Sunday, 25 March 2012

Puzzled ruminations on book covers...

I recently read Nick Hornby's novel ,
Juliet, Naked. I like Nick Hornby's writing - About A Boy is one of my favourite novels - and I enjoyed it very much, apart from finding the ending a little unsatisfactory (the offspring agreed). It's consistently amusing and thought-provoking. But one thing I really hated about it was the cover. I'm not even sure which character the man on it is supposed to be. I know authors are given little or no say in the covers that are assigned to their books, but you'd think an author of Hornby's stature would be able to put his foot down.

Researching this post, I looked at dozens of Nick Hornby's book covers, and began to think that he has been remarkably badly served by his publisher, Penguin. The classy and cool US Juliet, Naked hardback cover, seen here at the far right, is a rare exception.

Self-publishers know how important a cover is. Our names won't attract readers (initially at any rate) and we don't have the recognition factor of authors whose books are on display in book shops. A striking thumbnail image on Amazon might attract a reader to look at the blurb, and then the sample, and then maybe buy. All ambitious indies put a lot of work into designing or commissioning covers, changing them if we get a better idea. There are frequent threads on Kindleboards seeking reactions and comments on artwork before the author commits. We take the whole thing very seriously.

So are the bad covers another instance of the complacency of Big Publishing? Or have some commissioning editors just got seriously bad taste?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Emails from readers

One of the great perks of being (self) published is receiving emails from readers who have enjoyed my books and want to let me know. It's so kind of them to bother, and so encouraging to know they like my writing. I always answer -  when the sender has typed his/her email address wrong and I can't it distresses me. (Trish who wrote today, I tried to reply but my email kept bouncing back - and I did start a sequel to Remix, but wrote Replica instead.)

Way back in the early eighties I thought about writing an appreciative letter to Mary Renault, one of my favourite authors. I'd have had to send it via her publishers, I wasn't sure they'd forward it to South Africa where she lived, I didn't want to be a nuisance. I never wrote. Now I wish I had, as I know from my own experience it would have given her a cheering moment.

So here's to all readers out there who not only buy books, but write and thank their authors. Thank you.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Things change - make the most of it

Yesterday I read Scott Turow's extraordinary rant about Amazon's evil empire, amusingly entitled Grim News.

Grim for publishers, bookshops and readers that is, though he tells us he personally, as an established author, will still manage okay. (Gosh, that's a relief.) I don't recognize the world he describes, where publishers and bookshops guard our cultural heritage and encourage readers to make discoveries of new authors and genres. I agree with Joe Konrath and David Gaughran - click on the links to read their opinions.

Scott Turow, as a successful author, did well out of the old system, so it's natural he should be resistant to change (though he should certainly be less resistant to logical thought). What I find odd is that many unpublished authors share his blinkered views, though there has never been a better time to be a writer than the present. Self-publishing has never been easier, and, short of marrying into the royal family, is the fastest way to a traditional publishing contract. I feel certain that once the publishing industry adapts, it and we will benefit. Everything is changing, and change means new opportunities.

It's not a sign of intelligence to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It's foolish to fight the current war with the weapons you used in the last. Let's all be grateful for our new options and make the most of them.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

KDP Select - my experience so far

Peter Cook in 'Bedazzled', about to do a bit of devilish tempting
I was an early adopter of KDP Select; my first 90 day contract ends 6th March 2012. Initially I was dubious as to how I would benefit, but trusted that Amazon would make it worth my while, and I sold so few copies via Smashwords I had little to lose.

Tentatively, at the end of January I tried a two day giveaway of Replica, at the same time raising the price to £1.99/$2.99, thus moving up to the 70% royalty from 35%. It did pretty well; from selling 395 copies in January, it sold 744 in February, plus 40 loans to Amazon Prime members at $1.60 each. So mid-February, I made Remix free for two days and increased the price. Remix sold 4,343 copies that month, plus 325 loans at $2.01. I have sold more books in other months, but I have never made so much money.

What KDP Select does is increase visibility and allow you to reach readers who might not otherwise come across your books. Amazon benefits from the upheavals in the charts, with a constant supply of new books showing up to tempt buyers.

Many see KDP Select as part of Amazon's evil scheme to gain world domination. Let me quote  Robert Bidinotto on the subject:

Gosh, what a devious plot Amazon has going: 
They keep throwing MONEY at us authors, and keep offering us NEW OPPORTUNITIES, always trying to make us HAPPY, so that we continue to deal with THEM rather than their competitors!
How can we POSSIBLY allow this ruthlessly manipulative scheme to continue?? 
Shouldn't we be giving Amazon's inferiors a fighting chance???

Nah. I  shall be signing on for another 90 days.