Saturday, 29 October 2016

Sales and glitches

While running down the tweets on The FALL, I noticed a couple of interesting links for self-published authors. If you are considering which way to go when publishing your book, then this could be of interest.   It provides the lowdown on what you need, what to expect and better still, lists of what kind of exposure you will get from places like Createspace and Smashwords. Here's the link :

If, like me, you have been watching your Amazon monthly sales reports and wondering what is going on, then here's the link for you:

There are lots of theories as to why even top authors are finding their sales figures dropping, but no conclusive answers as yet. Many suspect a glitch in Amazon's tracking system, or worse, think the company has altered the algorithms to suit different parties.

Another article that every aspiring author should read is behind the third link. Does price matter, does length matter? Do reviews help? All sorts of information gathered together in one place. 

It is an education to read the articles, including the comments section. Get yourself a coffee, sit down with an hour or so to read and inwardly digest what they say.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Poldark argument

There is a lot of discussion at the moment on the so called “Rape scene” in the tv drama Poldark. There seems to be a split in the perception of the scene by viewers, with one segment of the comments disliking it and panning the BBC for showing it and others who thought it a fair depiction of the way in which long thwarted love between two people will suddenly erupt – especially when the woman is going to marry the man who has beggared you and is your greatest enemy.

The book, written in the sixties/seventies, has not been given the same treatment. Nor has the previous tv adaption which featured Robin Ellis. I feel sure there have been other rapes, some more violent – the Forsyth Saga, The Onedin Line, Daniel Deronda to name but a few. Watching historical drama with the mindset of modern times is never going to work. The lowly position of women in the 1790s has to be considered and understood. Men ruled, and that cannot be changed without changing history.

So many things are not pc now that it is difficult to say what we think without alienating somebody, somewhere. It strikes me as rather odd that the recent 50 Shades Books and films can be so popular when the subject matter is so close to rape (even if she did sign a consent form!) and that women now drool over pictures of half-naked men – exactly the behaviour they so hated when men drooled over pictures of half-naked women. Do as you would be done by seems a better maxim to follow.

The book was written in the era of the bodice ripper, which was once so popular and is now spoken of as trash. One of the themes of romance writing back then was that what began as rape could and often did transform into something better when the heroine realised that she could give in and enjoy what followed. Now it seems we are told that subjection, obedience and pain add to the delight of sex. The world is a weird place, but fortunately, most things pass away and are but as smoke on the wind.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Ebook sales fall

It seems Ebook sales declined by 2.4% in 2015, the first drop in numbers of books sold in this medium for the “big five” publishers since the digital age began.

According to the Bookseller, ebook sales slid as follows:-
Penguin Random House by 0.4%
Hachetteby 1.1%
HarperCollins (excluding Harlequin Mills & Boon by 4.7%
Pan Macmillan by 7.7%
Simon & Schuster by 0.3%

Slowed growth rate in ebooks is attributed in part to the publishers’ shift to agency pricing for ebooks and the fact that they have increased ebook prices.

Self-published ebooks are making a difference, too, by taking market share from the bigger publishers. According to a survey last year, self-published ebooks account for anything between £58m and £175m

In a November report, it claimed the big five account for 31% of all ebooks sold on, while self-published authors have reached 26%.

Read Alison Flood’s article
Wednesday 3 February 2016

I can add that the Bookseller does not consider the effect of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited system on individual authors. My personal experience may be different to everyone else, it’s true, but my income is now coming from the US Pages Read system rather than items bought. The UK seems to have stopped reading – or at least buying – since the referendum on June 23rd!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

How writingromance fiction has changed

Ambling around the internet this afternoon I found a long article on romance writing.... you will find the whole thing at this link -

Because I want to be able to find it again, I've put the first couple of paragraphs here. I'm also going to suggest you read the whole thing as I am about to do. It begins by comparing writing for both the literary genres and romance 

Madeline Iva is her pen name, and you won’t find a trace of her real-life identity anywhere.
Iva is an emerging novelist who, as she puts it, writes “lady smut.” Her first novella was published last year by HarperImpulse, and it focused on sexsomnia, an actual condition in which people have sex in their sleep and wake up not remembering anything about it. The story’s protagonist is a young economist who has the hots for a strapping biologist, and starts waking up in the morning on the floor wearing different clothes. She has to solve the mystery of what she’s doing at night—and whom she’s doing it with.
I met Iva for the first time in 2013 during a social outing with several other authors. She told me how much she loves writing smut. She calls romance novels “happiness machines”—they guarantee that you’ll be happier after reading the novel than before.
Only later did I discover Iva has an MFA in creative writing from a top-tier program in the U.S., where she studied under one of the most respected literary writers today.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

PC problems

Problems with my pc again, My e-mail keeps vanishing. This is the third time it has taken itself off into the unknown so I hope I am not missing important messages. We suspect it is a clash of some kind between software since I updated to Windows 10. Although I have Windows 10 on my laptop, it does not seem to be affected by the same problem, so I shall have to resort to e-mails on there until this is sorted.

Heard yesterday that Write Words, Inc - an independent US publisher - is closing down after 17 years, so that means that Banners of Alba, my very first book, and Dark Pool, its follow on story, will be reverting to me. I first published with them in 2006 and they have been sending me small sums of money all that time, so it is quite sad to see them disappear.

It means plenty of work over the winter to  check them over and re-publish them on Kindle with new covers. Meanwhile I'd better finish the Matfen Affair, which is standing at around 35,000 words so far.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

HNS Reviews

It seems the Historical Novel Society is having a re-think about reviews.
I have two  books with them right now for review, so it could not have come at a worse time - for me!

I read a long explanation from Richard Lee on why this has happened. It seems the people who did the reviews do it unpaid and as the volume of titles coming through for review has escalated, it takes too much time for one person to deal with and still have a life of their own.

Another reason is the inherent stigma still attached to indie books by virtue of them being reviewed separately from traditionally published books.

That's one thing. Another is the range of indie books has always been wide and recently the best have got better and those at the opposite end of the scale have got worse. The problem will be in sifting out the good from the less good.

There is a wish to review the best of the indie material alongside the traditionally published reviews. The problem seems to be how to achieve it. I hope an answer is found soon and that the HNS Review system continues and goes from strength to strength.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Life in the Fifties

People who talk about austerity today have very little idea what it really means. In the fifties, we all knew what it meant. Check out the link and discover more:

Rationing came to an end in 1954, having lasted 14 years. Any child growing up during the years 1940 to 1954 had a very limited diet and very little food intake. Adults too went hungry.  Check the old newsreels, you’ll see that no one was overweight. Fashion models of the days show off the waspy waist styles because women had much more prominent waists then – though it seems a strange way to describe something that was not there! Perhaps you get my drift anyway.

Toys were far fewer, made of metal or wood and lasted very well indeed, which was just as well because children had far fewer toys then. The garish plastic toy did not exist, nor did excessive spending at Christmas. A stocking that filled up with a tangerine, some nuts and possibly a bar of chocolate was enough to bring a smile to a child’s face. Towards the end of the fifties, annuals were popular as Christmas gifts. The Beano, Dandy, Eagle, Hotspur and School Friend Annuals all did well and provided hours of good reading.

We all went to church on Sunday, some morning and evening and getting Confirmed was a rite of passage. It was entirely possible that young people who went to church spent a lot of time eyeing up members of the opposite sex of their own age, but it was fun to flirt silently across the pews. 

Saturday was filled by walking to town to buy food in the market stalls lit by big hanging lamps that hissed and whined. Stand close enough to them in winter, and you could get warm. Then it was walk home with bulging bags, or queue for ages and hope to get on the bus when it arrived. There was always the possibility of bumping into a friend or relative or making a new acquaintance. Weekdays were filled with School and Work. It was a much simpler life, without the frills of today. But I remember it, the bits I do remember, as a happy time.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Life in the fifties

Life now is so different to the fifties when we all earned so little and we didn’t spend much because we didn’t have much spare cash. We had clothes that were “Sunday best,” few changes for every day and things were worn until they wore out. Shoes were polished and cared for because they had to last and trips to the cobbler were frequent. Segs were hammered into the heels of flat shoes to make them last that little bit longer. Colours were sober and the darker the better to hide marks.

Since a car was only for the rich, travelling to work on steamy, fugged up crowded buses – because people smoked then and there was little or no heating – through the dark gloom of winter mornings, was standard. Everyone rushed to get on board because waiting in the cold for ten minutes made the bus seem a haven of warmth and comfort. Chat with the conductor as s/he took the fare and punched out a ticket, and with fellow travellers that you met every day made for a noisy, but cheerful journey.

It was hard to get privacy for romance back then. You could invite your young man back home but since only one room was heated, that meant sitting with the family or freezing to death in the “front room.” Not a good option. So there was a huge need to get out and have your own place, even if it meant “taking lodgings.” If you’ve watched Endeavour then you’ll have seen the kind of place he was living in then. They didn't aim for five-bedroom houses with central heating and three bathrooms, but for much more modest accommodation. A small, "two-up and two down" that needed work might be all that they could afford, but at least they would be on their own - and they were young; they had the energy to re-decorate and make it better. 

Since the young were expected to contribute to the household expenses once they were earning, that too was an incentive to strike out on their own. Everyone saved for a deposit on a house and went in hope to the bank manager who would authorize a mortgage if he thought you could manage the repayments. Young people didn’t go out clubbing, or spending money on clothes, makeup, alcohol and mobile phones as they do today; they went out on a Saturday night “to the pictures,” sat in coffee bars spinning out a couple of coffees listening to Bill Haley or had a drink at the pub and then the man walked the young lady home. There would be goodnight kiss on the doorstep, if they felt so inclined.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Never had it so good

Comparing life today with life in the fifties ought to make everyone feel that life today is comfortable and safe. I know, there are always exceptions and sad stories, but imagine trying to live without central heating now that autumn mornings are kicking off the central heating. Remember waking up to ice on the inside of the bedroom windows? There was a real disincentive to crawl out of the warm nest of blankets (no duvets) and stagger off to a freezing bathroom to wash (no showers) before going to work or school. The water wasn't always piping hot, either, and the lino underfoot was like ice.

Then it was walk to school where at least there was some warmth in the classrooms. (Pity poor mum who stayed at home in the cold house all day. No wonder she did housework - to keep warm!) Walk home again at lunch time, back to school again and then home. Four journeys in freezing, damp and dismal winter days wearing knee length socks and a thick gaberdine school mac with a quilted lining inside. For me it was about four miles a day, maybe five that I walked, so I gobbled up the jam roly-poly pudding and never put on any weight. Some days gym lessons were hockey and netball - outside in the field. Remember the red knees and chilblains? I never see schoolgirls playing hockey these days, though I'm sure they must be some, somewhere.

Washing machines were rudimentary and still required a mangle and a good drying day. Refrigerators were a luxury, but anyway, houses were cold enough without them, weren't they? Fitted carpets? who had those? Or telephones, or televisions. Radio was the standby for cold winter nights by the only fire in the house. Personal computers weren't available and if you wanted to write a book, you did it by hand or on an old typewriter that almost broke your wrist as you used it.

The fifties (only sixty years ago) were only a few years after a six year war, and the Cold War with Russia was threatening both America and Europe. I had forgotten such things, but when I listen to a certain D Trump, memories of those days return.

Lost dog!

Sunday 8 th May Slow start to a sunny day with a promise of high temperatures. Bill took Perla out at 7.30 as he has done all this month ...