Hugh Howey

I mentioned this American author on KUF forum today and straight away several people said they had never heard of him. This isn’t completely surprising as, whilst he has gained popularity over the last few months in America, his name is only now just starting to get mentioned over on this side of the pond.

Hugh is a self-published author. He has several titles out such as Molly Fyde and I, Zombie, but it was his dystopian sci-fi “Wool” series that has been his most successful series to date. It started out as a short story, but after many positive reviews and plenty of “word of mouth” exposure, he was motivated to continue the series.

Late last year, he entered into discussions regarding a “traditional” publishing deal, and in that process turned down one or two “seven-figure deals” on the basis the terms were not favourable enough, not just for him, but for Indies in general. Eventually, he struck a deal with Simon & Schuster where he kept control of the eBook rights. You can read more about the deal here on his blog.

Not only has he a publishing deal, the rights to the movie film have been picked up by Ridley Scott (yes, the real one) and according to this article is already in production. The same article touts Hugh as this year’s E L James; the latest “Indie author done good” story. He has just spent the last week here in the UK promoting Wool to all and sundry (including a spot on Simon Mayo’s show). So expect to hear many more mentions of this guy over the coming months.

Have I read Wool yet? In a word, no. I am trying to though. I have the sample and have read the first bit, but due to life getting in the way I haven’t been able to “get into it”. What I have read so far is very well written, and I hope I will be motivated enough to read through the rest of it in the coming months. The trouble is, I am not much of a sci-fi reader. I like to see my sci-fi on screen, rather than on the page (digital or otherwise). Don’t let my struggle with it put you off. I know it’s a good book (and yes, I know it’s a bit pricey over here in the UK at £5.39), but if you are a fan of sci-fi, then I doubt you will be disappointed with this one.

On Amazon (US) it has 3821 reviews at the time of writing this. 3212 of these are the full 5 stars(!) and only thirty 1 star reviews. That in itself is reason enough to take a look at this book.

Indies- be independent

The self-publishing world is a fast moving one. I have been “in this business” for a little under 6 months, and can already see the tide is turning. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, authors should be finding ways to reduce their reliance on Amazon for their titles.

On March 1st, a new set of terms and conditions for Amazon’s Affiliate Programme come into force. This programme, for those who don’t know, allows website owners to earn a commission from Amazon each time a visitor to their website results in a purchase (or several) on Amazon. OK, I hear you say, what has that to do with me? I don’t have an Affiliate account.

Are you planning a free promo for your book? Are you hoping to get 10,000 maybe even 30,000 downloads during that promotion? Are you praying to any deity who might listen that sites like Ereader News Today or Pixel of Ink will mention your book? Well, it looks like we have reached the end of the road…

Here’s one of the new stipulations on Amazon…

“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”

Amazon are choking off, in one stroke, the big free book promo sites from promoting free ebooks. 20,000 a month works out at approximately 660 free downloads a day, attributed to their sites. Any more than that and they won’t get paid for any sales they generate on paid books, Kindles or anything else their visitors decide to buy.

Paragraph (b) may allow a little wiggle room if the affiliates can boost their sales of paid books to more than 20%, but whatever way you look at it, the amount of free titles these sites are going to promote is going to be brought down even further than we have seen in recent months.

Amazon, whilst still happy to allow free ebooks on their site, are trying to reduce the volume that get downloaded. They aren’t making as much money as they want to, so they are encouraging (or at least trying to) more paid sales than free downloads.

So what does that mean for us Indie authors? It means there’s another reason not to rely on Amazon for your sales. Many are in the cycle of “poor sales, run a promo, get a few thousand downloads, have a few weeks of modestly boosted sales, back to selling nothing again, wait for 3 month cycle to start again”. Facebook is out (unless you want to pay to promote your posts), Twitter, is for most people, useless. Readers don’t buy books from adverts or promo threads on forums, and now KDP Select is not as effective either.

So what’s the point in remaining in KDP Select? In my opinion, there isn’t one. I would imagine in a couple of months, Amazon will change the incentives for Select. Already, having not enrolled Uprising in it, I’m tied into the 35% royalty for sales in Indie, Brazil and Japan. I can’t earn 70% unless the book is in Select. Do not be surprised if later in the year the only way you can get 70% in all countries is to be part of Select. Hopefully, they’ll raise the 35% bottom line up for those not signed up. I will still take 50% and be non-exclusive to Amazon than get 70% to be tied into just their site.

2013 is going to be an interesting year for Amazon and ebooks. Authors are going to have to come up with new ways of driving sales to their own titles. Whatever ideas people come up with, they should remember that they are Indie authors not Amazon authors. Independence. Focus on that word. Build your own reader base, however you do it, make readers aware of who you are and where they can find you, not your Amazon page. Have a website and use it to your advantage. Drive traffic to your website, not Amazon’s (directly). Let them find your books on your site. On your site there are only your books, no-one else’s to distract them. Yes, most of your sales (assuming you are not exclusive) will still be to Amazon customers, but they will have come to Amazon from your site, not because they found you on Amazon.

It’s an uphill battle, one that will take years, not weeks or months. We all like the rush of excitement as our free download numbers go up every second, but weeks, even days later it’s all over again. No sales today, sorry.

You are an Indie author, be proud of that. Now go, find your independence.

Oh, what am I doing? http://oldlondontown.com is what I’m doing. All will be revealed later in the year (not too much later, though.)

The difficult second book

Sometimes you start something with a clear path in mind. You work out what you need to do and how long it will take you, so you get started. Everything goes great to begin with, and then life gets in the way. Regular followers will know that I had originally planned to have Uprising out in time for Christmas. I had a big promo lined up for Firestone and I was all ready to go. Then life got in the way. As December progressed, I found the time I had to work on Uprising faded away in a wash of Christmas presents, work and other stuff. By the time I found a little window to do an hour’s work, I would find I was too exhausted to concentrate on magic and dragons.

Christmas came and went, and so did January. All I wanted to do was write, but things got in the way. I wondered if I would ever get it finished. I have another project that I’m itching to crack on with, but promised myself to complete Uprising first. And now I have. It was a difficult second book (to coin a phrase) in more ways than one, but I did it. I am now an author of two, yes two, novels. I’m not some fly-by-night writer now, y’ know!

Anyway, I hit the publish button yesterday evening and let it percolate through Amazon’s systems and it is now live. It is priced at a very reasonable £1.99 ($.299) and Firestone is still a bargain at half price- 99p ($1.49) so you can get both for about the price of a coffee (depending where you go, if it’s your local greasy spoon, you could get half a dozen for the same price).

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice Uprising is not available to borrow. I have deliberately not enrolled it in Amazon’s KDP Select. What does that mean for those who don’t follow all that author stuff? Well it means Uprising will never be priced at free. No promo’s for this one. Why?

Come 15th March, the 90 day lock-in for Firestone will be up, so that will come out of Select also. KDP Select has an exclusivity clause, which means I can only sell my books on Amazon. It is now time to spread my wings a little, so come mid-March, both books will be available on Kobo and Nook and the iBookstore. Amazon have a 45% share of the eBook market (in the US at least, it’s probably higher in the UK at the moment, but I don’t have those figures) so currently 55% of people who like to read eBooks don’t have the option to not buy my books. That’s a huge potential audience.

I’ve enjoyed writing Uprising, I really have, but I’m glad it’s finished. It’s time for me to move on to something new. For you, however, the story is all yours to enjoy.

UK download

US Download

The blurb for Uprising…

Well, it’s taken me a little longer than anticipated to get Uprising finished and ready for publication, but I am nearly there (I’m talking merely days now, folks). So to keep you going for now, here is the blurb…

After Leila loses both her parents in quick succession, she finds friendship in a young boy who has no memory of his name, or of his past. He bears the scale of a dragon symbiant, but there is no dragon, except in his nightmares. Together they become embroiled in a crusade against the King by her uncle, a man she hasn’t seen since she was a child. Her once quiet life suddenly becomes filled with danger, secrets and deception. Can she help her new friend regain his past? Why does her uncle want the King dead? A new life in Acirath awaits her…

REVIEW: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Ok, so first thing is, this isn’t an Indie book. Haha, no shit, Sherlock! In preparation for my forthcoming London Town project, I have been trying to find other novels that fit, or nearly fit, into a similar genre. Having seen both Stardust and Coraline, and seen a few YouTube interviews with Neil Gaiman, I thought I would try this one. It was actually recommended to me by a colleague at work (think Victor Meldrew in both appearance and demeanour and you’ll be quite close).

Neverwhere was originally created as a BBC television series and then rewritten into a novel. It tells the story of Richard Mayhew, a man with a not-very-likeable fiancée, but otherwise living a very normal life until one night, he comes to the rescue of a young girl named Door. That fateful intervention leads him to London Below – a world of lost souls who have fallen through the cracks of city life. There are rats and rat-speakers, an angel called Islington, and a wonderful pair of villains called Croup and Vandemar.

You are drawn into this underworld along with Richard without even realising it. The story is expertly told and the characters are so real they will stay with you long after you finish reading. Make a visit to the real Earl’s Court, talk about birds with Old Bailey, a man who prefers life on a roof than living in the sewers of London. Oh, and if you happen to meet the Marquis de Carabas, make sure he owes you a favour and not the other way round.

Seriously, I can’t praise this book enough. It is brilliant in every single way, and since finishing it, I can’t help but think back over their story and hope that one day I will meet them again.

Five stars