Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Book is Dead - Long Live The Book

I'm reading the last book on my Kindle.  Fifty odd months after unwrapping my Christmas gift I'm on to my 131st ebook title.

For the nerds and anoraks out there, this has thrown up a few random facts (you can decide for yourself how interesting they are).

  • On my Kindle there are only 8 "top name authors" (about 20 books).
  • I only paid full price for 2 of these books.
  • About half of the 100+ books that are left are either self published or are from indie publishers.
  • I paid for about three quarters of these - and no, I didn't get the rest from pirate sites, they were on free promotions.

If I didn't own a Kindle I wouldn't have bought anywhere near as many books as I have - I can't afford that many print books.
This means that the best part of 50 authors wouldn't have got the few pence royalty payments for their work.  I know that doesn't sound like a lot but if you multiply a few pence by a few million Kindle owners then, hopefully, some indie writers are doing pretty well (better than me anyway).

I was probably like a lot of people when I got my Kindle.  I went on a buying spree to fill up the memory of the device.  I actually got nowhere near to doing that as I stopped buying new books sometime last year.  I was buying faster than I was reading and it would take me almost a year before I got onto the more recent purchases.

At the start of this year it was reported that the end of last year saw an upsurge in the sale of print books, a drop in the sale of e-readers and a collapse in the sale of ebooks.

  • Of course print books saw an increase in sales - it was Christmas.  You try wrapping an ebook.
  • E-reader sales fell because Amazon are product savvy and have evolved the Kindle into a tablet.
  • As for the collapse in e-books, it could be that, like me, many people just decided to get on and read their backlog of books.

Maybe the ebook bubble has burst, or maybe it's all just a natural balancing of the market.  I don't really know and to be honest, I don't really care.

When I finish my last book on Kindle I'm going retro and will be reading some paperbacks for a while.  After that I'll back into Amazon and Smashwords, looking for new titles.

One thing is for certain though, I'll be scrolling past the big names and the corporate publishers and will be looking for the diamonds in the rough.
We indies need to stick together and I'll being doing my bit to support as many of them as I can.

If you'd like to know more about my own writing please have a look at my website at:

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Where The Heck Did She Come From?

I decided not to do NaNoWriMo this year.  I've still got a novella from last year's script to finish and I just didn't feel as if I had the appetite to commit to writing 50,000 plus words in 30 days.

As November drew nearer, I decided that I would sign up after all, but only write a handful of short stories.  Then, during the final week of October I thought it would be a good idea to write a little every day.  I still had no intention of pushing myself to hit the 50,000 word mark.  This year was going to be more relaxed.

I did write every day (finishing at 53800 words) and I did write a handful of short stories (8 in total).  I also penned one tale that just refused to lie down and demanded its voice.  This one finished up at about 12,000 words and, by the time I've fleshed it out, it will be novella length.

This all left me with about 9 days of writing to go.

Ever since my first NaNo, in 2011 I've had an idea for a three part fantasy story.  I began writing.  I've got a few waypoint ideas in mind but pretty much put one word after the other, letting the story unfold itself.

As I approached one of these waypoints in the story I realised that I needed a device to get me off a particular path that I'd written myself onto.  A new character was needed to put in a brief appearance, help the main character, and then bow out.

So where the heck did she come from?

I've landed myself with a feisty young woman who has issues with her life so far and a determination to do something about it.  Far from being compliant and subservient - just playing her part and then getting the hell out of my story - this little madam has every intention of sticking around.  In the space of a few pages I've written myself a second principal character.

This newcomer will be make for some interesting conflicts later on in the story.  My first principal character is a loner and not one for co-operating with others.  I suspect that this won't bother the young woman one jot.  She will be around for quite a while.  Whether I'll let her stay the distance is another matter.  Killing her off won't be easy though, I may have to catch her unawares with a knife in the dark.

Friday, 2 May 2014

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

This was going to be my last ever blog post.

I'd read all the advice about having an on-line presence and how having a blog was one of the most important platforms a writer could have.
I'd also read how important it was to provide followers with content - blog, post, share etc regularly.  Give people what they want and keep them coming back.  Apparently, one of the biggest crimes in the on-line world is to set up a blog and then not keep it fresh and up to date.

That's where my problems began.  It's never been a case of not having time - my day job has drummed in effective time management.  No, my problem is more about having something to say.
I'm the sort of person who prefers to get on with it and not talk about it.
Added to that, I've never been a chatty or open  person, I hate talking about me and what I'm doing.  I'm a listener, not a talker; and, for a writer, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I can easily spawn new characters from the people I watch and listen to.  When I do my talking it tends to be through the characters I create.
Any observations I make about the world in general tend to be short and pithy - suited to sites like Facebook and Twitter.  They also tend to be very tongue in cheek and are best taken with a healthy pinch of salt.

So, I decided, blogging isn't my thing and I was going to call it a day.

Then I read a lot of posts about people who were throwing in the towel as writers and pulling all their books from sale.
Some of these have strong valid reasons for calling it a day - and good luck to them.  For others though, it seems as if their indie author bubble has burst.  Writing a book is tough enough.  Marketing and promoting the damn thing is tens of times harder.  I get the impression that some people were under the impression that if they just wrote something, slapped a pretty cover on it and stuck it on Amazon then they would be an over night success.  It was a kind of "build it and they will come" approach.  The trouble is, everyone's "building it" and no-one's coming.

On a positive, though totally selfish, note, the more that drop out the less competition.  Those who stick it out will one day prevail - last man standing if you like.  Oh well, we can dream.

Anyway, not wishing to be thought of as having thrown in the towel this will not be my last ever blog post (stop moaning at the back).   I'm still around and still writing.  In fact, I've got two projects on the go where I've got plenty to say from behind the facade of my characters.  That way you'll never know if the views are mine or made up.
I will be back one day with updates on what I'm up to but, in the meantime - so long, and thanks for all the fish.

Friday, 10 January 2014

The Empire Strikes Back

It's perhaps taken longer than expected but the big publishers seem to be getting their acts together when it comes to fighting back against the self-publishers - especially when it comes to ebooks.

There's plenty of stuff on other people's blogs about marketing campaigns and sales figures and stuff like that.  Whilst it does make for interesting reading it's all a bit distant, a bit removed from every day life.  What does it all mean to the humble indie, tapping away on his or her laptop, trying to make it big?

As a writer I need to stand strong against the onslaught of the big five, or six, or however many houses make up the publishing elite.  I need to learn to shout louder and longer so that my voice will still be heard along the ethereal corridors of Amazon and Smashwords and traffic will still flood (a steady trickle would be nice) to my website to sample my wares.

The problem is, as a reader I've fallen into the trap and shot my writer-self in the foot (apologies for the mixed metaphors there).

When James Herbert's novel Ash was published a large collection of his back catalogue was made available for Kindle for only 20p.  I resisted the temptation and was rightly proud of myself.  When James sadly died last year there was a posthumous sale of the same earlier works for 49p.  I bought half a dozen of them.

In the run up to Christmas I was looking on Amazon for a boxed set of the Song of Fire and Ice Novels (Game of Thrones etc) for my son.  Whilst nosing around I found the entire collection for Kindle priced at 99p per book.  I bought the lot for less than £7 (the hard copy boxed set was over £30 and no, he didn't get the paperbacks).

It's always going to be hard compete as an indie when top titles are made available for those kind of prices.  Then again, it's always been hard to compete.  At least now though, indies are able to get their books onto the market place.  We're just going to have to work harder to muscle our way to the front.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Any Ideas?

I'm sure we all have different ways of coming up with that small seed of an idea that we can then nurture and turn into a novel or short story.

Just to show how varied (and random) my thought processes are, this is where the original ideas came from for my recently published short story collection, Who Will I Be Today?
I say "original" because some of the stories evolved in rather different directions once I began to write them.

Who Will I Be Today? – This all stemmed from the times I've lain awake in the early hours of the morning worrying about something that, in the cold light of day, always proves to be trivial.

Billy Draper’s Dream – The main character in this story appeared in my first ever published short story, The Boxer, back in the late 90s.  The idea to write him into another story came from a friend who said she would to know what happened to him after the end of the first story.

The Door – We were on holiday, in Florida, in a small motel-like room.  My bed was very close to the door and I remember lying there with the door virtually filling my vision.  The image stayed with me and the story grew from there.

Morning Deliveries – With this one a lonely old man and his cat popped into my head one day and refused to leave until I'd given them a voice.

Mule – For some reason I was thinking about the old PC space game Elite.  Mule was the by product of that random musing.

Butterfly – I was going through a spell of wanting a twist in the tale ending for all of my stories (a bit daft, i know) and I'd got this notion of domestic abuse running around my head.

Playing God – A simple "what if" scenario here relating to the (repeatedly mis-interpreted) 2012 Mayan prophecy.

Specify and Classify – "There are beings out there watching us and they don’t like what they see."  This is the tag line of the story and is the premise I used to write it

The Final Tally – The start point of this story was a miner's tally from an old colliery.

ps To The Angels – Just a single word for this idea - haunting.

Railings – Another "what if" scenario.  This time it was, what if the past doesn't always stay there?

The Impassive Moon –The final idea came from two existing characters.  These were policemen who had appeared in my second novel, Darkest Corners of The Mind.  I decided that I wanted to develop one of the characters further, possibly writing a complete novel about him at one point.  For the time being though he'll have to content himself with appearing in this short story.

If this has wetted your appetite you can read the title story in its entirety on my website.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Mum, Will You Help Me With My Homework?

Wendy and Charlie Siefken are a mother and son writing team from Iowa.  They began writing together while Charlie was still in high school.  Charlie had issues with cross modalities and though he really liked writing stories he found it difficult to get his ideas from his head onto paper.  To try to help with this, Charlie’s school principal gave Charlie a challenge of writing and publishing a book.  Wendy got involved and took the lead on researching how to get published.  Five years on they are still working together and have published their first book, ‘Kai's Journey.’
Wendy and Charlie admit to knowing nothing about publishing when they started out.  They know they still have a long way to go yet, but they also recognise that they have already come a long way as well.
The Siefkens invited me to their Iowa ranch for this interview (actually they didn’t, we did all this through Facebook; but we can pretend can’t we).

Writing is generally a solitary business, so partnerships are quite rare, with mother-son partnerships even more unusual.  Do you each take an equal share of writing and marketing or do you have specific roles?
We each do our specific roles with the inclusion of letting each other know what we are doing. Charlie comes up with the story ideas and we collaborate together on them, fleshing them out. I take the lead on marketing but I talk things over with Charlie to get his opinion on things as well and so he knows what I do and how.

Do family ties or the generation gap present you with any creative challenges?
No we don’t think there is anything like that between us. We are both good at describing what we see in our heads. I have learned to explain differently to help another understand what I am thinking or seeing. He is very good at it too. He can explain verbally very well, but like I mentioned before he has problems writing those things down.

Similarly, have you been able to capitalise on your relationship when it comes to promotion and marketing or have you encountered any obstacles because of it?
We do capitalise on the fact that we are a mother and son writing team with the emphasis of Charlie being the creator of the stories. The only obstacles we have run into is they either want to choose one or the other to single out and not mention the other.

Do you write everything as a partnership or do you have solo projects as well?
We do write most things together because we feel we are better writers together then solo. We have written solo pieces but feel they don’t have the same feel to them.

You describe ‘Kai’s Journey’ as a YA novel suitable for young readers.  Did you deliberately target this growing market or do you simply prefer to write in this style?
I think that is just the style we like to write in. We feel most comfortable with that genre.

What lessons about working together have you both learnt from writing and publishing Kai’s Journey?
We have each learned our roles while keeping the other included on the day to day partnership. I keep in mind that someday he may want to be or wind up being a solo writer and I want him to be able to carry on. I have learned to make sure when editing that Charlie doesn’t see some of the changes and that we keep Charlie’s voice in the story. (sparkly dragons are a no no!) J

Has writing Kai’s Journey helped Charlie overcome the problems he has with cross modality?
Yes and no, It helped him to write better and he is better able to get his ideas down on paper, but since he has gotten out of school he has gotten away from writing and we just talk about the ideas. His writing in general his improved greatly though

You initially self-published Kai’s Journey through Createspace.  Why did you switch to Master Koda Select Publishing (MKSP)?
Because we knew that we needed a professional editor but couldn’t really afford a good professional editor. Although MKSP is a small publishing company and we are still pretty much in charge of marketing and such they have resources we just don’t have. A professional editor, a character developer, a book illustrator and a group of people that help out with the marketing and promoting as well.

You say you have a long way to go but have also come a long way.  Where do you see your current strengths, writing or publishing and marketing?
We see our strengths in writing. We have learned a lot about publishing and marketing but still feel writing is our greatest strength to date.

What are you both currently working on?
We are working on the edits for Kai’s Journey book 2. We are also working on the third book of the series of Kai’s Journey as well as a new book called Fallen Angel about a pirate crew who finds a spaceship with an AI on board.

Many thanks to Wendy and Charlie for their time.

You can find out more about Wendy and Charlie Siefken on their publisher’s website
on Facebook
and on Twitter


Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Case for the Independent Editor

Does there come a point when, as an author, you see more in your story than is actually there?

By this I mean can you become so absorbed by what you're writing that you see more than is written?  Having lived with a character for months (or even years) there's a risk, when you read back through a certain passage, that your mind fills in the back story and character traits around the words on the page or screen.

That's great.  You probably have a fully developed character and a story with plenty of depth to it.  The only problem is that half or more of all this is still inside your head.  Will a reader, picking your book up for the first time, be able to fill in all of the unwritten parts of the story from what you have actually committed to paper?

There's a lot of advice out there that says part of the strength of a good story is in allowing the reader to use the own imagination to complete the picture that the author has started to paint (apologies for the mixed metaphor here).  The idea is that you give the reader enough of the story to allow them to visualise each scene and character however they wish.  That way, in theory, one book can be read in thousands of ways.

So, how much of the story is enough and how much is too little.  We can find ourselves in a bit of a baby bear's porridge situation here.  Some readers like to know more than others.

This is where an independent editor can be invaluable.  They are a cold reader.  They've never seen your book before and know nothing about the storyline or the characters.  Any decent editor will quickly pick up the holes in your manuscript.
The problem is, a good editor will cost you a fair amount of money.  Mind you, a bad editor could cost you a lot more.

So, can those authors on a restricted budget be an effective self-editor.
Yes, they can.
The key thing here is for the author to ask themselves, "how do I know this?" about a situation or character.  If you know, "because you know" and there is nothing in the preceding pages that at least signals what you're querying, then there's probably something missing from the story.

If someone acts out of character ask yourself if you've given earlier indications that they could or might behave this way.  This is more credible that having to go to explain why they did what they did and your reader is less likely to feel duped.

When I can finally afford an independent editor I'll use one (probably).  Until then I'll keep using the "how do I know that?" approach to my editing.