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.