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 d├ębut 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 (! 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 -

Waterstones -

Foyles -

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 -

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 - (on sale for 1,070 yen!), and in Sweden -, as well as the US version of Amazon -

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!