Is Waterstones cheating independent bookshops and readers?

Books in the Dark

When is an independent bookshop not an independent bookshop? When it’s a Waterstones in disguise.

The stores all have their own unique names and branding, with just a small notice in the window pointing out that they are a trading name of Waterstones Ltd. Many local business owners are up in arms, claiming that the chain is deliberately trying to deceive customers looking to do business with an independent store.

Unsurprisingly, the owner of the local bookshop is not happy about it. Also unsurprisingly, Waterstones have rubbished claims there is anything underhand going on.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I don’t think a national chain pretending to be an independent store is a good thing, if that is indeed what Waterstones was attempting. People have their preferences over where to shop, and regardless of whether those preferences are driven by logic or prejudice (I mean only the kind of soft prejudices like a dislike of corporations, obviously) they deserve to know into whose bank account the money they are spending is going to end up.

Villages and towns with a strong sense of community often like to support their local shops, so for someone to think that their money was going to a small business owner, or staying within the local economy, when in fact it would end up in corporate coffers or lining the wallets of shareholders isn’t fair.

But at the same time, I don’t know whether this is really an act of treachery on par with something you would expect from a character Sean Bean plays in a film. While I do understand the ‘big brand versus small business’ argument, I can’t help but appreciate the fact that many global corporations operating today started out a century or so ago as homegrown local businesses.

Look at McDonald’s for instance, the second largest employer in the world (according to data from 2012). The ubiquitous restaurant chain started life around 1940, founded by two brothers. Although it is putting it incredibly prosaically, the reason McDonald’s dominates in the way it does today is because it started out as a small business that did what it did incredibly well. Becoming a global brand, admittedly while not happening by accident, is a side-effect of business acumen, great products or services, and an ability to cater to local demand.

There are obviously lots of ways in which the ‘corporations are evil’ axiom can ring true. But to say that a shop should be avoided or demonised because it has a name and branding that you already recognise seems to me to be an oversimplification.

And of course local businesses are going to complain: Waterstones is a threat to them. It is worth remembering that the same narrative that paints all chains as heartless and profiteering paints all small business owners as people of great integrity struggling to get by.

While it is true that being a small business owner is a great way of realising a passion and pursuing your dreams, there are plenty of people who open small businesses simply because they can see an opportunity to make money.

To return to the issue at hand, is Waterstones doing something that it shouldn’t? I guess it depends on your attitude towards independent bookshops. I love any kind of bookshop; I have to admit that local ones often do have more personality and flexibility to be different.

But it’s unsurprising to think that chains can often offer more: my local Waterstones (I say local, it’s still over half an hour away from where I live) is many times larger than the bookshops in my local town. But at the same time, one of my local bookshops always has windows brimming full of signed copies of the latest books by bigshot authors. It’s a bookshop you should take seriously: these are book-loving professionals running their business well.

So I suppose if you hate chain bookshops then this might seem like a bad precedent. While the idea that people working in a small family-owned bookshop love books, while those working in a chain hate them and just want a job, seems rather childish, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no truth in the point.

But looking like an independent bookshop can also be a double-edged sword. Not everybody loves independent shops. Some of them prefer chain bookshops, believing them to offer more variety and better service – I’m not saying it’s true, just that there are prejudices against small business owners and unique shops as well as there are national chains and global corporations. So Waterstones could find itself losing customers because they don’t realise it’s a chain and thus keep walking down the street instead of going in to browse.

Only if you dislike large chains do you see their branding and corporate identity as some kind of dirty secret they need to be rid of. Companies love their branding: that’s why they spend so much money on it. That’s why their carrier bags, pens, staff uniforms and delivery trucks are decorated in corporate livery. It is the brand that attracts the customer.

So while the one point of view casts Waterstones as some creeping and insidious force, attempting to infiltrate the local high street in disguise, the other depicts a well-known chain sacrificing its valued and advantageous branding for the sake of blending in with the aesthetic of its local trading environment. The move could be a concession on behalf of Waterstones; an acknowledgement that they are the outsider, and a sign that they’re making an effort to blend in.

I think that both these for and against arguments are a little too fairytale. Waterstones’ move was based upon a business decision, and, equally, it’s money that motivates the objections.

Ultimately, I’d say the outlook for those particular high streets is pretty rosy from the point of view of booklovers. More choice in books is never a negative, and if we can all agree on just one thing, it’s that readers are not the type of people to come out of one bookshop and say ‘I’d better not browse in that bookshop as well, I’ve bought enough books today.”

What about you? Are you Team Waterstones or Team Independent? Scroll down and leave a comment to let me know if you think Waterstones has done a bad thing, a good thing, or an irrelevant thing.

70,000 words and counting

quill pen in inkwell on antique paper

A few days ago I broke through the 70,000 word mark on the follow-up to Fallen on Good Times. It’s really opened my eyes to what you can achieve when you chip away at something a little bit at a time. What always held me back was the sheer size of the task ahead of me. Every time I would sit down at my computer, or think about working on the book, I would simply realise just how many tens of thousands of words were required from me and give up, overwhelmed by the scale of it all.

But since Christmas I’ve been reinvigorated. I started 2016 with a very old draft of the book that was about 30,000 words long. Simply by adopting the philosophy that writing even 100 words was better than writing nothing, I find myself now having averaged 10,000 words a month and well past the halfway point. I’m currently in the middle of writing one of the key scenes in the book – a scene which I’ve been visualising for over three years now.

It reminds me of that Lao Tzu proverb – overused, but incredibly accurate (as cliches often are) – ‘a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step’.

I’ve begun building up momentum now, driven by the fact that not only am I approaching the finish line, but also the realisation that the finish line has moved closer towards me.

If you read this post on the fact that book II is going to be a very long one, you’ll know that I estimated the final word count at around 135,000 words. I arrived at that number by dividing the amount of words I had done so far by the number of plot points I had completed writing, then multiplied that by the total number of plot points in my synopsis.

Well, as I progressed through the synopsis, I realised that in shuffling scenes around I’d accidentally duplicated five of the plot points. This takes the synopsis down to 40 key developments, which has had the effect of shaving about 15,000 words off the projected total.

All of a sudden, I’m excited again. I’m no longer just trudging along, reminding myself of the big picture (that one day I’ll turn around and give myself a damn good kicking over the fact it’s taken me four years to write another book, all the while lamenting the other volumes I could have written if I just had the discipline and the motivation). Now, I’ve begun to think about the finished book: about how exciting it will be to market another volume; to hold the finished novel in my hands; to put on the shelf with my other work. I’ve started dreaming up ideas for book trailers and other such promotion.

But it’s not that I’m getting ahead of myself: there’s still a long way to go before I’ve even finished draft one, let alone the extensive edits and reader feedback that are going to come before this book is ready to go. This foresight is not jumping the gun, it’s simply the by-product of enthusiasm. It’s similar to the way in which you speed up the pace of your reading as you reach the most tense part of a novel; you aren’t wishing it away, you’re simply eager to see how it unfolds.

Plus there are lots of things that I didn’t get to do when marketing Fallen on Good Times, which I’m excited to try out for book II. I’m also interested to see if the simple act of having two published novels will improve my sales (it couldn’t make them any worse).

There is still quite a way to go yet. Which reminds me: 80,000 words beckons. If you’ll excuse me…

What to do with a really long book

Books in the DarkA question for all of the readers out there. I’ve just broken through the 60,000-word barrier on the follow-up to Fallen on Good Times. It’s been a long, incredibly drawn-out process so far, of which I’ll probably talk about soon. I’m heartened by the fact I’ve got so far.

The thing that finally helped me break through the barrier of actually attempting to write the book was to simply focus on the idea of ‘making progress’, rather than eyeing up an end goal. Even if I only managed to write hundred words; that’s still productive, and it’s still useful. It is infinitely better than not bothering to write anything because I know I won’t be able to make a huge dent in the total word count.

I’m not intending to abandon that attitude anytime soon. Considering the restrictions on my time, it’s the only attitude that is going to allow me to make any progress at all. If I only write when I have the time or inclination to make significant progress, or if I set myself a target for when I want the book finished, I’ll go back to being overwhelmed by the scale of the task in front of me and give up again entirely.

However, having made such significant progress on the novel so far, my thoughts have started to drift ahead to what will happen when it is finished. I’m excited to get another book out there. It’s been far too long since Fallen on Good Times was released, and I can’t wait to see it side-by-side with its ancestor.

There is, however, a slight problem, which will lead me onto asking the question I alluded to in the intro.

BOOK TWO IS GOING TO BE KIND OF BIG

I’ve arrived at the 60,000-word mark while halfway through plot point 21. The total number of scenes/developments in my synopsis is 49. If you do a quick average of the number of words per plot point, this means I am looking at a final word count of around 137,000 for book two. If I were writing Fallen on Good Times, I would be only 7,000 words away from finishing the first draft at this point, but as it stands with book two, I’m not even halfway through.

We can of course assume that I can cut down on the word count significantly with a few rounds of decent editing and some reader feedback. However, there are aspects to the novel that I know I’m going to want to expand upon. In several instances I have simply glossed over a development or description because I was more interested in getting the first draft done than making sure everything was in place. So I think it’s probably fair to assume that the additional material I plan to add will counterbalance any edits I make. Also worth noting is the fact that I did the same sums when the hit the 50,000-word mark and calculated the finished novel would be around 125,000 words.

Which leaves me with a bit of a problem. In the grand scheme of things, 137,000 words isn’t massively long in terms of a novel. If you assume a reasonably large font and 250 words per page, you’re looking at 548 pages. That’s still pretty slim compared to the average Robin Hobb, George R. R. Martin, or Alastair Reynolds book. Decrease the font a bit, or make the margins a bit narrower, so that you can put 300 words on the page and you cut out a hundred pages. 450 pages is approaching something like the average length for a traditionally published novel.

But in terms of my work, it’s very long. It’s twice as long as Fallen on Good Times. I’m not sure if that’s an issue or not. On one hand, it’s a lot more book, which is surely a good thing for people who enjoyed Fallen on Good Times, as they get to spend twice as much time in the company of the characters and inhabiting the world that they enjoyed the first time around. On the other, it is quite a drastic change of pace, and I don’t want people thinking that book two is simply the product of overstuffing description or poor editing. Obviously that’s a judgement from my beta readers, when I finally get around to sending them a copy, but I’m confident this isn’t the case.

Book two is so long because there is more plot, more characters, more nuance to the story than the first book. I believe it is going to be an improvement in every way, building on what (judging by the reviews of book one so far) is a solid foundation.

THE MANY PROBLEMS OF HAVING MANY PAGES

University Library, Basel, SwitzerlandSo that’s the first issue: one of perception. Will people be happy with a longer second book, or will it put them off? And as self-published novels go, I expect 137,000 words is actually quite long.

The second issue was one of practicality. Fallen on Good Times is available in both eBook and paperback formats. This is the way I want all of my future work to be. Not very many people buy the paperback (or the Kindle version, for that matter), but it is an important part of the publishing process for me. I wouldn’t feel the same way about my books if there wasn’t a physical copy of them available. Growing up, before self-publishing or eBooks really became a thing, I’d naturally pictured my books in paperback, piled on the table for book signings and lining the shelves of bookstores. It is therefore an intrinsic part of convincing myself that I have achieved my dreams for me to have a physical copy.

However, the costs would be prohibitive. I make very little from each sale of the paperback version Fallen on Good Times, despite the standard £7.50 retail price. I actually make more money if you buy a Kindle version. The issue here is that Amazon is offering a print-on-demand service. Normal publishers print thousands of copies of their books in one go, reducing the cost per unit to the point where they can pay for materials, production, author royalties, delivery fees, and still make a decent profit (well, the last part is arguable these days). Because Amazon prints each book as it is ordered, they are much more expensive. There is a flat fee per book and another charge based upon the number of pages, then Amazon’s royalties to think about, and finally I get whatever is left.

A quick look on Createspace’s royalty calculator page tells me that if I were to opt for the small font 450-page version of the paperback, I would have to set the retail price at £9 in order to make any sort of profit, of which there would be 20p. If I wanted to make what I think we can all agree is a not-extortionate profit of £1 per paperback copy sold, I would need to set the retail price at £10.33. In the grand scheme of things that’s not exactly expensive, but for a book, in the wider market, it is a bit. I wouldn’t even expect my friends and family to pay the extra three odd pounds over the going rate for a book for my work, let alone readers in general.

It seems there are three options available to me, which I’d like to walk you through:

  1. Publish the book on Kindle only
  2. Publish a ‘collected edition’ on Kindle and split the book into two volumes in paperback
  3. Split the book into two volumes on both Kindle and paperback.

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of practicality, value to the reader, and profitability.

OPTION ONE: PUBLISH ON KINDLE ONLY

Reading Kindle OutdoorsAs I’ve already said, having a paperback copy is quite important to me. I suppose I could still publish it on paperback, at the high retail price just to make sure that I broke even with every copy sold – buying copies through Createspace’s trade price option for authors would work out and about the average price per paperback novel anyway, including postage, so I’d still be able to get copies for myself and my family without making a real loss.

The real advantage in publishing solely on Kindle is that it cuts out the impracticalities of a large paperback. People don’t really buy paperback versions of self-published novels anyway, if statistics are to be believed. Therefore, I’m not exactly losing anything, and it’s practical for the reader to have a large book on a Kindle.

There is still a monetary issue. Fallen on Good Times is £1.99 or $2.77 on Kindle. I feel like it’s a fair enough request to ask for a bit more if you’re paying for double the book, but I don’t know if readers would agree. Some might interpret it as me getting greedy, although sales of Fallen on Good Times would really have to take off before that argument becomes in anyway realistic. Although the idea that I might have ‘hooked’ people with the first book, only to be charging them more for the follow-up, might be a little more believable to someone who doesn’t know my actual motivations.

With all the other self-published novels out there, £1.99 is already expensive compared to all the 99p deals (and that’s already a reduced price from the original of £2.50), so while I’m still an unknown, un-reviewed, unproven author, is anybody going to want to spend £3 or £4 on my second book?

OPTION TWO: PUBLISH A ‘COLLECTED EDITION’ ON KINDLE AND TWO VOLUMES IN PAPERBACK

I could split book to into two individual volumes, each one as long as Fallen on Good Times. From a consistency point of view at least, that’s a winner. It would also give Laslo Kane a trilogy of stories. Three is the magic number, after all. I was intending to introduce a new character as the protagonist of the fourth novel (I intend to follow the patterns of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, in which over time he established several pockets of different characters, each with their own plots and troubles to deal with, many of whom occasionally interlinked) and for some reason I feel as though Laslo having three books is neater before moving on to focus on someone else, at least for the time being. And most trilogies do seem to follow the pattern of having one stand-alone book to begin with, followed by two novels which work more as two installments of the same story.

On paperback, it allows me to do two things. Firstly, it allows me to make my personal bookshelf look a bit nicer, as I’ll have three volumes in the Pilgrim’s Wane collection. Secondly, it means I can actually sell paperback novels of the books at a reasonable price, for those who want to buy them. I’ll also be able to purchase paperback copies at an affordable rate to give away as competition prizes.

Of course the big picture here is that in actual fact buying these two paperbacks would add up to more than the cost of buying the one larger volume, but from a psychological point of view I think people would actually prefer that. Each volume would be treated as a book in its own right anyway, with separate release dates and marketing, so this would certainly not be a ‘profit-making’ exercise. If anything it would lose me a hell of a lot of money, as I have to pay for two separate cover designs and two lots of formatting, the cost of which I am unlikely to recover in sales for a long time.

On Kindle I could solve the problem of getting people to pay twice by offering the two volumes together as a ‘collected edition’. I’d also be able to instantly create a third product, a trilogy ‘box set’, which will include Fallen on Good Times. I’ve heard that these tend to sell quite well, and it will be a good way to introduce somebody to my work. People aren’t necessarily going to become fans after reading one book, but if they get hold of three, whether as a free giveaway, when they’re on sale, or because they liked the value that the three book edition offered, they are more likely to take an interest in me as a writer.

OPTION THREE: PUBLISH TWO VOLUMES ON KINDLE AND TWO VOLUMES IN PAPERBACK

The paperback situation would remain the same as above. Another benefit of doing this is that it would help me to create some more momentum in my marketing, something I’ve struggled to do in recent times, especially considering I’ve always known that book two would be a long way off. If I scheduled what would become book three to be released a few months after book two, I would have a goal to work towards as I (hopefully) began writing book four. It could help bridge the gap between the next Pilgrim’s Wane novel, giving me a way of keeping people interested in the interim.

Publishing two volumes on Kindle would simply be for continuity’s sake. I could still create the ‘box set’ versions mentioned above, it would just mean that volumes two and three were also available separately. Prosaically, paying £1.99 for two 300-page instalments of the same story is no different to paying £3.98 for the 600-page version. However, again, it would be easy for someone to accuse me of ‘moneymaking‘.

THE THORNY ISSUE OF CLIFF-HANGERS

Lady on Cliff EdgeThe elephant in the room is what would happen to the story itself. Because it is a complex, flowing narrative, there is no point at which I could cut it in half and neatly round it off into two entirely self-contained volumes. The only way to do it would be to leave volume 2 with a cliff-hanger ending. Now, as long as you build a satisfactory story throughout the novel, and give readers some form of resolution, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with doing this. I’ve also identified point in the story at which it could potentially happen.

But I know that a lot of people don’t like cliff-hanger endings, especially in novels, where they can often feel cheated without a proper resolution. And again, it can instantly raise accusations of profiteering, as though I’m deliberately withholding the rest of the story until they pay me more money. This can sort of be circumnavigated on Kindle at least by making both volume 2 and volume 3 £0.99, so that buying them together only costs the same as buying the first book. Of course, in paperback, this is a different problem. Although considering no one buys paperbacks, perhaps the issue is moot.

I’m not entirely sure I’d be comfortable, or feel particularly fulfilled, if I left volume 2 with a cliff-hanger ending. However, the prospect of having three Laslo Kane books and a host of different Kindle products does excite me.

It all comes down to reader tastes.

BACK TO THE QUESTION AT HAND

Which, a couple of thousand words later than planned, leads to my questions:

Firstly, which of the options above do you prefer? Which is best for you as a reader, and which would you be most happy with?

Secondly, what you think of books with cliff-hanger endings? Do you avoid them, or love the suspense? Have you come across a lot of books that do this, or is it a rare occurrence?

Do leave your comments below. This post is simply a brain dump, rather than any concrete planning and I still have half the book left to write just to finish draft one, after all – so your thoughts can shape the way in which I finish, market, and release this book.  Or books.


You can also ‘Like’ my page and let me know your thoughts on Facebook.

Fallen On Good Times Isn’t Selling: Here’s Why I’m OK With That

libro antico aperto

If you’ve been here before you might know that almost three years ago I released my first ever novel, Fallen on Good Times. The story, a comic paranormal noir set in 1920s America, follows soft-boiled detective Laslo Kane as he gets embroiled deeper and deeper into a strange case of blackmail while desperately trying to escape his chosen career path.

I had big plans for it. Unsurprisingly they’ve all fallen flat.

It does, on many levels, pain me to say that Fallen on Good Times hasn’t sold many copies. Obviously three years later I’d rather be sitting here celebrating a sales milestone, perhaps the 1000 copies mark, or the 5000, or the 10,000. I can’t tell you how many it has actually sold, because I honestly don’t know. I haven’t even checked my Amazon dashboard in about a year.

But that’s not to say I have given up. On many levels I’m actually okay with the fact that the book hasn’t sold. Here’s why.

WRITING IT WAS THE IMPORTANT PART

Books are hard to write. That’s not an industry secret. They get harder as you get older, because adulthood grabs you from behind, rifle through your pockets, and runs away with the majority of your spare time. Jobs, and children, and bills all take precedent. I know that starting writing so young was an advantage, as I’ve been able to develop a talent for it, but in some ways it has been a curse, in that I’ve seen my availability to write decline as I get older and more barriers pop up between me and my dreams of authorhood.

The fact that life makes writing books hard is evidenced by the fact that, nearly three years after I first started thinking about it, I am still only about 35,000 words into Book II, which is just over a third if my estimates over its completed length are accurate. Although a good chunk of progress has been made in the last couple weeks, but if you look at it from a purely mathematical point of view, it could take me in till 2022 just to finish the first draft.

The harder it is to get that second book out there, the more I realise how advantageous it is that Fallen on Good Times has been written, edited, branded and published. It wasn’t a waste of time, or energy. It’s always going to be there, waiting for a follow-up, and for me to have the time, energy, and discipline to do it justice.

A SOLID FOUNDATION OF QUALITY

It may be that not enough people have read Fallen on Good Times for me to get an accurate statistical picture, but as it stands at the moment those who have read the book have loved it. It may not have many reviews, but the ones it does have say some pretty complimentary things about it.

It might not be selling, but the fact is I think I gathered enough evidence to help soften my own doubts and accept that I’ve written a good book, with good characters and a good premise. Those are all things that will serve me going forward. Luckily for me, books don’t diminish in quality the older they get. And being set in the 1920s means it’s hardly likely to slip out of relevance – it’s not the biography of the latest TV talent show winner whose celebrity status will flicker and die within a few months, making the book obsolete.

I’d rather have a quality book that nobody has bought yet, than one that has sold several thousand copies and collected an overwhelming majority of negative feedback. It’s a lot easier to generate more sales than it is to make a book less crap.

I KNOW WHY IT’S NOT SELLING

The thing that softens the blow of poor sales the most is the fact that I understand the reason why sales are poor. My time as a freelance writer running my own business and my research during the run up to publication has given me a good understanding of the basics of marketing, and more. So I know that the reason Fallen on Good Times isn’t selling is not necessarily because people don’t want to buy it, but because they have no idea that it exists.

I have not been able to do the things that I know I need to do in order to get the book in front of readers. Before publication I compiled a 10,000-word marketing plan, and I know that if I had stuck to that religiously, I probably would be here writing a post celebrating at least 1000 copies sold, but likely a lot more. But for a large and complex cocktail of reasons which I don’t need to go into here, I haven’t been able to do much marketing.

Basically, I haven’t finished this endurance race because I never filled my car up with petrol. That is a far more preferable handicap to have than being a terrible driver or having a crap vehicle. There’s always more I can do to help promote my book, and getting the second one finished is one of those things. And then the third, then the fourth, and so on. Writing this blog post is one of those things, even if it is only the merest drop in the ocean compared to what I have to do.

WATCHING MY CURRENT STEPS, NOT DREAMING OF FUTURE ONES

I spent too long thinking about the end goal. Too long convincing myself that it wasn’t worth doing anything because the dream was so far away that to take a few steps wasn’t going to bring the horizon any closer. But now, for the moment (and I’m choosing not to blow it by convincing myself that it is permanent, or placing expectations of it being so upon myself) I discovered a new attitude. And that attitude is that I would rather give the faintest whisper about my book in a quiet corner of a dark building than continue to stand in silence in the middle of a crowded street.

Fallen on Good Times hasn’t sold many copies. But it will: not today, not tomorrow, maybe not for a few years. But I know I have the potential inside me to keep writing great stories, and the right combination of knowledge and skills to eventually get those stories in front of people who want to read them, and will enjoy doing so. And I’m okay with that.


If you want to help me in my quest to spread the word about Fallen on Good Times, you can ‘Like’ my Facebook page.

The Wilderhark Tales come to an end

I think Danielle E. Shipley is just doing this all to spite me, really. She seems to have taken it upon herself to make a lot of self-published authors look bad. A couple of years ago she published Book One of the Wilderhark Tales – a clever reimagining of some classic stories and fables. It was entitled The Swan Prince, and it was very good. Now, with the pending release of the aptly titled The Story’s End, the 7-part novella series comes to…well, an end.

Today is the cover reveal for that final book. And what a cover it is, too:

storys-end-cover-update-full

As if the cover alone wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, here’s some info:

For Gant-o’-the-Lute, “ever after” has been less than happy. With the last of Carillon’s charm over him gone, the minstrel-king puts royalty behind him in pursuit of the music he once knew and the lifelong dream he let slip through his fingers. But dark whispers on the wind warn that time is running out – not only for Lute and the apprentice in his shadow, but the whole of earth and Sky.

The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales”, coming October 13, 2015; now available to add to your Goodreads “To Read” shelf.

You can buy and read the other six volumes from Amazon. Head on over to Danielle’s website to learn more about them.

Can’t wait to see what you’ve got planned next, Danielle.

 

FREE BOOK

Fallen on Good Times ReviewsThe title says it all, really. Fallen on Good Times, my paranormal detective Noir novel, set in 1920s America, is free this week. All you have to do is click on this link to be taken to the relevant Amazon page for your country, and then hit the download button!

Please share this page if you know that your friends, family, fans, colleagues, enemies, or pets would also be interested. Fallen on Good Times is currently #1,231 in the Kindle Free section – not bad considering it started out yesterday at around #230,000! With a few more people spreading the word, and a few more downloads here and there, who knows where it could end up?

Go on. Even if you’re reading something else at the moment, Kindle space is infinite, and you don’t really believe you already have enough books, do you? Get it here.

 
Fallen on Good Times Goodreads Reviews

What the cinema tells us about why printed books are awesome

By Fernando de Sousa from Melbourne, Australia (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Fernando de Sousa from Melbourne, Australia (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Cinemas have changed a lot since they first started appearing over a hundred years ago. There is no longer a dude with a piano sat by the screen, for instance, although the responsibility for honky-tonk racket seems to have fallen to a legion of mobile phones instead. I doubt when the first cinemas opened you could buy a bucket of popcorn big enough to hide a body in, or a cup of Pepsi sufficient to drown a horse. Also the most expensive tickets available in the first UK cinemas were priced around 5p.

But for all that has changed, all the technology, the fancy seating, the gluttony (I’m not judging, it’s one of the best parts), the online booking, and the thunderous Dolby sound, the cinema is still the same thing as it once was: a trip out of your house to watch some moving pictures.

For a long time now people have had access to other ways of watching films. They get shown on the TV a lot, and they’ve been available in take-home format since 1977 (in the US) when The Sound of Music, Patton, and M*A*S*H were the first films to be released on VHS, at a cost of between $50 and $70. The internet has made it much easier to consume films, whether legally or illegally, and thus the cinema has taken a hit in recent times. But they still survived, and continue to survive, and their enduring popularity tells us something about why print books are here to stay too.

What the cinema offers, which the internet, DVDs, or watching Jurassic Park for the billionth time on television cannot, is experience. The size of the screen, the power of the sound, the excitement of the trailers (previews for you American folk), the snacks, the drinks, the trying to find someone to go with you and failing, and then going by yourself and feeling like a complete murderer shopping for a new victim: these are all integral parts of the cinema experience. And they’re all things you can’t get in quite the same way sitting on your sofa in your own house. No matter how big your TV maybe, it’s never going to be the size of the silver screen.

Which proves that format is about far more than just convenience. For the price of a trip to the cinema you could buy yourself a DVD of another latest blockbuster which you would be free to watch dozens, or even hundreds, of times over. Given the price of some cinemas, you could even buy the equivalent volumes of popcorn and coke from the supermarket at the same time and recreate the whole experience*.

*Which, while we’re at it, should include watching the film in a darkened room. It should be made illegal to watch a film with the lights on. What’s that even about? Everyone is sitting in a room looking at the screen – which, by the way, provides all the light you need – then someone comes in and turns the light on before sitting down to carry on watching the film. What’s wrong with them? They might as well just walk in on you having a bath and pull the plug out.

I love the cinema because it gives an experience and quality to watching a film that you just can’t get otherwise. I can watch films on television because screens are getting quite big now, but I’ve never watched anything, cinema or television, on a device smaller than a laptop. Compared to the cinema, watching films at home is a shadow of the true experience. It’s a compromise.

And therein lies the truth about paperbacks which technological aficionados often fail to see. The paperback book may lose out to the eBook in terms of convenience and price, but it still wins in terms of experience. It’s not shallow to find a paperback book more stimulating than its electronic equivalent. It’s not missing the point to savour the weight in your hands, to treasure the interaction of turning the pages, to smell the crisp clean paper.

The accoutrements of going to the cinema serve to heighten our enjoyment of the film. I’ll argue any day that the properties of a physical book do exactly the same for the story they contain.

My bookshelf wants to know why books come in so many different sizes

My Bookshelf

There are few sights more pleasing in your home than that of the neatly arranged bookcase. It is our own personal library, our tiny little bookshop; a place we can peruse and browse for adventures and new friends. Even if you don’t get around to reading all of the books on your bookshelf (a task that would be a lot easier if you stopped buying more) a bookshelf is like a display cabinet, the spines are its ornaments, a feast for the eyes, titillation for the imagination.

There is, however, one slight problem. Even the most untidy of us has our own little way of being organised. Someone whose floor is obscured underneath a hundred takeaway pizza boxes can still get angry at people squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle. The person happy to eat crisps in bed would have an aneurysm at the mere thought of doing so in their car. And myself, not the tidiest of people as my fiancée will happily testify (as soon as I can remember where I put her), loves making sure my books are displayed neatly.

Book manufacturers, however, appear to be the original trolls. Forget the internet, book printers have been winding us up for generations. Because they have decided that, rather than having a few standard sizes of book, absolutely anything goes. Why not get the latest fantasy epic in A4 format? Let’s print one Terry Pratchett book in one size and the next in the series a few millimetres bigger. And all those rectangular books are looking a little too uniform. Let’s re-release The Lord of the Rings with triangular pages.

And even when you do find books that are the same height, there’s no guarantee they’ll be the same depth. Because book manufacturers couldn’t possibly have you arranging a nice shelf of even books who’s spines are all flush against each other. I feel sorry for bookshop owners. Us at home may only have to struggle with 50 or so books. They have thousands to work with.

Even self-published books hold the same problem. It took me a hell of a long time to decide what format to go with for Fallen on Good Times. Amazon gives you a choice of about eight different sizes. Incidentally some of the sizes are unrecognised by other printers. Lulu has its own sizes as well, I believe.

Of course there should be different sizes of book. Personally my favourite format is a hardback, and I like these when they are bigger than their paperback counterpart. But hardbacks still come in many different sizes, as do paperbacks. It’s a wonder anybody tries to organise their books at all. Why, printers, why?

I’m hoping someone out there has a clever workaround to this problem. Share solutions (or tales of organisational woe) in the comments section!

Cover Reveal – The Surrogate Sea (Wilderhark Tales Book 6)

Surrogate Sea cover, front
It’s time for another of Danielle E. Shipley’s Wilderhark Tales. Book six, The Surrogate Sea, comes out next month, and I’m taking part in the cover reveal. Look at it. Yum. So what’s it about?

The Sea’s storm brought them together, and the Sea’s rules will keep them apart, unless the mute but melodious Muirigan can find another to take her place, freeing her to pursue the human man she loves. But when her plan collides with the schemes of the sly South Wind, a princess’s agenda to look for love in all the most fantastic places, and a prince whose head and heart have been long years at war, the result is a tragedy of errors from which the world might never recover.The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)

The Surrogate Sea, out Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Find it on Goodreads here.

Genre = Young-Adult Fairytale / Fantasy / Romance

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An enchantress’s curse turns a spoiled royal into a beast; a princess’s pricked finger places her under a hundred-year spell; bales of straw are spun as golden as the singing harp whisked down a giant beanstalk – all within sight of Wilderhark, the forest that’s seen it all.

You’ve heard the stories – of young men scaling rope-like braids to assist the tower-bound damsel; of gorgeous gowns appearing just in time for a midnight ball; of frog princes, and swan princes, and princes saved from drowning by maidens of the sea. Tales of magic. Tales of adventure. Most of all, tales of true love.

Once upon a time, you knew them as fairytales. Know them now as Wilderhark’s.

Author Bio:

Danielle E. Shipley Author Photo, Amazon JPEGDanielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself. …Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof.When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: Packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them. She’s also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble.

When she’s not living the highs and lows of writing, publishing, and all that authorial jazz, she’s probably blogging about it at EverOnWord.wordpress.com.

What is it about us readers buying books and not reading them?

Four books were added to my TBR pile over Christmas, although in terms of pages it's more like ten.
Four books were added to my TBR pile over Christmas, although in terms of sheer number of pages it’s more like ten.

Many people say their hobby is reading. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe reading isn’t how we should be describing ourselves. Because most readers have the same weakness – they love buying new books. They buy books even when they have a pile of books already waiting to be read; books they know will likely never get read.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Maybe our hobby isn’t ‘reading’. Maybe our hobby is ‘owning books’. Perhaps we are more collectors of stories than we are consumers.

It is not entirely a nonsensical practice. People collect an awful lot of different things, from shoes to memorabilia to antique toasters (bet you this is a thing). If anything, buying books and reading even a fraction of them makes us a step better than most collectors, who never use the items they have hoarded. (‘I don’t care if you are having a heart attack: that defibrillator is valuable and only for display’.)

Or does the fact we actually use our collections just make us rubbish collectors (as in collectors who are rubbish, not council employees who are highly undervalued by society)? We’re collectors who play with our toys. That’s not how it’s meant to work.

But in our defence, think about how much a book offers us. It’s a wealth of opportunity. It has unlimited potential; potential to take us on an emotional rollercoaster; potential to introduce us to new friends, love, and enemies; potential to take our breath away. And when all that is on special offer? Well, we’d be fools to resist.

Also, unlike, say, historically important tampons or antique spoons, you can never have too many books. Do you know what too many books is? A library. Having too many stories is better than having too few. We fanatical book buyers are simply stocking up for a rainy day. Who knows what might happen? Who knows when we might suddenly require twenty unread books with the price labels still on?

Tell me – how many unread books do you have in your collection? When was the last time you bought new books?