I’ve been spending time on this wet and windy October afternoon to update the My Ebooks page on this website. We’ve gone straight from summer to winter this year. Autumn is usually short in this part of France, but we’ve taken it to extremes this time around!

Anyway, all my ebooks are now listed. There are three free ones – Oh Gran!, Escape the Volcano and The Witch’s Dog. Of these, Gran is doing best! She’s zoomed ahead with 557 downloads (via Smashwords) as at this precise moment. There was a sudden surge on 1st October which tied in with me listing the book at www.getfreeebooks.com and with it appearing in the Barnes and Noble Nook store.

Fantastic!

I was lucky to get the great photo I did for The Witch's Dog cover. There were plenty like this where Nessie wouldn't co-operate!

The Witch’s Dog has had 70 downloads in its first 48 hours up on Smashwords. I’ve submitted that to getfreeebooks.com as well, and it will trundle its way onto the B&N site in a couple of weeks. That should give it a nice boost. It may be a little late for Halloween – I should have been better organised. But we’ll see. Hopefully people will want to read it anyway. It’s a sweet little story.

Next book up will be … hmm. I would like to get a free non-fiction out there before releasing Heads Above Water. The book will be ‘Best of Blog in France’, a selection of posts from my first two years’ of blogging. Blog in France goes from strength to strength I’m pleased to say. I’ve even had people pay me to put adverts up on the site!

And Something Fishy isn’t far behind …

I was going to  jump on the bandwagon and blog about the French Kindle store being open now. This is great news! Finally I can get 99 cent books for 99 cents, and not $3.44. There won’t be quite as many English language books available as on amazon.com but probably enough to keep me going for a while!

This afternoon I got another book up on Smashwords. The Witch’s Dog is available for free from here. I’m delighted to say it’s already had one 5-star review. It’s for 5 to 10 year olds, roughly. It’s a non-scary, happy, fun witchy story. No ensuing nightmares, I promise!

I hope you like the cover. I did this one! Caiti is rather busy with homework at weekends at the moment, so it was up to me. I wanted to get this book out for Halloween. I’ve left it rather late as it is…

The dog is our Nessie. I took loads of photos of her, but since she kept rolling over, this was the only one that worked!

Ebook reader isn’t the most exciting name, is it? It’s appropriate and logical but rather pedantic. I think that’s why we tend to use the trade names for our readers, such as Kindle or Nook. They have a feeling of cosiness about them – like the idea of curling up with a good book.

The French word used most often for ebook reader is ‘livrel’. ‘Livre’ is French for book, and ‘el’ is the first syllable of ‘electronique’. But this is France where there are several ways of saying the same thing! So we also have ‘livreuse’ and ‘bouquineur’ for ebook readers. I think they’re all rather catchy.

So what would be a nicer generic term than plain old ebook reader?Here are my suggestions:

Portabook

ELF – Electronic Literary Faciliatator

EARTH – Electronic Apparatus for Reading Texts, Hooray

Pocket Library

Tex-port

ELBORG – ELectronic BOok  Reading Gizmo

Hmm. Not massively inspiring, but of the list I like ELF best!

What would your suggestions for a new name for ebook readers?

 

I submitted Oh Gran, one of my two free ebooks available via Smashwords here to www.getfreeebooks.com. It was accepted on 1st October and by today, 3rd October, it’s been downloaded over 200 times. Up to then I’d had around 130 downloads directly from the Smashwords site over about 10 days. So going to getfreeebooks.com was a very worthwhile move in my opinion. Hopefully people will enjoy the book and remember my name, and one day, actually pay for one of my masterpieces!

None of my latest batch of ebooks, two free and one at 99 cents, have made it onto Amazon yet in Kindle format. I thought I’d do it via Smashwords this time round. It’s taken longer than I thought it would, but the advantage of using Smashwords as distributor is that they pay by Paypal, whereas Amazon will only pay overseas authors by cheque. Cashing cheques drawn on foreign banks in a foreign currency is practically impossible in France. I’ll probably have to open a special account somewhere with an awful lot of accompanying bank charges when the time comes to deal with royalties coming directly from Amazon. Sadly at the moment I imagine those expenses will far outweigh the income 🙁

But I’m an optimist! I plan to carry on plugging away with my ebooks in the certainty that one day it will be worthwhile financially.

It’s time to meet two strange words. First up, NaNoWriMo, which begins in just 31 days time. What is it? NaNoWriMo is the shortened form of National Novel Writing Month, although really that should be International Novel Writing Month as it’s open to everyone. The aim of the catchily named event is to produce a 50,000 word novel during November, which works out at 1,667 words a day. It’s a tall order, but the thrust is to simply get people to sit down and write. Write rubbish if necessary, but write! It will get you into good habits for the future.

Last year, everyone who completed the challenge got a free proof copy of their book from Amazon’s Createspace. I don’t know if the same is planned for this year, but even the possibility would certainly be an incentive.

I’ve signed up. I’ve joined 1831 other France-based WriMos. I might use the event to get my long-planned YA fantasy novel written, or maybe the upbeat knitting mystery which is crashing around in my brain at the moment. Decisions, decision!

So on to ‘Blovel’, a combo of Blog and Novel. This is a great invention by Stu Noss! Check out his site here. Stu is serialising his novel Life on the Suburban Fringe on his blog. What a great idea. Stu is following in famous footsteps. Charles Dickens’ novels came out in serialised form originally, and he hasn’t done so badly over the years has he? Stu’s a talented writer and I’m sure his Blovel idea will inspire a lot more to appear.

Today is Super Thursday, the day when publishers launch their best hopes for the Christmas market. According to the BBC, more than 500 books in all formats, amongst them 200 hardbacks, are being published today, including a good helping of comedians’ autobiographies, and of course a Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie’s Great Britain. This latter is the hot favourite to the Christmas bestseller.

Getting the Christmas books out today gives publishers and authors enough time to do lots of promotion and for word of mouth to kick in and the power of reviews to kick in. The next best day will be in a fortnight, October 13th, so if you were hoping to make it big this Christmas, get your skates on! Looks like I’d better get a move on with my two non-fiction ebooks.

Last year, nine of the books released on Super Thursday sold more than one million pounds’ worth of copies. Not bad. In the 12-week run up to Christmas, a total of 69 million books were sold, with a value of 567 million pounds. This is serious money.

Ebook publishers will be looking to take a share of the public’s book budget this year. You can’t put an ebook in a stocking, though, which will work against them during the festive season. However, you can put a Kindle or other ebook reader in, and with the new Kindle priced at 79 dollars, that’s in normal spending parameters for family and special friends.

It will be very interesting to see how ebook sales fare over the next three months. I’ll be watching closely.

Back in March several French publishers were raided, including Hachette Livre, Gallimard, Flammarion and La Martinière. It was all to do with ebook pricing. Many of the publishing companies under scrutiny have only recently got into ebooks and haven’t setup a proper pricing policy yet. For now, they are going along with a temporary agency model for pricing, and this is what is causing the problem. Agency pricing is very like the net book agreement that used to hold sway in the UK and Ireland. Under this, publishers set the price at which a book was to be sold, and that was that. Booksellers couldn’t sell it for less. The net book agreement was brought down when supermarkets and the big chains of bookshops challenged it.

A statement from the Directorate General for Competition read: “The European Commission can confirm that on 1 March 2011 Commission officials initiated unannounced inspections at the premises of companies that are active in the e-book (electronic or digital books) publishing sector in several Member States. The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and other restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).”

At the moment France adheres to the Lang Law for physical, i.e. paper, books. It establishes a fixed price for books sold in France and limits the discounts that can be offered on them by booksellers. But it doesn’t apply to ebooks. So publishers are fixing the price in stone and EU officials don’t like it, even though the French Competition Authority said in 2009 that the agency model was “a possible solution” for pricing ebooks. However, by restricting booksellers from offering discounts to promote some of the titles they stock, this goes against some of the objectives of the culture ministry in France.

Recently both houses of the French parliament gave their approval to a law that replaces the Lang Law, and goes further to now encompass ebooks. Under the proposed scheme, French publishers will set a single price for their e-books, and distributors must follow it, no matter where they are based. The EU won’t like it, that’s for sure.

It seems odd that publishers are reverting to this old practice of price fixing and making books more expensive than they need to be. Some pro-electronic publishing forums have suggested that, like cigarettes, ebooks produced by the publishers adopting the agency model should come with a warning along the lines of: Warning: buying this book will support a publisher who wants to increase book prices for all.

Here’s an extract from Something Fishy, the racy fishing mystery story by my carp fishing friend Rorie Stevens.

Marcus Summers is the narrator. He’s brought a team of 6 anglers to take on a rival team at a friend’s lake in France near Coussac. This year Marcus has the hot Fiona on his team.

 

Chapter 6

Fishing is a good sex substitute. Not if you put them side by side, of course. If a beautiful, naked, sex-starved woman (or man, if that’s the preference) came prancing along the bank just as an angler was about to cast, well, I don’t think it’s the fish that would get pulled. But as a way of keeping your mind happily and busily off the subject for a period of time, it works well. At least it usually did for me, but this week with Fi close by, it was rubbing my nose in it.

I’d once done a column about why fishing was better than sex, coming up with daft reasons like the fact that a fish will never post embarrassing video footage of you on Youtube; you don’t have to hide your fishing magazines; you can have as many fishing partners, including total strangers, as you want, and how if you catch something when you’re fishing it’s good, but if you do the same when you’re having sex, well, that’s bad. That was one of my most popular articles. It was a shame it wasn’t actually true.

I got through Sunday more or less OK. We were all anxious to get our first catches so we all concentrated hard on our fishing. I spodded like mad and built up a good bed of bait, and sure enough, by Sunday evening I was starting to land some excellent fish. Overall, our team was ahead by 41 lbs. Greg had been landing the most regularly, but he was bringing in smaller grass carp, rather than larger commons. However, no-one minds catching a grass carp – they’re always exciting and fight like crazy. Fi had brought in three mirrors over 30 lbs and she was thrilled. She was proving to be a reliable carpist.

She got a lot of teasing, because in between casts and catches, she pulled her knitting out.

“Grannies knit!” protested Derek over lunch. “Hot chicks don’t.”

Fi rolled her eyes. “So you’re saying Scarlett Johansson and Dakota Fanning aren’t hot? You’re way out of touch, Del Boy. It’s cool to knit these days. All the celebs are doing it.”

Derek snorted.

“Anyway, I’m a yarnbomber, not a knitter.”

“You what?” Derek looked at her blankly, like the rest of us.

“Yarnbomber. Knitted graffiti street artist, if you’d rather.”

“Knitting’s not art,” grumbled Andy. “Knitting’s jumpers and stuff.”

“Not necessarily.” Fi put him straight. “There are quite a lot of us who brighten up public places with our artwork. You know, a hat on a postbox,  a scarf round a statue’s neck. Some yarnbombers have knitted covers for tanks and buses!”

“They need to get a life,” tutted Josh sadly.

Fi ignored him.

“Have you done any of that stuff at Haverton?” asked Norm.

“No, not yet,” admitted Fi. “I’ve been too crazy with work. But I’ve got the time now so I shall rustle up something for Coussac. It’s bound to have a statue somewhere that needs a makeover. Are we going into town soon?” she asked me.

“I was reckoning on tomorrow or Tuesday morning,” I replied. “I need to buy more food, and it’s always interesting to have a poke around there. It’s a nice little town. You’ll like it – it’s got a very picturesque old part.”

“Has it?” said Derek, surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

“How many years have you been coming here?” I grilled him.

“Eight now, I think.”

“Yeah, and for each of those eight years you only ever go to the same bar each time we go into Coussac!” I reminded him. “That’s why you haven’t done any sightseeing yet.”

“Oh, I see sights in that bar,” smirked Derek. “There are some fit babes in Coussac.”

We sat around for a while longer, then Fi got up.

“I need a shower,” she announced.

“Thank God for that,” grinned Liam. “I wondered what that funny smell was.”

“Ha ha, very mature,” riposted Fi.

She collected her wash things from her bivvie and disappeared up the path to the barn which housed the new shower room. But she was back ten minutes later, still dry, and carrying a camp shower. All the others had gone back to their swims.

“The proper shower’s bust,” she grumbled to me. “Julian says he should have it fixed by tomorrow evening. So he’s given me this thing. He says if I hang it up first thing in the morning in a sunny spot, the water should be good and warm by midday.”

“Keep that thing in sight the rest of today,” I warned her.

“Oh?”

“Yes. Never forget there are people round here with a mental age that matches their hook size. These same people are into silly practical jokes. I remember a camp shower episode a few years ago that involved worms and other creepy crawlies!”

“Eeyuw!” grimaced Fi. “Thanks for the heads up. I shall go and stash it at the back of my bivvie and stand guard.”

I smiled as I watched her hurry off with it.

Next morning, she vanished early with it, into the woods at the far end of the lake. I was the only one to see her go. No-one else was up yet. I’d had a broken night with three runs so I was tired. Two of those had resulted in fish on the bank, so I was well pleased. But damn, the thought that in a few hours Fi would be naked somewhere in those same woods was definitely arousing. I tried to think about something else – what I’d write in my next column, how things were going at the fishery, had I got enough cash for the shopping today, but that was no good. The mental picture of wet, soapy Fi wouldn’t budge.

The other lads only found out about the shower over lunch, when Fi happened to remark that the water had still been on the chilly side when she’d last checked it, so she was going to give it another hour. All eyes were on her.

“Do you want someone to hold your soap?” offered Nat. “So you don’t have to keep bending down to pick it up.”

Eleven minds’ eyes saw a nude Fi bending down. That was something worth seeing.

“Come to think of it, it would be better if I held your towel rather than your soap,” Nat corrected himself hastily with a smile. “So you have to bend down!”

“In your dreams,” chuckled Fi. “I shower alone.”

“What if a wild boar comes along?” suggested Greg. “You should have a lookout to scare it away.”

“I’ll take my chances with the local wildlife,” replied Fi firmly.

Rob rustled up some cups of tea. I noticed Andy and Derek slip out. Not too hard to guess where they were going. They came back about half an hour later, sniggering like schoolboys. I watched them go round the lake, talking to Rob’s guys and then Greg and Norm. Everyone seemed to be giving them cigarettes.

“What are you up to?” I demanded when they finally got to me.

“We know where Fi’s shower is!” smirked Andy. “For half a dozen fags, we’ll tell you.”

I looked at them hard. “That’s a bit mean isn’t it? I mean, this is Fi, she’s our friend.”

“Are you telling me you don’t want to see her in the buff?” Andy cut to the point.

“No,” I sighed. “I’d love to, but I don’t think it’s very nice to go leering at her.”

“Suit yourself,” shrugged Derek. “You’re the loser.”

Just then, Fi came out of her bivvie with her towel. Everyone pretended to be busy with their rods. She snuck a look round, then hurried off to the woods again. A minute later, all the lads started following.

I watched them giggle off. I felt cross. No way were they going to eyeball Fi in the nude. I was determined to be the one out of us who got to see her naked first, but voluntarily on Fi’s part. I was going to get that girl. I pulled out my mobile, hoping Fi had got hers with her.  I quickly texted a message:

‘You wl hv audience. Lads r follwng u.’

I was relieved when my phone chirped almost immediately to tell me her reply had come.

‘Tx! Wl relocate fast!’

This I had to see, so I brought in my rods and trotted after the others.

“I changed my mind,” I lied shamelessly to Andy and bunged him a handful of fags.

“Knew you’d see sense,” he smirked.

We followed Andy and Derek through the shady woods. Everyone was trying to be quiet but not really succeeding. There were too many twigs cracking underfoot and too much laughing. I needn’t really have warned Fi. She’d have heard us coming, no problem. We climbed up some banking and then Andy and Derek beckoned to us to approach slowly and bent low. We looked down over the lip of the slope to where the lads were pointing. But neither Fi nor shower were anywhere to be seen. Derek and Andy looked gobsmacked.

“Where is she then?” demanded Mike, one of Rob’s team.

“Yeah!” said Josh, a giant of a man who made me look small and puny.

“The shower was definitely here earlier,” promised Andy.

“Lying bastards!” accused Liam. “I’ll have my fags back please.”

“Yeah, me too,” I added, hoping to appear genuinely disappointed.

“Um, we’ve smoked most of them,” admitted Derek.

“Already? Shit!” Josh wasn’t impressed.

“We’ll buy some tomorrow for you,” added Andy.

“Proper ones, like, not weird French camel-poo ones,” grumbled Josh.

“Do you get camels in France then?” enquired Liam.

I rolled my eyes.

“You have our word,” nodded Derek.

The two of them looked very abashed. Not a common sight, that.

Suddenly Josh laughed. “You had us all going!”

“Yeah, I believed you!” confessed Rob.

“We were telling the truth.” Andy didn’t like being accused of trickery.

“Yeah, whatever.” Phil, the quiet one on Rob’s team, shrugged good naturedly.

We traipsed back to the lake.

“Let’s have a beer at the cabin before we get fishing again,” suggested Greg.

Everyone muttered assent so we headed down to the cabin. And there was Fi, with wet hair and wrapped in a towel, unhooking the campshower from the tree branch just outside it.

“You had your shower? Here?” Andy couldn’t believe it.

“Finished about a minute ago. Yeah, it’s a nice sunny spot here,” she smiled. “Pllus I thought I’d get some help. I realised I’d been a bit stroppy with you all yesterday. It was so kind of you wanting to hold my soap and towel. So I came here, looking for willing volunteers, but you’d all gone. Such a shame.” She sighed melodramatically. “I really needed someone to scrub my back for me.”

She winked at me then sashayed along the bank, back to her tent, while ten pairs of eyes watched in abject misery. I watched trying not to laugh. Good old Fi!

I’ve only just discovered the ‘view stats’ feature on Smashwords. (I’m not very tech savvy I’m afraid.) And I’m glad I have because it’s providing some useful info.

Now, I launched Oh Auntie for the princely sum of 99 cents on the world via Smashwords on 30 July. I Tweeted and blogged about it a lot and got a good initial response. Then on 14 August I joined Bookbuzzr and Oh Auntie’s cover and a hangman game I  made up using words from the book was included in their Freado book games. And then, again belatedly, I found that I could use Bookbuzzr to issue a daily Tweet about Oh Auntie, so I signed up for this on 11th August. As you can see from the stats chart below, Oh Auntie is getting plenty of regular hits.

Now let’s look at Oh Gran, which I put up for free on Smashwords on  11th September. Again I Tweeted and blogged at lot the first couple of days. That gave rise to the initial surge. I’m still Tweeting about it, but not regularly.

Now here’s Beat the Hackers that I admit I have rather neglected.

Again, an initial surge of people viewing the book, but it’s dwindled away, quite a contrast to Oh Auntie and Oh Gran, and this book is very temptingly priced at 99 cents.

Now, I appreciate that there isn’t such a demand for children’s books on ereaders yet, and that my Oh series books don’t include illustrations. The printed copies did, but since I don’t have the copyright for the illustrations, I can’t use them. I’ve had new covers done but it would be a prohibitive task to get new pictures for inside the book. So that’s a disadvantage to them. I’m putting them up at a very low price, or free, mainly to establish an e presence.

However, it would appear that Tweeting gets people to at least look at your books and download a sample. I’ve still yet to sell a single copy via Smashwords. People are getting samples of all the books, and helping themselves to the freebies, but reluctant to shell out for the 99 cent stories. And also it seems that Bookbuzzr has been useful in getting people to my books too. So, for what it’s worth, perhaps that’s a fairly good course of action to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Escape the Volcano will be hitting Smashwords tomorrow. This ebook has been a family affair. I wrote it, Benj scanned the out of print dead-tree version which I updated, and Caiti has done me a fantastic new cover, as you can see here.

It’s the first in the Escape series that did very well for me back in Ireland, despite little marketing and pushing by the publishers. The two main characters are eleven year old Tom Donoghue and his irrepressible friend, Kevin, one of life’s optimists and jokers. Tom’s Mum and little sister Anna play significant roles, and so does Alan, who they meet up with in this first adventure. (Tom’s dad is a no-show in the stories. I had to kill him off a few years previously since I needed an incomplete family for the series! It’s very hard to write interesting stories about perfect, happy families – sad but true.) This little crowd turned out to be great fun to write about and I enjoyed creating various adventures for them. They go on to encounter avalanches, floods and twisters in the next books.

It’ll be free on Smashwords, but you’ll have to pay for the rest of the stories in the series, probably 99 cents each, which I think is a fair deal.

So, please do check my Smashwords page out  in the next day or two and get yourelf a free copy to enjoy. And let me know what you think of it.