The Hundred Year Old Man That Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared.

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No, the title isn’t a personal reference. While I have sort of disappeared these past few months I didn’t climb out of any window to do so. And contrary to popular opinion I’ve still got a long way to go before my telegram from the Queen. The picture above was just last year.

But sometimes I look like it and feel like it. And it’s fighting this pointless battle between indie and trad publishing that is so wearisome and adds years to one’s appearance while knocking those same years off one’s life expectancy.

Back in 2009-10 it was easy to see why the brother/sisterhood of writers had divided into rival camps. On the one hand we had the trad published authors who had been both good and lucky enough to get a publishing contract. On the other we had the new breed of indie authors taking advantage of Amazon’s new self-publishing option and many, by all accounts, were doing rather well at it.

them_and_us_logo

But right from the start it became a Them and Us  issue, and while there were valid points being made by both sides, the self-appointed spokesmen for the warring factions were determined to demonize the opposition. The trad publishers hated ebooks and the indie upstarts publishing them, and the indies hated trad publishing and agents, the sole function of whom was to exploit authors.

Four years on and, while the publishing world has changed beyond all recognition, the song remains the same. Trad publishers hate ebooks and the indie upstarts publishing them, and indies hate trad publishing and agents, who have one role in life: to exploit writers.
And it seems many people still seriously believe that, despite the fact it wasn’t true in 2009 and isn’t true now.

~

One of the reasons I did my centenarian disappearing act lately was the continuing decline of the internet service here in sunny West Africa. At the end of 2011 had high hopes that the new 4G service being heralded here would mean in 2012 I could bring to fruition the many publishing projects slowly simmering away.

In a triumph of hope over experience I pushed ahead with some ambitious projects reliant on the promised improvements in the net here only to be reminded why GMT here means not Greenwich Mean Time but Gambian Maybe Time.

Far too many projects ground to a halt, or at least to a snail’s pace progress.

ace_map

At the end of 2012 light appeared at the end of the tunnel. The second tranche of a submarine cable (African Coast-Europe, or ACE) went live, theoretically connecting The Gambia and neighbouring West Africa countries directly to Europe and thereby the rest of the world.

Well, it did indeed go live and for about a week over Christmas we had an internet service which, while still woefully inadequate by First World standards, was far superior to what we had before. Then everything returned to how it was, and we start 2013 much as we started 2012, with high hopes tempered by experience.

Having proven they can deliver, the hope now is there are just a few technical issues to resolve and the new ACE cable will bring the promised improvement in West Africa’s internet access to the rest of the world.

That should be hoped for by all, and not just for my convenience.

As I’ve said many times before here on MWi, we writers lucky enough to be fluent in the English language have a huge advantage over authors who are not. English remains the lingua franca of the world. And as the ebook revolution continues to reach the furthest flung corners of the globe the prospects for authors writing in English grow daily.

A reminder: here in West Africa alone there are more English speakers than the entire population of the United States. As developments like the ACE take hold and bring reliable net to the Third World, and as cheap tablets (not ridiculously fancy iPads, but affordable tablets with prices well below $50) become widespread these hitherto untapped markets will become a key part of the successful author’s readership base.

And let’s not forget the First World. Have a guess at what the second most spoken language is in Sweden. Or the Netherlands. Or Finland, or Norway, or pretty much every country in Europe. The answer is English.

Now try the same test in pretty much any developed or developing country. You get the same answer.

There are exceptions. Brazil, for example, has never embraced English as a second language in the way most countries have. Unless you can get your books translated to Portuguese then don’t expect too many sales from that huge country. But most of the rest of the world is a readership waiting to be discovered.

My focus for this blog for 2013, internet delivery permitting, will be exploring the international ebook scene and examining why the them and us dichotomy between trad published and indie writers is doing very few of us any good. I won’t promise any set dates for blogging, because my net has its own agenda, but hopefully the ACE, once the teething problems are sorted, will let me be a bit more consistent.

Meanwhile, what of that bizarre title for this post?

For those of you unfamiliar it is a book by Jonas Jonasson that is currently topping the charts on amazon uk. I’m reading it at the moment, and have to say it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Take this excerpt.

I was abandoned by my mother, denied by my father — and I’m as intelligent s a sack of potatoes. I haven’t done any useful work in all my life, just lived on what I inherited from my father, and I have not had a single wise thought.

No, not George Bush. Herbert Einstein. Herbert has a small but amusing role in the story of a centenarian Swede who on his 100th birthday climbed out of the window and disappeared.

Hundraåringen_som_klev_ut_genom_fönstret_och_försvannI commend the book to you. And not just because it’s available for 20p on amazon uk.

Yes, you read right. In fact over Christmas as many as seventeen of the top twenty best-selling ebooks on Amazon have been priced under a pound, and most of them are 20p. That’s about thirty cents to you guys across the pond. As I write this on New Year’s Day four of the top five best-selling ebooks are 20p. The other is 99p.

In the UK bargain books are still much sought after. Bear that in mind when you price your ebooks on amazon uk from across the pond. And bear in mind the tax Amazon will add to the price. If you price your ebook at £1.99 it will appear on sale at £2.05. For a £1.99 list price to the reader you actually need to list on Amazon at £1.93.

Jonasson’s book was originally a massive hit in Sweden, and is now an international hit thanks to being translated into English, with three million sales behind it long before Amazon started giving it away at 20p, price-matching Sony.

It’s one of those delightful stories told by a monotone narrator at a monotone pace that is almost entirely tell over show, but that nonetheless defies you to put it down. The tale of a bumbling Swede who somehow manages to travel the world, personally befriending the likes of Franco, Truman, Churchill and Stalin along the way. Oh, and did I mention helping develop the A-Bomb? It’s a romp through world history with a lot of fact and keen observations thrown in amid the delightful fantasy woven by the author, the improbably named Jonas Jonasson.

Of course at 20p / 30c it’s pretty close to being given away. What chance relatively obscure indie authors with their freebies in Select when huge names like Jonasson are being given away all but free?

That debate is for another day.

But I end here today with news of a free book by a not so obscure indie author. Blogging guru Anne R. Allen’s latest release, No Place Like Home, is free on Amazon for the next few days.

NPLH cover 2
It’s the fourth in the delightful Camilla Randall Mysteries series, and not to be missed!

Free on amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/Place-Like-Home-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00AHRWA0Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8

Free on amazon.co.uk here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Place-Like-Home-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00AHRWA0Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1357035499&sr=1-1

Treat yourself!

No Place Like Home was the final MWiDP release of 2012. The first release of 2013, the long awaited St. Mallory’s Forever! is having the finishing touches put to it at this very moment and should be live later this month.

Happy New Year!

 

 

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  1. Well, well, well. It speaks! ;-) Firstly, Happy New Year, oh long-suffering partner of mine and secondly, just because your offspring are partial to weaving your hair, it doesn’t mean that you have to grow it down to your feet! We’ve finished Rapunzel, move on! ;-)

    Great post Mark and sadly, all too true. We are fighting a constant (unnecessary?) battle with Amazon and the trads here in the UK and The States, but as you rightly predict, there are other fish now in this rather large pond and they will be wanting their share of plankton. 2013 will be very interesting with iTunes, B&N and Kobo all gathering krill to their shoals and daring to challenge the orange smile that is the maybe-not-so-mighty-anymore ‘Zon.

    The issue is this: when us writer folk put our blood sweat and tears into writing an average-length book (usually alongside a full-time other occupation) and we put it out there for our wonderful, loyal readers, we try to offer it a reasonable price – it is an ebook after all.

    But we also need to make a living. And hey, why not?

    20p? There has probably been months and more likely, years, work gone into. It is an insult for the combined force of the trads and Amazon to litter their ranks with books at that price. We created something that people want to read, why not charge an acceptable amount for the privilege?

    The likes of Patterson and King, what do they care? They’re already minted, right?

    It stinks.

    BUT, we need them and so do the readers, so we will cower quietly in a corner, seething, but helpless.

    On the plus side, Anne’s book is out and it’s FREE, so grab it whilst you can! It’s fab!

    Here’s to 2013, SMF and the freedom to write what we like, when we like and what the readers like. Doesn’t matter how big and strong you are, that is one thing that they can’t take away from us.

    Happy New Year.

    Saffi

    • The hair is now actually much longer than shown there. When I go back to the UK in the summer I’ll probably have it cut back to where it was in that photo. Not sure I can suffer it much longer as it is.

      The bizarre thing with the 20p ebooks is that Amazon are price matching Sony, and in doing so paying those authors royalties based on the list price, not the reduced price. The authors concerned are raking it in, and of course at those prices they will be very hard to dislodge from the charts.

      Amazon can afford to take the losses, and the cheap books will attract readers to the Kindle, but long term this sort of pricing does nobody any favours.

    • annerallen
    • January 1st, 2013

    I’m honored to have my new book featured in your “resurrection” post. Welcome back to the blogosphere!

    And I’m so pleased to see a picture of you. There are people on the Kindleboards and other places where the cranky classes hang out who have suggested “Mark Williams” was a made-up name and you didn’t really exist. But here you are! And being an old hippie chick, I love your long hair! You look like a cross between Mr. Rogers and Merlin. (Mr. Rogers was a much-loved children’s TV host on US public TV)

    I love the idea of an international publishing blog. As you say, there are English speaking readers all over the globe. In fact I just heard from a reader who picked up a free copy of NO PLACE LIKE HOME at Amazon.de.

    I hope the new cable gets sorted and your Internet gets speedier and more reliable so we can hear more from you.

    • One of the upsides of having such a lousy net connection is I rarely ever go near sites like Kindleboards. I’m sure there are a lot of good and honest folk on these sites, but from what little I’ve seen they do seem to be the preserve of the cranky classes.

      Great that No Place Like Home is getting international downloads. Unfortunately none will be from this part of the world as Amazon still block ebook downloads here.

    • Anne, I am shocked and stunned that the wonderful Kindleboarders doubted Mark’s existence, how very dare they? ;-)

  2. Good to hear from you, Mark. I was beginning to get worried. Happy New Year – hope 2013 brings lots of bandwidth.

    • Thanks, Paul. I’ll be in touch in a few days. Got a children’s party in the villages tomorrow, but then shall be back at the “desk” to play catch-up with everything. Hope the book is selling well!

  3. Hi Mark. Lovely to have you back and to hear your take on a dicey situation. I guess all we can do is write the best book we can, spread it across the e-market distribution chain and hope that Kobo, Apple et al give us a push. I’ve just released The Shifu Cloth and it hit the world at the same time as the 20p sale … gaaah! I won’t hold my breath for happy sales figures.
    Happy New Year to you and give all the kids a hug from me!
    Looking forward to the release of St.Mall’s!

  4. It’s great to be back, Prue. And great to see the The Shifu Cloth available too. I picked it up a few days ago (not easy as Amazon don’t allow downloads here) and am looking forward to it, though it will probably be February before I get the chance.

    Have faith in the “smaller” retailers. It seems to take a lot longer to gain traction on the Amazon rival sites, but perseverance pays off. We’re seeing nice returns now on Apple, have first page category ranking on Kobo and are back in the top twenty on Waterstone’s, plus picking up a growing readership on many smaller platforms.

    Amazon is always going to be major player in the US and UK, but anyone with ambitions to acquire a serious international readership needs to be on as many platforms as possible.

    • Charley R
    • January 2nd, 2013

    Snuff snuff snuff, my excitement is doing no good for my poor murdered muscles over here! Skiing will be the death of me one day. Probably with a tree involved.

    Nevertheless, a brilliant post – and a big point made, actually. The international scene is a growing one, no doubt, what with global connections growing by the minute, not in the least via the internet.

    Just a question: how does The Mighty ‘Zon take to authors also marketing their books on iTunes, Kobo, and such? I don’t suppose it would bother them overmuch as long as they get a share in what sells from their base, but I’ve never been sure.

    • The Zon has the KDP Select programme to encourage authors and publishers to go exclusively with Amazon, and rewards some of those who do so by varying levels of internal promotion to the Zon customer-base.

      For the lucky few who get picked up by the algorithms for such treatment it can be very lucrative short term. For the rest it means they have spent three months only available on Amazon and have lost ground on other platforms, while getting anything from mediocre to abysmal returns on the Zon itself.

      I’ll be addressing this in detail in a forthcoming post.

      For St. Mallory’s Forever! the aim is to get the book out on as many platforms as possible so that everyone who might be interested will have the chance to read it.

      .

        • Charley R
        • January 3rd, 2013

        Ah, dokie doke, thanks for the explanation! The Zon is still a bit of a scary prospect in some parts to me. I feel so tiny . . . xP

  5. My French penfriend’s father told me once that if I’d learned Spanish at all, with French, English and Spanish I could conquer the world. Alas, I did Italian instead. And have since forgotten all of it. But I’ve got English. I’m very grateful it’s my first language as it’s very hard to learn and makes no sense at all.

    (Still, I know a handful of Esperanto… anyone fancy translating St Mallory’s?)

    • An apt premise given it was colonial conquest that put those languages in such a strong position to begin with.

      English is a dreadfully difficult language to learn – most Brits are barely fluent even though they’ve used the language all their lives.

      You can always out your studies to good use translating St. Mall’s into Anglo-Saxon, though that would be an extremely niche market.

      • Also hilarious. Star Trek references in Anglo-Saxon? Bring it on!
        (And it may be sooner than you think, given that my parents bought me a ‘Teach Yourself Complete Anglo Saxon’ kit for Christmas. I’m not even kidding. They actually did.)

  6. I love the idea of the “Complete” Anglo-Saxon. I suppose easier to fit on the cover than “Anglo-Saxon with total guesswork as to pronunciation because no-one has actually spoken it since, well, Anglo-Saxon times.

    Via the miracle of the internet I once came across one of Thomas Edison’s earliest recordings: Alfred Lord Tennyson reading The Charge of the Light Brigade. Quite amazing.

  7. Welcome back Mark. *grins* I must say I feel like tossing my hands inthe air going “Why can’t We Just all Get Along!” – but that’s my sentament in general for the world, I suppose.

    Anywho…

    Just finished reading “No Place Like Home” expect to do a review of it next week. I’m also looking forward to reading St. Mallory’s when it comes out..

    Hopefully your internet issues will sort themselves out in quick time. :}

    • Thanks, Cathryn. Hope you enjoyed No Place Like Home. I’m certain you will love St. Mallory’s, and hope you guys across the pond manage to make sense of the very English references that make it what it is.

  8. Welcome back, Mr. International! I do appreciate the photo, hair and all, and I didn’t realize you had quite so many children. Are there more that aren’t pictured?

    Congrats on the new MWiDP release — I’m going to find it now, and since I think I missed the free days, I shall actually pay for it. I’m using proper words like “shall” now because I am steeped in Downton Abbey-speak (which I just discovered and caught up with in time for the premiere of the third season here in the U.S.) I very rarely watch TV, because of that very phenomenon of getting hooked on something that steals writing time…

    I’m also going to find the Hundred Year Old Man. Sounds like fun.

    Good luck with all your connections, virtual and otherwise. So nice to see your typeface again. Try not to be such a stranger! (Or any stranger than you are.)

    • Hi Patrice! Yeah, those are just a few of “my” wonderful children. Fourteen in residence at last count. Such a tragedy they are going to grow up and become horrible adults. Still, plenty more to keep me young at heart when they do.

      The third season of Downtown Abbey? The mind boggles. I was in the UK when the first season was released and recall it was phenomenally successful (to the utter shock of all concerned), but had no idea it had been stretched to three seasons, nor that it was reaping international interest.

      TV series are a dreadful time suck, but occasionally series like DA come along that make it justifiable.

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