An Amazon Discovery – part 2

Last week, I wrote about Amazon’s best sellers list for women’s historical fiction. Let’s take a look at other fiction categories.

MYSTERY, THRILLER & SUSPENSE FICTION – 8 out of 15

ROMANCE – 8 out of 15 are Amazon Imprints

CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S FICTION – 6 out of 15 are Amazon Imprints

 

WOMEN’S LITERARY – 5 out of 15 (interesting to note that this is lower)

ALL BEST SELLERS IN LIT & FICTION – an incredible 10 out of 11 are Amazon Imprints!

Of course, these are point-in-time lists. If you checked the top sellers today they would be different from the ones I tabulated. According to Amazon, these lists are updated hourly.

When the Big Tech companies including Amazon met with the US House Judiciary Committee, Jeff Bezos was questioned on the companies’ use of data collected from third party vendors to sell its own products in competition with them. Does this extend to books?

We might also ask what other sales techniques Amazon is using to entice readers to their imprints. One technique is pricing – new releases for Lake Union novels is usually $4.99 (for the Kindle version), with gradually adjustments to $2.99 and lower. In contrast, traditional publishers offer Kindle versions in the $12.99 to $14.99 range when first released. Other techniques include: ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’,  and ‘Sponsored products related to this item’, which often list novels published by Amazon. And another technique is low author advances. I benefitted from these techniques when Lake Union published Time and Regret.

By the way, if you’re curious to know the names of Amazon’s imprints, here they are.

A reader from last week pointed out that programs like Amazon’s Prime First Reads is only available to books from Amazon imprints. This program gives Kindle copies away for free to Prime Members for an early read before publication date, while others can buy them at a much reduced rate. Perhaps another way to manipulate the top sellers lists? Hmmmmm.

In last week’s post on this topic, a reader provided a link to a letter that the Authors Guild, the AAP and the ABA sent to the House of Representative’s Antitrust committee. You may wish to check it out

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

8 Tips on Writing Dual-Time Mysteries

Source: Mexperience

As I mentioned on Tuesday’s post, I’m this week’s host over at American Historical Novels. I’ve had a great time talking with readers about the craft of writing and about Time and Regret. Today’s post at American Historical Novels is a condensation of the one below, which I wrote for Elizabeth Spann Craig’s blog.

What do The Ashford Affairby Lauren Willig, The Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian, The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro, and The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier have in common? Answer: they are all dual-time mysteries. I love reading stories like these. But writing one proved to be a significant challenge and demanded a different approach from my previous historical novels.

So what did I learn? Below are eight tips for crafting this type of story.

  • Are you telling two stories or one?You need to be clear on whether you are telling two stories or one. In other words, the links between each timeline, the character arcs, and essence of the mystery need to integrate seamlessly into one satisfying read. Each timeline must enhance the other. If you conclude that you are telling two stories, you really should write two books.
  • Both timelines have to engage the readers– finding the balance is critical. I once read only the present day portion of a novel because the historical portion was confusing and added almost nothing to the story. In another instance, my review suggested that the present day story was very thin and could have been eliminated.
  • Whether separated by fifty years or five hundred, your novel will have two protagonists, one for each time period. Readers must care deeply about both of them. Furthermore, the present day character should be more than merely a narrator for a story set in the past.
  • Each protagonist must have a distinct voice. Your readers should never be confused about who is in charge of the story at any given point. The thinking, inner dialogue, and perspective of each protagonist should set them apart.
  • Beyond the distinct voices of your protagonists, readers must be clear about which era they’re in at any point in the novel. This requires careful attention to setting, dialogue, behaviours, events of the time period, possessions, attitudes, and other elements that alert a reader to the era.
  • Plotting a dual-time mystery is even more complicated than a regular mystery. Clues will emerge from each time period. I developed a table to track every clue regardless of time period and its relevance to the overall mystery. And if you want your readers to puzzle out the mystery as they read, be careful that the earlier storyline doesn’t reveal too much of the mystery too soon.
  • Avoid jumping back and forth too frequently. Readers need to engage sufficiently in each story before you change the characters and time period. This piece of advice is particularly important in the early chapters when you are establishing characters and setting, creating hooks, and revealing the central questions the story will answer.
  • The rules of excellent historical fiction still apply. In a 2013 reader survey I conducted, readers said that the top three reasons they read historical fiction are: to bring the past to life, because it’s a great story, and to understand and learn without reading non-fiction. To augment that data, in 2015 readers chose immersed in time and place, superb writing, characters both heroic and human, authentic and educational, and the dramatic arc of history as the top 5 factors in favourite historical fiction. (You can find more survey insights on http://www.awriterofhistory.com.)

Mysteries are a favourite genre: 40% of participants in a 2015 historical fiction survey and 55% of participants in a 2018 broad reader survey chose mysteries as one of their top three types of stories to read. Write your dual-time mystery well and it will appeal to mystery lovers as well as lovers of historical fiction.

By the way – there’s a giveaway for Time and Regret over at American Historical Novels 

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Building a fictional character

I’m hosting over at American Historical Novels this week – an opportunity to meet new readers and share a few aspects of my writing. An article I’m posting over there today is about building a character.

What does it take to create a character in a novel?With fictional characters, I feel it’s important to flesh them out to some extent in advance. For Grace Hansen, one of two main characters in Time and Regret, I borrowed a template from Elizabeth George, a well-known mystery writer. Below are some of the details:

Name: Grace Hansen Age: 42 Height: 5’ 6

Weight/Build: put on weight during marriage; because of divorce is back to her pre-marriage weight, relatively slim, a bit curvy in hips and breasts

Color hair/eyes: brunette, brown eyes

Physical peculiarities: blushes easily

Family: Grace is an only child; born in New York City; her mother Lily fell apart when her husband died in a plane crash so Grace was raised by her grandparents; Lily now suffers from Alzheimer’s; father David died when Grace was 5; grandmother, Cynthia Devlin (nee Gibson), whom Grace calls Grandmama; the two were often at odds when Grace was growing up; Cynthia is British born and grew up poor; she’s proper, a social climber, and likes the things money can buy; grandfather, Martin Devlin, Grace calls him Grandpa, profoundly affected by WWI, built a successful gallery, Grace has a very close relationship with him

Sexuality: fairly routine in her sex life with her husband Jim; only one other sexual relationship before marriage; now divorced, she’s ready to be more adventurous

Significant event that molded her character: loss of her parents and subsequent upbringing by her grandparents

Ambition: she has taken the safe path all her life, married relatively young, has two children, a well paying job, and what she thought was a good marriage until the night her husband asked for a divorce while out at their favourite restaurant; she has been self-sufficient and successful; but is now restless and unfulfilled, alone and lonely; feels the need to reinvent herself

Core need: to be loved for who she is

Wants: solve the mystery she discovered in her grandfather’s papers; learn how to live without Jim, her ex

When under stress: retreats into reserve and aloofness when under emotional stress

Gestures when talking: uses her hands and body a lot when talking; ex-husband used to tease that she must have Italian blood

Strongest character trait: dependability; puts needs of others ahead of her own

Weakest character trait: allows others to dominate, doesn’t assert herself

Philosophy: strength comes from adversity, nurture family and friends, enjoy small pleasures of life, be self-sufficient

What others notice first about her: warm, open demeanour; shapely legs

Educational background: despite her grandfather’s preference to have her work at the gallery he owned, she studied business at university and works for an insurance company; she’s been around art all her life

I create character sketches like this for all my significant characters and look at them frequently. I consider them a skeleton for what will ultimately become a flesh-an-blood character. Not surprisingly, the details evolve as I build the novel, but they’re always there to provide a reference for me as the chapters unfold.

You can find American Historical Novels either on Facebook or Goodreads

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.