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Every Book Has A Story: The Dark Room by Sam Blake

Writing.ie | Magazine | Crime | Interviews
The Dark Room_PB

By Sam Blake

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The mass market paperback of The Dark Room is just hitting bookshelves across the UK and Ireland and hopefully reaching readers that the trade paperback missed when it was released in the depths of January’s lockdown. Not everyone likes the big airport edition (trade paperback), so the smaller, more portable, mass market edition, traditionally released some months after a book’s first outing, is designed to build a readership and suit new readers. The new version also has a preview chapter of my next book, Remember My Name (coming January 2022) in the back 🙂

Launching the trade paperback edition of The Dark Room with bookshops closed presented its own challenges, and meant a strong focus on social media. I had a feeling as we embarked on the first lockdown in spring 2020 that January 2021, traditionally flu season, might see another lockdown, and realised that my new book could be launched into cyberspace, rather than straight into readers hands. After all the work that went into writing it, ensuring it wasn’t floating aimlessly in the darkness was essential.

Many authors publish principally online, and keeping the ‘story’ around a new book fresh, is always a challenge. For The Dark Room, the location is significant and ‘travel with a book’ was a perfect message to build around. The key to successful social media is shareable content, and in July 2020 I found some amazing drone footage of West Cork shot by Michael McCarthy – it took me some time to track him down and get permission to use a segment of it for a trailer, but eventually I did, and Exhale Media made a series of fabulous videos showcasing the story. These included a minute long version that was premiered by Eason online, on launch day. When nobody could travel, The Dark Room offered an opportunity for readers to be transported to West Cork and a mysterious country house called Hare’s Landing, the essence of which was brilliantly captured in the trailer.

My fabulous publisher Corvus booked a blog tour with Anne Cater, the queen of online content, and Exhale Media again worked their magic bringing the bloggers’ quotes to life with aminated graphics to generate even more content. Social media is all about building community, as well as being a free way to communicate a message, and it’s a fabulous way to engage with readers – I spent time building the Sam Blake Facebook page specifically, as Facebook’s targeting gives authors the opportunity to reach the readers who are interested in your type of book. With so many wonderful groups well established, it’s possible to avoid the toxicity and intensity of unrestricted comment and find your tribe. I have a fabulously supportive, growing group of Facebook followers who are hugely responsive- you can follow here (as well as books there’s lots of cats, the odd alpaca and quite a few quirky posts about things that interest me.)

There’s a spooky storyline in The Dark Room and I was delighted when one of Ireland’s top paranormal experts Tina Barcoe agreed to talk ghosts at the online launch. The Dark Room focuses on the story of a homeless man, Alfie Bows, who is killed in London – Rachel Lambert is determined to find out why and how an articulate, obviously well-educated man who played the violin to orchestral standard, had ended up on the streets – and whether his death was really an accident. Her search brings her to Hare’s Landing, where she meets Caroline Kelly, a crime reporter from New York. Their investigation takes a sinister turn as the events of the past come back to haunt them.

Tying the launch event into a fundraiser for the Dublin Simon Community (thank you so much to everyone who contributed), I was thrilled that The Dark Room was an Eason No 1 for three weeks, and had the most amazing reviews. As a writer I want to improve with every book, exploring new stories while maintaining the atmospheric locations and strong female characters at the heart of my writing.

Sam Blake

As well as appearing in its new edition, The Dark Room, has been shortlisted for the Irish Independent Crime Novel of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards!

I’m bowled over to be on the same shortlist as Booker Prize winner John Banville, as well as some of the biggest crime writers publishing in Ireland today – the winner is decided by a mixture of public vote and an academy vote (booksellers, librarians etc) and every vote counts! If you have a moment, you can vote for The Dark Room, and your favourite books in the other categories right here: www.irishbookawards.ie/vote

My tips for launching a book online come from years of building this and other websites, as well as programming and promoting events. Here are some things to think about:

  • Build community and find your tribe across as many platforms as you can
  • Understand the different content requirements on each platform and monitor what is successful and what isn’t before you build your own plan
  • Have a social media strategy, use tools to share and schedule content to save time, but remember that social media is about interaction and community – showing up yourself, counts.
  • Think about the story around your book, and how you can tell that story visually with images and video.
  • Successful social media is built across content pillars – it’s about you and what makes you unique, it’s the story around the product (inspiration, images associated with location perhaps), social proof that your product is the real deal (reviews etc) and finally a call to action. It’s not all ‘buy’ my book – your job is to make posts informative, fun or interesting, to build a story around you and the book for your followers.

At the end of the day, the book itself is more important than any profile building so it’s vitally important to ensure you put your time and energy into making it the best that it can be, but producing a strategy plan with your publisher for online engagement ahead of the launch will ensure your time is well spent.

I’ve had a lot of fun with The Dark Room, building a Facebook live series called Six Minutes on Story in advance of the launch, where I talked about writing the book, and then did a series of readings leading up to the launch. I also spent an evening with Northern Irish writer James Murphy and medium Seán McGeough, Psychic in the City, talking ghosts! You can watch back here! All the content is available on my Sam Blake Facebook page (check out the video section) and I’ll be re-running some of it around paperback launch.

Every book has a story…

(c) Sam Blake

Watch The Dark Room trailer here and don’t forget to vote! www.irishbookawards.ie/vote

About The Dark Room:

Hare’s Landing, West Cork. A house full of mystery…

Rachel Lambert leaves London with Jasper her German Shepherd, afraid for her personal safety after a break-in on her houseboat.  Her partner, Hunter, has been involved in a hit and run, and she’s determined to uncover the truth behind the sudden death of the homeless man he was filming for a documentary. The only lead she has is a country house hotel in Ireland called Hare’s Landing.

New York-based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit and she needs some thinking space away from her job. But almost as soon as she arrives, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner.

As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined – and that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth…

Order your copy online here.

Click here to find out more 🙂

About the author

Sam Blake has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks, and she had an idea for a book.

Sam is originally from St. Albans in Hertfordshire but now lives mainly in Ireland, at the foot of the Wicklow mountains. Her debut novel ‘Little Bones’ (Bonnier 2016) was No 1 in Ireland for four weeks, remained in the top 10 for another four, and was shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year 2016. It launched the bestselling Cat Connolly trilogy.

Moving away from police procedurals Sam is keeping a focus on strong female characters, writing psychological thrillers for Corvus Atlantic. ‘Keep Your Eyes On Me’ went straight to No 1 in January 2020 and ‘The Dark Room’ hit the bestseller list in January 2021, staying in the top ten for over a month. Released as a worldwide digital exclusive, ‘High Pressure’ is a bonus spiderweb book linking her series and standalones. ‘Remember My Name’ is due January 2022.

The Dark Room is out now in paperback.

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