Category Archives: e-publishing

K’Barthan 3 is out soon… oh yes it is!

Squeeee! K’Barthan Three…

photo

Picture taken in the few moments available when the cat was not in the box with them. He was busy killing some of the packaging on the floor at this point.

And just a reminder… it is available for pre-order in multiple formats at Smashwords and as an epub at Kobo.

Kobo

Smashwords
The ebook should go live at Amazon on 12th June, at or around 9.00 a.m. GMT.

In print:

Pre-order from the Book Depository.

From Amazon.co.uk.

From Amazon US.

From your local Amazon, if you live outside those two.

 

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Filed under About My Writing, Author Updates, e-publishing, General Wittering

Amazon is not your friend – reblogged from Chuck Wendig

Except he doesn’t have a reblog button but readers, writers, anyone, read this because what he says is true. Amazon has been involved in a giant price cutting war to annihilate the competition. Once that’s done. Once it’s the only option, it’ll do what it likes. That means if it decides to give self published authors a 1% royalty and keep the rest, it will. Or if it decides to move to a standard model and set it’s royalty rate at 10%, it will.

The competition needs us but more importantly, we need them because we need a free market and we’re close to a monopoly. If you have an iPad, use iBooks, if you have a kindle, buy your .mobi files from Smashwords and send them to your kindle, yourself. Mr Wendig is bang on the nail with this one free trade has to survive or we’re stuffed. So if anyone out there has any ideas as to how we can attract the customers using these other retailers answers on a post card please!

Here’s the post, warning, if you are upset by that kind of thing, he’s quite a sweary bloke. Think that man I can never remember the name of, Cardinal Richleau, Dr Who… oh yes, Peter Capaldi, doing In The Thick of It. Yeh… like that only less angry and not nasty. You can read the post here.

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Why Slow is Good for E-Publishing

As the length of time between releases deepens I always begin to get twitchy. As I face the fact that K’Barthan 3 will not be out for Christmas, indeed, is unlikely to be out by Christmas NEXT year, I am close to a major freak.

Reading this and the reblogged post it contained made me feel better. Hats off to Mr Vernon for sharing some heartening stats and some sage advice. I may put the brakes on and start writing other stuff alongside my big stuff. Because I’m not really a one trick pony, which is one of the things that is making it so hard.

Why Slow is Good for E-Publishing.

And on the back of that, this one, too…. Bottom-Dwelling E-book Authors RISE UP!!!.  Oh how I aspire to sales like Frank’s.

So at last I’ve got the message. And the message is: chill. Quite easy that, today, here. It’s brass monkey’s.*

Sorry everyone, but One Man: No Plan is not going to happen in a hurry. But that’s because I want it to be good. And I’m sure both of you (and the dog) would rather wait and read something that’s the best thing I can write, rather than the quickest.

Yeh, I’ve just binned an entire plotline: 50,000 words, which is what I mean about it taking a while. Phnark.

Onwards and upwards.

 

* Yeh, I know, it looks odd but that apostrophe is right because the full phrase is cold enough to freeze a brass monkey’s balls off.

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Filed under About My Writing, Author Updates, e-publishing, General Wittering, Good Advice

Women writing sci-fi? Disgraceful!

OK, a controversial one today. I’m going to talk about Mad Americans.

Sorry my American friends but when your compatriots turn barking they really go for it, you guys do mad better than any nation on earth. Not even we British can touch you. And that’s saying something.

Have you heard the latest? Science Fiction Writers of America, an organisation which, by all accounts, makes… well… even Republicans look open-minded has been in the news this week. Some of its members have expressed a view that women shouldn’t write sci-fi. This is, apparently, because they think that too many of the Sci-fi novels written by women have – gasp – romance in them! Mwah ha hahargh. I do ‘get’ that, I loathe and detest sparkly vampires but they’re just a trend, a fad and they’ll go away. They’re not caused by women! However, members of the SFWA are putting forward women sce-fi writers as the reason for this. Are you hearing a teeny bit of Sheldon Cooper on this one? Are you?

So, that’s the basic gist. Because of a passing trend for intergalactic bonk busters and the odd instance of characters falling in love in recent sci-fi, the SFWA has decided this:

Women authors = too much coitus. Phnark.

Well, they didn’t decide the ‘phnark’ bit I said that.

Well of course! That’s it, it’s our fault because we all know that Sci-fi, like D.I.Y. is serious hard-core man work that should not be attempted by women. Snortle!

Well, I got most of my info from Cora Buhlert’s excellent blog here. One of the articles she links to is a cracker here. I can recommend checking this site, it features sci-fi stories from around the world, properly around the world. It’s interesting, definitely worth a look.

To be honest, would anyone outside the United States see SFWA as the flagship organisation of the sci-fi genre? In Britain, perhaps, although I wouldn’t but then, I think that the ‘special relationship’ was made up by Winston Churchill to salvage some semblance of dignity after Yalta. History is always skewed by the perspective of those who write it; he wrote it, after everyone else was dead. But other English speakers/readers? I don’t know. The SFWA speaks for Americans, which is great but that’s not the English-speaking planet. From outside the US we foreigners can get the impression that, to an awful lot of Americans, their country IS the world which is fine so long as they don’t treat us as if, by being beyond their receptive parameters, we have no right to exist.

However, the thing that strikes me most forcefully about all of this is that if the SFWA wasn’t an American organisation, there probably wouldn’t even be a debate raging at all. How can a country be so forward and yet so backward at the same time? How do the nutter Americans get so het up and more to the point make so much noise? Zero tolerance or what? Some parts of the States must be stifling to live in. Check this! Mwah ha ha hargh, it’s absolutely hilarious but the sad thing is, it’s real. Do they not see the comedy in what they’re saying? Who stole their sense of humour, their sense of fair play? Then again, I’m British when we go to ‘protest’ on racial or religious grounds this happens http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/27/york-mosque-protest-tea-biscuits

See? Muslims aren’t bad people even if some bad people happen to be Musilms.

Sorry, tangent there. What I’m saying is that more and more people are learning to speak English every day. Right now the US represents just under half the English speakers on this planet – but that’s in countries where English is the national language, totted up by me looking at the population figures. It doesn’t count the people in other nations, where English is not the national language, but lots of people speak and read it. So the US is the noisiest market and it’s the biggest single market but it probably represents a lot less than half the population reading in English.

This also raises a broader question: What choice for a non American sci-fi author? You can address the US market, but it’s pretty conservative so you need to tailor your books specifically and then they may not fit so well elsewhere. You may well need to spell your book in American, write about American people and use American settings. If you’re writing sci-fi your protagonists, if they originate from Earth, will have to be very American in their outlook and culture, no-one will ever be allowed to wear a jumper or a jersey, the word will always have to be ‘sweater’. No-one will be allowed to use the interesting swear words because the Americans only know two; all in all, a bit dull.

Alternatively, you can write in your own voice, accept that the scary Americans won’t listen – but do you want them to anyway – welcome those who do, and speak to the other English-speakers of the world; Africa, Australasia and Eurasia. Places where there are millions of people who are willing and far more readily able to enjoy a story written from a differing cultural viewpoint. People who see English as a global language so understand that a faucet and a tap are the same thing. Also, BONUS, these are emerging economies where people have money to spend on books, unlike the US whose economy looks, from the outside, as if it’s almost as far down the lavatory (or the John) as ours.

I loved the quote from the South African writer along the lines of why would I join the Science Fiction Writers of America, it has nothing to do with me? Do you think the worm might finally be turning? It really is time organisations like the SFWA and more broadly, certain sectors of the US began to try and understand other cultures  – and more importantly were educated to do so – the way we understand theirs.

Could it be that, if the SFWA becomes more of an anachronism, and remains US-centric, it will come to realise that it is only the representative organisation of bigoted, male American sci-fi writers? It could be a world player but not without a change of attitude. Otherwise, it will be marginalised as the rest of us get bored of doing everything a certain way ‘so the Americans can understand it’ and another more outward-looking, inclusive organisation will step up and become the world ‘voice’ of the genre.

Homework: Read that ‘vox popoli’ post again and try and list the differences in attitude between that and the comedy skit shown below.

Answer: There are no differences.

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Publishing is dead: Long live… publishing?

What does a publisher do? Is there a point to having one? As a species are publishers dead?

I was just looking at this and even though I’m self published, I agree with pretty much all of it.

So… reading that kind of bears out what I’ve always thought. Ergo that a publisher is something akin to a venture capitalist. They see an idea and they invest. After a number of funding rounds etc, the ‘inventor’ of a product usually ends up with around 10% although I know people who have ended up with about 2%. When a company you started sells for several hundred millions and you get a ‘mere’ two it could be galling, if you looked at it the wrong way. But, in many cases, without the expertise of the Venture Capitalists – sorry I think they call themselves Business Angels these days – that hundreds of millions sale may not happen. Inventors invent something but as I understand it, where they make the money is sharing their know how with, and investing in, like minded individuals afterwards.

So what I’m saying, inarticulately as usual, is, writers have an idea, the publisher is the venture capitalist in that they pour thousands into the venture to get it to the stage where it will start making a return. The writer who has a publisher gets 10% rather than 70% but they will probably get to a break even point quicker than they might otherwise. Well… unless they live on benefits and spend all day every day marketing their work online and elsewhere. The other 60% absorbed by the publisher has probably been spent on design of the book and cover, some marketing, paid reviews in the right places and the kind of contacts and clout that no self published author will have. In short, if you’ve written, something, anything marketable, a publisher is the best bet (or acting the EXACT same way as a publisher – apart from saying no to yourself, obviously).

Unfortunately publishers are not like VCs or BAs, they’re much more cautious about who or what they invest in and there seems to be a lack of creative flair among the big ones. That means a lot of good stuff gets left on the cutting room floor… or the author may have some home life reason that precludes them from writing two books a year – which is what any self respecting publisher will expect (and need).

Those are the people who are going to have to do their own thing and those are the people whose books WILL get written, whatever the article says, and will get published. None of my stuff would ever see the light of day if I had to sell it to a publisher first. That’s partly because I’m bollocks at sales but a big bit is also because I have too much on in my real life to write a book in under 18 months. Even with an advance I couldn’t do that because the sticking points are people who need me, my time and my… well it sounds corny but… love.

So, if publishers could accept China Mieville’s view: “If we try to second guess readers, it’s a fool’s game. Our job is not to give readers what they want, but to make readers want what we give.” it would be great.

Unfortunately a lot of the big ones are trying to second guess what readers want and give it to them. The result is a huge restriction on choice and creativity.

Hang on though! Lots of small publishing houses have appeared in the last few years who are bang in line with Mr Mieville and have stepped into the breach. At this rate the publishing industry will re-invent itself… as it’s old 1960s forward looking, inquisitive, quality driven self.

Let’s hope so.

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Is ‘indie’ the new ‘crap’?

Is there still a stigma attached to self publishing?

As an indie music fan, I have always associated the word ‘independent’ with quality. People who have ploughed their own furrow, refused to compromise their artistic integrity and done their own thing. Indeed, I’ve never been a great fan of mainstream music dismissing pretty much the entire lot of it as overproduced shite. The big exception here being Abba and 1960s bubblegum pop but cut me some slack there, everyone needs to flirt with the Dark Side sometimes.

Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that in the world of literature, the word ‘independent’ in many circles is synonymous with the word ‘crap’. Even worse, it can also mean, giant-egoed, self-important drama queen… with delusions about their talent (please god let that not apply to me).

I don’t want to sound chippy but self published authors do seem to be pretty much the literary equivalent of ear wax. Worse, I get the impression that, in many quarters, if it came down to a popularity contest between the two, the ear wax would win.

Then, we move further out to extremes and we have these people who have worked themselves up into a frothy-mouthed frenzy of loathing at the idea that anyone should dare to publish their own book. These people seem to be determined to exterminate any literature which has not been chosen by the beloved gatekeepers from the public domain. I reckon they probably work for them.

So first up. The indie bashers. What I’d really like to know is how these people buy books?

I mean, when I buy a book I go into a shop and have a leaf through and if it looks interesting I buy it. On Amazon, I go to the page, have a look at the preview or download a sample and read it. If I like it I buy it. So when the indie bashers take a break from stalking the Amazon forums, axe in hand, like Jack Nicholson in the Shining, looking for indie authors so they can kill them, what are their book selection criteria?

Clearly they don’t buy them the way I do or surely they’d spot the duffers on the first or second page of the sample. Instead, it seems they purchase without looking so they can be shocked and irate and feel cheated when a book turns out to be crap.

Why does this piss me off? Well mainly because I’ve waited to publish until I’ve written a reasonable book. I’ve had it proof read by professionals. I’ve had a proper cover designed by professionals. I’ve attempted to produce a book which looks and feels professional to the reader and it got an award so it must be reasonably decent. I’m not the only one self publishing who has bothered to do this, there are lots of others. Unfortunately we get lumped in with those selling dross with the aplomb and sensitivity of door to door double glazing salesmen.

However, don’t get smug, indie writers. If the people who are pathologically unable to spot a good book seem thick, you, my fellow authors are the dumbest things that ever walked the earth. With the brains-to-body ratio of a triceratops (look it up) and a sense of self preservation that would make it look smart for Lady Ga-Ga to wear her meat dress in a shark tank.

Oh yes, a lot of you really do seem to be intent on shooting yourselves – and me with you, you smeckers – in the foot. Yeh, I’m raw about it this week.

So here are some please-oh-please-I’m-begging-will-you-fricking-do (and-do-nots) for anyone thinking about publishing their own novel.

1. ‘Wait it is not ready yet’ The Grolsh Novel.
You’ve managed to write 70,000 words with a beginning a middle and an end.

Well done.

Here’s the big news. This is where the hard work starts. Avoid being Grolsch author. If this is your first ever novel, the chances are, ‘it is not ready yet’. Think before you go ahead and publish anyway. Trust me on this, I’ve written three Grolsch books. I really, really wanted each one to be THE ONE but it wasn’t. It took every fibre of self control in my body to demurr from publishing them but I did. Trust me, if I can do it, you can. Experience has now proved that, had I published any of them, I would have destroyed my credibility as a writer and made selling subsequent books that bit harder. I am very, very glad.

2. Think about production.
If you’re going to write a book, do it justice. Spend money on a professional proof reader. Also, don’t get it proofed on paper, trust me, you’ll put more mistakes in than you take out. Er hem, I did anyway. Have it proof read by somebody who will make the changes in the document. Get a decent cover designed by someone who knows what they’re doing. Find out what fonts are popular with publishers, find out how books are formatted and laid out, justification, chapter headings etc.

3. Try to avoid making assumptions about your audience. It’s dangerous.

Some of the things I’ve seen indie authors do on forums are, frankly, prepscholic. Pretending to be other people and bigging up their book, making fake accounts and writing pretend five star reviews. The average 10 year old would consider these moves unsophisticated and beneath them.

This behaviour is very unwise, my paduan learner.

And it’s cheating.

Furthermore, every single one of those bogus reviews chips another tiny piece off the genuine reviews and hard earned reputation of those of us who do have some integrity.

It’s also worth asking family and friends to admit their connection.

4. Avoid ‘exchanging reviews’.
I am pretty gutted when authors offer to ‘review’ my book and give it 5 stars if I do the same in return. No. I’ll review a book and give it however many stars I think it’s worth. Gushing about books you’ve never read or that you’ve enjoyed less than you say damages the integrity of the whole system. It also damages the credibility of genuine, honest review groups.

5. Avoid spamming.
If you drop a 3,000 word essay about how wonderful your thriller is into the middle of a thread about teacups you are going to turn people off. They’re going to remember you as that person who turned up without so much as a nod to the topic under discussion, or even a hello, shouted in their faces for a few moments and then effed off into the ether, never to be seen again.

Are they going to read your book?

No.

6. Make it perfect.
That’s right. You have to, because unfortunately, there are a lot of people self publishing things that shouldn’t see the light of day. That means that even if your book is alright, the automatic assumption of a big part of your audience is going to be that it’s crap and that you are a git. So you almost have to make a better job of it than a ‘proper’ publisher would.

7. Be confident – but not arrogant.
So many people knock self publishers that, if you are one, it’s easy to take it to heart. Also, if you don’t have that vote from a ‘gatekeeper’ it can make believing in your stuff and publicising it very hard. So try not to over compensate. If you’re publicising on forums, I’ve found the best way is to ignore the fact you’re an author for some time and just chat to people. Like real life, you can tell people what you do when you get to know them.

8. Be courteous and professional.
If someone doesn’t enjoy your book it’s allowed. Don’t get into a public shit fight if someone gives it a bad review. Indeed try to avoid shit fights at all.

To sum up, make sure your book is ready, present it and publish it as well and professionally (I hate that word but I can’t think of any other way to say it) as you can. And once it’s out there, behave with integrity and courtesy. In other words, research what your publisher would do, if you had one, and do the same thing only better.

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Taking the plunge

Having discovered the lovely Smashwords is going to charge witholding tax I have been feeling, for some time, that my plan to e-publish my book has been a bit well… to put not too fine a point on it, pissed on. Now though, I have a plan.

So, here’s the deal.  I’m going to serialise my e-book for free, starting the last week in July. Anyone who gets bored reading the instalments can buy a copy of the e-book in advance for £2.50 or, if they really want to push the boat out, they can buy a paperback. Incidentally, the free, serialised, e-book will always be available. My aim is to get it printed for a price that will allow me to sell it for £7.99 and send it anywhere in the world for a tenner!

Terrestrially (is that the right word) I’ll try to sell the paperback locally, my local book shops, a signing, publicity in the local papers, radio and if I could swing it, TV, e-mails to friends, family, clubs etc. The angle being stay at home parent with two year old writes and self-publishes book – might add NCT or the like to the list for press releases then.

I’ve thought about Amazon but because they demand you sell it half price I’d have to list it at £15.99 in order to sell it for a reasonable amount and leave room for costs an their cut, let alone actually earn anything from it.  It all seems to be a bit artificial to me.

So there we go, that’s the plan… I took a big breath and sent off for the ISBNs today… one for each format of the serialised e-book, one for each format of the sold e-book and one for the paperback.

And yes, it’s a lot of money all this printing and isbns and gubbins and I could end up looking a real idiot. It’s sort of daunting and yet quite exciting too.

On a lighter note, scion pointed at my Dr Who mug today and, unprompted, shouted “Darlick”.

I did tell him what a Dalek was – when he was about 5 months old at any rate – but I don’t remember mentioning it since. Even so, clearly it went in.

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