John Barlow featuring FATHER AND SON second in the LS9 series with giveaway

Good to see you again,John.

For those who may have missed your first visit can you give a brief synopsis or your LS9 series?

The LS9 series is about criminals, their families, and their victims. Eventually there will be nine novels in the series. 

Set in the north of England, the books follow the life of John Ray, the half-Spanish son of a career criminal. The plots deal with the lives and careers of those people connected with the Ray family, exploring the void left by Tony Ray (John’s criminal father) after Tony’s demise.  

John Ray has always been the ‘straight’ one of the family. He even has a police detective girlfriend. But with a foot in both camps, he finds himself continually drawn back into the criminal world.   

So far there’re two,HOPE ROAD and FATHER AND SON.  A bit about them, please?

HOPE ROAD is about John Ray’s struggle to find a place for himself away from the criminal world of his family, but also about his attempts to come to terms with the murder of his brother (which John witnessed).  

FATHER AND SON explores the relationship between John and his father. It takes as a starting point the seemingly unrelated murder of a close associate of the family, which John is asked to look into. He finds a lot more than he’d expected.  

Why did you choose to self publish rather than go traditional?

Well, I was working on HOPE ROAD with my agent in the normal way, and towards the end of that process I just thought, why not? Things were really beginning to move in self-publishing by then (late 2011), and I wanted to have a go at it myself.  

Can you tell us about your personal self publishing experience and the differences, if any, between HOPE ROAD and FATHER AND SON?

I have enjoyed it pretty much. One thing that has changed since I published HOPE ROAD 18 months ago is that it has got harder for indie writers to promote their work; there are just SO many writers finding their voices and going indie now.  

Also, the market advantages that indies enjoyed early on (flexibility on pricing, low pricing, free-offers etc.) are slowly being used by traditional publishers (look at the prices of backlist on some well-established crime and romance writers, for example). This is great for readers, but more of a challenge for writers. 

Do you wear all the hats (proofreading, copy editing, formatting, marketing etc.)?

No. I use a network of readers for quasi-editing/feedback on drafts; I use an excellent pro proofreader called Michael Faulkner; formatting is so simple now that I do it myself; and as for marketing, I guess I do that too, although not as much as I should. 

With the economy the way it is selling anything isn’t easy.  How have you tried to set the LS9 series apart from the competition?  What’s worked and what hasn’t?

Well, Leeds(the city where there series is set) is among the largest and most diverse in the UK, yet it doesn’t have an established fictional crime series set there (unlike many other UK cities). So just choosing Leeds was an attempt to do something a bit different. I try to get the best cover art available (the artist for FATHER AND SON is currently working for a Hollywood studio, and also does recent Stephen King releases in the UK). Other than that, I just try to write books that readers will like. 

What are the most valuable lessons about self publishing you’ve learned so far?

Write what you enjoy writing and what you’d enjoy reading. Don’t expect miracles, and remember that ebooks are for the long-term. For example, I own the electronic rights to a travel book that I wrote for Farrar, Straus and Giroux back in 2008 (find it here); it doesn’t sell in huge numbers, but I still sell enough to make it worthwhile. And I still get emails from readers about it, which is great. 

Also, being an indie means you can do what the hell you please. I wrote a humorous PI novel that almost got published, but was finally rejected because it featured a midget porn star. After grumbling for a while, I just published it myself. Some people think it’s straight-out offensive (and have said so), but I love it. If you want comedy-porn-private-eye-fiction (and who doesn’t?), I’ve got the market covered.  

With all the upheaval in publishing and so many large booksellers going out of business, what is your opinion regarding the future of publishing, traditional and indie?  What about brick and mortar bookstores?  Are we seeing a return to the smaller, more personal book shop?

Trad might lose a major player or two, but will otherwise consolidate behind the higher income that ebooks are providing. Medium and small presses that don’t have a firm niche will get squeezed further and further. Indies will struggle to get noticed, as trad publishers move in on heavy discounting (perhaps even free???) and steel other marketing approaches used by indies (for example, big name crime writers are now being encouraged to churn out lots of novellas/short stories to sell as separate ebooks). I think indies are here to stay, in some shape or form, but I’m certainly not taking out a mortgage on the back of future sales.

 Bricks and mortar? Well, just look at B&N! Back to basics! I think supermarkets will grow their share of print books, all heavily discounted and dominated by the big mass market publishers. If B&N can develop into a general leisure-cum-book vendor, perhaps people’d still go there. But I dunno. Publishers are backing the survival of hardbacks (to counter the rise of ebooks) but who on earth will be paying $20-30 for a novel in five or ten years’ time?  

One very interesting issue, I think, will be what Amazon/Abe does with second hand, both electronic and print. If you are happy with either ebooks or second hand print books, you don’t really need anything else: cough up for the ebook if you want a title as soon as it comes out, or wait for a second hand print copy. Then there’s the rumor about second hand ebooks, which would blow everything wide open, and not in a good way… 

Is there anything else you’d like to discuss or add?

Yes. Right now all my books are on Amazon exclusively. I plan to change this soon, but if you do want to read one of my ebooks and you own a different device this is what to do: purchase a Kindle ebook and forward me the sales email; I’ll send you the same ebook in any format you want. I asked Amazon about this and they said it was fine. 

Thanks for visiting with me and Manic Readers again,John. Always a pleasure to have you.

And a pleasure to be here.

Best wishes, John

John’s Amazon page               John’s website (get his email here)            John’s blog           Facebook             Goodreads             Twitter

John is giving away a digital copy of  HOPE ROAD or FATHER AND SON, winner’s choice.  When it comes to crime fiction there’s a flavor for every taste.  Do you have a preference for your crime reading?  Cozies?  Noir?  Hardboiled?  Procedurals?  Comedic/amateur sleuths? Or like me a  mix of them all?  Giveaway ends @12am est 8-6-2013 with winners announced shortly thereafter.




John Ray is called to the scene of a violent murder. The victim is an old associate of John’s dad, local crime boss Tony Ray. There’s no visible motive for the crime, but everybody agrees on one thing: don’t tell the police 

John, the Cambridge-educated white sheep of the Ray family, has always refused to be part of his father’s business. But he’s a bit of a maverick, with a foot in both worlds, and he’s not quite as white as he would like: exactly the kind of person you’d want to investigate an underworld murder.  

His search for the killer takes him back to events twenty years ago, and to another, even more heinous crime. But he still doesn’t really know what he’s looking for. Until it’s too late.  

Plus, he’s not the only one looking…  

FATHER AND SON is the second crime thriller in the John Ray / LS9 series.      

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