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tout soul: six months on

August 30, 2012

DSC01794.jpgWatching the opening ceremony of the Paralympics last night was an emotional experience for many people. It certainly was for me.

As many blog readers will know, someone I loved spent the last nine months of his life confined to a hospital bed and, on good days, a wheelchair, unable to move from the neck down, following a car accident.

During the two years that I worked on Tout Soul, I was determined that something good would come from tragedy – the coma, paralysis and untimely death at the age of 33 – and that a percentage of each eventual book sale would be donated to a worthwhile charity.

I didn’t plan to announce this, partly because I didn’t want Tout Soul to be perceived as a ‘charidee’ book; I wanted it to stand on its own merits.

Six months after its launch, not only have I had the most amazing feedback from my readers – the sort of feedback that a writer can only dream of – but it has sold close to 5000 copies: after an initial print run of 3000, the book is about to be reprinted; while 2329 copies have sold on Kindle.

The sales figures are light years away from those of EL James or JK Rowling but in a world where ninety per cent of books sell less than 1000 copies, they're respectable – and I'm proud of the fact that they were achieved entirely by word-of-mouth.

And so, I figured that my readers should know that some wider good will come of it. The specifics are this: 50p** from the sale of each English language version of the book – both print and Kindle/ebook versions – will be donated to charity. In territories where the wholesale price or amount of money I receive for a book is less than £1, then 25 per cent of the proceeds will be donated.

The sales figure will be audited by my accountant each year at the end of January* and the proceeds will be split between two charities.

While watching the ceremony last night, and after hearing of the work of the pioneering work of the late Dr Ludwig Guttman – the neurosurgeon who is regarded as the founder of the Paralympics – at Stoke Mandeville hospital, I decided that this year, one of those charities should be Stoke Mandeville Spinal Foundation.

It’s mission statement is as follows: ‘Research will be concerned with practicalities of living with spinal cord injury, but also with a commitment to pushing back the scientific frontiers of spinal cord injury.’

As for the other, I would like it to be an organisation where the money goes directly to front line research into brain injury, as if there is one thing that the terrible events in recent years taught me, it is how very little is known about the human brain. I am still doing my research and will announce the charity in due course, but I feel very lucky to be in a position where I can do something useful in Luis's memory.

*Since posting this entry, I realized, that for several reasons, it would make more sense to calculate sales at the end of March each year – partly for accountancy reasons; and also because the print book was launched in March 2012.

**50p is the royalty that an author usually earns on a traditionally published book. It was the decision to publish Tout Soul myself that has allowed me to do this.

comments (37)

1. Posted by debbie in toronto on August 30, 2012 1:57 PM

Bonjour Karen....what a wonderful tribute to Luis and everyone who has suffered a debilitating injury.

I have to say I've followed your blog and read all three books..even the last one which hasn't come out in Canada yet but the wonders of amazon I got a UK version...the story is heartbreaking and you were very honest with your very real feelings...
I'm a big follower of Paris Breakfasts and I know you had a great visit with Carol...
Give Biff a kiss and please continue writing...your trilogy may be over but I'm sure there are plenty of new adventures to write about....

all the best.

2. Posted by Gwenda on August 30, 2012 2:39 PM

Thank you for all three of your books, your blog and twitter comments. I was delighted to read you are donating money from the sale of the last book to Stoke Mandeville. When I was in my nurse training in London in 1954 we had 2 visits to Stoke Mandeville and 2 lectures/talks by Dr Guttman. He really was an inspired and remarkable man and left a lasting impression on me. Did you see the documentary on BBC tv a couple of weeks ago about him and his work. (The Best of Men 16th August - might still be on iplayer) So thank you again.

3. Posted by Sonia on August 30, 2012 4:34 PM

Hello Karen, I have just finished tout soul, (literally 5mins ago!), and just wanted to say what a lovely book you have written. I was so sorry to hear that Louis passed away, but I believe that we all meet up with our loved ones again. It is wonderful that you are giving money to charity from your book, a lovely thing to do.
I look forward to reading more of your books in the future. X

4. Posted by Julia Stagg on August 30, 2012 4:47 PM

Inspirational, Karen. And congrats on the excellent sales.

5. Posted by mimi pompom on August 30, 2012 5:51 PM

Thanks everyone for the comments. Gwenda, I'm delighted to hear that you approve of Stoke Mandeville Spinal Foundation and how amazing that you met Dr Guttman. I saw some of the programme and he seemed like an amazing
man. Karen x

6. Posted by tricia on August 30, 2012 8:47 PM

I think this is a wonderful thing to do & a lasting tribute to Luis - I am sure he would be so proud of you.

This has also just made me think - I know what I will be buying my niece for her birthday present - all three of your books - don't know why I didn't think of it before.

PS Hurry up with your next book. :)

7. Posted by Shelley on August 31, 2012 5:16 AM

What a beautiful, selfless expression of love. You noted in Tout Soul how your driving and other approaches to others changed as a result of the happenings to your friend. This is so true - I felt the same when my dad passed from cancer - all of a sudden I became more compassionate for others, didn't get pissed off from slow drivers, etc. - who can know what someone else is going through?

I love your expression of love for your friend - shows your character which after reading your books, of course we have a little insight into, but this is even more - a true selfless and heartfelt gift. These are the reasons for things happening to us in life - to carry on the memory of those we love and to do onto others as we would like done to us.

Thank you for sharing and loved, loved, loved your books - my cousin is reading them now as well - hope to see more in the future.

Kiss that little puppy Biff on the nose, cheers, shelley

8. Posted by Dave on August 31, 2012 9:17 AM

Good for you! I'm looking forward to Tout Quatre (there is going to be a Tout Quatre, isn't there?).

9. Posted by Kerry on September 1, 2012 2:48 AM

I just finished your book last night here in Canada -- what a fitting tribute to Luis that you are donating part of the proceeds to charity. I've enjoyed all of your books and look forward to the next one; may it be filled with more joy than sorrow.


10. Posted by Patricia on September 1, 2012 1:40 PM

Congratulations on writing 3 such wonderful books which I just couldn't stop reading. Fittingly, I read the first 2 whilst on holiday in France. The last one I finished this morning at home while I was supposed to be doing jobs ready to return to work on Monday!!! I'm still feeling very emotional. I have friends who live in the Charentes and, having visited them a few times and met some of their friends (both French and English), I could identify with your characters. Please continue to write about your life in France.

11. Posted by Sue Walker on September 2, 2012 8:19 AM

Hi Karen,

Thank-you for your wonderful books! I 'discovered' you in Waterstone's in Bristol, in April, and read all three books in quick succession. I then had withdrawal symptons, made myself read two different authors, then re-read your three books again, usually sitting in a wild Somerset garden in the afternoon, having worked hard on a 120 hour Tefl course in the morning. I have never felt inclined to re-read so soon with any other writer. The feel-good factor I felt when I picked up the book was palpable.

Vivid pictures of the Poitou-Charente, all the wonderful characters living there, and the openness with which you describe your feelings, make your books so heart-warming and colourful.

It was so sad to read about Luis, but think it's great that you are doing something positive, despite the poignant circumstances. I am spreading the word and hope you sell many more copies.

I'm going to leave a comment for Biff now, so he doesn't feel left out. Thanks again Karen, and may you continue writing for years. You are extremely gifted.

12. Posted by mair on September 2, 2012 10:18 PM

Dear Karen. I finished Tout Soul yesterday having also read your other two books recently. I do not think any other writing has touched me so much with perhaps the exception of Marcel Pagnol's Chateau de ma Mere in which he describes his grief at the loss of his beloved Mother, Augustine. I had hoped and expected throughout Tout Soul that you would be reunited with Luis and I did not expect "the crash".The sadness of the situation was overwhelming. I truly felt your grief and pain and woke last night unable to breathe at the thought you would not be together again in this life. I like you have a Biff. He is loyal and has loved me unconditionally for 10 years. He has been my rock through all the sad times. I am sure Biff is a great comfort to you. I wish you well and hope that you continue to write.

13. Posted by Ewelina on September 5, 2012 12:20 PM

Dear Karen,
It is a wonderful idea to donate! As it was a great idea to write the books.
I am still waiting for my copy of Tout Soul (fifth week now :)). It is not available in Poland, I have to import it.
So... I am re-reading the previous two books and cannot wait for the third!
all the best,

14. Posted by Amy Kortuem on September 5, 2012 1:31 PM

Hi Karen.

I read all three of your books this summer and loved each and every one of them. What a wonderful adventure you've had in France. Tout Soul was heartbreaking, and you wrote about your love and loss so beautifully. You're an inspiration as I write my own (Paris-inspired) story.

I hope the books continue to sell well for you and the donations pour in. What a lovely gift.

(P.S. My cat Harry says "hello" to Biff...)

15. Posted by annette on September 5, 2012 1:49 PM

I have just finished reading tout soul, a very moving read. I have also read the other 2. They were great to read, at times I really could picture myself there! Anyway we are in the process of selling up and moving to France, charante, so I really enjoyed to read about your experiences. Hope you have another book out soon!

16. Posted by Paula on September 5, 2012 7:33 PM

Dear Karen,

I've just finished your latest book and found it very moving.
Your charitable giving is commendable and you should make absolutely no excuses for talking about those people and causes close to your heart...word of mouth is still the best way to raise awareness.
I wish you and Biff lots of happy adventures for the future and look forward greedily to hearing about them in your next volume.

Kindest wishes, Paula.

17. Posted by Angela on September 8, 2012 2:38 PM

Lovely idea Karen. Have missed your blog and really glad to see you back on here. Take care, I too would love to see a fourth book, Angela.

18. Posted by Mary on September 9, 2012 2:39 PM

I finished reading the 3rd book at 2.45am and sobbed so hard I could barely breathe! You have my absolute admiration, not only for everything you've done and achieved in your life but for moving forward from such a sad situation in such a positive way.

I hope you'll be watching the closing ceremony this evening, I think it's sure to be an emotional one!
Very best to you,
Mary x

19. Posted by Melanie Cory on September 10, 2012 11:00 AM

Hi Karen

Making me cry is becoming a habit, what a lovely selfless act of love. I treasure my three signed books and look forward to the next. Nice to see you back on your blog. Happy writing.


20. Posted by Jo Stockwell on September 11, 2012 9:46 PM

My husband and I are from Australia and purchased a house in the Charente recently. Looked around for articles books anything about the area to get some insight into life there and wow, found your boooks. In the middle of Tout Soul at present. Thoroughly enjoyed all of them. Thank you and Biff for making making me laugh, cry and your special insight of France.

21. Posted by parisbreakfast on September 11, 2012 11:25 PM

Gosh after reading all 20 comments I'm near speechless. Very wonderful indeed that you've found the perfect recipient for Tout Soul donations. What a kind gesture!
Please donate to us hungry readers more books Karen. We love you and Biff but are very hungry.
It can be on anything. It doesn't matter. whatever it is I know you'll make it a delightful engrossing escape.

22. Posted by Ewelina on September 17, 2012 8:40 AM

Dear Karen,
I finally got your book and read it in one go (with breaks for eating) - very beautiful and moving. I do strongly believe that that such a charming person like you will will find happiness and will love and be loved again!
Hope you do not feel guily anymore, remember, you cannot take responsibility for other people's actions... Many things are just beyond our control.

23. Posted by Ursula on September 27, 2012 9:55 PM

Dear Karen,
As a Swiss living in coastal North Carolina (USA) I am an expat here myself and so much enjoyed reading your three books. I just finished the last one ending with the death of Luis and I cried bitter tears. You are a wonderful writer and a warm and sensitive human being and I just love your charming and humourous account of life and love in rural France. The characters in your books just spring out from the pages. You manage to describe them so well. I would love to meet you and your friends like Delphine and Travis and Magda, and of course little Biff who is adorable and so lucky to have found a home with you.

24. Posted by Adele on October 2, 2012 1:49 PM

Hello to Karen and Biff!
Last night I sat up in bed in a snotty, tearful state and finished Tout Soul. Never before has a book touched me like this (although I am 7 months pregnant, so maybe it's the hormones!). I lay there for a while being grateful for the snoring dribbling pair that I am forced to share my bedroom with (one human, one white boxer dog!). So I would like to say a huge 'Thank you' to you for not only letting us know Luis and the love you shared, but also for reminding me of all the things I have in my life. I sincerely hope that you have many happy years in Maison Coquelicot and continue to make friends, do good deeds and appreciate all of lifes little pleasures. Yourself, Biff, Luis and the friends you describe are an inspiration.
PS - I bought my copy on Amazon and inside there was a notecard dated Friday 17th February....
'Dear Gaby,
Enclosed is an uncorrected proof copy of Tout Soul. It would be wonderful if you could consider it for review.
Please forgive the hastily written note: the proof copies just arrived and I'm rushing to catch a train back to France.
Kind regards, Karen
PS: as mentioned this is a proof copy before the main print run, so please ignore the rather compressed page heads!'

Was this indeed written by your very own talented hands?!

25. Posted by Vanessa Waite on October 3, 2012 6:50 PM

Dear Karen and Biff,
I have loved your books: I live just a few miles from Stoke Mandeville Hospital and am so pleased to hear you are donating to such a worthy cause. I do hope we will have another installment to read soon.

26. Posted by Debby on October 7, 2012 3:44 PM

Hi karen

What a lovely thing to do. i watched a programme about Dr Gutmann. An amazing and inspiring person. I loved reading your books (read them all on my kindle in a weekend) . Im also waiting for toute quatre! No pressure! I really wish you much happiness, it must have been / is incredibly difficult to deal with the loss of your love louis .

27. Posted by Yolanda on October 29, 2012 12:34 PM

Hello Karen,
Over the last couple of weeks I have read all 3 of your books and am now recommending them to friends. Tout Soul spoke to me on many levels as I have lost people to ghastly and untimely deaths, and have also experienced the trauma of a loved one suffering a catastrophic brain injury. Just as you described in the book, I have been weighed down with guilt and regrets, and am trying hard to move on and rebuild my life, and I too know the power of a little animal in helping us to achieve new hope.
I was so sorry to read about Luis. I'm sure he would have been proud to know how lovingly you wrote about him, and that even though his flaws were there to see,
you conveyed all of his marvellous qualities too, and made us care about him and hope against all the odds that 'the lion' would recover and live to stride once more over his domain.
I look forward to your next book, and in the meantime I wish you and Biff happiness and joy. Woof!

28. Posted by Lou on December 9, 2012 10:46 AM

Hi Karen,
After reading (and loving) your books and being new to blogging hearing that you donate some of your book funds to such a fantastic charity just inspired me even more.
I write about 'The Boy' who along with a number of different injuries broke his neck a number of years ago whilst playing rugby, and although he has thankfully been able to recover well (and be the catalyst for many a comical experience to blog about) there are many many more that are not quite as lucky so your gesture will do nothing but help.
Great cause, great books and great blog.....thank you.

29. Posted by Caroline on December 10, 2012 2:09 PM

Hi Karen,

After a gap in reading of over 20 years, I've recently got back into it, and amongst other travel-related books, have read all three of your books... I just wanted to say thank you for giving me the bug again. I'm so sorry about Luis... I finished Tout Soul this weekend and, despite fearing how the story was going to end, was hit by such a feeling of sadness as I read the first words of 'Afterword'. When you're so engrossed in the words of a book like yours, you really do feel as if you know all the characters so well. I'm glad you had the strength to continue with the story, and, like others, am sure that Luis would have been extremely proud of you. I'm so looking forward to your next book. Thanks again Karen. Be happy. xxx

30. Posted by Silvana on January 6, 2013 8:37 PM

Hello Karen,

I've never written to an author before, though I read all manner of books. I felt compelled to let you know that both my husband and I so enjoyed your three books. The pages just turn themselves and everything else gets left till the very last moment before we could put any down. There's an honesty of spirit expressed which we simply connect to, it really feels like we know you and your characters. Really sorry about all the pain you've suffered and we love your little Biff made real to us through your words.

31. Posted by Liz on January 23, 2013 3:07 PM

Hi Karen! As an expat, having spent a couple of years working in France but now living in the French part of Switzerland, my greatest joy is reading books written by Brits as to their experiences of life in rural France and felt I had to drop you a wee line to let you know how much I have enjoyed all three of your books. So looking forward to the fourth ... hope the wait will not be a long one! All the best.

32. Posted by Jim on February 16, 2013 11:59 AM

3023 copies !

Et ensuite? Toute Quatre ?



33. Posted by Laura on March 6, 2013 3:09 AM

When is Tout Soul coming out in Canada? Hope its soon! I've been waiting for what seems like ages to find out how Karen is doing...hope all is well :)

34. Posted by Tracy on March 15, 2013 6:20 PM

Hello Karen
Just finished your book Tout Soul only a few moments ago... I waited in long antisapation of its arrival in Canada, Alas, I could wait no more and sought out Amazon.. Loved it so very much!!!
Beautiful tribute to Luis. I felt your pain many a time in your book, I admire your heart and forgiveness in true friendship, only wanting the best for the Lion... Please continue to write, your life is full of wonder, even if you are just walking your little dog along a country road, love to read the details of rural France.. Hugs to your Biff and congratulations on 3 books well written!!!
Tracy G

35. Posted by Bryony on April 8, 2013 6:18 PM

I just wanted to say thank you so much for writing 3 very inspirational books, especially your last one. I have recently lost my mum and my brother and the words you wrote about life and how to keep marching on have made such a difference to me. Please continue to write, I look forward to hearing more tales of life in France x

36. Posted by Anita on April 10, 2013 5:27 PM

Hi Karen,

Just wanted to say that I felt moved to write to you after just finishing Tout Soul - I have read your other two books being a bit of a Francophile. I really admire your honesty and writing straight from the heart. I am so sad for you losing Luis (what a larger than life person) and glad also for you for the way in which he touched your life. I wish you lots of happiness and hope that all your dreams come true.

Anita x

37. Posted by Donna Klein on April 28, 2013 7:52 PM

I purchased your first, first then third books on kindle (the 2nd not available on kindle so I have to wait on delivery). I could not put them down, especially Tout Soul which I read straight thru and just finished. I felt your pain and was beyond moved. moved. I didn't read your blog until I finished as I did not want a spoiler as to the outcome. I felt sure that Luis would continue fighting the odds and fully recover and was reminded of true life when he didn't.
I have read many books from authors who leave their comfortable life to buy a home in France/Italy/ the UK. Yours have been my favorites. I am so looking forward to your next book, hopefully very soon :-)
Best regards--

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