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Second Ebook Out

Well, my second book is now up on Amazon in Kindle format. It’s Beat the Hackers, a work of juvenile fiction about hackers and computers with a strong female protagonist. Daughter Caiti designed me a brilliant cover:

And here is a sample from it to whet your appetites. It’s from near the end of the book. Heather and her father Ray are on the run from Domination, a mysterious company that created a universally popular, free anti-hacker software. However, it’s not quite what it seems, and Ray, with Heather’s help, is the only person who can prove it. They have just one possibly ally – Lucien Montgomery, head of Teuthras Communciations. They are meant to meet with him at midday:

Heather wandered over to the coffee bar. She chose four of the stickiest looking muffins they had and ordered two tall, double cappuccinos. She took the heavy tray to a corner table and waited for her father to join her.

They idly watched the passers-by as they ate and drank. Then gradually Heather became aware that they were being watched. She felt a prickling at the back of her neck. She casually glanced around. A few tables away, two people were sitting, apparently minding their own business. But they weren’t ordinary people. The man was tall and blonde and had deep blue eyes. He was immaculately turned out in some sort of designer suit. The woman with him was stunning. She had a beautiful figure and wore a fantastic tailored trouser suit. The perfect couple, thought Heather. Suddenly she stiffened. Perfect. That was it! She thought back to the photos of the perfect people her father had collected when he was researching Domination. Her blood ran cold. These people were too perfect. They were Domination perfect! And they were watching her and her dad.

She glanced away. This time her eye was caught by a tall, good looking man, pretending to window shop a short distance away. Beyond him was another perfect guy, trying to look inconspicuous in an Armani suit and browsing at postcards outside a newsagent’s.

Yes. Domination had definitely found them.

“Don’t look now, Dad,” said Heather quietly, trying to swallow her fear, “but there are some Domination people around. At the table behind us, and two more in the mall.”

Ray almost dropped his cup in alarm.

“What?” he hissed. He glanced around nonchalantly, checking out Heather’s claims. “That’s them, all right. We’re trapped!”

“Stay cool, Dad. Goodness knows how they tracked us down here. But never mind that now. We can run for it, I reckon.” Heather was beginning to make plans.

“We can try,” he said, but without much hope. “Look, I’ll slide you a set of USBs under the table. If we get separated, take these to show Montgomery on your own, OK? If you can’t, never mind. There’s still Marcus to back us up.”

“OK, Dad,” nodded Heather.

Ray discreetly fumbled in his bag and then pushed something under the table towards Heather with his foot. She carelessly leant down, on the pretext of adjusting her sock, picked up the USBs in their bag and slipped them into her jacket pocket.

“Fancy a refill?” she said loudly.

Ray looked at her puzzled for a moment. He was about to say he’d had enough caffeine for now, but Heather winked at him. “Get ready to run,” she hissed. “I’ll slow Mr and Mrs Perfect here down.”

“Thank you, more coffee would be lovely,” trumpeted Ray.

Heather walked up to the counter, passing close to the Domination people. She didn’t look at them, but she could feel their blue eyes on her.

“Two large black coffees, please.”

The counter assistant handed them over. Heather paid and began to walk back with a mug in each hand. She saw her father poised for taking off. She came to Domination’s table. She paused by it. The man and woman looked up at her, intently.

“Here. The coffee’s on me!” cried Heather, and she flung the scalding coffee into their laps.

Pandemonium broke out. The pair leapt up, shouting in pain and shock. Heather had the presence of mind to tip the table over on them too, knocking them down, before she took to her heels with her father. The counter staff began yelling. Out of the corner of her eye, Heather saw the two lurking Domination members in the mall start to run after them.

But she and Ray had a good few metres’ start. If they could just get themselves out of the shopping centre, they’d be able to lose themselves in the crowd outside. The exit wasn’t far. But then disaster struck. Ray’s shoelace had unravelled and sent him flying. Heather could hardly believe he’d fallen over for the second time that day. She stopped and turned back to help him, but he roared at her to leave him.

For a fraction of a second Heather hesitated, uncertain what to do. She didn’t like to desert her father, but the Domination guys were onto them. He was right – she had to go. So with a last despairing look at her father, she turned and fled.

She didn’t stop running for at least five minutes. She barged her way through the shoppers, who grumbled complaints at her. She wove in and out of the crowd until at last she had to pause for breath. She chose a busy corner, close to a flower stall, to stop and take stock.

 

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Kindle vs Smashwords – Ebook Pricing

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.

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Scan-dalous Transformation!

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!

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Writing Challenges Work

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.

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Assisted Self-Publishing

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.

 

 

 

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Nearly Ready to Self-Publish

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!

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Ebooks and Younger Readers

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.

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Eighth Kindle Million Club Member

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!

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Bogus Books on Kindle

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.

 

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On the Shelfari

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.