It has to be said that releasing a book while all the bookshops are physically closed is a little challenging. Thankfully, it’s the paperback edition of Keep Your Eyes on Me that was published last week on 5th November, the trade paperback having been originally published on 7th January, during the *time before*. Keep Your Eyes on Me is my first standalone thriller after the Cat Connolly trilogy and has been described as ‘Strangers on a Train’ meets ‘Dial M for Murder’ – it’s about two women who meet on a plane to New York and realise they can help each other with the men who are causing heartache and havoc in their lives. It’s been one of my favourite books to write as I’ve been able to incorporate lots of elements that I’m fascinates by like antique jewellery, the settings of Bloomsbury in London and New York, antique prints, and, well revenge…
This portable handbag sized version gets an updated cover and is aimed at a different reader to the large ‘airport edition’ trade paperback – it’s less expensive, it’s smaller and more manageable, and I hope will reach new readers with the same well received story. I was utterly bowled over by a dream review that appeared in the Sunday Independent:
“Blake’s skill lies in her ability to combine tough and memorable characters with a deliciously complex and fast-moving plot that never wanes. She takes the simple concept of revenge, but turns it into a riveting tale that criss-crosses the globe and involves smuggled antiques, forged artworks and even the Russian mafia. The tension never lets up and as we hurtle towards the last few pages, Blake fires in one last plot grenade that makes you question everything you have just read. Sam Blake is now writing on a totally different level and I, along with her scores of fans, will be eagerly anticipating what she does next.”
I’ve also been blessed with a superstar reader for the audio edition – Evanna Lynch, star of the Harry Potter films, who delivers the myriad of accents in the story brilliantly. In a fascinating survey commissioned by The Bookseller, Harris Interactive found that a quarter of audiobook readers listen to an audiobook and read a print version of a book at the same time, with the behaviour heavily weighted to 18 to 54-year-olds, and twice as common among men as women. In our current situation – pandemic/lockdown *sighs* – it’s been really clear that a lot of people have had trouble concentrating on reading (me included), but distraction from the news is vital to keep ourselves balanced, and audio books are an ideal solution. Anxiety stifles concentration (and creativity) but being immersed in a book allows your brain breathing space – and takes you back to the *time before*.
The Harris research was before the pandemic, but it also found that “audiobook reach had increased significantly, and was higher in ABC1 households (roughly defined as upper-middle, middle or lower-middle class) particularly those with children living at home.” There has been greater take-up generally among younger people aged 18 to 34-year-olds.
The good news for authors is that it also found the “audiobook market was likely to grow significantly, with only 23% of the non-readers ruling out trying audiobooks in future, and any resistance was largely down to a preference for the physical experience of a print book and the belief that readers take in more and get more involved in a story when it is in print.” According to Harris, in the 12 months previous to the survey, consumption has doubled from an average of two audiobooks per listener per annum to four audiobooks.
Users reach for audiobooks “when they need to relax (apparently, the leading reason why they do so), or when cooking a meal and commuting” (sadly not so many of us commuting in current times!) The data also found that “57% of audiobook listeners agree that they never have time to sit down and read a physical book, and the same proportion feel that listening to an audiobook is a more immersive and intimate experience than reading a physical book…While smartphones are easily the most popular device for listening to audiobooks (60%), one in five now also do so through a smart speaker.”
What’s very clear is that story is still vitally important, even more so in current times, and presenting it to readers in as many formats as possible is key – audio, kindle, the big trade paperback or hardback, and the extremely handy paperback format (I know, you were wondering when I’d get back to that!) For authors, reaching readers through new means is also important – after the first lockdown, the majority of bookshops updated their websites, enabling them to continue trading and get books to readers.
As authors, the web has become our shop window, and gives us a unique opportunity to reach new readers (this is a cue for you to follow me on social @SamBlakeBooks – just click for Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SamBlakeBooks/ 😉 Building your social media presense, and connecting with your tribe has never been more important. I’m also the convenor of the Irish Chapter of the Crime Writers Association and I’m finally getting into gear to build it into a part of the organisation that UK festivals, particularly, will take notice of. There is always strength in numbers, and by connecting, we’ll create a focused destination for lovers of Irish crime writing as well as a central point for communication. Check out
Keeping business within the country has NEVER been more important to keep us all afloat, and buying local will benefit everyone. In the UK, www.uk.bookshop.org has launched (woo hoo!) where you can source the books you love, online, from independent bookshops – the bookshops benefit, the author benefits and we look after each other. Check out my store (still growing) here.
There are many, many downsides to the current situation, but it presents us with opportunities that we may not have developed before – when this is all over and we return to normal, even a ‘new normal’, all the work we’ve done will hold us in good stead. You are all writers, and you can only grow as a writer if you read – read everything, read outside your genre, read your favourites, read debuts to see what it was that took them from published to unpublished. Pick up a handy, super portable, handbag sized paperback and immerse yourself in a gripping tale that will keep you completely absorbed for a few hours. 😉
(c) Sam Blake
About Keep Your Eyes on Me:
You won’t be able to look away
When Vittoria Devine and Lily Power find themselves sitting next to each other on a flight to New York, they discover they both have men in their lives whose impact has been devastating. Lily’s family life is in turmoil, her brother left on the brink of ruin by a con man. Vittoria’s philandering husband’s latest mistress is pregnant.
By the time they land, Vittoria and Lily have realised that they can help each other right the balance. But only one of them knows the real story…
‘Pacey and exciting and totally joyous.’ Jo Spain, author of The Confession
‘Delightfully dark and satisfying’ Roz Watkins, author of the DI Meg Dalton series
Order your copy online here.
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 has lived in Ireland, at the foot of the Wicklow mountains, for more years that she lived in the UK. 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. 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 Books. ‘Keep Your Eyes On Me’ went straight to No 1 in January 2020 and ‘The Dark Room’ is due in January 2021. Sam has already signed for two more thrillers with Corvus Atlantic that will keep her busy until 2023.