No blog entry as such tonight, just an update. If you follow me on Facebook you might have already seen this.
I received an email the day before yesterday from the Swansea horror con organisers to say the event has been cancelled. This is a disappointment, as it was going to be my first horror convention as an author. However, I will be attending another event. The organisers have been good enough to offer traders the choice of a table at another event, or a refund on their tables. I've some diary sorting to do before I decide which alternative event I'll be at.
Unfortunately for me I had already printed twenty limited-edition advance copies of my upcoming novel Swarm. I am now giving you the opportunity to buy them at the reduced price of only £4.00 each, plus postage. Each will be signed and individually numbered. I will sell them on a first-come, first-served basis. Please message me to buy my copy via my Facebook page.
I look forward to meeting you all at a future horror con!
Every author wants two things: to put out quality content, and to have that content sell. Not to suggest we’re all cynically chasing trends. One of the beauties of the new publishing landscape is the ability to write and release whatever we wish, without kowtowing to trends or projected markets. But I’m sure we’d all like to sell more. After all, if you don’t want your content to sell why release it?
As I’ve said in previous posts, the advent of ebooks and print-on-demand services has disrupted the book industry to the point where it is barely recognisable from the industry of ten years ago. The gatekeepers of old -the network of agents, editors, and the big four publishers- have seen their control over publishing decimated. No longer do writers have to jump through endless hoops and wait months and months to see their work in print, to receive a paltry ten percent commission six months in lieu. Now you write, rewrite, edit, and release.
Self-publishing is easy. Which is why I’m writing this in my Porsche.
Sorry. Did I say Porsche? I meant Peugeot.
Publishing is one thing; selling another.
In the past week I’ve seen a video from Derek Murphy on maximising your use of Kindle Unlimited; watched a webinar from Mark Dawson on optimising your Amazon ads; read an article on using Amazon’s ‘readers also bought’ section; and listened to podcasts on leveraging your email list to boost your Amazon ranking on your launch date, and another on using the Kindle’s Whispersync function as a sales tool (by bundling the audiobook with the ebook). Notice a pattern?
The new publishing market is still evolving. Not as rapidly as when it first arrived, but we are still in a state of flux. And as much as I like Amazon’s ecosystem I do worry that its market dominance means that we risk exchanging one set of gatekeepers for another. I for one favour platforms such as Pronoun to release my ebooks since they supply all ebook markets. None of my books are on Kindle Unlimited. And, when it comes to sales of physical books, I like to rely on meeting people face to face at book fairs and conventions, as well as on Facebook ads.
Amazon and Createspace are responsible for the bulk of my sales. But I worry about finding myself beholden to the murky machinations of their algorithms. I don’t want myself or others to spend as much time working out Amazon as we once would have working out the traditional market. I want to work for myself, not Jeff Bezos. And that is why I intend to diversify my sales routes as much as possible.
What about you? Do you worry that Amazon is too dominant in the indie book scene? Or are you comfortable with the current market?
Let me know in the comments.
All my ebooks can be found on Pronoun.
I spend my time in the car listening to podcasts on my phone. I find driving to be a great time to both learn new things and also to come up with ideas and solutions. It’s by no means a scientific term, but when my ‘front brain’ is busy on active tasks such as driving, my ‘back brain’ is happy to work on plot points and scenes. In amongst all of this, I listen to podcasts. The Writing Excuses podcast is a favourite, but I also listen to a lot of business and marketing.
Anyway, a few days after writing my last blog entry I heard an interesting discussion about the relevance of ‘genre’ in the current publishing environment. The presenter was of the opinion that the market has changed so much in recent years that it is far less important than it used to be. In part, this is due to the death of many bookshops and their segmented, ordered shelves. Now you can write a scifi-cyberpunk-western-vampire-romance (y’know, if you wanted) and not have to worry about a bookshop accidentally filing it under scifi-cyberpunk-western-werewolf-romance. Because somewhere on the Internet I guarantee there is a chat room dedicated to the scifi-cyberpunk-western-vampire-romance scene. I haven’t checked, but I guarantee it nonetheless. If your book is well written, there is a market for it; you just have to find it.
And that was as far as the discussion went. An interesting and valid point. But incomplete. Because one thing they missed was the point I made in that previous blog post ('The Herd Mentality') about people following authors rather than genres (ah, if only they’d invited me as a guest!). This is something the Internet facilitates well via blogs, email lists, Facebook, Twitter, etc etc. You can communicate with your readers, and vice versa. Even when this communication doesn’t happen readers often follow writers rather than consuming a genre. Case in point: I am working through the DI Rebus books by Ian Rankin. I picked one up ages ago and was taken with his writing. Other than Rankin’s books, police procedurals bore the life out of me.
So because of the Internet genre is dead, yes?
Far from it.
You see, despite all of the above genre is very much alive. Yes, there are those books that defy conventional categorisation. Yes, there are those books that cross genres, mash up genres, turn genre conventions on their heads. But genre is still the yardstick by which we measure such anomalies.
Not only that, but genre is still an important marketing tool. I may not stick rigidly to tropes, I may use many sub-genres in my writing, but in terms of broad-strokes marketing, my novels are horror novels. It’s far more straightforward to speak to people who are horror fans about my novels than to seek out fans of each sub-genre and mashed-up element I’ve thrown in to my novels.
Take Swarm for example. It’s a horror novel. It’s a lost-in-the-woods horror novel. It’s a lost-in-the-woods horror novel with a twist on expected genre conventions. It’s a lost-in-the-woods horror novel with a twist on expected genre conventions, paced like a thriller.
It’s also definitely me. Some of the elements in the book will be familiar to those who have read my other offerings, particularly my disdain for rampant capitalism and the mysterious code ‘5304’. So if you enjoyed The Tor, Reformed, or The Soul Bazaar you will enjoy this. But so far my readership is relatively small, and in terms of marketing I am going to see a much bigger ROI if I sell it as a fast-paced horror novel rather than ‘the next Anthony Morgan-Clark novel’. As I build my readership my marketing focus will change accordingly. I write across many styles, of which horror is just one, and I hope in the future to have built a following loyal enough that they will read my books because they are fans of my writing as much as they are fans of horror.
So no, genre isn’t dead. But for me, it is a step up to bigger things.
All my books are available in e-formats from my pronoun page. My paperbacks are available on Amazon.
I heard on the radio today that Stephen Fry may be charged with blasphemy. Yes, in the 21st century.
This is absurd. If God is all-knowing and all powerful isn’t it a little presumptuous to intervene on his behalf, suggesting he’s incapable of doing so? Why waste the police’s time when a lightning bolt to the QI studio takes care of the matter? If everything plays out according to god’s intricate plan, isn’t it a little blasphemous itself to say “well, god, we don’t agree with what you’ve done here so we’re going to deal with it ourselves”? Not to mention that one should prove beyond reasonable doubt that god exists before one can be accused of having committed a crime against him. Her. It. Whatever. The whole issue is ridiculous, self-contradictory, and a waste of everyone’s time.
Or is it?
Ireland is not that far from us in many senses. We are not a fully secular society despite the precipitous fall in church attendees over the last decades. We also still have a church that is not above interfering in politics when it suits their agenda, and that still has a say in how far too many schools are run - church of England schools, but also the new shambolic ‘free schools’ initiative the Tories are intent on keeping on life support until a decent government shuts the whole idea down. Religious schools. Another oxymoron. Whilst one broadens horizons, the other narrows minds.
Add to this Theresa Mayhem’s snooper’s charter and her propensity for kowtowing to the extreme right in this country who want to dictate to us what we can do, when and with whom (UKIP didn’t collapse in the local election. Their voters simply returned to a Tory part that has moved further and further to the right to catch up with them), and all of a sudden the future looks very uncertain for writers who have the audacity to not follow the diktats of an extreme-right authoritarian.
In my internet history are searches for the best way to bury a body (concrete or cement? Is there a difference?); queries regarding child abduction; searches to find out if one can send firearms by UPS in the US and whether they deliver on Sundays (yes, if you’re crafty about how you package it and what you declare; no, which was very inconvenient for the assassin in A Gift of Opal); efficient ways to commit arson (have you seen the price of unleaded nowadays?); animal rights protests and direct action; the list goes on. On a personal level there is enough socialist/anti-fracking/pro-green material to define me as an extremist under the Terrorism Act (this is not a joke. Many green protesters and sympathisers come under this category. You don’t even have to take part in a peaceful protest for them to notice you). Many people are now very wary of what they use the internet for. In other words, their human rights to free expression and to self-education are being eroded.
Nowadays the internet is as important a tool for writers as the laptop itself. If we continue down this path of both keeping everything under surveillance and criminalising free thought, what will happen to writing? What will happen to writers? What will happen to the artists, to the rational thinkers? We can look to the events in Ireland and to the state of science and art in the US for an idea.
Reformed was the first novel I wrote. It’s got some really good reviews on Amazon. Please don’t buy it. It’s not my best writing, and anyway, you can read it for free on Wattpad - most of it, at least. I am in the process of uploading chapters. If you’ve not read it, it deals with the terrible consequences of living in a state that thinks nothing of supervising every aspect of an individual’s existence. It’s a sort of Matrix-meets-1984, amongst many other things. And looking at it now makes me think. Would 1984 have been released nowadays? Island? Brave New World?
Probably. But I worry that the window for such brilliant, subversive, free-thinking novels may be edging shut.
This is my blog, which I'll update every month or so. I'll try to keep it focussed on writing, editing and promoting. To keep yourself updated on new posts click the RSS feed below, or for more information and news subscribe to my mailing list.