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Friday, August 29, 2014

How much should you charge for your eBook?


The problem of what you should charge for an eBook has become even more intriguing of late, what with the Amazon-Hachette stoush, where Amazon is trying to force the prices of digital books down.

Is this right?  Is it catering to an unfortunate traditional publisher view that eBooks are the cheap end of the market?  Looking back in history, that's what happened when paperbacks first came out.  They were cheap and nasty -- "pulp fiction."  But then they took off, until there were the levels of paperback quality that we find today. Classic reprints, mass market romances, perfect bound books, and that replacement for heavy hardbacks, the clothbound book have all sprung from the first paperbacks, which were meant to be carried in pockets, and read on railroad trains.

And they are all differently priced, which doesn't help when trying to decide what to charge for your baby. Rosen Trevithick, author of How NOT to ePublish, discusses it in a blog column called...

You Want to Charge £14.99 for Your eBook
Well, you put countless hours into writing, composing, checking, and polishing (says I), so why not?

Because it won't sell, that's why.

"When deciding how to price your book," says Rosen, "you must forget completely how long it took you to write, how much it cost to edit, and how truly brilliant it really is. Instead focus only on the value of similar-length eBooks by unknown self-published authors."

In a word, have a look at what is out there already.

BookBaby has a column about it. As they say, lots of authors are enjoying good sales at the currently popular prices of $4.99 to $9.99.  Not only is this within the area where KDP pays a 70% royalty, but it reflects the quality of the book. 

On the other hand, many writers believe that it is worth pricing cheaply to build up a fan base.  Sadly, KDP pays only 35% for books priced under $2.99, which makes the income ridiculously small, but some authors, definitely, are doing well by going that way. 

There is also the option of writing a series and charging nothing at all for the first book.  Amazon doesn't like authors who do this, as it costs them money to keep a book listed, but there are outlets like Smashwords that do allow it.  And, for some writers, it works like a charm. 

So, in the end, no one can tell you how much to charge for your book (despite Amazon's heavy-handedness with Hachette).  It is entirely up to you, the publisher.  However, a young woman by the name of Nicci Leigh has a very interesting comment in response to the BookBaby blog, in which she lays out a choice of three strategies. 


  • Route 1: Price high and hold firm. If your book has high commercial appeal, believe it will eventually generate sales momentum. Price your book $4.99-$7.99 and hold firm. Offer promotions, such as free days, but do NOT drop the price due to lack of confidence. Readers will see this as a sign of failure. The higher price does imply value to many readers. They will pay for it, if you ask for it.


  • Route 2: Price low and work your way up. If you have a book that you are using for promotional means or to get comfortable as an Indie author. Start at $.99 and work your way up, slowly and casually as you grow sales. Creep your way up...


  • Route 3: Price low and stay low. Price your book at $.99 and KEEP it there. You will generate sales, and readers will repeatedly see your book listed all over Amazon, they will remember the low price point and eventually give yours a try. 

    Whatever you decide, good luck!

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

    The prize-winner that didn't win


    It's an irresistible headline.  Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries is good enough to win the International Man Booker Prize (and sell heaps of copies -- 560,000 print and digital worldwide, at last count), but it is not the best book in New Zealand.

     Instead, it was trumped by the story of a Wellington art dealer. Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer by Wellington author Jill Trevelyan won the top prize at the ceremony last night.

    Published by the press of our national museum, Te Papa (which must be very chuffed at the success, having had a run of bad news lately, what with two loss-making major exhibits), the biography also won the Best General Non-Fiction category.

    The judges called it, "Not just a compelling read, it is a supreme achievement that delivers on every front."

    New Zealand's iconic poet, Vincent O'Sullivan, took the Best Poetry prize with Us, Then, which, like The Luminaries, was published by Fergus Barrowman at Victoria University Press.

    And the Best Illustrated Non-Fiction prize went to Coast: A New Zealand Journey, by Bruce Ansley, and one of my favorite photographers, Jane Ussher.  and it was published by one of my favorite publishers, Random House NZ.

    The Nielson Booksellers' Choice Award went to Molesworth: Stories from New Zealand's Highest High-country Station, by Harry Broad and Rob Suisted.  It was published by a house that often (like Random House and Victoria University Press) appears in this list, Craig Potton Publishing.

    And Eleanor Catton did not go away empty-handed, after all.  The Luminaries won both the Best Fiction and the People's Choice awards.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

    Drabble



    Margaret Muir has responded gallantly to my implied challenge, and has produced a drabble -- which, as you remember, is supposed to tell a story in exactly 100 words.  And here it is!

    TODAY by Margaret Muir

    Fronds of frost edged the capeweed like lace around a doily.
    Split jarrah crackled in the wood-stove.
    Fed the cat, milked Molly, collected the eggs. Anything else?
    She dried her cup and wiped the sink again.
    A pink envelope marked John leaned against a vase of fresh lavender.
    Sunlight streamed across the blue pattered lino.
    She checked her hair in the gilt-framed mirror.
    That’ll do.
    Taking the 1898 Winchester from the empty pantry and resting its well-worn
    wooden stock between her sheepskin slippers, she bowed her forehead to the
    barrel, touched her right thumb onto the cold metal and squeezed.

    Margaret tells me she included drabbles in her little book Words on a Crumpled Page.

    Any more entries????

    The gun at the top is an 1898 Winchester breech loading cannon.  Amazing what a google image search turns up ...

    How long is your book?


    Is 50,000 words long enough?

    Is 250,000 words too long?

    With traditional publishing, word length is a fraught issue, simply because of the economics.  All books cost a certain amount to bring out in print, and the cover price has to include this, plus author royalties, the bookseller's cut, and - of course - the publisher's profit.  If the book is only 40 pages, it has to have lots of lovely illustrations or something like that, because the price is going to seem an awful lot for such a little volume.  Generally, you can only get away with it if it is a children's book, or really gripping poetry.

    There are exceptions.  Think Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Even then, though, the author had to wait a few years for the inspiration that made it long enough to tempt a publisher to take a punt.

    And if you are really famous, or the book looks like a sure seller, then the publisher will think seriously about your massive opus. Think Capital in the Twenty-first Century, 695 pages and still bestselling.

    Most traditional publishers like a book that is 80,000 words, give or take twenty thousand.  If the number of pages fits exactly into a press sheet (a big piece of paper that is cut up evenly into pages, after printing), then you have a very happy publisher.

    Indie publishers don't have that problem.  Writers who are going straight to KDP, CreateSpace or Lightning Source can make their stories as long or as short as they like.  But, as Rosen Trevithick points out in her funny but pertinent posts on how NOT to self-publish, it is not a good idea to publicize your 20,000-word effort as a novel.

    So, what do you call it?

    Here is her list, with a couple of additions (in italics) by me:

    1-10 words ..... graffiti
    1-99 words – micro fiction.
    100 words exactly – drabble.
    101-999 words – flash fiction. A "short short."
    1,000-7,499 – short story.
    7,500-17,499 – novelette.
    17,500-49,999 – novella.
    50,000-109,999 – novel.
    Over 110,000 – epic. A "doorstop."


    If you have never heard of drabbles before, go to Indie Book Bargains, a UK site that publishes a drabble every day.  You can submit a drabble if you like, as it is a good way of getting your name noticed, but be warned, writing a drabble is a lot harder than it looks.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2014

    Superman SELLS


    The original Superman comic sells on eBay for THREE-POINT-TWO MILLION!

    From NPR

    A copy of 1938's Action Comics No. 1, which features the first appearance of Superman, sold for a record-breaking $3,207,852 to an unnamed buyer on Sunday. Darren Adams, the owner of Pristine Comics, posted it on eBay on Aug. 14. 

    The only other comic to sell for anything close to as much was a copy of Action Comics No. 1 that had been owned by Nicolas Cage, which sold for $2.16 million in 2011. 

    The Washington Post explains, "Adams's Superman book is graded at '9.0,' an almost unheard-of condition for this issue, which hit newsstands in the summer of 1938." Adams told the Post, "I actually held it for a few years — I was so excited about this book. And equally exciting to having a book of this condition is the fact that nobody knew it existed. Most books have a history ... but this book was totally off the grid, and nobody knew about it till I made it known."

    Adams had 48 bids before he sold it to an unnamed buyer.

    GalleyCat quotes a fragment from his listing:  "This is THE comic book that started it all. This comic features not only the first appearance of Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but this comic began the entire superhero genre that has followed during the 76 years since. It is referred to as the Holy Grail of comics and this is the finest graded copy to exist with perfect white pages."

    Let's hope the buyer's kids don't get hold of it.

    Monday, August 25, 2014

    The Great Barrier Reef, a book



    Or, to be exact, the review.

    "Australia’s Great Barrier Reef stretches for around 1,430 miles along the continent’s northeast coast, encompassing an area roughly half the size of Texas. Those who have dived into its pristine reaches know firsthand that it is one of Earth’s natural wonders—a coral world of exceptional beauty and diversity. Yet as Iain McCalman’s “passionate history” of the reef makes clear, it is also a stage on which dreams, ambitions, and great human tragedies have been played out. He tells his story by chronicling lives that, either inadvertently or intentionally, have shaped our perception of the coralline labyrinth..."
    So begins Tim Flannery's review of McCalman's The Reef in The New York Review of Books.

    It's the kind of review that every writer dreads -- it goes on and on in the same vein, picking out all the sensational bits and relating all the best anecdotes.  Worse still, instead of giving compelling reasons to go out and buy the book, it summarizes the story so you don't have to read it.

    Pretty picture, though. 

    Saturday, August 23, 2014

    Floating library coming to NYC

    Devoted to the history of steamboats in New York, the Lilac museum steamship is usually heaven for maritime buffs.



    But for a little while the octogenarian lighthouse tender that once carried supplies to lighthouses and maintained buoys for the U.S. Lighthouse Service and the U.S. Coast Guard will be a pop-up library.

    Conceived by artist Beatrice Glow, the Floating Library will offer a reading deck with fantastic views of the city as well as a steady schedule of special programming, roundtable talks, performances and workshops.

    Under Glow’s vision, the historic boat will get a new life as a unique public space for New Yorkers to enjoy. The vessel will be stocked with reading materials donated from over 70 individuals, and after the library is disbanded, the books will be donated to local high school students. The main deck will become an outdoor reading lounge complete with chairs and beautiful Hudson River views. Ongoing art installations will also set the stage for learning, with a Listening Room featuring new work from six sound artists, as well as pieces by Amanda Thackray and Katarina Jerinic.

    Visitors should note that the Lilac is a steamship undergoing restoration, so comfy shoes should be worn – and expect to climb ladders from one part of the ship to another. Also, the Floating Library is a place of dialogue and relaxation, so leave your mobile devices in your bag.

    The reading vessel will be docked in Lower Manhattan at Pier 25, just West of North Moore Street. Visitors will be able to enjoy the Lilac free-of-charge on a first- come, first-served basis.

    Reading vessel?  I love it!  A terrific idea altogether.

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    Indie bestsellers and what you should be reading


    The indefatigable folks at GalleyCat @ mediabistro.com have produced another two lists of Indie bestsellers, one from Amazon and the other from smashwords (Nook et al aren't worth pursuing any more, and smashwords is getting so stodgy that really only Amazon counts).

    Here is the listing ...

    Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of August 20, 2014
    1. LOL Romantic Comedy Anthology Collection: “Love! Laughter! Pillow Fights! Here’s the very first issue of LOL, a NEW romantic comedy series! Enjoy 13 brand-new stories from your favorite NYT Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller romantic comedy and romance authors.”
    2. Filthy Beautiful Lies by Kendall Ryan: “Meet Colton Drake…I have no idea why she auctioned off her virginity for a cool mill. Regardless, I’m now the proud new owner of a perfectly intact hymen. A lot of good that will do me. I have certain tastes, certain sexual proclivities. My cock is a bit more discriminatory than most. And training a virgin takes finesse and patience – both of which I lack.”
    3. Mindfulness Made Simple by Calistoga Press: “A modern practice with ancient roots, mindfulness is widely recognized for its calming, healing, and restorative effects. Mindfulness and meditation can help you relieve stress, regulate your emotions, achieve focus and clarity, strengthen your communication skills, and cultivate an appreciation for what is most important to you. Based on centuries of experience and new techniques in the field of psychology, Mindfulness Made Simple shows how to bring mindfulness and meditation into your daily life.”
    4. Debt Inheritance by Pepper Winters: “Nila Weaver’s family is indebted. Being the first born daughter, her life is forfeit to the first born son of the Hawks to pay for sins of ancestors past. The dark ages might have come and gone, but debts never leave. She has no choice in the matter. She is no longer free.”
    5. Vain- Part Two by Deborah Bladon: “Posing nude for the illustrious Noah Foster seemed like an exciting escape from Alexa’s life. No one was supposed to find out, but when the one man who owned her heart, discovers her secret, everything changes. Alexa is not only caught in a compromising position but in a situation in which her past and present collide.”
    6. Sweet Addiction by J. Daniels: “Wedding hookups never amount to anything. Those who partake in this wicked little activity know the rules. Get in. Get laid. Get out. There’s no expectation of a relationship. It is what it is. Dylan Sparks knows the rules. She’s familiar with the protocol. And she engages in the best sex of her life with a complete stranger at her ex-boyfriend’s wedding.”
    7. Alpha Billionaire by Helen Cooper: “Alpha Billionaire is a sexy, thrilling and jaw-dropping three part novella serial. It was only meant to be one night. Evie Johnson was doing her best friend a favor when she agreed to work a bachelor party as a dancer. She hadn’t expected to meet a man like Grant Slate. A man so handsome and cocky that she couldn’t help but be attracted to him when he asked for a dance.”
    8. The Fixed Trilogy by Laurelin Paige: “All three books of the NY Times Bestselling Fixed Trilogy are included in this bundle.”
    9. Twisted by Callie Hart: “Sloane. How many times can a person fall down and still get back up? How many times can things go wrong before you just give up? I’ve lost everything. My home, my job, my purpose in life—everything has been turned upside down. But while life hasn’t exactly turned out the way I would have liked it to, I wouldn’t change a thing. If things were different, I wouldn’t have Lacey. I wouldn’t have Michael.”
    10. A Whole New Crowd by Tijan: “Taryn grew up in a different world. Her boyfriend was a criminal. His older brother was part of a gang. They weren’t great people, but they were her family. Then everything changes when she’s adopted by a family in the neighboring town. New family. New friends. A new world. She’s elated. This is her chance for a new beginning, but secrets start being revealed and Taryn learns her new life has ties to her old one, ties that she’s not happy about. Her new family might not have been the lucky break she thought she had. Now she’s not only fighting to live that new future, but she’s fighting to survive as well.”
    Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of August 20, 2014

    And here is what you should be reading -- a book I picked up by accident for my Kindle, courtesy of a free promotion.

    It's called My Granny Writes Erotica, and it's by Rosen Trevithick, who has also produced a children's series, and a book about how NOT to self-publish.

    I had every intention of reviewing it on this blog ages ago, but somehow it got lost in the clutter on my desk. But then I was reminded by the title of the Amazon #1 in the list, LOL Romantic Comedy Anthology Collection.  (Is that title a joke? Anthology and collection mean pretty much the same thing, when stories are assembled into a book. Maybe redundancy is funny?)

    But to return to Granny and her erotica, which is definitely LOL.  Betty Berry is a 65-year-old suburban housewife who has never had a dirty thought in her life -- until her husband quits, leaving her with his debts (along with a grisly coffin-shaped debt collector), his ghastly old mother, and a house that is about to be sold over her head.  To make matters even worse, Betty's bossy daughter arrives, having abandoned her own marriage.  So what is Betty to do?

    All her life, she has dreamed of being a bestselling novelist, but her (serious, literary) novel has never seen the light.  Can she write her way out of her dilemma?  Can she make enough out of publishing with KDP to get out of this financial mess?  Inspiration strikes when her eyes land on the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey that her daughter has carried along.  It made a helluva lot of money, didn't it?  So why not try a new genre?

    Forthwith, Betty embarks on the authorship of erotica. She might be woefully ignorant of the grubby details, but the dominatrix who has been tendering to her errant husband's base desires is keen to provide the needed info.  Still more hilarity is added when she gets unexpected backing from a manufacturer of sex toys, which adds a few zeroes to all that lovely moola from Mr Amazon.

    It is surprisingly clean, and outrageously funny.  As a reviewer on Amazon commented, it is laugh-out-loud-on-the-bus reading.  I got through it in one evening, because I just couldn't put it down.

    Give it a go.  You will thank me.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

    Boats at the ANMM


    The Australian National Maritime Museum is looking very swish at the moment.  A favorite has always been the full-sized model of an American whaleboat, along with whalemen's scrimshaw, of which this swift is a fine example:




    In case you are wondering, a swift holds a hank of woolen yarn so it can be wound into a ball.

    There is also a very good exhibit devoted to HMS Sirius, which foundered off Norfolk Island in March 1790, including an anchor that was salvaged from the reef.


    Perhaps what I liked best, this time, was a dramatic display of canoes on a wall.


    Definitely worth a lengthy visit, if you happen to be in Sydney.

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    Advice for travellers

    A very old listicle

    with advice that is still often strangely relevant...


    • CAUTIONS against Frauds, &c.
      • 1. Don't take too much cash, when you travel.
      • 2. Fasten trunks, &c. behind carriages with chains.
      • 3. Have a witness of the contents of packages sent by waggons, &c.
      • 4. Deliver parcels to book-keepers only, and see them booked.
      • 5. Suffer no stranger to carry any thing for you, nor be seduced into a public-house.
      • 6. Make persons carrying things for you walk before you 
      • 7. Never stop in a croud.
      • 8. Enter the number, &c. of bank-bills, &c. in a book.
      • 9. Ditto, the description of your watch, &c.
      • 10. Never give your watch, &c. into the hands of a stranger.
      • 11. Avoid crouds, and looking at picture-shops.
      • 12. If you drop any thing of value in the street, don't say what it is.
      • 13. Never let your servants deliver things from your house to strangers, without orders
      • 14. Nor take in a parcel that is to be paid for.
      • 15. Take the number of a hackney-coach on entering it, and examine it, when quitting it.
      • 16. Guard against those who bring letters at night.
      • 17. Keep your front parlour windows shut at dusk.
      • 18. Be cautious, when the next house to you is empty, not to leave back-doors or garret-windows open.
      • 19. Take care of your watch and pockets in crouds
      • 20. Suffer no beggars at your door.
      • 21. Don't be imposed on by fictitious distresses.
      • 22. Beware of petty auctions in thoroughfares.
      • 23. Never buy things at a pawn-brokers.
      • 24. Lay out your money with reputable people
      • 25. Be not taken in by money-lenders, borrowers, or customers.
      • 26. Have nothing to do with bills of exchange drawn by strangers.
      • 27. Let no stranger leave a parcel in your shop.
      • 28. Never interfere with people quarelling in the streets.
      • 29. Any one may arrest a felon.
      • 30. Penalties on gambling.
      • 31. Shop-keepers should be on their guard against those who tumble over their goods and don't buy.
      • 32. Buyers should take care shop-keepers do not impose on them.
      • 33. Distrust shop-keepers who profess to sell cheap.
      • 34. Beware of porters at inns.
      • 35. Take care of your hat, &c. in promiscuous companies


    From THE London Adviser and Guide: CONTAINING Every INSTRUCTION and INFORMATION useful and necessary to Persons LIVING IN LONDON, AND COMING TO RESIDE THERE; In order to enable them to enjoy Security and Tranquillity, and conduct their Domestic Affairs with Prudence and Economy.TOGETHER WITH AN ABSTRACT Of all those LAWS which regard their Protection against the Frauds, Impositions, Insults and Acci|dents to which they are there liable.
    BY THE REV. DR. TRUSLER.
    Useful also to Foreigners.Note, This Work treats fully of every Thing on the above Subjects that can be thought of.
    LONDON: Printed for the Author, NO. 14, RED LION-STREET, CLERKENWELL; AND SOLD BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.