Definitely a wood for the trees moment?

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This post follows on from the other day – https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/a-message-to-the-slackers/ where one of the commenters (Ken Thackerey) questioned my thoughts on reviews being the author’s only real means of knowing how many people actually read a free copy of a book. He got me thinking further on the subject.

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Why do some books become best sellers? Is it the fact that the author promoted their book, hoping for sales, by initially giving it away once it was published? Perhaps it’s because the author publicised it on every book and social media site, not to mention their blog? Could it be because the author let it sit for a while in preorder mode, prior to publication? Maybe its the cover? Maybe its the fact that it was edited by a professional, or that a lot of money was spent having it promoted? Each one of them is standard practice, and yes they all help. But only up to a point. Might it have anything to do with genre? Not necessarily.

Then the penny finally dropped. It’s none of them or any combination you care to come up with. I’ll tell you why some books succeed while the rest don’t. It’s only taken me twenty years to finally figure it out. Call it a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees if you like. It’s blindingly obvious once you see it. The answer was staring me in the face all the time from the books in my library. It’s in yours too.

In this day and age, no matter the genre, or how much time and effort you put into bringing that story to life to make it stand out from the crowd, what any book needs is reviews. It doesn’t matter how good the story might be. Nor does it matter how eye-catching the cover is, or how much money was spent on having it promoted. To become popular, and therefore by osmosis, to be considered a best seller, if it doesn’t have glowing reviews prior to publishing, quite simply you are wasting your time. I’m not talking about those written by the general public after a book is published. Instead I’m talking about presale reviews.

Look at the cover of any book coming out of any traditional publishing house. Whether the author is a known quantity or a newcomer, all trad publishers ensure that each book they put out receives a smattering of excellent reviews prior to publishing, one or two on the front cover. Others inside after the title page, and maybe one on the back cover along with the author’s bio. It’s simplicity itself when you think about it.

What about Indies? Does this apply to them as well? Emphatically yes. I known what I’ll be doing with my next novella or novel before I publish it. Oh, and no more free samples…

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As a writer, sooner or later your editor will let you down!

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They’re not pefect despite what they may say…

Face it, some editors only really care about how much money you are paying them. It is not until you become a writer yourself that you not only notice the errors that editors miss in any given book, but also how many there are. I’m not just talking about incorrect spelling, but the use of totally wrong words; things like missed spaces between a fullstop (period) and the capital letter of the next sentence, as well as either a lack of punctuation or far too much of it.

Let us also remember that some editors see nothing wrong with a book’s pages becoming nothing more than solid blocks of text with no break to make it easier to read. To give you another example, some editors in cahoots with certain publishers plead the old chestnut ‘house style’ as their excuse to cover a multitude of sins, like which type of quotation marks they prefer – single, or double.

It matters little that the book you are reading was self-published, or produced by a small press or one of the traditional big five publishers. More and more these days, with each book I pick up, I’m finding errors, which any editor worth their salt should have picked up on long before it went to print. If they were threatened with the sack, or were told they would not be paid for allowing those annoying mistakes to slip by, maybe all editors would be more vigilant! Heh, a chance would be a fine thing. Or in other words, don’t hold your breath…

Before any of you reading this while professing to be an editor has an attack of apoplectic rage brought on by what I’ve just said, if you are truthful, you know deep down that in all likelihood you have never ever turned in a totally error free manuscript for publication in your entire working life, due to time and business constraints. That being the case, the editor’s credo should be more haste, less speed. Maybe you need to stop thinking about how many other writers are waiting for your services, along with how much money you charge and concentrate on presenting a quality product for publication instead. Just a thought…

Why am I bringing this to your attention as editors and writers? Simple. When a member of the general public reads and reviews a book, their opinion (which is all any review is when you think about it) won’t necessarily be about its content or subject matter. More than likely these days what it will be about are the mistakes the reader found, or thought they had.

For instance – quite often anyone who is not an American writer will be taken to task for what some Americans see as misspelt words. To them I will only say this – apart from American English (which bares little or no resemblance to the original – English English), there is also Canadian, South African, New Zealand, Australian and Indian English. To my knowledge they are the main branches of the language. Each form of the language tends to spell some words differently.

Getting back to the general public – will they blame the publisher for any mistakes found in any given book? No. To the average reader, publishers and their editors don’t make mistakes, which of course is total baloney! They’re human just like the rest of us, despite believing they are a cut above humanity in general!!!

Instead you will find that to the reader’s way of thinking, the fault lies wholly with the writer. Once again many readers cannot seem to appreciate that all you did was write the story, employing someone to edit it for you. If you as the writer are to be blamed for anything, it’s thinking that once you have written the manuscript – that’s it, job done. Wrong! Never let your editor get away with too much by not picking them up on those inevitable mistakes. Like you they’re not infallible. Between the two of you, errors should be eliminated.

Here’s a thought – if you want to improve your image as a writer, learn to edit. While your at it, employ beta or copy readers. Personally I do both. With each book I write, the number of errors has dramatically reduced. For instance, my novella Cataclysm, written last year, literally only has one very minor error – a space between quotation marks and the first letter of the first word in a sentence. If I can do my level best to eliminate all errors as a self-published writer, so can the editor you are employing.

Am I going to fix it? No. That way the author hating internet trolls, grammar nazis, literary snobs, and other assorted self proclaimed experts such as pedants and armchair critics will still be able to appear smug when writing their inevitable caustic reviews of it. You just can’t please people like that. So don’t even try. Don’t be put off over attempting to edit. It’s not that difficult. Like anything else, all it takes is time, patience and application, as well as a damned good command of the English language.

Remember this – It doesn’t matter what we do as writers, if we make use of professional support and it is less than satisfactory, we’re sunk!

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Self Publishing versus Traditional

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When it comes to competing in the eBook market, without exception, all Indie writers struggle to keep their heads above water. While my efforts sell relatively well each month via Amazon.com, when it comes to the Amazon outlet here in the UK, the same cannot be said. All you have to do is look at the Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store List as well as the Top 100 Free in Kindle Store List to see what the UK based Indie is up against.

The former list is mostly inhabited by traditionally published writers like Bernard Cornwell – Sharpe’s Rifles, or David Boyle – Allan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma. As for the free list, you are once again in competition with the likes of Messrs Cornwell and Boyle and a whole host of others, none of them Indies.

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I offered Goblin Tales for free from last Wednesday 3rd December, until yesterday, Friday 5th of December. As usual the greater number of free copies were taken via Amazon.com – 80. Compare that with 31 here in the UK, 13 in Germany, 3 in Japan, 1 in India, 3 in Canada, 1 in Brazil and 3 in Australia. It would have been nice if the figures were for bought copies. Whatever the case may be, the figures above don’t lie. This is a fairly typical worldwide spread for me when it comes to give aways. The really interesting thing is when I look at actual sales, so far its just 1 via Amazon.com and 1 via Amazon.co.uk.

Why didn’t I publicise the fact that it was free? There is no need these days. The ‘Get It For Free Brigade’ are always trawling the Amazon eBook list for their next free book. These are people who don’t believe in paying for the priviledge of reading your book, preferring to wait until it becomes free. Whether or not they actually read them is an entirely different matter. It’s as if somehow or other these individuals perceive the Indie as not a real writer, just because we are not published by a major publishing house, therefore why should they actually buy a copy of your book(s).

No Indie can fight that peculiar kind of mindset, especially here in the UK, meaning that even giving away copies is difficult. Had I conducted the give away from today (Saturday) through to Monday, undoubtedly more free copies would have been taken. But the figures would remain in the same proportions. As far as the literary establishment of this country is concerned, Indies are lower in the food chain than pond scum. Plus this is a nation that still likes to hold a book in their hands and not an eReader.

All I can say is, thank goodness for the enlightened US market, and countries like New Zealand and others who buy through it. As you saw above, actual worldwide sales for Goblin Tales, are practically non existant. Not to worry, once a few more people have read their free copy, hopefully its sales will pick up if they liked it and spread the word.

🙂

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Click on the picture below to go to my Amazon. com Author Page

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Click on the picture below to go to my Amazon.co.uk Author Page

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Something’s Rotten In The State Of Denmark!

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Like a lot of supposed author friendly sites, Scribd has become commercial. In two articles (click here), Scribd  (and here) Publisher’s Weekly  it was variously announced that Scribd now has 30,000 audio books for sale via a monthly subscription.

I left a comment on the second of the two articles asking –  Why would you want the electronic version of your mother reading you a bedtime story?

I recieved the following reply from Andi Arnt, a narrator of audio books – Audio Publishers Association reported 35,713 titles published in 2013, with retail sales in excess of $1.3 billion. Narrating audiobooks is my full-time job, and some of the listeners ONLY experience books in audio form, never print. But yeah, you’re probably right, who would want that?

While I’m all in favour of audio books for the blind put out by mainstream publishers, what Scribd’s CEO and co-founder Trip Adler has done (while hoping to cash in on a lucrative market), is to play into the hands of a growing section of today’s youth who are too lazy to buy and read a real book, and those adults who claim they have no time to read because of their busy lives. To the first group I merely say this – you don’t know what your missing. To the second group I say – make time!

Hopefully Adler is not doing it at the expense of the books’ many authors. My question to him is simply this, are the authors of the works or their legal representatives, being paid royalties for the sale of each copy of books you have made available in your new service? If not, why not?

When Scribd first appeared in 2007, like all writers I viewed the site as yet another place to make my work known. Now, I’m not so sure. There are a number of sites that pirate books without paying royalties to the authors of those books. Is that happening here?

To say that what Scribd is doing seems extremely fishy, is an understatement. Has it become yet another pirate site? It’s already an uphill battle to get people to buy a legal copy of an eBook or a paperback, without sites like this sidelining them.

😦

Cyber Bullying On GoodReads

It’s to be expected given that it is now wholly owned and controlled by Amazon, who allow cyber bullies to attack anyone and everyone who publishes books. A lot of rhetoric abounds from both sites about ridding themselves of the problem, and yet to date nothing positive has happened. While I’m all for freedom of speech, there are limits!

Cyber Bullying On GoodReads.

Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge

I totally agree with what Horace says. How about you?

Creative writing courses are killing western literature, claims Nobel judge.

For Goodness Sake – Think Before You Act!!!

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I’ve said this all before on several occasions. But apparently you decided to keep on doing it anyway…

As writers, whether seasoned or a newcomer, explain to me why it is that you have totally swallowed the marketing ploy created by your publisher(s) that giving away hundreds, sometimes thousands, of copies of your books is somehow financially beneficial to you?

The only ones who benefit from your moment of completely misguided naivety, or should that be madness, is your publisher and one particularly evil, not to say tight, group of readers. I refer to those individuals who know that sooner or later you will become desperate enough (or should that be foolish enough) to decide that it is a good idea to give the product of all your hard work away for nothing! Think trolls, pedants, armchair critics and good old fashioned skinflints. Letting the first three get their hands on a free copy of your book gives them all the ammunition they need to tear apart your reputation as a writer even before you have established one! Just take a look at all of the one star reviews on sites like Amazon if you don’t believe me…

Before you join in with this idiocy, take a moment to think it through. There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving away a dozen copies of an eBook online, or a dozen signed paperback copies at a book fair, or in your local book shop just once. It makes total promotional sense. Number one, with the paperback, the cost of getting that many printed is negligable. Number two, despite what eBook publishers may say, the cost of producing an eBook is practically zero. If those who got their copy from you this way like what they read, they will soon spread the word.

The nasties usually don’t attend book fairs and bookshops…

Put your thinking caps on for a moment. If instead of being a writer you were a painter, or a sculpture, would you give your work away to get yourself noticed? No, of course you wouldn’t. So why do you think that you will become popular among readers if you give away hundreds or thousands of copies of your book(s)?

Once again I ask you to think before you act. While your eBook or paperback may be free to the readers for a promotional period between two to five days, your publisher still receives a financial reward simply by delivering the copy to the readers, while you get nothing.

Let’s face it people. You decided to get your book published. You spent many months slaving over it. In a lot of cases, you spent more money than you could afford at the time having it edited as well as getting the cover made. Giving away thousands of copies will not help you recoup your financial outlay. Only real sales do that. While you may believe that it is a good idea, take it from one who knows – it isn’t! Divide the total cost of your outlay by the retail price of the book. That will give you some idea of how many copies have to be sold before you begin to see any profit in the form of royalties.

If the loss of thousands of pounds/dollars etc in the form of royalties doesn’t bother you, I give up. You are a hopeless case. I’ve mentioned all of this in previous posts. So have many other seasoned writers. Yet, each day I come across more and more writers giving away precious copies of their book, hoping to be recognised, even though they know they are playing into the hands of the literary vultures waiting in the wings, hoping to feed on the next writer’s sheer desperation.

You know that it is totally ridiculous and yet you still do it. Why? For your own sakes, not to mention your dwindling bank accounts, cease and desist! You wrote the book. Therefore you are entitled to reap any financial reward derived by its sale.

 

What It Takes To Be A Serious Writer

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In the good old bad old days, wrongly or rightly, writers were shielded by their agents and publishers from their reading public to maintain an air of mystery, and to shield them from the more repugnant elements of society, among other things. These days since the internet became reality, it has become a necessary tool for all writers to be able to let their readers get to know them.

Even so, as a writer you need to be cautious. There are a few drawbacks. The  spread of internet trolls, armchair critics and pedants springs to mind. But, always providing the writer doesn’t engage with them, they remain where they belong, lurking in the darkest recesses of the internet fora. With the way the review system operates on a lot of book sites these days, they do their darnedest to put people off buying books written by every writer they hate. Usually their stupidity, bile and invective has the complete reverse effect. Some foolishly think that they will be able to get at any writer who maintains a blog by offering a less than civil comment. If you are a member of one of the three groups mentioned above, know that your comment will never see the light of day…

The time has long since gone when serious writers simply wrote books. Contrary to popular belief, being a writer is not only a lonely existance, but also unless you are one of the fortunate few, the amount of money we receive in royalties is minute to say the least. Any serious writer who makes £12,000 per annum, or more, is doing well. Most mid-listers make far less; new writers, practically zero.

Nowadays, we spend a lot of time either with our own webpages where we advertise our wares, or as in my case (and that of many other writers) we operate a blog like this one, contributing to it on a daily basis. Let’s face it, people are curious about us. They want to know everything about their favourite author(s). Once again there is danger involved in maintaining any form of public forum. How much do you reveal about yourselves? Short answer – think before you type. There are people out there who will think nothing of revealing your innermost secrets to the world in an attempt to turn potential readers away from your work. After all, like everyone else, we are human beings with the same character flaws, hates, foibles, desires, regrets, financial and health problems as anyone else.

Besides writing that novel, the odd short story, and maintaining a blog, we also interact on popular social media sites as well as placing links for our latest novel, novella, anthology and blog posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc, etc. Participating in all of these activities has become an absolute necessity since the concept of publishing, and what publishers were prepared to do for their writers changed for the worse from the point of view of the writer a few years ago.

To keep our names in forefront of the reader’s mind we need to ‘self-promote’. The myth that any writer worth their salt does nothing but slave over their latest manuscript is just that – a myth. Some of us attend various book fares, book signings and conventions. Some of us don’t. I am one of the latter, owing to poor health. Besides which, until someone comes up with a way for writers like myself who write purely for the eBook market to digitally sign your copy, I won’t be doing it.

For all writers, being able to meet you when you visit our blogs, like what you’re reading, and become a follower, means everything to us all. As readers, while you might never consider reviewing something of ours on an internet book site, being able to read your comments on our blogs as well as chatting to you on Facebook also means everything to us. Plus, never forget that always providing we post on our blogs and talk to you on Facebook etc, at least you know we’re still breathing.

So, if you are thinking of becoming a serious writer, all it takes is dedication, mental strength, doggedness, and above all, you must become resigned to the fact that you will be living on an income well below what is commonly held up as the ‘poverty’ line. If you are serious about writing, be prepared for the long haul.

One other thing, if you want to know more about me, why not wade your way through the over three thousand posts I have produced to date on this blog?

Post Script

Today’s reader only thinks about one thing – getting a free copy of your book. Even when so many offer their work for a paltry $0.99 in an effort to be read, the vast majority still refuse to buy.

Now is the time to put them to shame. If we were to charge the reading public the true price of a book based on the number of hours we spend writing, editing and perfecting the manuscript, the cost would be astronomical. Most books take several months to complete.

If I charged a penny per hour for a book that took me say six months to complete for publication, the purchase price would be £43.80 per copy.

So stop whining about a book being priced at £/$0.99 or £/$2.99, when you think it should be free, and support its author! Of course you could join those who constantly tell authors they like the sound of their book(s) and will add them to their TBR list (to be read). Which of course they seldom if ever do. Personally I prefer my own approach – ignore the one, two and three star hate reviews. Or worse, the spoiler variety. First I read the book’s hook. Then I browse a few pages. If I like it I actually buy a copy. Now there’s a novelty…

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For Goodness Sake Make Time!

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I forget how many times I have told people, especially new writers, to pace themselves. I was having a conversation on Facebook with one of my female writer friends yesterday. She has bought copies of five of my eBooks, which I am eternally grateful to her for. Three of them are short novellas, averaging 168 pages. I don’t know about you but I can read a novella in an afternoon, or a morning. For instance, if I start reading at twelve noon, I will have finished it by seven in the evening, barring interruptions and calls of nature. When I read a full length novel (150 – 200,000 words) it takes me the best part of three twelve hour days.

As writers, if we are going to do justice to our own writing, there is nothing more stimulating than spending hours reading other people’s books. From them we glean those ideas that hadn’t necessarily occured to us. With every book I write comes endless reading beforehand. Its called research. The writer in question makes me laugh. She claims that she has no time to read. When I told her about my reading a novella in seven hours, she assumed that what I’m doing is speed reading. Sorry to disagree with you my dear friend but it isn’t. It’s just a normal reading pace. She seriously needs to make time to read. In other words, she needs to pace herself.

I’ve seen photographs of her with a library of books in the background. I’m assuming that given her profession, the library is her own. Maybe not. If, as she claims, she has no time to read, why does she have access to one, if not to read the books? in my case my own library is divided up into actual physical books in my five shelf bookcase, as well as eBooks and PDF files on this laptop. I’ve read every single one of them at least five times. Some like Graham Hancock’s epic work Fingerprints of the Gods, several dozen times. In that case it will usually take me a week, simply because its seven hundred and nineteen pages are jam packed with information…

Currently I have one hundred and seventy three eBooks and one hundred and twenty physical books. I also have one hundred and forty-two PDF files which I constantly refer to when I’m in research mode.

How many books do you have? Have you read them all?

A lot of people buy books, millions of us in fact. But how many can truthfully say that they have read every book in their possession? Some people like to kid themselves that by having a large physical library in their home, it will impress their visitors, by creating the illusion that they are well read, and therefore intelligent.

If you want to impress the hell out of your visitors; read the damned books in your personal library to become fully conversant with the content of each of them! That way when your visitors ask you about a certain book you won’t be caught out in a lie.

Despite what some idiots believe, books are not for decoration, even though the multicolours of the jacket’s spine undoubtedly creates a splash of colour.  Every one of them contains the end product of a writer’s accumulated knowledge and hard work. They are meant to be read, not just looked at!!!

PS – I will admit that since I became a fulltime writer, I no longer read for pleasure. Plus, these days when I read a book, the editor in me is constantly on the lookout for poor grammer, spelling and punctuation.

That is the one major drawback with full-time writing; the end of spending hours simply reading for pleasure…

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