I first came across Jane Davis when someone in the local Historical Novel Society tipped me off about her I Stopped Time, a fascinating account of life and photography in Brighton in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but Jane is also a contemporary novelist. Her first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award and afterwards she was featured her in the Bookseller’s ‘One to Watch’ section. She has since published five further novels. I’ve recently read An Unchoreographed Life (reviewed here) which I acquired as part of a Kindle ‘box set’ which Jane and six other members of the Alliance of Independent Authors collaborated to produce. The result is Outside the Box: Women Writing Women, seven novels (details below) under one wrapper, all for £7.99. In fact the set is a limited offer, available only until May 23rd and so I’ve asked Jane along to talk about the project before the deal runs out.
Why was taking part in this project so important to you and what were the ideas behind it?
The challenge for indies is connecting book and reader. That’s why collections like Outside the Box: Women Writing Women work so well. We know that readers are struggling to find their next read, one that will entertain, challenge and inspire them. Choice can be overwhelming and so it’s easier to stick to the authors we already know. I’m the same! So, yes, we asked readers to trust us, but we also offered them a great deal: seven novels for the price of two. Added to this – as if further encouragement were needed – we tried to make it fun. Joni Rodger’s daughter (Jerusha Rodgers of Rabid Badger Editing) created a fabulous digital swag bag that includes a critically acclaimed novel by Joni, a free music album download by Jessica Bell and a heap of other fun and artsy surprises. Anyone who sends us proof of purchase gets entered in a draw to win one of them. (Oh, I didn’t know about this! Ed)
How did you decide who to collaborate with?
Obviously, it was important to find others who shared the same values and aims, but we were fans of each others’ fiction before we came together as a team. A review described Roz Morris’s My Memories of a Future Life as a ‘strange and stubborn’ novel. Immediately, I wanted that book, and I lapped it up! We also felt it was important that no two books should be too alike, but they needed to have enough in common to appeal to the same target market. Our decision was to focus on our characters and the boundary-breaking nature of our fiction.
The fact that you’re an all female group is difficult to ignore.
It is, although this was completely unintentional. None of us write purely for women. Personally, I share Joanne Harris’s view that ‘women’s fiction’ isn’t a genre. All it does is reinforce the idea that books written by women are not for men. At a time when bookshops have been asked to do away with ‘boys’ fiction’ and ‘girls’ fiction’, this category seems highly inappropriate. We do know that women read books written by both men and women and that men tend to only read books written by men. Or do they? The twist in this tale is that two of our authors ghost for male writers!
What are your hopes for the box-set?
The box set has just entered its final month. I feel a little sad about that, but we decided to create something that was a genuine limited edition. After the 23rd May, it will disappear. So the project was never all about the money.
Speaking for myself, I wanted to change readers’ perception of self-published fiction, particularly those who have been fed the line that it is the preserve of amateurs. (I know I was). And yet when I explored the option for myself, I discovered a diverse group, including authors who had walked away from six-figure deals, established authors who’d been dropped by their publishers after their latest book didn’t sell quite so well, talented newcomers building a readership, innovative authors whose work doesn’t fit the market, cross-genre authors who sell themselves as a brand and best-selling authors who have never tried the traditional route. In fact, in a recent survey of over 2,500 authors, a quarter of those who had traditional deals had also self-published. There is a new breed of hybrid authors who look at each writing project and decide if it is one to submit to their publisher or one to go it alone. My belief is that the predicted growth in self-publishing will now come from authors who are currently under contract.
Are there any downsides to offering a ‘limited edition’?
Yes. We realise that it’s a huge ask to get people to review a 7-novel box-set within a 90-day period. For many people, this represents 6 months’ worth of reading. But all of our work has been reviewed extensively and so we hope readers will hop over the individual book details.
What will you take away from the experience?
I’ve learned such a lot from being part of this amazing group of writers. Really, I have such admiration for them. As self-publishers, we’ve all had to acquire skillsets that go above and beyond those of the average author: cover design, website design, interior layout, video production, PR, the list goes on. I have learned a huge amount about marketing and production, lessons that I’ll be able to carry forwards when our 90 days is done. And promotion in a group certainly gives you more courage. While encouraging others to step outside their comfort zones and to take risk on us, we’ve also had to – and the response has been incredible.
Thank you, Jane! I’ve now read another of the box set The Centauress by Kathleen Jones and found it just as absorbing as An Unchoreographed Life although in a completely different way. I’m really looking forward to the others in the collection. Everyone please check out the links below and don’t forget you only have until May 23rd to snap up this great offer. (I’m now off to enter the digital swag bag competition!)
What’s inside Women Writing Women?
BLUE MERCY by Orna Ross, “A complex tale of betrayal, revenge, suspense, murder mystery — and surprise…John McGahern meets Maeve Binchy.” IRISH INDEPENDENT
CRAZY FOR TRYING by Joni Rodgers, “Refreshing and provocative… Think Jane Eyre with rock and roll.” HOUSTON PRESS
MY MEMORIES OF A FUTURE LIFE by Roz Morris, “Absolutely gripping…Visual and visceral, original and odd.” FOR BOOKS SAKE
THE CENTAURESS by Kathleen Jones, “A compelling narrative of a writer’s passion for her work.” HELEN DUNMORE
AN UNCHOREOGRAPHED LIFE by Jane Davis, “An extraordinary level of emotion… superb storytelling.” THE CULT DEN
ONE NIGHT AT THE JACARANDA by Carol Cooper, “Sassy and classy in equal measures. A must.” DR. PIXIE MCKENNA, media doctor and TV presenter
WHITE LADY by Jessica Bell, “Edgy, pacy, and chillingly real.” JJ MARSH, author of The Beatrice Stubbs series
Links to Buy:
To find out more about Jane Davis:
Visit her website: www.jane-davis.co.uk and subscribe to her blog
‘Like’ her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/janerossdale
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