Monday, January 30, 2012

My Writing Week: Issue 5, Year 5.

Hi all,

I thought it was about time that I checked what was happening with the price of ebooks on Amazon. While there, I discovered the Kindle Lending Library which could be a total game changer in the publishing industry. Earlier in the week I read a blog post by an anonymous traditional publisher that said most of his colleagues are in denial about the effect Amazon with have on their businesses

Ebooks Getting Cheaper.

I just checked the top 100 bestselling ebooks on Amazon. 34 were 99c, seven were $1.99, 32 were $2.99, four were $3.99, 5 were $4.99 and four were $8.99. No other price had more than two ebooks. There were only six priced above $8.

In August, the last time I checked, 41 of the top selling ebooks were 99c and only four were $2.99. Four were also $1.99, and 22 were more than $8. So the overall downward trend in prices continues.

The increase in the number of bestsellers at $2.99 from four to 32 is interesting. Amazon, the last I heard, only gives authors 35% of the list price when the price is less than $2.99. If it is $2.99 or more the author gets 70%.

I assume many authors who independently publish would have come across Joe Konrath, perhaps after discovering links to him on mega-selling Amanda Hocking’s blog. He is adamant that $2.99 is the best price for an ebook.  

Amazon’s Lending Library.

For US citizens, Amazon has created the Kindle Lending Library. The library allows a reader to borrow one ebook a month and return it whenever. The book needs to be returned before they can borrow another.

To get access to the library a customer must first join Kindle Prime for a cost of $79 a year. Besides the lending library, Prime gives you cheaper deals on books and free streamed movies. Members borrowed 295,000 books in December. Membership is free for the first month. How many pay the $79 after that? Perhaps many let their membership lapse. It does see a bit costly considering what you get.

So what’s in it for the author? The author or publisher must make their books exclusive to the Kindle store for at least 90 days. They are then paid out of a monthly “fund” which seems to be arbitrarily set by Amazon. For December it was $500,000. This fund is then divided by the number of books borrowed, so for December each author received $1.70 per borrow of their books.

The top ten library authors earned over $70,000 in December. But as more authors sign up the amount in the fund will need to be spread among more borrowed books from more authors. So will participating authors continue to get $1.70? I don’t think so.

Amazon Set to Kill off Traditional Publishers.

A publisher in a blog post on Pandodaily thinks Amazon is well on the way to killing off traditional publishers.  He says his colleagues are in denial as they don’t want to have to get rid of 40% of their print book staff to try to compete with Amazon.

According to the anonymous publisher, 95% of readers will soon read digitally. Amazon has been paying huge amounts to buy up the rights to books they think will sell to these readers. The traditional publishers just can’t compete.

So there you have it. Not only will Amazon totally dominate ebook selling, but is seems it will soon dominate publishing while perhaps changing the whole industry into one were books are lent and not bought.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Writing Week: Issue 4, Year 5.

Hi all,

Communication problems was my theme last week.

Byline Missing From Divine Article

I had a new article posted on Divine last week. The article was about hiding my ulcerative colitis from the world. I failed to notice the article lacked a by-line. Some readers might have thought that I wanted to remain anonymous and still hid my disease. I was notified of the problem the next day and the article is now attributed to me.

I have received a number of comments on the article on the Divine site and on facebook. As a result, if I wrote the article again I would include another reason for not telling the world I had ulcerative colitis: people offering dietary and medical advice. Over the years I have come across lots of natural therapies and dietary changes that supposedly cure ulcerative colitis, none of them have worked.

A big problem with ulcerative colitis is that it comes and goes. So say it is active and I decide to try one of the various “cures”. I choose a cure of standing on one leg while singing I’m too Sexy for my Shirt. After a couple of months of no sign of the disease, I might become convinced my cure has worked. But the disease returns a couple of months later leaving me feeling slightly gullible.   

Typos in The Dervish House

In my last blog post I pointed out three typos I had seen in Ian McDonald’s novel The Dervish House. I then added a comment about a further two typos. I did not point these typos out as a complaint, just an observation. The typos have not influenced my enjoyment of the novel. I finished reading it last night and hope to post a review sometime this week.

Problems with Technology

Karl Marx was convinced chemicals were added to bread to make it go stale faster. Maybe they are. I am convinced that electronic manufacturers start sending bugs over the web to computers and printers two years after the machines are first used. These bugs eventually cause so many problems that a consumer gives up and buys a new machine.

The first two IBM second-hand computers I bought lasted five and seven years respectively. The current Compaq began acting up about a month after its two year warranty ended. I doubled its Ram memory and the computer behaved for about seven months. But now it keeps having start-up problems.

The first printer I bought lasted over seven years. The last two, including the one I destroyed in a fit of rage last week, lasted about two years each before they started acting up.

So Hewlett Packard and Cannon, I am aware of what you are doing.  

My Novel Writing

My printer and discussions about my article and blog post, took up a lot of writing time last week. As a result, I added the least weekly amount of words to my novel since I started writing it at the beginning of November: a paltry 1300 words.

This week has not started any better. My computer decided to have start-up problems this morning. A blue screen said something about a corrupt file. As requested, I did yet another restore, the third in two weeks.

And the cricket starts tomorrow. And it’s My Birthday on Wednesday. And then Australia Day on Thursday. And I have to spray the fruit with malathion on Saturday…

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Writing Week: Issue 3, Year 5

Hi all,

Best Place to Self-Publish a Book

For the past year or so I have followed a thread on LinkedIn that asked the question: What is the best place to self-publish a book? Here are a few things I have learnt:

  • Createspace (Amazon) comes up as the best self-publishing platform. It is relatively easy to use compared to other platforms and not many authors seem to have problems with it.
  • Smashwords rarely has a bad comment posted about it.
  • Until recently, I had not noted any references to Apple’s ibooks. This is probably due to writers having to use Smashwords or Lulu to prepare their ebook before it can be sold in the ibookstore.
  • Never use Publish America. It is a total rip off. The fact that it still exists means many writers do very little publishing research. Authors accuse Publish America of doing things like charging $350 for the placement of 15 copies of their book in Barnes and Noble. Many authors say they know they have sold books, but Publish America says they have not.  Publish America then seems to make it virtually impossible for an author to get the rights back to their non-selling book.


I am reading Hugo nominated author Ian McDonalds’ The Dervish House, published by Gollancz. Recently my reading was interrupted three times in thirty or so pages by typos. Twice a word was repeated and a word that should have been singular was pluralised. But in the hundred pages I have read since I have not noticed any more typos. Perhaps the proof-reader read those thirty pages on Friday, after a big night out.  

My Divine Writing

I wrote and submitted an article to DiVine magazine last week. It is about how I hid my Ulcerative Colitis from everyone. I will let the universe know when the article is published, which seems a bit odd when the article is about hiding my disease.

My Novel Writing.  

Much of my writing time last week was taken up with the Divine article. I had computer problems which always seem to happen at this time of year. I also spent a lot of time in the garden picking tomatoes and beans, watering and waging war on fruit flies. And then there was the cricket.

So I didn’t achieve my goal of 1000 words of the novel on any weekday. My best effort was 750 words on Friday. But, but, but…chapter thirty-four was so hard to write as the POV character kept on thinking up new evacuation supplies and activities for the crew to perform.

All up I added 1970 words to the now 70,900 word novel. This week I hope to do better.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Writing Week: Issue 2, Year 5

Hi all,

As a personal stand against the ebook price race to the bottom, I made a resolution at the start of last year to only purchase ebooks priced over $5. Here is what I ended up downloading:

WTF, an anthology by Pink Narcissus Press, $8.99
Marketing for Authors by Anita Revel, $4.97
The Last Albatross by Ian Irvine, $6.99
Oxygen by John Olson and Randy Ingermanson, 0.99
Turing Evolved by Dave Kitson, free
My Name in Lights by Patty Jansen, $1.99
Creating an ebook by Paul Hurst, free

Ah-huh, Graham was not very good at keeping his resolution you think, but wait until you read my rationalisations.

I sent Dave Kitson an $8 donation when I finished reading Turing Evolved.

Patty Jansen’s ebook was a 33 page novella. I think $1.99 is a fair price for a novella.

I read Randy Ingermanson’s newsletter, sometimes hurriedly, and mistakenly thought Oxygen was a novella with some writing tips at its end.

Creating an ebook, by Paul Hurst is only a small non-fiction book.

And I was not going to quibble about three cents in the price of Marketing for Authors.

So I reckon I kept my new year’s resolution.

Australian Book Sales in 2011.

According to an article in the Age by Jason Steger, the number of books sold in Australia last year dropped by 7.1% to 60.4 million, with their value dropping 12.6% to $1.1 billion. Most of the drop in sales is put down to the collapse of Angus and Robertson and Borders. I wonder how much was spent at overseas online bookshops by Australians.

In the US sales dropped from 717 million to 651 million. In Britain the value of book sales dropped $150 million. 

The same article said Mathew Reilly’s Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves was the top selling Adult novel in Australia in 2011, selling 124,000 copies. It was the third bestselling book in Australia last year. Di Morrissey’s The Opal Desert was the eighth bestselling book, with 92,000 copies sold.

My Novel Writing.

I finished chapter thirty-three on Tuesday and then got bogged down in chapter thirty-four. That chapter is told from the point of view of the XO of the starship as he organises its evacuation. I kept on changing the chapter as I thought about how he would manage the evacuation and what supplies he would take when there was virtually no chance of rescue and only eight tonnes capacity available. So a lot of words were deleted and I did not get to my 1000 words on any day. I ended the week with 69,000 words of the novel written.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My writing week: Issue one, year five.

Hi all,

This is my annual best of the previous years science fiction and new year’s resolutions post.

2011’s Science Fiction Books.

The best science fiction book I read last year was The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood, a prequel to her equally as good Oryx and Crake. It’s not about global warming, the flood is a genetically engineered plague. I also enjoyed Stephen King’s Under the Dome – which did sag a bit in the middle - and Dave Kitson’s self-published ebook Turing Evolved, which had a great story, it just needed a good edit.

Overall, I made very good choices for reading in 2011, except for the very much overrated Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. Its story took way too long to develop into anything interesting. It should have been cut to half its 600 pages. 

2011’s Science Fiction Movies.

Apart from the excellent Rise of the Apes, was any other science fiction movie released in 2011? At least that’s the question I asked myself. When I checked what else was released, I did remember other movies I had seen last year.

Source Code was good, but not the sort of film that got my imagination going. Paul was a good laugh. I expected more of a Philip K. Dick story with The Adjustment Bureau. X-men Origins was a good but instantly forgettable movie. The same goes for Super 8 and Cowboys and Aliens. There currently seems little appetite to make science fiction movies that get a viewer thinking. I want more movies with grand themes and ideas like Inception, Moon and District 9.

Two absolute stinkers released last year were Battle Los Angles and I am Number Four.

2011’s Science Fiction Television.

Easily the best science fiction on television last year was series four of Torchwood: Miracle Day. It was a ten part miniseries that slowly built up the tension before reaching a satisfying conclusion. A series that made you think about the prolonging of life for those with little quality of life.  

Doctor Who improved as the year went on. There were some good episodes, but none as good as those with the previous two doctors. Suspense has been thrown out the window with the current doctor. As we all knew the doctor wouldn’t die, although I was hopeful he would regenerate, the continuing story of his death generated zero suspense. I did enjoy the non-alien invasion Christmas episode.

Terra Nova is too predictable and like Falling Skies has been made as a family drama (soap), rather than a science fiction series. The lead characters and families in both series act exactly like other current television families. They even have the same clich├ęd dialogue. The writers seem to have put no effort into exploring how families might behave in the future or in a world destroyed by aliens. Instead, the writers have said, let’s write characters who today’s teenagers can identify with.

I enjoyed Fringe, and look forward to its return this year. I also enjoyed the low-brow Warehouse 13, Eureka and Chuck. I think the last two will struggle for originality in future episodes.

Two movies I saw on cable stood out, both British. Monsters was an excellent character based movie, set in Mexico, where two people get to know each other as they try to cross a no-go zone full of aliens to get back to the US. I also found Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel very funny, and clever for a story about a group of drunken yobs who step into the lavatory and find themselves in the future. 

Last Year’s Resolutions/Goals

I didn’t make any writing resolutions last year. The previous year I had a goal of writing every day, which I did achieve.

The only new year’s resolution I made last year was to download no ebooks that were less than $5. My next post will tell you how I went with that resolution.

Last year I signed up for the Goodreads reading challenge. My goal was to read 26 novels/anthologies. I only read half that due to tiredness and choosing long books – they averaged 400 pages. This year I will again challenge myself to read 26 novels/anthologies, hopefully the tireds won’t intervene again.

2012 Writing Goals.

My writing goals for this year are many. I want to finish the first draft of Jack Logan, Astronaut. I am about half way through it at 67,000 words. I then want to rewrite it, get it critiqued, rewrite it, and then edit it.

I also hope to edit a 25,000 word novella, get it critiqued, and rewrite and edit it. The same goes for a 6,000 word short story.

I want to do all that writing before NaNoWriMo in November which I plan to do again.

If I have time, I want to return to rewriting another novel, which I was halfway through rewriting last year. 

When I am writing new words my aim is 1000-2000 words a weekday. When I am rewriting and editing, obviously the word count will drop.

I also aim to again get 12 paid articles published in DiVine magazine and to look for other freelance writing jobs.

I want to critique a lot more this year and be more of a contributor to a couple of writing communities I am involved in. In the last two years I have only critiqued a couple of novels and a few stories. I need to do more.
I want to do all this before the world ends on December 21, according to the Mayans anyway.