Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: shelf life

I’m a titleist. By that I don’t mean I’m a brand of golf ball. I mean that I pay special attention to my titles for my stories and books. I know the saying goes you can’t judge a book by its cover, but a cover does catch the reader’s eye and so does a title. A catchy title might make someone pick up a book and the jacket blurb might just seal the deal. So, I’m a titleist.
Every time I come up with a book, I do my very best to come up with a unique and interesting title—the more unique the better. The reason I want a standout title is because I want people to find my book. I’m not a big name and if I’ve picked a title a dozen other authors have used, I’m potentially sunk and a reader could go home with a book I didn’t write, but thought I wrote. So before I name a book, I look for the title on Amazon and If my proposed title pops up then I rename the book. I want to make it easy for people to find me. When someone calls out the title of my book, I want to make sure they can’t get it wrong and that they go home with a little bit of me under their arm.

But I never bothered to do that with my name. When I began writing, I debated going under a pseudonym, but when I made my first sale, my wife said, you shouldn’t hide. You should publish under your own name—and with a flush of pride, I did. What a mistake.

Much to my dismay, I am one of several Simon Woods out there writing.  I’m not the one who writes about wine, or woodwork, British social history or sneakers. To the reader, I seem to have a split personality.

The problem is that the book searches can’t make a distinction between the Simon Wood who writes about wine and me. This can make it real tricky for all the many Simon Woods writing out there. There’s still a chance of mistaken identity.

The situation has just got a little more complicated.  Until now, I was the only Simon Wood writing fiction. Now there’s a South African gent who lives in England who’s written a thriller called Beneath and a couple of people have bought the book thinking it was me.  Eek!

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I can do to differentiate all my namesakes.  It’s not like the movies where no two actors can have the same name. So you (my potential readers), my namesakes and me are stuck with each other.  All I can do is strengthen my identity with the reading public—and possibly assassinate all my namesakes (the way Jet Li did in that movie THE ONE).

There’s a new wrinkle.  I also share the same name with the 2015 winner of MasterChef.  It’s been interesting to see his successes spring up on my Google alerts–and the occasional confusion between him and me.  Maybe us Simons should merge into one Super Simon??

If I could do it all again, I would go with a pen name. I’d have chosen something like Tiger Smith (which was the name of my first pet and my mother’s maiden name). Now no writer goes under that name—and for good reason, probably—but that’s not the point. It’s all about being memorable—and a unique name and title is a good place to start.

If that doesn’t work, then I’ll just to have to make my writing unique.  🙂

With hindsight, your humble author,
Simon Wood (the one who didn’t write a book about sneakers)

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monstersI’m a bit of a frustrated disc jockey at heart. I love coming up with playlists—and I’ve come up with a killer playlist…for fiction’s most notorious killers. I hope you enjoy and slay away!  😆

Freddy Krueger—”Dream weaver” by Gary Wright

Norman Bates—”Mama” by Genesis

Jason Voorhees—”Knives Out” by Radiohead

Leatherface—”Chainsaw” by The Band Perry

Chucky—”Puppet on a string” by Sandie Shaw

Damien Thorn—”The devil inside” by INXS

Michael Myers—”First cut is the deepest” by Cat Stevens

Hannibal Lector—”Happy Meal II” by The Cardigans

Pinhead—”Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains

Carrie—”Invisible Touch” by Genesis


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Just seeing someone wearing a little, red, plastic raincoat gives me goose bumps. Now this doesn’t apply to blue or green ones or adult-sized ones or ones made from natural fibers–just the ones made from plastic that are red and sized to fit a five year old.

The film fans out there will immediately know why I have this fear. I saw Nicholas Roeg’s version of Daphne Du Maurier’s DON’T LOOK NOW.

The movie’s climax did it to me. When Donald Sutherland finally learns the identity of the person wearing the little, red raincoat that his dead daughter wore, I nearly collapsed a lung. Since then, little, red, plastic raincoats have given me
the willies.

I know now that I saw the film when I was far too young. It’s not often that I say that. I saw a lot of scary movies when I was young, but this one had a profound effect. I find it amusing that when I saw the movie at my tender age, I totally blanked out the famous sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. I only realized that it existed when I saw the film years later (when I paid attention to those sorts of things).

Even now, I can’t watch the film. I recorded it off the telly a few years back. I still haven’t watched it. It’s probably the only film I love that I’m afraid to watch.

Over the years, I’ve seen kids wearing the same little raincoats and I’ve had to literally cross the road to avoid them. Like Donald Sutherland, I have this urge to make sure there is a little child wearing it but at the same time, I don’t want to see, just in case I find what he did.

My mum knows about this fear I have and she takes great pleasure in pointing them out to me. Obviously, I’m her favorite child.

There you have it. Some people fear terrorism, spiders or aliens from another world. For me, it’s first graders wearing red raincoats.

Now that I’ve cut you in on this one, don’t come to one of my signings dressed in a red raincoat. You wouldn’t want to see me scream.

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spectre-james-bondThe new Bond Movie SPECTRE is out this month and I do like me a Bond movie. As with every new Bond movie, they are inevitably ranked by various organizations and publications so I wanted to share with the definitive Bond movie ranking list…because it’s by me. You may want to disagree but let’s face it, you’re wrong so bother arguing with me.

23. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

22. Moonraker

21. View To A Kill

20. Octopussy

19. Skyfall

18. Quantum of Solace

17. Tomorrow Never Dies

16. The Spy Who Loved Me

15. Die Another Day (remake of Moonraker)

14. From Russia With Love

13. Thunderball

12. Dr. No

11. Live And Let Die

10. The Living Daylights

9. For Your Eyes Only

8. The World Is Not Enough

7. Diamonds Are Forever

6. Man With The Golden Gun

5. Goldfinger

4. You Only Live Twice

3. License To Kill

2. Goldeneye


So there you have it, CASINO ROYALE is the best Bond movie (and the best Bond book). I don’t know where SPECTRE fares in all this, but I hope it’s a good one. Daniel Craig needs a better film than he’s gotten on the last two outings.

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I don’t do tough guys. Not when it comes to writing leading characters. I tend to write about people who are totally ill equipped to deal with the conflicts in their lives. Usually an unsuspecting person, an average Joe by every definition, is put on the spot. A situation arises that my protagonist can’t walk away. The reason they are there is usually their own fault. Sometimes it falls into the no good deed variety, but usually, the story’s hero has done something to get them ensnared. A tryst. An indiscretion. A little white lie with a black edge. A past mistake. These factors are subject to Newtonian physics. For every action there’s an equal and opposition reaction. It doesn’t matter how minor the mistake my characters have committed, there’s a price to be paid. Essentially these are people out of their depth. It’s something I understand. I have a small talent for disaster.

So when it comes to writing tough guys—the Parkers, Raylan Givenses, James Bonds, Jack Reachers, etc.—I’ve not really ventured down that road, because you write what you know—but I’m not that tough. You can’t be tough when you just scrap by the minimum ride height at Six Flags.

I’ve also tended to stick to ordinary people as heroes because I’ve always thought readers would identify with someone who’s like them. But people also want escapism and the chance to live vicariously through someone who lives the hero life.

So I’ve come to a decision. It’s time I come up with a tough guy and I think I have one. I’m mapping out a series of books featuring an honest to God, tough guy with the added feature that the last page of one book is the first page of the next. It’s a chronicle. That’s the plan anyway.

So finally, I’m here to kick ass and chew gum—and I’m all out of chewing gum. Does anyone have any gum perchance?

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I suppose I’m a little different to most writers when it comes to experiencing their own work. While most, I’m sure, want to see their book in print, I want to hear it. I prefer to listen to a book being read than reading it myself. This is in part because I’m dyslexic and I’m a shocking reader with a terrible comprehension levels. My comprehension level ranks in the second percentile for adults. Essentially my eyes are quick to deceive, but ears aren’t. I take in far more listening to people than reading, so the rise in audio book production especially in the last twenty-five years has been a godsend. Nothing makes me happier than picturing a fictional world as I listen to a book.

However, dyslexia isn’t solely to blame for my love of audio books. A few others have their influence. My parents for one. They read bedtime stories to me as toddler. My primary school teacher, Miss Pepper, for another. She read a chapter from a book every afternoon. I’ll be forever in her debt for introducing my classmates and me to The Hobbit, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Stig of the Dump, Nanny McPhee, and Danny, Champion of the World. Finally, BBC Radio 4 is responsible for turning me into a spoken word junkie with their original plays and unabridged readings. It’s still my ambition to have something play on Radio 4. I really need someone to make that happen. Someone, get on that.

So it’s somewhat ironic (or bloody annoying) that my own books have taken so long to find their way onto CD and etc. I’ve had a few of my short stories produced in the past, but never my books—until now that is. I have a glut of audio titles coming out now. Brilliance has just put out six of my titles on CD. Audible is currently producing DID NOT FINISH and HOT SEAT. And ROAD RASH is in the process of being recorded. I have to say it’s pretty cool hearing someone bring my stories to life. Finally, the voices in my head have an actual voice now.

So the big question for you is that I’m listening to me, but are you listening to me? 🙂

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logo_15It’s the gathering of the year for the mystery/crime fiction community this week.  It’s the World Mystery Convention aka Bouchercon.  This year, it’s in Raleigh, North Carolina.  If you live in the area, you can still attend.  For those who are going, here’s where you can find me over the weekend.

Panel: Research: Alcohol, Drugs, Guns and the Psychology of the Insane
Featuring Jay Stringer, Tom Savage, Lachlan Smith, Austin Camacho and me.
Friday, October 9th, 1:00pm.

Interview: Toastmaster Spotlight
I’ll be interviewing this year’s toastmasters, Sean Doolittle and Lori Armstrong.
Saturday, October 10th, 8:30am:

Panel: Does the character profession’s shape their sleuthing?
I’ll be moderating Rosemary Harris, Sasscer Hill, Sandra Brannan & Meredith Cole.
Sunday, October 11th, 8:30am:

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readersI don’t like discussing how many books I’ve sold.  It’s boastful.  I’m English.  As a people, we don’t boast.  But in the quieter moments of my day (usually around royalty statement time) I will tot up how many books I’ve sold.  Not to boast (see the English thing), it’s quite a few nowadays.  Not as many as I would like, but a lot better than I ever imagined.  However, I find it hard picturing my readers.  Say a thousand people buy a book of mine.  By publishing standards, that’s not a lot, but you wouldn’t want to wait in line behind them for the toilet.  So when it comes to things like this, you need a bit of perspective.

Ten years ago or so when my first book came out, I came up with a way of quantifying the number of people who bought my book.  I chose NFL stadiums.  The average NFL stadium runs what—80-100,000 seats?  I liked to picture all my readers entering the stadium with a copy of my book under their arm.  Yes, ambitious, but it gives some nice context.  Unfortunately, sales for my first book wouldn’t have filled one section.  Kinda sad, but I had a true sense of the physical size of my readership.

stadiumI’m happy to say that’s changed.  In the last few years (and I do mean few), I’ve found a readership.  Since 2011, my readers are just taking their seats in their twelfth stadium.

Can I be frank for a second?  I can.  Thanks.  HOLY SHIT!!!  That’s a bugger load of people. And even more frightening, that’s a bugger load of people I don’t know.  There was a point when I knew every one of my readers.  Not now.  That’s an awesome feeling, but it also puts me in a cold sweat.

Excuse me, I have to leave the room for a second…

…Okay, I’m back.  What was I talking about?  Yes, readers.

I guess I’m a little freaked out because this has gotten bigger than I ever imagined and by the same token, this is serious business now.  Writing is no longer a trivial pursuit.  People expect a good book and I have to do my best to make that happen.  It’s a little disconcerting to wrap my head around that.

Okay, time for a little more perspective; I’m nowhere near bestselling standards.  Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Grisham have each sold hundreds of millions of copies.  That’s whole nations of people possessing their books.  Now, that’s impressive.

But for me, I am, hand on heart, blown away by how many people have bought my books over the years.  I’m grateful to every single one of you—and I promise to do my best to entertain you with each book and story to come.  And for those who haven’t bought a book, try one.  There’s a seat waiting for you in a stadium in my mind.   😀

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royston (2)As keener followers will know, I lost my longhaired dachshund and sidekick, Royston, two weeks ago.  It’s been a hard loss to take.  He was one in a million.  I want to mark his passing by doing something special.    In his last weeks, he needed a lot of treatment.  Luckily, we’ve been able to afford to keep up with the bills but not everyone can.  I couldn’t save Royston but I can save someone else.  So, in Royston’s honor, anyone who buys a book or download from my Bookshop this week, I will donate 100% of the proceeds to Best Friends Animals Sanctuary.  If there’s an out of print title/hardback or any audio book you’re looking, drop me a note, as I may have one hidden away.  For the more adventurous among you, you might be interested in one of my famous Mystery Book Boxes.  Whatever you want, just let me know.  My goal is to raise $500.  Whatever the shortfall, I will make up the difference.  If I exceed the goal, then I will match whatever is raised dollar for dollar.

BF Primary Logo_Orange ProcessWhether you’re a first time reader of mine or you’re looking for a gift for a friend, I hope you’ll take part and help me support a great charity.

Feel to share this post this post online.  I’d really like to send Royston off in style.  Thanks.

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seminarThis Saturday I am Sisters in Crime NorCal Chapter’s guest speaker.  My topic is the 21st Century Author, essentially looking at the challenges and opportunities facing the modern day writer.  With all the changes in the publishing world, today’s author has to be a little different to his/her predecessor.  The writer has to be a little savvier than before if he/she wants to survive and thrive in this volatile industry.  For anyone who has attended one of my 21st Century Author workshops in the past, this is a new presentation that goes beyond what I’ve discussed before.  The areas I’ll be covering this time are:

  • Traditional contracts–clauses to worry and think about before signing and to go back and things to check in preexisting contracts of old.  Changes in technology can have long term impacts to the author
  • Understanding your intellectual property
  • Rights management
  • The importance secondary and foreign rights
  • What to consider when self publishing
  • What to consider when traditional publishing
  • New industry opportunities
  • The ‘Hybrid Author’—what it is and whether it works for you

Whether you’re an author with a long history in publishing or in the hunt to get your first book published, I hope you’ll come along.  I think it’ll be worth your time.  If you’d like to come along, it’s free and will be held at BookShop West Portal, San Francisco from noon-2pm, September 5th.

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