Friday, December 16, 2011

Amazon stars

It's important to remember that the stars awarded to a book by an Amazon customer are not supposed to be an objective assessment of how good this book is, but a subjective appreciation -- 5 stars, I loved it; 4 stars, I liked it; 3 stars, it was OK, and so on.

I was very pleased with my two-day promotion of the Kindle edition of The Grand Mirage because a lot of people took notice of the book and thought it looked interesting enough to download. Even if a book is free, you do have to click and then you have another book cluttering up your virtual bookshelf, so I presume most people don't click blindly.

At one point, The Grand Mirage was #6 in the genre historical fiction for free ebooks, with Tale of Two Cities, Scarlet Letter, and two editions of War and Peace ahead of it. This doesn't mean that The Grand Mirage, as entertaining as it is, ranks up there with these classics and I would be the first to tell anyone that if you haven't read Tale of Two Cities, you should read it before you read The Grand Mirage.

The star rankings, at 4 and 4.5, also were in the same range, which again, does not mean that my book, objectively speaking, ranks with these classics. After all, if you gave 5 stars to War and Peace, you'd have to give 1/2 a star to every contemporary work of historical fiction if these were supposed to be objective rankings.

What 5 stars means is that there are readers who really loved it, and that is extremely gratifying to an author. The "worst" review I've gotten on Amazon so far is one I solicited from one of these semi-pro reviewers who have popped up on the Web. He gave The Grand Mirage 3 stars, which meant, as he explains, he thought it was worth reading, but he clearly wasn't wild about it. He added that someone who like historical fiction might want to give it 4 stars.

That's fine. There's some excellent romance and paranormal novels out there that get 5 stars from aficionados of these genres, but I probably wouldn't be able to give that many stars to these books.

As is most assuredly the case with most Amazon authors, and not just indies, some of the reviews on the site were written by friends of mine, who, God bless them, loved my book. They were sympathetically disposed, let's say, but at least each and every one of them used their real name. As a reader, I'm more suspicious of 5-star reviews written by a made-up name or Anonymous.

What thrills me about self-publishing is that readers who enjoy a book like The Grand Mirage now have a chance to read it. And if giving away the book means that more of these people actually get a hold of it, that's great. In the long run, they will talk about it, recommend it, buy my next book and you have created a fan base.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kindle promotion

The experiment continues. The Grand Mirage will be free on Kindle tomorrow and Friday, Dec. 15 and 16 as I take the first two of my five promotion days under the KDP Select program. Apparently this can lead to hundreds of downloads and it's exciting to think my book will be in the hands of so many prospective readers.

My primary goal for The Grand Mirage is that it be read. I know there are people who will enjoy it and who will be eager for the next in the series. It is secondary at this point how much money I actually collect in building that fan base. Eventually, yes, it would be nice to have a fan base in the thousands that's willing to cough up five bucks for a new book. But the first objective is to connect with those readers who like this kind of fiction.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Amazon Kindle

Amazon is getting considerable grief, as in Richard Russo's op-ed in today's New York Times, for some of its more aggressive commercial tactics. Doubtless its actions require monitoring, but it's hardly worse that the bare-knuckle tactics employed by Microsoft and Apple in their turn. These are new markets and they have some evolving to go through still before becoming more tightly regulated.

For ebooks, and for indie publishers, Amazon is virtually the only game in town. It provides useful tools for authors and it works hard to adopt customer-friendly interface and service. Along with many other indie authors, I've decided to take advantage of further benefits now being offered by Amazon and give them exclusive sales rights for the ebook version of The Grand Mirage.

For one thing, virtually all ebook sales of Mirage so far have been through Amazon. For another thing, the granting of exclusivity is paired with a couple of promotional opportunities, which are experimental and unproven, but worth a try. Both are somewhat counter-intuitive because they involve essentially giving the book away.

The one is to include The Grand Mirage in the new lending library for Prime customers. Amazon obviously is scrambling to find alternatives to free shipping for Prime customers as it sells more ebooks, which of course don't require shipping. So people who can keep to a three-week reading period can loan out the book for free.

What does the author get from this? Amazon is setting up a fund to pay authors a pro rata royalty each time the book is lent. It remains to be seen how much this will actually be, but this is an idea authors have long desired to see implemented in libraries for physical books. Authors also get a crack at that not-so-intangible word of mouth. The more people who read the book, the more they will talk about it to their friends, even give it as a gift.

The other benefit in the Amazon exclusivity program, called KDP Select with KDP standing for Kindle Direct Publishing, is five "promotional" days, during which the book is offered for purchase at no charge. There is presumably, though I haven't studied this in detail, some actual promotion of the book to Prime customers and the benefit to the author, once again, is heightened visibility and word of mouth -- the biggest challenge for an indie author.

Following the lead of my mentor in all things ebook, Jim Bruno, I'm also raising the price of the Kindle edition to 4.99 from 2.99. There has been some evolution of thought in the indie market that the higher price provides a better signal of value to the prospective book purchaser. Again, it may seem counter-intuitive, but many authors have reported an increase in sales when they increase the price.

None of this is irreversible. Enrollment in KDP Select is for an initial period of 90 days, automatically renewable. I can lower the price to 0.99 tomorrow if I choose. None of this may have any impact on sales. We'll see.

I'm willing to do what I can to support my local bookstore, but if Amazon offers me ways to get my book into readers' hands, I'm happy to take them and leave responsibility for preserving the old system to Richard Russo and the other mega-bestselling authors who have profited so well from it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Book Party

The book party is one of the rituals of publishing. Like reviews, it is tied to the pub date and is part of the push to create that initial buzz around a new book. This may be less relevant for a self-published book that will build its audience over time, but a book party is also just a celebration of getting a book published, and a great ego trip for an author.

We had a wonderful book party for The Grand Mirage yesterday. Many friends from Washington and a fair sprinkling of neighbors from Barnaby Woods were on hand to celebrate. It turns out that on any given weekend, a lot of people are out of town -- at weddings, in New York -- and this weekend in addition was a three-day weekend for those with kids out of school for Veterans Day, but it was still the biggest party we've had in this house.

Just as The Grand Mirage is a self-published book, this was a self-catered party. My wife, Andrea, and her brother Henry once operated a catering service together and revived their collaboration to provide some wonderful hors d'oeuvres for the party (see my food blog for details), so the catering was no more amateur than the book.

The book sale table was also self-service, cash or check. People made their own change for one or multiple copies and I spent much more time than anticipated signing books!

I did a short reading -- a part of the excerpt from the first chapter I had read at the gathering in Santa Fe, and everyone seemed to enjoy that.

People get excited about reading, about worlds of the imagination, about the willingness of someone to make an effort to entertain them -- and all this is very gratifying to a fiction author.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Praise from a top reviewer

Norm Goldman, editor and publisher of Bookpleasures, a highly regarded review site, and a top Amazon reviewer had high praise for The Grand Mirage:
I must commend Delamaide`s awesome achievement…in intelligently assembling facts and fiction to attain realism that makes the historical setting as chaotic, as well as dangerous, as anything that may exist today in the Middle East. …(T)hanks to expertly voiced narration and a skilled evocation of time and place, the tale will linger in your imagination long after you lay it to rest.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Of course it had to happen -- someone has come up with an app so that authors can "sign" ebooks. It's not perfect. The page is not actually inserted into the copy of the ebook but is a separate file. Generally speaking, the signature is not going to the genuine signature. It does, however, give the reader a chance to have direct contact with the author and to get a personalized message -- at least as personalized as anything the author writes into a book at a signing. So it's something. Not sure if it will catch on, but I'm happy to be part of the experiment. My kindlegraph address is

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Big Thrill

The webzine of the International Thriller Writers, "The Big Thrill," has a new feature each month listing the "New E-Releases" of members, and The Grand Mirage is on the first list in the issue out today.

ITW, which is backed and maybe funded by some of the bestselling thriller writers, has been in something of quandary with the surge in self-published thrillers. The group restricts membership to authors whose books appear with "qualified" publishers, ranging from the big mainstream houses to small presses and even to agents who are publishing their own authors' books. Even as the digital revolution is breaking down traditional barriers and busting the whole process wide open, they have tried to maintain something of a closed shop.

It is a true dilemma, because if there were no restrictions the organization would quickly be overrun by writers of books that don't meet minimal literary criteria. But who's to judge? How do you navigate the gray -- enlisting the genuinely good indies and keeping out, well, the riff-raff? As a tentative first step, ITW is now routinely publicizing self-published novels of active members who have previously had books from qualified publishers as well as associate members. And it is opening its prize competitions to these books as well.

New filters will have to evolve in the digital book world, to replace the traditional filters of publishers and bookstores that determined which books got into print and got into the public's hands. Reviews of course will be important and groups like ITW should be able to play a constructive role as well. This is certainly a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Great editorial review

Great review in the online Washington Independent Review of Books. Author and former journalist Lawrence De Maria praises the book not only as a highly readable spy thriller but as a history lesson for this vexed part of the world:
Delamaide’s prose is uniformly entertaining. If it was his intention to pluck 21st-century American readers from their living rooms and deposit them in the mysterious and dangerous souks of the Middle East ― and give them 500 years of history lessons to boot ― he has succeeded admirably.
Read the entire review on the WIRoB website.

The Washington Independent Review of Books was launched earlier this year by a writers' group in the national capital to fill the book review gap left by the closing of the Washington Post Book World and other stand-alone newspaper reviews. It has published hundreds of book reviews plus many author interviews, podcasts, blogs and other features.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kindle Author Interview

David Wisehart recently interviewed Darrell Delamaide, author of The Grand Mirage, in his series of Kindle Author Interviews. You can read the full interview at Wisehart's blog. Here are some excerpts:

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about The Grand Mirage?
DARRELL DELAMAIDE: The first time I encountered the Baghdad Railway, oddly enough, was in a history of Deutsche Bank, the big German bank I covered as a financial journalist. The bank was instrumental in getting it built because the Kaiser wanted a direct land link between Berlin and the Persian Gulf. Britain opposed it because they feared war was on the way and didn’t want India to be vulnerable. What a story, I thought, full of adventure and intrigue. It’s the story I set out to tell in The Grand Mirage. I also thought it would be a great way to conjure up an exotic Middle East that has vanished in history and yet forms part of our Western imagination, from Scherezade to Lawrence of Arabia....

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
DARRELL DELAMAIDE: My ideal reader is anyone who will enjoy this book. It may be older readers who thrilled to the first Indiana Jones movie – which incredibly came out 30 years ago. But it may be younger readers who read Outside magazine and who would love the adventure of taking a caravan from Constantinople to Baghdad in 1910. One woman reader told me she liked the heroine, an Armenian poet, so much, she would like to see a sequel devoted to her. I like to think of my book as the thinking man’s or woman’s thriller – literary, intelligent, and vastly entertaining....

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
DARRELL DELAMAIDE: I gravitated more or less naturally to the thriller genre, so in general I find a lot of inspiration there. John Le Carré is the master, though I find his characters bleak. British writers seem to have a better feel for the deep Anglo-Saxon roots of the English language. Rennie Airth (River of Darkness) and Robert Goddard (Into the Blue), who are popular in Britain but not too well known here, are particularly good in that regard. Alan Furst (Kingdom of Shadows), though an American, has lived abroad and had his early success in Britain as well. Again, I find his characters a little hard to warm up to, but he is a wizard at creating atmosphere. Among American writers, Joseph Kanon (The Good German) has also written some very fine historical thrillers....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

'Couldn't put it down'

This is the heading on Paula Butturini's 5-star Amazon review of The Grand Mirage:
Darrell Delamaide's The Grand Mirage is a wonderful read. I simply did not want to put it down. Though inundated with things I absolutely had to accomplish over the weekend, I found myself, between endless chores, sneaking back to my computer again and again to read just one more chapter. Both historical thriller and spy novel, The Grand Mirage outlines the geo-political intrigues surrounding the construction of the Baghdad Railway during the run-up to World War I in a corner of the world still seething with unrest over its most precious commodity -- oil. Delamaide's scholar/spy hero charms...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A new fan of The Grand Mirage

From James Bruno, Kindle bestselling author of Permanent Interests and Tribe:
The Grand Mirage is an evocative tale in the rich tradition of Kipling and George MacDonald Fraser. Like a desert sirocco, it will sweep you away into an era whose echoes still reverberate and a region that dominates today's headlines. The stakes are high, the characters are unforgettable and the plot moves with the indomitable force of the Berlin-to-Baghdad railway, which occupies center place in this story of intrigue, espionage and forbidden love….As you lose yourself in his story, you feel you are there: 1910, the Middle East. The colors, the smells, the dress, the vernacular are all there in perfect symmetry. The Grand Mirage clearly lends itself to a series and I eagerly await the next adventure of Lord Leighton.”

The Grand Mirage goes abroad

One of the wonders of digital publishing is that you get global distribution of your book. The barriers that used to exist to acquiring English books abroad (I know, I lived abroad for many years) have disappeared.

The Grand Mirage is immediately available as an ebook on Amazon in the UK, Germany, and now France. Through the distribution channels of Ingrams/Lightning Source, it will eventually be available as a paperback in the UK, Canada, Spain (!), Australia and New Zealand, and in ebook format in those markets as well.

The novel features a British hero, a German villain, and a story of the vanished Middle East that has universal appeal, so it's great that readers in these markets have a chance to acquire it quickly and easily.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Praise for The Grand Mirage

Early comments are in:
From James McGrath Morris, author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power:
“Delamaide has woven a masterful combination of spy story and historical novel. Every page entertains while building a massive canvas on which a spine-tingling game of intrigue is played out among the various European powers seeking to control this all-important passage across the Middle East on the eve of World War I. This is not merely an espionage tale. Its plot, central character--the beguiling Lord Leighton--and atmosphere combine for a deeply satisfying tale of intrigue on a grand scale.”

From John Marks, author of Fangland and The Wall:
“In his melding of historical detail and crackerjack thriller plot, Delamaide outdoes the modern master of the form, Alan Furst, blasting through cliches about the Great Game and opening a curtain on a vital but little-known episode in the evolution of the modern Middle East. Do not miss it!”

From John Tagliabue, correspondent for The New York Times:
“This is a well-told yarn about intrigues in the Middle East just before World War I, when the Ottoman and German Empires were building the Baghdad Railway….Though dealing with events a century ago, there’s an extraordinary relevance to the story today: struggle among great powers for control of the region, its oil and its transportation, the backlash of local populations, all continue to permeate international politics every much as it did then.”

From Nicholas Kralev, former diplomatic correspondent for Washington Times:
“The story will intrigue you, educate you and entertain you, all at the same time….Very pleasant, intelligent and quick read.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The paperback is available!

The Grand Mirage is now available in paperback as well as a Kindle and Nook ebook. You can order it from Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, or ask for it at your favorite bookstore (ISBN: 978-0-9839958-0-7).

Buy it now, tell your friends!

The Grand Mirage has it all – adventure, romance, intrigue. British Orientalist Lord Leighton is sent to Constantinople in 1910 to thwart the Kaiser’s effort to establish a land link between Berlin and the Persian Gulf with the Baghdad Railway. The action comes at the zenith of the imperial age, with Europe on the brink of war. The Grand Mirage combines the period atmosphere of Alan Furst with the consummate intrigue of Eric Ambler and the rugged sense of adventure of Wilbur Smith.

If you like thrillers, this is the book for you. Even if you don’t normally read thrillers, you may find this surprisingly entertaining.

If you do like it, share your enthusiasm by making a comment on Amazon, so that other readers will be encouraged to buy it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kindle, Nook editions available!

The Kindle and Nook ebook editions of The Grand Mirage are now available on Amazon and respectively! The price is a very affordable $2.99, so if you have a Kindle, or Nook, or iPad, or Kindle for PC, download the book and enjoy it with your Starbucks cappuccino.

The book has adventure, suspense, and romance and it takes you back to a vanished era in the Middle East that lurks in the subconscious of our culture. I hope you enjoy it.

The paperback version is on the way and will be available at these two online booksellers in a week or so. It will also be available to order through your favorite bookstore. Watch this space for further information.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Coming soon!

We are very nearly ready to publish The Grand Mirage. The Kindle edition should be available sometime next week and the paperback, if all goes well, the following week. Watch this space.

It's been a whirlwind four weeks since I first contacted Jose Ramirez at Pedernales Publishing about going ahead with this project, and it's largely due to him and his partner, Barbara, that everything has been done so quickly -- and so well. Can't say enough good things about them. The cover design is brilliant, execution on the formatting has been flawless, and Jose has been terrifically responsive at every step of the way. Not least, his pdf guides for completing all the other steps in self-publishing -- getting the contract with Lightning Source, buying the ISBNs, getting the Library of Congress Pre-assigned Control Number, and so on -- have made every step relatively easy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


The working title for The Grand Mirage was ORIENT. When it came time to decide on a title, I considered The Orientalist, referring to Lord Leighton. But at about that time, a nonfiction book by Tom Reiss -- a fascinating biography of Kurban Said -- appeared under that title and it seemed silly to compete.

I was afraid a title like Caravan to Baghdad would mislead readers who might be looking for something about the war in Iraq. My editor suggested Baghdad, 1910 to get around that, but I wasn't sure that would convey that this is an action thriller.

For a brief moment, I thought The Grand Caravan would be it, until driving behind the Dodge minivan of that name the next day, I realized it wouldn't do.

So we brainstormed. That is, I got together with several writer friends, ordered pizza, put a flip chart on an easel and we played around with numerous combinations before settling on The Grand Mirage. And now, here it is.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cover art

The cover for The Grand Mirage, which blends two images from the services used by Pedernales Publishing, perfectly captures the spirit of the book – exotic, adventurous, mysterious.

The title itself comes from the musings of the hero, Lord Leighton, as he crosses the Syrian desert with a merchant caravan. Amid the heat and the dust, he reflects that Europe’s effort to contain the Orient in its civilizing embrace is futile, and leaves the Great Powers grasping at a mirage that eludes them.

The etching of Baghdad, showing the pontoon bridge that features in the narrative, awakens subconscious memories of a thousand and one nights. Though it has fallen on hard times when the action of the novel takes place, it remains a symbol of a lost civilization. Baghdad is the destination of the railway that the Germans want to build with the Turks, and so the goal Leighton needs to reach as well, but the bulk of the novel’s action takes place in Constantinople, the storied capital of two empires.