Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Should Independent Authors Form Publishing Companies?

You know how, when you visit one of my book's pages at your favourite retailer, it lists my name as the publisher?

That's because I'm a self-published author; I am the publisher of my own books. That's pretty much the definition of self-publishing, right?

There is, however, a growing trend these days, for self-published authors to start their own publishing companies or imprints (whether by registering those businesses "officially" in their countries of origin,  or in name only).

Many of these people say it makes their books appear more "professional" to potential book buyers, critics, etc. Or perhaps (if they've gone the "official" route), there are tax benefits to having a proper business.

Personally, unless you're also going to be publishing other people's books, I'm not a fan of this idea. I’m all about educating readers about self-published books and encouraging them to actively seek those books out. And it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether a book’s self-published or not if it has an imprint/publisher name different from the author’s… which I understand is one of the main reasons some authors want their own publisher in the first place; I just don’t agree that it should be so, is all.

Also, as an author, I didn’t choose to self-publish because I couldn’t get a trad deal. I never even tried for a trad deal, because my decision to self-publish was a deliberate, conscious, and carefully considered one. That makes me proud to be a self-published author, and I don’t want to hide that fact.

Of course, as I said above, there might be tax benefits to registering an actual company, but if you're going to do that, there's nothing stopping you from registering your own name ("Graham Downs CC" or even "G Downs" or something; don't try and hide behind a name that has no connection to your author persona).

Besides, it’s not too difficult to figure out that a book's self-published, either way: typically the only books published through that publisher are the author’s own. And once you've figured that out, it doesn't look so professional anymore, does it?

This is just my two cents. I'd love to know what you think. Is it a good idea for a self-published author to start their own publishing company? Why or why not?

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Behind the Curtain: An Observation About Email

For those of you who don't know, I use MailerLite as my email service provider. It's about a million times more suited to author newsletters than Mailchimp (click the link to try it out, if you run a business that needs to stay in contact with people).

Around the time that GDPR became a thing (when was that? A year ago now? Maybe more? Time flies), I decided it might be cool to offer people the choice of how they'd like to hear from me.

Prior to that time, I was sending out a regular monthly newsletter, and then other emails spread out randomly through the month, whenever I had something important to say. In some months, I'd send these weekly. In others, fortnightly, and sometimes, my subscribers would get several in a single week. All excluding my regular newsletter.

GDPR made me seriously consider that strategy because, as I understood it at the time, what the bill meant was the users had to consciously and specifically opt-in to communication from you, and they had to do it knowing exactly what that contact would entail.

Long story short, when someone signs up for my email list to get a free book, there are two checkboxes, and they can tick one, both, or neither (you're also not allowed to make that opt-in a requirement for receiving a freebie).

Now, I had expected there'd be some chancers who wouldn't tick either of those boxes. They just want the freebie. Oddly enough, I don't get nearly as many of those as I was afraid of, though; it seems like most people are honest, and understand the concept enough to willingly agree to hear from me.

I also expected that most people who opted in would tick the "Monthly Newsletters" option, and a few would choose not to receive the occasional ones. For the most part, that's held true, but here's what surprised me: some people are opting into the occasional emails, but not the regular monthly ones!

That floored me because I honestly assumed that, in most people's minds, "Occasional" would imply the regular monthly one.

True to my word, though, I haven't sent those people the regular monthly newsletters. But I have no way of understanding why people would want to hear from me occasionally, but not regularly.

Food for thought. As a reader, do you subscribe to any authors' newsletters? What made you sign up? How often do you prefer to hear from them?

By the way, if you'd like to sign up to mine and get one of my books free, click here.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

As a Reader, I Choose Bargain Booksy

Free email services offering ebook deals are all the rage these days. You've probably heard of BookBub (every reader's heard of BookBub, surely?), but they're not the only kid on the block. We've also got Riffle Select, BookGorilla, BooksGoSocial... I've subscribed to them all and more.

If you don't know, readers sign up to one or more of these services, give their email addresses, and set some preferences about the kind of books they like to read. Authors and publishers, on the other hand, pay a fee to have their books advertised, and on a regular basis (daily, weekly, or sometimes monthly) the reader gets a curated list of ebooks emailed to them, based on their preferences.

It's a pretty good arrangement: authors get their books in front of readers who are interested in them, and readers get really good deals on the things they like to read most. Many of those deals are even free (Digital Book Today in particular, has lots of free deals).

BookBub's good too, but as a reader, I have to say my favourite such service, and the one that I've bought the most books off of, has to be the lesser-known Bargain Booksy.

Why Bargain Booksy?

See, none of the other services allows you to exclude books which are in Kindle Unlimited from their emails. And we know how I feel about Kindle Unlimited, don't we? (In a nutshell, they're evil. Pure and simply. Read this blog post to get my full opinion on the matter.)

In the past, this wasn't that big of a deal. Aside from the fact that I've only recently developed such strong feelings against Kindle Unlimited (because they've only recently started taking over as badly), it used to be that the chances of a book in one of these emails being in KU was maybe 10%. Now, it's 95%. And since I refuse to buy Kindle Unlimited books on principle, I'm steadily unsubscribing from services that don't allow me to exclude those from their emails.

Mind you, Bargain Booksy doesn't explicitly give you an option saying "Don't show me books in Kindle Unlimited." That would be ideal, but no. You have to be a bit smart about it.

When you sign up for Bargain Booksy (or change your preferences later), they ask you, among other things, where you buy and read books: Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Scribd, Amazon, etc.

Here's the secret: all you have to do is untick Amazon.

Most books you get will include Amazon links as well (because 99.99% of all ebooks are available on Amazon), but you'll only receive them if they're also available in at least one of the other stores you picked.

Smart, hey? ;-)

Over to you: are you subscribed to any of these subscription services? Which ones? Do you ever buy books based on these emails?

Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Writing for an American Audience: Why do Authors Compromise?

Short post this week.

Did you know that many independent authors go out of their way to appeal to an American audience?

It's true, and it's more prevalent than you think. It can be as simple as a South African or British author going out of their way to use American English, including trying to match their unique phrasings. Or it could be a case of such an author deliberately setting their story in the United States.

I understand the reasoning: as a self-published author, the vast majority of your sales are going to come from casual browsers on online stores, and it's a fact that most such browsers are going to be American, and you want those people to identify with your words.

The thing is, when the author is not American and has never been to America, they sometimes get it wrong. Americans don't just spell certain words differently to every other English-speaking country in the world, they use certain words and phrases completely differently, too. What we call a "handbag", Americans call a "purse". What we call a "pavement", they call a "sidewalk". And when we "career" towards something, they "careen" towards it instead.

And even if they don't get it wrong, I'm sure it works just fine for those random American browsers. But what about when you know for a fact that the author in question isn't American? Doesn't it strike you as odd? Perhaps a little... inauthentic? Why would a South African author not set their story in South Africa, using South African English? Are they ashamed?

Like I said, I understand why. I've heard tales of non-American authors being raked over the coals by American reviewers because they don't know how to spell the word "color" (no "u"), or they don't know what a "sidewalk" is.

Because of this, some authors have disclaimers in the front of their books, saying they use British English, and cautioning the reader against assuming something's a misspelling. As if they're apologising for the variant of English they use. But even that often doesn't help.

If you want your work to be acceptable to the world at large, it seems, it needs to be American.

Now, I've never heard of an American book making any such disclaimer, or even an American author going out of their way to sound British... or South African. So all I can think of is: Are Americans so (how shall I put this) dense?

Or maybe they're just so cloistered. We often like to joke about Americans believing they're the only country in the world, and although they've globalised somewhat over the years, many "average" Americans still believe Africa is a country!

How does the quote go? Something along the lines of, "There is no such thing as 'American English'. There is 'English', and there are mistakes."

I kid, of course. I certainly don't think any of my American friends are dense. And of course, I believe you should be free to speak or write in whatever flavour of the English language as you like and be understood. I just sometimes wonder if I might be the only person who believes that....

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

The Most Discussed Fantasy Books on Reddit... On Scribd

I recently ran across this list of the "Top 100 Best Fantasy Books" according to Reddit users. Well, actually, it's based on the number of times the books have been mentioned on the site, between 2018 and now. So, more properly, it's actually the top 100 most discussed books on Reddit.

It's an eclectic list and makes for some interesting reading by itself. Since I'm such a huge fan of the subscription reading service, Scribd, I thought I'd take a look at just how many of these top 100 were available on the platform.

I found ten. Out of the hundred than are on the Reddit list, 10% are on Scribd. It's true, I'd have expected more, and I'm not sure why so many authors and publishers decline to make their books available on Scribd. Maybe they don't get as good a deal as we indies do, in terms of royalties (*nudge* *hint* We get paid... a fair bit if people read our books on Scribd. And incidentally, all my books are on Scribd!)

Having said that, it's not all bad news. You should know that I found at least another ten where Scribd only carried the audiobook, and not the ebook. Since I don't personally do audiobooks, I excluded those from this list. And at least another ten were on there, but "Not available in your country" (South Africa). So let's say that, in fact, 30% of the top 100 books on Reddit are available on Scribd, albeit not in my preferred format, or not available where I live.

I've published the list below. Click on the covers to view them on Scribd.

But before you do, I have a great offer for you.

If you click on any of those books, and you're not a Scribd subscriber, they will offer you a 30-day free trial to try out the service and read that book—and others—for free. Don't take them up on that offer!

You see, if you click this link, you'll be able to get a full 60 days' worth of free reading instead. And you'll be helping me out: that's an affiliate link, so if you click it and then sign up, I'll get 30 free days, just for referring you. So please, click here to get your 60 free days.

And now, you may browse the list. :-)

# Title # on Reddit


by Madeline Miller


The Song of Achilles

By Madeline Miller



by Neil Gaiman


Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman


Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

by Susanna Clarke



by V. E. Schwab


The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell


A Gathering of Shadows

by V. E. Schwab


Trail of Lightning

by Rebecca Roanhorse


A Darker Shade of Magic

by V. E. Schwab


Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Celebrating True Independence with IndieWide Books

As you may know, a huge chunk of my time these days is being spent fighting against and educating people about the evils of ebook and audiobook exclusivity. The biggest culprit of this is Amazon, who require us to make our books exclusive in order for them to be available on Kindle Unlimited (Which is terrible for authors, readers, and the whole industry. I blogged about it here: Why I Will No Longer Buy Books From Amazon, If They're in KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited).

It's not just ebooks, of course—audiobooks are affected too. And it's not just Amazon, either—although they are the biggest culprit.

With this in mind, I, as a reader, would feel incredibly guilty buying books which are available only at one retailer. So before I buy one, I always make a point of checking for the book on at least one other store.

You can join me on this quest by signing up for my new Facebook group: IndieWide Book Fans (click the image above to visit the group on Facebook).

Here's the "About" text for the group. I hope you'll consider joining:

An IndieWide ebook is a self-published ebook available at more than one retailer. We believe making ebooks exclusively available at any one store is bad for the industry and denies large portions of the world's reading population access to great books.
For this reason, we celebrate those independent authors who have taken the leap and decided to publish their books "wide". Feel free to post your reviews of these books, recommend them to others, and ask for recommendations about what to read next!
Are you an IndieWide author? Feel free to join this group as either your personal Facebook profile or your Author Page! Also, please click Files and add yourself to the Doc entitled "IndieWide Authors". 

Oh, and please spread the word by sharing this post far and... wide. ;-)

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Books on the cheap at Smashwords this month

Every year in the month of June, ebook retailer Smashwords does something wonderful (and, I believe, unique).

You see, around this time of year, those in the Northern Hemisphere are all raving about summer and talking about beach reads. Particularly the Americans, with their "we're the only country in the whole world" mentality (no, I'm not bitter. Not bitter at all). Meanwhile, those of us in the South are freezing our cajones off, teeth chattering away as we read all about the wonderful summers those Northerners are having.

Smashwords attempts to rectify that, by running what they call their Summer / Winter Sale, all through the month of June. That way, those people enjoying summer browse for beach reads, while the rest of us shop for big meaty tomes to curl up with next to the fire.

There are literally thousands of ebooks on sale, with discounts ranging from 25% to 100% off. Click the image below to browse them all.

And in case you were wondering, two of my books are also in the sale. Until the end of the month, you can get A Petition to Magic at 50% off, or Memoirs of a Guardian Angel at 25% off. Click the covers below to visit Smashwords and buy them, before time runs out.

Hurry! The sale ends when the timer hits zero!