Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year!

By the time you read this...I will be drunk. I have to do something, I've turned 17 for the 11th time today. (No, I'm not 28. Count again). It's depressing.

I'm not making a new year resolution. I never stick to them anyway. 2012 is set to be an eventful enough year as it it. In the next twelve months I'm going to publish at least 2 more novels, celebrate my first anniversary as an author, and buy a house. That's more than enough excitement for one person, who is creeping ever closer to what used to be pensionable age.

In deference to my age I'm spending this evening with my extended family: the friends that I've known since high school. This September we celebrated our Sweet 16th, that's how long we've all know each other. Terrifying. And we now have our very own metronome counting down the years: my three year old godson, child of a pair of highschool sweethearts (vomit).

Until then, I think I'd better have a nap. Don't want to fall asleep and miss my kiss at midnight!

Until next year...

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Starting Over ~ The Death of Romance

I've been thinking a lot recently about romance -- or, more accurately, how romance ends. I have read so many books this year that end with a HEA that, often, seems to fall flat. I know romance is all about two people getting together and staying that way for the ever and ever that only fiction allows, but I seem to have read the same story a hundred different ways in the last six months. Boy A meets Boy B (it's mainly m/m romance I've been reading), there's a nanosecond of angst and then all their problems magically fall away and they swan off into the sunset.

Let me be the first to call bullshit. Not only is this not representative and not realistic, but I honestly think it damages all the really good HEAs that are out there. It makes the HEA predictable at best -- mandatory at worst. Not every story can have a HEA, not even romance. That is the lesson that a lot of people seem to have forgotten. If it is going to have a HEA, at least make it one I can believe in. Would Wuthering Heights still be considered a classic if Cathy and Heathcliff had run off together into the night after Cathy proclaimed in her most melodramatic fashion: "I am Heathcliff!" Doubtful. Why? Because Victorian society would never have stood for it. Hell, they barely stood for it as it was. I am not a proponent of the view that romance needs to turn into fantasy in order to work. Suspension of disbelief, yes. Rewriting real life into something completely alien, no. Not unless you're deliberately setting your story in a fantasy world. If it's supposed to be contemporary, then make it so. I'd much rather see a couple beat the odds than have the odds just magically erased by an overly-sentimental author.

But I'm not just ranting: I'm putting my money where my mouth is. The novel I'm working on at the minute is in many ways a response piece to some of the more cliched stories I've read. It starts with a perfect relationship, two guys who meet at university, aged 20, who fall in love and live happily ever after. In their case, 'ever after' last precisely eight years. How do you move on when the fairytale ends? What do you do when the fantasy fails you? This is the question that I am posing.

Christo and John's relationship doesn't end with infidelity, betrayal, or tragedy of any kind. That is the saddest thing about it. Sometimes love just fades, as quickly and as mysteriously as it appeared in the first place. Sometimes people grow apart, and it's no-one's fault. There's no-one to blame, no anger or bitterness or recrimination. Only loss, and sorrow. How do you move on from that? How do you find the faith to love again when you've had a perfect relationship and it fell apart so easily? Why would you take a chance on another relationship when you've already lost everything once already?

Enter Damien. He holds the same position as Christo in the same company, and they're both openly gay, but there the similarities end. Damien's the guy with a different man on his arm for every event, he's smooth and arrogant and always impeccably turned out. Christo hates him. But god, he's gorgeous. Damien could be exactly what Christo needs to get him over John, but he knows it, the bastard.

It's only going to be a fling. Nothing serious, nothing that will affect their working relationship, or the rest of their lives. So why are they fighting through the night rather than letting go and walking away? Why does Damien's secretive nature bug Christo so much? And why does he even care that the other man might not be as tough as he pretends to be?

It's not perfect -- far from it. They don't trust each other, they don't know each other and hell, half the time they don't even like each other very much. They both know that this is a mistake, that it can only end one way, and they're better off getting out. This can only end badly, right?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Season of goodwill, peace on earth, joy to the world, and little drummer boys. Ho ho ho.

This year I'd like to offer all my followers a present ~ a free copy of my first novel, Blood & Ash. Just follow the link and type in code AE28J at the checkout. Coupon expires after Boxing Day (Dec 26th to you Americans!) so get going!

I've had an exceptional year, and I'd like to share some of my good fortune. I've picked you all up along the way, but how many of you were there at the beginning? On 26 June 2011 I stopped dreaming and hit 'publish' on my first book. I hoped maybe I'd get some sales, but I didn't have much of an idea how many copies I'd sell. Imagine my surprise on the first day when I sold 5 books.

For those of you who have never published a book, you will never understand the sheer, unbridled joy that accompanies seeing your book available on Amazon. Hell, I was thrilled when I made my first proof copy and put it on my Kindle. It's a feeling that I'll never get tired of.

Since Blood & Ash was published I've released four more books. Half-way through writing the sequel I realised that to get the ending I wanted I needed to give a peripheral character a backstory. Fenton: The Loneliest Vampire was born. Fire & Ice, the second novel in the Lost Realm series, was released in October. Finally, I've also written two contemporary books: Danny's Boy was released in August, and Four Chances: A Short Story Quartet in November.

Then I had the nerve-wracking experience of waiting for my first reviews to come in. I am thrilled to announce that every single book I've written has been rated 5* at least once. Fire & Ice and Four Chances have been rated exclusively 5*.

I've also started this blog, got myself a facebook fan page, a twitter account and joined goodreads. I've made friends and yes, fans, in my first six months. I've been interviewed, I've interviewed others, I've seen my books ranked #1 in genre on Amazon and iTunes, and I distribute with ten different channels. I've even been nominated for an award by the Goodreads M/M Group. (Please, please tell me you voted!!)

So what's next? Well in 2012 I intend to publish at least two novels: a WIP with the working title of 'Christo & Damien' ~ check out goodreads for extracts. This story started life as a short for my Four Chances collection, but it grew and grew and is still growing. I am also going to conclude the Lost Realm trilogy, and bring Fenton's story to a close. Fans of the character had better bow down and worship Joann, who has hounded me on goodreads to give him the ending that he deserves. Fenton's Absolution will be published alongside the concluding part of the trilogy.

Once the Lost Realm series is complete I'm looking into publishing the entire collection in paperback, probably around summer 2012. After that...who knows? I've got something completely different in the pipeline, a traditional sci-fi story, and dozens more ideas all clamouring to be born.

I'd like to thank each and every one of you for sticking with me this year, and promise that 2012 will be even more exciting.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Vote for Fenton!!

Yes, Fenton: the Loneliest Vampire has been nominated for a Goodreads M/M Romance group 2011 Member's Choice award. The category is Best Title. I'm absurdly excited ~ not least because it's about the only category Damon Suede's not nominated for! I stand a chance!!



And I get to show off a pretty rainbow banner! Woop!

For those who don't know, the Goodreads M/M Romance group is, erm, dedicated to M/M Romance. It's a wonderfully eclectic and vibrant group, and I insist that anyone on goodreads who enjoys the genre join. Almost 5,000 members can't be wrong!

If you fancy checking out all the categories and all the nominations, you can vote here. Don't forget me!!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Guest Post ~ Serendipity

Our previous gest poster discussed the need for patience when bringing a novel to fruition. Here, Gloria Galloway writes about getting the perfect lucky break.

~^~

Serendipity

Dead By My Side is the story of two homicide detectives (Tony and Julia) who have been partners for more than twelve years.  Julia is killed in the line of duty, comes back to haunt him, and they team up again to solve crime.
I learned the true meaning of the word serendipity while embarking on my journey to publication.
~When I'd written 70 pages of my manuscript, I loved my story and my characters, but I knew nothing about police procedure.  I was talking to my manicurist, who had been there from the start of my project, and I mentioned this to her.  She said "I think there is a CSI guy who gets his hair done in this salon.  Let me ask him if he'd be willing to help you."  And he did!  Ken Wight has been one of my technical advisors for the last three years. 
~My book has a serial killer in it, and I knew nothing about forensics or autopsies.  My daughter e-mailed me one day that she'd gotten an advertisement for a writers' weekend retreat at the Lake Tahoe home of a former editor of Random House (Jennifer Basye Sander).  She invites three writers and the time is devoted to relaxing and writing.  We signed up for a weekend in October.  The third writer was actually scheduled for September, but the retreat was cancelled at the last minute and she ended up coming to our retreat.  We were all sitting around the fireplace on a Saturday night and Jennifer asked us to read from our projects.  I read from my manuscript and mentioned that I was frustrated because I knew nothing about forensics.  To which the third writer spoke up and said that her best friend had just retired and she was a former deputy coroner of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department!  Well, Kym Davis enthusiastically agreed to help me and she became my second technical adviser and best friend over the last three years!
~I received an e-mail from a friend when my manuscript was close to completion.  She told me about a 'community police academy' being put on by a neighboring county.  Since I was not a resident of the community, I hesitated contacting them, but my daughter convinced me to give it a try.  The deputy coordinating the program was happy to sign us up.  I met the deputy at the first meeting and she asked what my book was about.  She said she loved crime dramas and asked if she could read it.  A couple of months later, I received a call from her that a screenwriter friend of hers wanted to read it as well.  Author/screenwriter, Ron Montana and I are currently working on a screenplay which we hope to pitch to Hollywood as a major motion picture or television series.
~This journey has not been without its heartache.  The first draft of the manuscript did not include Julia’s funeral and I decided to add it.  I asked Kym Davis if she could read the scene.  She agreed to look it over and then told me she’d actually lost a former partner (Sheriff’s Deputy Vu Nguyen) who was killed in the line of duty in 2007.  My daughter was hired as a librarian at Kaplan College in Sacramento in January of 2011.  The college has a criminal justice program and in February they dedicated a Firearms Training Simulator to the memory of Vu Nguyen.  My daughter met Deputy Nguyen’s wife and some of his fellow officers.
~I met Kym Davis after I’d named the characters in my book.  Davis is the name I gave to a character in Chapter 8 (Sheriff Davis).  Kym Davis’s husband’s name is Geno.  I named Tony’s brother-in-law Gino.  What’s even more eerie is that Kym’s nickname for her Italian husband is “Diego.”  I started out writing historical romances and my first story took place in Mexico during the time of Maximilian.  I had named my heroine’s father Diego!

__________________________________________
Gloria Galloway makes her home in Northern California. She has had a life-long fascination with the spectral world. Her story came together after extensive research of police procedure, crime scene investigation and studies of the criminal mind. She collaborated with experts in the field, including a crime scene investigator and a former deputy coroner of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
 
Dead By My Side is available in paperback and on Amazon Kindle ~ Prime members can borrow the book for free!
 

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Guest Post ~ Lisa's Way and Patience

I've invited a couple of other authors to write guest posts for this blog. Here Robert Collins discusses the need for taking your time when creating a novel.

LISA’S WAY & PATIENCE

The story of my latest release, Lisa's Way, started when I was in  high school. A friend and I had this idea of a post-apocalypse story in which our friends and us would be the main characters. We were all supposed to contribute chapters. I was the one in our group that was the aspiring writer, so I ended up writing most everyone else's chapters.

A year or so after high school I realized the "real people as characters" notion wouldn't work. I took to fictionalizing the characters. The first draft of that novel wasn't very good. There were a couple of problems. First, the novel had a few main characters. I needed to find one that would be "the" main character. As I revised the story, it became clear that Lisa Herbert was the main character. She was the one with the passion to rebuild. She was the one with the smarts to get the job done.

The other problem was with me. I knew how to construct a story, but hadn't actually done much of it. I spent a few years writing fan fiction, and a few more working on selling my first short stories. I began to learn my craft and my art. I took another run at Lisa and her world.

I had the idea that perhaps the best way to tell her story was through short stories. I actually sold two of the several stories I wrote. The trouble with this idea was the background needed for a reader to understand what was going on. Too much info dump slows a short story. More experience led me back to the notion of telling Lisa's story as a novel. That led to another question: how was Lisa going to get it done? How was she going to go about rebuilding society?

In 1992 I started publishing my Touring Kansas Counties booklets. The booklets were not only about things to see, but also had town histories in them. The history of a couple of the counties touched on the Santa Fe Trail. I read up on the Trail. I learned how it was a route of commerce rather than emigration, and how important that commerce was on the frontier. That was it! Trade would be the means by which Lisa would attempt to rebuild society. The final piece of the puzzle came when I changed the setting from Earth to human colonies in outer space. That whole period, from first draft to finished novel, took about 15 years or so. I then tried to sell Lisa's Way to major publishers; no luck. I tried a few small presses, including the one that took my first novel; still no luck.

The novel was accepted by eTreasures Publishing in late 2008. It was supposed to appear in the spring of 2009. Spring came and went; computer problems, I was told. But it would be out in the summer. In July the ebook came out; still no print copy, and I heard very little from the publisher. In December I once again checked to see if there was a release date. Someone at the press replied that the publisher was seriously ill. The publisher recovered and the print version came out in February of 2009. A year later the founder sold the press to a new owner due to her illness.

In the meantime, I started a FB page for the novel. An artist friend who I'd lost touch with years ago reconnected with me. I used to have book giveaways for FB posts. He posted and won a copy of Lisa's Way. He liked it, his daughter liked it, and he asked about doing covers for my books. Once the contract with eTreasures expired (three years after the signing date), I had him get to work. His paying work came
ahead of my request, but in the end the work was done. At the end of November the new edition came out in print and as an ebook, 28 years after the original idea planted the seed.

A writer needs to be patient. It's not enough to have ideas. You need to have the skill to turn those ideas into stories. Sometimes it takes learning how to write. A story may not come together until you read up on history. It might take becoming friends with someone to allow you to create an interesting character. Maybe you just have to live life before you're ready to tackle a certain plot. Don't get into a hurry. When you're ready, you will write that story. At times you might be ready at that moment. Other times you aren't. If
you're meant to be a writer, the stories will come to you. Keep writing, and one day you'll be able to finish the one that keeps getting away.

____________________________________________
Robert Collins is the author of three SF novels, Monitor, Lisa's Way and Expert Assistance. the coming-of-age novel True Friends, and biographies of "Bleeding Kansas" leader Jim Lane, and a Kansas Civil War General. Robert has had a variety of stories and articles published in periodicals such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine; Tales of the Talisman; Space Westerns; Sorcerous Signals; Wild West; and Model Railroader.

Find Robert online on Amazon, Smashwords, Facebook, and his Blog.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christo & Damien ~ WIP Extract

Here's an extract from the new novel I'm working on, due out early 2012. Proving that there's nothing cuter than two dumb men and a very wise child.

~^~

Christo heard the intercom buzz as he was brushing his teeth and he frowned at his reflection in the mirror. Who on earth…? Not June, she had her own key, and today wasn’t her day anyway. Intrigued, he cocked an ear, listening for the door as he gargled and spat. He heard the lock open and he padded into the lounge, wiping sleep from his eyes, watching Damien greet his visitor.

A harassed-looking woman stood in the doorway, laden with an assortment of bags which she handed unceremoniously to Damien before kneeling at his feet. Startled, Christo stepped forward to see that she had bent to speak to a small child who had been standing beside and slightly behind her. As she told the girl to be on her best behaviour Damien turned, caught Christo’s eye and grimaced.

The woman rose, talking nineteen-to-the-dozen, reeling off a list of instructions regarding feeding, napping and appropriate TV shows, apologising over and over with each new stipulation. Noticing that Damien wasn’t paying attention her eyes followed his line of vision and she paused mid-sentence with a single ‘oh’ as she spied Christo. The child darted back behind her legs and peered out at him warily.

“Hi,” Christo stammered, wishing he’d put more clothes on.

She shot a meaningful look in Damien’s direction. “I’m sorry,” she said defensively in answer to a reproach that he hadn’t uttered. “I’m desperate.”

“It’s fine,” Damien reassured her. “Go, or you’ll be late.”

“Later, you mean.” She pushed the child into the room and towards Damien. “You be good,” she warned, kissing the top of her head.

“She’ll be fine,” Damien smiled, taking the girl’s hand. “Now go.”

“Sorry,” she mouthed again, nodded at Christo, and bustled out.

Damien and the child eyed each other, came to some unspoken understanding and she toddled over to scramble onto the sofa. Damien turned on a cartoon channel for her and deposited the bags he’d been given onto the worktop. Christo padded over to him as he started to unpack a seemingly endless supply of toys and books and clothes, giving him a quizzical look.

“That was Ali,” Damien explained. “She’s like my best friend. Her babysitter bailed on her.”

“And she trusts you with her daughter?” Christo raised his eyebrows but kept his tone light so Damien would know that he was only teasing.

“You heard her, she’s desperate.” He grinned.

“So what’s her name?” Christo nodded at the dark head of hair just visible at the arm of the sofa.

“Jess.” Damien’s face softened as he looked in the girl’s direction.

“How old?”

“Five.”

“She’s cute.”

Damien nodded. “She’s going to be a real heartbreaker when she’s older. Her mums are already dreading the day she brings a boy home.”

Christo couldn’t keep the surprise off his face.

“What?” Damien grinned at him. “Don’t tell me you don’t know any gay parents?”

“Not well,” Christo admitted.

“Did you never think of having any?”

Christo nodded.

“So what happened?”

He shrugged. “We talked about it, but, I don’t know,” he squirmed, “don’t you think it’s kinda selfish?”

“How so?”

“What if they get bullied? It’s hard enough growing up as it is, without being different.”

“Yes, but you grew up different. I did. We survived.”

“It’s not the same, being different yourself. I always worried I’d be foisting my own difference on my kid – if I had one. It didn’t seem fair.”

“I don’t think it matters, not as long as the kid knows that it’s loved.” He looked back at Jess. “At least Ali and Sam will never turn their backs on her. She’ll never have to worry about being rejected, however she turns out.”

Christo nodded. “There is that,” he agreed, wondering how they got onto this conversation, and what on earth they were going to do with a five year old all day. “Is she Ali’s or Sam’s?” He asked curiously.

“She’s theirs.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Ali’s.”

“She doesn’t look like her.” Christo recalled the woman’s dirty blonde hair, blue eyes and fresh complexion. She was definitely the earth mother type, whereas from what he’d seen of her daughter she was all poise and grace, even at five years old. Her long dark locks tumbled messily across the side of the sofa, almost waist-length when she was standing. Damien was right, she would be beautiful when she was older, he could already see the lines of her high cheekbones, the bronze refracted in her large brown eyes.

“So what are we going to do with her?” Christo asked uneasily.

“I thought we could go to the zoo. Would you like that sweetheart?” He called to the child.

Wide eyes peered around the edge of the couch.

“Do you want to go to the zoo and see the animals?”

She nodded, once, and darted back behind the cushions.

“Doesn’t talk much, does she?” Christo grinned.

“It’s you, she’s shy. You wait until she gets used to you.”

“What if she hates me?” Christo asked, suddenly anxious. He wasn’t good with kids, they unnerved him.

“She’ll love you,” Damien promised, drawing him in for a kiss. “Who wouldn’t?”

Christo squirmed. “Not in front of her,” he whispered.

“Why not? Children are the most accepting creatures in the world at that age. Besides, she’s not even looking.”

Christo turned in his arms and glanced at the couch. A tiny arm patted the cushions, but the cartoons on the TV were clearly holding her attention. He protested again half-heartedly as Damien nuzzled his jaw.

“I’m sorry about this,” Damien murmured against his lips. “It’s not exactly what I had in mind either.”

“It’s fine. Honestly. I’ve not been to the zoo in years.”

“What’s your favourite animal?”

“The tigers.” Christo’s eyes lit up.

Damien smiled indulgently, leaning against the counter and looping his arms around Christo’s waist. Christo leant into him, steadying himself against Damien’s shoulders.

“Why tigers?” He asked between kisses.

“They’re just…beautiful. I always wanted a pet one as a kid.”

“And what would you have called your pet tiger?”

“Shere Khan, of course.”

“Of course.” He snickered.

“Don’t tease me,” Christo scolded, slapping his chest playfully.

“Did you never want a black panther to keep it company?”

“Totally.”

“Shere Khan was a baddie.”

Christo leapt out of Damien’s arms as he realised that the little person had started listening. Damien rubbed his shoulder reassuringly as he stepped over to the sofa and swung the child up, holding her easily on his hip.

“He was a baddie, wasn’t he sweetheart? Who did you like best?”

“Blue.” Tiny hands snaked around Damien’s neck.

“Baloo,” he corrected.

She nodded and buried her face in his shoulder as they approached Christo. He tickled her with his free hand and she squealed.

“Aren’t you going to say hello to Christo?” He prompted. “Don’t tell me you’re shy?”

She shook her head violently, small fingers twined in his hair.

Damien tutted playfully. “Christo, this is Jessie. I know I told you she was a big girl, but she’s acting like a baby today.”

“Am not a baby.” Brown eyes glared at him reproachfully.

“Well you’re acting like one. Say hello to Christo.”

“’Lo,” She mumbled unwillingly.

“Hello,” Christo smiled.

“You like the baddie,” she reproved him.

“Not the real baddie. I meant I like the tigers in the zoo.”

She didn’t look convinced.

“What animals do you like?” He countered, trying to steer the conversation away from goodies and baddies.

“Ponies.” She gave him a gap-toothed grin.

“What about the elephants?” Damien prompted. “You like the elephants, don’t you remember?”

She gave him a disdainful look. “I like ponies better.”

Christo laughed at the surprised expression on Damien’s face. “That’s you told.”

“Come here,” Damien growled, grabbing Christo with his free arm and pulling him into his side. “Can we go to the zoo and show Christo the tigers?” He asked the child.

She studied them both for a moment. “Okay,” she relented, nodding slowly.

“Good girl.” Damien kissed her cheek.

Christo smiled as he watched him. Damien was so good with her, so at ease. He made a natural parent. Damien turned his head and caught Christo’s eye. “What?” He asked, smirking.

“He wants a kiss,” a tiny voice piped up.

They both looked at her.

“He does!” She insisted.

“Well in that case,” Damien turned to Christo, sliding his hand up his back to clasp his neck.

Chriso squeaked a warning.

Soft lips covered Christo’s as Damien’s long fingers raked through his short hair. Christo shut up and closed his eyes. They broke apart and both turned to look at their young charge.

“Told you so.”

Friday, 9 December 2011

KDP Select

So earlier this week us indies woke up and logged onto the KDP Reporting section (where Amazon tells us how many books we've sold ~ trust me, this is the first thing every indie does every morning!) and discovered to our amazement that we were being offered a share of $500,000 in the month of December. Of course, the community forum went into meltdown.

Basically, what has happened is that Amazon has extended its Prime feature to include a book loaning service from its Kindle store. People sign up to Amazon Prime to get benefits on P&P charges and rates, among other things, but Amazon intends to extend this. From this month each member gets one free loan book per month from the Kindle store. The cost set aside for this is $500,000, for a maximum of 100,000 books. (That's 100,000 Prime members who might or might not avail themselves of this subscription, but whose money has been added to the pot in case they do).

The way Amazon is working out the price to the author is as an equal share of the $500,000 for each book borrowed. So if every person in Prime takes out a book in December then each author who has a borrowed book will receive $5 per copy. If you've had 1000 books borrowed that's $5k for the month, and so on.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Well, as always, there are pros and cons to this. Having been debating this issue fiercely in the KDP community forum, here's the facts as I see them.

Minimum price per book
You will be guaranteed a minimum of $5 per book loaned in this month. At the end of Dec the Jan pot will be announced and you can calculate the new minimum, but I wouldn't have thought it will stray far from the $5 for the next several months at least. So if you've got a book languishing on the Amazon bookshelf that barely shifts a copy a week, this might be a decent gamble. Yes, you might get nothing, but what's new? There's no guarantees in this business anyway. At most you might be gambling with $10 a month.

The exciting thing about this system is that there's no maximum per book. It's only $5 per copy if every person in Prime gets involved in this, and what are the chances of that? Realistically speaking, probably less than half will take this up in the first month, making the return per book more like $10. If yours is the only book borrowed, you'll get the entire pot. (Give up now on that, I know of at least 4 authors who between them have already racked up a couple of dozen loans). The potential, however, is huge.

Make a book free
As a sweetener, Amazon will allow participating authors to make another book free for a 5 day period. I've already explored in earlier blogs the benefit of doing this if you can, and giving indies the ability to do this - even if it is only for a limited time - is a huge plus. I know of several indies who've racked up 20,000+ downloads in a five-day period with free books. That's a massive instant market of people whose attention can then be directed towards your other books.

Limited downloads
Each Prime member can only download one book per month. As libraries go, that's pretty naff, and I can't see it staying that low if this thing is to really catch on. It does mean that chances are the people who participate are going to want to download an expensive book, one they've thought twice about paying for in the past. That prices most indies (who don't usually stray far from the $2.99 mark) out of the market. The download limit also makes it more likely that people are going to want to borrow books that they're pretty sure they'll like, from big-name authors, rather than take a chance on an unknown.

However, all is not lost. If more people are borrowing the expensive books, then I predict that sales of the cheaper books will increase. If I've got $10 to spoil myself with on Amazon, and I can borrow one book on top of that, I'm going to borrow the $10 book and buy three or four cheaper ones instead. Anyone would.

Exclusivity
This is the point that's really put the cat among the pigeons. In return for joining KDP Select, you have to give Amazon 90 days' exclusivity, automatically renewed unless you opt back out. The general reaction has been - ouch! An entire quarter handed to Amazon on a platter. Is it worth it? What if nothing comes of it? What if no-one borrows your book?

It's a gamble. A huge one. Most indies I know distribute to Amazon and Smashwords as a minimum. SW has a distribution network which includes B&N, iTunes, Sony, Kobo and so on. That's a lot of branches you're cutting off by going with Amazon. Of course, Amazon is the biggest fish in the pond. Compared to the others it's a bloody shark, but does that really mean that you want to let them have your book exclusively? Even if sales on the other channels are low, there's a moral quandary too: if everyone grants Amazon exclusivity, then it really can do what it wants. There are already enough rumbles about Amazon's heavy-handed behaviour at times. If we all put all of our eggs in this basket, then we could end up in real trouble in the future.

Personally, I'm a great believer in healthy competition. The idea of any commercial monopoly makes me uneasy, as fond as I am of Amazon. SW is a really exciting and innovative platform, and while it has its issues, I don't think I want to stop distributing with them. In fact I had a bumper month in Nov through the SW distribution channel. (Did you know I was #22 on the Australian iTunes chart at one point? Me neither...)

It is still very much early days with this new system. I know some who have enrolled, and some who are still sitting on the fence. My bum is firmly parked on the post between my house and number 86. I can see the potential advantages of this system, but I'm wary of the exclusivity angle, for both financial and slightly more moral reasons. In fact, I've already earmarked this weekend to get my books listed on All Romance eBooks...links coming soon! My business model is that the more channels I distribute through, the more chance I have of making sales. I calculated in the Self-Pub Tips & Tricks series that you need to sell 48 books a day at $2.99 to earn a median salary. I didn't say anything about all those sales coming from one source. I've got 5 books available, through about 8-9 different channels. One copy of each book per day per channel and there's my medial salary. Take that, Amazon!

One thing I would say...those who sign up early stand to reap the biggest rewards. Your exact split of the pot depends on how many of your books are loaned, and how many books are borrowed in total. In these early months I doubt even half of the Prime members take this offer up, meaning that each share is going to be greater. Let Amazon tweak this and in a couple of months I guarantee that almost every member will be borrowing a book a month (and no doubt more, if Amazon decides to up the limit). I think if you've got something brand new that you're planning to put out in the next week or so anyway then it may well be worth giving this a go, but I have no intention of pulling any of my books from distributors where they're already available. I'm working on a new novel that will be out early in 2012, and depending on how this goes I might let Amazon have it for the first 90 days as a trial, but for now I'm watching the figures of those who have already signed up and seeing if they think that this is a worthwhile venture.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

5* Books from 2011

No, not mine! The handy thing about Goodreads is that I can keep tabs on the books I've read this year. I've challenged myself to 175 before the year's out (up from 120 originally!!) and I'm closing in on it. I thought I'd give some other authors some webspace by reviewing (briefly) every book I've rated 5* this year (in no particular order). Best of all, a lot of them are free.

Bonds of Fire - Sophie Duncan
What can I say, baby dragons! I was hooked. A feel-good story, heavy on romantic and cute. FREE.

Don't Read in the Closet Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3, Special Edition - Various Authors
A collective effort by the Goodreads M/M Romance Group. Each anthology has good and bad stories, of course, but as a group effort I couldn't award it anything less than 5*, and there truly are some gems within these volumes. Plus, they're all FREE.

Kissing Sherlock Holmes - T.D. McKinney & Terry Wylis
I've always been quite fond of the Holmes stories, and fascinated by his relationship with his biographer, the good Dr. Watson. This story takes all of those raised eyebrows and just goes at it: Holmes and Watson are in love, but Holmes has got himself engaged while in pursuit of a spy, and they need to solve the mystery before Watson gets taken out. A bit silly but pretty in-keeping with the style of the original stories, and beautifully done.

Hot Head - Damon Suede
If I could give one 6* review in my life, it would go to this book. It's that good. I'm a sucker for angst at the best of times, and love it when I'm reading something that makes my stomach lurch. Well reading this book felt more like I was having my guts drawn out of my navel inch by torturous inch. Reading this book is a physical experience, and it was all I could do to stop myself from starting it all over again the second I finished it.

Smashwords Style Guide - Mark Coker
No, it's not romantic, it's not even fiction, but if you are ever formatting a book using MS Word then this book is a must read. FREE.

A Not-So-Grimm Fairytale - Ann Somerville
Based, as you can guess, on the Grimm-style fairytales, this book is silly, irreverent and amusing. Some people don't get the humour - hence mixed reviews - but I thought it was hysterical. FREE.

E Squared - Matt Beaumont
For anyone who has worked in an office, E was the perfect satire. E Squared didn't disappoint, it was a sequel I was longing for, and it's just as silly - and as funny - as the first. The epic return of Simon Horne, the closeted, self-aggrandising account manager, was worth every penny alone.

Jealousy: A Love Story - Katey Hawthorne
Spin-off sequel to Equilibrium, this short can be read as a stand-alone (as I read it). An established couple work through some issues when a new boy arrives and starts making eyes at one of them. Lots of cute. FREE.

Forgotten Soul - Natasha Duncan-Drake
Don't judge this book by its cover! John is an escort who offers his services to the vampire population, but his involvement doesn't stop there. An interesting twist on the vampire-mortal lover trope, with a surprising and satisfying ending. FREE.

Navy Days - Ken Smith
A collection of shorts charting a week in the life of the biggest tart in the navy. Never mind that it's hot: this collection is hilarious. The author told me that one man emailed him to tell him that he'd never laughed so much with an erection, and reading this, I know why. FREE.

The Persian - Gordon Watt
A murder-mystery set in London. This book is dark and gritty and the ending is just plain disturbing, but the plot will keep you guessing as the author poses questions about just how far someone will go for art. FREE.

A Delicate Game - Sasha L. Miller
Beautiful brothers who are also spies play a dangerous game of seduction and espionage. When they fall in love, will they be able to break their self-imposed "one night only" rule? FREE.

Fire From Heaven - Mary Renault
A re-reading of an old favourite. The first in Renault's Alexander the Great trilogy, this story charts Alexander's childhood and adolescence up to the death of his father, Philip II. Renault is a hugely under-appreciated author, and this book displays all of her considerable talent.

Spoils of War -