Monday, 31 August 2015

The Final Hybrid blog post, by Teresa Edgerton

Often, self-publishing precedes traditional releases. But in the fourth and final part of our series, esteemed author Teresa Edgerton explains why someone might choose to self-publish their backlist, after it’s been traditionally released some time earlier.


Monday, 24 August 2015

Review: Ghost on the Throne, by James Romm

Ghost on the Throne is a history of the years immediately after the death of Alexander the Great, as the Diadochi (Successors) battled for mastery of the world. I have read a small amount on the subject, and was interested to see how this stacked up.

After Alexander passed on, it was as if the alpha wolf of a pack had died. But because he had so many secondary fellows, all of whom acknowledged they were his inferior but considered themselves equal to their fellows, suddenly there were a large number of would be alpha wolves looking to get as much power and influence as possible. No shrinking violets, the upper echelons of the Macedonian elite were (almost uniformly) personally brave, quick-witted, devious men hardened by decades of constant warfare. And the only man capable of reigning over them was gone.

There are ten chapters, each starting with an overview and then little sections of a few pages (sometimes less) focused on one individual or a small group in a given time and place. The approach is interesting, and effectively disentangles a fluid political and military situation that might otherwise become too complicated, enabling the various events to be kept track of more easily.

Whilst I was familiar with the general progression of events there was new information about the parts I knew (anecdotes about Antigonus losing his eye and trusting Demetrius), and a whole slew of completely fresh information regarding the situation in Athens (as well as bits and pieces elsewhere).

The level of detail was spot on. The progression of events was relayed in detail without getting bogged down in triviality, and the writing style was very easy to read without being dumbed down.

There’s a focus on the political (and personal psychology) rather than the military, which is partly because major battles and direct confrontation were relatively uncommon.

Another plus was the map at the start (there are a few others, and some illustrations/photographs, later on) which overlaid Alexander’s conquests onto a modern map of Europe/Asia/Africa. It really was bloody enormous.

So, down sides. Not many, to be honest. I would’ve liked the book to go on for longer, though it does end at a natural break point. The references to ‘old man Antipater’ do get over-used. There are notes, which was a surprise because there are no symbols/numbers to signify these and I stumbled across them at the back of the book when I’d finished it [I also much prefer footnotes to endnotes].

I would recommend this book to anyone after a history of the aftermath of Alexander’s death. I think it’s accessible for new history readers, but has a level of detail that would also satisfy people who already have some knowledge of the era.


Doing It For Yourself

In the third of a four part series on self-publishing/a hybrid approach (mixing traditional and self-publishing), Jo Zebedee explains why a book that doesn’t easily fit into a category could be better off self-published.

So, if you’ve written a story about a cyborg bounty hunter space pirate with magic powers and a ghostly best friend, give the link a click and benefit from her wise words:


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

You Can Judge A Book By Its Cover

And lots of people do.

My second book, Journey to Altmortis, is better than the first, Bane of Souls. The writing’s tighter, pace is quicker and it’s got a better rating on both Amazon and Goodreads.

But Bane of Souls has sold quite a bit more. Which confounded me, but I think one of the reasons is the cover.

Now, I want to make clear that I chose what I wanted for both of them, and I really like the artwork that was produced by Tiramizsu, my excellent cover artist. The problem isn’t the art, it’s the choice I made.

The cover, and title, of Bane of Souls has been specifically mentioned as a reason for giving it a go. I’ve read elsewhere that covers with a single individual on the front often go down well. Sometimes a symbol/crest can work (perhaps if you don’t have a clear protagonist).

It’s also important to consider a cover that works both in real life and as a thumbnail. You need to get technical stuff like having the title and author name clearly visible right (NB if you’re a big time author like George RR Martin your name will be relatively larger. Otherwise, the title should probably be bigger than the author name).

Then there’s the title. I generally find picking titles difficult (I only chose Bane of Souls very late on. The book has many named characters die, and the plot’s twisty which meant I didn’t want to give anything away). Because of my own difficulty, it’s hard to offer much advice here. I’d just suggest ensuring it fits the genre and sounds fairly interesting.

It’s a little odd to think that years of writing might have less impact on whether a sale is made than the three words in a title or the cover, but I strongly believe that’s the case. So, don’t neglect the title and cover. It’s the first thing a potential reader will see of your book, and might also be the last.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Stuff To Avoid When Self-publishing

The second in the four part series on self/hybrid-publishing (mixing self-publishing and more traditional routes) was written by EJ Tett, and covers pitfalls that are easy to fall into. So, click the link, dodge those elephant traps, and enjoy her wise words.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Guest Post: Why Elves Are Total Bastards, by Sir Edric

[This is a special guest post, written by Dog and dictated by Sir Edric Greenlock, the Hero of Hornska].

Greetings, foreign peasants.

Whilst in Awyndel it’s well known elves are vile (excepting the splendid Lysandra, of course), I was alarmed and surprised to hear that elven propagandists have infiltrated the realms of the United Kingdom, America, and other minor nations. As a purveyor of truth (and because of some small remuneration), I’ve chosen to enlighten you as to why elves are, in fact, utter bastards.

It’s easy to be deceived. Elves are very pretty, and elegant, and seem to be full of grace and solemnity. Don’t be fooled. Elves are bone idle, pathetic in war, self-righteous, cowardly, hypocritical and worthy of nothing except contempt (and occasionally lust).

Recall the famous Fellowship of the Ring. A quartet of irksome midgets, struggling to dispose of stolen jewellery, find themselves in Rivendell, a beautiful elven settlement. Elrond, the craven pointy-ear, berates the men and dwarves as short-lived and useless against the jewellery’s rightful owner, Sauron. But what is his elven solution to the threat?

Elrond’s people are running away. Very heroic. Even as he takes the piss out of scruffy ragamuffin Aragorn and manliest of manly men Sean Bean, his own approach is to wet himself and flee. Yet he’s still full of himself.

Or take Galadriel. What’s she doing? Hiding. Ooh, very brave. Even the midgets are doing more than that. So, there we are. The elven approach to danger is run the hell away or hide and pretend it’ll all be alright whilst taking the piss out of the humans trying to sort it out and teach the evil lighthouse a lesson.

But maybe that’s just one instance (well, two) of elven rubbishness. Maybe it’s an exception.

It is not. Geralt of Rivia has had many adventures. In his most recent, he’s trying to stop the maniacs of the Wild Hunt from catching Ciri (sort of his daughter. In a nice, rather than a Woody Allen, sort of way). And who are the Wild Hunt, the murderous, genocidal maniacs who want to kill Ciri and end the whole world?

Elves. Naturally.

What about in the fabled land of Skyrim, home to frisky Nordic maidens and that prick Nazeem? Here we have the Thalmor, elven scoundrels who run around incarcerating good honest human folk simply for not following elven religious doctrine!

Then there’s the story Dragon Wing. A lovely book, which features dwarves, humans and elves. And what are the elves doing? Monopolising the water supply and terrorising humans, whilst robbing the dwarves blind!

Or try the Terrarch Chronicles. The elves prove so useless they muck up their entire bloody world. Having ruined it, they flee to a human one and oppress the native population.

So, there we have it. Elves are total bastards. Cowardly, sneering, fearful, murderous, oppressive, mankind-hating, water-stealing bastards.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, this bottle of Andelic brandy won’t drink itself, will it?

Sir Edric Greenlock, the Hero of Hornska

Friday, 7 August 2015

How to self-publish

This is the first of a four part series by differing authors looking at self-publishing/a hybrid approach mixing traditional and self-publishing. I’ll update this throughout the month, adding links to subsequent related blogs by EJ Tett, Jo Zebedee and Teresa Edgerton.

There are several reasons you might choose to self-publish rather than go down a traditional route. If you do opt for it, here’s a rough guide, based on what I did.

First off, write the book. Rather obvious, but as over 90% of people who start writing a book fail to finish it, this is perhaps also the most difficult task.

Secondly, you’re not an island. Whilst writing’s a largely solo activity, your finished work won’t be down to you alone. A cover artist, beta-readers, perhaps an editor/proofreader are also needed. 

Cover artists can be acquired from many places, and one I used was Deviant Art. Do check their bio/guidelines and make it clear you want the art for commercial purposes (I very nearly had a different artist, until she revealed she’d only do stuff on a personal basis). Have in mind how much you’re willing to spend, and don’t be afraid to try negotiating (if you’re writing a trilogy or plan on writing more, it doesn’t hurt to point out the artist could be getting more work from you down the line). Also, this is a bit obvious, but be clear what currency you’re paying in and how you’re going to do it (both when payment [or payments if you split it into a before/after arrangement] is made and through what means). For obvious reasons, paying a stranger a large sum before they do anything is unwise. Finding a good cover artist can take a little while, but is well worth doing. I get along very well with Tiramizsu ( my cover artist, and that makes it so much easier.

Beta-readers should be people you know and trust to tell you when your work’s rubbish (if they can’t, you can never know if their praise is genuine either). It’s done for free, and is often reciprocal in nature (I do it for others, but it’s not one-for-one, so I’ve done a lot more than I’ve received for some people, and vice versa).

Editors can provide a wide range of advice (at varying costs) so be sure you know what you want and what your budget is. Whilst others swear by their importance, I’ve got to admit I take a more territorial/independent approach, and do think the ability to self-edit is something that ought to be cultivated. J Scott Marryat , a top chap who assisted me (as a beta reader) with Sir Edric’s Temple, charges a couple of hundred pounds for most services, and more for more extensive help.

I hate proofreading, but also would hate to pay/trust someone else to do it. Finding one shouldn’t be too hard (editors often offer the service), but bear in mind the odd mistake will probably remain whether you pay or do it yourself.

Thirdly, format. There are a couple of guides, both free, which I used for Smashwords and Amazon, and I’ve never had any problems (NB I was using Word. I haven’t tried with OpenOffice yet). There’s substantial overlap between the two (slightly) different formats required, and after the first time it’ll come more naturally. I am not technically adept, so if I can do it, you probably can too.

Fourthly, marketing. This can come in a variety of forms. Turning up on a new website/forum/blog and waving your work under the long-standing members’ collective nose is a good way to alienate people. Offering ARCs [advanced review copies] to blogs is better, but if they decline or don’t reply, don’t hassle them about it. Sometimes people are just too busy, or your book doesn’t fit their style (check guidelines ensure you get the technical aspect of submission right and to see if your book falls within their preferred genres).

Do not worry if you get bad reviews. This happens to everyone, and a bad review is still a lot better than none. Generally, do not reply to reviews on websites (although if someone writes one for you after you send them an ARC it’s fine to thank them for their time and feedback).

Other forms of marketing are interviews, revealing the cover, revealing a map (if there is one), and time-limited discounts (Smashwords has a very cool and easy to use voucher system for this).

Fifthly, choose distribution, and pricing. I went for Smashwords, which helpfully fires off the book to many other retailers, and Amazon, which is the 800lb gorilla of online bookshops.

There are alternatives to Smashwords, but for the sake of consistency I’ll refer to that site and Amazon.

Pricing is a merry hell. Personally, I love a bargain, but others take the view that you get what you pay for. If you’ve got several books out it can even make sense for one of them to be free, to draw more downloads and attract more readers. The $2.99 point is where Amazon’s 70% royalty rate kicks in (under that or over a certain amount the royalty is 35%).

I almost forgot about the ISBN. Before my first self-published book I was quite worried about this, but so relaxed now that I only remembered it for this blog when chatting with a friend who’s going to self-publish. You don’t need to worry about this at all, self-publishing avenues all (as far as I know) offer free ISBNs with zero hassle.

Sixthly, decide whether you want a hard copy version as well. Unfortunately due to the voodoo maths of self-publishing, you’ll make more on a $2.99 e-book than a $6.99 hard copy. However, lots of people don’t have e-readers. It’s especially important to avoid mistakes with a hard copy edition (you can modify an e-book to remove typos, though it’s still better not to have them).

There are a few options for a hard copy, including CreateSpace (Amazon), Lightning Source and Lulu.

Don’t forget to set up your author profiles on Smashwords and Amazon, and to add your books to your profile (via Amazon’s author central database). It’ll often take a day or two for your book to appear under your name on Amazon, so don’t worry if it’s not instant.

Seventh, a new feature on Amazon enables pre-ordering of self-published stuff. Wasn’t available when my last work came out, but if you can drum up pre-orders that should help the initial sales rank, which also helps more people see your book (through things like People Who Bought This Items Also Bought...).

Eighth, and last, don’t collapse in exhausted relief when it’s out. When you get great reviews (if you do), link to them, quote them, in Twitter feeds and the like. Don’t overdo it (once or twice a day is fine). Likewise, if you get comically awful quotes don’t be afraid to mention those (if Joe Abercrombie gets crap reviews, and quotes them [and he does], why not you?). If you break into a top 10 in a category or subcategory, you can mention that too. But try not to spam “I have a book, you should buy it” which isn’t very interesting and is very repetitive.

Well, that was a bit long, but I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll link below to future blogs when they appear (pencilled in for the other Fridays in August).

Part 2 - Things to avoid in self-publishing, by EJ Tett

Part 3 - Doing it for yourself, by Jo Zebedee