Archive | February 2013

Back To Work

So, the excitement of my latest KDP promotion is over. No massive results to report – but I did hit NUMBER ONE in Germany!

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Thanks to Susanne from the xtme.de website, I had over 100 downloads of Findo Gask from Amazon’s German site on Monday. This got me to #170 in the overall free books listing and #1 in the Action & Adventure category on Amazon.de! Does this mean I can claim to have an international bestseller best freebie now?

Anyway, back to work now. Got to finalise the cover design for The Vault then I can get the presses rolling on the print version.

Today’s images have no particular relevance other than I love Banksy’s art – and was delighted to read that the piece ‘stolen’ from a wall in London (above) has now been withdrawn from sale.

Banksy-street-art-london-3-650x540

Happy All Over

Getting a rave review from a reader is what makes life worth living for many an author but this is my first ‘six star’ write-up!

The Tale Of Findo Gask is currently on promotion and I wasn’t expecting to see any new reviews yet but had a look at the Amazon page to check the book’s sales ranking.

So my jaw dropped to read the following from James Coyle in Vanuatu:

“I’d never heard of this author before until I picked up a free copy of this book. It was absolutely outstanding and is one of the best I’ve read since I purchased my Kindle Reader last year. If I could give it 6 stars I would! As an author of 28 books of my own on Kindle I automatically search for typos and errors. If there were any I didn’t find them.”

James, I know we’ve never met before but you’re my new best friend! Thank you for downloading and I’m delighted you loved the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

And if anyone else wants to see why James was so impressed, Findo is free for the rest of today and all day tomorrow from:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Stop Spoiling Self-Publishing!

I almost started this post with an expletive but changed my mind because I want to keep my PG rating. However, I’m starting to get really fu.. annoyed.

Over the past few months I’ve found myself giving up on many novels downloaded onto my Kindle. And that’s not like me. In the past it was extremely rare that I didn’t get to the end of a book.

And it’s not just me. A friend got her first Kindle for Christmas and recently posted on Facebook asking where she can find good free books because ‘there’s a lot of dross out there’.

Sadly, the problem is getting worse. Too many wannabe indie authors are self-publishing without properly checking their books are fit for release – and the danger is that they’re driving potential indie readers back to the ‘safety’ of corporate publishing.

That’s not to say all mainstream novels are perfect. I recently read Ken Follett’s Winter Of The World and spotted a couple of bad edits.

However. There are limits and mine are being stretched to breaking point. As an indie author myself I want to support fellow writers and I regularly download books that are on promotion. But – although I have found a few gems – I seem to increasingly be rolling my eyes and pressing ‘delete’ before I’ve read more than a few chapters.

I don’t think books have to be error free. I can cope with a few tpyos or strange stylistic quirks. But when the typos are coming every page and are coupled with bad grammar and continuity errors I draw the line.

Last night I gave up on a crime novel when one of the main characters switched from third person to first person and back. (This was the straw that broke my patience not a lone mistake).

Sometime the errors are easy to understand. But sometimes they’re mistakes that a basic spellcheck would find. I recently waded through a thriller where the first third was well edited but it then progressively deteriorated. One sentence started with the word ‘ut’ instead of ‘But’!

I’m sorry but that’s unforgiveable. (I’m still toying with whether to ‘name and shame’.) It was almost as if the author started off with good intentions but got so excited about publishing that they gave up on the proofreading part way.

What I also find disturbing about this and other examples is that the books in question often have quite a few four and five star Amazon reviews. Maybe other people can ignore the mistakes but my fear is that friends are writing glowing reviews without having really read the book in question.

Which again, defeats the purpose of reviews, brings the honesty of the whole system into question and ultimately is only going to drive more readers away.

(I have the same problem with all these indie authors who ask each other to ‘like’ books on Amazon in return for a reciprocal ‘like’. If you haven’t actually read and ‘liked’ the book in question, how honest is this?)

So please, fellow authors, don’t rush to publish a book that’s not ready. Your audience isn’t going to vanish if you wait a few months. Take the time to proofread, edit and re-edit. You’ll probably get more readers – and money from real sales – if you do it properly.

NB. For anyone tempted to do a quality check on my work then my novel The Tale Of Findo Gask is free until (and including) Monday 25th February. Click on the links below:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Experimental Giveaway

My favourite novel The Tale Of Findo Gask is on promotion via Amazon for the next five days – and I’m waiting to see if the book’s new blurb will have any impact.

Findo paperbackFindo was first published – in print – after winning a national UK competition for new authors back in 2005. But the company behind the award went bust not long after and my treasured publishing contract turned into just another piece of scrap paper.

Then ebooks came along and Findo was re-published in December 2011. But – even though it’s been out for longest – it’s the worst-selling of all my novels, both in terms of actual sales and free downloads.

I probably should have stopped to think about this a long time ago but was more fixated – like I suspect most authors are – on the next great ‘Work In Progress’ rather than worrying about petty issues like marketing and publicity.

A few weeks ago I wrote a rant about indie authors who don’t even properly edit their book blurbs. Then I had to come clean and admit in a subsequent post that – although grammatically correct – my blurb for Findo just didn’t ‘sell’ the book.Findo cover

So now I’m hoping that my more dynamic new blurb will tempt more readers to try Findo. I think it’s a wonderful story – full of excitement and adventure, with a strong dash of romance, all underscored with some biting analysis of modern society and the world in which we live.

I must admit I am a bit biased. But I do wish more people would take the opportunity to see whether I’m also right!

If you want to download a copy, it’s free from today until Monday 25th February. Click on the links below:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

The Problem With Ebooks

A major problem with ebooks occurred to me the other day – not being able to see what other people are reading.

That’s because, as an author, I’ve always dreamt of walking into a cafe, getting on a train, going to an airport etc and seeing a stranger engrossed in reading one of my novels.

But ebooks are so anonymous compared with old fashioned paper and hardbacks. Unless you lean right over the person’s shoulder you’ve no idea if they’re reading War And Peace or 50 Shades Of Whatever. (They could even be reading this blog or doing their shopping.)

The VaultAnyway – partly in a bid to one day realise my dream – I’m in the process of putting together the first print edition of The Vault. Today was a bit of a red letter day – I sent off an application to buy 10 ISBN numbers. (For some reason you can only buy a minimum of 10 in the UK.)

When I first published this book (on Kindle) I decided that 50% of any royalties would go to the charity ShelterBox. The ebook version has now been on sale for about a year and sold enough copies that I was able to hand over a donation of £85 the other week. Not a huge sum but it’s a start!

Anyway, I’m hoping that once I’ve got a print version available I might be able to sell a few more copies. Sadly the royalties on print versions are much lower but at least I might spot someone reading the book!

But before I hit ‘print’ I’ve got a few more things to finalise apart from the ISBN numbers. One important thing is the cover. The image above is the cover for the Kindle version but I’m thinking of a new design for the print edition.

Below are three versions of one possible cover. I’d love to get any feedback. How does the new cover compare with the old one? Do you like either of them? Which version of the new one is best?

Please be honest! Any comments welcome.

NB. The image on the ebook cover shows part of the locking mechanism of a vault (so an obvious link), whereas the forest scene is because much of the story is set in an ancient English woodland that’s crucial to the four strands of the story.

Vault option 1

Option 1 with natural colours and a colour publisher’s logo.

Vault option 2

Option 2 with pale colours and a black-and-white logo.

Vault option 3

Option 3 with a red tint and B&W logo.

Cruel, Cruel Wife

A writer’s life can be full of anguish and pain – like those moments when inspiration fails to strike or you realise you’ve completely cocked up a plot line.

But even after years of writing I still find one of the most hardest things to do is hand my finely-crafted words over to another person and say ‘what do you think?’.

You hope they’ll say positive things, of course. But whether it’s family, friends or fellow writers, you want an honest response. You need to know if it makes them smile, laugh, cry, raise their eyebrows or – heaven forbid – leaves them cold. I mean, sometimes we just write for the sheer pleasure of writing but we also write for the pleasure of being read.

Which is why – even when it’s painful to take – constructive criticism is important. Another pair of eyes can see beyond our personal blinkers and point out potential flaws, whether to do with characters, the plot or just the fact we’ve got carried away with the purple prose and need to get back to the action.

Beta readers – those people who check out our work before we unleash it on the public – are very important. I know some authors have big networks of beta readers. I’ve only got a select few and the most important is my wife.

betas

My No. 1 Beta Reader and friend.

Using your nearest and dearest for feedback might seem like playing it way too safe. But with Carolyn – love her though I do – I’m not under any illusions that she’ll spare my feelings if she doesn’t like what I’ve written. In particular, she loves tautly plotted dramas and is very good at telling me when I’m losing her attention.

Her honesty can be a little painful at times. Like with my last book, Pagan’s Sphinx. Now, adventure stories about archaeological expeditions and lost statues aren’t really her thing so I understood that it didn’t grip her in the same way as some of my other efforts. (I know it’s different which is why I used a pen name for this one.)

However, all my books have a love story going on somewhere in them and in the past I’ve got high marks for this from Carolyn. So I did think it was a bit harsh when she described the romance in Pagan’s Sphinx as ‘a bit Danielle Steele’!

Cruel words, I thought. But then I remembered that Danielle Steele did sell quite a lot of books… and if you look at the reviews on Amazon – so far anyway – it looks like I might have the last laugh!

She’s a tough critic, my wife, but that’s why she’s such a good one.

Alentejo Dreams

It’s grey, cold and damp here – so I’ve been torturing myself by looking back at pictures from the Alentejo, one of my favourite parts of Portugal.

Elvas - old hilltop city and castle on the frontier with Spain.

Elvas – old hilltop city and castle on the frontier with Spain.

The Alentejo is one of the largest regions of Portugal – straddling the southern part of the country from the Atlantic coast to the border with Spain. It’s known for its rolling agricultural landscape, cork forests and whitewashed towns.

One of the other things I remember from the Alentejo is the beautiful blue skies, sadly lacking in England at this time of year.

Fountain in the centre of the World Heritage city of Evora.

Fountain in the centre of the World Heritage city of Evora.

Doorway in the old town of Castelo de Vide.

Doorway in the old town of Castelo de Vide.

I miss Portugal. For the time being though I’ll have to make do with pictures and memories. For more photos see this page.

Sex It Up

A week or so ago I wrote a rant about lazy indie authors who can’t be bothered to proofread their book blurbs properly.

Then, earlier today, I was thinking about whether to set up a new promo for my one award-winning novel, The Tale Of Findo Gask.

Findo paperback

And the thing is, Findo is in many ways my favourite out of the books I’ve got published. (I know having favourite children is wrong but I just can’t help it.)

It’s probably got a lot to do with the fact that this was the book that back in 2005 won a national UK contest for new authors and got me – albeit briefly – a real, genuine publishing contract. I got to hold the first print edition of my book as well as see it on the shelves in the local Waterstones book shop and on Amazon.

This, for those of you who don’t remember that far back, was in the era BK (Before Kindle). I’d never even heard of ebooks at this stage and to be able to hold a printed copy of my novel was an emotional moment.

Anyway – to cut a long story short – I’ve always felt very proud of Findo and consequently rather disappointed that it’s also the worst seller out of the four novels I’ve currently got available on Kindle.

So before setting up my promo I had a look at the book’s blurb. Which is when I felt a serious pang of embarrassment. I didn’t see any typos or bad grammar – thankfully there was nothing that bad! But I read it and couldn’t help feeling that the blurb just didn’t live up to the book. I mean, I’m proud of this story – it’s exciting, thought-provoking and emotional but I don’t think anyone would have got that from the blurb.

Anyway – after smacking myself around the ego for my own laziness – I’ve now had another go. I don’t know if I’ve got it right yet but hopefully the new Amazon blurb might convince a few more readers that this is a book worth their time!

Don’t Let Facts Stand In Your Way

There’s a saying in the newspaper industry: don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story. (I always thought it was ironic but maybe that explains why I never made it to the top of the profession.)

terminator-3-rise-machines-2003-movie-5

However, it’s not just newspapers that sometimes skimp on details like facts – film makers often do it too. Continuity errors are an obvious example. Go online and you can find hundreds of examples – such as the plane in Terminator 3 where the fuselage number changes between shots.

mustang-mach1-diamonds-are-forever-1971-16046There’s also the scene in Diamonds Are Forever where James Bond drives a car into an alley on two wheels. Moments later it emerges from the opposite end of the alley – but on the other two wheels!

Mistakes like this are common but sometimes the clangers aren’t just down to bad editing/directing but due to insufficient or careless research.

Anyone remember the last Indiana Jones film? (Not the most memorable movie ever made). It’s supposed to be set in the 1950s yet the motorbike being ridden by Indiana’s sidekick is a modern Harley complete with a hydraulic disc brake and the wrong kind of engine for the period.

indiana-jones_mistake

It’s easy to laugh at films that cock up basic details but some authors play fast and loose with the facts too. The Daily Telegraph ran a great article back in 2009 listing 50 factual errors in Dan Brown’s books. These range from his character Robert Langdon asserting that the Christian communion – eating the body of their god – is taken from the Aztecs to his ‘fact’ that Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, lies “precisely on the north-south meridian that runs through Glastonbury”.

Sadly, these and 48 other details are just plain wrong. The truth is Christians have celebrated communion since at least the 13th Century whereas European explorers didn’t encounter the Aztecs until the 15th Century. Rosslyn Chapel’s longitude is 3:07:13 west, while Glastonbury Tor is 2:42:05 west.

Obviously, petty little points like this haven’t stopped Dan Brown selling quite a lot of books. But it’s one of the reasons quite a lot of people don’t have that high a respect for his work.

And for literary small fry like me getting facts right is important – I can’t afford to have readers laughing at my research. Which is why I was very grateful to my editor Cathy’s eagle eyes while working on a revision of The Vault. She noticed that I’d referred to London Underground tickets as yellow slips of cardboard whereas they’re pink.

She also spotted that the back story of one of my characters referred to him having two fingers chopped off when he was nine but being given a piano for his tenth birthday… Well, hey, I just thought it would be character-building – help him get over his disability! (Okay. I forgot.)

I’ve spotted a few glaring mistakes by other indie writers in recent times. There was a young US author who had her characters use a boat to get from Dublin to Madrid. Well, I’d concede you could go part way but there’s certainly not a harbour in landlocked Madrid!

More recently I read a novel about a degenerate rock band on their first US tour. The drugged-up lead singer pours brandy over an MTV interviewer, threatens him with a lighter, and then douses the couch with more brandy and sets it on fire. Nice bit of drama, right?

Trouble is, anyone who’s ever tried lighting a brandy-soaked Christmas pudding will know it just wouldn’t work! Brandy is 40% alcohol and needs to be heated to almost boiling point before it will ignite. You can pour brandy over me, wave a lighter about and the only thing I’ll be upset about is the waste of brandy!

Facts – they’re troublesome little beasts but unless you’re either Dan Brown or don’t care what your readers think of you, you need to get ’em right if you want your book to be convincing!