OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Podcast: Download (Duration: 32:41 — 18.9MB)
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS | More
The runaway successes we see in the Amazon charts often have years of work behind them. In this interview, I chat with Mark Edwards whose Amazon #1 bestsellers with Louise Voss got them a 6 figure book deal, but only after years of hard work. Mark also gives some tips on how he used the Product Description metadata effectively.
Mark Edwards is co-author of thriller novels ‘Killing Cupid' and ‘Catch Your Death' with Louise Voss. He is British and is also a copywriter and marketing director.
In this podcast, you will learn:
- How Mark got into writing and how he finally got a book deal after an indie #1 Amazon bestseller and 12 years of trying. He has been writing for 20 years and got an agent quite quickly but none of his books were sold. In 1999, he was featured on a TV program about aspiring writers and was then contacted by another writer, Louise Voss who was in the same situation. They became friends. Louise got a book deal for several books but Mark was still struggling. They eventually decided to write a book together, a stalker told from the point of view of male and female protagonists. This was ‘Killing Cupid' which didn't fit into any specific genre and was rejected. Then they wrote a straight forward thriller ‘Catch Your Death' but still no one was interested. After all their efforts, in 2006, they gave up, sick of all the rejections.
- 4 years passed and then Mark started reading about Kindle Direct Publishing. Amanda Hocking was taking off. So they decided they had nothing to lose but putting the books onto Amazon. They re-edited them and had covers designed. They published ‘Killing Cupid' in Feb 2011 and sold 2 copies. Over the next few months, it started to creep up the Amazon.co.uk charts and by end of April it was in the Top 200. Eventually it cracked into the Top 100. They released ‘Catch Your Death' at the beginning of May and within 2 weeks it was in the Top 100. At the beginning of June, both books shot up the charts and got to #1 and #2 on the Amazon.co.uk store. After all these years, it was thrilling to be selling so many books. It was a vindication of all the years of trying.
- At this point, they decided that getting an agent would be a good idea. It was still a dream to get a book in the shops. Mark & Louise had been networking with a lot of indie writers, like Stephen Leather, so they had a lot of contacts in terms of agents. They signed with an enthusiastic agent and while they were still #1 publishers offered them. Harper Collins did a pre-empt bid of over 6 figures. They turned the first offer down (balls of steel!) and accepted the second offer. They signed a 4 book deal in July 2011 and have a pretty intense writing schedule with 6 months per book. The paperback version of ‘Catch Your Death' came out Jan 2012 and has done well. It's the 12 year overnight success story!
- How did Mark & Louise market the book? The book cover was critical and having a striking image at thumbnail size is important. The blurb is the most important thing and Mark is a copy-writer. He continually tweaked the Product Description. He studied the books in the Top 10 and tried to work out what it was about them that set them apart. He rewrote the blurb and literally sales doubled. He simplified the story and hooked people in. People don't need to know about you. They also did something controversial with the sub-titles, using ‘a gripping psychological thriller' in the subtitle. There was a lot of controversy around using these types of keywords in the subtitle. People are still doing this but Amazon specifically warn against doing it (see right for the warning). They also put in brackets – for fans of Dan Brown and Stieg Larsen – which was really controversial. The publisher has now changed the blurb but originally it was catchy and optimized.
- They also put ads inside Killing Cupid for Catch Your Death, so the books would feed each other, and people would buy both books. This impacted the sales and sent them up the charts within a period.
- On the pros and cons of being indie vs traditional publishing. The advantages of having a publisher are (a) the editorial input you get which is far superior to hiring an editor. The editorial changes have improved the books and both Mark & Louise appreciate that. (b) Being in bookshops which was always a dream for both of them. (c) Kudos from other writers. You do get a different kind of respect. There is still a stigma to self-publishing, which is unfair but a reality.
- But Mark would happily go back to indie if things don't work out and is considering publishing his backlist. Louise Voss has published her backlist which is all on Amazon now.
- What Mark recommends for new authors. Self-publish or approach traditional publishing? The risk with indie is that it doesn't do very well and then the book doesn't look good to publishers. Mark thinks it is still worth approaching agents and publishers. Try to get an agent, but only give it six months with multiple submissions. Then indie publish and try your luck with direct sales. Don't wait too long. Don't spend years trying to get an agent.
You can find Mark at VossandEdwards.com and the books are available online.
You can also follow Mark on twitter @mredwards
Eva Hudson says
How about this for a subtitle: (British Crime similar to Martina Cole,Jacqui Rose,Gerry McCullough,Kate Kray,Casey Kelleher,S J Watson,Danielle Ramsay).
Seems Amazon’s rules are being flouted mercilessly.
Great interview (as ever).
Joanna Penn says
Yes, and big publishers are including reviews in the Description as well! Nice subtitle if you can fit it in – although Martina Cole is probably enough 🙂
Thanks for this interview – it gives the rest of us hope that it usually takes time to be successful and overnight stardom very rarely happens. I’ve been writing seriously now for the past three years and my second book is almost ready to be published. I’ve also raised the price of my first book, so it’s now just a question of being brave and seeing what happens.
Joanna Penn says
The overnight stars have been plugging away for years generally. I love that Amanda Hocking had been writing for 12 years or something similar when she became an overnight success – after 9 books! I’ll look forward to being an overnight success in a few years time – see you there?!
Alyne de Winter says
I am one of you invisible followers. Since I am experimenting with Indie publishing, I have found you interviews very helpful. In fact I might start doing some myself!
This was very helpful as marketing is the hard part for me.
This blurb thing and stuff. All of that….
Joanna Penn says
Hi Alyne, Thanks so much for becoming more visible by leaving a comment! Lurking is utterly fine with me, but I do love to have some interaction on the blog, so welcome!
Marketing is hard at first – but just think of it as connecting with people who are interested in the same things you are. Sharing what you love with other enthusiastic people who want to hear about them. It’s not spammy, it’s sharing.
Tahlia Newland says
I got an agent after several months, but 2 years later, she’s still waiting to hear back from some of the big publishers. I’m about to indie publish a YA magical realism novella which was too short and too different to even consider going the traditional route, but what do you advise doing with my novel? Should I go indie with it too. I’m so sick of waiting.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Tahlia, I can’t really give any advice on specific books – since all of our situations are different. You really have to decide what you want to do. There’s pros and cons of all decisions. There are lots of articles on publishing options here:
You’ll need to weigh up what you want to do.
Tahlia Newland says
I figure I’ll see how my novella goes. If it sells well I can be confident the novel will too. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep traipsing through the publishers with the novel for a bit longer.
The information I found most interesting here was that he re-wrote his book description and sales doubled… I find that the most mysterious and perhaps important key to sales, but there is little information on it anywhere. How to write the book description that draws the reader in. Perhaps it is is like the book itself; something that one slaves away at and if lightening strikes, all goes well.
Alyne deWinter says
I wrote about 10 book descriptions for’ ‘Mara’ and I’m still not sure. I think trad publishers sit in a group around a table for days to create good cover copy. Us Indies seem stuck doing it alone. Its hard to get feedback on book blurbs I’ve found.
You need to think like a copy writer and use key words and stuff. Target a certain type of reader.
Ann Carton says
Hi Joanna, most interesting, I have signed up for your newsletter.
I enjoyed the Mark Edwards interview, and am considering rewriting my blurb.
I did the keywords search on Amazon, but not the Google one, so I will go back
and do that, & see what happens.
I’ve sold 1 copy on Kindle in about 4 months! And 6 hard copies of my non-fiction book, part channels, part travelogue. Title might be too long? However, I wanted to go with it:
Temple of the Sun & Moon, Book 1: The Water Speaks. Working on Book 2 now.
Good luck in all that you do, Joanna! Thank you, Ann.