So, Waterstones is to launch its own ereader as a rival to Kindle and Nook. The MD of Waterstones, James Daunt, said he was inspired by the Nook, but he must also have had in mind the fact that Amazon sells more Kindle books than print ones these days.

Waterstones is ambitious. It’s a huge undertaking to come up with a piece of ereading hardware to seriously contend with the ones already out there.  Which will it be most like? Touch screen and back-lit like Nook, or fantastic e-ink technology but fiddly little buttons to press like the Kindle. If it takes the best features of each, then it will be quite an awesome machine.

And there’s not that long to wait. The device will be launching in Spring 2012, if all goes to plan. I’ll be very interested to see what arrives on the scene.

If you don’t like the thought of paying VAT on your ebook then sign this petition. if you’re either UK resident or a UK citizen living elsewhere. Dead tree books don’t have VAT charged on them, so it seems extremely unfair and inconsistent that electronic ones do. Apparently they’re a luxury, whereas paper books aren’t. Now the EU is OK about member states charging a reduced VAT rate on “any similar physical medium that predominantly reproduce the same textual information content as printed books”, and has been since January 2011. Spain has taken advantage of this to reduce its VAT on ebooks to 4%. Elsewhere though, a different story. In Italy VAT is 4% on paper books and 20% on ebooks, and in Germany the figures are 7% and 19% respectively. France shoves 19.6% TVA (= VAT) on livres electroniques. There’s a petition here to sign too to try and get this put to rights, so if you’re a resident in France, then please do sign this one too.

However, the economic climate in Europe isn’t one that’s likely to  make governments look favourably at reducing their tax income in any shape or form at the moment. But, we can at least try.

 

I’m pretty sure – no, I know I’ve been spending too long recently Twittering and messing around, very enjoyably, on various indie author websites in the attempt to build a platform. I’ve read a load of articles and ebooks about self-promotion too. All these activities have finally led me to see what I think will work for me.

I’m going back to basics. My blogs. I have two, this one on book related themes, and Blog in France on the more general day to day events of expat life in France. I’ve read John Locke’s book on how he sold a million books, and I’ve picked up some tips from that. However, the thing that I completely disagree with is his attitude towards blogs. He only writes half a dozen or so a year. That’s OK for someone of his standing, but not for most of the rest of us. We have to write, and write a lot, to get people to know about us. And many blog traffic experts, such as Yaro Starak who is fast becoming my hero, push the importance of a good blog with quality content. Other marketing activities can all stem from this basis. So I’m going to give my blogs the attention they deserve.

I’ve achieved a lot with Blog in France. From a few readers a week, I now have around 100 a day, sometimes nearly twice that. Two advertisers have contacted me to put banners up, completely out of the blue. I got to that position by blogging daily and putting time and effort into what I wrote. I can got a lot further, and intend to, with newsletters and reports, but that’s all in the pipeline.

So it’s time to lavish the same care and energy on this blog. On with the book reviews, the looks at ereaders, the discussions of self-publishing and hints on writing. The two youngest kids are back at school, Benj goes to Uni next Thursday and, although we have gite and lake bookings until early November, the pressure is easing up so there will be more time and energy for writing. There are a million and one things to do around the farm, as ever, but a combination of physical graft on animal and ground maintenance, and sitting at a keyboard blogging and writing will make for a healthy enough life, and certainly an interesting one.

It will be interesting to see how things work out. I’ll keep you posted – blog posted, of course!

I think chapters should always have titles. It tends to be essential in non-fiction books, and in my opinion it’s as important in fiction.  And even more so with the advent of the Kindle. There is nothing more dull than having two full screens or so at the start of the book merely listing Chapter 1, Chapter 2 etc. OK, these are hyperlinked to the relevant chapter, although I can’t actually see why you’d use that facility much, since Kindle remembers where you got up to, and opens the book on that page next time you call it up. You don’t have to go back to the chapter list to find where you were. And anyway, only a very organised person would remember the number of the chapter. You’d be far more likely to remember its name – our brains are built that way.

So why are so many authors reluctant to give a short name to each chapter? One word will do to act as a reflection of its content? A taster of what’s to come? Either would be far more appealing than Chapter X. Thrillers and mysteries often use time and dates to break up the text. That’s good too. Children’s fiction generally uses chapter names, so we’re all used to it. I can’t see any justification for dropping the practice when we progress to YA and adult works. There’s no logic to it.

I’ve had fun naming the chapters in my two forthcoming big projects, Something Fishy, a racy fishing mystery (fiction) and my non-fiction travel narrative Heads Above Water. For the latter I’ve incorporated a relevant French quotation too at the opening of each chapter, one that ties in with the heading. It didn’t take long and I think it adds a further level of enjoyment for the reader. For my fiction work, I’ve simply used a punchy gerund that best reflects the action of the chapter e.g. Meeting, Catching, Drowning. It wasn’t too demanding!

So, bring back chapter headings I say. Readers appreciate them. They’re memorable, entertaining and a lot more interesting than just a number.

There are a lot of book bloggers like me out there – new indie authors,  established ‘traditional’ authors, book reviewers and book lovers. I wondered what a good collective noun would be for us. I love collective nouns – a murder of crows, a charm of goldfinches, a labour of moles, and a pace of donkeys are just a few excellent examples.  Now, for bloggers, and particularly book bloggers? A shelf of bloggers? A library of bloggers perhaps? Since we’re all artists, how about a creativity of bloggers? An originality of bloggers? Most definitely a brilliance of bloggers! But there’s a strong sense of comaraderie amongst book bloggers too. We comment thoughtfully on each others’ blogs because we genuinely enjoy reading what fellow bloggers are writing about, as well as what they’re writing if they’re authors. So, an encouragement of bloggers? A friendship of bloggers? But what about the bad times, when we can’t think of anything to write (a slog of bloggers), when we’re getting behind with our blog (a backlog of bloggers), we can’t think what to write (a fog of bloggers) or we want to let off steam about something annoying us (a grump of bloggers) or we’ve had a bad self-promotion day (an in-the-dumps of bloggers)?

Let me have your suggestions please!

I’m in a quandary and temporarily disheartened. I really don’t know what to do regarding promotion and marketing. I’ve been spending hours on Twitter and various author platform websites such as Author Outbreak, Goodreads, Library Thing etc. But I’m seriously starting to wonder what’s the point. It seems the only other people out there are other authors. I’ve bought some of their books, and a couple of people have bought mine – but if we only ever sell to each other, I don’t think we’ll do very well. Writers don’t get much time for reading on top of self-promoting and writing, and they’re not the wealthiest folk either.

How do you get out there to the readers? Maybe through reviews on Amazon and Smashwords? However, people will only find those if they look you or your book up i.e. they still need to know about you first. But how to get them to that stage?

I’m guessing that the personal website is the key starting point. If you can build up followers to your website that will hopefully turn into buyers for your books, then at least you’re spreading beyond the fellow indie author market.  So I shall cut down the time I spend on social media for a while and put more time and effort into my websites. And my writing. I still think it’s best of all to keep writing and fit the marketing activities around that, and not the other way round.

A new month – time for a new challenge. I want to make it a tough one, so my aim this month is to get 10 books up on Kindle and to have worked on 10 books in my new ebook editing business (nearly-finished website is here).

Here’s a glimpse of what the next Kindle book will be in the form of the brilliant cover. Roger Fereday is the illustrator and Caitlin Dagg is the typographer. What a team!

What’s your September challenge?

 

I’m busily extending my author platform on a daily basis, signing up to forums and groups here, posting about my books there.

I came across a free listing opportunity on Author Outbreak, a promising looking indie author website. However, the offer ends on 31st August so you need to get motoring, if it appeals. You’ll find the details here:

I’ve sent my details in so we’ll wait and see what happens.

I’m also currently considering joining the Independent Author Network http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/join-ian.html. There’s a fee for this, so I may wait until Heads Above Water is ready to launch. I think I’ll stick with free promotions for my rereleased children’s books.

Is anyone else having problems with logging onto yourbookauthors.com? I’m having a terrible time.

Finally, I need guinea pigs. Human ones. My ebook editing service is very nearly ready to roll. The website is in its final stages of being tidied up. You can take a quick peek here  (please remember, it’s still a WIP!). To help me firm up my pricing structure, I need to work on a few projects to get a feel for the level of work that is generally required and roughly how long it will take me to tidy up 1,000 words of electronic manuscript. No charge of course. So, if you’d like some free editing on your ebook, then please contact me via the comments below and we’ll talk!

Oh Gran! will be hitting Kindle soon. Here’s a taster and a peep at the great cover artwork by Roger Fereday.

Chapter 1 News Time

“Has anyone else got any news?” asked Mrs Crowley.

It was Friday afternoon, which was end-of-the-week news time at school. Teresa Barry had just told everyone how she’d passed her first Tae Kwondo exam the night before. She now had a yellow-tip belt. (Frank Feeney, sitting in the back row, decided he had better stop teasing her in the yard.)

“Surely someone has more news?” persisted Mrs Crowley.

No one put a hand up.

Mrs Crowley’s eye fell on Emily.

“Emily, have you got some news?”

Emily had, but she didn’t feel much like sharing it.

“Not really, Mrs Crowley,” muttered Emily, wishing her teacher had picked on someone else.

Mrs Crowley refused to be put off.

“There must be something you can tell us about, Emily. Now, come up here and share your news.”

Emily knew when she was beaten. She shuffled to the front of the classroom and turned to face the others.

“My news is that Gran is coming to look after me this weekend because Mum and Dad won a holiday in a competition so they’re going away.”

Emily shot back to her seat, her cheeks burning.

“Why, thank you, Emily,” smiled Mrs Crowley. ‘That’s nice news. I’m sure you’ll have a great time with your granny!”

Emily and her friends weren’t so sure. They talked about grannies at break time.

“Gosh, poor you,” said Mary Roberts. “Whenever my granny comes she makes us turn the telly down so low that we can’t hear it!”

“Yes, and my granny’s always telling me to wash my hands and brush my hair and stuff,” groaned Dermot Halloran.

“Has your granny stayed before?” asked Niamh Desmond.

“Not for ages and ages,” Emily answered. “You see, after  Grandad died a few years ago, Gran went to live with my Auntie Hilary in Australia. Then just after Christmas she decided to come back to Ireland. We were going to go up to Galway to see her, but I got chickenpox so we I couldn’t. But now she’s coming down to look after me. She said she would pick me up from school today.!

Her friends pulled sympathetic faces. Grannies weren’t considered cool.

 

 

Chapter 2 Gran Arrives

Emily was quite nervous when the bell rang at the end of school. To be honest, she couldn’t exactly remember what Gran looked like! It must be more than three years since she’d seen her. Mum kept sending photos of Emily to Gran, but Gran never sent back any of herself.

“So how am I supposed to recognise her, then?” grumbled Emily.

She had a vague image in her head of someone small, smiley and rather wrinkly. But that was all.

She dawdled out of school, wanting to be one of the last out so that her friends wouldn’t see her with her granny. Plus it would be easier to work out who Gran was if the other parents and relatives had already gone home with their children. But Emily’s friends were curious about her granny. They dawdled out too so they could see what she looked like.

Glaring at them for being so nosy, Emily led a gaggle of her friends to the school gate. She looked across the road to where the remaining mums and dads were a waiting. She recognised all of them except for a motorcyclist wearing a black leather jacket. So where on earth was Gran? Emily was dismayed. Mum and Dad would be at the airport by now. Gran was meant to be here to pick her up.

Emily looked at all the faces again. Had she missed Gran somewhere? Unless, no, surely not! Emily watched in amazement as the motorcyclist pulled off a tiger-striped helmet and revealed the smiling face of an elderly lady. It was Gran!

Emily’s mouth dropped open in astonishment.

“Where’s your gran then?” hissed Niamh.

“l can’t see a walking stick anywhere!” joked Dermot, not very nicely.

“Yes, where is she?” asked Mary.

“There! She’s there!” croaked Emily, pointing to her leather-clad Gran.

Her friends fell silent in horror.

Oh Gran! thought Emily. I will never live this down.

OK, so which groups of Tweeps are the most egocentric? First of all, for those of you not hooked on Twitter yet, Tweeps are people on Twitter.

Following John Locke’s advice, I’ve set up a Twitter account solely to promote my upcoming book, Something Fishy. It’s a fishing mystery story – honestly, it’s far more exciting than it sounds! Anyway, I’m writing it under the pseudonym of Rorie Stevens as it’s a bit racy in places, and I’m known so far as a children’s author. I need an image change. So, I’ve brought Rorie S to life. Like me, he/she (I’m being vague on purpose) is a fishery owner in France, and, less like me, a keen carp and trout angler.

So, I had to find followers for Rorie. To get followers, you have to follow. Over the course of a few nights, I tracked down prime targets to follow, and I duly added them to my ‘following’ list. I put up a good few fishing related tweets to show willing. But certainly to begin with, I got less than a 10% rate of follows back. That’s improved slightly now – 11 followers to 70 following – but it’s not great. However, it’s typical of the fishing fraternity. They aren’t keen on following other anglers. They want to be followed. I was rather surprised by this egotism, but it’s definitely out there. It’s also odd, since surely Tweets are about information sharing. It’s hard to share if you insist on one-way communication. You see, only people following you get your Tweets. Unless you follow them, you don’t get their Tweets. Anglers, it seems, are happy to preach to others but not to listen in return. Shame.

This is in stark contrast to writers. Almost everyone in the authoring field follows a lot more people than are following them. They’re open to advice, hints, encouragement, tips from others. They’re friendly people who are delighted to make new Twitter friends. In a lot of cases, they’re working to build a platform for themselves and their books, but then everyone who Tweets is looking for attention. Picking three people that I follow from my @Booksarecool23 Twitter account and we have one author following 1340 with 998 followers, sample 2 following 1,998 and followed by 1,663 and sample 3 following 75 and followed by 49. (One of them is me, but I shan’t say which one!)

Let’s take scientists as well. They put even anglers to shame. Prof Brian Cox, for example, has nearly 400,000 followers, but only follows 94. Now that’s pathetic! An American scientist, Sean Carroll, has 8,000 followers but follows only 100.  Ed Yong has a slightly better 10,000 to 700 ratio, so Jonathan Eisen with his 6,400 to 1,500 is a quite a breath of fresh air.

So it would appear at a quick glance that the more creative you are, the more generous you are in the Twittersphere. And the more you get out of Twitter.