Monthly Archives: December 2010

Facebook competition winner and other suggestions

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December 31, 2010

You may remember that there’s been a Facebook competition going on for a signed copy of RealmShift, run through the Facebook group, Book Lover’s Club. It started with this great review of RealmShift, then the Club asked people to suggest topics for me to blog about. The topic that I liked best would win a signed copy of the book.

There were some great suggestions and it was really hard to pick one. In the end I went with this suggestion from Alex Stoiche:

Id love to see his thoughts on writing for art or self satisfaction versus writing for a market. Obviously its a fine line and its crucial to please the audience to some extent, but Id like to hear an opinion on where it may go too far or about writers that have such conviction they won’t compromise.

I picked this one mainly because it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and was considering blogging about anyway. Given that Alex’s thinking mirrored mine I decided to call that suggestion the winner. Given the number of other suggestions, I’m going to be using some of those for future posts as well, because lots of people came up with good ideas. Keep an eye on the blog here and your suggestion may crop up at some future date – I’ll be sure to credit the person whose idea it was as and when I get around to it. Don’t hold your breath, though. It’s a busy month for me and these things tend to get drawn out.

Thanks to everyone that got involved and big thanks to Book Lover’s Club for being such sterling supporters of books and authors.

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New Age of Publishing – Guest Post 4 – Chuck McKenzie, bookseller

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December 31, 2010

My posts about the new age of publishing continue apace. This time I have a post that I think is awesome. Chuck McKenzie is a great guy and a personal friend. He’s also a writer but, more importantly in this context, he’s a bookseller. One of the traditional, old-school kind that sells actual paper books from a brick and mortar bookstore. His career depends on the continued success of the “old” publishing model, so you might find some of his views rather interesting. I agree with him on almost every point. Take it away, Chuck.

NB: the personal opinions expressed in the following post are not necessarily those of Dymocks Booksellers.

I manage a Dymocks store in Cheltenham, Victoria, and, as a traditional print bookseller, I’m often asked by customers walking in off the street whether we stock either e-readers or e-books. Most are only mildly surprised when I tell them that we currently don’t – ‘mildly’, because, after all, aren’t e-readers the natural enemy of the printed book? What tends to surprise these customers more is when I go on to tell them that at some point we certainly will be stocking e-readers, and that we’re currently in the process of seriously researching the pros and cons of what’s available on the market, and what products are likely to be released in the near future. The latter seems to be a source of surprise largely because most traditional booksellers still insist upon pretending that e-readers simply don’t exist, full stop.

To a certain extent, this reaction is understandable (if not particularly sensible): Change is scary. Change is also inevitable, and – especially where industry is involved – it’s vital to adapt to Change. Look at what happened within the music industry when downloads became available; the industry failed to move with the times sufficiently quickly, and suffered greatly as a result.

Likewise, e-reader technology is here to stay, regardless of how much the bookselling industry might wish it were otherwise; depending upon where you get your figures, anywhere from 10-20% of all purchases now made online are of books, with an increasing slice of that percentage being e-books. Why, then, does the bulk of the bookselling industry continue to ignore the issue?

There’s no simple answer to that. I suspect that the old attitude of ‘keep steady and everything will return to normal eventually’ has much to do with it; the Australian bookselling industry has just entered year three of an industry-wide recession, and traditional wisdom suggests that the drought has to break sometime soon. Problem is, the increasing popularity of e-readers – not the only factor affecting book sales at present, but certainly a growing one – is not an issue likely to evaporate once the current financial crisis ends. It is, again, a permanant change to the industry, and one that booksellers absolutely need to roll with in order to survive.

Which brings us back to the industry (and customer) perception that e-readers and printed books are natural enemies, and cannot be kept in shared enclosures.

To which I say: Bollocks.

It may surprise some to hear this, but I’m of the opinion that – certainly in the long term, and possibly even in the short-to-mid term – e-reader technology will be a boon to the bookselling industry, and not just to the e-book side of things, either.

Consider: while there are currently still issues regarding the availability and formatting of product for e-readers, eventually it will almost certainly be the case that any e-reader will be able to inexpensively access virtually any published work that has ever seen print, from ancient classics to the latest releases. Now, this may just sound like another way of stating that everyone will eventually download all of their book purchases, thus relegating traditional print publishing to the scrapheap of history, and certainly this is a concept that has seen a vast amount of discussion – both positive and negative – in recent times.

The one point that people almost always seem to ignore, however, when discussing the inevitability of the Universal Download, is that people like books.

Physical, printed books are something that virtually all readers – no matter how tech-savvy they are – seem to enjoy owning. Aside from the pure enjoyment of reading itself (which one can also get from reading off an e-reader, granted) there’s pleasure to be gained – for many readers – from the simple act of holding a book in one’s hand, the sensation of turning the pages; from displaying one’s treasured titles on a bookshelf for all to see, and being able to take a book down off the shelf to find that quote or passage that’s been eluding you. You can’t get an e-book signed by your favourite author, either (although I can see the possibility of alternatives: perhaps including a video function on a future e-reader that allows you to record a personalised message from John Scalzi or Peter V. Brett when you meet them).

So, if we take the line that printed books will endure in the face of burgeoning e-reader technology (if only due to the culture of nostalgia surrounding printed books), is it not still possible that sales of printed books will plummet as sales of e-books continue to soar?

I’m actually of the opinion that they won’t. Here’s my reasoning:

a) Yes, sales of e-books will continue to rise dramatically: no question about it. It’s even possible that people will eventually buy all their books in e-format (at least initially – I’ll explain in a moment). This increase is likely to be driven as much by the comparatively cheap pricing of e-books as by the (eventual) ease of access to and availability of product.

b) With the increase in sales of e-books is likely to come an increase in the number and quantity of titles sold. After all, with the $24.99 that you would traditionally have spent on the latest print-edition fantasy blockbuster, you can now purchase up to three (or more) e-books. [That's $24.99 Australian dollars and yes, book prices in Australia are mental - Alan] And I don’t believe that book-buyers in general will spend less on books just because the cost of books is reduced by electronic formatting, either: rather – as in the case of downloadable music – if buyers have been used to budgeting a certain amount to purchase a physical product, they will continue to spend roughly the same amount on an e-format, with the ‘bonus’ of enjoying more bang for their buck. So: that $24.99 will now be used to purchase that same fantasy blockbuster, in e-format, plus two or three other titles that the reader would not have purchased had they been available only as expensive print editions.

c) So the buyer ends up reading more books overall. Now admittedly, some of these may be books that the reader wanted to read anyway, but would have had to wait to purchase (in print) for budgetary reasons; or they may have borrowed the less immediately-enticing titles from a library to read. However, it’s also likely that the reader will occasionally – again, due to the comparatively low price of e-books – be enticed to take a chance on buying titles that they simply wouldn’t have bothered buying in print; titles that look kinda interesting, maybe a little outside of the usual comfort zone, or that so-and-so recommended; classics that you’ve always felt you should get around to reading, but can’t be bothered potentially wasting good fantasy blockbuster money upon; small-press publications and pulpy ‘summer reading’. And so on.

d) Finally, BECAUSE THE BOOK-BUYER REALLY LOVES BOOKS, it’s almost certain that they will purchase an additional, printed copy of that fantasy blockbuster. The e-book will accompany them on holiday, on the train, to work, etc – but the printed version will have pride-of-place on their bookshelf at home. And odds are that at least some of the additional e-books purchased with that $24.99 – including those that the reader would never have bothered to read, let alone purchase, in printed format – will also be so greatly enjoyed that the reader will invest in printed copies also.

e) All of which means, of course, that people will actually be spending more money on books than they currently do. What will have changed, however, is that all ‘guesswork’ will have been taken out of the process of purchasing expensive printed books, since the buyer already will know exactly which titles they definitely wish to own in print. And people in general are rarely unhappy to invest more money in something if they know they wll be 100% satisfied with the outcome.

Are there advantages to e-readers over printed books? Hell, yeah! As someone with major eyesight problems, I’m all for ‘books’ that allow you to increase the resolution or contrast of the text, or even backlight the screen in a darker environment. And taking twenty novels away with me on holiday will no longer be the packing-space nightmare it is today. But advantages of new technologies don’t always push older technologies to the wall: DVDs haven’t yet destroyed the movie industry; CDs are still the preferred ‘form’ of purchased music in a world that has embraced the iPod; and remember when the humble PC was going to put us all out of work?

E-book technology? Bring it on, I say!

Chuck McKenzie was born in 1970 and still spends much of his time there. As well as managing a Dymocks bookstore, Chuck is a sometimes author of speculative fiction, a reviewer for HorrorScope (the Australian Dark Fiction Blog), and obsessive managing editor of the NecroScope zombie fiction review site. Only one of these roles pays the bills.

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Pretty interesting ideas, huh? Agree, disagree or have a completely different opinion? Leave your comments below.

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New Age of Publishing – Guest Post 3 – Mark Coker cross-post

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December 29, 2010

In my continuing series of guest posts about the changing face of publishing, I couldn’t resist cross-posting this one. Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, was recently interviewed by Jeff Rivera at MediaBistro. He was asked for his ten book publishing predictions for 2011. Mark said I could pick up the first five from his blog and I’ll link at the end to the rest of the interview. Hopefully we’ll get something more from Mark later in January in this series, but he’s a busy man. In the meantime, enjoy this one.

2011 Predictions for Book Publishing

swcrysalball New Age of Publishing – Guest Post 3 – Mark Coker cross postIt’s annual prognostication time when folks like me stick out their necks and try to predict the future. I invite you to join in the fun. Brush up your crystal ball and share your publishing predictions for 2011 in the comments field below.

Earlier today, Jeff Rivera over at MediaBistro interviewed me for my ten book publishing predictions for 2011.

I’ll list five below, and then I encourage you to click over to Mediabistro for the full ten in his interview, Publishing Predictions for 2011 from Smashwords.

If 2010 was the year ebooks went mainstream in the U.S., 2011 will be the year indie ebook authors go mainstream. We’ve already seen this start to happen with some tremendous indie ebook author breakouts in 2010. I wrote about Smashwords author Brian S. Pratt a few weeks ago.

So here are five predictions for 2011:

1. Ebook sales rise, unit consumption surprises – Ebooks sales will approach 20% of trade book revenues on a monthly basis by the end of 2011 in the US, yet the bigger surprise is that ebooks will account for one third or more of unit consumption. Why? Ebooks cost less and early ebook adopters read more.

2. Agents write the next chapter of the ebook revolution – Agents, serving the economic best interests of the best-selling authors, will bring new credibility to self publishing by encouraging authors to proactively bypass publishers and work directly with ebook distribution platforms. Agents will use these publishing platforms for negotiating leverage against large publishers. The conversation will go something like this: “You’re offering my author only 15-20% list on ebooks when I can get them 60-70% list working direct with an ebook distributor like Smashwords or a retailer like Amazon?”

3. More big authors reluctant to part with digital rights – Indie ebook publishing offers compelling advantages to the author. The economics are better (see #2) and the publishing cycle times are faster (an ebook manuscript can be uploaded today and achieve worldwide distribution in minutes or days, not years). Ebooks also offer greater publishing flexibility (shorts, full length, bundles, free books), and the opportunity to reach more readers with lower cost (yet still higher-profit) books. The advantages will entice more professional authors to self-publish some or all of their future catalog, and all of their reverted-rights catalog.

4. Self Publishing goes from option of last resort to option of first resort among unpublished authors – Most unpublished authors today still aspire to achieve the perceived credibility and blessing that comes with a professional book deal. Yet the cachet of traditional publishing is fading fast. Authors with finished manuscripts will grow impatient and resentful as they wait to be discovered by big publishers otherwise preoccupied with publishing celebrity drivel from Snooki, Justin Bieber and the Kardashians. Meanwhile, the break-out success of multiple indie author stars will grab headlines in 2011, forcing many unpublished authors off the sidelines. As unpublished authors bypass the slush pile, publishers lose first dibs on tomorrow’s future stars.

5. Ebook prices to fall – It’s all about supply and demand. Demand is surging, but supply will overwhelm demand. Average ebook prices will decline, despite attempts by Agency 5 publishers to hold the line. The drop will be fueled by the oversupply of books, abundance of low-cost or free non-book content, influx of ultra-price-sensitive readers who read free first, fierce competition for readership, and digitization of reverted-rights and out-of-print books. Indie authors, since they earn 60-70% retail price, can compete at price points big publishers can’t touch.

Read all ten of my predictions in the full interview over at Mediabistro, and please share your own predictions in the comments below.

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If that whet your appetite, please do go and read the rest. It makes for some thought provoking reading. There’ll be a few more of these posts throughout January and early February, so keep an eye open.

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New Age of Publishing – Guest Post 2 – Moriah Jovan

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December 28, 2010

In my ongoing end of year series of posts about the new face of publishing, I present a repost here of an article by Moriah Jovan. Following on from Angela Slatter’s post about her Smashwords journey, Moriah talks about the disappearance of the page as a concept. This post first appeared at B10 Mediaworx nearly two years ago. The revolution has been under way for some time.

A rose by any other name…

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the definition of a “book,” or more specifically, the proper formatting of an e-book, and the definition of a “page” and its importance in the New eWorld Order.

I’m here to tell you: Unless it’s on paper or in PDF, they ain’t no such thing as a page.

I’ll admit that it took me a while to get used to reading on my eBookWise. Between the whacked-out spacing and the left justification and the lack of paragraph indents, it looked…sloppy. Inferior. But I stuck with it and realized that each book is formatted differently; some are prettier and easier to read than others, but mostly not. I did, however, have problems even with the “prettiest” of the formatting. I was able to adjust my expectations of the presentation once I realized it was a function of the DEVICE and that the DEVICE was not a print book. The print book and the e-book simply have nothing in common except the words they contain: not headers, not footers, not design, not formatting, not…page numbers.

To use the “page” as common ground, each user must have the same edition of a paper book and/or the same edition of the PDF file, but that’s a fairly easy task to accomplish.

In any other format, however, it’s nearly impossible without each user having the same device, the same font settings (i.e., large or small), the same page view settings. Gentlemen, let’s synchronize our devices. Taking the probability of that into account, then, the concept of the “page” vanishes.

The latest argument I have seen for the need for strict pagination in e-books to approximate or duplicate that of a print book is for reference books and the uses of academia viz. for annotation and bibliography, tables of contents and indices, footnotes and end notes. What this demonstrates to me is ignorance or lack of vision or an inability to understand the vast differences in the format, and the capabilities and limitations of each.

ANNOTATION and BIBLIOGRAPHY

quadWhen your bishop or your preacher or your pastor or your minister or other Protestant-type ecclesiastical leader gets up and wants everybody to flip open their Bibles, does s/he say, “Please turn to page 1436 in your Bible”? No. He says, “Romans chapter 15.” (Cause that’s where mine is. In the King James Version. What if you prefer to use a different version? No problem! Romans chapter 15 is still where it’s supposed to be, which is between Romans 14 and Romans 16.)

hamlet 222x300 New Age of Publishing – Guest Post 2 – Moriah JovanWhen your English lit professor or your director or your acting coach directs you to a certain passage in a Shakespearean play, does he say, “Please turn to Hamlet, page 783”? No. (Well, first of all, he’s OBVIOUSLY working from an anthology if it has 783 pages to begin with.) He says, “Please turn to Act 2, Scene 2, Line 35.” So what this means is I was smart and brought my little bitty Hamlet and everybody else was stupid and brought their big fat anthologies. And it makes no difference whatsoever.

The two print books, Bible and Shakespearean anthology, have page numbers. But they aren’t referred to or necessary for annotation or bibliography. In fact, the only thing they’re used for is within the book itself to create tables of contents and indices. So let’s talk about that.

TABLES OF CONTENTS, INDICES, and FOOT/END NOTES

There’s only one thing a table of contents and/or index is good for: To find your place in the book. Thing is, in a print book, that’s the only way you can find anything…maybe kinda sorta quickly.

In an e-book, the tables of contents and indices have completely different purposes. In fact, an index isn’t even necessary in an e-book, although I would argue that a table of contents is. However, their function and mechanism of use are entirely different from that of a print book.

1. It’s called a hyperlink.

Now, don’t be scared. I’m sure you’ve seen them before here and elsewhere on the interwebz. You put your cursor over it and click and boom…you’re somewhere else on the interwebz. Cool, huh?

You can do that in an ebook, too.

A list of hyperlinks in the beginning of the e-book serves the same function as the table of contents serves in a print book. A print book has page numbers after the chapter name. An e-book has a hyperlink you touch with your stylus and boom, you’re there, same as it works on the interwebz. No page numbers? No problem! Not necessary at all.

But hyperlinks are good within the text, too. If a word is hyperlinked, you touch it with your stylus and it takes you to further reading. They used to be called “footnotes” and “end notes.” Don’t need those anymore, either. Oh, they’re still footnotes and end notes, but they have no precise structure because it’s not necessary. The device will take you where you need to go.

2. It’s called the “find” function.

You can’t do this in a print book. There is no CTRL-F. There is no “Find.” You go to the table of contents and/or the index and if you’re lucky, that book had an excellent indexer. If you’re not, well, good luck to you then. I’m going out to get some Chinese while you look for that reference. Want anything?

Is there an e-reading device that doesn’t have a “find” function? If there is, smash it and get something else, ’cause there is no point to an e-reading device without a “find” function. Because why? Because there are no page numbers.

If the argument (with regard to reference material) is that e-reference books can’t be annotated or bibliographed or referenced, there’s a simple way around that. Organize the book in some other fashion, a la the Bible or Shakespeare. It’s been done. The system’s only been around for a few hundred years now. If it ain’t on paper, it ain’t got pages.

And if it’s inevitable, just lay back and enjoy it.

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Further interesting reading from Moriah can be found here: Book Design with Microsoft Word: The Art of Moriah Jovan on The Book Designer blog.

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Last chance to win a signed copy of RealmShift

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December 28, 2010

Well, the last chance for now, at least. This is just a quick reminder that Book Lover’s Club on Facebook is featuring RealmShift at the moment and they’re running a contest to win a signed copy. Head over to their page here, click the Like button and leave a comment where you see the contest mentioned.

Tell your friends!

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ThrillerCast with Trent Jamieson

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December 24, 2010

The latest episode of the ThrillerCast podcast is now available. In this episode I review Trent Jamieson’s awsome debut novel Death Most Definite, then Dave and I interview Trent himself. We talk about the book, about urban fantasy thrillers, about writing in various person/tense and lots of other stuff.

Check it out here.

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New Age of Publishing – Guest Post 1 – Angela Slatter

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December 23, 2010

Over the next few weeks I’m going to host a handful of guest posts from writers, publishers and booksellers talking about the new face of publishing. The world is changing and all aspects of writing and publishing are being affected by the increased digitisation of all aspects of the craft and business. I thought it would be interesting to hear from people about their thoughts and experiences along the way. First up, I’m pleased to present this guest post from author Angela Slatter. You’ll probably remember me gushing about her book Sourdough & Other Stories not so long ago. Here she talks about her experiences using Smashwords to put her published work out in ebook form. There’s a full bio at the end of the article. Take it away, Angela…

The Smashwords Experiment

The Start

When I first decided to upload a couple of my books to Smashwords I promised I would document the experiment. Time got away on me, so luckily Al Baxter asked me to do this guest blog specifically about my Smashwords experience. And so, here it goes.

sourdough1 New Age of Publishing   Guest Post 1   Angela SlatterI have two short story collections out this year, Sourdough and Other Stories (Tartarus Press, UK) and The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales (Ticonderoga Publications, Australia). I also have the collection of short stories I wrote for my MA a couple of years ago, Black-Winged Angels, most of which have been published in a variety of magazines, journals and anthologies, but the whole collection hasn’t been published all together.

My boss, Kate, is the Queen of All Things on the Bleeding Edge of Digital and she said, “Why don’t you put Sourdough up on Smashwords? Then, why don’t you put each individual story up, too? And you should have a big enough backlist of short stories by now that you can upload them all.”

And I thought, “Why not indeed?” Keep in mind that I am lazy and dislike change, so for me to take this step was quite big. Kate also made the point that, in general, hard copy books make their biggest sales mostly post-launch (any later award-generated sales can change the equation). With ebooks, things tend to be reversed: small sales at the beginning and then increasing as word gets out. Realistically, this is not a money-making venture for me, but it is a really useful experiment.

Reading Time is Essential

So the first thing you need to know about Smashwords is that you have to do a lot of reading before you start uploading anything. Read the Style Guide, the Marketing Guide and the extensive FAQs. It’s not annoying, nor is it a waste of time – you just need to be aware that in order to do things properly and save yourself time later, you need to make a time investment at the beginning of your Smashwords journey. If you don’t make the time to read all of the documentation, trust me, you will have a bad experience because preparing a document to become an ebook is very different to preparing one for traditional publishing methods – for instance, leaving more than 4 spaces between paragraphs will equal a blank page in an ebook. Your Smashwords doc is pretty plain compared to how you set up a doc for a printer. It’s not difficult to do, but if you’re taking a file that you’ve previously used as a print file, then it’s a labour of love to get it all correctly converted.

One thing that would be useful would be a checklist in the Style Guide for when you’re going to upload a second or third book – you’re likely to be familiar with the ins and outs, but a checklist would act as a handy tool rather than having to work your way through all the many steps of the Style Guide.

Assorted Stuffery

tgwnh small21 New Age of Publishing   Guest Post 1   Angela SlatterYou need to follow the guidelines for the copyright page. If you’ve got more than one book on Smashwords then make sure you put links in to that book – cross-promotion wins! You need to make sure you bookmark and hyperlink your chapters – it’s not hard but you need to pay attention while you’re doing it. Trust me, I’ve had to fix up the ToC links on Sourdough twice. You don’t need page numbers – they’re not really relevant if your book’s been bought for, say, an iPhone.

You’ll also need a cover – make sure your cover is (a) indistinguishable from a traditional cover (author name and title, nice image), and (b) the text is big enough to still be read when it’s thumbnail size. Hopefully you’ve got a friend or partner or someone you can pay or barter with for a cover design. I’m fortunate in that my best friend, Lisa L Hannett (who also did the cover for The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales), did the ebook cover for Sourdough and Other Stories, and my partner, David, did the ebook cover for Black-Winged Angels.

Depending on when you upload your file – and how many other people are uploading their files at the same time – you may find your book moves super-duper quickly through the meatgrinder (“You are # 70 in the queue”) or you may find it takes quite a while (“You are # 340 in the queue”). This can make your teeth grind. I’m currently still waiting after 3 hours for the newest version of Sourdough to upload (after fixing – I hope – that ToC issue).

Keep in mind that you need to ensure your book is as well-edited and proofread as a book produced by a major trade publisher. People are still buying a product and they want it to be worth the money they are spending on it. Invest in getting your work at least proofread before you upload it.

Marketing

Sourdough Slattersm1 187x300 New Age of Publishing   Guest Post 1   Angela SlatterJust because you’ve uploaded your book/s to Smashwords doesn’t mean you’re going to sell any. Traditional publishers have whole marketing departments to get the word out about your book. You need to utilise handy things like social media to get your own marketing done. Smashwords has its own Marketing Guide, which is filled with common sense suggestions for mobilising things like Facebook, LiveJournal, Twitter, MySpace, etc. to get the word out. Ask professional contacts if they’re willing to review, mention, promote, etc., your ebook (if they say “No”, be gracious). If you’re handy (or know someone who’s handy) make a book trailer to upload to the Tubes-of-You or your own website – did I mention you should have a website? To use to help promote your own work? We call it ‘author platform’ and you should create it and use it.

Publishers

Tartarus Press, who produced the Sourdough collection, only bought rights to publish 350 hard cover limited edition copies – I retain the electronic rights. Before I uploaded Sourdough, I contacted Ray at Tartarus and asked if they were okay with me doing an ebook version. He and Rosalie continued to be lovely and said, “Sure, why not?” They’ve been thinking about doing ebooks of some of their collections and were happy for me to report back on my experiences. Thus the learning circle continues.

Why don’t I have The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales up at Smashwords? Well, out of deference to my publisher. I have the electronic rights, I could upload it at any time and I know from the sheer number of queries I’m getting from readers in the US that I would have a ready-made audience for an ebook version of that collection. However, I know my publisher is wanting to sell the hard copies he’s gone to the trouble of printing. The print run for this book was larger than that of Sourdough and Other Stories, so I know there is more product to shift. As I said earlier, the ebook experiment realistically isn’t a money-making venture, so there’s no point insisting on an ebook version at this point and damaging my relationship with a very nice publisher. My strategy is to maybe in August next year release an ebook version of The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales.

Sales?

black winged angels sm1 187x300 New Age of Publishing   Guest Post 1   Angela SlatterTo date, I’ve made about eight sales – three of Black-Winged Angels and five of Sourdough and Other Stories. I kept the price on each book low in acknowledgement that (a) it’s been a hard financial year for a lot of folks who want to continue to buy books, and (b) most of the other books on Smashwords seem to be at the same costing. So, at $4.99 per book, I’m not gonna get rich quick.

The hard cover copies are artefacts, lovely books to read and keep and have on a shelf. The ebooks are – sure, ephemeral – but available in a variety of formats and portable. Basically, you’re covering two kinds of readers: those who like to read on screen and those who like to read and own an artefact that has a good heft in the hand and sits nicely on a shelf. More formats and a price range to those formats means you’re increasing the number of potential readers you can attract.

Sourdough and Other Stories can be purchased from Tartarus Press, or from Smashwords here. Black-Winged Angels can be purchased from Smashwords here. The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales can be purchased from Ticonderoga Publications.

Bio:
Angela Slatter is a Brisbane-based writer of speculative fiction. For some reason, she has a Masters (Research) in Creative Writing, which produced
Black-Winged Angels, a short story collection of reloaded fairytales, and she is now studying (very slowly) for a PhD in Creative Writing. During her daylight hours, she works at a writers’ centre, and she has been known to occasionally teach creative writing.

Her short stories have appeared in anthologies such as Jack Dann’s Dreaming Again, Tartarus Press’ Strange Tales II, Twelfth Planet Press’ 2012, Dirk Flinthart’s Canterbury 2100, and in journals such as Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Shimmer, ONSPEC and Doorways Magazine. Her work has had several Honourable Mentions in the Datlow, Link, Grant Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies #20 and #21; and three of her stories have been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards in the Best Fantasy Short Story category.

She is working on various short stories and three novels at the moment. Novel the First: an historical fantasy set in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Novel the Second: Finbar’s Mother, a mix of Irish and Norse mythology. Novel the Third is an urban fantasy following the further adventures of Verity Fassbinder, the heroine of Slatter’s story in Sprawl (Twelfth Planet Press), Brisneyland by Night. She is also working on ways to find more time to write and is trying to stop referring to herself in the third person because it’s just weird. She is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006. 2010 saw the publication of two short story collections, Sourdough & Other Stories with Tartarus Press (UK) and The Girl with No Hands & Other Tales (Ticonderoga Publications). In 2012, she will have another collection of short stories, a collaboration with friend and writing-partner-in-crime, Lisa L Hannett: Midnight and Moonshine will be published by Ticonderoga Publications.

Visit Angela on the web at http://www.angelaslatter.com/

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Unimagined by Imran Ahmad – review

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December 22, 2010

unimagined1 Unimagined by Imran Ahmad   reviewI mentioned recently that I was planning to read one non-genre novel for every SF novel I read. With that in mind I’ve just read Unimagined by Imran Ahmad. My wife recommend it to me – “It’s nothing life changing, but I enjoyed it.” It’s billed as “a Muslim boy meets the West” and it received heavy literary credit in several countries. Frankly, I can’t really understand why.

On the whole, I did enjoy it, as a fluffy read of no real consequence. It’s an entertaining account of the life of Ahmad, from his arrival in England from Pakistan at the age of 4, though to his mid-20s. He’s not a bad writer and often has some good turns of phrase. He talks about his school life, endemic British racism, going to a Grammar school and eventually getting into university in Scotland, all the time studying the things he really doesn’t like while spending all his spare time considering things that do actually interest him. Because of this, Ahamd comes across as a pretty sad individual.

More troublesome, however, is that the whole narrative becomes ever more contrived. The book is written in bite sized chunks of Ahmad’s life and it’s easy to read because of that, but the man himself seems to never grow up. The naive four year old at the start of the book still inhabits the twenty five year old body at the end of the book. It’s hard to accept that anyone can remain so unchanged and undeveloped.

The book is also a veiled attack on all religions bar the man’s own chosen Islam, and a subtle push for the veracity of being a Muslim. It’s all very light-hearted, with Ahmad struggling with his belief, trying to apply logic to his choice and seeking out the things that scare him – those people that have such conviction in their own beliefs that he questions his own. He ends up coming down to a choice between evangelical Christianity and Islam, eventually deciding clearly that Christianity is a complete mess and Islam is the one true faith. Regular readers here will know that I hold all organised religion in equal contempt, but I’m not averse to reading about other people’s journeys and perspectives. The trouble with the religious content of this book is that Ahmad uses his own journey to hightlight all the ridiculous flaws of other religions, while studiously ignoring all the flaws in his own, and falling back on “cultural contamination” when the flaws get a little too close to the surface.

By the end of the book I was rather annoyed with the clean-cut, upstanding, morally superior yet still naive Muslim poster boy that Ahmad set himself up as and was pleased I’d reached the end. There’s no real story here, no solid narrative arc and no real reason for this book’s existence other than Ahmad’s own need to document his life. A life which seems to be largely coloured in with things that suit his desired appearance over the probable truths.

I’m being fairly harsh on the poor man, but I always arc up when I feel like I’m being preached to, especially when said preaching is delivered with an innocent smile as if nothing untoward is going on. Regardless, for the most part I enjoyed reading the book and there were several parts that had me smiling and enjoying myself. It’s just a shame that Ahmad didn’t grow at all during the journey, which made the last third or so of the book quite a chore. Interesting and often entertaining, but hardly “The pick of the literary crop” as the cover declares, courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald.

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ThrillerCast episodes up

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0
December 22, 2010

ThrillerCast ThrillerCast episodes upI’ve been a bit remiss in reminding people about the new episodes of ThrillerCast, the podcast I do with fellow author David Wood. While the podcast is essentially about reading, writing and publishing in the thriller genre, there’s a lot of cross-genre talk and all kinds of other interesting stuff. Since I last mentioned it, four new episodes have gone up.

ThrillerCast Episode 5 – Writing a novel

ThrillerCast episode 6 – Writing a thriller, part 2

ThrillerCast episode 7 – The Kent Holloway interview

ThrillerCast Episode 8 – Escapism

You can find all those episodes here: http://www.thrillerpodcast.com/

Next up is a review of Trent Jamieson’s debut novel Death Most Definite, followed by an interview with the man himself. Be sure to subscribe via iTunes, then you won’t need me to remind you. Which I’m clearly not very good at.

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A Game Of Thrones – George R R Martin

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4
December 21, 2010

game of thrones A Game Of Thrones   George R R MartinI mentioned before that I was finally reading this massive epic fantasy series by George R R Martin. Basically, I’ve had the books for ages, buying them because it was something I wanted to read, but putting off the actual reading until the series was finished. I don’t like to be left hanging. But now there’s going to be an HBO series based on the whole A Song Of Ice And Fire series, so I decided I should start reading. I’ve just finished the first book, A Game Of Thrones, and Merlin’s Cock, is it a fantastic book.

So many people have told me I should read this series and no one I know that has read it thought it was anything less than awesome. I can understand why. The scope of this story redefines the word “epic”. It’s massive in its ideas, in its cast of characters, in its imagination. You travel through the lives of the key players in a volatile time for this particular kingdom and it’s never boring. The political intrigue is fascinating, the races and places are vivid. Seriously, as a writer, this book bemuses me. How Martin is able to create and maintain this world in such detail is mind-blowing. It truly is a masterful achievement.

I had an idea about what this first volume was leading up to, what the basic shape of things at the end would be. I was pretty close to accurate in my prediction, yet Martin still managed to deliver that with a breathtaking clarity and lots of surprises. I can’t wait to read on with this series now, even though I know it’s not yet concluded. I can understand the masses clamouring for a final volume.

unimagined A Game Of Thrones   George R R MartinHowever, in my new determined effort to read more outside my genre, I’ve promised myself that I’ll read one non-genre novel for every genre novel I read. So I’ve now moved on to Unimagined, by Imran Ahmad. It’s the story of a young man from Pakistan and his life growing up as an immigrant in Britain. So far it’s excellent. Fundamentally a memoir, it’s written with a kind of succinct brevity that makes it hard to put down. I’ll report more on that when I’m finished.

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The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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