Monday, 17 December 2012

Migration away from this blog will be occurring shortly, since my new blog will be integrated with the book websites, making things easier to keep track of. There's a preview of the new blog at: ...and the first post has a small announcement.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A Smashwords Announcement

I have just transferred all my Smashwords titles to Ragged Angel Ltd, who will now be handling most of my account on there. This isn't because I'm upset with Smashwords (on the contrary, I think they are great) but because it simplifies a lot of things at this end.

RA already handle my Amazon titles, so it puts all the royalties in one place. This obviously simplifies tax and accounting. Also, because of the obvious difficulty of trying to get an ITIN with a penname, managing tax through a company that is a legal entity and can get its own is a lot simpler.

On the admin side, they already do the formatting for me, so instead of me writing, sending the manuscript off, getting the formatted copy back and uploading, now I just send it off and they do the rest. They also own their own ISBNs, so that means my books can get into more retailers without using Smashwords ISBNs.

And finally - because I am hoping for a bit of a marketing boost from cross-promotion with other titles. Some of their free books on Smashwords are very popular, so hopefully some of those readers will cross to my titles.

End of Announcement

There are many other developments and things I should be blogging about, but I'll be trying to do one at a time for a few days until I've caught up.

I feel I should write a tribute piece, but it still feels too soon and the words don't come. I sit here staring at a blank blog and can't even find somewhere to start. At the moment my thoughts are a little in pieces, so I will have to ask readers to bear with me. Sorry.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Sad news

There is no easy way to say this: the person to whom Fire Season was dedicated has died.

The words are inadequate, but he will be sorely missed by all that knew him.

Never forgotten.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Smashwords and Tools

Less about writing, more about testing: the Smashwords Tools have moved to

The move had been planned for a while, but after Smashwords downtime due to the Slicehost failure it became obvious we needed it. The new setup has server caching that should keep the widgets visible throughout any downtime.

And there's a new widget to go with it: author minisites with convenient links to third parties. Rather than detail them, I'll just show you mine as an example:

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Musings on Marketing

This is an odd post, and one that I didn't expect to write.

Before Christmas I went all out on marketing - blogs, promotions, even a book launch and signing. After Christmas I stopped. Aside from one token offered in a competition right at the start of January I have done no promotion at all for the last six weeks.

My sales figures are exactly the same.

This hard data is a telling comment on the effectiveness of my marketing efforts. It's also a good reason to stop spending any time or money on them and focus on writing.

The only things I am likely to continue with are the Project Wonderful ads (since the publisher manages those) and sending out review copies. Anything else appears to have very little effect.

Many indie authors take the line that the best marketing is the next book. I think I will be working on that principle for now on. However, any further books will be after April - between christmas and April is the busiest time for my day job an I am rushed off my feet at the moment.

And before I forget, Happy Valentines!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Market Fragments?

There have been a few interesting developments in the ebook market this week.

New markets often have competing formats. As technology develops many different ways are found of doing the same thing, which eventually standardise to two or three, and as the market matures and new technologies emerge, before one standard emerges.

With videos the VHS/Betamax rivalry eventually came to a head and resulted in the triumph of VHS. With Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD, Blu Ray eventually came out on top.

Is the same thing now happening to e-readers? Initially there were hosts of formats, many of which are now falling by the wayside, but the first signs of the industry really polarising happened around Christmas 2011.

Amazon offered readers a chance to go into bookstores, scan books and then buy on Amazon at a discount. They also offered Select, designed to promote authors who made their books exclusively available from Amazon and withdrew them from other markets.

Barnes and Noble and Books A Million have now said they won't stock or sell books published by Amazon imprints. While this may affect paperbacks mainly (and there are reports that may signal Createspace books being dropped from online listings) the overall effect is to create two market blocks of book titles.

One is Amazon, with the Kindle and .azw format.

The second, largely using epub, is the Nook, Kobo and other epub readers, served by retailers like Apple, Sony, distributors like Smashwords and stores like B&N.

Some books will span both: most major publishers for example. The really polarising effect is on indies and small publishers - the bonuses from Select against the wider market of epub. Small press publishers that use Createspace may find themselves having to choose between Createspace and Amazon and a third party printer and access to bookstores.

In the case of both VHS and Blu-Ray, the winning format wasn't, as widely said, the one with the cheapest reader and the widest industry backing and market share. It was the one with the most content available. Sony restricted what was available on Betamax, so VHS took the rental market. When Warner dropped HD-DVD in 2008, it was followed swiftly by the end of the format. With e-readers this is even more true. Most readers have free software versions, so competition is going to be about the content and availability. If things heat up, I would not be surprised to see other retailers/publishers offering bonuses for exclusivity - similar to Amazon Select - in the near future.

However there is one other major difference: epub is an open format, freely available. Anyone can produce a software reader for it. That means that rather than HD-DVD v. Blu-Ray this could end up being Linux v. Windows.

This affects authors because while format wars usually end in consolidation (impelled by physical production costs), software 'wars' are ongoing - not least because different types of software and OS are better at different things and change over time. In a format war, choosing a side early is a good idea (if it is the winning side) while in a software situation you need to keep your options open because in eighteen months the position can reverse.

The next few months are going to be an interesting time to be an author.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


"DC plans Prequels to Watchmen Series"

I'm serious: check the New York Times.

That wasn't a headline I expected in my newsfeed this morning, but it also isn't a surprise. In summary DC Comics are getting new writers to write prequels to the classic comic Watchmen. Alan Moore, the original writer and character creator isn't involved. As the original comics tells two stories, many years apart it would be easy for prequels to spoil it for new readers, but rather than focus on that, I found the Alan Moore Quote at the bottom of the article interesting.

Moore states it is a blow to comics as a serious artform: “As far as I know,” he said, “there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to ‘Moby-Dick.’ ” NYTimes, 1st Feb 2012,

This I disagree with. I inherited a collection of books from a closing bookstore. Among them are Rebecca's Tale, Pemberley, and Scarlett.

Other authors writing sequels to classic novels, many years after they were released, is not a new idea. These sequels tend to have a few things in common: They aren't by the original authors, they were released many years later, and a few years after their release none of them have a profile anywhere near as high as the original books.

Rebecca, Pride and Prejudice, and Gone with the Wind are still unique. The existence of spin-offs is nothig new in the field of novels.

Regarding Moby Dick itself? A google search threw up five authors currently trying to write sequels. Wiki? Adaptations galore, and all but a couple are now obscure.

Given the above examples, and being old enough to remember when some of these came out (to great derision and comments of "Who does she think she is?" in at least one case) the greatest effect is always on the publisher and writer creating the sequels. The original? That stands alone. With all the original works, the authors above captured lightning in a bottle, the perfect combination of the times, attitudes, writing, and topic. Trying to do that again, within the constraints of an existing mythos? Unlikely.

So are sequels, prequels and spin-offs damaging to comics as a serious artform? I'd have to say no more than they were for novels.

This doesn't mean I'll buy the Watchmen prequels, anymore than I bought the ones above. Some things are better left stand-alone.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Taking a chance...

Well, this blog is normally not the first with breaking news, but right now it is on the frontline of a test.

Testing what, you ask? Well, go to the Fire Season page (on the menu above) and you'll see a new "Read Sample" button. It's a prototype of an embedded reader for Smashwords samples, and making its first (temporary) appearance away from the test server.

If there's any takeup for it and no critical bugs, there is a Java app in the works which has more options, and which this version will eventually become the fallback for. Meanwhile here's v0.3 on temporary display. Since this blog is more likely to attract readers and authors than the coders' blogs, it's up here to gain a bit of feedback and some extra opinions.

For background, this is all part of the Smashwords Tools project which has been taking up a lot of my writing time. You might have seen a few of the small blue widgets we've been building, used on this blog and elsewhere. A few technically-minded Smashwords authors got together to make some widgets to help promote the ebooks.

There are more details over at the project's blog, here.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Conflict of Interest

Here's a surprising announcement for the New Year:

Conflict of Interest, the Docks sequel, which I withdrew for re-editing after several critiques?

It's back up on Amazon, it hasn't been re-edited and it's up in its original form.

It sounds like an odd move, but while the editors suggested a lot of changes, the betas didn't like the edited versions. Since the beta readers are more representative of my audience, and I was going round in circles getting nothing else written because of the back and forth over COI, I've decided to take the decision to push it out the door and move on with something else.

The other reason for that decision was the christmas sales figures - while I may have pulled it most of the third parties didn't and it's building a steady fanbase.

I wrote it to deadline, I wasn't happy with it, and I just kept nit-picking, which really wasn't very productive. It isn't as if I don't have enough other manuscripts to work on, and I got into this to write what I wanted to read, not what I can already buy on shop shelves.

The other issue for me is an obvious spelling error in the Smashwords description for The Docks. While it is entirely my fault, I am somewhat nervous about updating it in case Smashwords proceeds to pull the entire book from premium and re-apply it for the sake of one missing "l".

I'll let you know how it goes...

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Twelth Night

In some traditions, the start of 2012 proper. In mine, time to take down the decorations since it is unlucky to leave them up longer. In both cases, it's the time to shift from holiday mood and face the year ahead.

And there are a few changes coming up for 2012.

You might notice the blog is back to Project Wonderful ads, this time installed properly. After a few ads for well-known publishing scams showed up through Adsense, I decided to shift across fully since I didn't want to be thought of as endorsing them. I actually prefer Project Wonderful as a service, but last time my blog went down for a few days and my average traffic level dropped too low. This time, using a networked ad that runs across multiple sites, it should avoid that.

There are more unofficial Smashwords widgets in testing, although lack of feedback does appear to be getting to the developers.

I have books, and novels, and short stories, and things to write and edit. Unfortunately I also have bills to pay, so my writing time this year will be more limited.

It is always tempting just to take the huge amount of back-manuscripts I have piled up and throw some straight onto Smashwords unedited. Unfortunately, I think my readers deserve better than that, but editing costs money (and takes time) so 2012 releases are going to be rather slow. On the other hand, going by activities since New Year, it's also going to be more productive and more successful.

So, here's to a good 2012 to everyone, and don't forget to take your decorations down!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Blog hop & bookstore

Join the New Year's Blog Hop at to win your choice of five ebooks or grand prize of a Kindle Fire!

Yes, my first post of the year is promotional, but then The Docks is one of the prizes for a rather large blog hop. I'm still working on COI and hopefully that will be back up and re-edited by tomorrow.

The other thing that is coming soon is an embeddable bookstore widget for the blog. I'm helping test the alpha version now on the Bookstores page (and you can view the mini-site version here), since this blog uses a narrower template than most.

The Smashwords tools in beta can be viewed here, for anyone who wants to help with the testing, or use one on the blog.

2012? Off to a good start, I think.