Increasingly frustrated at the elevated prices on Amazon.com for Kindle books due to the sales tax they add for whatever reason to books going abroad, I’ve now started buying more from Smashwords. I’ve downloaded the Kindle app for PC onto my computer so I can read books in Kindle format on it. It’s not as good a reading experience as on the Kindle, but since I can get 99 cent books for 99 cents, and not 3.74 dollars which is what Amazon charges for them, then that’s a saving worth making. I’m not cheating the author out of royalties, as they receive their payment based on the official 99 cent price.

It’s puzzling. Some books advertised as 99 c are available to me here in France at that price, but the vast majority aren’t. Also, some books advertised as free also aren’t available. I had to buy my Kindle from Amazon.com, as all French customers still have to, so it was a blow to then discover that there were strings attached in the form of this onerous tax, for which this apparently no justification whatsoever apart from greed. It doesn’t cost any more to send the whispernet to France than to anywhere else. It’s ridiculous and is the one bad thing about Kindle from my point of view.

But I’ve found a way around the problem (which is what living in France trains you to do with all problems!) so I can read well-priced books without being financially penalised simply because of where I live. Amazon will be losing out from me from now on, and if the trend is repeated by enough other Kindle owners affected by the tax, then maybe they’ll start taking notice and revise this unfair system.

Good for Smashwords.

Benj hard at work

I’m in the process of rereleasing most of my children’s books on Kindle. These are the old Mentor Press books. Since some of them go back more than ten years, I no longer have the files for them on computer. The back-ups are on an obsolete device of some sort, so I’d started retyping them out. Now, I’m a pretty fast typist but this didn’t seem to be the best use of my time, not with new fiction to write, a farm and fishing business to run and some freelance editing to do. So Chris set Benj up with the scanner and he’s taken over getting the print books into electronic format for me. He’s going great guns. The only drawback is that he has to disassemble the books in order to get a good quality scan. But I’ve got plenty of copies of them going spare.

Illustrator Roger Fereday will be doing some new covers for me, mainly for the Oh! series and the younger children’s books I wrote. Caitlin is designing covers too, for my older children’s books. So I should have another batch of books up on Kindle before very long. It’s really exciting!

Back in March I wrote this:

This August is going to be a big month for us. On the 9th, Chris and I celebrate our silver wedding anniversary, and on the 13th, it will be five years since we arrived here. We’re having a big party on the 7th to jointly mark these occasions. And I’ve set myself the challenge of having self-published a book on the Kindle by then too. And why not? It’s something I want to do and it’s achievable with a bit of hard work between now and then.

I had envisaged having Heads Above Water, the first of my living in France books out, but in fact it’s my children’s book Oh Auntie! that pipped it to the post. I’ve finished the second draft of Heads Above Water and am currently reading through. I’ll be talking to Roger Fereday about the cover very soon, so I foresee epublishing it in September, all being well.

 

My next book on Kindle will be Beat the Hackers which I’ve just finished typing up and updating. Caitlin has designed an excellent cover for it. Like Oh Auntie!, this is a book that was previously published in traditional format by Mentor Press, but since that publisher closed its children’s publishing arm several years ago, the rights have reverted to me. So the plan is to re-release all my twenty-odd Mentor books and this time round give them the publicity they deserve. I’m writing new books too.

So – I met my challenge. In that case I’ll set another. I’m coming round to the view that writing challenges can be very productive. I want to have my work of adult fiction, Something Fishy: A Marcus Summers Mystery up on Kindle by December. This is a racy fishing-related mystery. There aren’t many in that genre yet but I think it’s a winning combination.

I’d been wondering what the recent explosion in self-publishing was going to mean for traditional publishers and, in particular, for literary agents. It’s been all too obvious lately with what it’s doing to bookshops. Several big chains have unfortunately gone under due to the rise in ebooks – Borders in the US and Angus and Robertson in Australia are two examples.

To a large extent, literary agents have always been the hangers-on in the publishing world. They’re not contributing original material, like the authors are. They’re not producing the finished goods, like the publishers are. They’re somewhere in the middle taking a cut of the author’s earnings.

So it looks like some agents are becoming ‘self-publishing enablers’, offering ‘assisted self-publishing’. They will undertake to do tasks such as reformatting the author’s manuscript into ebook friendly formats, organising cover design, uploading files to Amazon, Smashwords etc  and drawing up marketing plans. These are all things the author could do on his or her own, with a very little bit of effort. First time is always the hardest preparing a manuscript for the digital market, as I know from experience, but once you’ve got the hang of what to do, it’s quick and straightforward. Most indie authors are up for doing as much as they can for themselves generally, so it remains to be seen how well this new agency role will catch on.

I was about to launch into  a longer discussion of this, but then came across David Gaughran’s excellent discussion of the topic here. He has far more clout and involvement in the world of digital publishing and can discuss the area much more knowledgeably than I can. It’s interesting to see I’m not the only one who’s questioning the new route agents will take.

 

 

 

I’m just about ready to self-publish my first book on Kindle.

The book is Oh Auntie! that I wrote in 2005 and which was published by Mentor Press in Ireland. I’ve updated it slightly and am rereleasing it since the copyright has reverted to me when Mentor pulled out of the children’s publishing market. It’s a nice story for 7-11 year olds – no issues, no nasties, just plain entertaining, which is how I feel kids’ books should be.

I’ve prepared the text for formatting for the Kindle, I have my ISBN number and I have my fantastic new cover artwork. What do you think of this?

It’s by the wonderful Roger Fereday.

So – time to start the publicity machine rolling while I work through the final stages. And then, well, I just hope the world’s ready!

I’m in the process of preparing some of my children’s books for publishing on Kindle. The copyright reverted to me a few years ago after Mentor Press sadly decided to stop its children’s publishing. So I will rerelease my books in electronic format. I’m doing a little bit of updating as I format them so they’re spot on for today’s kids. My Beat the Hackers needs to accommodate WiFi and Facebook, and the a few of the chickens named after popstars in Oh Auntie! need to be assume new identities. Britney will become Beyoncé, for example!

They’ll need new covers and ISBNs and a good bit of promotion. That will start very soon. But I have to say, I was impressed as I worked through and rather proud of myself for writing them! They’re fun, lively books that kids will enjoy.

Ruadhri with my Kindle!

Children are taking to ebooks very readily. St Martin’s Press reports that in 2010 young-adult e-books made up 6% of its digital sales, but in 2011, the number is already up to 20%. HarperCollins has seen a similar rise. And that trend will increase now that Ms Rowling is getting in on the act with her Pottermore plans.

Today’s kids have grown up with electronic gizmos – mobiles, organisers, MP3s – so it’s a natural for them to take to ebook readers. And they’re not that expensive now. Parents are wising up to the fact that there are plenty of free downloadable books out there, and that you can get samples of books so they won’t spend good money on a book that the children will never read. They can try it out first.

It looks like a good time to be producing ebooks for tweens and teens.

Less than a fortnight ago I wrote about the Kindle Million Club’s seven members. Well, there’s an eighth member now – John Locke. He’s the first self-published author to join the club, so it’s all very inspiring for those of us looking to go the Kindle self-publishing route.

John Locke writes the Donovan Creed series of mystery-thrillers. He sells these on Kindle priced at 99 cents, and makes 35 cents in royalties per book. Since he’s selling a book every 7 seconds every single day, he’s doing rather well!

I for one shall be snapping up his non-fiction book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, which is priced a little higher at 4.99. But it could be money well worth paying if I can pick up some hints on how to be as successful as he is!

I was horrified to read on Publishing Perspectives that thanks to a video course called Autopilot Kindle Cash (details here), spammers are uploading bogus e-books onto the Amazon Kindle bookstore. One tactic is to copy an ebook that’s doing well, give it a new title and cover and launch it at a slightly different market. This sort of pirating should be relatively easy to pick up. However, other so-called authors are using content that can be brought very cheaply online, repackaging it and selling it as a book, often for 99 cents. Reading the comments on Warrior Forum where, Autopilot Kindle Cash is advertised and discussed, goes to show that none of the people who think it’s “wow” have given a thought as to where the content is actually coming from.

The claim is also made about AKC that “It is TRULY a hands free, increasing, monthly income”. The “hands-free” part of that is intriguing. If you read the product description, you find this: “With this brand new … course, YOU just hand the video course to your spouse, your assistant, your brother… heck – even hand it to your 10 year old kid! They’ll be posting 10 or even 20 new Kindle books to your account EVERY DAY!” One of the commenters on the forum talks about paying his “office girl” to do the work for him. So somebody somewhere is doing something with their hands to churn out these “books” – just not necessarily the person who buys the package. And they’re certainly not being creative in the way real authors are.

So do beware when you’re buying stuff on Kindle bookstore. Always download a sample first. I do, and I’ve weeded out what I now realise were probably examples of this sort of cobbled-together publication. Sadly there’s the very real danger that the material worth reading may start to disappear under the piles of substandard junk produced by these sorts of means.

 

I’ve just signed up to Shelfari. I came across a mention of it in a tweet as being a good idea for authors to get involved in. So I had a look at the site. Shelfari is owned by Amazon, so I used those account details when it came to signing up.

It’s a ‘social cataloguing website’ for books. Any the wiser? Nor me initially. I had to think about it. OK, you build up virtual bookshelves of books you’ve read to rate, comment on, tag and discuss. You can create groups with other members to discuss certain books, topics etc and build wish lists etc. I think its value will come from seeing what other people think of books you’ve read and have your own opinion on, or are thinking of readin.

I joined the French books group

Shelfari automatically goes to your Amazon.com purchases to create your bookshelf once you’ve joined. I clicked about half of the 26 that showed up for me. A lot of mine are freebies and I didn’t want to appear too mean!

The next step was to find friends. It said to look in my address books for gmail, yahoo, aol and Windows msn but I have not knowingly got any friends there. I use Opera as my email so it looks like I’ll be friendless for a while!

Shelfari then suggests you join groups. Had a look but wasn’t immediately grabbed by any. However, I guess whole thing is about being in groups. I must be more sociable. So after another search I joined the Travel books group, the French books group and Publishing.

I’m still puzzled by the friends bit. I looked up members in France as a starting point but most of those hadn’t posted in the last 2 years so not much point contacting them!I’ll keep working away on this front.

One of the few suggested books I actually like!

Next, for comparison’s sake, I went to Goodreads which looks very much the same as Shelfari. I signed up, skipped the friends bit for the above reasons and carried on. First came a book compatibility test. I like tests so this was fun. You had to rate certain books or click if you wanted to read them but hadn’t already. However, the list that came up wasn’t inspiring. There were a lot of books I hadn’t read and didn’t want to, and a lot I didn’t like (e.g. The Shining, Animal Farm, Dickens etc! Maybe I’m not cut out for this! It then offered me a list of the current favourite books  but I refused to cooperate! Actually, not may of them appealed. I’m going indie on this one. So I selected some titles independently to go on my shelf. I soon saw that any book you put on your shelf, Goodreads offers to sell you via Amazon or worldcat etc.

My enthusiasm fading fast, I quickly joined the Kindle Group and then logged off.

I shall persist with both these sites to see what comes of them. I wasn’t a Twitter fan for a long while, but after several attempts I got the hang of it. I imagine the same will be true of Shelfari and Goodreads. Time will tell.

Gallic's big summer read for 2011

Five years ago Jane Aitken set up the publishing house Gallic Books with fellow Francophile Pilar Webb with the aim of introducing British readers to French literature. A bold move in a country where works by foreign authors make up less than 3% of the market. But it seems to be a gamble that is paying off.

Every year around ten French books make it across the channel and end up on Britain’s bookshelves. The publishers specifically look for books that will make the transition well. Amongst the first books they published were detective novels and historical fiction. However, now anything contemporary goes, after the runaway success of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Books have to prove themselves in France before Gallic Books will consider taking them on.

Marketing is of course extremely important, and Gallic Books uses all the tool it can lay its hands on – including Spotify, posters on the Tube, postcards, and tours by authors. It all works closely with book bloggers, book clubs and indie bookstores. And they are beginning to produce Kindle editions of some of their books, very reasonably priced, so that gets a huge thumbs-up from me!

This is the perfect publisher as far as I, a British expat in France, am concerned. I’ve been wanting to read French literature but have struggled with it in the native language and quickly given up. I’m a French speaker, rather than a French writer and reader. I will start with Armand Cabassson I think, in paperback since his Quentin Margont books look like being exciting reads. And in the meantime I  may succumb to a Kindle book too, probably one of the Hector’s journeys series or Anna Sam’s Checkout – A life on the tills. Décisions, décisions !