Category Archives: publishing

KDP Pricing Support can't help you price your ebook.

KDP Pricing Support Gets It Wrong

Amazon have unveiled a new tool for indie authors. KDP Pricing Support seeks to compare your ebook to similar offerings in the Amazon store and use that comparison to find the best price point for your book. The purpose behind KDP Pricing Support is to maximise author earnings, something most authors will appreciate. But I think it’s almost useless.

Let’s look at Amazon’s suggestions for my short story You Are Just A Guest, which comes in at just over 5,000 words. It’s priced at $0.99, which I think is pretty reasonable; (what I hope is) a solid and entertaining piece of writing costs the same as a single chocolate bar. But KDP Pricing Support thinks I should charge $2.99 for a short story.

Amazon isn’t alone in that opinion; Dean Wesley Smith concurs. And if we think about it, selling a 5,000 word story for $2.99 means I make $0.06 a word. Consider that, at the low end, Analog pays $0.07 a word and Asimov’s $0.08 a word and I’m doing pretty well for a new author! And the way Amazon’s royalty structure works, I’d have to sell six copies at $0.99 to make the same as just one copy at $2.99.

So this is a done deal, right? Time to hike the price! But hang on a moment. Don’t we need to consider what the reader is willing to pay?

Let’s consider Analog and Asimov magazines, which sell for circa $3.50 a copy and contain a lot more than a single story. Let’s consider that the best selling paperback on Amazon is just shy of $7.80. Let’s consider that, while you make $0.06 a word on a $2.99 sale price, most short stories tend to sell to a magazine just once. It is not reasonable to ask a reader to fork out $2.99 for a single short story.

But KDP Pricing Support can’t tell you that, because the best earning point is $2.99, where the sales and royalties are high enough to earn more than at $0.99. From a data perspective, it’s the best idea for my short story.

But I doubt readers would agree.

Can Indie Authors Trust Kobo?

It would be easy to get angry at Kobo. When their UK partner WHSmith removed all self-published ebooks to stamp out the pornography that’s been hogging headlines, Kobo cosied up to them and followed suit. They cut off thousands of indie authors from any revenue they might have earnt via Kobo. They punished the many for the sins of the few. In short, they burnt downt the house to get rid of the ant nest, and they asked indie authors to pay for the matches. An indie author could be forgiven for wondering if they should trust Kobo. But here’s my point:

You shouldn’t trust any of them.

There are a lot of indie authors who don’t bother with Kobo, or Apple, Barnes & Noble etc. They cosy up to Amazon, sign up to their exclusive KDP Select scheme and sit back. They trust Amazon to sell their book for them and no-one else.

I have often said that’s not what authors should do. I’ll say it again too. Authors should ensure their books are available in as many formats from as many vendors as possible. KDP Select might offer you a few perks, but why are you alienating the Nook owner who can’t download your ebook? Why are you telling the Kobo owner she’s not good enough to buy your ebook? If readers can own different ereaders, authors should make their books available on all of them.

But Kobo have highlighted the other side of this argument. Spreading your ebooks over multiple stores diminishes your risk.

Imagine Amazon reacted the same as Kobo. Imagine Amazon just stopped selling your book. If your book is sold by Kobo, Apple, Nook, Smashwords et al then you’ve taken a blow but it’s not the end of the world. But if no-one sells your book but Amazon? Then you just stopped earning any money whatsoever.

WHSmith have shown us how easy it is for a retailer to stop selling our books; they did it in a heartbeat. Kobo took less than a day. Trusting any retailer to have your best interests at heart is foolish and, if you rely on those royalties to pay the bills, dangerous. So whilst Kobo may be denying us sales, perhaps we should be thanking them for the lesson.

Don’t put all your ebooks in one basket.

The Homeless Hero: A New Short Story

It’s safe to say the batteries are recharged after the Zeldathon so it’s time for the announcement I was putting off: it’s new short story time!

It’s called The Homeless Hero and it tells the story of a young journalist who becomes involved with the world’s only superhero, Pinnacle. Pinnacle wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and help others. But he gives too much and it’s killing him. She needs to encourage him to be a little selfish before it’s too late.

Last time I was writing about how houses can be scarier than any of the demons and ghosts we can conjure to put in them. This time I’m writing about what it means to be a hero. What does it mean to devote ourselves to helping others? Superman has a life, a job, a wife (depending on DC’s mood that morning). He eats and sleeps like the rest of us. But there’s seven billion people in the world and someone always needs help. How does a superhero draw a line in the sand and say “this is my time; you’re on your own”?

These are the things I think about when I see Clark Kent doing, well, anything.

A copy of The Homeless Hero cost you only $0.99 from Amazon, Apple, Nook and Smashwords. But if you sign up to my newsletter, you can get a copy for absolutely free!




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Books Don’t Need Reinventing

I recently watched a fascinating presentation by Mark Waid called Reinventing Comics. If you like comics it’s worth a watch (I believe it’s a preview of the future), but today I’m writing about books. Because while comics might need reinventing, books do not.

A lot of the comments I read on this video said things like “now someone needs to do this for novels” and “when will this be done for all books?” I was surprised because it’s been tried and people are still trying.

Reinventing books is an old idea that isn’t gaining any traction.

Apple released software that makes it easy to create interactive ebooks with video, audio, multi-touch models and more. Booktrack lets you add effects and a soundtrack to ebooks. And now Socialbook wants to make reading a social experience, letting your friends scribble notes in the margins of your book, highlight portions, pull out quotes and even re-arrange the content.

But none of these gimmicks have revolutionised books which remain, largely, words on the page. And for one very simple reason:

Gimmicks are distractions from the narrative.

I downloaded the Charlie Brown’s Christmas app last year. I was all hopped up on Christmas chocolate and wanted to try an interactive book. And while it’s not an awful little app, all the interactive elements were just…naff.

•Voiceover? Switched off; I like reading, not being read to.
•Tap the pictures to make them move? Why? All they do is wiggle to a sound effect.
• Play the music along with Schroeder? All that does is remind me I’m no good at music.

And all of these things stopped the story from flowing and yanked me out of the narrative again and again. No-one likes being interrupted while they read, but in this case I had paid for the interruptions to be part and parcel of the book itself.

Trying to cram in interactivity and video and the social media isn’t reinventing books.

It’s creating a bastard of book and app, a Jack of all trades. It removes focus from the key element, the words, in favour of bells and whistles. But people who want bells and whistlea buy apps. And people who want words buy books.

So to the people who think that books need to enter the 21st Century, I have only this to say: keep all your bells and whistles. A good book needs only the words and a quiet place to read them in.

And letting your friends rearrange the content of your book? Are you high?

Interview with Young Adult Authors M. Latimer-Ridley

Writing duos aren’t a rarity, but M. Latimer-Ridley are. Two writers with impeccable taste (after all, they follow me on Twitter) and an excellent sense of humour, I was very pleased to hear that they’d finally finished the novel they’d been talking about for so long. To celebrate the publication of Legend Unleashed, I shone a light in their eyes and subjected them to the third degree.

Congratulations on publishing Legend Unleashed!

Many thanks James!! We really appreciate the chance to answer your questions and visit your blog! It’s nice to be somewhere new instead our old blogging gaff *glances round, peering in behind the blogging curtain* Very nice. Pretty swanky place you have here! :D

Thanks. Please put that down. Now, tell us all about Legend Unleashed.

Well, it’s a young adult fantasy novel. Our main character, Temperance Levinthal is accidently swept up into a magical world by the handsome Alastair Byron. She’s really a very reluctant participant in their adventure, which would be nothing like us, as we’d be leaping in joy at the chance to see real magic. She’s not so impressed!

However, we’ll give you the blurb! It describes the book without giving too much away:

When an infamous criminal is unleashed from his prison, it has consequences for everyone in Carwick. Temperance Levinthal in particular…

Temperance is satisfied with her ordinary life. Dealing with her eccentric, childlike parents is all the excitement she needs. That changes when Alastair Byron returns home.

After a failed matchmaking attempt by her father, sparks fly between her and Alastair-just not the good kind.

They are forced together though, when they are implicated in a grisly murder. Their search for the truth leads them to a secret world beneath Carwick, filled with werewolves, wizards and other magical faey.

However, uncovering the truth is far more dangerous than they’d ever imagined.

There are secrets within secrets.

Even Alastair may be more than he seems…

Now tell us a little about yourselves. What made you want to be writers?

Ridley: Well…I know this is true for Latimer as for me but I’ve always loved to write. When I was younger I got unending encouragement from my parents and one English teacher in primary school in particular. She was fantastic. Plus my school was really brilliant about inviting Irish authors to visit (Gordon Snell-Maeve Binchey’s husband, Siobhan Parkinson, Don Conroy, Tom McCaughren, Martin Waddell, Michael Mullen all came in my time there), we were really spoilt, so from a very early age I was aware of what an author did. I remember in particular Marita Conlon McKenna visiting, I loved her famine novels. I brought a massive pile of books up to her to sign, she was so friendly and she wrote, ‘To Rachel. Another Bookworm! Lots of luck.” I remember thinking; I’d love to create worlds and characters, to make people love these imaginary places like she does, and so all down through the years I’ve tried to do just that.

Latimer: I didn’t read as much as Ridley when I was young. I did draw a lot of pictures though, and as I drew them I would think up stories for the person or creature I was drawing, to the point where I was actually talking to the character in the picture! In later years, I got really caught up in reading, particularly my brother’s high-fantasy books. I enjoyed coming up with stories and ideas. I don’t really know when I put pen to paper, but once I did I never stopped. When I get an idea, I just want to write about it! And meeting Ridley and striking up a friendship with her, really encouraged the ideas! Whenever I told people I was writing, no one ever said ‘that’s silly’- throughout my life everyone has been very supportive.

Having the support of your friends and family is so important. I suppose you’ve got support built into your partnership! How did that come about?

Ridley: Well, we’ve been friends for years and we have almost the exact same reading tastes, so we’ve always swopped books, giving our RSAs or LSAs (Ridley/Latimer Stamp of Approval) on the particularly brilliant ones. Many times after a book, we’d gossip about it, discussing what we would have changed or added and eventually we started to joke about writing a book together. We started to believe that we could put everything we’d ever wanted to see into it. Our main aim was and has always been to create a book, a real ‘find’ that would deserve an RSA or LSA.

Latimer: We can pinpoint the moment we decided to write a book. We were out for a walk one day, talking about books and we sort of stopped and said… ‘we could write one?… could we? We could… right?’ Then summer of that very year, we started work on a series – that had many incarnations until it reached the final plot! But it was fun, we worked on it in the library non-stop, annoying other people with our whispering and spending all day there! Pretty good fun, because during breaks Ridley took me around the library pulling out books going, ‘read this, and that’ and so on; I caught up on lots of books she read in her childhood!

What’s the writing process like? Do you have to make many compromises or are two heads better than one?

Ridley: No, there haven’t had to be many compromises I don’t think. No major ones anyway! We’re very respectful of the other’s ideas or dislikes. Two heads are definitely better than one, at least for us, we bounce ideas off each other and they build to even greater things than if we’d just thought things up alone. Plus it’s fun! :D We tend to have massive long tea breaks where we think up plots that usually start off with a particular character, or scene or following the words, ‘wouldn’t it be brilliant if…’, then we divide everything up into chapter summaries and we each get half of them. One of us starts the book and the other ends it. Simples.

Latimer: We’re lucky in that we can say, ‘no that idea’s not going to work’ or ‘hey how about this?’ I think it helps make our writing and ideas stronger and we’re very similar in terms of where we want to take characters. It is fun to see the idea grow and change into the finished product. All our ideas for books seem to start in a very different place to where they end up – but it’s definitely fun, because you are almost a reader yourself!

What are your influences?

Ridley: Anything and everything really, travelling, art, history, the discovery channel! In terms of reading I love fantasy, young adult and crime novels. Some of my favourite writers include Kelley Armstrong, Cassandra Clare, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K Rowling. I also love animated films, the tales that Pixar, Aardman and Dreamworks tell are fantastic.

Latimer: I’m influenced by history and science; in little ways, like sometimes I read something and it sparks an idea. When I travel and see new things I often come back with new ideas. In terms of writers, I love Terry Pratchett’s humour and quirky characters; I love J.K Rowling’s world and J.R.R Tolkien is just a master storyteller.

Will either of you try a solo venture some day? Or are together until the end?

Ridley: Well, I’ve no plans for any. Latimer, you off to pastures greener? <(; _;)>

Latimer: I don’t think so. It’s M. Latimer-Ridley for the long haul. We have so many books yet to write, I doubt either of us will be going anywhere soon. I think a lot of ventures we have in mind fall under the M. Latimer-Ridley banner.

Ridley: We’re not against it, but either way, I think even if one of us went off to do a solo project, it would be as a side venture and it would never be completely by ourselves, we’d definitely seek the input and feedback about it from the other person.

Latimer: Yes, I think that would be the case. We’d never be 100% solo and M. Latimer-Ridley would always be around regardless.

I think our first interaction was you telling me how much you love dragons, yet your novel is about werewolves. What gives?

Funny thing is we have discussed dragons in the past and whether we could feature them in one of the books, but as much as we love them, they just never seem to fit in to any of our plots, well not the ones that we have so far…but one day perhaps! :D

You’ve mentioned that Legend Unleashed is your fourth novel. What happened to the first three?

Ridley: It’s the fifth book now; sometimes I forget there’s a fourth book written. We have a four book series already under our belts. These were the very first books we originally started writing together. They took us five and half years to finish. The plot for Legend Unleashed was fleshed out for about three years before we actually wrote it. We felt we really needed to get the characters of the series we were already working on and that world out of our systems before we could move on. They’re a different genre too, more like fantasy novels, and they need a lot of editing. I think over time we gradually gravitated towards the young adult genre and for the future books we have planned they definitely seem to be within that area.

Latimer: We’ll definitely be back to them one day, but they are our very hairy babies at the moment! They need a lot of work, but they’ll get it one day!

Do you think you’ll ever release this series?

Definitely, though we just haven’t included it on our publishing and writing schedule for the next year. There’s so much editing to do on it, four whole books, it’s a bit of a daunting task! But we really love the characters and series, so it will definitely see the light of day!

So the series was fantasy but Legend Unleashed is young adult? What drew you to YA?

Really, the fantasy series isn’t a proper epic fantasy, there are definitely more elements of YA than usually found in a pure fantasy novel. So I suppose it wasn’t so much that we switched genres, we just refined what we liked to write about. Fantasy, but with a young adult twist on it!

You’ve published Legend Unleashed through Cranmer Publishing. What led you to them rather than going it alone?

Cranmer Publishing is actually our business. We do consider it a separate joint venture however, to our co-authors status. So we’re business partners too. We’ve always set out to be as professional as possible in all aspects of our books. After long discussions, we decided we would establish Cranmer Publishing and eventually, when we feel it is the right time and we’ve gained enough insight and experience, we will begin to accept work from other authors. That day is certainly not within sight yet however. We’ve freelanced out a lot of the jobs in terms of cover design, structural editing, copy editing and formatting, so we’ve begun to build up a good team behind us.

What is it about publishing others’ work that appeals to you?

Oh, it’s that dreamy notion of finding that diamond in the rough! To be the first to set eyes on the next great book, isn’t that why most people go into the publishing industry? That future is a long way off for us though!

And what is a Cranmer?

It’s connected to our pen name. We both went to Oxford separately and we each discovered the story of the Oxford Martyrs, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. For some reason, it really stuck with us. However, there was also a third man that was connected to their story, and that was Thomas Cranmer. So we thought it would be a nice way to connect the three together again.

You created a book trailer which I’ve previously raved about. What led you to create an animated trailer?

Ridley: And we were chuffed you liked it so much!! We both love art, so it seemed natural to wander down that route when we were brainstorming ideas for the trailer. Animation is also another passion of mine. I love watching all of the Pixar and Dreamworks films, not to mention Aardman. That these lumps of clay or computer dolls (or ‘character rigs’) are manipulated with such skill to show emotion and movement that we cry and laugh as we follow their stories on screen; I just think that it’s amazing really, almost like magic. Good writing does the same; characters that never before existed, are now very real in our heads, all through the power of words. I wanted us to give animation a try as it was another facet of our world building, I had no doubt in my mind we could succeed in creating something and if we did, it would definitely be a unique trailer, though unique in a good way we’d hoped!! Plus as an added bonus, I got to combine two of my passions!

Latimer: The trailer was really Ridley’s hard work for sure! I merely whip-cracked! I think it was born out of passion and a desire to try something a bit different, which is what we like to do.

What does the “M” stand for?

I’m afraid it’s very boring. However, it shall remain our little secret and if we told you, we’d have to give you a potion to erase your memory. :D
OBLIVIATE! *ping*

Protego. What’s next for M. Latimer-Ridley?

Next will be the sequel for Legend Unleashed, which is nearly finished, that won’t be out until late 2013 though, sooner than that we also have a short story planned, featuring a young Temperance. Then we have many other plots and ideas bubbling away on the backburner, for example last weekend we were discussing ideas for a book that’s at the back of a queue of six others patiently waiting to be written. Sometimes, we get excited by a new character or plot and then realise with a sigh, we won’t get to it for another few years. (Together we really aren’t short of ideas!) Eventually, we’d also love to have our four book series edited and published but we know we need to be patient on that one!

Finally, what is it about dragons you love so much?

Ridley: How could you not love them? They’re terrifying and beautiful all at the same time! One of the best fantasy creatures ever! There really aren’t enough books out there with dragons featuring heavily in them! I can’t wait to see what Smaug looks like in the new film, The Hobbit!

Latimer: Could we make a werewolf-dragon? No, *thinking*… wait… that would basically be Falkor from The Neverending Story, wouldn’t it? Oh, I love him!

Buy Legend Unleashed nowYou can buy Legend Unleashed now from all major eretailers including:

Amazon US: ebook paperback

Amazon UK: ebook paperback

Smashwords: ebook

While you’re waiting for it to arrive, you can also check out M Latimer-Ridley’s blog and website.

Book Trailers: Are They Any Good?

Personally I don’t like the idea of a book trailer. I think trying to use a visual medium to advertise a book is akin to putting wasabi on your chocolate digestives; they just don’t go together. Yet indie authors, with cost-free hosting in the form of YouTube, are making book trailers in their thousands.

Fair play to them. Indie authors don’t have access to book shops and the Internet is a noisy place. It’s a struggle to be seen at all. But I wonder if a book trailer is the best way to be seen. Most of them seem to be fuzzy cover stills overlaid with hyperbolic tag lines and clichés. The lack of budget is obvious. After all the hosting is free but the production is not.

And even if Peter Jackson directed your book trailer with an epic budget, wouldn’t a cast and a set and a soundtrack kill the reader’s imagination stone dead? Half the fun of a book is turning black and white text into a rich and vibrant world in your head. If a book trailer does that for you, isn’t the experienced tarnished?

(Having said all that, M. Latimer-Ridley have created the only book trailer I have, to date, ever liked. They made it themselves and the result shows real care and creativity. It also keeps the door to my imagination open whilst still generating an atmosphere. Excellent stuff!)

Indie authors seem to love book trailers right now, but I’m interested in readers’ opinion. Have you ever bought a book on the strength of the trailer? Have you ever been put off by a trailer? Has a trailer ever encouraged you to track down a book or author? Post a comment and let me know.

Interview with Crime Fantasy Author Dave Sivers

One of the things I love about genre fiction is its lack of fear for new ideas. I recently came across an author who embodied this fearlessness. Dave Sivers has blended two seemingly unrelated genres to create crime fantasy novels. I haven’t come across this particular blend before and so I had to talk to him about it!

First things first: thanks for subjecting yourself to my third degree!

Thanks for inviting me! I’m always grateful for opportunities to talk about my work and about writing in general.

You’re two books into the Lowmar Dashiel series. Could you tell us a little about them?

Sure. Dashiel calls himself a personal inquisitor, a profession he invented when he was down to his last few coins. He never looked back. He’s what crime fans would recognise as a private eye, but his world is one of demons, dwarfs, sorcerers and swords. He has an irascible dwarf sidekick named Grishen.

In the first book, A Sorcerer Slain, the head of the Sorcerer’s Guild has been murdered and his named successor, Zarna, is the prime suspect. The Guild regulates magic use in the kingdom of Balimar, and the death of its head, and lack of a natural replacement if Zarna is convicted and executed, will spark a terrifying new sorcerers’ war. Because everyone in the ‘establishment’ has an agenda, the King himself asks Dashiel to investigate. What the King does not know is that Zarna is the love of Dashiel’s life, and he will do anything to save her.

Inquisitor Royal is the second in Dave Siver's Lowmar Dashiel series.The sequel, Inquisitor Royal, is a much darker book in many ways. In Sorcerer, Dashiel travels to other parts of the kingdom looking for answers, whereas this book is firmly fixed in Balimar’s capital, Andruan. As a consequence, there’s a much more claustrophobic feel, to which the city’s seedier areas and labrynthine alleyways contribute. Once again the King seeks Dashiel’s assistance, this time with two cases: a sadistic maniac is preying on the city’s dwarf population; and a mysterious assassin is stalking the royal family. If that wasn’t enough, there is an attempt on Dashiel’s own life, which might be linked to one of the cases, or could be one of his many enemies seeking revenge.

How did you come to combine crime and fantasy genres? They don’t seem like natural bedfellows.

It started somewhat by accident. I started writing a fantasy short story about a manipulative sorceress who dupes a man into doing wrong for her and realised the themes were somewhat noirish. So I made the main male character the fantasy world equivalent of a private detective and played up the sorceress’s femme fatale traits. I liked the characters and the world they live in and decided to put them into a full-lenght novel. The original story became the first meeting between Dashiel and Zarna, which is told in flashback in A Sorcerer Slain.

Crime fantasy isn’t something I’ve come across before. Why do you think that is?

Some of Juliet E McKenna’s novels are in similar territory to my Dashiel books but are not called crime fantasy. On the whole, I think there is a tendency to make books fit one of the genre categories in the bookshops. It’s a shame, because books that do straddle genres may not be picked up by everyone who might enjoy them.

Some might say that we don’t see much genre blending because, rather than appealing to two sets of fans, you appeal to neither. Is that something that worries you?

I think there is more genre blending than we realise. In the US, there is a genre known as ‘romantic suspense’, which combines romance and crime, we have John Connolly, whose Charlie Parker crime novels have strong elements of horror and fantasy, and then there are the historical crimes, such as Ellis Peters’ Cadfael books and Lindsey Davis’s Falco novels, which are set in worlds very different to our own in the 21st Century. Having said that, I do think there are probably crime fans who like their books ‘realistic’ and might be turned off by magic and dwarfs threading through their whodunnit. I’ve had plenty of positive feedback from people who like escaping to other worlds but also enjoy a good mystery. No book is going to appeal to absolutely everyone.

You’ve said before that you think the self-publishing revolution allows for work that publishing houses wouldn’t take risks on. Where do you see this revolution heading?

I think, like all revolutions, it’s too soon to tell. Battle-lines are being drawn between those who are suspicious of, or downright hostile to, self-published e-books and those who see them as a real opportunity to get the stories they have sweated blood over actually read. It’s also evident that some writers who are still developing their craft are publishing too early. One thing I do know is that the e-book genie is out of the bottle and a new publishing landscape will establish itself over the next few years. It can’t possibly look like the status quo. There is a niche for e-book reviewers to build reputations for themselves and act as filters that help readers find good books that they will enjoy, and there needs to be some way of getting over to writers that the old route of finding an agent and becoming commercially published may not be the only way any more, but they still need to ensure that their book is the best it can be, and of a marketable standard. I’m not sure what the latter will look like, but I hope it will be constructive and won’t involve crushing sensitive egos.

Leaving the future alone for now, I was interested to read that your first published piece was under the name Melanie Blake in “Take A Break”. That’s a long way from crime fantasy novels! How did that come about?

I’m quite an eclectic writer and like to try different things. The Melanie Blake story came about when I was doing a Writers Bureau course in the 90s. I had to do a piece for a selected publication and I chose Take a Break because they did some punchy stories with a bit of a twist. I chose the Melanie Blake handle because I thought it would improve my chances of publication in a women’s magazine. Whether that was true, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll take Melanie out for another run some time!

Your novels are only available as ebooks. Can we expect to see paper books in the future?

Not as self-published books – the commercial route is still the way to get physical books out there. I still dream of seeing my titles on the shelves at Watestones one day, but for the moment I’m enjoying the challenges of being self-published and having to market myself and my product.

You’re not tempted to use Lulu or another Print-On-Demand service?

It’s not in my plans at the moment, but I would certainly never say never!

Finally, what can we expect to see from Dave Sivers?

I publish short contemporary crime fiction on my website and have a full-length crime novel as a work in progress. Meanwhile, I’m also working on the third Lowmar Dashiel mystery, which should be available in autumn 2012.

If any of this has whetted your appetite, you can find out more at Dave Siver’s website. His novels are also available on Amazon UK or on Amazon US.

Why Book Covers Matter

I’ve recently posted a couple of blogs about what goes into making a good book cover. It’s an obvious area of interest for any writer (especially if they’ll have to design it themselves) and it’s easier to talk about covers than about writing. “Today I wrote ten words and deleted nine of them” isn’t that interesting. Well, it is to me. But I’m special. My mummy says so.

Anyway over the weekend my brother asked me why I was “obsessed” with book covers. We can debate the semantics, but it raises an interesting question: why do book covers matter?

A writer could have written the greatest masterpiece history will ever see. But a reader won’t be able to see that. All they see is the cover. A bookstore browser will spend on average eight seconds looking at the front cover[source]. That might seem too short to worry about, but in eight seconds a book cover can:

• tell the reader that this is their kind of book;
• intrigue and encourage them into reading the back;
• impress the reader with its quality and suggest the content is just as good.

I know what you’re thinking: anyone can say that covers matter. But where’s the empirical proof?

Thankfully those chaps over at The Book Smugglers have conducted a survey of 616 readers. I recommend reading the whole thing, but I’ll summarise the best points:

• 48% said covers play a major role in their decision to purchase a book (though 41% said they played a minor role);
• 72% said “it depends” when asked if a good book cover could compel them to buy a book;
• an astonishing 40% said a book cover could be or has been the sole factor in a book purchase.

You’ll notice that none of these figures have blown your socks off. That’s because the cover’s job is not to sell the book. It’s to get the reader to pick it up. Those 72% who said “it depends” were probably thinking “it depends on the blurb and a sample of the writing itself”. The cover gets the reader’s attention. The content sells it.

And in a world that is seeing more and more books published, getting noticed is more important than ever. So I think my “obsession” is rather well-founded.

What are your favourite book covers? And have you ever bought a book based purely on the cover?

What Makes A Good Book Cover? Part Two

I’ve previously posed the question as to what makes a good book cover. Never one to leave a question unanswered, I’ve garnered feedback and done the research and this is what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Remember the size

In these days of online shopping, covers are displayed in small thumbnails. That means images and text need to be readable at small sizes. For this reason, make the title large, don’t use overly decorative fonts and make sure the cover still has a strong focus.

2. Keep it simple, make it bold

Few articles about cover design fail to make mention of the Twilight Saga covers. But they get mentioned for a reason: they’re striking and they grab the attention through high contrast and simple design. You don’t have to copy the style but you can borrow the lessons. The cover’s job is to grab the attention instantly. Big, bold images can do that.

3. Don’t be afraid of your demographic

If you’ve written a fantasy novel, does the cover design appeal to fantasy readers? If the cover doesn’t encourage them to buy it, is it really going to encourage anyone else?

4. Avoid stock photos

I know a lot of indie publishers swear by stock photography, but let’s be honest: it sticks out like a sore thumb and screams amateur. Commission some original art. It’s worth the investment.

5. Avoid too much symbolism

Yes, the violin is symbolic of your hero’s quest to be heard by his peers, but a stonking great violin on the cover will tell people that this is a book about violins. If they don’t like violins, they won’t pick it up. Symbolism is great in the text, but the cover is pure marketing; its only purpose is to encourage a customer to buy it.

6. Read Joel Friedlander’s Book Designer Blog

A bonus tip! Joel Friedlander’s Book Designer site is a fantastic resource for anyone who is looking to self-publish a book; it’s brimming over with information. Cover design is just one aspect of the things he examines, but you should definitely start reading it now.

These seem to be the main ingredients to good book covers. What do you think? Are there any missing, or are any just plain wrong?

Who Needs Amazon? Rowling Goes It Alone

In case you were hiding under a rock today (or if you’re just not a fan), the Harry Potter ebooks were released today and with a twist: they can’t be purchased anywhere other than J K Rowling’s Pottermore website. That’s right, Rowling is self-publishing and without Amazon’s help. Is she blazing a trail?

Self-publishing is notable for one thing: it cuts out middlemen. Self-publishers cut out the publishers and go straight to the distributors. Now Rowling is cutting even them out of the picture. So is this the next step?

After all, it doesn’t take much to set up your own personal online shop. Services like PayPal can handle the fiddly money bits. You just need a website to host the thing and services like WordPress take the hassle out of even that. So why isn’t everyone doing the same dance as Rowling?

Rowling, of course, is the exception to nearly every rule. The runaway first-book-success story, film deals and eye-watering advances. And in this, too, she’s an exception: she already has a massive platform.

You’ve probably heard of an author platform. It’s a term for the author’s reach and for how many people care when the author talks. A lot of people care when Rowling talks. She and Harry Potter are powerful brands. But why does this matter?

Because the buzzword of self-publishing right now is discoverability. The biggest challenge to self-publishers is being found in the first place. Amazon’s recommendations can help readers find new books as well as provide (hopefully) glowing reviews to persuade them to purchase. Readers are also more likely to buy from a trusted source than your little website.

But will that change?

Computer literacy grows daily and people are beginning to understand what to look for when they shop online. Using a trusted service like PayPal removes any concerns in that area. And the stigma of selling your book on your own website will be pretty much eradicated by the self-publishing revolution. So it really comes down to discoverability. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t find books on Amazon. I find them through friends and social media.

So is Rowling showing us the way into the future? Will self-publishers one day think to themselves: who needs Amazon?