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"