Saturday 30 November 2013

I'm opinionated!

I've just been chatting on facebook and the conversation turned to the matter of opinions. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I wrote I also find it particularly important to have opinions on subjects I know absolutely nothing about. 

It got me thinking. Because it's true, isn't it? Not just in my case. I admit I'm frequently far too opinionated, that I'm sure I know everybody else's mind as well as I know my own and that I'm sure I'm right most - well, probably all - of the time. I'm also sure that I drive my family mad, as I hate to admit I'm wrong and I'll do anything to avoid giving in. I think my daughter has inherited my stubborn gene and I hope it will serve her as well as it has done me!

So yes, I'm opinionated. And yes, I'll often argue a point that I don't even agree with just for the sake of a good debate. Sometimes it's rather fun. I remember many long alcohol-fuelled debates as a student, when somebody would eventually say: you don't really believe that, do you? And I'd say: no - not in the slightest, but I just fancied arguing with you. And they'd shake their heads at me in amazement. Or it might have been disgust. Or pity.

But having an opinion on a subject we know nothing about? Isn't that what we do as writers? You might argue (because we're all about arguing on this post - oh, yes we are...) that writers are supposed to research their topics, to write what you know, but you can only take that so far. If you are writing from the point of view of a character who doesn't know, isn't it far more convincing if you don't know either? And isn't any kind of writing having an opinion on something? Be it modern times, politics, whatever - a lot of writing is the author's own opinions disguised as fiction. Or not disguised at all in a factual article or deliberate opinion-piece.

It's a bit like voting isn't it? I've always been a firm believer in the need to vote - to express an opinion. If you don't vote when you have a choice, if you let apathy get the better of you or simply don't like the choices on offer, do you really have a right to complain at the outcome?

Far better to have an opinion on everything. Even the things you know nothing about.

Monday 25 November 2013

The Indie Ebook Watershed? (part 2)

Last month I blogged about the scandal that hit the ebook market when UK high street retailer WH Smith fielded numerous complaints about books of a more - shall we say - adventurous nature appearing alongside kiddie books on their website. Their search engines were not filtering out adult content or indeed even flagging such content as appropriate for over 18s only. WH Smith's slightly knee-jerk reaction was to take its online store down completely while the matter was investigated.

you'd be surprised what else comes up in a search... 
WH Smith gets its ebook feed from the Kobo store, as do many other online retailers of ebooks. In response to complaints from WH Smith, Kobo in turn pulled all "independently-published" ebooks from its virtual shelves. Don't ask me how it defined independently-published - anybody can set up a publishing company or imprint with little or no financial outlay. Only the taxmen in their various guises need to know the true legal entity of a business.

So. Fast-forward a few weeks. My ebooks are once again listed with Kobo (at least some of them are - my new release hasn't yet appeared there but I'm confident it will in time). They've not yet reappeared on WH Smith's shelves and I doubt they will. But is this the end of the story? I don't think so.

Online stores do deals with different ebook suppliers. Like Kobo, Barnes & Noble/Nook Press ebooks go out to small online stores throughout the world. For instance, here's one of my books in the Indigo ebook store. Indigo is a Canadian company with physical stores across the country.

And don't forget physical books. I have three paperbacks now, published via CreateSpace. This is US-only and frankly nobody ever buys books from the CreateSpace site itself - they buy via Amazon or via one of the many sites that CreateSpace distributes too across the world via its Expanded Distribution option. This optional extra distribution used to cost an extra $25 - now it's free - and I've actually sold more print books via Barnes & Noble than I have on Amazon itself.

So what's wrong with that? Well - I have no idea where my books are being sold. Google alerts doesn't seem to help here (you all have Google Alerts set up, don't you? Authors and non-authors alike, it's invaluable for knowing who's talking about you...). So I was surprised to find my paperbacks being sold on UK site Fishpond. No, I'd never heard of it either. Quite why anybody would even consider buying a UK book priced in dollars and shipped via the US, when they could buy it from is beyond me - but what is disturbing is the description:   

black & white illustrations and Age Range: 15+ years.

Yes, really.

For the purposes of anyone who has not read my books, my thrillers are very dark, very graphic and absolutely in no way are suitable for under 18s. Oh, and there are no illustrations.

I have no idea where this information is coming from. It's not in my meta-data from CreateSpace, so who tagged my books and why? There's no "look-inside" feature, and I'd be horrified if people thought it might actually have illustrations and be suitable for mid-teenagers. I could possibly understand all books defaulting to an age-range (even if it's clearly the wrong one, and there is nothing that suggests it's a child or YA book), but to state it has illustrations? How? Why?

I've contacted Fishpond and they are looking at the my issue and hopefully amending the description. But what will happen if I change my book, re-upload and CreateSpace pushes a fresh copy out to all its satellite sites? And what else is out there that I know nothing about? How can I control  how my books are presented to the public?

Answer - I can't. And that's why I think this ebook watershed has only just begun.

Monday 4 November 2013

Calling the Tune is Now Available to Buy!

Aaaand it's out. Calling the Tune is now available in paperback and ebook at, and smashwords. Other e-retail sites will follow as soon as they are approved. Cover design by the awesomely talented JT Lindroos who has designed all the covers in this series.

"Don’t believe what they say: money can buy everything – and I have lots of it.” 

It’s Eddie’s trial and Michael is reliving events he’d rather forget. Giving evidence means he can’t hide, and there are still people looking for him and old debts to be repaid. It was never going to be easy.

Face to face with the man who raped him, Michael runs from court, but he’s not alone. Close behind him is trainee reporter Becky, and the story she wants will make or break her career after a telephone call sends Michael running for his life.

But running away never solved a problem. Michael realises he has to face his demons head-on if he's ever going to move on with his life – and now he's on a collision course with his worst nightmare.

Following on from Hamelin's Child and Paying the Piper, this novel contains adult material.