Category Archives: ebooks

Did physical books ever really go away?

Apparently, the physical book is back, but it did ever really go away? In 2016 sales of children’s books rose, as did non-fiction, in hardback and paperback. Readers have given their reasons that they love the smell and feel of a physical book and that eBooks don’t give the same pleasure.

Everyone knows their pros and cons of eBooks and physical books and here are mine:

Physical book pros:

  • Picture books with beautiful illustrations that engage a young reader and allow them to read along with Mum or Dad. They can feel the pages and point to the pictures and this helps them to appreciate a good book
  • Technical illustrations or diagrams easier to follow for non-fiction readers
  • Using a lovely bookmark!
  • Cover design (like an album cover; when LPs gave way to CDs and iPod downloads the world bemoaned the loss of the album cover, an art form in itself, so it’s great LPs have come back!)
  • Books keep libraries and bookshops in business!
  • When you’ve finished with your book you can pass it to a friend, donate it to a second hand book sale or leave it in a hotel library for another guest to enjoy
  • They look good on a shelf!

Physical book cons:

  • How many books do you take on holiday and will they weigh down your case?
  • When the spines come apart, your pages come loose and you end up having to wrap an elastic band around to keep all the pages together! (happened to me loads of times!)
  • They can collect a lot of dust
  • They are more expensive than eBooks because they cost more to produce
  • Costs of self-publishing

eBook pros:

  • You can take a whole library of eBooks on holiday with you without stuffing your case full of trashy reads and being told at the airport that you’ve gone over your 20 kg case limit
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to operate
  • eBooks give self-published authors the opportunity to publish their own books at no cost (after paying for editing and proofreading)
  • Books are instantly downloadable, you don’t have to drive to a shop or pay for shipping
  • Generally cheaper to buy than physical books
  • Gives the reader a choice: physical or eBook?

eBook cons:

  • You might not have to weigh your case down with paperbacks, but if you forget to pack your charger…!
  • eReaders are generally still in boring black and white with no colour, unless you use a tablet, so they’re not really much use for picture books or non-fiction where you want to see colourful pictures
  • There’s nothing attractive about an eReader with a cracked screen
  • Drop it in water and it suffers the same fate as your mobile phone if you drop that in water
  • You can’t borrow an eBook from a library or buy from a book shop
  • One eReader on a shelf looks pretty lonely!
  • Doesn’t have the feel or smell of a physical book
  • You can’t share an eBook with a friend (not legally, anyway!)
  • You can’t gift a Kindle book in the UK!

Nah, I don’t think physical books ever really went away. Read the news report here.

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Illegal book downloading: avoid these sites like the plague!

Apropos of an earlier post, this is what I’ve discovered on further research:

To recap, authors who don’t Google themselves are massive liars; then they see their books revealed on illegal download sites; curiosity gets the better of them, they click the link and they eventually go to what looks like a kosher site, but it isn’t.

It’s a scam, people, and there’s a simple reason why: the web addresses/links are all different, they lead to the same site; you sign up, but what they’re really after are your card details, and more often than not, they carry viruses. Your book isn’t actually on the site! If it were, DRM/DCMA has been contravened.

Here are the culprits:

TzarMedia
Playster (ignore the recommendations at the bottom of the screen, lies, lies, lies, and have a day off, it’s not the Netflix of books!)
13th Century Books (and they have the front to show a DMCA policy when it’s their site that’s contravening it!)
Weg Wij
Usenet.nl (another site of crafty buggers who utilise links from multiple sources; click on the link and all you’ll see is a hosting platform)

If you actually put these sites in a search engine, you won’t find a home page, except for Playster, trying to make itself look legit.

Just this: aside from the sites you know are the real deal: Amazon, Smashwords, Nook etc, chances are the links you click on offering you pdf, epub, html or mobi downloads of a book are fraudulent. Steer clear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EBook Piracy: Well, At Least Someone is Reading Your Book – Right?

Any indie or self-published author who claims they don’t ‘Google’ themselves has their pants well and truly on fire. I don’t mind admitting I do it myself, to see where in the world my books are available to buy, so when I come across a site offering a FREE download of one of my books, I’m not entirely happy. After all, I don’t earn a bean from an illegal download, but what can I do about it?

As we all know, file sharing isn’t a new concept. For year, films and music have been shared widely using torrents, but it’s easy to think that getting hold of a book file would be harder, until in 2013 I discovered that the company I currently use to SP my books, Lulu, decided to do away with Digital Rights Management (DRM) back in 2013, saying that removing DRM on EPUBs and PDFs will remove the need for readers to create an Adobe account if a book was downloaded from Lulu, or to authorise the purchase in digital editions or install a third-party application. They claimed that it created great possibilities for the growing number of readers who want to shop, purchase and download books to their eReaders from sites other than large corporate providers, and they saw that as a step towards helping authors reach the broadest audience possible. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble would allow integration of a reader’s experience from purchasing to downloading and finally to reading.

Some of the reactions from the authors were mixed, but most felt that this could lead to illegal downloading of their books, and it seems they were right. Somehow it now seems easy to get hold of an author’s PDF or EBUP file. I’ve noticed my titles appearing on one or two of these sites. Other authors who don’t use Lulu have commented on Twitter that it’s happening to them, and there are even readers who want to know ‘Where can I download a book for nothing?’

Recently, at the idea of someone illegally downloading one of my books, this thought passed through my mind, ‘So what? At least it means someone is reading it!’ It’s not as if I earn a great deal from my writing, anyway, because it’s not about profit for me, it’s about kudos and reviews – except the reviews aren’t genuine and are more like propaganda to promote the sites themselves! Then it occurred to me: what about viruses? Do readers know if these downloads are kosher and free from viruses if they’ve been shared by everyone and his dog? I bet it doesn’t even occur to them to check the files they download.

And so, in an unprecedented move, I’ve listed below the torrents I’ve spotted and authors need to look out for, and for readers to be aware that complaints are made and upheld daily about such sites, and are removed from the web almost immediately. Some of them hide behind a PDF link and only have an IP address in their URL address, and you shouldn’t really be surprised at how similar some of them look:

BTdao.biz

Ikhtiarbook.top (also masquerading as UrBookDownload.com)

Lifo7

Lisao5bookreaddownload.ga

Yourmax.ru

In fact, I’ve just reported to Google someone who posted copies of Epiworld and Goalden Sky using Google Fusion Tables. Naughty, naughty! It might also be worth ‘Yahooing’ and ‘Binging’ to see if any of these sites pop up there, too.

Places where you can report infringements:

DMCA.com

Google

Takedown Piracy

 

Look Out! Here Comes the The Kindle Spelling/Formatting Warning!

A few days ago I was on Twitter and I came across a tweet relating to this article:

http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/kindle-e-books-will-have-a-warning-message-if-they-have-spelling-mistakes-or-bad-formatting

‘Starting February 3, 2016 Amazon will begin showing customers a warning message on the Kindle store detail pages of books that contain several validated quality issues. The warning message will be removed as soon as Amazon received an updated file from self-published authors or publishing companies.’

It appears, on the face of it, to be aimed towards typos, words you misspell easily enough when in the throes of writing. That can only be a good thing, right? Typos are a pain in the neck, but easily done, so if the Kindle can pick these up during the publishing process, all well and good; however, I have an issue: Amazon is an American company first and foremost, and I don’t believe – despite assurances – that it will be able to recognise British spellings and more importantly, British-preferred variant spellings (like ‘ise’ over ‘ize’ ).

What about slang? Will it smack me across the face with a wet fish and say, ‘Excuse me, no such word as “bizzy”! Unless you spell it “busy”…’

‘Yes, there bloody well is!’ I will shout back. ‘it’s Scouse for “policeman” and no, you spell it “bizzy”!’

‘No such word as Scouse!’

(You get my drift! I can see me having a full scale row with it over ‘any more’ which is two words, not one! Better get my Chambers dictionary and urban slang dictionary links set up to email the Amazon know-alls with my evidence!)

I naturally jumped onto the comments and had my say. Some wag suggested I wrote two editions of my books, one for the British market and one for the Americans. Like I’ve got time to do that! I don’t want to and why should I, anyway? (The lexicon (glossary) idea is a classic and I think not! One of my readers asked for a glossary once of Liverpool slang terms: I said work it out!) Then someone else picked holes in the grammar of the article, and then I got abuse for misuse of a semi-colon! FFS! Is that going to be next? Will the Kindle then decide it’s not only the spelling that isn’t good enough, but neither is the grammar. Never mind that Dammymac (a character from Big Brother and that’s his nickname; will it let you off for nicknames?) from Liverpool doesn’t talk like Lord Muck, but by George, by the time we’ve finished with him he’ll make the Queen sound like her from behind the bar in The Rovers Return in Coronation Street!

The other thing that concerns me is that this idea seems mainly targeted at indie authors, judging by a conversation I had with someone on Twitter about it. It’s always been assumed that indie authors can’t spell, can’t edit and don’t have the commonsense to proofread their work, nor do they ask someone to do the editing and proofreading for them. While I recognise that a lot of indie books are poorly formatted and poorly edited, and are full of misspellings, it’s unfair to tarnish them all with the same brush. I’ve read traditionally published books that aren’t all that spelling-wise.

There is a plus side: it could be seen as a way to get free proofreading for authors before they put their books into print format.

It will be interesting to see what happens when I upload Episode to Kindle this year and when I do I’ll report back.

Amazon’s KDP Select Rules Suck!

Let’s be honest: despite a lot of misgivings from authors surrounding the ethics of Amazon (lots of anti-Amazon feeling online from authors, just do a search as there are too many to list here, and that’s without Amazon not paying its UK taxes), the majority of readers these days buy their books from them, and it’s the first place an author will go to check their sales rank, especially if they’re an indie author. Without Amazon, where would the self-published, independent author be, especially if he or she has an eBook edition available for download? Hands up those authors who on the onset of the eBook thought, ‘I want to make my book available as a download. I know, I’ll put it on Nook, Kobo (boo hiss!) or iTunes.’ Liar! Unless you published directly to Smashwords (the eBook publishers of blessed reverence for many), if you have a paperback version first, you go to Kindle because it’s heavily publicised and Amazon knows its onions when it comes to marketing its products (we have an Amazon fire stick for the telly you know), because it revolutionised the way an indie author could make their work available to readers without it costing beggar all, and because it got there first. (Actually, I saw an eReader for sale in a WH Smith shop (boo hiss!) long before I knew about Kindle, so that last statement probably isn’t true…)

As a paperback and Kindle author and reader myself, and knowing how Amazon has revolutionised publishing for indies, naturally I check the sales ranks for Amazon first, though my paperbacks are available worldwide in reputable stores like Waterstones, Book Depository and Barnes & Noble; I’m also aware that not everyone has or even uses a Kindle. I know a lot of people prefer Nook (until recently not available for UK and European readers) but for now I’ve had to bin it off (as mentioned elsewhere!) or a Kobo (boo hiss; scroll down to my comment!), or even iTunes and Google Play, and naturally I wanted to widen my scope and reach more readers, so I made plans to upload all my books to those platforms. As I’ve probably mentioned elsewhere, the indie publisher I use automatically uploaded my first two works Goalden Girl and Abbie’s Rival to Nook at Barnes and Noble and iTunes (for overrated prices), which is why I wanted to re-upload them and upload the others so they’re more affordable, and to make them available in the UK and in Europe, but in the case of Nook it all went boobs up, didn’t it? Yes, it did…moving on…

Anyway, Amazon has this KDP Select programme, too enticing to ignore. During certain times of the year when there’s a Silly Book Day going down – like World Book Night for instance – who amongst us will want to ignore the chance to make their titles available for FREE for promo purposes? This year, I jumped on the bandwagon: struggling with paperback sales and with Kindle sales being soooooooo slooooooooow, I thought to hell with it: I’m going to put all my titles onto KDP Select make everything free on Kindle to everyone and his terrier for a limited period, not just for those on Kindle Unlimited and Prime. What happened? Throughout the Kindle-buying world they downloaded: from the UK to the US to Canada to Japan to the Netherlands they went for it! Something for nothing and the books for free! Over 400 downloads I counted, but not one brass farthing in royalty did I earn ‘cos of the free thing (I was never in it for the money, anyway, but you know what I mean…) I even got a review for Goalden Sky out of that promotion on Amazon Canada, albeit one word (and don’t get me started on even trying to get reviews!) but I was given four stars!

Imagine my chagrin when I got a snot-o-gram email from Amazon informing me that because Goalden Girl and Abbie’s Rival are available on iTunes (interesting they ignore Barnes & Noble and Nook!) they have to remove both from KDP Select, but they will still be for sale for anyone who wants to pay 99 p/99 cents for them. I’ve had a few of these emails since, because I’ve sneakily added those two titles to KDP Select again for promos at other times, not least for the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Comic Con (where I had my appendix out when I was 3 and to which I donated my paperbacks as well). After all, Goalden Girl is the prequel to Goalden Sky, so to offer the latter for free would be daft without offering the former…

It annoys me that Amazon should demand exclusivity for Kindle titles on KDP Select when it comes to promoting eBooks. Why should it? What gives it the right? Why can’t I have my eBook available in more than one place so that I can broaden my readership, then promote my titles for free via all hosts without being told off? In my opinion the answer is that Amazon works more for Amazon’s benefit than it does for the author or the reader; it knows people will go to them before they go to any other online shop for books, because it sells all sorts of other stuff people want but can’t be bothered to go shopping for, unlike its competitors. Indie titles are hard to get in bricks and mortar shops and Amazon knows it.

I hold my hands up here; Amazon is handy and I buy most of my stuff online from Amazon.co.uk. OK, ‘fession over.

It has us well and truly by the short and curlies, and why’s that? It’s because we, the indie author, lets it. Right now there’s little we can do about it. Will it stop me adding my titles to other platforms? No; such a shame Nook is a pile of rubbish and those running Kobo are a bunch of losers…

Something For Nothing and The Books For Free

Ah. Isn’t it a great feeling to see your eBook at number 1 in the hit parade? This is the current free sales rank for Goalden Sky on Amazon.com

(It’s football, not soccer).

As I write, it’s also doing well on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, Amazon.de and Amazon.jp.

And how did it achieve these dizzy heights? It’s because I discovered something very recently by accident: you can give your Kindle books away FREE to all readers, as a promotion for a limited time. Goalden Sky is in the KDP Select programme, which allows free copy sales for Prime customers, and now also gives the option of free copy promotion to everyone and anyone with a Kindle, worldwide. We’ve just had Easter, so I thought, why not, let’s have a free Easter giveaway of Goalden Sky and see how many people want to download it. I advertised it on Twitter and Facebook and it’s taken off really well! The promotion ends today and I’ve sold over 30 copies since 5th April! Great! I’ve done the same for Big Brother until 12th April because a kind reader wants to review the Kindle edition, but in the UK we still can’t gift Kindle copies as far as I know, so the reviewer can download it free within that time (which I hope she has).

I wish I could do the same for my paperbacks, but I can’t, and it’s got me thinking: with some of my paperbacks going for silly money on Amazon and other sites, why aren’t they selling just as well? Epiworld is currently selling for buttons on Amazon.com for $2.23 (whatever that is in pounds, shillings and pence), is £1.46 on Amazon.co.uk and Abbie’s Rival is dirt cheap as well; so I’ve told everyone. Yet what’s the difference? It’s probably because of this: postage. Also they have to wait for the paperback to drop on the mat. It’s always instant with an eBook.

Do readers really prefer the eBook, or do they just want diddly for squat? I think the latter. My Kindle editions are cheap anyway, between £0.99 and £1.99, and that’s buttons, but they didn’t do this well when readers had to pay for them! The downloads have gone crazy since the two books went free, even for Big Brother: the current sales rank on Amazon.com is like this:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,949 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#15  in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Science Fiction, Fantasy & Scary Stories > Scary Stories

Actually, that worries me. Why is it in children’s eBooks scary stories section?! It says quite clearly at the top of the book description it’s suitable only for 12-16 years of age, so now I’m bracing myself from a torrent of abuse from annoyed readers! 😱

Amazon.co.uk puts it into the horror section, which is kind of correct.

It kind of knocks out the popular theory that if an indie author prices their books too low they’re telling readers their books aren’t worth jack, doesn’t it?

It’s a pity Amazon and other stores don’t do a similar promotion for paperbacks. From what I can tell I can’t give away my paperbacks for a limited time through a store, only my Kindle books, unless I put it down as free as a third party seller, and even then Amazon will probably put a gun to my temple and make me charge postage! I’ll have to try a little experiment with that.

It’s a bit cynical to state that people want something for nothing, but I think it may be true of the free Kindle promotion. There’s nothing wrong with it and it’s more exposure for my books. I’m going to give away Epiworld, Abbie’s Rival and Goalden Girl on Kindle, too!

Only one fly in the ointment: I don’t get a bean in revenue! 😒

Meanwhile, say hello to my new cat, Treacle.

treacle

The Ridiculous Prices of Some Self-Published Books

Apologies for the lateness of this blog post! Last week I was prostrate with flu and didn’t have the energy to write my own name, never mind scribble at my blog or books! Suffice to say I’m now way behind and haven’t even started the second chapters of Episode or Owen Goal yet! I’m easing back into it slowly, a page here, a paragraph there; doesn’t matter how little or how much you write, as long as you write something every day.

Anyway, this week I want to gripe about the ridiculously inflated prices of some self-published books.

We all have our own reasons why we self-publish: because the traditional mainstream publishers we tried first told us our work isn’t good enough for them (their loss), or because we found out that actually, being traditionally published doesn’t have all that much kudos, anyway, since these publishers won’t necessarily market for you and will whip your book off the sales’ lists when it suits them. If you self-publish, you still have to market and promote the stupid thing until you’re driven to drink, but at least you can keep your books for sale for as long as you like.

Self-publishing does have its problems, of course. It costs money: money for the ISBN, money for any add-ons like book cover design, page formatting, editing and proof-reading services, money for marketing if you want to go that far, but the main problem I’ve found is the comparison cost of a self-published print book with that of a traditionally published book, making my efforts at marketing kind of like attempting to climb a hill with banana skins stuck to the soles of my shoes!

Take my new book, Goalden Sky, for instance: it has 176 pages and is printed in US format, 6 x 9 inches. In what I would call normal paperback size (5 x 7) the number of pages would work out more, so to charge £5.90 wouldn’t seem so bad then. The problem is, other books in the children/young adult genres cost much less, because most of them are traditionally published and the publishing houses can afford to charge less because they will always sell more, therefore they will glean a better profit. Despite the lure of eBooks, people still like the feel of a paperback. I want all my paperbacks to cost at least £3.99, but when using a print-on-demand platform like Lulu, it won’t allow you to set the price any lower than its recommendation, which is usually pretty high. It insists I get a royalty for every book I sell and it insists on making some profit out of me, so I have to set a price that will allow me to do that, though I do my best to keep the price as low for my readers as I can. I don’t make much out of my writing, but I’m not really out to make a profit, I just want people to read my books. My first book Goalden Girl is set at a very strange price, £6.47; by the time I got to Big Brother (£5.99) I’d learnt to tweak the pricing a bit more expertly. I get excited when I spot a discount for my paperbacks and publicise these as much as I can!

It’s not the same for my eBooks, though: I can set any price I like for those (maximum £1.99), so it’s no surprise I sell more Kindle books than I do paperbacks. There is a school of thought among indie authors, however, that if you set your prices too low you can’t think much of your own work. Sorry, but that’s b*ll*cks. I happen to think books in all genres are overpriced in general, and if you’re writing for children and young adults you want them to be able to afford them, not take out a bank loan first.

Speaking of eBooks, I have temporarily taken my books off Nook. I just got fed up with Nook’s inability to retain the formatting from the epubs I uploaded! Any italicised text was lost, any centring was lost, and I’d had enough of wasting my time trying to solve these problems. Two of the titles are still available, but for the Lulu set price of $3.99 (too much!) and they’re not available in the UK or Europe. I may try to re-upload later in the year and see if the problems have been ironed out. I also want to try and upload to Google eBooks and add the remainder of my titles to iTunes.

So does a cheaper priced book help sales? Well, it could, if you tell people about it. Selling always comes back to that rotten old chestnut – marketing. I’ve just tweeted that Big Brother’s paperback price on Amazon.co.uk has been slashed to £2.95. On the few occasions I’ve done this I’ve sold copies, and personally I would sooner pay £2.95 for a young adult paperback than £5.99.

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