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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

How it works.

Generally speaking a work in progress  available at Smashwords and ineligible for the premium catalogue will be free to download. Once the text is complete and proofed it will be submitted and a price attached.

What You Ask For passed the  premium catalogue selection and is now in the ebook retailers supplied by smashwords (until 2 March 2015 What You Ask For has a 50% discount code at smashwords enter AY63P at the checkout - the code isn't case sensitive).
Feedback on any story is welcome.  Drop me a line through the contact page.

Currently The Obedience of Fools and Gone to Earth are listed as works in progress, free to download at smashwords. Drop in and help yourself.

Iceline the first Grange novel is available at smashwords and through all the distribution channels as a permanent free download.
Chase your ebook down through the links from cheekyseagull.co.uk/iceline.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

What's the connection?

Cheekyseagull: I've been pondering the title for a couple of weeks, thinking if I should look at it from a different angle. This is not the title you would expect to find promoting ebooks and digital publishing.
A lot of writers have their name and, or the title of their books, or series of books in the website name. I have come across some really eye catching titles and headers across the web and the best of luck to all of you.
Cheeky seagull is a name with personal connections, and the idea of it generally puts me in a positive frame of mind. I owned the domain name and cheekyseagull email some time before Iceline was published and I chose to launch myself on to the Internet as an independent author who self publishes.
The first domain name was cheekyseagull.net, and the name is still active, pointing towards .co.uk, and when .uk became available in mid 2014 I took up the option and that points to .co.uk. so  cheekyseagull followed by .net .co.uk or .uk will land you on the site. Taking all that into consideration you might think that now is not the moment to have second thoughts.
It's not about second thoughts, but perception, am I really comfortable with it: yes, but what about the connection between seabirds and publishing? They may seem strange bedfellows and yet familiarity has made such connections seem natural.
The short stiff with the white shirt and the black tux is already familiar, so why not a cheeky seagull chasing the action?
P-P-Pick up a Grange story from the cheekyseagull and let's see this bird fly.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Who wrote that one?

Couple of weeks ago before I got stuck into NaNoWriMo I was doing the rounds checking the links from cheekyseagull to Apple and the other distributors. Basically checking which ones had the new covers for Control Escape and What You Ask For in place.

I dropped on to the Apple page for Control Escape and then clicked the links for other books by the same author.

Racked up across the page were a line of books all by Martyn Taylor, but half of them were written by my namesake. Another Martyn Taylor, (same spelling) his titles were local history around Bury St Edmunds in East Anglia. He works through a publisher. I publish independently and at the moment work exclusively in digital formats. I have plans to move into POD some time in the new year, again working independently.

I queried the situation with Smashwords who checked it out and reported back. Apparently there are no individual author pages on the Apple website and all publications by authors with the same name are listed together.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

What are you looking for?

New covers for Control Escape

   and What You Ask For 

Both stories went out with a rush cover job. Neither of them giving any insight into the action taking place behind the image. So over the summer I got my head behind it and worked on a new design. Both are now out there and should have reached the retailers with the new cover image.

Control Escape is a replacement for the the original. I believe it works much better. It certainly does for, me, I shall soon see if it does for the book

What You Ask For is new in the distribution channels outside Smashwords. So it may be the first glimpse some readers have had of the book, we'll see what happens here shall we. It has made the jump from being a free WIP to paid, $2.99. Until January 2 it has a 50% discount at Smashwords.
Enter AY63P at the the checkout.

Christmas Treats - offer extended

A couple of weeks to go and you're thinking about that satisfying read, the one that helps the dinner go down and keeps you turning the page. What You Ask For is now out on the premium channels, 

and at Smashwords, and to make the adjustment between a free work in progress and a paid download, there is a discount code for smashwords, when you get to the checkout enter the code AY63P (valid to 2 March 15) and get 50% off


50% off this Christmas

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Gone To Earth - up and running

...six degrees of separation crashed into his isolation and ran him down with a small world collision... 

NaNoWriMo 2014 entry Gone to Earth has just been published through smashwords, the fifth in the Grange Series, still a work in progress and free to download until the editing is complete. 

His past had been secrets and lies, changed names and identities piled one on top of another until he wasn't sure who he realy was. Then he made the choice, dropped out of his world and disappeared into the mean streets of a coastal port.

One more identity, this time his own choosing and superficial changes to his appearance. but it hadn't been enough. 

The face around the corner had caught his eye and seen straight through the disguise. It was a small world moment, no matter where you go, you'll see a familiar face, and not always the one you want to be seen by!

He needed and help and only one place he could turn to, but no guarantees they would help, without some form of trade. His intellectual property was the only thing left, and he set to work, building a bargaining chip and making sure it was tempting enough!

It was time to disappear again, but this time it had to be permanent, but permanent could be taken more than one way depending on how you were looking at the situation...

Stay out of sight...and stay alive?

Friday, 31 October 2014

That time again

Down to the last couple of hours local time, and NaNoWriMo starts again; The Obedience of Fools is on the back-burner for the next month and Gone To Earth starts tonight, taking the story of Control Escape beyond Arkwright's leap from the lightweight land Rover in Hull and picking up when he needs the assistance of The Grange once more...

and to everyone out there who's up for the challenge, good luck!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Almost that time of year!

It's coming around again, the nights are starting to draw in, the hours of daylight shrinking as the calendar clicks onward, counting down to the fateful moment, that quiet tension in the still of the night when thousands of excited faces wait in hushed expectation, watching, waiting for that shift of the hands or the flicker on the digital screen and the zeros line up.  A moment, one second long breaks the tension and the rush starts. Fingers held poised over keyboards, hesitating to mark the first keystroke, searching a mind suddenly choked with the rush of freedom. One word, the first of fifty thousand and the midnight strokes sweep across the globe drawing a wave of creativity in their wake. The race is on, minimum rules, a definite target and a deadline - 30, 50k, 0!

Up for a challenge, throw the rule book out of the window, prop the dodgy leg on the table with it, then throw yourself at the challenge. Tell a story, write they way you talk, witty, confident, engaging! let it rattle on to the page and when the midnight hands reach the end of day 30, pause, look at what's already there - and go for it!

You're first draft should be as good as the brilliant story you told the other night socialising with friends. You can do that off the top of your head, put it down on the page.
Believe in yourself, and others will follow suit, they will see and appreciate what you have to offer, and offer it to them. Don't let it be "One day..." any longer, seize the moment and start the journey, spend thirty days with your imagination off the leash and see where it takes you.

Leap into a new world on the page and build it as you go, meet the people who populate its landscape and bring them to life.

Get to know them, they may be around for a long time; they may have more stories to tell in the future...
It's easy to remember; Thirty days, Fifty thousand words, and you're responsible for your own excuses.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

On the straet where you live

There is only one daft question, at least that's what I've been telling people for years. It's the one you didn't ask, and went away not knowing the answer. It does occasionally put me on the spot, It happened a short while ago, two separate conversations curiously linked.

The first mentioned the seven gates of  Rotherham inferring some strange mystical quality, seven being that sort of number, Perfect and spiritual; (lots of things come in sevens - days of the week, deadly sins, pillars of wisdom, dwarves, stars in the sky, feel free to add to the list) and the second simply asked, with there being a number of gates in Rotherham what happened to the walls?

The answer unfolds part of the history of the landscape; Rotherham does have seven gates, (check it out on Google maps if you wish) Moorgate, Hollowgate, Wellgate, Doncaster Gate, Upper Millgate, Westgate, Bridgegate, but they are the names of streets in the town centre. Doncaster Gate heads out of the town in the direction of Doncaster for about two hundred yards and the suddenly switches to Doncaster Road and heads off across country. 

It's the Vikings, after their intital plundering raids across the North sea to sack and pillage some of them decided to stay and work the land. The Scandinavian influence in Yorkshire and other parts of the North is considerable and the older Anglo-Saxon references were replaced. So Straet (It's not a spelling mistake at the top of the page), we would say street, became gata - a way, and Moor Street is Moorgate, Bridge Street is Bridgegate, etc.

So why think the town had walls? It's easy to see a wall with an opening in it, say a field wall and the way in is by the gate, some would say through the gate. The opening in the wall is the gate, yes? Sort of, where the Vikings settled it's slightly different. 

Lets look at it from a more familiar location. York, the county town of Yorkshire is a mediaeval walled city (there is evidence of the Roman town - Eboracum - having walls) and the walls are largely intact. The four main entry points are Bootham Gate, Monk Gate, Walmgate and Micklegate, each one is straddled by a fortified tower, the Bar. The tower effectively bar-red the road and closed the gate. Incidentally, there are a quite a number of English and Welsh towns that had, or have the remains of town and city walls. 

Rotherham has no Bars, just gates, and in the past there may have been more than have survived. In the Fifteenth Century the College of Jesus; founded by Archbishop Thomas Rotherham stood on the present College street, and the street was known as Jesusgate. I think the Reformation changed that. The gates of Rotherham are part of the ancient street plan, most of them have been around for a couple of hundred years at least and may even stretch back as far as the Scandinavian settlement of Yorkshire in the eighth and ninth centuries. Rotherham was certainly established by then, The Domesday Book records it as Rodreham - the hamlet by the Rother in 1086. Attaching the suffix ham stopped before the eighth century, 

It can be said with reasonable confidence that Rotherham is an Anglo-Saxon settlement and came under the influence of the Vikings, hence the different street names, much earlier than that and the evidence becomes sketchy, almost non existent.

No walls, no bars, just a handful of gates, an echo of Rotherham's past and for me, fascinating words, 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Tools of the trade...

A couple of months ago I bought a keyboard on Amazon and posted a review, now and again I get a question asking about the device, a Perixx Periboard 805 Bluetooth keyboard.

I was looking for a more flexible replacement for a piece of kit I'd worked to death over the last five years. My use of portable electronics started with a Palm T/X PDA, linked to a Freedom Universal Keyboard; a full size folding Bluetooth keyboard. With five years of work under its belt it was showing its age and when I switched to Android phones and tablets I needed a replacement. I wanted a device that would keep the on-board keyboard display tucked out of sight and leave more of the screen available to see and work with.

The Freedom Keyboard worked with a dedicated driver tied to the Palm and in spite of numerous attempts I couldn't divorce the pair. Hence the scouring of the internet and computer stores for something more flexible.

I knew what I was looking for, it had to be small and lightweight, yet physically big enough to cope with the size of my hands. (My weakness in texting boils down to predictive text, small keys and large-ish fingers - the results can be cringe-worthy and hilarious by turns) It had to be adaptable enough to work with multiple devices, switching it from the phone to the tablet and back again was not an option.

Starting locally, a visit to the nearest Maplin's led me to Maplin Mini Bluetooth keyboard, by Cerulian Technology;  at 218 x 92 x 22mm ( 8 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 3/4 inches) and weighing 215g it was larger than I was ideally looking for. There is no hinge to make it more compact it will fit snugly into a bag.

The manufacturer claims a keyboard life of 10 million strokes and the device is well constructed and solid to the touch. The Bluetooth connection is straightforward with Android and Apple devices and once the pairing code has been entered on the keyboard the link is positive and with a quick response. The Full 78 key QWERTY layout is clear and angled slightly and four rubber feet give it a good grip while you type. The keyboard, lacking any hinge mechanism is solid enough for lap typing and has a working range of 5 metres between the keyboard and the connected device. The keys click slightly when they are struck but respond quickly and the effort required is not great, this makes the keyboard suitable for prolonged use; much easier and therefore more practical than using the on-board keyboard.

Powered by a Li-ion rechargeable battery with a considerable working life between charges and supplied with a retractable USB charging cable it retains its functions while being charged. The cable is a charging cable and cannot be used as a USB connection to a PC or laptop. The Cerulian is compatible with Apple iOS, HID and Android 4.4

Periboard 805 (Top)
Cerulian Bluetooth Keyboard

As an interim it was a reasonable buy, but not what I was really looking for, so the search continued on-line. That brought me to the Perixx Periboard 805. This was more like it; compact flexible,, and like the Cerulian, powered by a Li-ion battery. The Periboard is a Bluetooth device, and again, like the Cerulian cannot be used through a USB connection. The dimensions, folded, are 146 ( 290 opened) x 96 x 17mm and weighing 253g.

The Periboard is compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8, supports HID, Android up to 4.4, iOS and with IBM and compatible PCs.

It had what I was looking for; folding, Bluetooth, lightweight and with large enough keys to avoid Fat Finger, the rechargeable battery has a long working life between charges. The key strokes are responsive and comfortable, a keyboard for long bouts of writing, ideal for churning out the word count for a dissertation or a novel in relative comfort. There is no click, the sound of the keystrokes is soft making little noise at all. On the downside; there is no support behind the hinge so lap typing is not possible. The Periboard 805 needs a firm surface underneath. That aside, the advantages far outweigh that consideration. It is lightweight and compact enough to be genuinely portable. The folded dimensions make it roughly the same size as a Moleskine pocket notebook and about 50g heavier.
Moleskine notebook and Folded Periboard 805
Hooking up the device is straightforward, and pairing it with a tablet or smartphone takes no more than a few seconds. If lap typing is your thing, you should look at the Periboard 806. The outer case is designed so that the back slides under the keyboard and locks in position making it rigid enough torest your lap.

Choosing between the too, The Cerulian and the Periboard, comes down to portability the Cerulian is good, but lacking the fold it is too bulky for a pocket Good for a bag or a briefcase, but the folding Periboard has the edge. Genuinely pocket sized and portable.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Update:The Obedience of Fools

Just arrived at smashwords.com, the latest update of the 2013 NaNoWriMo entrant The Obedience of Fools, a work in progress free to download. Grab yours and keep up with the action!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Virtually real!

I like surfing the net, not just in an idle sort of way, but following a hunch to see what I can unearth chasing the connections. It is usually someone who offering a service, I want to know whether they are who they say they are.

Self-publishing on a tight budget makes you tread cautiously, and consider carefully anyone promising the deal you can't afford to miss that may be the one to run away from screaming loudly. When the alarm bells start jingling and you've read to the bottom of the page and noted the address; indulge your inner detective!

A couple of weeks ago Green Shore Publishing flashed on to the radar. Reading through the blurb and testimonials left a strange itch, and it needed a good scratch. I scratched away

A new start-up with a prestige sounding address, an office in the centre of a major city. On a street that has been there for centuries (Not difficult when some urban street plans are unchanged since the eighteenth century), and the property may have been in the same hands all that time. Inner City properties come with a price tag, higher rather than lower; so how?

Writer Beware posted a warning detailing the elements of the website that didn't up; the comments attached to the blog make interesting reading. The question cropped up, what is real, how much of what was on the screen was genuine, the whole set up bordered on the unreal, and the scratching revealed an answer to the start up question.

Was any of it real; the virtual office; a working space in a shared address, secretarial cover and mail forwarding; emails go direct. The postal redirect could be as basic as the clerical cover opening the mail, scanning it and emailing the scanned documents (A small publisher using this system would accept only email submissions) and the originals would be stored for a limited time or shredded depending on the individual arrangements.

Fiction is our business, the making it up stuff and no resemblance to the living or dead is grist to the creative mill but what happens when the people you are working with in the real world edge toward fiction. A prestigious address may be money in the bank, your money in their bank. Scratch away, type in the company name followed by "complaint" and look at the results. View it from any angle you can think of and add the results to your list. 

Check everything, work through the links, use all your tools and if you're curious about where they are, street view is a handy piece of kit. The little orange man can drop you on the street where they live and check out the neighbourhood. Unscrupulous, straight up, decent and honest, the hunch could
lead you to any of these. Tread carefully.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Muddy Waters

Amazon's much discussed letter to authors yesterday morning has received much comment for and against and probably been dissected more thoroughly than decency should permit. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the current situation I personally found the Amazon letter to be a carefully and craftily worded document. RJCrayton makes a valid point that a call to arms should be at the head of a two page document not at the bottom; if the subject doesn't grab the reader they may give up long before the end. The suggestion she makes that writing to authors was targeting the wrong group is interesting, proposing that it should have been aimed at readers.

David Gaughran re-posted a guest post by Ed Robertson from November 2012 his blog. The piece discusses the historical similarities between the arrival of the ebook; the introduction of the paperback at the outbreak of World War II and the curious case of the inflation adjusted price. Making that adjustment a paperback and an ebook cost roughly the same amount. Then came the gradually increasing price of paperbacks over the years and the growth of the conglomerate publisher.

Much of the discussion regarding the price of ebooks runs against the traditional publishers and their efforts to keep the prices high that discourages purchases. Amazon's letter puts the point based on a hypothetical price comparison and projected return from sales. Is the simple truth that being forced into a market grants some influence but really, when you strip everything away the best solution for them is to kill off the ebook and let the world slide back into the old ways of print and...nothing! So any tactic that reduces the popularity of the ebook is a useful one. The big problem; there are so many outlets; digital stores, distribution sites and individual websites providing an outlet for the digital version, and the print copy that any hope to control the situation by either the traditional corporations or Amazon is pointless. They must adapt to survive.

Traditional and Vanity, the establishment who decided what you can read, or the sub-par Vanity published. A market dominated by the big 5 surrounded by the minnows of the small publishers. The situation survived the introduction of the paperback because it was cheaper but still required the infrastructure of the traditional system, physical print and distribution with bricks and mortar sales, warehousing and bookstores.

This time it is different, a new format has arrived; stored as electronic data, portable and requiring no storage facilities, distribution network or bricks and mortar outlet. It isn't destroying the landscape, but changing it dramatically. Seismic shifts and tectonic upheavals are creating a new world and the independent publisher and author, often the same person  has a way of reaching the public unheard of less than twenty years ago.

Old alliances crumble and new ones are created, even with the untouchables of publishing. The big publishers and the Vanities - with Author Solutions topping that list and exploiting the newly forged links to further their activities. Unfortunately the hoped for positive influence of the traditional over the Vanities has failed to appear.

Paperbacks still need printing presses and the technology to put the economically viable short run, and print on demand in the hands of the small publisher and independent author is reality not science fiction! That is the world changing shift that cannot be ignored, and the technology cannot be uninvented!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Best Before

Smashwords Discount codes for Control Escape are due to expire at midnight on the Ist of August (that's midnight in California). Don't worry if you miss the deadline, Iceline is available free on all channels for new readers and there willl be news about Control Escape and the other Grange Stories soon. Editing What You Ask For is progressing well, sort of...

You can help me with something, do you have any experience of working with mailchimp, or any similar service? Drop me a line through the comments, I'm interested to discover more.


Saturday, 26 July 2014


Thirty, Fifty thousand, Zero; days, words and excuses respectively and the essence of NaNoWriMo, but what does it mean?

People ask me questions all the time, an intrinsic part of my daily life is answering questions, and some have to be given time to reach an answer. A friend (and a reader of The Grange Novels,) asked me earlier this year, what does NaNoWriMo mean to me?

A simple question and  harder than I thought!

The smashwords interview asks about my choice of eReader. I have a Kobo mini, a slim pocket sized device, inside a sleepcover and the most frequently read book is Chris Baty's "No Plot, No Problem," the guide to surviving NaNoWriMo. I read it at least once a year, especially in the late summer as preparatory reading.

NaNoWriMo means a lot to me, it's an unbridled release of creativity, a raucous adventure of clacking keys, word counts, hit and missed targets for the day and at the end of all the fun; 30 and fifty thousand completed with no excuses. It is about letting go, chucking the rules out of the window and having a ball; why do it if you don't enjoy it?

My writing breakout is encapsulated in NaNo WriMo; that stories can be written the way they are told; one shot, no rehearsal (no opportunity for a rubbish first draft!) With the essence of the idea in your head and letting it pour out. The ludicrous challenge to write a novel sized chunk with a high word count and a short time limit creating a built in deadline!

In less than a week the happy, and probably tired campers from Camp NaNoWriMo will be winding down after their literary excursions and some of them may be ready to start thinking about the November challenge. that's it; the challenge!

The landing gauntlet clutching a pen asks: can I - on top of everything else - face the prospect of writing fifty thousand words in thirty days and make no excuses - Just Do It!

I borrowed the title of my second NaNoWriMo winner from a quote attributed to the British fighter ace, Douglas Bader, as famous for being a double amputee as anything. He is quoted in the film biography "Reach For The Sky" saying "Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools." Portrayed as a man for whom things can be done; earlier in the story he argues that the Regulations may not have said he could fly, they didn't say that he couldn't; He flew!

NaNoWriMo sets the challenge; thirty/fifty thousand, and the zero excuses are down to me. It doesn't matter whether you say it can be done or not. I know it can! Roughly ten per cent of those who sign up reach the target on or before the deadline. It is down to me, am I self-motivated enough to plough furrow after furrow of words across the page or screen until the clock strikes midnight on the 30th?

Entered twice, finished twice (2012, What You Ask For; 2013, The Obedience of Fools) the extra element is can I do it again (2014, and no idea at the moment)? Sticking my neck out - am I going to take up the gauntlet for the third time. Fifty thousand words in thirty days breaks down to an average 1667 words a day. Of course I am.

Been there, done it, got the tee shirt(s);  what matters now is what comes next -another Tee shirt - got to go for it!

Now all I need is a story - no problem!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Interview with an author

Smashwords author interview, an idea from the people at Smashwords to bring the author and the reader together.

The first question came before I started the interview; how to answer?  Do I think about it for hours and come up with something deep and meaningful, or as a live interview, taking each question in turn and answering off the cuff. I stayed with the pre-set questions and answered off the cuff and published. There is an option to write your own questions, to unpublish, edit the answers and republish; effectively giving the chance of re-interviewing the author on  a regular basis. 

A couple of the questions made me think, asking me to reach back into the recesses of my memory for the first story I wrote and the first book that had a major impact; I tweaked the answers, I honestly don't remember the first story I wrote,and so many stories have made an impact it is difficult to choose the one which made the greatest.

Put something in front of me and I will read it, even the cereal packet at breakfast has been seconded as reading material. As a youngster I read very little fiction, apart from the weekly comics and Commando war stories (Kurt Langhers' name comes from a character in the Commando War Stories), Instead I devoured reference books and factual accounts. This may be why I prefer to write stories based in reality rather than science fiction, fantasy, or any other genre.

I was challenged to read a Mills and Boon romance after making disparaging comments and forced to admit I hadn't actually read one (Cautionary note; research first then open mouth). I was pleasantly surprised, a well crafted story in an enjoyable style. Judging by the number of romance novels sold and distributed through ebook channels the readers are not a community any writer would wish to hack off.

I digress, flying off at a tangent again. The upshot of the questions was a look at where The Grange came from, along with the inhabitants and visitors. The original idea was focused on an officially sanctioned security team based in the country house scenario, the shift to a freelance operation came slowly and by degrees.

The idea was kicked around and played with for the best part of twenty years before Iceline was written and back then Steel wasn't Steel and Josie was someone else too. Bill Jardine appeared with the house, and I really must find out how he came to be there. It feels like that sometimes, that the writing process is based on an interview with the characters, and every so often a new one appears, like a guest arriving for the week-end.

The Thirty Nine Steps, Casino Royale. Ice Station Zebra, Where Eagles Dare, The Eagle Has Landed are all part of a long list of books which have influenced me, and the authors; Ian Fleming, John Buchan, Alistair Maclean, and Jack Higgins. There are others, remembered for fragments rather than the whole story.

John Buchan's The Thirty Nine Steps is always a favourite, a simple plot of one man against the conspiracy with only his wits and stamina, unsure of who he can trust. I like the idea that he's a relatively ordinary man, given the period he may have had some military experience. Richard Hannay, a mining engineer had recently arrived from South Africa and grown tired of London, he is on the point of going back when his adventures begin. 

Jack Higgins is different, "The Eagle Has Landed" was his breakout. He was advised to allow his characters to tell the story, not force them to fit the plot.  "The Eagle Has Landed" was a massive success.

That idea: of letting the characters tell the story struck a chord with me. The first Grange Novel was the culmination of a long journey and arrived at a distinct way point (Twenty Five years service in post), and through a lot of forced planning and preparation, false starts and frustration. The more detailed the planning and preparation the greater the frustration. I was itching to get on with telling the story!

In NaNOWriMo terms I write by the seat of my pants, start at the beginning, usually with an end in sight and let the characters show me the way. Bare notes and jottings are the sum of my preparation, years of fighting the frustration ended in the local bookstore chatting about an interview with Philip Pullman. Who apparently admitted that he rarely planned his novels, and the one occasion he did the planning found he couldn't write the story because he had already done so. 

Pieces fell into place with a battered laptop and printer and the determination, or desperation that it was now or never happen kick started a four month dash through a hundred thousand words and the first draft was finished by the second week in December 2002.

I struggled for years, frustrated by the detailed planning everyone said was involved and  fighting the urge to throw it all away and sit down and write. I finally sat down, told the story and bounded through Iceline, and then I discovered NanoWriMo.

I'll talk about that another day...

Saturday, 12 July 2014

How do you read it?

What is your eReader of choice? One of the pre-selected questions in the Smashwords author interview. The simple answer is a Kobo mini; pocket sized - well, at least jacket pocket sized.

The not so simple answer depends on what I am doing and the device I am working with. If the cost of purchasing an eReader makes you hesitate before taking the plunge, look at what you  have in the electronic cupboard at home and see what will fit. The majority of the ereader software to  can be downloaded on to a variety of machines and will run with operating system and is available free.

I often  work on a 7 inch Acer Iconia tablet loaded the with software for Kobo, Kindle, Nook, Aldiko, 'txtr, FBReader and Diesel eReaders (the Diesel eBookstore and Sony readerstore closed March 2014) Most of them require an acccount; usually a simple process of creating an account name, adding an email and providing a password. With the exception of the Kindle, all are linked to sites where my books are available. As Iceline is permanently free they all have copy downloaded from Smashwords. 

Why install them all;  to find out what my book looks like and how it works with the different formats provided by Smashwords' Meatgrinder conversion process and  to discover how the book will look to you, the reader. I am converted to the electronic format. Why the variability of the font, changeable background colour and all the other options that are available makes the reading experience easier.

It's obvious from my profile photo that I wear glasses; my eyesight has never been brilliant and my optician insists that the small print is the same size as it always was!

That may be true, but my reality is difficulty reading the small print. Peering over the top of your glasses at something close to the end of your nose looks and feels wrong and this is where the eReader comes into it's own. The choice of font size, background colour, day or night setting all swing into gear and ease the process.

Print too small, enlarge it, change the colour and the contrast, and  change the settings from Day to Night to read in bed with the lights out. The illuminated screen of the eReader does change one of the great delights of childhood, sneaking a torch upstairs and hiding it under the pillow to wait until everyone is asleep and then dive into whatever volume is tucked away waiting. Keep reading until the batteries begin to fade and even shaking the torch won't make the bulb glow brighter.

It may have changed a childhood adventure; it has transformed my reading. The flexibility of the electronic format makes it a boon for anyone with less than perfect vision.

You can tailor the settings to suit your own comfort, bookmark page you are reading, suggest new titles to read and with the links to the right websites, connect you with titles that have been out of print for years.

The Kobo mini eReader is a no frills device designed for reading in daylight or under artificial light; the Kobo software download on a tablet or smartphone has all the bells and whistles you might want.

Take the plunge; find one that works for you on your device and enjoy the experience.
Have fun and find some great writing from talented writers!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Myths and Legends.

How much of what we know, or think we know about writing is down to a strange communal memory. Somewhere way back in the mists of time, or just a couple of years ago it was said that such and such was true, maybe.

The strongest myth is that self-published books are by default of inferior quality to traditionally published. That may not be a given truth anymore, Yvonne Hertzberger made a comment to a blog post on Indies Unlimited that the standards of traditional publishers are falling, and now expect authors to arrange their own editing and proofing. Leading to a decline in standards and the likelihood of sub-par volumes hitting the bookstore shelves.

There are three particular strands that intrigue me; the first draft is always rubbish; the first book is always bad and that the longer you spend on a book the better it is.

Taking the last first; it is true that Iceline went to publish ten years after I sat down to write, so I could say that I spent ten years working on it. Sorry, honesty outbreak coming up; nothing like that;  a year, maybe a year and a half actually working on the manuscript, editing and proof reading, then it sat on file for a couple of years before I had another look at it.

Working in a literary environment it is easy to take things literally, we forget that we also spend our time making it up, fiction is not lying it's more about being  creative with the truth.

By all means spend the time polishing but bringing out the best needs one crucial piece of knowledge; knowing when to stop. It is as easy to under polish as it is to over polish. Taking  a moment to stand back, or put the manuscript back in the file may be the moment that reveals the polish is at its best, the lustre at its most luminous.

The first draft is always rubbish, sorry, that's rubbish. We all have a natural talent for storytelling, it is a basic human trait, the variation comes with the degree and the ability to entertain that comes with it. Think about your favourite subject, how, long can you talk about it for? Five, ten, fifteen minutes, half an hour or can you rabbit for hours; long beyond the point where you're listener has crawled into a room somewhere in the back of the mind until it blows over.

That story is always a good one, thinking as you go and supplying the details as the story unfolds: now apply that to your first draft. The beauty of NaNoWriMo for me is the release of the mental brakes and the constant looming of the deadline versus the word count forces me to think on my feet and allow the story to develop a natural flow, often surprising myself in the process.

Writers talk about the characters taking over, of pushing the story in a way not envisaged at the planning stage. Who are they, where do they come from, but how often do we ask where are they going. Once they are released into our conscious world, where might they go from here?

With an inherent ability for crafting a fascinating tale on the go, why should we ever accept that our first draft is rubbish. There is a good solid argument for making the first draft the best you can; it reduces the amount of subsequent  work required to achieve the desired level of polish.

The first book is always a bad one, OK, if we accept that the first draft is bad (No!) then the first draft of the first book must need work far beyond our capabilities to make the grade, whatever that or the grade setter might be! Sorry guys, I don't buy it!

Are any of these myths true? Do they hold a truth within them, or are they simply retold stories about how the odds are stacked against the independent and self published. Fairy tales to frighten the children and make them behave, to follow tradition blindly or the bogeyman will get you!

So what are your myths; the odd stories that tap into your psyche when you switch on and attack the keyboard?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


The World Cup is well on its and Wimbledon is close to finding this  year's champion and to prove that great things come in threes.  Smashword summer/ winter promotion has just kicked off. From now until the end of July Control Escape is half price with the code SSW50.

Check out the other titles on offer this month at www.smashwords.com

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Mr Angry

Mr Angry was a character on the BBC Radio DJ Steve Wright's afternoon show some years ago, one of a number of characters who would respond to various prompts in the format of the show; his was a half throttled voice on the edge of screaming, the pent up rage evident through the strain on his vocal chords, and then there is the classic scene from Fawlty Towers; John Cleese beating his broken down vehicle and pouring out his anger and frustration at life's persistent little defeats.

I didn't become that angry, but reading a writing magazine article a few weeks ago did notch up the blood pressure. The continuing discussion about the merits of taking the self-publishing route occasionally throws out some odd remarks and one touched a raw nerve. I closed the magazine and stuck it back on the shelf with a few uncharitable thoughts running through my head. The comment, oh, yes, the comment was that the self-published independent author had more to prove than the traditionally published;  frankly the remark pissed me off.

So what do we have to prove; that working by ourselves or with a smidgeon of carefully selected professional assistance paid for out of our own pockets we can produce a book of the same quality as a multinational conglomerate with a huge workforce and  a marketing budget that looks like a telephone number. Duh, yes, that's the challenge thrown down by the Trads, and a lot of Self-Pubs do just that.

There is no point the traditionally published being high minded about standards and quality when they're already dining with the demons of Vanity, sidling up and buying them out, taking a cut of the harvest and shoring up their defences against the sea change taking place all around them.

OK, I keep banging on about smashwords, and why not, they've helped me reach further than I thought possible when I published Iceline almost two years ago, and I have a great respect for Mark Coker and the staff of smashwords. I read his indie author manifesto when he posted it at the smashwords blog and agreed with it, all of it.

The sea change is startlingly simple, the shift has nudged traditional publishers into partnerships they would have avoided with a ten foot barge pole a handful of years ago because the old gatekeepers have been bypassed by the Internet.

The Internet revolution in self-publishing  has changed the landscape as much as the introduction of the printing press. Small independents are laying the foundations of more than a game changing situation. This is digging up the sacred turf and carting it away then dismantling the stadium and rebuilding it, and that is what they are doing. Independent authors/publishers are doing the groundwork of a whole new way of reaching the public and giving them what they want; good quality writing, equal to any.

This is happening and the roll of Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking, John Locke and others is the proof. The independents with a brand and a readership in place, the prospect of more books on the way, with an established franchise that can be marketed and backed by an already existing word of mouth promotional network spreading the word makes a better sounding investment than the old method of taking a chance. Let's be fair, if picking a bestseller was easy we would all be doing it, and the truth of it to quote Mark Coker in an interview with LateNightLibrary  "is like throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks."

Not the best method of picking your next big thing, and the greatest shift between the independent authors and the traditional is cost effective print on demand and distribution, a way forward for the self-published without the snares of Vanity publishing. The manuscript stored electronically and printed when a copy is needed may generate slower sales but without the constant jostle for shelf space the factor of time over sales dissipates.

Does any of this mean that the independent author has more to prove than their traditional counterpart? No. absolutely not. The challenge; traditional or self-published, bought in store or delivered by post, is that the end product should be of the finest quality across the board.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

One degree more...

I briefly touched on the labyrinthine links between vanity presses and the publishing houses dotted around the world and the Internet in Come into my parlour...  and this last week has seen Writer's Digest break their connection with Author Solutions and their own imprint Abbott Press. David Gaughran who has spent considerable blogging time and energy on the Author Solutions situation comments on recent developments. Both sides are being cagey, but as David describes in his blog website links have already been taken down.

A small step in the right direction and veering away by degrees, rather than closing in. There is still a long way to go.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

To market, to market...

To market to market went my Uncle Jim,
somebody threw a tomato at him, 
tomatoes are usually soft to the skin, 
this bugger hurt - it was still in the tin.

One of those daft ditties that you hear in the school-yard and they hang around in the back of your mind, waiting for the prompt to pop out, and the nudge came thinking about marketing.

It does what it says on the tin, a wood preservative manufacturer used it recently and a variation is floating around as a verbal guarantee that something is genuine; it is what it says on the tin.

Marketing is not the favourite subject for many independent authors, and probably for a number of traditionally published writers who market their own works, but it is important. Pushing the novel to a point where it is noticeable. David Gaughran has a good piece about discoverability. Readers don't have a problem discovering books they want to read, the real headache is finding the time to read the massive list downloaded. So marketing must be about pushing the book to the top of the stashed list of down loads racked up for the days on the beach, lazy summer evenings with a nice wine, good beer, whisky, coffee or your personal choice of favourite beverage and nibbles.

Website and Blog links are straightforward, have a look  at cheekyseagull.co.uk  particularly the skyscrapers on the book pages. I have reduced the clicks to reach the point of purchase to a minimum. It takes a little while, but the effort is worth it. 

One of the links goes to Feedbooks.com, a source of traditional and self-published books. For the self-published author the deal is you can publish your book but it must be free.  With a selection of books available through retailers and toying with the idea of setting one at free on all channels this can be a useful site to add to the list. (Don't put your only book permanently to free, but if you have a series one offered as a taster may be worth considering.) Newly published novels are featured for a month after release; easy for yourself and the readers to find. The results can be reassuring, Iceline was posted in the New Year and in the first month netted over five hundred downloads. 

The analytics include a world map with downloads pinned by country and number. The daily download graph isn't 100% reliable, but a bit of simple math will give you a reasonably accurate total. They give an interesting picture of where a traditional British thriller was being picked up and enjoyed. 

Publicity will involve press releases,  (list of free PR sites here) ask the question and a host of search engine responses will leave you stuck for choice, an alternative might be to ask around on your favourite blog site and see what they can offer. A successful author is as good a place as any to start looking, the press release will have played it. The hook, well baited is what grabs the attention and we've already seen what such a hook can do to the unwary author looking to publish. If the horror stories are making you hesitate about taking the plunge, remember, you're not. There are hundreds, thousands of writers who have been where you are now and...jumped in!

"There is no stigma to success" is RjCrayton's call in her recent blog on publishing, a self-published author who enjoys success will be hunted by the traditional publishers (You are probably already familiar with the roll call of Hocking, Howey, Locke and others). She also comments that "There is a stigma to slow sales in traditional publishing," but definitely not in self-publishing. As a self-published author you have control, time is your ally not an opponent. The dearth of immediate post publication sales will not see your work remaindered or pulped.

There is time to reflect on what worked and what didn't, and the marketing doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. I carry business cards, contact details on the front, book links and a discount code on the back. Vistaprint has some good designs and ideas, or you can upload your own image or book cover. Originally supplying business cards they now offer a range of materials. Brian Marggraf offers a few pointers and an encouraging post about guerrilla marketing, a low key approach fuelled by your ingenuity.... after all, you are the best advertisement for your book.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

UPDATE The Obedience of Fools

New chapters have gone up this afternoon, taking the story a further.. The Obedience of Fools at smashwords.com, help yourself, it is a work in progress and free to download. Feedback welcome! Drop me a line and say hello...

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Read all abaht it, latest

Discoverability is talked about as a difficulty for indie authors. Blogs and forums chat about pushing up the rankings, OK, now there are three ways to discover the Cheekyseagull website;  cheekyseagull.co.uk; cheekyseagull.net try one try all; they will point you in the right direction. Stop by cheeksyeagull.netand have a browse, drop me a line and let me have your feedback...

The new domain .uk came online on the 10th of June and cheekyseagull.uk was waiting in the wings to make an entrance and heralded by the biggest welcome sign in the world at Heathrow Airport "Welcometothe.uk" made an entrance. Among the first to take up the shorter domain name was the tech savvy Stephen Fry, entertainer and twitter legend, and this brings dear old Britain into line with our continental cousins in Germany (.de) France (.fr), and others as Stephen so delightfully points out, we are all three key strokes closer.

Getting it together,

I want to go back a bit, and take another look at the digital formatting. Putting the book into shape before you upload it, and maybe even knocking off the rough edges yourself to create the ePub file can be useful and there are a variety of options. Microsoft Word is the default for many uploads, but how you create that word document doesn't have to involve Microsoft, Open Source software is a useful asset to any writer's toolbox, and not just for the writing.

Open Office is a full office productivity suite, available as a free download able to produce Microsoft compatible documents and with the Write2epub extension the document can then be converted to an ePub.

Sigil and Calibre, offer ePub generation and conversion respectively, Sigil is an epub editor with the option of working with HTML or WYSIWYG depending on how comfortable you feel. Unsure of how to use it, video tutorials by Unruly Guides can be seen on YouTube, step by step instructions on how to work with Sigil, set this alongside Calibre and you have a pair of useful tools. Calibre enables you to manage the formats of ePub and convert it to specific types compatible with ereading devices, both are available as free downloads.

The manuals are available, but work with the manual and the video, put the two together and take time to work out the glitches, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Being an independent is about regaining control over what happens to your work,it does not mean you have to do everything yourself. Not unless you really want to; there are artists out there in social media who are looking for an opportunity to be creative, and among them are some amazingly talented people.

Give yourself a break, them too...you never know where it will lead you!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tread carefully...

The Amazon-Hachette negotiation has occupied a lot of screen space over the last few weeks, pretty much since I started slotting a few bits and pieces together about how you might get your work out to an appreciative public.

The situation regarding the self-publishing arms of the big traditional publishers show them in close formation with the Vanity Presses, and with Author Solutions, owned by Penguin Random House in a pincer movement to grab the best via the traditional path and shuffle the rest towards the shearing sheds of the Vanities.

The door to self publish remains open.Yes; despite every negative thought and dismal sage advice about how many, or few, self-published books sell well; your readers are waiting, but you need to be careful. I've loosely touched on the issues regarding Vanity Press in general; and Author Solutions and its many subsidiaries in particular XLibris. (Xlibris.co.uk is the local branch of this multinational conglomerate) and a couple of days ago I nipped across to David Gaughran's blog Let's Get Visible and his latest piece The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1 The numbers, looks at the methods and figures involved in the operation of this scammy company and how they saturate the internet with cleverly baited traps to snare the unwary writer. Thankfully, the majority of writers who stumble on the shiny new toy adverts look deeper and see what lurks beneath the surface, but not all. Some go down that road, at their peril and great cost. The way the adverts are designed and located is to catch the writer before they look further and find the many stories with unhappy endings at the hands of this Hydra like company.

I touched on the same point a couple of weeks ago in Come into my parlour... with my variation of the six degrees game, clicking the links and finding Author Solutions long before the count reached six. It was where I found the adverts, pumped out through GoogleAds, and sliding onto the screen with the Oxford English Dictionary and the Gutenberg Project among so many others that seemed unexpected at first, put then the GoogleAds follow their own track. It's the saturation level that is startling, the number of places the ads must be placed to proliferate at this level. David Gaughran explores this too.

The trick is to be very wary, it is a cliche that anything that seems to be too good to be true usually is, yet the independent author has tricks and traits tucked away. Observations picked up by Jim Devitt over at Indies Unlimited earmarking five distinctive traits found in many indie authors, have a look for yourself, and take them to heart, work with your imagination, check where you are in your journey towards publication and see what's around the corner you were going to walk past. Check out a website,, and then look at a handful covering the same area.

I am currently working  on the draft revisions of What You Ask For, as well as completing The Obedience of Fools, and further down the list is putting Iceline into print, and the search is to find a way of doing this without breaking the bank.

Starting with 'book publishing' as the search parameters, as simple as that, and a number of options pop up, some are more helpful than others. A few offer a free quote (this may involve providing an email address, not always) based on the size, the type of book, number of pages, hard or soft cover and the sort of finish you want on the cover. The prices on the quotes can be wildly different but they give an idea of what price you can pass on the book to the customer and calculate your return on the investment.

The precise details vary from printer to printer, depending on whether they put out print run or print on demand. A UK based website that offers print on demand and distribution is FeedARead. A publishing platform funded by Arts Council England where you can sign up and publish for free, have it available to purchase through the site or for a distribution fee make it available elsewhere. Click the link and have a look for yourself; yes, there is a fee involved to cover the administration costs to set up your book for distribution. The end product is a good quality paperback, well made and a match for bookshop quality. FeedARead is available to writers of all nationalities, not just UK based.

Similarly, Completely Novel, is a print on demand service offering a variety of options for the publishing author, well laid out website with a free quote option and a series of reasonably priced packages starting with Free (and able to sell through the Completely Novel website) and monthly subscriptions offering access to distribution on line and through Bricks and Mortar stores. The finished product is good quality, suitable for a bookstore. The benchmark is that degree of product quality and the reader, quite rightly, should expect no less a quality product from the Independent author than any other source.

Shaun Allan over at Flip and Catch is looking at Print On Demand and brings CreateSpace, Lulu, Ingram Spark and Lightning Source to the list. As with FeedAread and Completely Novel each one has its own criteria for accepting a novel and adding it to thei list.

CreateSpace is part of Amazon, offering a Print On Demand platform for authors and content creators in other media and offers distribution through Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, CreateSpace eStore and ebook for Kindle, and working with on-demand printing, means that your book is always available and ready to ship. I am hoping to explore the details offered by the print on demand companies (If you have any information that might be useful why not drop me a line either through the comments box here or through the contact at www,cheekyseagull.co.uk, I would love to hear from you,) then put the comparisons together in one place as an easy reference. That may take a couple of weeks, in the meantime I'll stick with my comparisons with the packages offered by the Vanity Press.

Now and again I'm stuck with the idea that writing the novel is the easiest bit, the words flow out on to the screen, paper or whatever medium you are using, they are shuffled around in the edit and proof-reading, then after final polishing the novel is formatted and published (over-simplified, but you gett the drift). Then comes the marketing, finding places to post and generally get the word out there letting the world know that your latest work is heading their way. Not as much fun as writing, but the hard work can pay off...play with your ideas, use the imagination that created your book and see where it can take you.

Dip your toe into the marketing pool and paddle around...

Game-Changer for eBook Retail...

 It took me a couple of days to pick this up, but the possibilites for author to reader contact may be about to change dramatically Smashwords: Apple's New iOS 8 is Game-Changer for eBook Retail...: Yesterday Apple unveiled iOS 8 , the new Apple operating system upgrade that will come out this fall. Buried in a slide during the live ... this is one to have a look at!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Competitive edge...

David Gaughran, author of "Let's Get Digital", on the question of discoverability and the reality of competition in the publishing world today. Well worth a look at...

Makes you wonder who really are the bad guys, Amazon may be a colossus astride the world, but is it the evil empire some make it out to be?

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Getting it out there....

The numbers game, playing the numbers game, statistics, data analysis, all numbers to be juggled in the process of getting the book out there, and in the middle of it all a fixed number, as immutable as if carved in stone. Our book's identity in a 13 digit code.

A humble stock control number, the SBN, developed for WH Smith Limited and others in the mid-1960s by Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin. The system was adopted by the International Standard for Organisation (ISO) in 1970 as a 10 digit number (the original 9 digit number was used  in the UK until 1974 and could be converted to 10 by adding '0'), the 10 digit iSBN was replaced on the 1st January 2007 by the 13 digit sequence to make it compatible with the European Article Number (EAN).

Unique to each edition or variation of a publication; paperback, hardback and ebook all possess a separate individual code, later editions may share an ISBN.

The ISBN is the key to distribution, it allows an edition to be located, ordered and shipped, ISBNs are issued through specific agencies; in the UK ISBNs are provided by Neilsen Book and Bowker carries the same responsibility for the US.

Books sold through Kindle and Amazon display an ASIN, (Amazon Standard Identification Number) having an ISBN is not a requirement;  where a book has an ISBN the 13 digits will be the same,the ISBN becomes the ASIN, other companies may supply an ISBN as part of the agreement. Smashwords offers this to all authors who distribte through the company, and it is a prerequisite for inclusion on some of the channels that Smashwords distributes to. Generally, for any book to be fed into the distribution system then an ISBN is a must.

A note about the ISBN at Smashwords; Smashwords is a ebook distributor, not a publisher, however because the ISBN is obtained  through them and they have purchased it from Bowker, Smashwords is listed as the publisher with Bowker in the US. A technical point which is explained in their agreement with you. Smashwords recognise you, the author of the work as the publisher.

What are the options for digital formatting and distribution?

The ebook can be formatted and uploaded to individual ebook suppliers following their own instructions and requirements, or an aggregator can be used.

Amazon, with the Kindle can reach wherever Amazon goes and the book ordered from the Kindle bookstore, there are occasions when a book ordered through Kindle cannot be downloaded because of territorial restrictions. Certain books may be available in the US and Canada, but not the UK and Ireland, depending on where the Kindle was registered.

Instructions on to get the book on Amazon can be found at Kindle Direct publishing and the instructions to help you are in How to publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing and the software for device compatible Kindle can be downloaded, so you can check out the end result.

Smashwords works through its own site and by feeding books selected for the premium catalogue to a list of ebook retailers; Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Overdive, Flipkart, Oyster and Scribd are on the list. Smashwords has its own criteria explained in the Smashwords Style guide. Both available as free downloads.

Fomatting KDP and Smashwords takes a couple of hours, and you must follow the instructions, don't be tempted to skip forward or miss anything out and the end result will be a file ready to upload; Kindle requires a filtered HTML and Smashwords asks for a cleaned up MS word Doc.file (Not a Docx.).

Once uploaded Smashwords feed the doc file into their Meatgrinder and formatted files for most common e-readers come out the other end and the book can be ready to purchase on the site within half an hour of upload. Kindle takes longer, but you can expect the book to be on Amazon within twenty fours hours.

So the book is out there, jostling for position with its own ISBN, waiting for the reader, hungry for entertainment...and the downloads begin...

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Hachette Job...?

A lot of time and effort has been spent over the last week or so discussing the current discussions between Amazon and Hachette with a number of viewpoints being aired, David Gaughran explores the situation on his blog here  from the point of view of the publishing house; Hachette is one of the biggest publishers in the market and Amazon. Mark Coker at Smashwords here considers the impact the outcome may have on independent authors. A main point is the use of the agency model where the publisher sets the price of the book, the model used by Smashwords in agreement with its distribution channels giving the choice of price to the author/publisher.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Definitely a must read, if you love writing...

Anne's Blog  posted in the last few minutes: read it as a reader, and a writer
making the case for doing it yourself, with passion.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

How Much..?

Cost and Value; inextricably linked but often separated by a huge gulf. add up the figures and the cost stares you in the face, but the value of a thing?

Cynthia Polutanovich explores her decision to self-publish on her blog in an eloquent expression of the value of her work, and the personal investment in the process of writing a novel. Read it for yourself, I found her words striking and evocative.

There will always be someone prepared to take your money. Vanity Publishing is a sweetly set trap for the unwary and reminds me of the child catcher in Ian Fleming's story "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," Sneaking around the town enticing the children into captivity with promises sweets and treats.

One of the accusations levelled at the Vanity Presses, and with some degree of truth is that they will publish anything regardless of the quality,and the bill can be substantial. You have to scratch the surface, check beyond the first link and weigh the pros and cons, and balance it against why you want to publish.

A frequently asked question on Silverwood books website;  I'm publishing my book to make a profit - is that a good idea?
Answer: Probably not... there is more to the answer that follows, but the opening remark sums up the attitude of many Vanity Publishers. They will take the money, rack up the bills and publish. The reputation as money mills churning out sub-standard products is justified. Personal experience of a purchase from AuthorHouse revealed the sections offered as a sample proof read and copy edited, and the rest of the story untouched. A serious disappointment, the story itself was good and the ideas explored were genuinely interesting but the final production values were so low the book was difficult to read.

Authors are becoming more aware of the pitfalls of Vanity publishing, but the Vanity Presses themselves are shifting their tack and re-branding themselves:Partnerships, Publishing Service Providers, Author Support Services; are a few examples.

The long and the short of it; a Press that expects the Author to stump up the money to  publish is a Vanity Press, even the small independent press working on the traditional model will take the risk; that is the role of the publisher, to take a risk with their investment in the author, publish and promote their work and the see a return on the investment. The cost to the publisher is financial, but also the value of their reputation plays a part.

Reputation can be worth money in the bank, and yet it is incredibly fragile. Taking the decision to self-publish, ignoring the tempting offers of the Vanities to do it all for a price, you put everything on the line. The cost will be your own, and the price will be set by how you value your work. If you care, it will be the best you can do yourself  or working alongside proofreaders and editors you are prepared to trust with your creation.

Doing it for yourself is a daunting decision and there are things that every writer struggles with, proof reading and editing, cover design, and formatting the book for print or ebook and with those aspects finding a good editor and a reliable proof-reader are important.

You've finished the text, the book exists  and the copyright is yours, the moment you create the work the copyright comes into existence, in the United kingdom useful information can be found at UK Copyright Service, where you can register your copyright, but as the site explains there is no legal requirement to register, the copyright is yours - a section known as the learning centre offers information on a variety of aspects to do with copyright and a common copyright questions section. The site contains a broad compass of references to copyright law in the UK and the various international treaties dealing with the subject, including when and where to use the © symbol. Copyright is a way of protecting your investment in the created work, and as mentioned earlier is there when the work is created. Registration is voluntary, but one of the strongest assets to identify the association between the writer and the work is through the ISBN number, but more of that later.

The question of profitability, the question answered with probably not earlier on, is a matter of balance, how many items will you have to sell before the books break even and move into profit. The initial outlay is significant here, and the more significant the outlay the harder it will be to reach break even, or move beyond it. Self-publishing is about finding the most economical way and minimising the expense thereby reducing the number of books to be sold to pass the break-even point. It is the most important aspect in any successful business, and the way forward is to regard writing as your business, and approach sales and distribution with that in mind. Research your options, look beyond the gloss and see what lies behind.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Smashwords to Distribute 250,000+ eBooks to txtr

Smashwords: Smashwords to Distribute 250,000+ eBooks to txtr: Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with txtr, an ebook retailing and e-reading platform based in Berlin. txtr operates ebook store for Foyles iconic independent UK based bookstore and two European mobile networks

Smashwords and OverDrive to Bring 200,000+ Indie eBooks to 20,000+ public libraries.

Smashwords: Smashwords and OverDrive to Bring 200,000+ Indie E...: Imagine if your indie eBook was purchasable by thousands of public libraries around the globe.  Now imagine no more. Smashwords announced a deal with Overdrive, the world's largest library eBook platform.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Come into my parlour..

Everything has a price, the bill will drop through the letterbox, and hope the total won't send the Bank Manager into a faint when the  balance drifts southward and the ink turns red. A situation  exacerbated by involvement with the Vanity Publishers. Adding up the figures had me wondering how it was done, then a little game began to emerge, whenever I land on a web page I scan the sidebars and skyscrapers, reading the links. then see where they go.  It became apparent very quickly that a lot of them would take the writer seeking publication to one or other of the Vanity Presses offering their services. The clicks rarely reached six, three or four was more likely. The adverts cropped up everywhere, they were almost unavoidable. What stopped me, a natural caution and not having that amount of money available.

The biggest,  which includes Author Solutions, see their authors as customers, and the lifetime value” of an author relationship to generate $5,000 for the company ( £2950)). Even in "partnership" with the smaller companies , the figures can climb into the thousands before the job is finished. Check the websites for yourself, and play around with the figures. Subsidiaries of AuthorSolutions, including AuthorHouse and Xlibris offer a range of virtually identical packages but not at the same; the basic package at xlibrispublishing.co.uk and authorhouse.co.uk  differ by £100 ($170). 

The question remained, faced with the price tag of the packages and the additional fees that creep on to the balance sheet what are the options available. Consider the basic package from one of the Author Solutions brand, and then look at possible alternatives with the constraints of a tight budget in mind. Use the imagination that created your book to launch it on to the world.

A friend who studied film and video recalls a tutor who explored the idea of the low budget, no budget movie; so how about we apply the idea to our publishing adventure.

First, the package;

Paperback availability
eBook availability, interior design
Custom full colour cover,
Electronic galley,
Paperback author copy,
Complimentary worldwide availability through Ingram distribution
Digital formatting and Distribution
Professional Marketing consultation
Books in print registration
Author Learning Centre 12 month subscription
UK Copyright
Image insertion (10)
Paperback package books (1)
Book stubs (10)
Google and Amazon search programme

The list above is available for £499 ($847), and no mention of copy editing (at XLibris a reasonable length novel of 86,000 / words is charged @ 1.1 pence per word  and chalks up a tab for £946/$1590) or proof reading? Add it to the basic package and it starts pushing the numbers up; unless you want to do it yourself.

So what if we do the whole job or as much as we can ourselves, outsource where we need help? Dismantle the list, work out what we need and price up an alternative.

Friday, 9 May 2014

How Do You Do It?

The basic question for any task, anything that is new and unknown, the knowledge of how to do it is critical, sounds pretty obvious, and it is, but what if the way is confused and deliberately obscured?

This summer, August 18, will be my second anniversary as a published author. That was when Iceline held the front page at Smashwords, Control Escape followed it in the early hours of the following morning.

Finding my way to Smashwords and their distribution system was not straightforward, a chance discovery while searching for a book, and then came the dithering, frequent visits to the site until I took the plunge and signed up. Part of the decision to step into the world of Independent Publishing.

The constantly changing landscape of publishing over the past few years has left old definitions blurred and broken and traps baited with promises and sweet words, tantalising images await the eager and the unwary. 

Now and then I'll pass the time surfing, clicking links to see where they go and what is at the other end, and the results are sometimes intriguing. The link usually travel between sites involved in publishing and writing. 
Traditional publishing is often described as being in a state of chaos, unsettled and in retreat from the battalions of newly liberated authors and publisher advancing across the Internet.

In less than ten years publishing has transformed itself and unlikely alliances have been formed, the oddest bedfellows now snuggle up against the cold winds of change. 

Traditional publishers and Vanity Presses now work hand in hand. David Gaughran at Lets Get Digital catalogues the links and Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware chronicles  the misadventures of one of the biggest vanity publishers, AuthorSolutions. The tales told by disappointed authors are many and varied, and yet there must be a good number for whom the experience has been beneficial. It piqued my curiosity and I began clicking the links, playing a game similar to the six degrees of separation, what intrigued me was how in the face of the scare stories why anyone would choose that route to publication.

The links gave me a clue, seldom did the number reach six before the name of AuthorSolutions or one of its many subsidiaries or partners appeared, often tucked into the copyright notice at the foot of the page, and with an email contact link occupying much of the page above.

www.findyourpublisher.com/indie_book_publishing/ the AuthorSolutions website invites you to step into their parlour and asks the question "But I have to pay to get published." Further investigation revealed the price tag being asked of the hopeful author, inviting the customer to  throw significant wedges of money at their favourite project. The traditional mode of publishing where the agent sells the author to the publisher and the publisher takes the risk has shifted and the new alliances invite the author to take the risk, and when the sales indicate it is worth taking the chance then the self-published author is snapped up.

There is another way, where the independence is real, and the pleasure and challenge of publishing falls on the shoulders of the writer.

Lines and definitions are blurred, but underneath it all, the changes and the  shifting  landscape, independence is alive and kicking. Taking the whole thing on their shoulders are new author/publishers, often working on  a tight budget where the price tag of the vanity publishers steers them  along another track. to me, these are the true independents and exploring how to do it without breaking the bank is part of the challenge