I’ve joined the POD people

Before Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, print-on-demand (POD) was all there was. You showed up at a printer’s with your plume-written manuscript, gave him a few coins (or maybe a chicken) and rode your donkey back home to wait for him to phone you and tell you your book was ready. Then a few days later you would ride back on your donkey and find out for yourself whether it was ready because the telephone also hadn’t been invented yet.


Print-on-demand is as easy as shelling peas. Okay, I know this isn’t a pea pod but I couldn’t find a free photo of one online.

Suddenly Gutenberg appeared on the scene with his fancy movable type and old-school printers went out of business. But now, thanks to CreateSpace, Lulu, Blurb and others, self-published authors like yours truly can offer printed books without any upfront financial investment. POD is great for small or one-off print-runs because the setup costs are very low compared to traditional offset printing. There’s also no need to commit to printing a certain quantity of books that may end up being unsold.

I only recently discovered just how easy it is to create a book using CreateSpace so I’ve decided to offer a print version of Silent Symmetry. I’m sure that Lulu and Blurb are easy to use too, but CreateSpace has the added advantage of providing free distribution on Amazon, whereas the others distribute books on their own sites which have far, far fewer potential readers.

My amazing cover designer Alex Nereuta made my front cover print-ready and designed a back cover. This brings me to another advantage of POD: you can create a new edition very quickly. For example, Silent Symmetry’s back cover features this blurb: “#1 on Amazon’s free Kindle ebook Futuristic & Sci-Fi Romance chart!” If ever I want to put a different blurb I just need to ask Alex super-duper nicely to change it and resend me the cover pdf, then upload it to CreateSpace and voilà – from that moment on any new purchasers of the book will receive the updated version.


This guy totally ruined POD for several centuries.

A digital proof is free and I’m glad I took that step because I spotted one minor formatting error. Once that was corrected and a new digital proof checked, I ordered a printed proof which costs around $10, shipping included. This is a necessary step because something could be wrong with the printed version that is undetectable in the digital proof, such as how the cover photo looks. But hopefully all will be well and I’ll be able to press the Publish button. Then I’ll furiously refresh the book’s Amazon page throughout the day to see if anyone has bought it. Okay, not that last part.

One thing’s for sure: I’ll by posting a link on this blog to the Amazon page for the print version of Silent Symmetry as soon as it’s available.

Photo credit: janine berben / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Next-gen ebooks?

The Guardian reported from the London Book Fair on a new “fully immersive” version of John Buchan’s century-old thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps, which of course has already been made “semi-immersive” in cinematic adaptations by Hitchcock and others.

Click to view the article.

London Book Fair 2013

Screenshot of Faber Digital’s ebook of The Thirty-
Nine Steps

As interesting as the article itself are the comments which (unusually for the internet) are mostly sane and range from “why would they bother; this isn’t a book anymore” to “this is just interactive fiction” to “this looks super cool!”.

Clearly projects such as this that require a significant budget are a way for established publishing houses to compete with both independent ebooks and other media vying for the “entertainment dollar” such as video games and movies.

Two-day freebie = readership acquired!

As I mentioned in a previous post, using Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) free days is like getting major radio airplay. Of course books aren’t the same as songs, so all you can achieve as an author is to get your unputdownable book in a reader’s hands rather than inundate their ears with your catchy single. And that’s what happened over the last two days. Unlike my previous freebie promo for Silent Symmetry, this time I put some actual marketing effort into it, with requests for features on free ebook blogs, ads on Goodreads and a social media blitz. The work paid off handsomely and Silent Symmetry was downloaded almost 3,000 times.

One of the most gratifying outcomes of all this was that I learned that the book appeals to readers across a wide range of genres. I hadn’t expected this, and whatever algorithms that Amazon uses to tag its books (besides the tags I applied myself) seems to have been highly effective.

Amazon screenshot 10-4-13 9pm

Silent Symmetry’s Amazon page screenshot 10-4-13 9pm

Of course I’d love to have sold 3,000 copies, but no one buys an album by an unknown artist solely based on the cover; they have to hear the music first. Same thing with books, and now I have to have faith that Silent Symmetry is good enough that a portion of those 3,000 readers will tell their friends about the book, or mention it on Facebook, or tweet it, or sing in the shower about it (which would be great if it was a communal shower like at a gym).


Go on – sing in it!

One puzzling result of the giveaway was that there haven’t been as many downloads in the UK as I would have expected. Maybe it’s because Silent Symmetry is set in the US? I’m pretty sure Brits like free stuff, so this is my only theory, unless I missed some critical UK blogs during my feature request marathon.

I need to lay off promoting the ebook for a while because I have to go through the edit of my contemporary novel The New Sense and because I have another Silent Symmetry project that I’ll be blogging about in a day or two…

Photo credit: Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Apparently I’m a futuristic romantic

I don’t invent these genre charts; Amazon does. And as an update to my post earlier on my second promo effort for Silent Symmetry, the Kindle freebie is currently sitting at #1 in the free Futuristic & Science Fiction Romance category. Oh look, there are some famous vampires at #3 in the paid chart next to it!

Amazon Futuristic & Science Fiction Romance screenshot 9-4-13 - 7-44pm

Amazon Futuristic & Science Fiction Romance screenshot 9-4-13 – 7-44pm

Promotional effort #2

Silent Symmetry is free for Kindle download today and tomorrow. That’s a marketing tactic equivalent to getting airplay on the radio for an unknown band. I don’t have time to write more right now, but at the moment my book is sitting at #5 on the Amazon charts for free Teen Literature & Fiction!

Amazon Teen Literature screenshot 9-4-13 - 7pm

Amazon Teen Literature screenshot 9-4-13 – 7pm

The True Review Pledge

In my early twenties I took a pledge to eat chocolate every day. I’m not kidding, and I’m not even sure exactly why I did it. But I couldn’t keep it up and that failure still haunts me to this day. On the bright side, I don’t weight 300 lbs.

I’m not big on pledges (a statement belied by three divorces, which goes to show that you should never believe a writer of fiction) but today I took another one.


My chocolate pledge was a house of cards… of chocolate.

I came across the True Review Pledge site and was immediately convinced that it was a good thing. I’m new to the whole review thing, having only just begun to receive some for Silent Symmetry.  But apparently there are a lot of fake reviews floating around on Amazon and elsewhere. This article in the New York Times outlines the scope of a problem that affects not only book retailers but other industries that rely on reviews, such as hotels, restaurants and tech products.

To help combat this scourge the folks at the True Review Pledge have created a site where authors can take a pledge to keep reviews of their work honest. Here’s how the pledge is explained on their site:

It is a great time to be a writer – and a reader. The last couple of years has seen a surge of new titles hit the market, especially in digital format.

What many readers (and some authors) do not know is there has also been a scourge afflicting the publishing industry in the form of fake reviews. Some of these have been purchased by authors or representatives in order to boost sales; others are negative ones posted by authors or their fans to decrease sales of their competitors.

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to prove which reviews are fake and which ones are the result of genuine enthusiasm or critique.

We want to help combat this problem and also help restore reader confidence in the publishing industry. One way to do this is to have authors, publishers, and readers pledge that they will not participate in these unethical practices.

I signed up immediately. I’m proud that my reviews have come from strangers. The alternative is like cheating on an exam. Or on your chocolate pledge, which may be even worse.

(You can see the pledge badge near the bottom of the column on the right.)

Photo credit: Aka / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Shorter, better, faster, less filling!

Folks, I’m going to shake things up on my blog. Being a serious writer and all, I’ve been writing serious posts about the serious business of writing.

But I think some readers would like to have additional snack-sized posts that can be digested in just a few seconds, a bit like Pringles.

So this is the first one. And, um… there you go.


Old-fashioned CHIPS


Oh, and if I stop posting forever it’s because lawyers from Proctor and Gamble showed up at my door and whisked me away in a cardboard tube.

Photo credit: Hugo90 / Foter.com / CC BY