Thursday, 31 March 2011

Bagpipes and Bullshot and Janice Horton

The Darkness appeared at about the same time as a romance novel by Janice Horton called Beneath Apricot Skies. They’re both set in Scotland but there the parallels end. My book was pretty scary, with some nasty goings-on, a murder, some disappearances and (I hope) a challenging attitude to morality. Janice’s, on the other hand was full of warmth, romance, humour, and beautiful places with, at its centre a love between a Scottish laird whose funds were running pretty low and an American cowgirl. But, because we have several mutual friends who bought both the books, Amazon obviously thought they belonged together and, for a while, said that people who bought Janice’s also bought mine, and vice versa. There’s no reason why readers shouldn’t enjoy both books but some unsuspecting people who’d just been drawn into Janice’s lovely, upbeat tale might get a nasty shock if they thought mine would offer the same sort of pleasure.

Anyway, Janice, who obviously shares none of my laziness, has now reworked the original story, getting more quickly into the meat of it and giving even more scope to the humour, a fact that the new title confirms – now available for Kindle, the book’s now called Bagpipes & Bullshot. And her visit to my blog is part of her enterprising blog tour.

B): So welcome Janice, and first of all, I note you’ve been asking people NOT to buy it. That doesn’t sound like a good marketing strategy.

J): I hope it is, Bill. You see, I’ve asked everyone who might consider buying it to wait until Friday 1st April. The date is important because it’s very difficult to get a new e-book noticed by potential readers unless it features on one or more of Amazon’s Top 100 charts, but because of the way Amazon calculates its sales, just a few sales on one particular day – Friday 1st April – can make all the difference in pushing it through the charts.

B): Very clever. You seem to have given this plenty of thought. Before we move on to the actual experience of publishing with Amazon Kindle, though, tell us a bit about the book.

J): Well, it’s a humorous contemporary novel which twists an everyday love story with a whole cast of village eccentrics into an entertaining play on Scottish rural life. The story begins with boy meets girl in Texas but soon unfolds into a tale of love and conflict set in Scotland. I’ll leave it for the reader to tell me if it’s a love story with elements of humour or a humorous novel with elements of love story.

B): What made you decide to go indie and self-publish on Kindle?

J): Two reasons: the first was that having been previously published in paperback by both traditional and self publishing methods, I couldn’t resist the challenge of having a go at e-publishing, especially on Kindle, because distribution and marketing on Amazon are all well established. The second reason was that I unexpectedly fell in love with the Kindle my husband bought me for Christmas and wanted to have my books available for it.

B): You know I’m a complete techno-idiot, so how did you find the process of uploading to Kindle in terms of technical problems?

J): I read the Amazon guide to formatting and uploading and also watched some helpful You Tube videos to give me an idea of what I was letting myself in for. I also opted for the simple route. You can get involved with writing your own HTML if you like, I didn’t. Preparation is key, so do make sure you edit your manuscript with formatting ‘activated’ which will help you check that tab stops and page breaks are correctly placed. If they’re not, then transferring your file will move your paragraphs all over the place. You do get a chance to preview before you actually publish but that should just be for final checking. I had the manuscript on Word, saved it as a HTML filtered file, and uploaded it to Mobipocket Creator (downloaded free from the internet). This created a stable file recognised by Amazon Kindle.

B): You make it sound easy. Next question, though, now that it’s available to download, how are you going to get it noticed amongst the thousands of other books already available on Kindle?

J): OK, this is the plan. I want you to ask your lovely blog readers to support me by either buying the book on Friday 1st April 2011 (it is £1.38 / $2.24) or by telling other people about it through their own social network. I would be very grateful for all sales, support, and help to spread the word. I’ll be blogging and tweeting all day on Friday 1st April. You can find out where I'll be on my Blog Tour throughout the whole day by checking on my own blog here. I’ll also be running a prize draw there (Friday 1st April only) to win Kindle beach protectors (an essential and stylish accessory for every Kindler). All you have to do to be in with a chance to win is go to my blog and leave a comment.

B): Hmmm, my ‘lovely blog readers’ – I’ll let that one pass. But how about people who don’t have a Kindle? Can they download it for their PC, Mac, IPhone, IPad, whatever?

J): Yes, absolutely. Go to Amazon and download their free App for PC, Mac, IPhone or IPad.

B): You seem to have covered all the bases. Anything else?

J): Well, just the obvious one really – buy the book. I’ll be forever grateful.

B): OK people, you heard Janice. But DON’T buy it, at least not until April 1st. I for one will be very interested to hear how the strategy pans out. Thanks for the visit, Janice, and lots of luck with Bagpipes & Bullshot – I’m looking forward to seeing for myself the changes you’ve made to Beneath Apricot Skies.

J): Thanks for the invitation, Bill. It’s been a great pleasure.

A bit more information about Janice for those who don’t yet know her work. She lives in Scotland and writes entertaining and humorous contemporary women's fiction novels which are, for the most part, inspired by the romantic beauty of the heather-filled glens around her country cottage. When she’s not writing novels she writes lifestyle articles and has had work published in national magazines and regional newspapers. She’s also been involved in BBC Scotland's Write Here Write Now project. Her next novel Reaching For The Stars will be available soon on Kindle. Her website is here, and her blog here and you can follow her on Twitter at @JaniceHorton.


  1. Great interview, Janice and Bill, and thanks for highlighting how you went about putting your book on Amazon. All the best with those sales, Janice! See you on my blog tomorrow.

  2. Thanks Rosemary - and thank you Bill!

  3. Thanks Rosemary, You too, Janice. Maybe some of your energy will rub off on me. On the other hand ...

    Anyway, the best of luck with the blog tour.

  4. Excellent interview. But wait until April 1st? Seriously? Sigh, if I must.

  5. You must learn to curb your impetuous nature, Diane.

  6. Good marketing strategy, Janice, although April first is April Fool's Day here in the U.S. I look forward to reading your book. Love the title, btw.

  7. April Fools' Day here, too, Jean. But Janice definitely knows what she's doing.

  8. I simply can't thank you enough Bill, for being such a star. I'm thinking of having mugs and t-shirts printed with your face on them. Thinkin' they might be successful....

    Thank you Rosemary & Jean for your kind and enthusiastic comments!

    Love, Janice xxx

  9. Janice, for God's sake don't let Stanley hear you saying that. He knows I'm not in the same league as him.

    Seriously, though, I'm delighted that I've been part of what seems to have been a hugely successful day for you. All that work you put in has obviously done the trick and you've earned the rewards. I hope the B & B momentum just keeps building.

  10. Thank you, Bill and Janice. That was an interesting interview. At first I was dumbfounded by Janice's marketing strategy of asking people NOT to buy her book, but now I see the reasoning behind it, I completely understand it. Very smart!

  11. She's a lesson to us all, Henriette. It's terrific that it's been such a huge success.