Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Ongoing Authonomy saga...

This morning, the revamped Authonomy is up and running (if rather slowly). So what are the big changes they have put in place?

Well, my two gold stars on Torbrek and Remix are now medals. This is to clear the way for a brand new star system, where you can rate books with one to six stars.

Here's how it's described:

6 stars – Excellent: Publish it. I’d buy it myself and recommend it to everyone!
5 stars – Very good: Should be on the bookstore shelves already!
4 stars – Good: Shows real promise.
3 stars – Average: Readable, but still needs work.
2 stars – Poor: Unlikely to attract readers in its current form.
1 star – Awful: Pulping is too good for it!

I think this is a bad idea; when I joined a beta Authonomy in 2008 from YouWriteOn, one of the things I liked was that it was not possible for people with a grudge or rivals to mark down my book. The worst they could do was not back it. This system is open to abuse - the revenge review was a known phenomenon on YWO.

Harper Collins say multiple accounts (sock puppets) will no longer be tolerated. But a quick look round shows that many of them are still there. They'll need to work on this, if they mean it.

The ranking system has changed. This can only be good, as it was not working big time before; some writers are already grumbling that their books which they have laboured (!) to get high in the charts have dropped overnight. I notice there's a book written entirely in Bulgarian at number 31 in the chart - interesting. Time will tell whether the new system works.

My feeling is that, so low had Authonomy sunk from its bright beginnings, that any change has to be for the better. But it hasn't so far done enough to make me want to return.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I wasn't expecting THAT...

One of the nice things about writing is the surprises you get - the characters who emerge from their minor position in the crowd to take centre stage, demanding a name and a key role in the plot. I've just had that - one minute the guy was a nonentity at the back of the room on his computer, the next he started needling his boss. Now he's heading for an affair with one of the heroines.

Or the story; how many of us write the story we set out to write? (Apart from those organized souls who do a summary of each chapter before they start.) With any luck it'll be better than planned, but it's never quite the same. Like those Hogwarts shifting staircases in the movies, suddenly you're heading in a different direction. And that's when the book really starts to move.

Here's to wayward characters and pleasant surprises! I'm off back to writing.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

REMIX paperbacks and trailer

There's been a delay, as Lightning Source lost my revised files (how could they do that?) but today the first paperbacks of Remix were delivered, and they do look nice. I shall be sending out the pre-orders this afternoon.

I'm pleased to see that Aphrohead Books has discounted the cover price of £9.99 to £4.91 + p&p of £2.75 if you get to them through Amazon - this is why I'm giving bookshops the full 55% discount, which few self-publishers do. It's a competitive market out there.

The Kindle version is selling well - as I write it's at #1 in Contemporary Romance. See widget in sidebar for overall ranking. Woohoo!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Publishers and agents

Publishing is in an interesting state of upheaval right now. It's broken, and when it's fixed it isn't going to be quite the same.

I'm going to suggest that one major reason for this is the decision publishers took some years ago to relinquish the slushpile to agents. I'm sure on paper it made sense. No doubt they worked out the time and the cost of looking at all those desperate typescripts, 99%+ of which were no use to them, and thought they'd save some money. Agents were willing to take on the job; for free they'd filter out all the rubbish and pass the gems on to the publishers. Win/win situation.

Except it hasn't worked out like that. Of course it's worse for writers, who now have to pass two gatekeepers instead of one. But nobody in the industry cares much about writers. The problem is that agents aren't interested in taking a chance on a new writer, in the belief that two or three books on, they'll write a best seller. (Publishers used to do this; Longmans stuck with Mary Renault for several now-forgotten books until she struck gold and justified their faith.) Nor are they interested in acquiring a midlist author, because a modest advance of a few thousand pounds, though most new authors would jump at it, just isn't worth their while. 15% of 5,000 is £750, hardly enough to put a gleam in an agent's eye.

But worst of all, agents are, it seems to me, giving up on the slushpile. They are always moaning about it (funny, you don't hear owners of gold mines grumbling about all the rock they have to shift) and I have a dark suspicion a lot of it is shredded unopened. What made me decide to self-publish was my last round of five submissions. I included stamped postcards for agents to post so I'd know Royal Mail had done its stuff. Only two postcards returned. I received three form rejections, one of which had no letter heading and was signed by an intern, so I don't know who it came from.

Gone are the days when a rejected author shoved his manuscript to the back of a drawer. These days, we self-publish. Some of these books are bad. Very bad. And some of them are so good they will change the face of publishing for ever.

*See also this article from The Independent.

Friday, 1 October 2010

REMIX Book of the month on KUF!

UK Kindle Users Forum

Kindle Users Forum is a brand new UK site for the small but burgeoning group of Kindle owners. It's an elegant site, friendly and well-run, with just the right amount of moderation.

I was pleased when my novel, Remix, was one of a list of ten books suggested for KUF's first Book Club Book of the Month, and even more delighted when it won with 20% of the votes, beating Room and The Book Thief into joint second place. Although several members had read and enjoyed Remix, price may have been a consideration; my novel is the cheapest at £0.86, while Room's price, the most expensive, actually more than doubled in September to £6.50 as its publisher cashed in on its success.

Members will read Remix during October, and discuss it in November.