Friday, 30 December 2011

2011 round up

It's been a busy year. I've gone into ebook for the first time, released a book on Kindle and launched two paperbacks. Not bad for my first year of devoted writing/publishing. Other items include the blog, the website, finding a few boards to get advice on, finding a new ad provider and even going back to writing a few more articles. Overall, I'd have to say it has been a busy year.

The last few days are not going to be any different. I think I've found a way to resolve my problems with the Project Wonderful ads. Part of the issue was that each of my sites had to have seperate ads, and on their own these subsites don't get enough traffic. After swapping a few emails, they actually have a way to link traffic from all the sites together under one, so this morning I've added it.

If it works, that will be a very nice start to the new year.

Conflict of Interest is back being edited. I've still got a lot of writing to do, so once the Christmas flood of work is over and I have a bit of time, hopefully I'll be able to get down to writing. There's a short story in the Fire Season world that was originally going to be my Nano-novel that needs editing and research but is basically complete.

And finally, another standalone novel, now at 60,000 words and likely to double that by the time the draft is complete.

For now, if I don't find time to blog again, I'm signing out for 2011.

Have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Friday, 16 December 2011

Widgets and websites and blogs

The ongoing saga of the missing books continues - we're now at three orders not filled that I know of. Please could you let me or the publisher know if you ordered a book and it has not arrived.

Moving onto a brighter note, there's new Smashwords widget on the blog, which is part of a whole third-party set of marketing tools in development to help authors market their Smashwords books.

Also, I have a blog interview up today with J E Taylor:Dishing it up With VH Folland.

Friday, 9 December 2011

An update on bookstores

After some detective work, it turns out that the books have indeed not arrived with stores. The distributor lost the order.

I've taken the practical approach. I've spoken to the shops, who were kind enough to resubmit the order. Author copies have been handed out where possible and, now the orders have been resent, with any luck at the distributor's end The Docks will be in bookstores for Christmas. Otherwise you can still order it online or over the counter.

Hopefully at some point in the near future (read: next five minutes), I'll be able to get back to writing.

On a brighter note, I have an interview on J.E.Taylor's blog coming up, so look out for that, and I'll link it here when it's up.

And finally, about another author. Nick Davis, formerly a White Dwarf feature writer and now a novelist has just released a new book. Something of a change in direction, it's definitely a children's Christmas read.

A Teddy Bear Tale (available from Amazon or Smashwords is a charming tale of a teddy bear fighting the monsters under the bed with a touch of dark humour thrown in. Worth a look for anyone with younger children.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Christmas Problem

I am signing in because it has been a few days since I wrote. I am still here, I am still writing, but right now, I am trying to resolve a fairly major problem. My books were ordered by Waterstones in early November for Christmas. The bookshops haven't received them.

I suspect I am about to miss the entire Christmas market, which is not a good thought. In fact, it could be called a fairly major problem. Once people get back to me, I will give an update here.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Indie Firsts - A new Indie Magazine

With the sudden popularity of ebooks, it can be hard to find one you want to read, given huge variation in quality, subject and e-reader formats.

Indie Firsts is a e-magazine. Downloadable in a range of formats it offers selection of first chapters from small press and self-published books, designed to allow readers to find new authors they want to read. It also has a few opinion pieces or short stories, depending on the magazine's theme.

Indie Firsts was created by Bards and Sages Publishing, under their Positive Publishing Perspectives Imprint. It is planned to be a monthly magazine, with each issue focusing on a different theme, but all offering a wide range of quality fiction.

The first issue is now available from sites including Amazon, Smashwords and Drivethrufiction

You can also read the magazine online via Smashwords, if you are interested:

You might wonder why I am so enthusiastic. I'll come clean right now, they've featured "The Docks" in it, with a first chapter extract and opinion piece.

I also think its a very good way to promote new authors to readers, so I'll be following it in the future.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Reviews for The Docks

After the book launch on Thursday, reviews have started to come in from several of the advance copies I sent out. In some ways, waiting for readers' opinions is more nerve-wrecking than the launch was.

Doubleshot Reviews have given it a four shot expresso rating, which is their highest.Cover mock up for The Docks

"The pace is smooth and fast for this novella, which makes you feel as though you have read though a whole book."
Double Shot Reviews

Coffee order: Quad ("5) Quad: You don’t already own and have read this book multiple times? What’s wrong with you?! Put down the coffee and go buy this book!")

I'm flattered.

The Amazon reviews are more mixed with two five stars, two four stars and a three star on and it is interesting seeing what the different readers take out of the story. There are more reviews to come (I can think of another eight copies I sent out), so I hope people continue to like the book.

Friday, 25 November 2011

After the launch...

An interesting if quiet day at the signing, including a few interesting chats about crime novellas, short stories on Kindle and e-publishing, and small bookshops.

Signing table and books
I'd like to thank Annette at Farthing Books (again!) for hosting us, and putting up with me for the day. She got something out of it, since another author asked about doing their book launch there.

I am still very tired so I'll settle for putting some photos up, snapped before it opened. The books were on a table here - it's right by the counter so it was a good location.

What people were really interested in:

While there is a lot of advice leading up to book launchs, most guides tend to miss the work needed afterwards. Helping put the shop back in order was fair, after everything had been moved around to accomodate the launch (and food). Today, the remaining books need to go to Waterstones or be returned to the publisher, any receipts and figures need to be sent in, and I need to recover, update websites and PR and pull down advertising.

I also need to get writing. NaNoWrimMo has five days to go, I have a lot of notes, but nothing typed up, and I need to get 50,000 words done.

50,000 words? 5 Days? Time to get typing.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Thoughts on an Open Letter and its Responses

A few days ago an open letter from a writer to their publisher set Twitter on fire. Author Sebastian Marshall wrote to Carolyn Reidy the CEO of Simon and Schuster, his publisher, about what he thought was wrong with publishing.

While I am not touching the actual argument between the author and their publisher, some of it highlights legitimate issues about the whole traditional publishing industry, or at least the mainstream big-business part of it.

Liar old and new covers:

Cover art? It is very rare for an author to get a say in their cover art. This is why we get issues of white-washing, like the furor over Liar or Magic Under Glass, both of whose authors were overriden until reader backlash caused a change of cover. In the Liar example, Justine Larbalestier, who is an established author, chronicles exactly how much say an author has, and it isn't much. There are several examples of her prefered covers being dropped because "they wouldn't sell".

Another problem the letter mentions is "under-equipped" editors, but the truth may be closer to "extremely overworked". I know several editors who have been laid off, and those who remain are simply expected to pick up the extra work so the release schedule doesn't slip. Asking four or five people to do the work of eight to twelve will always result in a quality slip.

However, judging by a couple of ebooks recently released (e.g. the ebook version of Snuff), there is a sad lack of proof readers and copy checkers. Even in print books from large houses, I can now expect to find typos where a few years ago I would not. In my collection of vintage pulps and sci-fi, produced quickly and cheaply in the forties and fifties for a bulk market, such mistakes are very rare. Something has changed somewhere in the production process, and not for the better.

Conservative? Having seen the ebook contracts for some of my fellow writers and the way large publishing houses are handling them, I'd probably have to agree. There is a distinct view that it is about the book, sometimes for a very narrow definition of book, instead of the product. In the twentieth-first century the product is no longer one paperback book, it's that one piece of writing, whether supplied in print, Kindle, Nook, webpage, video app, podcast etc. Focusing on one platform doesn't work anymore, it is all about putting the content in front of the user and getting paid for providing it.

No good collaboration between departments? I'm not sure that's a specific publishing problem or more of a big company problem. Once corporations get to a certain size, it is very easy to become insular as teams form their own sub cultures inside the organisation. A classic example from another industry and my own experience was having a celebration after an achievement. I took my team (including designers, testers, editors) to lunch after a few weeks of very hard work where we all pitched in, but I was told off by the department head afterwards. "I thought you'd take the other managers," he said. "Your peers."

For real irony, the reason I'd got the project in and the other managers hadn't? Because I was prepared to walk up two floors and talk to the team working on it. This sort of divided "us and them" thinking can damage any company because the focus is placed on outdoing the internal competition, instead of the external one. In the worst cases it can lead to one team sabotaging another's projects to the detriment of the company as a whole.

So what can publishers do about it? Understand that just like any business, they exist in a changing world and follow the same basic rules: Adapt or die (Ivey Business Journal).

Some days have passed since the publication of the letter, so you may wonder why I am writing about it now. With time for it to spread, the reaction from publishers has been predictable, but so has that from many authors. A sentiment I keep seeing is:

"Pay me £65K and I'll do whatever they want!"

No. I can't stress this enough. Absolutely not. No matter how much the amount is or how tempted you are, you read the contract, you get an agent and/or attorney and you review the terms. That 65K could cost you 15% for the lifetimes of your grandchildren, or ban you from writing anything else until the book series is complete.

Publishing is no different to any other business and, no matter how friendly or reputable the company, they will always be looking out for themselves first. Always read the fine print.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about dealbreakers and the publishing industry here, in two posts that I believe should be required reading for any author starting out: Part 1 and Part 2.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Everything Arranged

Two days before and the books for the book launch are now at the shop. That's the last part of this sorted, so now it's down to waiting.

The checklist was impressive and after the launch I'll put it up on here wit a list of what worked and what didn't. I've got some of the posters and bits I saved from the Fire Season launch at Salute, and copies of that book will also be available which should bulk the display stand out slightly. So far the snow has not materialised so several of the maybes should quickly become yes'es.

Everything is working out. The only thing is the small issue of photos and a speech at the start.

The gist as always is "Thanks for coming, books here, buffet there, thanks again", but I would prefer something a little more interesting.

I'll blog again after the book launch with shop photos, details, and more. At least when it is over, no matter how well or poorly it goes, I can get back to writing. I have three unfinished manuscripts to get to work on.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Premature worries

It seems I shouldn't have been concerned. I finished work commitments early and went to the bookstore. No photographer showed up so I spent a very nice day at a bookshop, discussing next week, fixing a computer, and generally browsing.

It was something of a relief since last night I caught a cat with my face when it did a plunge off the wardrobe, and currently I look rather like I've gone a few rounds with a boxer with bladed gloves. Not exactly photogenic, although appropriate for The Docks.

I've a few more people to contact about the book launch, and in general it looks like its going to be quiet, local and interesting. I am still slightly nervous because right now I have a lot of maybes and very few saying a definite yes, but it seems if it's too quiet we can always migrate to the pub for the evening.

So,, with a sense of cautious optimism, I can report that we have plans, and more plans.

And, of course, for any South London readers, details are here:

Interviews, promotion and penname problems.

I've just had the local paper on the phone, who want to feature the book launch. This is excellent news. However they then finished by requesting an author photo. This isn't such good news.

It's not just that I use a pen name for privacy as well as many other reasons. I dislike photographs in general. My stance on author headshots is well-known. Apparently the use of a penname (see reasons) is not sufficient signal that I do not want my personal and professional life confused, and that an author photo would not be a good idea.

Fortunately work means I will be away when they wanted to arrange the photo shoot, but given everything, I am seriously beginning to wonder if I would be better off leaving this penname and the books and walking away.

I wasn't exactly planning on a book launch for "The Docks", far less a signing, and I was unpleasantly surprised and taken aback by the interest shown in my personal life (irrelevant) compared to my book (relevant). I am not a brand, I am not particularly interesting, and I do not want to be. I write. That's it.

The real surprise? The behaviour of people outside the press, where the word newspaper seems to result in tunnel vision: up to and including the suggestion I should blow an NDA and breach a contract to hand out details of my job to the press to get them interested in a book. Fortunately I have better sense, but it does reinforce why I keep my professional and writing careers seperate. It also means I will be keeping a careful eye on certain people and am even less likely to agree to a photograph.

If you want to judge my books, read them. Articles about my background will tell you nothing about my writing. If you want to ask questions, the blog is here for comments.

At least it's here for the moment because, after thinking about this for most of the day, I'm two steps off shutting up shop and walking away, possibly before the book launch. The chance of damage to my non-writing career is just too high, and while I enjoy writing it doesn't pay the bills yet.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Back to work and random thoughts...

I've easily written 50K words this month already, just not fiction or NaNo, and I've probably got that to go again.

Press releases, articles, non-fiction, and general PR has taken up most of my time.
I have a final author's copy of The Docks, text justified, back cover copy finalised, and generally looking good.

The Book Launch is on the 24th November, although there is a small problem with book supplies. The bookshop is not registered with our distributor, causing problems getting books tracked or ordered through Nielsen, so that's being looked into at the publisher's end.

What is really worrying me is this signing in the afternoon. I'm actually doing the signing because of the shop's request, and I can't see it going well. I'm not exactly the life and sole of the party, and spending the afternoon talking to people and then trying to be "on" again in the evening will be very wearing. Especially since I don't, and never have, liked talking about my books, and the last assessment of my social skills included the word "piranha".

What's going to be more difficult will be the question of pennames, photos (I don't do them) and the press. I've been told repeatedly I don't look like my books, so this could be interesting. Short of hiring an actor there's not much I can do about it, so I'll be taking the route of a six-foot-six bearded biker I know of, who spends entire writing conventions behind a romance writer's nametag, and brazen it out.

Still, unsociable lout or not, I should manage to get through this. If not, there's a pub opposite, and a thai restaurant next door.

On the other hand, with the wine (white at least) from the Iron Railway Vineyard, it should be a good evening

For more information: Click here

Friday, 11 November 2011

Rememberance Day

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month...

Lest We Forget

Single Poppy

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Guest Post: Ty Johnson on genre and acceptance

A guest post today by Ty Johnson, author of Ghosts of the Asylum.

Ghosts of the Asylum by Ty Johnson

Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and More Than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords.

His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21. To find out more, follow him at his blog

Fandom has come a long way since I was a kid. Back in those days, the 1970s, it was still considered uncool to read fantasy novels, to watch science fiction TV shows, or to take part in speculative fiction fandom in just about any manner. Even reading comic books was kid stuff to be frowned upon by adults.

In my opinion, the popularity of Star Wars and early video games helped to change this somewhat. Then in the early ’90s the Internet came along and video game technology jumped by leaps and bounds, opening the floodgates for geeks and nerds and fanboys to step into the spotlight.

Oddly enough, I never considered myself much of a geek, nerd or fanboy. No, while growing up I wasn’t the manliest man among my neighborhood kids, and I did spend plenty of hours and hours reading Tolkien and Terry Brooks and whatever other fantasy authors I could discover. I even played Dungeons & Dragons. But, I also took part in the more traditional exploits of boys. I played kickball. At an older age I played football and soccer. I hung out. I got in the occasional fight. I tried my first cigarette and drank my first beer. I did the usual macho stuff boys did to prove their manhood to their friends and themselves.

So, no, I didn’t think of myself as geeky.

Later, as I entered my college years, I put most of that thinking behind me. I had important stuff to do, a degree to earn so I could get out in the real world and find a job. I was becoming an adult, or so I thought. The world of fantastical literature wasn’t completely put behind me, but it was on the fringes of my life at the time.

Once I entered the professional world as a newspaper journalist, I initially found I had little time for pursuits outside of the workplace. Newspapers became my life.

Until I discovered a handful of co-workers who were not only gamers, but budding fantasy writers themselves. Most of these folks were slightly older than myself, and they had grown up in a culture slightly different from my own (they were from “up North” whereas I am a Kentucky boy). Suddenly I found I could indulge in my whims and still feel like an adult.

Eventually, because of the economy, I was forced into changing careers. At that point, I decided to return to my childhood roots, to build upon my love for fantastical literature. I made fiction writing my new career. It wasn’t easy, and often still is not, but I’ve managed with the help of an understanding spouse.

By this point, I felt fantasy literature and the other speculative genres had gained acceptance by the general populace at large. And why not? Many of the top movies were science fiction or fantasy. The modern video game market teems with horror, fantasy and science fiction stories, characters and other elements. Even genre conventions, once only attended by those in the business or hardcore fans, had gained in popularity and were being attended by thousands upon thousands.

Let me add here that while I never felt like a fantasy geek, I also never had any derision for those who were labeled such, by themselves or others. I guess I had always walked a fine line between two worlds, that of the speculative fiction nerd and ... well, everybody else, so I sort of had a foot in both camps.

Back to my adulthood. As I was saying, I was feeling that speculative fiction and fandom of such had finally gained acceptance by the masses.

My thoughts on that matter changed when I wrote and released a non-speculative novel, More Than Kin. Yes, my non-speculative novel. More Than Kin deals with a dying man’s search for his long-lost son and the connections he makes with new friends toward the end of his life. I think it’s a pretty good novel, and those who have read it have told me they enjoyed it.

Why did the release of More Than Kin change my feelings about acceptance of the speculative genres? Because I started receiving e-mails, sometimes even from family, suggesting I should write more of this stuff, and not all that junk about swords and monsters and killers and the like. Even some few reviewers have suggested More Than Kin was better than my fantasy and horror work (I’ve yet to work much in science fiction).

None of this depressed me, but it did make me realize that gap between the "unacceptable" and the "acceptable" still existed. It was still out there, floating around over the heads of those of us who take part somehow or other in speculative fiction.

Will we ever gain acceptance?

Probably not. But maybe we don’t need to. Maybe we shouldn’t even be striving for acceptance. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin have proved fantasy literature can be accepted by the masses, at least in video form, so maybe that should be enough. Maybe we shouldn’t be pushing our wares upon those who aren’t interested, and should focus upon those who are. The geeks. The nerds. The fans.

Because that’s where the true acceptance matters.

Ty Johnson's blog tour continues through November to celebrate the release of "Ghosts of thr Asylum"

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Overseas and over the counter...

Pre-order options for "The Docks" have expanded, to be overseas and over the bookshop counter.

When a new book is released it takes a while for each stage of the chain to pick up the update from the one before, confirm the details and pass it on. I found out on Saturday that "The Docks" distribution chain has been configured.

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

The Docks can now be pre-ordered over the counter in Waterstones or from their website. It can also be pre-ordered by overseas customers through the Bookdepository, who once again are offering free overseas shipping.

Since the branches can now pre-order it, there is a possibility I can get a signing or launch event set up in a Waterstones branch. While I love indie bookshops, there is no doubt in our area that Waterstones gets more traffic and would sell more books. One cloud on the horizon is an issue with the evening launch that I've been alerted to by the bookstore, which means arrangements may need to be tweaked. It only came up yesterday, so at the moment I'm waiting to hear more.

Meanwhile I have a new set of edits for Conflict of Interest to work through, a book launch to plan, signings to set up...

...and NaNoWriMo starts next week. November is going to be a busy month.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A book launch

My author copy of the Docks arrived this morning. Excuse me while I sound like a proud parent, but doesn't it look good!

The Docks by VH Folland in paperback

It is a slim, mass-market paperback, with a glossy cover. Please ignore the slight lift to the cover in the photo: when it arrived the first thing I did was read it. The second thing was to go to certain book stores and wave it at the owners, who read it...

It should have been here a few days ago, but apparently DHL couldn't deliver. Royal Mail picked up the slack, and if that's the worst thing that happens while this book is coming out I will be delighted!

The book launch is coming together:

3pm-5pm Book Signing
7pm-9pm Launch Party

And all at Farthing Books!

Here's an online invitation. If you'd like more details please contact the store.

The main launch event is in the evening. Drinks, nibbles, interesting people, and lots of books. What more could you want? Entry is free, and refreshments will be provided. However, if you are interested in coming please phone the store to book ahead due to space constraints out of hours. It's from 7pm-9pm, although there's a pub nearby if anyone wants to carry on afterwards!

The book signing is more a convenience: since I'll be in the area (actually, I'll be in the store) setting things up for the evening, I'll be available to sign a few books as well.

Farthing Books
Tel. 020 8660 7688
21 Chipstead Valley Rd, Coulsdon, CR5 2RB (Map)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Book launch Announcement

24th November 2011 at Farthing Books.

Signed copies will be available at the shop during normally business hours, while the launch party will be in the evening from 7pm-9pm. Refreshments will be available. More information is available from the shop.

For information, please contact Farthing Books Tel. 020 8660 7688, 21 Chipstead Valley Rd, Coulsdon, CR5 2RB (

We would like to cordially invite you to

"The Docks" Book Launch

to be held at Farthing Books


24th November 2011

Farthing Books

Right, now the formal part is out of the way, I'd like to say a very big thank you to the owner of Farthing Books for allowing me to use her store for a launch this close to Christmas. Farthing Books is one of the newest independant bookshops in London, based on the Surrey Borders in Coulsdon, and specialises in discount books, remainders and unusual titles, as well as second-hand stock. With two train stations nearby and a car park opposite it isn't hard to get to.

If you drop in during the day I will probably be there - sorting things out for the evening and hopefully signing copies for interested readers. The evening will be pretty relaxed (as I'm not the outgoing type) with food, drink and hopefully interesting people to meet.

Pre-order the Docks from Waterstones

The only other bit of news is that Waterstones are now taking pre-orders for The Docks. You can order it online or instore, and they are also offering free P&P within the UK for online orders.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Docks Book Launch - planning

Well, it's official. The Docks is going into print. It can now be pre-ordered from the website, and the distribution chain is kicking off. I was holding off on updating because I wanted to submit a picture of the actual book, but that won't arrive for another week. (For anyone curious, Paypal is being used for pre-orders as it accepts dollars and euros)
Pre-order "The Docks" in print
£4.99 (Free P&P)*

*Overseas orders not guaranteed to arrive before christmas.

What I need to plan now is the book launch. I have options: ask Waterstones, ask an indie bookstore or hide in a room above a pub. The only option not currently available is the Fire Season method of a very large games convention.

I'd like to support an indie bookstore, but this leaves me with all the planning. As a low-budget release it's not getting much investment from the publisher. Weekends and evenings would be best for me, friends and family, but most bookstores want to do a launch on a week day during business hours. Catering I can arrange from local shops, depending on what the locations rules are on food. Is this supposed to be something where I sit in a corner and sign books, or a general meet and mingle? Also, if it is an indie event, how do I make sure they get the best out of it as well as me? And I need to do all of this with virtually no budget.

I love a challenge.

All I know for sure right now is that it will be in November, and in the South London area, and if the venue allows the wine supplier I want it will be a very merry evening.

Anyone interesting in attending, please drop me a note or use the comment box below.

Meanwhile, its a good day for features: Fire Season is being featured on Bargain ebooks today (here). At the same time The Docks is being featured on No Trees Harmed. I promise I didn't plan this!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Vanishing reviews and spreading your risks

This is interesting and currently the hot topic on book blogs: Amazon are removing reviews. Not just in ones or twos, they are emptying entire review accounts. These reviews aren't abusive or spoilers or anything to do with the content, they are detailed reviews written by bloggers and book reviewers. These are people who run their own blog and cross-post their reviews to Amazon, not the 5-star schemes out there. The current theory on many blogs is that Amazon is removing anything cross-posted to make sure that any reviews on its pages only appear on the Amazon site.

If this is true, this could badly affect indie books including mine, since the majority of my reviews on Amazon are by book reviewers not readers. As I don't make most of my sales from Amazon, it would be difficult to persuade readers who bought books elsewhere to post their reviews on the site. Other authors are in a similar position:
Despite the theory, the truth is more complicated: no one actually knows why Amazon is removing reviews from entire review accounts. They haven't commented, and the sites affected have been unable to find out, as Irene Watson of Reader Views mentions. The reviewers who have been hit include large sites like Midwest Book Reviews, with 60,000 books reviewed. Basically the belief is that Amazon is taking the line that any review posted on their site may not be posted anywhere else - including the reviewer's own page. If this is true, it could be a response to Google's new search weighting, which reduces the value of repeated content. However, Amazon has in general benefited from that change, so it seems unlikely. Another theory is to do with FTC regulations, but sites like Publishers Weekly and other industry review giants offering pay options have not been hit yet, so this seems unlikely.

Regardless of the cause, there are a lot of copyright and legal issues involved with this including the actual ownership of the reviews, but other bloggers will cover them in detail. I'd like to focus on the effects of the action, which I believe may have unintended negative side-effects.

One unexpected side effect of this may well be disproportionate damage to small press and indie sellers. While larger publishers can get reviews in mainstream media - television, radio, newspapers - smaller press will use blogs and social media extensively due to a smaller budget overall, and as a greater proportion of their spend. If the reviews are lost in proportion, then a large publisher may lose 10% of it's reviews, while a small press loses 80% or more. For example Mark Whiteway lost ten reviews in this purge. I've lost one - that's 20% of my Amazon reviews.

The second side effect I can see? Readers going to places like Goodreads to get reader reviews instead of Amazon (it's where most of my reviews are). Unfortunately for Amazon, Goodreads offers a full selection of places to buy books, so there's no guarantee customers reading reviews there will then buy from Amazon.

The third issue? Those same book bloggers, authors, and publishers, whose reviews have been lost then removing Amazon affiliate links from their sites. Since many bloggers support their blogs from affiliate links that isn't a small amount of money. Given the loss of affiliates in some parts of the US due to tax issues, upsetting more does seem like a rather odd business decision.

The fourth, and most disturbing one? An increase in the ethically unsound pay-for-5-stars schemes, where the reviewer has rarely even read the book. Because these five star reviews are not cross-posted anywhere, they aren't going to be caught by this sweep or removed. The accounts created for these schemes are treated as disposable, so if Amazon blocks one they will just create another. This means fake reviews are safer than reviews from book reviewers, giving small press an unintentional incentive to use these schemes.

However, since Amazon has made the decision it will proceed, even though the reasons behind it are unclear.

What can you do as a small press author? Remember Amazon is, when it comes down to it, just one distribution channel - in fact I'd go further: it's one retailer. If you are selling ebooks, make them available from Barnes and Noble, Sony, Smashwords, Apple etc. In fact you can do all those at once by using Smashwords, who also offer .mobi so you don't lose the Kindle market.

Paperbacks? If you have an ISBN there is no reason why you shouldn't be listed on multiple retailers. If you can get a distribution listing - through Ingrams in the states or Gardners or Bertrams in the UK, or with full distribution through one of their sub-groups - it should show up on multiple online bookstore retail sites. These include Waterstones, Smiths, etc. Shelf space can be harder, but again with a listing on any of those distributors or their linked suppliers, in the worst case scenario you can go into the shop and ask.

Goodreads ReviewsReviews? Link them from your website to the book bloggers' websites. Have a link or widget to display your reader reviews from other sites e.g. Goodreads. Shelfari and Librarything have similar options.

It is a basic business lesson: over-reliance on one channel to market is unwise, no matter how large they are. Amazon needs to be one of the arrows in your quiver, not your bowstring.

In business-speak I could go on about Single Points of Failure, Theory of Constraint etc. Instead I'll suggest you should consider the question "If Amazon disappeared tomorrow, where would I be?"

If you can prepare for that, then changes like this one cause a lot less stress.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Docks in print?

My big news for the week is that The Docks may be coming out in print, handled by the same publisher that did Fire Season. It's a small-press arrangement, but once again the book will be getting distribution and shelf space. With luck, it might even be out in time for Christmas.

Cover mock up for The DocksA 96 page mass market paperback, it would be on the shelves at £4.99. I thought this was a bit high until I went to my local Waterstones and checked the prices on comparable titles, which start at £5.99 and go up. Since everything else on the deal seemed reasonable I've taken the plunge and optioned the print rights.

The ebook got good reviews, so I'll be chasing quotes for the back cover. After all, comments like:

"I definitely recommend The Docks for a fast, entertaining read!"
Gathering Leaves Reviews

should help get some interest and hopefully sales.

There are a few more blog features on The Docks due out later this week, so I'll tweet them as they happen.

Now back to writing.

Friday, 30 September 2011

A week of promotion

As well as writing on the various ideas I've got at the moment, this week has mainly been focusing on Promotion.

I was introduced to Project Wonderful last Wednesday. It is an interesting site, allowing users to bid on advertising space on a variety of sites of all subjects and sizes. My publisher promptly opened an account as a test and put a small amount of cash into it. Perhaps because it is targeted, the banners for The Docks appear to have a better return than Google Ads, both in terms of views and clicks.

At the same time, I'm trying to arrange a few guest blogs here (look out for Nov 2nd!) and just sent off a magazine article for the new Indie Firsts Magazine due out in December.

That's all just for The Docks. Fire Season has been sent out for more reviews, and has been submitted to Virtual Pulp Press bookstore, where I'm hoping it will be accepted into their Aviation Adventure section. Their store has a very nice collection of books, but make sure adblocker is turned off or you won't see them!

In other news, the Guardian has launched a loyalty card for Independant Bookshops. It's not currently valid in the ones near me, but I'll be keeping an eye out in case that changes.

On top of all that, I've got another 6,000 words written. Just for once, I'm actually glad it's the weekend!

Update: Virtual Pulp Press have just added Fire Season to their listings.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Fire Season on Smashwords

After much discussion with the publisher, Fire Season is now available on Smashwords. This means it is available for the Nook, and in epub format for the Sony and other eReaders. There's also a DRM-free .mobi version available here for Kindle users. Fire Season will be coming to other stores, like Barnes & Noble etc. in the next few weeks.

It's still controlled by the publisher, managed by their account, and just linked to my Smashwords account. It seems rather odd to have something I can view but not directly edit. Given the number of epub downloads of Arrival, it seems sensible to have the main novel available in that format.

The only other piece of news is that adverts for The Docks should start showing up this month. I've been pointed in the direction of Project Winderful, who manage advertising for a range of online sites. The problem is that many of them are webnovels or webcomics, so my daily TBR (to-be-read) pile is growing.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

SampleSunday? Harry and Dating problems...

Rather than a sample from a book, here's a short piece inspired by a reader's question. I was asked why Harry wasn't having more success with the ladies. All I can say is, can you imagine his typical date at the moment?

"That's a nice neighbourhood." She glanced at the menu, and I hoped she wouldn't order anything too pricy.

"I'm sharing a house with my brother." I added, without mentioning I was sleeping on his couch at the moment. "So what do you do?"

"I'm a personal assistant. I work for a Vice President at Goldman Sachs." Classy lady. Why did I keep getting set up with them? What had my brother put on my profile? "What do you do?"

"I work in security. Security assessments." I could see her opinion of me dropping and suddenly remembered what my brother had drilled into me. "I'm a consultant." She thawed slightly at the magic phrase and, heartened by my success, I went on "What would you like to drink?".

"Surprise me." She glanced at the wine list and smiled. I glanced at it and suddenly realised I couldn't read it. Italian, French, floral script, it was a problem. I caught the waiter's eye, and he obligingly came over as I held the winelist up.

"A bottle of the house white?" I asked. White wine wasn't usually my thing, but with the prices in here we could split it. She didn't look happy. "If that's alright with you?"

"Fine." The waiter took the order and left.

"So what do you think you'll have for starters?"

"Just the salad."

"OK. So did you go anywhere nice on holiday?"

"Yes. Off to Greece for a month. I got a great tan." I could see. I could also see my chances of getting close to it vanishing into the distance. "Have you been on holiday anywhere?"

"Not recently. Work's been busy." She nodded sympathetically.

"So how did you get into security? It sounds interesting." I'd hoped she wouldn't ask that until the end of the date.

"I did some time. When I got out I sorted my life out."

"What for...?" She asked, warily.

"Armed Robbery and Manslaughter." She looked up, horrified, and I added lamely. "I've reformed."

"Ah." She went back to the menu, obviously hoping I wouldn't notice her easing her hand to her pocket. A moment later her phone rang.

"Mind if I take this? Hi Sandra, What's up?" By now I knew the script so well I could mouth along with it. An emergency and the date cut short. Polite goodbyes, and a refusal to let me call her a cab, or take her home or anything. It was classier than the ones who went to the toilet and never came back. I even got a peck on the cheek as she left. It still left me with a bottle of overpriced wine and an empty chair.

"Would sir like that order to go?" The waiter had returned, and seemed sympathetic. For a moment I wondered about phoning a friend to join me, and checked the time. The Boar would be filling up around now. I might as well join my mates there.

"Yeah. Thanks."

The Docks

The Docks by VH Folland

Conflict of Interest

Crime novellas focusing on Harry, a chap who isn't entirely succeeding in going straight...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Current projects for the week

Type up notes. In other words, typing, typing, and more typing. I've got 2,000 words done today on various first drafts.

Other projects include a wikispaces wiki for The Docks series, waiting nervously for several more reviews of The Docks and Fire Season, revamping the look of this blog (again) since I've got Conflict of Interest out...

...and the more exciting news that Conflict of Interest is going onto Amazon in the next twenty-four hours.

It's going to be a busy week.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

SampleSunday - Conflict of Interest Ch1

I wasn't going to do Sample Sunday today, but since Conflict of Interest just got approved for distribution, and will be hitting Barnes & Noble, Amazon and more shortly, I thought I'd put up a link to a sample to celebrate. If you want the whole book now, it is available in all formats from Smashwords.

Today's SampleSunday is the complete Chapter One of Conflict of Interest, available from the website for CoI.

Read here: Chapter One: Conflict of Interest

There are a couple of Tweets going round, so please Retweet them if you like the sample:

Mugging an armed robber isn't bright. Conflict of Interest: #samplesunday #ebook


His robbery went as planned - until Harry was mugged. Conflict of Interest Ch.1: #Sample Sunday #action #ebook Pls RT

Friday, 9 September 2011

Print costs and decisions

Putting the Docks into print will cost £200. That covers the cover artwork rights, ISBN, layout, formatting, proof copies, revisions and then a base twenty copies to get the distribution chain moving. This would be POD, producing a 96 page mass-market paperback. It also gives it a shelf price of £4.99, even after distribution, P&P, author royalty and production, which createspace and lulu can't match.

The problem is that right now, I don't have that spare. I can either publish two new ebooks, or put The Docks into print. The print audience is larger, and reaches people that don't own e-readers. It gives me access to bookshops, and to a wider set of reviewers. On the other hand, the best way to promote a book online is to release another book. It's not just the sales of the new books themselves, it's the sales of the existing books that follow on.

Right now, I am going back to writing. I've got several pages of notes to flesh out, and a novella or two to finish.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Current projects

I've just been formatting some non-fiction for another penname, so I haven't updated the blog in a while.

Regarding my fiction writing, I've got a possible Docks novellas in the works, along with a Christmas short story and some notes for other possible pieces. Yes, I have written what happens when he finally ends up in court over the incidents in the Docks, after the end of Conflict of Interest. No, I am not spoiling it.

More to the point a short story set in Brooke's Vale turned into an idea for a reasonable sequel to Fire Season. I'm still at the note-taking stage, so it might not go anywhere, but so far it seems to be coming together nicely.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Conflict of Interest - Sample Sunday

Conflict of Interest

Work can be murder...

A new job, a fresh start, and things are looking up for Harry. Maybe going straight isn't so hard.

He didn't expect to stumble over a job aimed at his new employer, for the kind of money a crook could retire on. It should be simple enough: tell the police, let them arrest the criminals, claim a reward. Sorted.

Except Harry's not a snitch - and it's being organised by his mate...

Conflict of Interest is a crime novella (30,000 words) and the sequel to The Docks. Currently it is available at $0.99.

Here's a short exerpt from the first chapter for Sample Sunday:

Climbing out of the small window was harder than climbing in had been, but then I had the cash box under my fleece. Watching carefully through the small gap, I checked the alley was empty as best I could. Once the security camera was pointed the other way I slid my legs out, breathing in and forcing myself through the gap. The cash box dug painfully into my ribs, then went through. As my feet hit the tarmac I looked up at the back of the camera and grinned. Quickly I headed towards it, planning to wait while it panned passed the side of the alley and walk out in the blind spot. Then I just needed to turn the corner, walk to the little cash-let office I was working from and drop off the proceeds of my second break-in of the night. Simple.

"Gimme your money." OK, it should have been simple, but things so rarely go as planned. I stopped and looked at them. One of the risks of a job like mine - wandering around at night in dark alleys - was running into idiots like this. There were two this time, all designer clothes and attitude, waving these pathetic little penknives like they thought I'd faint. Usually I'd either have gone along with it or thrown a empty wallet in the street and given them a thumping for their trouble. Right now I wasn't just carrying my money and, after all the fun this evening, I wasn't handing my haul off to anyone.

"Make me." I grinned, curling my hands into fists. Any excuse for a rumble. They actually took me up on it, I'll give them that. Too bad they weren't very good.

They both attacked together, but a step to the side put them in each others' way. As the first turned, waving the short blade at arm's length in front of him like a sword, I grabbed his wrist in one hand and punched him. His mate tried to push past him, but a hefty shove sent my attacker reeling into him and they went down in a tangle of limbs. As they pulled apart, scrabbling to their feet, I sniggered. The first to his feet didn't run; he charged, leaving the other guy still trying to get up.

This time he tried to close, and I let him. Grabbing the knife arm, I swung two punches into his gut, grabbed his belt and, as he reeled, my knee came upwards hard enough to lift him off the ground. Between bar brawls and prison, I don't believe in fighting fair. He folded, eyes rolling upwards, whimpering faintly. There was a pitiful clatter as he dropped his knife. I let go, stepping back as he collapsed. His mate was on his feet, looking sick. As he turned to run, I yelled.

"Hey! He knows where you live." I kicked the whimpering lump on the ground. His friend stopped running, and looked back, the light dawning. "Now. You're going to come back here and we'll all wait for the cops. 'K?"

As he reluctantly walked back, I wondered where the security guards were. A brawl this close to the side entrance and they should either have sealed the building and called the cops or investigated and moved the problem on. Instead there was no sign of them.
The penknife was by my boot. Carefully I bent down, picked it up by the blade, and stepped away, just in case either of them decided to be stupid. The entrance was behind me and I backed slowly towards it, feeling for the edge of the steps as I put each foot down. Contact would let me know I was safe, but the steps could also trip me, and two on one with their victim sprawling even this pair couldn't mess it up.
"Are you alright?" The girl's voice came from behind me, and she sounded terrified. I edged round until I could see both muggers and the door. The night receptionist was clutching her phone, the heavy entry door ajar.

"Yes, thanks." I replied. "Could you get help?"

"I've called the police!" Her voice was shrill and scared. As I stepped towards her she darted inside and shut the door. Locks clicked. Smart bird.

"Can you call Mr. Wyatt as well?" I raised my voice, hoping to be heard through the letterbox. Inside, visible through the glass, she paused at the owner's name.

"Why?" I grinned at her.

"I've got your Accounts Department's cash box in my bag."

To find out what happens next, you can read a longer sample or purchase the book at Smashwords

Conflict of Interest Website

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Conflict of Interest & Amazon

Amazon say they will take at least 3 days to fix The Docks listing. In the meantime I am losing traffic from various features, which is frustrating (and costly) but can't be helped.

On a bright note, so far I have two issues reported with Conflict Of Interest, both in the HTML version only, and both purely stylistic. If the .mobi and .epub versions are correct, which they seem to be, I may leave this to get to distribution faster.

You can see them for yourself at Smashwords

The only other complaint was that on the page for The Docks at the end I hadn't added any nice reviews...

UPDATE: 20:30 and it looks like the Docks listing for is back up:
The Docks on The only problem is that as a UK resident I can't see the price on Fingers crossed there are no further problems.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Conflict of Interest - Sneak Preview

Conflict of Interest Sneak Preview

There is now a trial version of Conflict of Interest working its way through Smashwords.

This version still has one proofing pass to complete, but is up so we can identify formatting errors, anything that would prevent it going to distribution (which takes three days), get the ISBN assigned, the listing and tags ready and so on. The aim is to get the final version live this weekend.

For anyone looking for a preview, here's the link.
This is a draft, but if you can't wait and buy this version to find out what happens, don't worry. If you pick up the draft, once the final version is up you can download a copy of it from Smashwords free of charge.

Amazon again.

I will apologise in advance for the tone of this entry, but I am tired, annoyed and lacking sleep.

I was up until 2:48 am last night trying to get this fixed, then up again at six a.m. to call their US office. The operator saw the issue and escalated it, which does not explain why the broken page is still live or the two contacts today who didn't believe the page is broken because they hadn't read the ticket. This is no longer even vaguely funny.

Recovery plan:
1) Add a link to "The Docks" website in the comment section of any feature.
2) Don't launch Conflict of Interest on Amazon Kindle: it will just annoy more readers when they can't get The Docks.
3) Keep chasing Amazon.
4) Suggest to the publisher they get Fire Season onto a different format.

Finally: If it's not fixed by the end of the week, pull The Docks off Amazon so the broken page doesn't wreck the COI launch.

Some of the emails I have received have made it quite clear that readers are not impressed. All I can say is that I am trying to fix this to the best of my ability, and I apologise profusely.

The decision I have to make is that the last two days were supposed to be final proofing for CoI. I'm not going to have time to do that now, unless I put the book back again which I am reluctant to do. Delay it - again - or release it with only one round of proofing corrections? Decisions, decisions...

An Amazon update

A breakdown of last night: Amazon don't think there is anything wrong with the listing. So far their support people have all taken one look and escalated it, only for me to get a email back from the technical team this morning that the listing is "fine". My thoughts were unprintable.

Not shown as an ebook, not in the Kindle store, and you can't purchase it. That's not fine.

I phoned (£2 a minute - ouch). They could see the response, and the still-broken product page. The support operator was very helpful and is escalating it along with a note that the first response was wrong.

Unfortunately it will still be broken when the book is featured on 1st September, because the department that should have fixed it yesterday is closed. Republishing won't fix it because the problem is with the ASIN. I cannot really see a way to recover this, because no matter where you send people they still look books up on Amazon.

And Amazon wonder why I won't print publish with them.

Here's a very fast update, ten minutes later: they made it worse. To my great surprise the listing claims the book (presumably printed) is published by Amazon and ships from Canada. This is when I start looking at lawyers, as the print rights have never been sold.

Screenshot of Amazon listing showing shipping line and publisher

Update 14:00: The publisher got onto them. Amazon have emailed back and are confused as to why there is a problem with the page. Let's see:
- Customers can't buy the book
- The copyright info has been stripped.
My screenshot has been sent to Amazon, with details and links. I'm sure I'll find this very funny in a few months time, but right now it is driving me mad...
...mainly because this time last year they did almost exactly the same thing with Fire Season.

My apologies once again to anyone affected. Amazon in Autumn seems to be a bad combination for me.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Good news and bad...

The good news is that I got another review for "The Docks", a good four stars courtesy of the Gathering Leaves blog

"I definitely recommend The Docks for a fast, entertaining read!"
Gathering Leaves (full review)

My new author website is up:, leaving only Fire Season's site to be reskinned, and I have a lot of promotion set up for September, including a sequel to The Docks.

The bad news is really bad: There's a problem with the listing for The Docks and it can't currently be purchased from there. I have flagged this up with Amazon and am waiting to hear back.

Meanwhile, if you would like to get a copy, please use:

Update (9.30pm): I raised this with Amazon at 16:00, who responded and unfortunately made the problem worse. They are now showing a listing for the book in print, and not Kindle. The book does not exist in print, making the listing nonsense (and any copies sold through it pirated). It still can't be purchased. It will be 24 hours before they give me another update.

The only way I can think to fix it is to pull the listing and republish, but that takes it down for a day or so and takes it off and where the book is still live. My main advertising feature is on the 1st September.

I've already lost sales from today's review, and had complaints about the listing. I would like to apologise to any readers inconvenienced by this, and confirm that I am trying to get this fixed as quickly as possible.

For anyone curious about the issue, here's the side-by-side screenshots:

Amazon Before and After

Any advice on what might be causing it or how to get it fixed would be welcome.

Update (1.45am): Amazon said it is fixed, but one look at the listing says it isn't, so I've batted it back to them. I will republish tomorrow AM if it isn't fixed by then. Once again, my apologies.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Conflict of Interest rewrite

I took a risk at the start of the month, pulling an edited and ready-to-be-released version of Conflict of Interest back because I had a sudden idea. Yesterday I showed the first revised draft of the new version to the beta readers. They like it. Specifically, from the feedback I got, they liked it enough to read in one sitting and forgot to eat their pringles while reading.

Looks like the risk paid off.

Going from 'good' to 'gripping' makes it worth the delay and rewrite. It will be a while yet before it is ready to come out (Q3 instead of August) but I'm a lot happier with it.

The slightly embarrassing thing is that the sample I released last month is part of the book that hit the cutting room floor. Please look at it as bonus content.

I'd also like to say thanks to Marvin on Goodreads for his review of The Docks:
"the days of Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane which is a big compliment. Those guys knew how to mix character development and action together and so does V. H. Folland." - Marvin, Goodreads (read full review)

Being compared to either of those authors, I regard as a very big compliment. Thanks!

Friday, 19 August 2011

New websites & Riot Relief

A small marketing update. Rather than the basic website (a Google site) that is currently up, a set of new sites under the URL are being put up.
The first two are now live:
Fire Season and my own site will be moving under this setup soon. As always feedback would be welcome.

On the topic of riot relief, the Reeves family have set up a fund to rebuild the Reeves corner area. It isn't just their own 150 year old business, but all the small businesses and houses that were affected (twenty-eight families lost their homes and possessions).

The fund accepts Paypal, as well as credit cards or cheques. For anyone who pledged to Mark Thompson's campaign, this is where you can redeem the pledge.

Rebuild Reeves Corner

Friday, 12 August 2011

A general update and appeal

I haven't posted here, or much anywhere else, this week. For those of you following events in London, you can probably guess why. The end of the week was spent cleaning up the fallout, something which has been delayed by the fact that many sites are still crime scenes or outright unsafe.

If you would like to help, please view #riotcleanup or follow @riotcleanup for details of planned cleanups.For more ongoing relief efforts, the Evening Standard has details here.

An Appeal

Which brings me to a local tragedy: the destruction of Reeves Corner and House of Reeves. Founded in 1867, the House of Reeves store has been a landmark in Croydon for longer than living memory, run by five generations of the same family. It was completely destroyed on Monday night by the looters.

More than simply a landmark, House of Reeves is a thriving business and local employer. When the flats above the shops by Reeves Corner were caught in the blaze, people lost their homes and possessions as well as their livelihoods.

Sign my pledge at PledgeBank
A pledgebank account has been set up by blogger Mark Thompson, which is open to anyone who wants to pledge. Click the button below for details.

If you can help, please do. Pledges can be made worldwide. (Pledge to Reeves)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Pen names

One of the most common questions that comes up is about the use of pennames. Recently, the arguments over the use of real names on Google+ and Facebook which include several authors losing profiles because they are listed under their pennames, have really brought attention to this.

Several people assume that aliases or pennames must be used to be evasive or commit fraud, and yet this is not the case at all. This is a brief summary of some of the reasons why authors may use a penname, and a few known examples.

Ghost writing or work for hire, I am leaving off this: in those cases the author has taken the decision to write work that will be released under someone else's name, where they often surrender most or all rights and may not receive royalties. This is not the same as a conscious choice to use a penname: where the author retains rights, is still the author and if the book reverts it falls back under their control.

That said, on to pennames.

Unfortunately there is a perception that men write thrillers and action, while women write romance. This can lead writers to adopt an alternate gender penname for marketing purposes. A modern example is Jessica Stirling, the Scottish romance author.

Some female authors use initials, because there is a common belief that boys don't read books by female authors e.g. J.K. Rowling who was allegedly told by her publisher that "Boys don't read books by women".

The idea that female authors need to disguise their gender is an old one: Currer Bell's Jane Eyre is one example. Charlotte Bronte and her sisters desired privacy, and also felt that critics rarely judged women writers by the same standards as men, so adopted indeterminate pennames. George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans) had similar reasons.

Security and Privacy
Some authors value their privacy highly, to the point where "the reclusive author" has become something of a stereotype. Nowadays, with social network, appearances and more, the use of a penname to further protect privacy is simply another step.

While Stephen King's Annie Wilkes may be fictional, there are stalkers, fan boys and obsessive individuals out there and it is a sad truth that more then one celebrity has been attacked or killed by them. Mercedes Lackey's essay "The Last Straw" highlights her experience with this risk. Some authors adopt a pen name in advance, to reduce the risk to themselves and their families should they become famous. Authors writing on controversial topics may adopt a pen name to try to avert an organised response to their publications. Many political authors use this to avoid their professional life being affected by their writing.

Professional concerns

Some writers need to seperate their writing and professional careers e.g. Trevanian who used multiple pennames both for this reason and to seperate the genres he wrote in.

There is the possibility that writing can impact on your day job, and not necessarily only if a story you release is controversial. People may not be happy if they look up their accountant or lawyer and the first thing they find is their novel writing career. Also, if people know you are a writer there can be problems in your day job, both with being taken seriously in a professional field and with running into co-workers who are fans of your work.

There is a further concern in that some writers may need to avoid being seen to represent their company, depending on what field they write in. e.g. Nevil Shute, an aeronautics engineer who wrote aviation novels. There may also be legal concerns. Several organisations, often government or regulatory ones, ban employees or sub-contractors from advertising products completely - e.g. The BBC is well known for taking a very strong line on this, and has apparently released people over the issue. In some cases contracts of this types mean that while an author can write a book under their own name they cannot promote it - and very few authors make enough to quit their day job.


Some authors adopt pennames to seperate their genre: Hugh McCracken, well-known author of YA and child's fiction, writes his gritty crime thrillers under the name Alastair Kinnon. This stops YA readers accidentally picking up the more adult work. In the era of SEO (Search engine optimisation), this is even more important if you want readers to find your books quickly.

It can also be to prevent market saturation - Stephen King wrote several early books as Richard Bachman.

More unusual reasons:

Alastair MacLean wrote several books as Ian Stewart, not because of any further need for privacy or because the books were in a different genre, but to prove that fans were buying his books because of his writing and not his name.

There is also the other reason that had cropped up more recently, for an established author to adopt a penname but list the book as "Writing as" which is to do with book ordering. Some chains will order 10,000 of an author's first book. If they sell 9,000 they return the rest and then buy 9,000 of the author's next book. If they only sell 7,500 of that book, they will only order 7,500 of the third book and so on. By the third or fourth book this can really impact the author's sales, so some authors used pennames with "Writing as" as the computer ordering systems reads it as a new author, but their fans can still find it.

I documented my own encounter with yet another reason here. There are, I'm sure, many other reasons to use a penname but hopefully this gives a quick round up of the basics. There are also reasons not to use a penname, but I'll go into those in another article.

Do you use a penname? Have any other reasons I should include? Please have your say below: