Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Smashwords and Tools

Less about writing, more about testing: the Smashwords Tools have moved to http://www.smashingreads.com.

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.