In this post I’m going to talk a little about how I managed to get all my titles pulled from KDP Select, together with a warning that this might not have worked and may not work for you. I talked about my reasoning for doing this in my first post, which you can read here.
I’ve decided to be up front about how I’ve been doing reasonably well on Amazon, and then show how my performance changes as time goes on. I am expecting to see a significant drop in overall income over the coming months as I lose page reads and it takes time for the other marketplaces to come on stream.
To start with though, rather than show overall monetary amounts I’ve graphed below the proportion of income from page reads and sales over the last two years. I chose that time period because hopefully it shows the effect of the Covid lockdown over the first half of 2020 where it seemed a lot of the people sitting at home decided to read more fiction.
Sales and Page Reads 2019: Average %age of income from page reads 40%
Sales and Page Reads 2020: Average %age of income from page reads 38%
For both graphs the red block shows sales and the blue upper area the number of equivalent borrows. It also shows peaks where I had a book launch, and it’s clear that my sales have increased this year since last, which is good. As you can see from the percentages, getting on for half my income has come from page reads. Which raises the question – am I totally crazy giving this up?
Well, the answer remains to be seen.
I want to point out I’m not doing this through any prejudice against Amazon. They have always treated me well and treated me fairly. A case in point is how I emailed them four days ago and asked if they could remove all my titles from KDP Select. They responded within 8 hours and said sure, it’s done. Had they not done so this experiment would have had to wait until into December when my last title dropped out of Select.
I do want to point out, however, that this response is not a given. Amazon are perfectly within their rights not to remove you from KDP Select in bulk, but I’ve heard of others who have had success and maybe it depends on how you have interacted with them in the past. Anyway, I’m now out of Amazon borrows and need to replace them with something else.
As you can work out from the graphs, I need to sell almost 10,000 more books over a year through Kobo, Apple, B&N, Google books, all other vendors and libraries to make up the shortfall from borrows.
I’ll say it again – am I crazy? The answer is still probably yes. However, assuming the worst case scenario and I can’t get anywhere near those 10,000 extra sales a year, I always still have the option of going back into KDP Select. I’ve come out once before and when I returned my page reads picked up almost at once. I have also heard some anecdotal reports that book sales increase on Amazon if readers cannot borrow the title but do want to read it.
So that’s about it for today. I’ve set a marker in the ground against which to measure my performance over the rest of this year and into next. How long I’ll keep the experiment running I have no idea, but if sales totally tank outside of Amazon probably not much more than 6-9 months, unless I see some pick-up that offers hope the strategy is working.
As soon as all the titles are live I intend to apply for a Bookbub for the first in series as it should be easier now the books are more widely available. This should kick-start readers on each platform into the series and lead to read-through and hence more sales (Thanks to R who advised this – you know who you are).
Next time I’m going to talk about uploading to Kobo Writing Life and what you have to do to get an account and upload your books. I’ll also come back in a later post and discuss the marketing tools Kobo offer for Indie authors.
I’ve not posted anything on this self-publishing topic in quite a while. Oh man – a long, long while. The reason for posting now is because I’ve leapt off a high diving board and am still in mid-air. I’ve gone wide with all my books. Okay – for those of you who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about.
Going wide means I am now publishing all my books – the eight Thomas Berrington Historical Mysteries plus one Thomas Berrington Historical Prequel, to the full range of eBook vendors worldwide.
And before you ask – is there something called Going Narrow?
Well yes, there is, and that’s what I’ve been doing my entire writing life since 2014. Some of you may ask why on earth I wouldn’t want to publish as widely as possible and the answer is because of these reasons two reasons:
Amazon KDP was and still is the biggest book vendor on the planet. They also introduced KDP select where you get paid for each page people read when they sign up for Amazon Kindle Unlimited, which allows them to download eBooks for free for a single monthly payement. Up until recently these page reads earned me around 40% of my income.
I was a coward and liked the security blanket of staying with KDP Select.
So why now? Well, page reads have been falling off a little recently and I have many writer friends who have been saying to me I should be wide. That it’s not healthy for my career to stick with a single vendor, even if they do sell more books than all the others combined.
Finally I’ve started listening to their sound advice.
I intend to give myself six to nine months to see if I can make this experiment work. I expect to take an initial hit in income but will work hard to counteract that with marketing and special deals. I’ve also got the ninth book in the series coming out later this year and that always results in a significant boost to sales – this time it should be on a number of platforms.
I’ll be posting here fairly regularly so you can see how I’m making progress, or not. Tomorrow I’m going to post on the mechanics of what going wide means, and offer some lessons I’ve learned along the way. In the meantime I’ll tell you that for the moment I’m following the strategy set out below: For Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Google books I am uploading directly through their portals. I also have all my books on Amazon still but now my page-reads will taper off, probably over many months.
For all other vendors I am going through the aggregator Draft2Digital.
I started work on The Message of Blood, book 8 of the Thomas Berrington series, in the last week and already the first draft is 11% complete. There’s a lot of work still to do, but I have a scheduled release date for 13th February 2020. It might seem a long way off, but I plan to complete the 9th book for release in June or July 2020. That will complete the Spanish phase of Thomas and Jorge’s story, but don’t worry because after a short – and relatively peaceful – hiatus in their lives they will return together to England in the company of Catherine of Aragon. And yes, there will be murders, and mysteries, and everything you have come to expect of the series, but by then Thomas will have returned to Lemster, the town he was born in.
A scene from the book, Columbus petitioning Queen Isabel, while she looks bored.
Tentative blurb for The Message of Blood:
Can you expose a killer when they are your best friend?
Spain: 1490. Cordoba, Andlusia
When Thomas Berrington is sent to Cordoba on the orders of a man he hates he welcomes the distraction of a crime, but is shocked when the evidence points to the killer being his closest companion.
When Jorge is imprisoned Thomas has to continue the investigation alone. His task is made harder by the distraction of two beautiful women.
As the truth is uncovered Thomas has to twist and turn through the confusion of Jorge’s past, uncovering a myriad of revelations each of which throws up a new suspect.
Finally reunited the pair come ever closer to revealing the culprit, only to be confronted with a more powerful adversary than they have ever encountered before.
Today I have a guest post from my good friend Joan Fallon, who also writes about the al-Andalus region of Spain during the time of the Moors.
The al-Andalus trilogy is set in Córdoba and its surrounding countryside. It is 10th century Spain, the Golden Age of Moorish rule, the time of the great caliphs, when Córdoba was considered the centre of cultural and learning for the western world. For many years I have been fascinated by this beautiful city and when I heard about the ruins of Madinat al-Zahra which were only just outside its boundaries, I knew I had to go to visit them. This was the city of al-Rahman III the greatest of all the caliphs and more than that, I was intrigued by the idea that a palace-city of such magnificence should have lasted for such a short time. Civilisations come and go, as any reader of history knows but for it to last no more than 75 years seemed a tragedy.
It was the summer of 2001. I picked up a leaflet about an exhibition that was to be held in the museum at Madinat al-Zahra. It was entitled The Splendour of the Cordovan Umayyads. So we drove across from Málaga, on a blistering hot day to see what it was all about.
I have been back many times since and the place holds a fascination for me; so much so that it inspired me to write a novel. I decided to tell the story of the city through a family that lived there; I had the bare bones of my novel before me, in the stone walls and paved paths, in the narrow passages ways, the ornate gardens, the artefacts in the museum. All I needed to do was to make the city come alive through my characters. I called the novel The Shining City because ‘Madinat’ (or medina) is the word for town and ‘Zahra’ means shining or brilliant. It’s said that the caliph called the city al-Zahra because, at the time it was being built, he was in love with a slave girl called Zahra. It could be true; there are certainly written references to a concubine of that name but personally I think ‘Zahra’ referred to the magnificence of the city itself. As the principle character in my book, Omar, tells his nephew:
‘It means shining, glistening, brilliant. Possibly his concubine glittered and shone with all the jewels and beautiful silks he showered upon her but then so did the city. It was indeed the Shining City. When visitors entered through the Grand Portico, passing beneath its enormous, red and white arches, when they climbed the ramped streets that were paved with blocks of dark mountain stone, passing the lines of uniformed guards in their scarlet jackets and the richly robed civil servants that flanked their way, when they reached the royal residence and saw the golden inlay on the ceilings, the marble pillars, the richly woven rugs scattered across the floors and the brilliant silk tapestries, when they saw the moving tank of mercury in the great reception pavilion that caught the sunlight and dazzled all who beheld it, then they indeed knew that they were in the Shining City.’
Of course today, looking at the ruined paths, the piles of broken tiles, the reconstructed arches and pillars, we need to use our imagination to see it as it once was.
The construction of the city of Madinat al-Zahra was begun in the year 939 AD by Abd al-Rahman III and took forty years to complete. Having declared himself the caliph of al-Andalus in 929 AD and with the country more or less at peace he wanted to follow in the tradition of previous caliphs in the East and build himself a palace-city, grander than anything that had been built before. The site he chose was eight kilometres to the west of Córdoba, in present day Andalusia and measured one and a half kilometres by almost a kilometre. It was sheltered from the north winds by the mountains behind it and had an excellent vantage point from which to see who was approaching the city. It was well supplied with water from an old Roman aqueduct and surrounded by rich farming land. It had good roads to communicate with Córdoba and there was even a stone quarry close by.
The caliph left much of the responsibility for the construction of the city to his son al-Hakam, who continued work on it after his father’s death.
One of the most curious questions about Madinat al-Zahra is why, despite its importance as the capital of the Omeyyad dynasty in al-Andalus, this magnificent city endured no more than seventy-five years. When al-Hakam died in 976 AD the city was thriving; all the most important people in the land lived there. The army, the Mint, the law courts, the government and the caliph were there; the city boasted public baths, universities, libraries, workshops and ceremonial reception halls to receive the caliph’s visitors. But al-Hakam’s heir was a boy of eleven-years old. The new boy-caliph was too young to rule, so a regent was appointed, the Prime Minister, al-Mansur, an ambitious and ruthless man. Gradually the Prime Minister moved the whole court, the Mint, the army and all the administrative functions back to Córdoba, leaving the new caliph in Madinat al-Zahra, ruling over an empty shell. Once the seat of power had been removed from Madinat al-Zahra, the city went into decline. The wealthy citizens left, quickly followed by the artisans, builders, merchants and local businessmen. Its beautiful buildings were looted and stripped of their treasures and the buildings were destroyed to provide materials for other uses. Today you can find artefacts from the city in Málaga, Granada, and elsewhere. Marble pillars that once graced the caliph’s palace now support the roofs of houses in Córdoba. Ashlars that were part of the city’s walls have been used to build cow sheds.
Excavation of the site of Madinat al-Zahra began in 1911 by Riocardo Velázquez Bosco, the curator of the mosque in Córdoba. The work was slow and hampered by the fact that the ruins were on private property. Landowners were not keen to co-operate and eventually the State had to purchase the land before the excavations could begin. The work progressed slowly but gradually over the years a number of government acts were passed which resulted in the site being designated as an Asset of Cultural Interest and in 1998 a Special Protection Plan was drawn up to give full weight to the importance of the ruins. Today the site is open to the public and has an excellent visitor centre and museum.
THE SHINING CITY became the first book in a trilogy about al-Andalus and 10th century Spain in particular. I decided to write a second book about the boy-caliph, al-Hisham II whose life was dominated by his mother and her lover. This one I entitled THE EYE OF THE FALCON.
After some hesitation—I was unsure if I would find enough material for a third book—I wrote the third book in the series, THE RING OF FLAMES. This brings the story up to the end of the Golden Age and the demise of the Omayyad dynasty, and gives some clue to the eventual fate of al-Hisham II, the forgotten caliph.
Joan Fallon’s trilogy is available in paperback and on Kindle, and you can find out more about both her and her books on her website: www.joanfallon.co.uk
While I was attending the London Book Fair I got chatting with internet advertising guru Mark Dawson, and he asked if I would do a quick interview to tell my story of how I discovered FB Advertising. I said of course (who wouldn’t). It turned into half an hour with James Blatch and you can see the results here with Me being interviewed by James Blatch
If you don’t want to wait, the interview starts around 8 minutes in.
For those interested I thought you might like to read Chapter 1 of the forthcoming Book 6 in the Thomas Berrington Historical Mysteries. This is a first draft only, so might change a little in the finished book.
Thomas Berrington stared at a wooden pallet, its surface stained by years of misuse.
“Tell me, how exactly did you manage to lose a body?” He wiped at blood-stained hands with a damp cloth but it did little good. Only a long bath might do that.
“I did not lose it,” said Lubna, her face set. “I delivered the woman to this pallet before noon and informed the mortuary officer of her location.”
“Perhaps the family collected it, then. Did you check?” He made little attempt to hide his impatience. He had been sent for as he was trying to save an unborn child, the mother beyond any need of his skills. She had been brought in by her husband after falling from the city wall. Thomas was in a bad temper after the man had refused to accept the infant he had saved because it was a girl.
“Of course I checked. Would I send for you if it was that simple? Nobody has come to claim her.”
“You are sure she was dead?”
Lubna cast him a glance that said more than words, perhaps not wanting to sour the atmosphere between them any more by speaking, and Thomas realised he was being too harsh on her. He had lost bodies in the past under similar circumstances. The infirmary in Malaka was both large and busy. He sometimes wondered how any body made its way to its family after it had stopped breathing. Thomas touched Lubna’s shoulder but she pulled away. Not forgiven yet, then.
He wondered if she was distracted by thoughts of the child she carried. Over six months now, beyond the time she had lost their first when they had visited Ixbilya for Thomas to attend the Queen. It had been on his mind of late, hers too, he was sure. He knew he may have been too attentive, too cosseting. Lubna was not a woman to be cosseted, even less so this last year. They had come to Malaka so she could attend the Infirmary, the place Thomas had learned his skills. That had been many years before, half a lifetime, and much had changed in the years since. Except Malaka was still where people came to learn the skills of a physician, ever since Persia fell to Mongol hordes.
It had not been easy for Lubna. As a woman she had not been made welcome, only accepted in the end because she was Thomas Berrington’s wife and everyone knew of his reputation. A reputation that brought respect but little fondness. The lack of the latter did not concern him and never had. Ability and an open mind meant more, and Lubna possessed both.
“What did she die of?” he asked.
“Does it matter?”
“I am curious.”
“In that case, I don’t know. There was nothing physically wrong that I could find. It was as if she no longer wanted to live.”
Thomas frowned. “Such a thing is possible, but rare.”
“Which is why I wanted you to see her, why I came for you. I have learned much this last year but not enough to explain what happened to this woman.”
“We’ll go to the Clerk of records,” Thomas said. “The body might have been mistaken for someone else and given to the wrong family. I have seen it happen before.”
Lubna fell into step beside him. “How often?”
“Not often, but four or five times over the years. It is surprising how many people do not wish to look at the face of a loved one once life has departed.”
The administration offices lay outside the Infirmary, requiring the crossing of a busy road and ascent of marble steps beneath the onslaught of a fierce sun. It was as they climbed the steps that a commotion broke out behind them, a man shouting at a group of musicians.
Thomas stopped and looked back.
“Leave it for someone else,” said Lubna. “You cannot heal the entire world.”
He glanced at her. She was right, the thought clear in his mind even as his body carried him back the way they had come. It was none of his business, but sometimes that made a thing more interesting rather than less. Besides, the missing body would still be missing an hour from now. Or would have been found.
As he approached the gathering Thomas heard laughter and jeering, and saw it was not only the musicians who were being accosted but a well-dressed man he recognised as Ali Durdush, grand master of the Malaka Guilds and almost certainly the richest man in the city, if not all of al-Andalus.
“What is going on?” he asked of an onlooker.
“It’s that idiot preacher, al-Antiqamun. Everyone is his enemy today. He has already torn Durdush’s cloak and now it’s the women he has it in for.”
Thomas watched as the ragged-robed man, tangled hair falling almost to his waist, berated two female dancers. Four others tried to continue their dance but the musicians were faltering. A few laid down their instruments and approached the altercation.
The rotund figure of Ali Durdush bustled away. He glanced in Thomas’s direction and offered a nod of recognition before moving on.
When Thomas looked back at the preacher he had grasped the arm of one of the women and was trying to force her to her knees. All the others had stopped dancing and gathered around. Voices were raised. And then a knife appeared, flashing sharp light from its blade, and al-Antiqamun staggered backward and fell to one knee.
Thomas pushed through the crowd. They had stopped laughing, but one or two now called threats. He reached the preacher and tried to find a wound, but before he could one of the musicians pushed him away.
“Let me finish it,” he said. “This crazy man has been following us for a week now and I will have it no more.”
Thomas watched a blade hang loose in the musician’s hand, the drip of blood from its tip. The man was short, slim, with corded muscle showing in his arms. His accent placed him from the north coast of Africa.
“Leave him be,” Thomas said, and something in his eyes gave the musician pause. Thomas turned back to the preacher and lifted sections of robe until he found the wound. A slash to the arm. Nothing serious, but it would need binding and a salve applied to prevent infection. He saw older scars and knew this was not the first attack on the man. Al-Antiqamun had no-one to blame but himself.
“I need to treat you,” Thomas said, steadying the preacher as he rose. He was tall, with a wild beard that matched his hair. His face was surprisingly intelligent, the eyes calm. Or empty.
“I need no heathen to mend me. Allah sees to his own.” He looked beyond Thomas and scowled at the musicians who were packing their instruments, about to move on.
“You must leave them in peace. They do no harm.”
“Allah forbids it. Music. Dancing. Women in clothing designed to reveal their bodies. It is against what is written.” He looked around. “And where did the fat fool get to, I’ve not finished with him yet.” His gaze returned to Thomas. “I know you.”
“Many do. And I know you, but not your true name.”
“I am al-Antiqamun.”
“I know that too, but it is not your given name, is it?”
“I am al-Antiqamun,” he said again, and Thomas knew it was all the answer he would get, perhaps all the answer the man knew. The child he had once been was long lost in his visions of heaven and hell. Or vengeance. For that was what his adopted name meant in Arabic. Vengeance.
“You are the stranger,” al-Antiqamun said, his voice as calm as his eyes now the dancers had moved away. “The butcher, they call you, do they not?” He smiled. “When Allah’s fire cleanses this land of unbelievers it will scorch the flesh from your bones, gassab.” His head turned, seeking new victims and finding Lubna waiting on the steps for Thomas. “But your wife is devout, I hear. She will live.” As if such was in his gift to offer or take away.
Thomas turned away. The man could bleed to death for all he cared. Those already dead were waiting for him.
So the question is: Exactly why did I start writing about Andalusia, and Moorish Spain in particular? I introduced this in part 1 of this post, but didn’t give any reasons why. Here they are.
Some years ago, probably around 2010 or 2011, I was sitting at home with my wife and two children when an idea for a book came to me. I have no idea where it came from, but I said, out of the blue: “Has anyone ever written a detective mystery set in Moorish Spain?” They looked at me like I was crazy, and perhaps I was. But that germ of an idea stuck. I did a little research and found nothing that matched the idea I had in my head, an idea that grew and grew, until in the end it wasn’t going to be one book but ten.
Books 1-5… to be continued…
Each would be set during one year between 1482 – 1492. I’ll explain the time period in a moment. Each book features Thomas Berrington, an orphaned Englishman with a past, who has trained as a surgeon in al-Andalus and acts as physician to the Sultan of Granada. He is asked to investigate a series of murders.
Alongside Thomas is the six-foot eunuch Jorge, Watson to Thomas’s Holmes, an unlikely pairing but one that works. Jorge gets far more fan mail than Thomas ever does.
And the ten year period? Soon…
First, some people know, but many do not, that from 771AD Islamic invaders from North Africa moved swiftly throughout Spain. So swiftly, and so successfully, that within a short period of time they reached as far as Poitiers in France before being stopped, or perhaps deciding to stop.
For centuries all but small enclaves of the Iberian peninsula remained in Moorish hands. Only from the 11th Century onward did Spain begin to push the Moors back from the inland areas until at the end only a small but significant enclave remained. Al-Andalus. Protected on three sides by mountains, and on the fourth by the sea. It remained a beacon of culture in a Europe only slowly emerging from first the Dark Ages and subsequently petty wars and infighting.
This came to an end on January 1st 1492 when King Fernando and Queen Isabel walked through the exquisite gates of the Alhambra palace to accept the surrender of Abu Abdullah, Muhammed XIII, Sultan of Granada. It brought to an end the rule of Islam in Spain. On January 2nd Christopher Columbus entered the palace seeking a final approval for funds to forge a new route to the Indies. He was turned away, only to stop at the gates and return. The rest, as they say, is history. In my version of history, it is Thomas Berrington who meets him at the gate and persuades Columbus to try again. That scene came with that initial idea for the series.
Without the decades’ long struggle by Spain against the Moors, which honed their fighting skills into arguably the finest soldiers in Europe, Columbus’s journeys and the conquest of the Americas would have been a very different thing. This is the world in which I chose to set my books. Those last ten years of chaos and despair for the Moors, those ten years of growing exultation for the Spanish. A time of war, deceit and stupidity. Much like all wars.
So far I have finished five of the episodes, with five more to come.
There is a lot of history to cover.
And I have discovered that other writers have also fallen in love with this time period. It came as both a shock and revelation how others could forge such different books from the same material I was working.
I’m going to cover each of their work in more detail in future posts and ask them to guest blog along the way, but you can follow the links from their names here to find out more and read what are excellent additions to this small genre of Historical fiction. I will leave you, until the next time, with Joan Fallon, Lisa Yarde and John D. Cressler.
Next time I’m going to write about how we ended up living part-time in Spain, and some of the frustration and joy we discovered.
[full_width]I set the Thomas Berrington Historical Mysteries in southern Spain in the area of Andalusia — al-Andalus to the Moors who lived there for over 700 years. After visiting Spain and the Alhambra once when I was 16 years old I did not return for over 30 years, but when I did I fell in love with it. So much so that we now own a small rural house there
This post is the first in a series under the heading Beyond the Beaches which describes my love affair with Andalusia and the real Spain, the one you will find 10 minutes inland, but also the one you can find in one or two cities which sit on the coastal strip.
If you love sand under your toes, warm clear water, restaurants, burgers, cold beer and wine, all the other distractions of the Costa del Sol then this post is not for you. Don’t get me wrong — I like all of that too. There is little that can top eating sardines fresh from the barbecue pit with roasted pepper salad and a cold-beaded glass of cerbeza while sitting a table with sand under your toes. But there are plenty of others who have written about that, and I’m hoping to show you some of the wonders that lie beyond the beach. [/full_width]
[one_half padding=”0 6px 0 0″]
Why do I want to tell you about this aspect of Spain? Primarily because it’s closer to the Spain I write about. Not very close because that Spain no longer exists, but a little remains if you know where to look.
Inland Andalusia is a patchwork of small towns, villages, and isolated houses all nestling in the space between mountains. Everywhere there are houses. They cling to hillsides and sit atop ridges. Almost all are white with small windows to keep out the fierce heat of summer. [/one_half] [one_half_last padding=”0 0 0 6px”]
The Spanish spoken in most Latin American cultures is different to Castilian Spanish. Not enough to make someone from Spain unable to converse with someone from Mexico, but enough to cause the odd stumble. Why should this be, when most of the settlers were Spanish? The answer is that the majority of Spanish sailors who crossed the Atlantic came from Andalusia — the al-Andalus of Moorish Spain that I write about. Here, the language spoken, and the language still spoken, was a mongrel mix of Spanish, Arabic and local dialect. We have a house in Spain, in the heart of the countryside, and can barely understand our neighbours because they speak only Andaluz, a close cousin of this ancient dialect. And boy do they speak it fast!
[/one_half_last] Most of the towns and villages are white too, with streets so precipitous there are times you think you might need crampons. Almost all of these villages will have the necessities of life. A bank, a Correos, or Post Office, a small supermarket and often several, but also a butcher, a panaderia, a ferreteria. And, of course, a bar. In fact, it would be a poor excuse for a Spanish village to possess only the one bar. And in these bars you will be able to enjoy a glass of wine or beer and, likely as not, it will come with a free tapa. And the cost? In my local village, Riogordo, little more than €1.
All of this will be explored in a whole series of posts revelling in the wonder that in Andalusia. But for now, this is just the first part of my opening.In the next post I’ll tell you why I chose this area to set my books, and how I discovered other authors who are also writing about the same time and period. In the next installment I will tell you how I came to start writing the Thomas Berrington Historical Mysteries.[full_width”][/full_width]
I liked my old covers, I really did. But something about them wasn’t quite right. They didn’t say “Historical” enough–and after all, writing books set in Moorish Spain in the 1480s should say historical, shouldn’t it.
So I commissioned a new set of covers, to coincide with the forthcoming release of The Sin Eater. The fantastic Jessica Bell has done a great job on re-branding the books so now the covers tell you exactly what you can expect inside. A little bit dark, a little bit mysterious, but above all historical. You can see the new covers below, and soon you’ll be able to read The Sin Eater as well.
My kids will tell you my opinion on self-belief. I admit I might have been a little too successful teaching them that lesson—but if you can do something, even better if you can do it well, why hide the fact?
So when I started writing again a couple of years ago, after a hiatus of 35 years, the world had changed from the one I used to know. Back in the hazy (and yes, as an ex-hippy they are a little hazy) days of the 1970’s there were two ways to get published. Fanzines—which didn’t pay—and books and magazines—which did.
I did both. Started with fanzines and worked myself up through the ranks, put in the hours even though Malcolm Gladwell was only 10 years old, until eventually things began to stick. I got an agent, then a publisher, had stories in Galaxy magazine and Vertex and four novels published over five years. And then I ran out of money. Or rather, I matured and decided I needed to eat at least once a day. I took a day job. Writing became a side project, and then faded… but it was never forgotten.
When I returned to it—and that first love is always something special, isn’t it—it was to a whole new world. Things had changed while I had been away.
There had been vanity presses back in the day, but now Amazon has cracked open the stone wall surrounding the magic kingdom and people can publish themselves. I had a decision to make. Start up in the same way I knew, find an agent, find a publisher, wait, or… something else?
The internet had appeared, too. In 1970, if you wanted an agent you bought the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book and trawled the pages, you wrote letters (in longhand), enclosed an SAE, and you waited. Now Google is your friend.
So… the old way, or the new way, that was the decision I had to make.
I have to tell you, I was torn.
I’m of the baby-boom generation who sees the validation of a publisher as almost essential to a writer, so it was tough to consider alternatives. But like I said, the world has changed. Oh, has it ever changed.
I looked into the alternatives and discovered that if I published myself I could earn 70% royalty from Amazon, the same from other outlets if I went through Smashwords or direct.
From experience I knew a traditional publisher wouldn’t give me anything like that. But hey, they have overheads too: editors, proofreaders, cover artists… large, prestigious office blocks in London and New York, high-paid executives, lunches…
I looked into what I needed to do to make my book as professional as I could. I already told you about self-belief, so of course I knew it was a great book. To make it greater still I needed an editor, a professional cover, a proofreader. So I went out and found them. And then there’s the marketing. It would be great to leave that up to the publisher, but talking with traditional authors it soon became clear that most of the marketing still needs to be done by yourself. Fine, I’ve run a software company for over 20 years, I can do that too.
Maybe there’s a pattern emerging. I’ve talked on the web with a lot of writers who don’t want all that extra work. They see themselves as writers, period. And it’s great if that is all you want to be. But I can do all this other stuff anyway. Formatting for Kindle doesn’t scare me. Creating a website is what I do in my day job.
But I still had the decision to make, because something continued to nag away at me… agent… publisher… acceptance.
Except—it’s the acceptance of readers I want, not of those other people.
And the deciding factor came down to… control and timing.
I’ve written my book. It’s been edited. A cover created. Proofed. It’s ready. Now.
Find an agent – several months.
Agent sends the manuscript around. Another 6 months.
Publisher accepts (you notice I’ve still got the self-confidence), another 18 months before it sees the bookstands.
That could be anything from two years to three years. And the book is finished. Now! In three years time I want to have written and published a stack of other books.
In the end, it came down to that simple fact. And control. I don’t want to wait. And by going Indie I can control everything. If a reader finds a typo on page 297 I can fix it and upload a new version within minutes.
I’m Indie. Positively Indie. And proud of the fact. Oh, and if you’re interested, you can find the book here and here.