Mirrors

Mirrors2After a successful launch party on KUF yesterday, I thought I should at least mention my latest eBook on my own blog! For those who don’t know, I am knee deep in a new project called London Town. It’s a Dystopian Urban Fantasy series set in… London! Mirrors is a 12,000 word short story that serves as a standalone introduction to a new London that is different to the one you all know, yet strangely familiar. This is story is free and always will be, and all you have to do to get your copy is follow the link by clicking on this link. If you enjoy Mirrors, please subscribe to the London Town mailing list and tell everyone you know where they can get their own copy. I hope you enjoy it!

What would today be like without all the science and technology that runs every aspect of our lives? Jackson Rockstone knows. He has created a window through the barriers between realities alternate to our own. From his laboratory he observes a thousand Londons, all different, all unique. His favourite London has no electricity, no cars or commuters, but it does have him. He’s not a scientist in this other London, but a murderer, the master of a criminal underworld. He can only watch, sharing his double’s life as if it were the ultimate reality show. That is, until the betrayal of a woman catapults him into his new city. Scared and alone in a strange yet familiar world, what choice does he have except to find the only man he knows?

REVIEW: Conversations in the Abyss

Conversations in the Abyss is a follow up novel to The Cult of Me by Michael Brookes. I’ve not actually read the first book, and I don’t really think it matters all that much if you haven’t as this works pretty well as a standalone story. There are a couple of different styles of writing in here, and switching from first person narrative to third person works well for the most part of the story. Personally, I preferred the third person view of the Friar over the more metaphysical prose from inside the head of The Deathless Man. It’s an interesting take on the struggle between Good and Evil and demons and angels. I expect there will be a third part along in due course, making this a trilogy, so some of you will want to start with The Cult of Me. Overall, though this isn’t my usual sort of read, I found it engaging and well-written. If you love stories about angels and God and demons and exorcising monks, do give this a try.

Draft2Digital: The Full Report

There has been a fair bit of discussion about D2D recently (a lot from me, it has to be said) and I said I would report back on my experience with them. So here it is…

Firstly, whilst there are many comparisons to Smashwords, and from what I have learned over the last few months, D2D is better in a lot of ways. I have no experience of Smashwords, so I don’t want to start tearing both sites apart stating what I think is better when compared to the other. This is a report on my findings of D2D only.

Please note that D2D is still currently operating in open beta mode. This means that they haven’t officially launched yet and registering with them requires a beta access code. Don’t fret, because these codes are, at the moment, given out instantly once you register with them. This may change. There is no announced date for the official launch.

Sites supported

Currently, D2D allows you to publish your eBooks to the following sites:

Amazon
Createspace
Nook (Barnes & Noble)
Kobo
iBooks (Apple)

Further outlets are being pursued including Google and Sony.

Upload times vary for each site. I am only using Nook, Kobo and iBooks, so I can only report on their upload times, which are as follows (these may vary).

Nook: Approximately 12 hours
Kobo: Approximately 3 days
iBooks: Approximately 12 days

These times are out of D2D’s control. They do send you an email each time a site goes live with a title, and a link is included in the email for you to check out your eBook on that site.

Formatting

D2D allows you to upload an MS Word .doc (or .docx) file for conversion, or you can upload your own ePub file if you prefer.

If you use a .doc file, you can allow D2D to automatically add the front and back matter to your file and will create a working TOC. When uploading your file, you will be presented with some tick-box options allowing you to select what you would like to include, for example, a title page, an about the author page, copyright, etc.

I highly recommend using their conversion process. Simply upload a file containing just the chapters and let D2D do the rest. It’s simple and the output file is great. On top of this, you are able to take the file they generate and use it wherever else you want with no restrictions. You will be given the option to download copies in .mobi, ePub and pdf formats.

Sales reporting

Once logged into your account, you are presented with your list of published books. Clicking on each one individually, you are shown a graph of your sales covering the last 2 weeks. Click on the “My Sales” page and you can get further details of your sales history with more graphs and configurable variables. Do you want to see how many sales you had between 1st and 15th February only? No problem.

Sales figure are updated in real time (with an approximate one hour delay) on all sites except for iBooks who update once every 24 hours.

Pricing, Royalties and Payment

Currently, only iBooks and Kobo allow you to set the price of an eBook to free. For Nook and Amazon, there is a minimum of .99 cents. At the moment, the only option is to set 1 price (in US Dollars) for each title, for all sites. If you want to set it as free for Kobo and iBooks, enter $0.00 and D2D will automatically set the price to 99 cents for the others. I have been informed that they are working on including an option to set prices in other currencies such as Sterling. Remember, D2D is still in beta, so new features are being designed and added quite regularly. For the time being, the dollar price will be converted into the equivalents on each site. For $2.99, I get £2.21 with Kobo, £1.90 with Nook and £1.99 with iBooks (Apple will round up or down to the nearest x.99 price).

Rather than me list all the pricing, here is their pricing chart which details what you get with which site. Note that the $9.99 price is an example, and they don’t mean that this is the minimum you need to receive the higher royalties for each site…

Payment works much the same way as Amazon. You get paid monthly assuming you reach a certain amount ($10). Just this week they have added the option for international EFT payments direct into your bank account.

D2D are required to withhold 30% of your payment for the IRS until you send them a W8-BEN form. The good news is you can email or fax them the completed form, so there are no worries about it getting lost in the post.

They are also working on a coupon system similar to the one offered by Smashwords. There are no details on this at the moment as I believe it is still in the planning stage.

Customer Service

D2D run to weekday office hours (CST) so bear that in mind if you need to contact them. I needed to email them about something over the weekend and I had a reply (with a fix) late Monday afternoon UK time. Cannot fault their customer service at all.

Overall experience

Honestly, I cannot fault them. It is so easy to use. If you can manage Amazon’s KDP then you will have no problems here. In fact, it’s easier in some ways. The flexibility of the sales reports is excellent and the site interface is a doddle to navigate. If you are considering spreading your wings outside of Amazon, then, as a UK author looking for international options without the headache, I recommend you try D2D.

http://draft2digital.com

Hugh Howey

I mentioned this American author on KUF forum today and straight away several people said they had never heard of him. This isn’t completely surprising as, whilst he has gained popularity over the last few months in America, his name is only now just starting to get mentioned over on this side of the pond.

Hugh is a self-published author. He has several titles out such as Molly Fyde and I, Zombie, but it was his dystopian sci-fi “Wool” series that has been his most successful series to date. It started out as a short story, but after many positive reviews and plenty of “word of mouth” exposure, he was motivated to continue the series.

Late last year, he entered into discussions regarding a “traditional” publishing deal, and in that process turned down one or two “seven-figure deals” on the basis the terms were not favourable enough, not just for him, but for Indies in general. Eventually, he struck a deal with Simon & Schuster where he kept control of the eBook rights. You can read more about the deal here on his blog.

Not only has he a publishing deal, the rights to the movie film have been picked up by Ridley Scott (yes, the real one) and according to this article is already in production. The same article touts Hugh as this year’s E L James; the latest “Indie author done good” story. He has just spent the last week here in the UK promoting Wool to all and sundry (including a spot on Simon Mayo’s show). So expect to hear many more mentions of this guy over the coming months.

Have I read Wool yet? In a word, no. I am trying to though. I have the sample and have read the first bit, but due to life getting in the way I haven’t been able to “get into it”. What I have read so far is very well written, and I hope I will be motivated enough to read through the rest of it in the coming months. The trouble is, I am not much of a sci-fi reader. I like to see my sci-fi on screen, rather than on the page (digital or otherwise). Don’t let my struggle with it put you off. I know it’s a good book (and yes, I know it’s a bit pricey over here in the UK at £5.39), but if you are a fan of sci-fi, then I doubt you will be disappointed with this one.

On Amazon (US) it has 3821 reviews at the time of writing this. 3212 of these are the full 5 stars(!) and only thirty 1 star reviews. That in itself is reason enough to take a look at this book.

Indies- be independent

The self-publishing world is a fast moving one. I have been “in this business” for a little under 6 months, and can already see the tide is turning. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, authors should be finding ways to reduce their reliance on Amazon for their titles.

On March 1st, a new set of terms and conditions for Amazon’s Affiliate Programme come into force. This programme, for those who don’t know, allows website owners to earn a commission from Amazon each time a visitor to their website results in a purchase (or several) on Amazon. OK, I hear you say, what has that to do with me? I don’t have an Affiliate account.

Are you planning a free promo for your book? Are you hoping to get 10,000 maybe even 30,000 downloads during that promotion? Are you praying to any deity who might listen that sites like Ereader News Today or Pixel of Ink will mention your book? Well, it looks like we have reached the end of the road…

Here’s one of the new stipulations on Amazon…

“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”

Amazon are choking off, in one stroke, the big free book promo sites from promoting free ebooks. 20,000 a month works out at approximately 660 free downloads a day, attributed to their sites. Any more than that and they won’t get paid for any sales they generate on paid books, Kindles or anything else their visitors decide to buy.

Paragraph (b) may allow a little wiggle room if the affiliates can boost their sales of paid books to more than 20%, but whatever way you look at it, the amount of free titles these sites are going to promote is going to be brought down even further than we have seen in recent months.

Amazon, whilst still happy to allow free ebooks on their site, are trying to reduce the volume that get downloaded. They aren’t making as much money as they want to, so they are encouraging (or at least trying to) more paid sales than free downloads.

So what does that mean for us Indie authors? It means there’s another reason not to rely on Amazon for your sales. Many are in the cycle of “poor sales, run a promo, get a few thousand downloads, have a few weeks of modestly boosted sales, back to selling nothing again, wait for 3 month cycle to start again”. Facebook is out (unless you want to pay to promote your posts), Twitter, is for most people, useless. Readers don’t buy books from adverts or promo threads on forums, and now KDP Select is not as effective either.

So what’s the point in remaining in KDP Select? In my opinion, there isn’t one. I would imagine in a couple of months, Amazon will change the incentives for Select. Already, having not enrolled Uprising in it, I’m tied into the 35% royalty for sales in Indie, Brazil and Japan. I can’t earn 70% unless the book is in Select. Do not be surprised if later in the year the only way you can get 70% in all countries is to be part of Select. Hopefully, they’ll raise the 35% bottom line up for those not signed up. I will still take 50% and be non-exclusive to Amazon than get 70% to be tied into just their site.

2013 is going to be an interesting year for Amazon and ebooks. Authors are going to have to come up with new ways of driving sales to their own titles. Whatever ideas people come up with, they should remember that they are Indie authors not Amazon authors. Independence. Focus on that word. Build your own reader base, however you do it, make readers aware of who you are and where they can find you, not your Amazon page. Have a website and use it to your advantage. Drive traffic to your website, not Amazon’s (directly). Let them find your books on your site. On your site there are only your books, no-one else’s to distract them. Yes, most of your sales (assuming you are not exclusive) will still be to Amazon customers, but they will have come to Amazon from your site, not because they found you on Amazon.

It’s an uphill battle, one that will take years, not weeks or months. We all like the rush of excitement as our free download numbers go up every second, but weeks, even days later it’s all over again. No sales today, sorry.

You are an Indie author, be proud of that. Now go, find your independence.

Oh, what am I doing? http://oldlondontown.com is what I’m doing. All will be revealed later in the year (not too much later, though.)

The difficult second book

Sometimes you start something with a clear path in mind. You work out what you need to do and how long it will take you, so you get started. Everything goes great to begin with, and then life gets in the way. Regular followers will know that I had originally planned to have Uprising out in time for Christmas. I had a big promo lined up for Firestone and I was all ready to go. Then life got in the way. As December progressed, I found the time I had to work on Uprising faded away in a wash of Christmas presents, work and other stuff. By the time I found a little window to do an hour’s work, I would find I was too exhausted to concentrate on magic and dragons.

Christmas came and went, and so did January. All I wanted to do was write, but things got in the way. I wondered if I would ever get it finished. I have another project that I’m itching to crack on with, but promised myself to complete Uprising first. And now I have. It was a difficult second book (to coin a phrase) in more ways than one, but I did it. I am now an author of two, yes two, novels. I’m not some fly-by-night writer now, y’ know!

Anyway, I hit the publish button yesterday evening and let it percolate through Amazon’s systems and it is now live. It is priced at a very reasonable £1.99 ($.299) and Firestone is still a bargain at half price- 99p ($1.49) so you can get both for about the price of a coffee (depending where you go, if it’s your local greasy spoon, you could get half a dozen for the same price).

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice Uprising is not available to borrow. I have deliberately not enrolled it in Amazon’s KDP Select. What does that mean for those who don’t follow all that author stuff? Well it means Uprising will never be priced at free. No promo’s for this one. Why?

Come 15th March, the 90 day lock-in for Firestone will be up, so that will come out of Select also. KDP Select has an exclusivity clause, which means I can only sell my books on Amazon. It is now time to spread my wings a little, so come mid-March, both books will be available on Kobo and Nook and the iBookstore. Amazon have a 45% share of the eBook market (in the US at least, it’s probably higher in the UK at the moment, but I don’t have those figures) so currently 55% of people who like to read eBooks don’t have the option to not buy my books. That’s a huge potential audience.

I’ve enjoyed writing Uprising, I really have, but I’m glad it’s finished. It’s time for me to move on to something new. For you, however, the story is all yours to enjoy.

UK download

US Download

The blurb for Uprising…

Well, it’s taken me a little longer than anticipated to get Uprising finished and ready for publication, but I am nearly there (I’m talking merely days now, folks). So to keep you going for now, here is the blurb…

After Leila loses both her parents in quick succession, she finds friendship in a young boy who has no memory of his name, or of his past. He bears the scale of a dragon symbiant, but there is no dragon, except in his nightmares. Together they become embroiled in a crusade against the King by her uncle, a man she hasn’t seen since she was a child. Her once quiet life suddenly becomes filled with danger, secrets and deception. Can she help her new friend regain his past? Why does her uncle want the King dead? A new life in Acirath awaits her…

REVIEW: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Ok, so first thing is, this isn’t an Indie book. Haha, no shit, Sherlock! In preparation for my forthcoming London Town project, I have been trying to find other novels that fit, or nearly fit, into a similar genre. Having seen both Stardust and Coraline, and seen a few YouTube interviews with Neil Gaiman, I thought I would try this one. It was actually recommended to me by a colleague at work (think Victor Meldrew in both appearance and demeanour and you’ll be quite close).

Neverwhere was originally created as a BBC television series and then rewritten into a novel. It tells the story of Richard Mayhew, a man with a not-very-likeable fiancée, but otherwise living a very normal life until one night, he comes to the rescue of a young girl named Door. That fateful intervention leads him to London Below – a world of lost souls who have fallen through the cracks of city life. There are rats and rat-speakers, an angel called Islington, and a wonderful pair of villains called Croup and Vandemar.

You are drawn into this underworld along with Richard without even realising it. The story is expertly told and the characters are so real they will stay with you long after you finish reading. Make a visit to the real Earl’s Court, talk about birds with Old Bailey, a man who prefers life on a roof than living in the sewers of London. Oh, and if you happen to meet the Marquis de Carabas, make sure he owes you a favour and not the other way round.

Seriously, I can’t praise this book enough. It is brilliant in every single way, and since finishing it, I can’t help but think back over their story and hope that one day I will meet them again.

Five stars

KDP Select: Revisited

It has now been a week since my second (and probably last) free promo for Firestone ended, so this is my write-up post for it.

You may recall that during my first promo back in October, I gave away 1155 copies and didn’t get any extra sales as a result. This time round, I got mentioned by ENT (ereadernewstoday.com) which led to…

1842 copies on .com

276 on .co.uk

121 on .de

3 on .fr and

1 on .ca

Being featured on ENT on the 5th day meant that I didn’t get as many downloads as I would have gotten should I have been picked up earlier in the week. That said, the silver lining is that in the 7 days since the end of the promo I SOLD 99 copies and had 6 borrows. All of these (bar 5 on .co.uk) were on .com and I put this all down to people seeing the ENT post after the end and deciding to buy the book anyway. I anticipated this and dropped the price to 99c for the rest of 2012 to capitalise on this effect.

Obviously, I didn’t achieve enough downloads to make an impact on the Amazon popularity lists, so I didn’t benefit from the promo in that way.

So far, I haven’t had any new reviews, but it’s only been a week. I know a few are reading the book at the moment and I’ve had a bit of feedback via Facebook, so who knows what will come by the end of the month.

My thoughts on KDP Select promos haven’t been altered by this run. A good run really does depend on being picked up by one of the big sites, and even those aren’t delivering the volume of downloads that they did a few months ago. Over Christmas, Amazon had almost 50,000 free titles available at any given moment. It’s a miracle anyone gives away any large number of books on a promo with that sort of competition.

So what’s a boy to do in 2013? Well that’s the big question, isn’t it?

 

REVIEW: The Ice Marathon

The Ice Marathon

This is not my first review of a work by Rosen Trevithick, and I doubt it will be my last either. Having read Seesaw and Pompomberry House, I looked forward to reading The Ice Marathon and I will say right now that I wasn’t disappointed!

Firstly, I have to say that her writing is improving a lot- not that it was in any way bad to begin with, because Rosen is definitely a rising talent amongst Indie authors. The Ice Marathon is definitely her best work yet. The story is involving, the plot well paced and the main character was not only believable, but relatable too. There is a sex scene near the beginning, and not everyone will find that to their liking, but each to their own. And the way the story deals with mental illness is thought-provoking and very well written. You can see the mania creep up on the main character before she even realises it herself.

The only disappointment anyone will find with this novella is that there will all too quickly come a point when you have read the last word and realise that you now have to wait until the author releases her next story. I hope I don’t have to wait too long.

If you haven’t yet discovered Rosen Trevithick, then I think it is high time you did. Give this a go and before you know it you will have read every word she has written. I promise.

Five stars!