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Reviews - Overkill
Reviews Overkill (2)
Reviews - Pandemic
Reviews - Pandemic (2)
Reviews - Foxbat
Reviews - Foxbat (2)
Reviews - Timebomb
Reviews - Timebomb (2)
Press releases
Press coverage 1
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Critique service
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Press coverage - magazines

Writers' News August 2007

Tips for series success

There’s a kind of heady euphoria about finally signing a contract with a publisher. Your agent invites you out to lunch to tell you the good news; there might even be a party to celebrate your arrival at the house; and you know the hard work is finished because your manuscript – the work you’ve slaved over night and day, perhaps for years has at last been accepted. And you’ve got the cheque to prove it.

So now you can relax, can’t you?

‘Well, no, actually,’ says longtime Writers’ News subscriber and trained military pilot, Peter Smith, aka James Barrington, whose first hi-tech thriller, Overkill, was published by Macmillan in 2004. Peter’s third novel, Foxbat, which follows Pandemic, 2005, is published this September, with book four, Timebomb, due out next summer, so he is well placed to comment on ‘what happens next’.

‘Never forget that there are only a handful of publishers and literally thousands of would-be authors hammering at their doors, so you really can’t afford to relax,’ he says. ‘Instead, you have to do two things: first, make yourself indispensable to your publisher and, second, build up a dedicated readership.’

You could, according to Peter, who lives in Andorra, write a first novel that sells over 100,000 copies in hardback and several million in paperback.

Every few years some author, somewhere, does manage to achieve this but it is extremely rare.

‘Failing this utopian solution,’ he advises, ‘you have to build a solid relationship with your publisher and impress with your professionalism. Publishing is a business like any other, with delivery dates and quality control systems and, to be successful, an author must realize this and deliver the right product at the right time. That means writing what your publisher wants; delivering manuscripts within the agreed deadlines, and accepting editorial guidance. An author who earns a reputation for being “difficult” is unlikely to have his or her contract renewed.’

But there’s more to it than that: ‘As well as keeping your publisher happy, you also need to satisfy your readers,’ he adds. ‘If your first novel impresses as a charmingly gentle love story, a second book that features vampires and ghouls is unlikely to be well received by the same audience. You need continuity of theme, so that your readers know what to expect and are not disappointed, but each novel must clearly offer a new and different story, not just a rehash of the first. It must feature fresh ideas and new characters, though having a series character or group of characters that the reader can immediately identify with is often a good idea.’

Peter also suggests that writers discuss their proposed new novel with their agent and publisher, ‘to make sure that what you’re thinking of writing is what they – and your public – will want to read. Ideally, write fairly detailed synopses of several plots and let them choose the one they like the best. Then accept their guidance cheerfully.’

When you are plotting a book, you need to be very aware of what else is being published. Peter recommends reading voraciously, and not just in your chosen genre.

‘Literature is a dynamic and changing medium, and an author – like any other professional – must be aware of what is happening within his or her specialization’ he stresses.

But writing book two or three and having it accepted is just the beginning, authors must also be prepared to get out on the streets and promote it: ‘One of the best “training grounds” is your local library,’ he says.

‘Go along and offer to give a talk: in my experience, all librarians are delighted to set eyes on a real live author, and will embrace your suggestion of giving a talk with enthusiasm. Make sure that the local paper and/or radio station gets to hear about it, preferably before the event.

‘Ask the editor of your local paper if you could write an occasional feature, or even a weekly or monthly column for him or consider writing reviews of books by other authors in the same genre: as an established writer in your field, you are able to offer an expert and informed opinion.

‘Finally, whatever you do as a professional author, make sure that your editor and publicity manager are kept fully informed, so that the publishing house can provide the support you need.’

Writers' Forum September 2005

The second international thriller, Pandemic, in the Paul Richter series by James Barrington has been launched by Macmillan. The novel follows Richter as he investigates the connection between a wrecked US government jet, a deadly epidemic and the murders of several CIA agents.

        Barrington's work as a helicopter pilot for the Royal Navy and as a special operations officer has provided him with the knowledge on which to base the sequel to the first novel, Overkill. Pandemic is available in hardback for £10.

The Bookseller 25th February 2005

Of Matt Reilly ilk for the Tom Clancy generation (if you get my drift) but by a Brit - a helicopter pilot who worked in covert operations - so full of authenticity. I think Pan may have found itself a winner.


Writers' News September 2004 Jonathan Telfer

In for the kill


"Image is important in securing a publishing deal, points out thriller writer and subscriber James Barrington, whose first novel Overkill is published by Macmillan.

        'Because Overkill is a hard-edged thriller with a lot of military background, the people at Hodder were perhaps expecting a tough ex-SAS man who would kick the door down on his way in and tell them exactly how they were going to handle things, and that really isn't my style' said James, a retired Royal Navy pilot who now runs his own communications company in Andorra.

        The preconception didn't damage his chances, however, with two agents and then two publishing houses vying to take him on. In 2002, with Overkill and the chase thriller Trade-Off completed, James prepared two proposals - including the first three chapters, synopsis, an analysis of the target market and a short biography - and picked agents from the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook who handled the right type of work.

        After a couple of false starts and the usual 'host of rejection slips', Sheil Land Associates' Luigi Bonomi suggested a few changes, just as another agent got in touch offering to represent Trade-Off. After meeting with both, it was clear that Luigi was more used to the kind of books that James wanted to write.

        'Luigi is a wonderful agent,' said James. 'We've got on extremely well from our first meeting onwards, and he has been largely responsible for shaping Overkill into what we are hoping will be a bestseller. His suggestions for cuts and changes have been based on his years of experience in publishing, and all have made perfect sense. The result has been a shorter, tighter book with more action and less waffle.'

        Having never stepped inside a publishing house before, meetings with staff of Hodder, Macmillan and Orion on one day made for a fraught experience.

        'Hodder was intimidating as the editor had assembled virtually the entire team who would be involved in the production of the book to meet me,' said James. 'It wasn't really an inquisition, but that was rather what it felt like, firing back answers to a host of questions mainly related to my military background and experience of the kind of events described in Overkill, and whether or not Ministry of Defence clearance would be required prior to publication.'

        As at Hodder, Peter Lavery's 'enthusiastic, highly professional' team at Macmillan left James in little doubt that he could work with them and Luigi sure that one or both of them would make an offer.

        'We were actually in the middle of the meeting at Orion when Luigi's mobile finally rang, and he stepped out into the corridor to take the call,' continued James. 'Once we'd left Orion, Luigi told me that, despite believing that I was rather too nice a person to be writing a gritty thriller like Overkill, Hodder had made a good opening offer for two books. Orion declined to bid but Macmillan easily topped the Hodder offer and in the end we accepted an enhanced two-book deal from Macmillan.' Sheil Land's Foreign Rights department, who were involved from the outset, had received an offer from Bertelsmann for the German language rights even before the UK deal and Overkill has also been sold to Dutch and Japanese publishers. Macmillan have now accepted the manuscript for their second book, Pandemic, and James is working on a third, Prophecy.

        Though not directly inspired by his experiences, the ideas for the books are grounded in James's areas of expertise. 'My plots and action are firmly anchored in reality, and I avoid inventing marvellous and implausible weapons, vehicles or techniques. My characters bleed real blood, they use real guns with real bullets, not specially-designed weapons; drive Fords, not invisible Aston Martins; and cannot leap into a convenient jet aircraft or a hovercraft or a space shuttle or whatever and drive the thing to safety. Having said that, my protagonist, Paul Richter, is a qualified Sea Harrier and helicopter pilot - like me, he's ex-Royal Navy - and is therefore entitled to fly about the place!'"


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