Archive for the ‘ MWiDP ’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

How To be A Publisher In the E-Age… And Keep Your E-Sanity

So it’s finally happened. No, not the book. Keep up!

That’s happened too, of course.

But even more exciting than that! I now have a reliable electric supply AND a reliable internet connection.

No, I can’t believe it either.

The components for the solar power arrived last month (just in time for the rainy season) and this past few days I finally took delivery of a 4G internet service. Yep, that’s me on the far left

Of course it’s not 4G by Western standards. But by local African standards, and compared to last week,  it’s simply incredible. And once the novelty of being able to listen to radio and watch youtube videos wears off I’ll have no more excuses for my haphazard postings here on MWi, and my poor communications generally.

Fact is my old ISP service had deteriorated to the extent that I’ve only been able to get into my own blog two or three times a month. To all those who commented recently and were seemingly ignore, it wasn’t deliberate.

So be warned. I’m back, and with lost time to make up!

And we’ll start right here by announcing what you probably all knew already, that How To Be A Writer In The E-Age finally went live this past week and is even now storming the Amazon charts.

Check it out on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk..

It will be available on other platforms shortly, and the POD release is imminent too.

Chasing this we have Paul Dillon’s The Magic In the Receiver (any day now) and the first of  Terry Galanoy’s Bloodgold series.

And no, we haven’t forgotten our very own Rapunzel or St. Mallory’s, but both fell foul of the constant problems with electricity and net here. Expect to see them all in the near future, as well as a resumption of my observations on the publishing and writing scene and some more insights into my life here in West Africa!

Okay, short and brief this time, but don’t get used to it. I’ll be back to normal next post!

Trans-Atlantic Team-Up – Exploring Discoverability

Buzzwords. What did we do before they were invented? Or maybe they’ve always been with us, just under a different name.

One thing’s for sure – the buzzword of the day among indie authors is “discoverability”.  The art of getting noticed. It’s not a new word, created in the epublishing revolutionm though looking about you you might think indie authors created the concept.

Actually it’s been around since forever.

But in the world of digital book selling it’s never been more important.

The e-charts get ever more competitive, and while we still love to read about the success stories of new and unknown authors beating the odds and winning the Amazon lottery, the simple fact is it’s getting harder and harder. By the day. Even for established authors with a brand and a loyal readership base.

As ebooks become more acceptable there are tons more indie authors out there competing for the attention of a limited number of ebook readers. Even by the most optimistic estimates only 25% of buyers are buying ebooks – print still has 75% of the market. And while the e-shelves may be infinite, the number of books that will be bought is not.

Most importantly, the once indie-friendly e-charts are suddenly not so indie-friendly after all.

Getting noticed is hard, and getting noticed beyond your home shores is harder still.

One advantage we still have as indies is the ability to be nimble. To take risks. To experiment. To look at new ways of becoming discoverable, and then trying them out.

Say hello to the Trans-Atlantic Team-Up.

Yes, it’s an experiment. Yes, it may fail abysmally. It may stall this year and take-off next year. Who knows. But one thing’s for sure: Nothing ventured…

So we figured, supposing we took a good seller from the UK doing less well in the US, and a good seller in the US not doing so well in the UK, and put them together in one volume? And then released it both sides of the Atlantic, so fans of author A would see author B’s work, and fans of author B would see author A’s work?

Box-Sets are commonplace ways of getting one author’s books “doubled up” to increase exposure, and exchanging links and recommending one another’s books is also a commonplace method of cross-promotion among indi9e authors. So why not take it to the logical next step?

We approached our in-house cover-designer Athanasios and put the idea to him. Back came a design we loved. A simple, yet elegant frame, whereby any two separate novels could be presented in one volume.

For the launch we chose Tom Winton’s stunning social-justice thriller, The Last American Martyr, and the first of our Rose Red crime thrillers, Snow White.

Yes, both are also still available as individual books, so this is very much a way of increasing exposure for both authors and both titles, while offering readers value for money.

This, the  first of the Trans-Atlantic Team-Up series, has just gone live on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, and will be appearing on other platforms very shortly.

Other titles will follow soon. Anyone interested in having their book(s) paired with an author across the ocean should get in contact and we’ll see what we can do.

 

 

Indie Fables: The Myth of the 70% Royalty

Truly disruptive developments in technology impact not just on related industries, but have repercussions far beyond, changing society. It’s why they are called revolutions, not just improvements on the previous infrastructure.

The printing press was one such.

Railways. Manned flight. The internet, of course.

Epublishing? No question is has transformed the publishing industry itself, and transformed the lives of many who aspire to making a living from it. But to be a true revolution it has to impact on wider society.

It’s too soon to be certain how history will regard what we now term the epublishing revolution, but I think it safe to say it will be classed as revolutionary.

Epublishing is revolutionary because it is capable of transcending media boundaries yet still be available to anyone with the requisite and readily available technology. Not just a transfer of an existing industry to a new means of delivery (movies are shifted from celluloid to magnetic tape to aluminium disk to digital without being revolutionary changes) but a transformation in what is available to read, where it is available, how it is read, and most importantly in the relationship between the creator-supplier and consumer.

Like any revolution, epublishing has its proponents and opponents, and like in any propaganda war truth always the first casualty. As in any revolution, epublishing has its icons and its demons, and reasoned debate is rarely an option.

Urban myths abound. You know the type: trad publishers eat babies for breakfast, alligators live in the sewers beneath New York and you can earn seventy per cent royalyties from Amazon around the globe.

BTW, for those wondering, Hugh Laurie is not actually a trad publisher. And I can personally vouch for there being no alligators in the sewers of West Africa. Crocodiles on the other hand…

So this is the first of an occasional series intended to strip away some of the more colourful blandishments of both sides, and take a look behind the us and them mentality that is so pervasive and corrosive, and view the reality behind the war of the words.

And we’re starting with the biggest myth of all – the myth of the 70% royalty.

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The fabled 70% royalty is of course the weapon of choice of any self-respecting indie wanting to poor scorn on the traditional publishers. And no question the royalties paid out by the trads are piss-poor. Don’t for one second read this as an apology for the failings of the trad pubbers to pay a fair whack to their authors.

But equally, don’t fall for the opposite extreme that the trads are therefore robbing us blind because Amazon and other e-retailers pay up to 70% royalties. The trad publishers may well be robbing us blind. But that’s a different argument for a different time.

What’s important to grasp here is that Amazon are not paying 70% royalties. In fact, except in the case of the select few who have signed up with the Amazon imprints, Amazon aren’t paying royalties at all.

Okay, they call the payments royalties, but actually they are charging a 30% fee for distributing our books, selling our books and processing the fees. They then hand us the remainder. By what stretch of the imagination is that a royalty? A rose by any other name? Not so. If we sold an ebook on eBay and eBay paid us the money after its fees were deducted would we call that a royalty? Of course not.

Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo and co. are not our publishers, they are our distributors and sales agents. That’s why it’s called self-publishing, folks!

The point being, it’s crazy to directly compare what Amazon (or Apple, or Kobo, etc) hand out (after deducting their sales commission/distribution-fee/payment processing fee) with a royalty from a trad publisher.

Low as trad-pub royalties may be (7%-15% is typical), it’s ludicrous to suggest that a trad publisher paying 15% to the author is somehow pocketing the other 85% as profit. Apart from anything else they have to pay sales commissions/distribution fees/payment processing fees just like we do. They have production costs, just like we do.

Does that justify the trad publishers’ higher list prices and lower pay-out of real royalties to authors? Of course not. But the arguments against trad pub practices stand better scrutiny if we deal with facts, not Konrathian hyperbole. The grave-diggers and pall-bearers of the trad publishers have their own agenda, and can be entertaining to read. But facts are easily lost in the one-sided debates.

I’ll return to this in future posts. Here to address the realities of “royalty payments” from bodies which aren’t acting as publishers and are actually charging distribution fees, not handing out royalties.

In a bizarre twist by the company that prides itself on offering consumers the cheapest prices and claiming the agency model keeps prices artificially high, Amazon penalize any author wanting to give the reader real value, and more than double the distribution fee if we choose to list at less than $2.99.

Which of course means that for many ebooks the so-called Amazon “royalty” is only 35%.

And that applies to rather more than you might think.

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There’s a common misconception touted by the celebrity self-publishers that writers can earn 70% globally by being indie. If only…

For ebook purchases outside of the Kindle countries Amazon only pay 35% regardless of list price. Far from giving you the fabled 70% royalty they actually charge you a 65% sales commission/distribution fee/payment processing fee. And of course they then also add the infamous $2 surcharge to the buyer’s bill.

New Delhi, not New York

So your 99c ebook sold in downtown Buenos Aries or New Delhi will cost the buyer $2.99. But you’ll still only get 35c. In case you’re wondering that’s an actual “royalty” of less than 12%.

That’s always assuming they let Johnny Foreigner buy your book at all. A reminder here that, as a resident of a West African country, I cannot buy my, your or anyone else’s ebook from Amazon, not even with the $2 surcharge, because Amazon block ebook sales to almost the entire continent.

Not quite as bad as Barnes & Nobles Americans-only policy, agreed, but hardly a global sales reach. Apple by contrast have iBook stores in twenty or so countries and don’t surcharge. Kobo have even bigger global reach, and curiously they don’t surcharge either.

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The big appeal of Amazon and B&N for authors is of course the ability to self-publish relatively easily. Although for B&N that applies only to Americans. Everyone else has to go through an aggregator like Smashwords.

Apple and Kobo both, in theory, accept indie authors, but the hoops to jump through are such that few try and even fewer succeed, so again aggregators like Smashwords come into play. But in order to get into B&N, Apple and Kobo through Smashwords you have to subject yourself to the ignobility of the “meatgrinder” to get premium status, and as anyone who submits multiple titles will know, that can be an absolute nightmare.

We can submit two identically formatted files one will be approved and the other come back time after time after time from the auto-vetter for some revision that actually doesn’t need revising. Typical is to get an email from Smashwords saying your ebook has passed all the tests and been approved, followed by an email literally five minutes later saying that exact same book has failed and must be re-submitted!

For those who persevere Smashwords gets you, in addition to those mentioned already, into Sony and Diesel, and Aldiko and Stanza. Useful, true, but how well do Smashwords perform compared to direct uploads?

For those of us outside the US, B&N’s long-standing policy of blanking anyone outside the US borders meant Smashwords were pretty much our only hope of getting listed there. And while the evidence is anecdotal, it does appear being in B&N via Smashwords does you few favours. We sold next to nothing in B&N via Smashwords, despite huge sales on Amazon. Almost all of the B&N success stories we are aware of are from direct-upload authors.

The same goes for Kobo. Again, anecdotal evidence suggests Kobo and Smashwords do not work well together.

Our own experience is telling. Last year saw our e-titles in the e-stores of the two biggest bricks and mortar book-sellers in the UK – Waterstone’s and W.H.Smiths. We let Smashwords get us into W.H. Smiths as their e-store is operated by Kobo. We went via a more direct (and more expensive) route with Waterstone’s (Smashwords do not supply any UK stores except W.H.Smiths through Kobo).

Last year we had two top ten hits in Waterstone’s, held number two spot in store for some while, and was the most searched for name in store. In W.H.Smiths? Nothing. You could count the sales on one hand.

What little we did sell via Smashwords last year was through Apple, and the sums are just too embarrassing to mention. Yet somehow we sold well over 100,000 (of just one title) on non-Smashwords platforms last year. And not just on Amazon and Waterstone’s. As we demonstrated here, we have been getting ourselves out into ebook stores far and wide.

No, these sales aren’t massive. Yes, Amazon will probably dominate the scene for a few years yet, and will maintain it’s position as the biggest ebook retailer in the US. But ebook sales worldwide can only get bigger. If you’re not out there you won’t share in it.

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Some people are dismissive of Kindle UK because sales there don’t match up with Kindle US. Well, no question the US is a bigger market. And Kindle UK is much newer than Kindle US. E-readers are still a novelty in Britain.

But the UK’s time will come. Those who have a foot in the door now – not just on Kindle UK, but on all platforms – will be well placed to ride that swell when it does come. We know. We’ve got the t-shirt. Just think Waterstone’s.

We’ve also got a direct route into the other major e-stores including B&N, Kobo and Apple, without playing games with Smashwords’ meatgrinder and their ludicrous auto-vetter. And more importantly we have a direct route into far more stores than Smashwords offers.

As said here a week or so back, we can now get you into these stores too.

On Thursday here on MWi we’ll be explaining just what that involves, and which ebook stores you could potentially be selling in. Unless you’re locked into KDP Select then this is a great opportunity to reach new markets at no upfront costs. If you are with Select then come and join us when your ninety day experiment is up.

We’ll provide the ISBNs and quality-formatted ePub files where necessary, and any titles listed through us will be featured in the We Love Waterstone’s promotional campaign in the UK, and similar campaigns internationally.

No, it probably won’t make you rich and you may not sell at all. In which case you lose nothing. On the other hand you may just be the indie that beats us to the number one spot in the UK’s Waterstone’s or Tesco ebooks (the e-store of the UK’s biggest retailer by far), or that makes it big in South Africa’s Kalahari store, New Zealand’s Fishpond store or…

No, we can’t guarantee sales in these stores. But there are two things we can guarantee.

One is that if you’re not in those stores you haven’t a hope in hell of ever selling there and establishing your brand there.

Two is that ebooks are a world-wide phenomenon and growing fast. China already is the second biggest e-reader market in the world. It will probably eclipse the USA later this year.

E-readers, tablets and smart-phones are everywhere, in every country. India is just about to launch its latest mega-cheap tablet, the iBerry Auxus.

Don’t for one second think these “third world” countries don’t have e-readers and tablets. The average citizen might not be able to afford an iPad or a KindleFire (not that the Kindle devices are available internationally anyway) but there are plenty of cheap, locally produced tablets, e-readers and smartphones available.

People are e-reading worldwide, not just in the USA and UK.

Will they be reading your ebooks?

Play It Forward – Where Next For MWiDP?

Pay It Forward.

How often do we hear that in the world of indie publishing? It has become the mantra of the indie movement, to the point where recently some bloggers were actually arguing over who thought of it first! The mind boggles.

Menander

In fact the concept has been about since forever. It was in use by the Greek dramatist Menander in 317BC, and the first recorded example in the US was Benjamin Franklin, who lent money to someone and asked them not to repay Franklin but to instead lend that money to another person in need. Similar sentiments were later echoed by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The actual term was in use from the early part of the twentieth century, and became popularised by Robert A. Heinlein’s sci-fi classic Between Planets.

But of course the phrase took on a life of its own after Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward was published in 1999. The film quickly followed. A movement was born. A decade on and the Pay It Forward movement is still going strong, guided by the Pay It Forward Foundation Catherine founded.

What does this have to do with MWiDP? Bear with me. There are two big announcements from MWiDP today.

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First, some background for the many newer visitors here.

When we slipped our debut novel Sugar & Spice into the murky waters of the Amazon ocean fifteen months ago it was, more than anything else, an act of defiance against the gatekeepers. Not so much desperation as sheer frustration.

There was no carefully thought out marketing plan. No launch party. No blogs. No tweets. It was whole new world, and one we knew next to nothing about.

Ebooks were still in their infancy, Kindle UK was about to experience its very first Christmas, and we just sat back and hoped someone might buy our unknown and unloved book.

Of course, no-one did.

This time last year we had sold nothing. And we were still querying. It seemed our best bet at the time. And maybe, at the time, it was.

And then around February / March we got the serious interest of an agent. A real-life literary agent wanted our book! By then it was just starting to sell a few copies on Amazon, but the agent wasn’t interested in that. She liked the book, but ebooks were just a fad. So the agent took our book under exclusive review, and we sat and hoped.

Three months passed. When she finally got back to us with her decision she wanted us to take down the ebook so she could approach publishers.

That was a close call. If she’d got back to us sooner we might well have fallen for it.

Trouble was, in that three months she had sat on our novel we had somehow sold thirty thousand books. Ebooks a fad? Clearly this was an agent who had no future. And, we realised, querying had no future either.

A month on and we had sold fifty thousand and were the second biggest-selling ebook in the country. The agents started to query us!

Again it was a close call. Big promises, tempting “unofficial” offers, but accompanied by draconian contract conditions. We stayed indie.

Regrets?

You’ve got to be kidding! That same book went on to sell another fifty thousand before it began to wind down on Amazon (not helped by the infamous three week disappearance!). And by then we were riding high in Waterstone’s, the UK’s equivalent of B&N.

Meanwhile we had brought out another book, got on with some other writing projects, and began to look at the bigger picture.

MWiDP was born.

Little could we have imagined that, just months later, we’d have one of the biggest names in modern English literature sign with us.

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The big news this week, of course, is the announcement, first made on Anne R. Allen’s blog on Sunday, that Anne and NYT best-selling author of Pay It Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde turned their back on the trad publishers in favour of joining forces with MWiDP.

In Anne’s own words:

The book I’ve been writing with Catherine Ryan Hyde, HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE—and keep your E-sanity! will be published by Mark Williams international in June of 2012. The book will be available as an ebook that will include free six-month updates. AND it will also be available in paper in both a US and UK edition.

We’ve had some interest from more traditional publishers, but decided to go with the innovative people at MWiDP because we need a nimble publisher who can keep up with industry changes and offer timely updates. Also, Catherine has a large international fan base, which made “Mr. International’s” offer especially attractive.

The fab cover is the working design, courtesy of our designer in residence Athanasios.

How To Write in the E-Age and Keep Your E-Sanity will be the first of many books under our non-fiction / education imprint Writers Without Frontiers, aimed at fellow authors, at whatever stage of their career they are at.

As well as more books for this imprint we’ll also be teaming up with other industry professionals to bring online writing courses and other resources to help the growing number of people worldwide who want to realize their dreams of being a writer.

And just to add there will be a prize draw in June to mark the launch of How to be a Writer in the E-Age. And not just any old prize.

We’re talking a first edition of the zillion-selling Pay It Forward, signed by Catherine Ryan Hide herself!

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Yep, I had to read it twice too. Catherine Ryan Hyde is now an MWiDP author!

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Writers Without Frontiers is just one of several imprints that will see MWiDP expand rapidly in 2012.

Our YA imprint will launch this spring, commencing with the long-awaited St. Mallory’s series, and though it’s not official yet we may well have another fantastic YA title going live with it. More on that in the near future.

We have some great titles pending for our Exotica imprint, all about travel and stories set in distant lands.

And for those so inclined we have also launched our mature-audience imprint, Aphrodysia, with the first book due out for St. Valentine’s Day.

Those not so inclined will be pleased to know covers and content will not be appearing alongside the other books, unlike on Amazon where some seriously disturbing covers are prone to pop up alongside MG titles.

Several other imprint ideas are being developed, which we’ll bring news of all as and when.

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Enhanced ebooks are of course high on our agenda to progress, and we’ll be making some announcements on this in the next few months. We have some trial projects under way, but won’t give details until we have a clearer picture.

We also have plans for audio books, and are currently examining ways in which this can work in the new indie publishing world. More on this in coming weeks.

In the very near future we’ll be moving into print-on-demand publishing for some of our titles. While there can be no doubt the days of bricks and mortar stores are numbered, there will be a small but significant market for print for the foreseeable future, and as POD technology improves and prices drop, POD will become the only real alternative to ebooks.

Meanwhile our tech team Elizabeth (she may only be one person, but she does the work of many!) has been hard at it behind the scenes with the new websites and the ebook store. All now very close to completion.

Take a sneak peak at www.mwidp.com.

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The ebook store, indiebooksunited, is hardly going to challenge Amazon’s supremacy, of course, so important to remind ourselves why we felt it necessary at all.

I asked an author recently if they would be interested in the ebook store and they answered, “Why? I’m selling through Amazon.” I put it to him he might sell even more if he was in other stores. He answered, “But I don’t need to be. I’ve ticked world rights. I’m available everywhere.” I tried not to laugh.

For anyone who missed it, do check out the MWi post Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Aakash  which explains how Amazon either blocks downloads or surcharges buyers across much of the world.

Above is a screen shot of what I see when I try to buy one of your books. Check out the green box at top right. (You may need to click on the image to enlarge.)

Check out the MWi post referred to above for real numbers about just how many potential buyers cannot buy your ebook from Amazon.

There’s also this strange idea that someone who has bought a Kobo ereader, or a Sony or an iRiver, or myriad other alternatives to the Kindle, is somehow going to make Amazon their first stop for ebooks. Yeah, right. Just like us Kindle users always go shopping in B&N and Diesel…

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The recent introduction of KDP Select has raised the issue of exclusivity once again. Leaving aside the good or bad aspects of KDP Select itself, let us briefly ponder exclusivity.

If we had chosen only to list with Amazon last year would we have sold as many books? Unequivocally no.

Of course we are on Apple, Kobo and B&N too. Kobo is a rising star, as I’ve said many times here on MWi. Just this week Kobo announced plans for expansion to ten new countries, including Japan and Brazil, just as the Amazon’s Japan plans have stalled.

Kobo has also partnered with WH Smiths, one of the leading UK retail stores. Kobo is the place to be in 2012-15.

If you’re not on Kobo, or are on Kobo through Smashwords and seeing no results, then be sure to check out the announcement at the end of this post.

But Amazon, B&N, Apple and Kobo are not the be all and end all of ebook vendors, and only form part of our income.

In the latter part of 2011, long after the Amazon star had waned, we had two top ten hits simultaneously in Waterstone’s, the UK’s equivalent of B&N. We held the number two spot, kept off #1 only by the Steve Jobs biography, and for a long while the Saffina Desforges brand was the most searched for name in the store.

But we weren’t just selling there. Britain’s biggest retailer by far is the supermarket giant Tesco. It has its own e-book store.

Guess what? We’re in it.

Foyles? Yep, you’ll find us there.

Books, etc? Yeah, we’re there too.

Pickabook? Of course.

ACCO in Belgium? We used our “leetle grey cells”!

Selexyz in the Netherlands? We love the Dutch!

Fishpond down in New Zealand? Say hi down under!

Kalahari in South Africa? Of course!

I could go on. Our books will soon be appearing in Textr in Germany, Asia Books in Thailand, Eason’s in Ireland, Buscalibros in Chile, etc, etc. I’m not called Mr International for nothing!

There’s a whole world out there that could be reading your ebooks, if only they had the chance. True, the sales aren’t earth-shattering. But a sale is a sale, and that reader may tell a friend who tells a friend…

And sometimes it can be good to be a big fish in a small pond, as we found with Waterstone’s. Next time it could be you. But not if you’re not listed there.

Of course the problem is these stores aren’t indie friendly. Just the opposite. They make it almost impossible to get in. ISBNs are required pretty much everywhere except Amazon and B&N. That includes Apple and Kobo, which is why most people go through Smashwords.

But Smashwords won’t get you into Waterstone’s or Foyles, Fishpond or Kalahari. And apart from ISBNs there are a ton of other conditions to meet and hoops to jump through too, before these companies will even think of listing your title. For example Waterstone’s insist you are a VAT-registered company to set up an account.  For the US readers that means having an annual turnover of about $100k. Then you face the nightmare of keeping track, receiving payments, etc. It’s not easy.

Which brings us to the second big announcement of the day:

MWiDP can now offer your titles direct listings to these stores, and also Apple and Kobo.

We’ll be contacting you all shortly with further details. For anyone not currently with us who wants to know more, just drop me an email.

We hope to start uploading to Waterstone’s by the end of this month, and just in case you’re wondering how anyone will find you there, we’re delighted to tell you we have advanced promotion in hand. We own the domain name http://www.welovewaterstones.com and will be launching a big awareness campaign within the UK this spring aimed at bringing attention to your titles.

Oh, and did I mention we accidentally bought the domain names welovekoboebooks, welovetescoebooks, welovefishpondebooks and welovekalahariebooks too? 🙂

So, even though it may have seemed nothing much was happening, we have been busy behind the scenes. I’ll be elaborating on the various projects in more detail over the coming weeks here on MWi.

I’ll also be introducing the Book Theatre project to find narrators for audio books for your novels, and the Translator’s Co-op project to bring together a pool of novel translators worldwide to help get your books selling not just in the international stores, but in the local languages.

The trad publishers will tell you writers still need them because they can get you places you can’t get on your own. They have a point. Once you step outside the Amazon bubble being indie isn’t easy.

But with MWiDP you’re not on your own.  Many of our authors are already busy exchanging ideas and services. It’s all part of the cloud.

With MWiDP you get all the benefits of being indie but a lot less DIY.

Mark & Saffi

Ones To Watch 2012: Sarah Woodbury – the next Ellis Peters?

Okay, so I’m in historical mood just now. Another year has whizzed by, and we’re all another step closer to departing this mortal coil.  Which got me thinking about legacy.

When the day comes, who will remember us, apart from our loved ones? Most people toil through life, day by day, month by month, year by year, without ever leaving their mark beyond the immediate circle of family and friends.

It’s rather sad when you think about it.

Every job is important, whether we sweep roads, swipe barcodes at a supermarket till, drive a train, design tall buildings or perform life-saving surgery. Most work goes unappreciated by those who benefit. Who knows or cares about the person who sweeps their roads, takes their money at the till, or drives their train to work? Unless it’s an exceptional building, who knows the architect? Unless it was the brain of you or a loved one, who would know the surgeon?

If we have a pleasant train journey on Monday when Tina the Train Driver is at the wheel we don’t make a point of finding out which train she will be driving next, and booking a ride. When Brian the Brain Surgeon saevs our life we’re eternally grateful, but we don’t then try find out who he will be operating on next. Just the opposite. We hope we’ll never see him again. We don’t form appreciation societies or invite them on blogs for interviews.

But when we read  and enjoy a book something altogether different happens. We form a bond with that author. It may not be a personal one, but it’s a bond nonetheless. Harry Potter fans talk of JK Rowling as if she’s a personal friend. Stephen King fans will buy his next book simply because it says Stephen King on it.

And it’s not just living authors. Show me the Jane Austen enthusiast who does not know every detail of her life, or the Dickens fan who cannot tell you all about Victorian childhood tribulations, or the Shakespeare fan who has never heard of Anne Hathaway’s bed…

Through their books these writers have created their legacy.  Each one of us does the same when we put our works before the public. But in the new world of epublishing there is infinite shelfspace and no books will go out of print. Our legacy is assured, however great or small our success while we are alive to enjoy it.

***

This is turn got me thinking about history.

History writers expand the legacy of the past by making it accessible to the modern reader. In doing so they assume responsibility for imparting factual context amid fictional story. No easy thing to do.

Prue Batten has recently, and most kindly, handed me her manuscript of Gisborne to cast an editing eye over. With luck Gisborne will be out there on the e-shelves as part of Prue’s legacy next month.

But in reading Prue’s manuscript I am reminded that my own WIP on King John, seen through the eyes of his young wife Isabella of Angouleme, is languishing on my hard-drive still, with no chance of completion this year. What idiot decided to create days with only twenty-four hours in them?

Then yesterday I heard from our translator, who is sorting our Sugar & Spice into German (more on this next week on MWi), that Umberto Eco’s works were free as ebooks on Kobo over Christmas. Of course I rushed to Amazon, only to find no sign even of of Umberto Eco’s classic The Name Of the Rose in the Kindle store.

But by now I was in historic-obsessive mode. I checked out Robert Graves, of I, Claudius fame, only to find they were available, but ridiculously priced.

And so to Cadfael.

Hands up, who remembers Cadfael? I’d had Cadfael on my mind anyway, because Sarah Woodbury’s The Good Knight has been making steady progress in the e-charts. Sarah writes (among ther things) medieval mysteries set in Wales, and Ellis Peters’ wonderful series of Cadfael Chronicles, while actually set in Shrewsbury, England, was about a Welsh  monk turned sleuth. The books spawned the equally delightful Cadfael TV series.

Ellis Peters

For those outside the UK, Wales and England border one another. Shewsbury is an English town bordering Wales. Ellis Peters combined her love of Wales with her affection for her home town by bringing the Conwy-born fictional character Cadfael to the market town that was historic Shrewsbury.

Sarah Woodbury doesn’t live in Wales either. In fact she’s American, and in Oregon. Unlike the Cadfael series, Sarah’s books are actually set in Wales. And unlike Cadfael, Sarah Woodbury’s MC is female.

For much of history England and Wales have been uneasy neighbours, often at war. At the time Sarah’s book The Good Knight is set, Wales is not even united in itself, let alone with England as part of the modern United Kingdom. Life then was short and brutal, and of course the concept of gender equality quite unknown.

So for Sarah, sat at home in Oregon, USA, to write a medieval mystery set in Wales, with a women sleuth running rings around the menfolk, was either madness or a stroke of genius.

My money is on genius. This is Cadfael for the twenty-first century, set in the twelfth.

My prediction, here in writing on MWi, is Sarah Woodbury is going to be the next Ellis Peters. With a range of novels from YA to historic magical fantasy to historic detective, and using her impressive research to bring to life past times and locations, I’m very confident Sarah is going to be one of the indie stars of 2012.

Sarah Woodbury

Here’s Sarah:

A Woman Detective in Medieval Wales?

It is a stereotype that women in the Middle Ages had two career options: mother or holy woman, with prostitute or chattel filling in the gaps between those two. Whether we like it or not, for the most part this stereotype is accurate and the status and role of women in that era revolved around these categories.

This is one reason that when an author sets fiction in this time, it is difficult to write a self-actualized female character who has any kind of autonomy or authority over her own life. Thus, it is common practice to make fictional characters either healers of some sort (thus opening up a whole array of narrative possibilities for travel and interaction with interesting people) or to focus on high status women. Such women may or may not actually have had more autonomy, but their lives didn’t consist of drudgery and child care from morning until night.

This is not to say that men in the Middle Ages weren’t equally restricted in their ‘careers’. A serf is a serf after all, of whatever gender. Men as a whole, however, did have control of women, of finances, of government, and of the Church, and thus organized and ruled the world. Literally.

There are obvious exceptions—Eleanor of Aquitaine, anyone?—but women such as she were one out of thousands upon thousands who were born, worked, and died within five miles of their home.

At the same time, within Celtic culture, women had the possibility of greater personal autonomy. In Ireland, where the Roman Church had less influence, women had a viable place both within the Druid religion and within the Celtic/Irish Church. Wales, too, was less subject to the restrictions of the Church. There, women had a higher status than in Christendom as a whole, including the right to divorce her husband and societal acceptance of illegitimate children.

The Laws of Women (part of the Laws of Hywel Dda) included rules that governed marriage and the division of property if a married couple should separate. Women usually married through contract, but elopement was allowed, with the provision that if the relationship lasted seven years, a woman had the same entitlements as if she’d been given to her husband by her kin.

The Good Knight is the story a young woman, Gwen, who investigates the murder of a King of Wales. She’s a bard’s daughter, which gives her mobility, ambiguity in terms of social status, and an autonomy that any good detective needs. Gwen’s sleuthing takes her from Wales to Dublin and back again, and earns her the trust and confidence of high and low alike.

The Good Knight (A Medieval Mystery)

Intrigue, suspicion, and rivalry among the royal princes casts a shadow on the court of Owain, king of north Wales…
The year is 1143 and King Owain seeks to unite his daughter in marriage with an allied king. But when the groom is murdered on the way to his wedding, the bride’s brother tasks his two best detectives—Gareth, a knight, and Gwen, the daughter of the court bard—with bringing the killer to justice.
And once blame for the murder falls on Gareth himself, Gwen must continue her search for the truth alone, finding unlikely allies in foreign lands, and ultimately uncovering a conspiracy that will shake the political foundations of Wales.*

Links:

My web page: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/
My Twitter code is: http://twitter.com/#!/SarahWoodbury
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahwoodburybooks

The Good Knight is available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk

There wasn’t supposed to be a post this Sunday, but loss of power meant I couldn’t run this yesterday, nor follow up as I usually do. But Sarah will be back here next week with some posts about medieval life, and to show why historic fiction is so popular.

Sarah also writes YA, and her book Daughter Of Time is available free on some platforms.

So, no question, Sarah Woodbury’s legacy is assured.

What will be your legacy?

Saffina Desforges Presents – the Kindle Coffee-Break Collection

One of the best things about being an indie “success story” (according to the KDP newsletter only thirty indie authors have sold more than 100,000 ebooks on Amazon) is that we can pay it forward for other indie authors.

We’ve been doing that here at MWi for quite a while now. Check the archives and see some great authors and books now doing extremely well that we were delighted to showcase and predict as future winners back when they were knee high to the proverbial grasshopper.

Our Crossing The Pond publishing initiative (part of MWiDP) has seen many of our authors make inroads into the UK market, and next month sees the launch of our international ebook store aimed specifically at the English-speaking markets Amazon either blocks from buying or imposes a $2 surcharge so your 99c ebook costs the buyer $2.99. But the author still only gets 35c…

This weekend sees the latest in our pay it forward initiative for indie authors, with the first of our short-story anthologies.

*

Saffina Desforges Presents… The Kindle Coffee-Break Collection – which will be going live shortly on other platforms as simply Saffina Desforges Presents…. The Coffee-Break Collection, with a variant cover – is a mixed genre pot-pourri of short stories from indie authors, introduced by Saffi herself, and the first of many. We’ll also be publishing some themed anthologies with exclusively sci-fi, or romance, or crime, or whatever as we go into 2012.

Royalties will be shared equally per volume between all the contributors in that volume, so it’s not a get rich quick scheme, but it is a great way of increasing your author exposure. With ten (in the case of volume one) authors promoting the book that means ten times the promotional exposure for each contributor, which could lead to sales on their other books if their short story proves popular.

We hope to have Volume 2 and Volume 3 out by Christmas, and into 2012 plenty more will follow, each fronted by the biggest indie name on Kindle UK (and on Waterstone’s – the UK equivalent of B&N).

Most of us have short stories laying around gathering cyberdust. Most of us don’t have enough material to make an anthology of our own, so anthologies like this are a  great way to make your short stories work for you, helping promote your books and increasing your brand exposure on Amazon and other sites.

We have enough contributions for the next few volumes, but the more the merrier. This is a open-ended series.

Anyone interested in contributing to future volumes should drop us a line – markwilliamsauthor@gmail.com – and request our submission guidelines.

That’s it for today. Blatant promo. But don’t moan. It could be your name in the anthology next time!

Here’s the list of the great authors who made volume one (alphabetically):

Anne R. Allen

Debbie Bennett

Pam Howes

Miriam Joy

Tracy Marchini

Peter Salisbury

Katrina Parker Williams

Misti Wolanski

Michael Yarwood

with intros by Saffina Desforges

Saffina Desforges Presents… The Kindle Coffee-Break Collection is available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk and will be available from other ebook vendors shortly.

Frustratingly the blog links to the Amazon sites won’t go live at this time, but just put Saffina Presents in the search bar on Amazon and it will come up.

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