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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A Message To The Slackers

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If you get a free copy of any book, it behoves you to at least read it!

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Unfortunately for independant writers, the downright miserly of this world will never deign to purchase a copy of anything you write. Instead they wait for a free copy to become available. Which brings me to the free giveaway of my latest scifi novella last month. So far out of the one hundred and five free copies of The Guardian taken up, it has received a grand total of five reviews – two five star, two four star and one three star. Does that mean that only five people read it? You could be forgiven for thinking so.

I can just hear the weak-willed apologists right now saying something like “ah but they probably have it on their TBR lists. Besides, reading a book, let alone reviewing it, is not compulsory.” To which I would readily reply, “in that case why did you help yourself to a free copy of the book?” I would go further by pointing out that good manners and common decency demand that you must read and review it.

On the odd occasion when I do read a free book, even those I beta read for other writers, I always review them without fail. Yes I have a TBR list, but when I owe someone the courtesy of reading and reviewing, I get on with it! Think about it, how else will any author know if their books are being read? Book sales figures don’t tell you.

Five out of one hundred and five definitely have read it. Its high time the rest of you got your backsides into gear. You know who you are, so please read and review it, preferably during the next two weeks! I gave it to you for nothing. So you owe me…

At the moment on Amazon US The Guardian sits at 2066th place in its genre (Science Fiction), while here in the UK The Guardian is placed at 1020th. What does that tell you?

I know what it tells me. The Guardian aint dead yet.

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As Writers We Need An Official Voice

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Remember my post about the pitfalls of ‘free books’ the other day https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/whats-wrong-with-getting-an-ebook-for-nothing/ not forgetting this one about reviews https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/are-book-reviews-really-necessary/ Here is another one from Derek on the subject we all hate, but have to participate in to gain publicity for our book(s) http://www.derekhaines.ch/vandal/2014/11/the-land-of-free-shit

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Now back to the reason for this post. As independant writers, from time to time don’t you wish we had a vociferous champion to protect us from the machinations of publishers. Yesterday I chanced upon a possibility in the form of a guild.

Guilds for professional writers are spread throughout the world. In effect they are the literary equivalent of a union. While we Indies are not salaried, (paid a wage for what we do) there’s no getting away from the fact that many of us write full time. In my book that makes us professional writers as well.

So long as we continue being individuals, we have no teeth! But if our publishers knew that we were members of a powerful writing guild, maybe, just maybe, they would think twice before treating us with disdain. Either we amalgamate into an organisation like a guild or we continue on in the same old way as a bunch of individuals tilting at windmills.

Well, what do you think? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m heartily sick of being treated like a second rate citizen and cash cow by my publisher. Here is the link to the guild in question:

http://www.independentauthorsguild.com/

If any of you are already members, perhaps you can enlighten the rest of us about it. How much clout does it have? In other words, does it stick up for its members interests? I’ve read its mission statement. Like all mission statements it says a lot but promises damn all. Therefore I have my doubts as to whether or not it is a true guild and as such is a force to be reckoned with. Judging by what they don’t say, it looks as if they are merely a collection of self-important individuals. In which case calling themselves a guild is a complete misnomer. If I’m proved correct, then its back to searching for the real McCoy. In the meantime, make your own minds up about it by clicking on the link above to examine it. Then leave your thoughts here.

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What’s wrong with getting an eBook for nothing?

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Only everything!!!

The fact that today’s readers of eBooks demand they must be free or on offer as part of an all you can read for x number of dollars per month package deal, is just so wrong!

Face it people, when you go to your supermarket to get your groceries, or to any other retail outlet you care to name, do you get what you want for nothing? No of course not. So why should you expect to get a book for free? I’ve heard some people claim it should be free because an eBook isn’t a real book, only an electronic file. Good grief morons, try engaging your brains for once in your lives! These same idiots argue that they should be able to download their favourite music for free as well. I have just two words on that particular subject – Taylor Swift!!! We need someone like her to stand up for the largely toothless contributing authors of this world…

Thanks to Amazon belabouring the fact that eBooks are electronic files, the concept of never paying for any eBook written by an Indie has become the norm. How many of you feel guilty about reading that eBook you got for nothing? More to the point, how many of those free eBooks you downloaded, have you actually read, let alone reviewed?

Doesn’t it bother you that the eBook’s author invested several months, or in some cases, years writing it? If not, it damned well should!

It’s high time you all grew a conscience and put yourselves in the author’s place for once. After all, would you go into work if you knew that you would not receive a salary for your hard work? Of course you wouldn’t!

More fool us for loving the written word, to the point where we sweat blood like you wouldn’t believe to bring you that latest book. Common decency demands that we are owed monetary recompense for all our hard work in the form of royalties, no matter the price of the book in question.

Unfortunately these days most Indies are lucky if their titles sell in the dozens per annum. Thanks to Amazon’s penny pinching change in how they pay royalties, known as KENPR or Kindle Edition Normalized Pages Read, combined with your own equally selfish attitude towards the product of our labours, if any writer thinks they will become rich these days, they’re seriously kidding themselves. We’re no different to you in that we need money to survive, but thanks to Amazon and uncaring people like you, 99.999% of Amazon’s Indie authors consider themselves lucky if they make maybe a couple of hundred dollars (US) yearly from writing.

Remember this tightwads – authors never receive royalties from those free copies you all greedily help yourselves too.

PS – if you agree with me, reblog this!!!

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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.

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No More Progress Reports, Cataclysm Is Live!!!

file0001781362730Well folks, I’m happy to inform you that you can now buy your Kindle copy of my novella – Cataclysm via the Amazon outlet nearest to you.

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Chris Graham, aka The storyreading Ape is the first to add his very generous five star review on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon Canada and Amazon Australia:-

5.0 out of 5 stars Read and ponder! 3 Nov 2014
I was lucky enough to be a Beta Reader of this book prior to publishing and can tell you that it is not JUST a ‘science fiction / time travel / action / thriller / romance with a difference’ story that will grip you from the start and keep you gripped throughout.It will also make you wonder if there might be an element of truth behind the premise of the fiction.
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Thank you so much Chris. I hope you will all enjoy reading it as much as Chris obviously did.
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