googled everything! Street map and google earth are great for planning chase and action scenes. I also have a lot of books at home on military topics, but most things are researched via the internet.


Having said that, it is easy to get carried away with plotting and research, eager to make everything 'perfect', and then never get around to actually writing anything! In fact, many people nervous about writing will use it as an excuse (i.e. 'I'll start writing properly as soon as I've resolved the outcome of subplot B in scene five'). I was a bit guilty of this myself, but my wife cracked the whip!


I still plotted everything out carefully for the second one, but started the actual writing a lot earlier. I think the work I did on the first one was really useful though, as planning things so carefully focuses the mind - without structure, things can get very confusing, very quickly!


Hope this helps!


If anyone else has any questions about writing in general (although I am not purporting to be an expert by any means!), please feel free to send comments to the site, and I will try and respond to as many as possible.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Meeting with Editor

I met with my editor in London yesterday, and there was some good news - my novel might be out as early as late October! This is an incredibly fast turnaround time, and is hopefully indicative of the faith the publishing house has in it.

He also took me through how they are going to try and sell the book to foreign publishing houses, at the London Book Fair later this month, and at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.

As it stands, it seems the novel will be released pretty much simultaneously in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India. We are hoping it will also be taken up by an American publisher, so watch this space!
This is the headquarters of Hachette UK in London - Headline Publishing are on the top floor!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Approach Letter to Agent

After my last post, some people have expressed an interest reading the letter that I originally sent to my agent, so I've decided to post it here (slightly edited, of course!).

Please note that the novel I first approached him with is not the one we recently sold! The brief outline given in the letter is for a geopolitical action thriller, which we eventually felt was not a genre that is terribly popular at present (but it's there on the the shelf waiting to be sold when such thrillers make their inevitable comeback!).

The novel that is coming out in November is a different story entirely. It is still an action thriller, but is a bit more 'high-concept' - the press release is out next week, so more will be revealed then!

In the meantime, however, here is my original approach letter:

Dear Mr Bonomi,

I am writing to you in the hope that you will choose to represent me. Your name was given to me by ******** *******, who advised me that you have an expertise in the particular genre within which I write.

***** *** ****  is a geopolitical action thriller that mixes the scale of Tom Clancy with the realism of Andy McNab. The story centres on the threat of nuclear conflict between the United States and a newly created military alliance of ****** and ******, and the role played by **** ****, a deniable operative for the British government.

I am currently self-employed as a karate and reality-based self-defence instructor, and also write academic essays for various companies. I have had a number of film reviews published in national magazines, and have started to write articles for the website ***** ***.

My contact email address is **************.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Yours Sincerely,

J T Brannan


As you can see, it is business-like and professional. All an agent generally wants is a feel for what the book is about, and a bit of information about yourself - as per the recommendations in the link in my last post. 

So when writing an approach letter, keep it professional - remember that you are wanting to enter into a long-term business relationship!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Finding an Agent

I know there is a great deal of debate as to whether aspiring writers should try and get an agent, or try and go it alone. There are good arguments on both sides, but I personally feel that having an agent is absolutely invaluable - not only do they know their way around the publishing industry much better than do writers (this is their job, after all!), but if you are fortunate enough to get a publishing deal, they will ensure you get the best one possible.

And the fact remains that many 'bricks and mortar' publishers won't accept submissions unless through an agent.

It is true that they will take 15% of your earnings, but it is also true that they will be much more likely to sell your book, and (if you decide to go it alone) remember that retaining 100% of nothing will still leave you with nothing!

It is, conversely, not true that you need a finished manuscript before you seek representation. When I sent my initial submission, I had only written about a third of it. If they like what they see, they will be happy to wait for the rest.

So how did I go about it? A family friend recommended an agent that was very successful in dealing with novels in the action/adventure genre, and I did some further research myself.

This point is crucial, actually - only approach agents who represent the kind of work you write! If you write historical romances, there is literally no point whatsoever approaching an agent whose success has been with techno-thrillers.

So research is key! Check out the Writers and Artists Yearbook, find out which agents might be suitable, and then double check their websites and lists of authors to make sure that they do in fact represent the kind of books you want to write.

Luigi Bonomi was the agent I approached (I only approached one at first, although there are again conflicting views over single or multiple submissions), as my research had shown that he was in fact one of the best around in my particular genre (and was Literary Agent of the Year in 2010!).

I wrote a simple, business-like letter, a synopsis of the entire novel, and the first thirty pages or so.

Please see here for Luigi's advice on making a submission - invaluable stuff!

http://www.saltpublishing.com/horizon/issues/01/text/bonomi_luigi.htm

I followed the guidelines in this article (research is important!), and fortunately he liked what he saw, and he then asked to see the rest of the manuscript. It was at this stage that I said it had yet to be finished, but he was happy to see what I had done so far.

Again, I was fortunate enough that he liked the rest, and was therefore willing to wait for me to finish the whole thing. We set a date for the completion of the first draft, and I set to work!

It is amazing what a little incentive can do - it had taken me about ten years to write the first two hundred pages, but when I knew an agent was interested, I suddenly (magically!) found the time to finish the rest in about two months!

When he read the complete first draft, he invited me to his offices in London for a chat, at the end of which he offered to represent me - a very exciting moment indeed!

I realise I am extremely fortunate to have secured representation from the only agent I approached, and that this is not a regular occurrance, but I believe that - if the work is good enough - researching the right agents to approach, and then following their submission guidelines to the letter - is half the battle.

After the contract was signed, we then set about editing and revising the manuscript, before trying to sell it - a process that was a lot more problematic, and which I shall describe in my next post!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Upcoming Press Release

Just had a request from my editor for a photograph for a press release which should be coming out next week - very exciting!

He also wanted suggestions for 'shout-lines', which are the very short, snappy phrases used on a book's front cover to try and encourage people's initial interest. Writing these, as it turns out, is much harder than it sounds!

I will share the press release as soon as I have it!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Selling my first book!

Hi all,

I had the absolutely fantastic news this week that my agent Luigi Bonomi (http://www.bonomiassociates.co.uk/) has managed to sell my first novel (an action thriller with a sci-fi twist) to Headline Publishing!

Because I found writers' blogs so useful (in terms of what to expect when approaching agents, how books are sold, etc) when I was going through the process, I thought it might be nice for me to throw in my own 'two penneth' and contribute something about my own experience.

I'm still awaiting the contract to be sent through, so I won't go into too much detail yet, but my aim will be to lay out the exact process I went through, from the creation of the intial ideas, through to getting an agent, until ultimately securing a book deal.

I know how tough the market is, and how many aspiring authors there are out there struggling to break through, and hope that this 'insider's' blog may help in some small (probably very small!) way.

Comments are welcome, and I hope to update the blog regularly.

And of course - look out for my book when it's released later this year (more details to follow!!)!