Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone (Love You, Love You Not by Jo Watson)

Have you ever challenged yourself to read something that you would never normally read?

Let me tell you a story: in my day job as a Software Developer, we (like many development companies) work to two-weekly "sprints", and when planning each sprint, we allocate a certain number of work items that we believe we can achieve. We call these work items "stories", because they describe a particular requirement that a particular kind of user has. To each of these stories, we assign an arbitrary "point value" to, as an indication of how easy or difficult we think it's going to be to complete, and we have a total cap on the number of points we can commit to in a sprint.

That's a very abridged description of the Scrum process, which is used by thousands of software development companies today. If you want to know more about how it works, just Google—there are zillions of articles about it.

Anyway, last sprint, as a bit of team-building fun, we decided that each of us would assign a non-work-related story to one other member of the team. This would be something fun that we believed the person could achieve. One of my colleagues, who knows I'm an avid reader, challenged me to ask for recommendations in a Facebook group for readers (which we both belong to), for a book either in the "Chick Lit" category, or one about South African politics. I accepted her challenge.

As she requested, I asked on the group, and I got a ton of recommendations back. The book I decided on was Love You, Love You Not by Jo Watson.

I was a bit trepidacious, but also really exited, to start. I've been reading it ever since (in between my other reading commitments), and I have to say, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. More than I thought I would, in fact. It's super eye-opening to get a glimpse into the kind of book that many, many women read all the time.

This post isn't a place to post all my thoughts about this book specifically (I'll write a review of that when I'm done, and put it on Goodreads), but rather to encourage you, dear reader, to try something new. Do something you've never done before, and never thought you'd do. Do something that scares you.

How about you? Do you stick to one single genre, or do you like to mix it up every once in a while? For me, I think I'm going to be mixing it up more often in future, because this is a really freeing experience!

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Journaling for Authors

First off, apologies for not blogging last week. My Internet connection was down because another fibre company was digging in the street outside my house, and they ended up damaging my cable.

A common piece of advice given to writers is to keep a journal or diary. And to be honest, it's something I've tried a few times in my life. It never lasts more than a few days, but I think that's because:

  1. I've always tried to force myself to write in it every day, and I get very despondent when I miss a day, or
  2. When I do miss a couple of days and want to get back in it, I try to make myself record everything that's happened since my last entry, but there's no way I can fit it all in.
Eventually, I resigned myself to the fact that journaling's not for me.

But lately, I've been struggling with my writing. I've got loads of different story ideas floating around in my head, but none of them is any more than a glimmer. Little glimpes of story strands, but as soon as I try to grab onto one and plan out where it's likely to go, I got nothing.

A couple of weeks ago, I figured I'd start writing down some things in a journal. Just basic stuff, like my dreams (when I remember them), random thoughts and snippets of writing, and stuff that's happened to me and how I feel about it.

It's slow going; as of the time of this writing, I think I have maybe three entries. But I think it's already starting to bear fruit, because my thoughts are becoming a bit more coherent, and I think there might just be one complete story in there, waiting to be told.

And you know what, if I miss a couple of days between entries, I give myself permission to leave huge gaps in the "narrative"—after all, it's only ever going to be read by me. Whether it's been a day, a week, or a month since I last wrote in it, I'm going to write what I feel is important and nothing else. That's harder than you might think, for the completionist in me. But wish me luck!

Oh, and of course this isn't a physical paper book! No way, nuh-uh! I'm way too private a person for that. No, it's a Scrivener doc on my computer called "Journal"; do you really think I'm going to leave a physical book lying around where some random person might pick it up and read it? These are some of my deepest, darkest, most private thoughts, here. Sheesh.

What do you think? Whether you're a writer or not, do you keep a journal or diary? Do you think it's a good idea for a writer to do it?

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

I'm Abandoning Plain Text Emails

I've spoken about this a few times, and I think it's probably something I've been putting off for a while, but it's finally happening: from my September 2019 email newsletter, I'm abandoning Plain Text as an option.

For personal emails I send, I will still prefer Plain Text unless it's really necessary to include images or custom formatting (the emails are smaller, take less bandwidth to send, less disk space to store, and are less distracting and easier to read), but I don't think it's practical for marketing emails from a brand to specifically support plain text.

Therefore, from now on, readers who have their email clients set to display emails in Plain Text by default will receive the following text when they open my newsletter:

The text of the email is as follows:

Hi {$name|default:"there"},

This is an email sent by me (Graham Downs) to my subscribers.
My service provider doesn't do any automatic conversion from HTML to plain text, so up until now, I've been manually putting together a version specifically for plain-text readers.

Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly impractical for me to do so, both in terms of time constraints, but also because images and embedded links are becoming more integral to my emails (as they are to most authors, I believe), and it's harder to make sure that plain text readers can still get the full "feel" I'd like to create.

Therefore, please set your email client to display this email in HTML format.
I apologise for the inconvenience. If you are unable to view it in HTML format, or it is otherwise very important for you to continue receiving plain text emails from me, please reply and let me know, and I'll try to make a plan for you.

If enough people respond, it might convince me that it is, in fact, still worth the time and effort to craft specific plain text versions of my emails in future.

Yours in Reading,

What about you? Do you prefer to read emails in Plain Text? If you subscribe to my newsletters, do you think you'll ever see the above message?

This makes my heart sore, but I feel it has to be done. And now's the right time to do it.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Why I Wouldn't Buy a Dedicated Ereading Device

Earlier this month, ebook retailer Kobo announced a brand new, waterproof ereading device.

It looks really cool and all, but you know, it got me thinking. In this day and age, with competition in the ebook space so fierce, I don't think I would ever buy a dedicated ereading device. You don't want to be locked into any one retailer, and effectively, that's what a dedicated ereader does because you can't easily read books on it, that you bought from other stores.

I'd much rather say, go out and buy a tablet with the biggest and highest quality screen you can afford, and install all the apps. And if waterproof is really that important to you, there are rugged tablets available, specifically for that purpose (look at Rugged SA in South Africa, for example).

Sure, dedicated ereaders often have stunning screens, specifically designed to let you read in comfort for extended periods of time. Or they can be much lighter than tablets—although I personally prefer to hold something weighty anyway.

But think of the things you give up:

I want to be able to say, for any particular book, "Hey, this book's cheaper at Kobo." And buy it on Kobo and open the Kobo app on my tablet to read it.

Or for a different book, "Hey, this book's cheaper at Amazon." And buy it on Amazon and open the Kindle app on my tablet to read it.

Or for a different book, "Hey, this book's available on Scribd." And click Save For Later on Scribd and read it on my tablet at no extra charge.

And what if you have a Kobo ereader, but the book you want is only available on Amazon, or vice versa?

Sure, you could use Calibre and similar software to download the book to your PC, convert it to a format your ereader can support, and copy it over. But if the book has DRM applied (as most traditionally published books do), you'd have to strip that off first.

That's a lot of effort for most people. It's also almost certainly against the terms of service of the store you bought it from... and is possibly downright illegal if you have to strip the DRM first.

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable? Do you shop around for ebooks, or do you just buy them from your regular store without giving it a second thought?

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

National Fight Procrastination Day

Friday (6 September) was National Fight Procrastination Day in the US. Did you know?

Well, even if you didn't, I'll bet there was at least one task that you were supposed to do on Friday, right? A task that you procrastinated and procrastinated over, and it possibly didn't get done?

You know what I was supposed to do last Friday? Write this blog post. :-)

See, I'm participating in a big ebook bargain sale this week, and you can get loads of free and cheap Science Fiction and Fantasy ebooks, for this week only.

Click on the banner below to find out more:

I hope you find something you like. Have a wonderful week!

By the way, if you buy something, why not post a comment and let us know what you got? Let's share the love, and help your fellow readers find some great bargains.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Getting Your Favourite Magazines Digitally

Those who know me, know that I'm a huge fan of the Unlimited Reading platform, Scribd. The thought of being able to read as many books as I like for only $8.99 is just too good to pass up!

Up to now, though, I've been using it exclusively for ebooks, but just recently, I've discovered a really cool part of their platform: Magazines.

I must be honest with you: it's been a long time since I've read a magazine. When I was still living with my parents (wow, that was a long time ago, now), I remember occasionally buying copies of PC World or Time when I saw them in the shops. Of course, they were imports here in South Africa, so they were really expensive.

Scribd has contracts with lots of magazines, so you can "follow" them, and they deliver the latest issue, straight into your app. Click on an issue, and you're presented with a list of articles from that issue, and you can click on one to read it.

Tres cool, no?

Do you still read magazines? If so, do you still buy paper-based ones, or have you switched to digital? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Oh and incidentally, if you'd like 60 free days to try out Scribd (instead of the usual 30 that most people get), click here to sign up.

And once you've completed the sign-up process, search for my books. They're all there.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Buying Ebooks at Exclusive Books

Before I begin, let me clarify what I mean by the above headline. I don't just mean using the Exclusive Books website to buy ebooks — although that's possible, too. I mean, standing in Exclusive Books, browsing their selection, and then whipping out your phone and actually buying ebooks!

I was having this conversation with a friend of mine the other day. Like me, she's more-or-less moved on to reading exclusively ebooks these days. But she still enjoys browsing Exclusive Books (which is our biggest chain bookstore in South Africa). She never buys books there, though, because she finds paper-based books to be way too expensive, and ebooks just way more convenient. So she feels guilty because she'll pick up a book at Exclusive Books, flip through it, then go home and buy the ebook version of that book, from a different retailer.

I know she's not the only person who does this, so I shared with her this dream I had, way back when I first started reading ebooks exclusively. It's a dream where anyone could walk into a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and buy an ebook. Without feeling in the least bit guilty.

Then I got to thinking. For Exclusive Books, in particular, this wouldn't be too difficult to achieve, would it?

Bear with me now. Exclusive Books already has an agreement with Kobo to provide ebooks. There's an option on the menu of their website, labelled "EBOOKS".

If you click it, you get redirected to the Kobo store, with Exclusive Books' affiliate code already filled in, meaning they get a commission when you buy ebooks after clicking that link.

So, my dear friends, how hard do you think it would be to do the following?

  • Every book on Exclusive Books' shelves, that has an ebook available on Kobo, has a sticker on the back.
  • That sticker contains a QR code, and an instruction to "Scan this code to buy the ebook".
  • Scanning the code on your phone takes you directly to the relevent ebook on Kobo, with Exclusive Books' affiliate code built in.
  • Since some people might struggle with this, make sure that every store has knowledgable staff on hand to help customers create an account at Kobo so they can buy and read ebooks.
Have I just hit on a goldmine here or what? I mean, win-win-win, right? Exclusive Books earns money when their customers buy ebooks, but they still get the foot-traffic. People no longer feel guilty about browsing paper books at Exclusive Books and then buying ebooks instead. Kobo earns money. Authors and publishers earn money. And South African ebook buyers discover alternative places to buy ebooks, that they potentially never knew existed.

What do you think? Is there a downside?

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!

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Results of 2019 Piracy Survey

The results are in! Last month, I asked you to vote in my anonymous poll, and tell me whether or not you routinely pirate ebooks.

I purposely left the poll open for a really long time, to give as many of you as possible the opportunity to answer.

And now, dear reader, I present the results, for your reading pleasure:

Do You Pirate Books?

The first question I asked was a simple "Do You Pirate Books?" Everyone who filled out my survey answered this question. And here are the responses:

  • No: 62.8%
  • Yes, sometimes: 27.9%
  • Yes, always: 4.7%
  • I don't know: 4.7%
I must say, I'm pleased that only 32.6% of you pirate books in some form. Well, I say "pleased", but of course I'd rather that number was 0%. Still, it's lower than I expected.

On the other hand, we need to talk about something...

What do you mean, you don't know?!

Please don't take this the wrong way. I don't mean to poke fun at or offend anyone, but in 2019, with so much exposure around book piracy, it's difficult to imagine anybody being unaware that they're pirating a book.

Just in case, though, here are some rules of thumb:

  • If an author or their publisher personally emails you one of their books, either in exchange for a review, or signing up for their email list, or because you entered a giveaway, it's not piracy (but note: if you're getting the book in exchange for an honest review, please do the right thing and write that review when you're done).
    • Of course, copying that book and giving it to your friends, or uploading it to a file-sharing site, most definitely is piracy. The author/publisher agreed to give it to you. Not to anyone else.
  • If you see a book for free on a website you've never heard of before, it's probably piracy. But just to be sure, you should search for that book on your favourite platform: Kobo, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble, etc. If you find it on any of those sites, and it's not free, the website you've never heard of before is probably a pirate site.
  • If you're ever in any doubt, look for a way to contact the author or publisher — you're sure to find a contact form or email address on their website. Until you hear back from them, err on the side of caution and don't download the book.

Why Do You Pirate Books?

Anyone who answered either "Always" or "Sometimes" to the question above got asked why they would pirate a book. There were loads of different options, and a place for people to enter ones I hadn't thought of.

Not all of the options were selected, so I've excluded them from the following chart. I also tried to sum up the various "Other" entries into these broad reasons:

  • Too expensive to buy books legally: 29.4%
  • Not available in my country: 20.6%
  • Book out of print/no longer available: 20.6%
  • No official ebook available: 17.6%
  • Not available on my preferred platform (Scribd, Kobo, etc): 5.9%
  • More convenient/easier than buying legally: 2.9%
  • Not available to purchase in my currency: 2.9%
Note: people were allowed to choose more than one answer, so these totals might not add up to 100%.

Too expensive?

The top answer people gave for pirating books basically boiled down to the fact that it's too expensive to buy the ones they want legally, but they really want them, so they'd rather obtain them illegally.

On the one hand, it's not surprising that most people chose this option. Money is a topic that's high on everyone's list of priorities, and our knee-jerk reaction is often "I can't afford it." Besides, "too expensive" is a relative term, isn't it? Some people may baulk at spending anything over $4.99 for a book, while others would have no problem paying $12.99 or more for an ebook they really want. Then of course, if you know you can get something for free, even $0.99 might be too much to pay.

On the other hand, pirating books hurts authors. And not just financially, either, since there's no guarantee you would've bought that book even if you could afford it. More importantly, it hurts authors emotionally, because it devalues their work. 

When an author sees that their work is available on a pirate site, how would you expect them to react? Joyfully, because people want to read it so badly they're willing to pirate it? Or with intense sadness, disappointment, and anger, because people value that work so badly that they're only prepared to read it if they can get it for free? That they're not good enough to ever expect people to pay for their stories? Do you think such an author is likely to keep writing books in the long term?

I don't think so. Not one whit.

If you can't afford to buy a book, then rather not read it. Go find other, similar books which you can afford. These days, there's a plethora of affordable books on the Internet. Even free.

Check your local library. If, like me, you prefer to read ebooks, find out if your local library is available on OverDrive or one of the other ebook library distributors. If it is, request the book you want to read. If that book isn't available through the library partner your library supports, contact the author and ask them to add it. You'll make their day!

And if there's no chance of getting the book through the library, get hold of the author anyway. The vast majority of us — especially self-published authors — would be more than happy to send you a (legally) free copy of our books, in exchange for your promise to write an honest review and post it online somewhere. Contrary to you pirating the book, we'd be over the moon to hear from someone who wants to read our work so much that they're willing to seek us out!

Out of Print/No EBook Available?

If the book in question is out of print, and there's no "official" ebook version available, this is a bit trickier. Contact the author, if they're still alive. If they're not, see if you can find out who now owns the rights, or who last owned the rights, to it.

Ask them if they're willing to re-issue it as an ebook. Who knows? This might end up being a lucrative career for you if they ask you to handle it!

Not Available?

The remaining responses, I'm going to lump together into one basket, and call it "Not available where, when, and how I want to read it."

This is a problem. In the traditional publishing world, publishers still bid for rights to publish books in particular territories and not others. Your favourite book might be available in the United States, but not in South Africa. It's not just books that suffer from this phenomenon: movies and TV shows are notorious for it, In my opinion, this is an archaic, draconian practice that has no place in the twenty-first century.

But even today, self-published authors often fall into the trap of making their books exclusively available on one platform. It's not a country restriction, but it is a store restriction, and often a currency restriction. Most often, that platform is Amazon, to take advantage of various perks, including having their books available in the retailer's Kindle Unlimited program. 

As I mentioned in my blog post on the subject, I do not support this in any way, shape, or form. It is my firm belief that books should be legally available to everyone, wherever they are, on whatever platform they choose, and for purchase in whatever currency they're most comfortable with.

But if any of those things aren't true of the book you want to read, I still don't think that's any justification for pirating it. My first advice is going to be the same as I've been giving all along: contact the author, and ask them to make the book available where you want to read it.

If they're unwilling or unable to do that, then find another book. In this day and age, there are so many places to consume books, and so many books out there, that there's no excuse for piracy.

And if you're looking for a place to (legally) read ebooks, free of charge, try Scribd. Click here to get 60 free days with the platform, to read as many ebooks, and listen to as many audiobooks, as your heart desires. And best of all, the authors get paid when you do.


The final reason people gave for pirating books, that I want to touch on, is the idea that piracy is more convenient than buying books legally. Well, I guess that depends on what you consider inconvenient, doesn't it? Amazon, Kobo, and Google Play Books (and I'm sure others do as well) all offer some version of one-click purchasing, where if your credit card is saved on their system, you can just click a button to buy any book, and have it available on your device in moments.

If you find using a credit card inconvenient, Google Play Books even allows you to pay for books using the gift cards you can buy in your local brick-and-mortar store.

Granted, all of the above stores will make it difficult for you to read the books you buy on anything other than their own, proprietary ereading device or app. Enter Smashwords: while they don't support one-click ordering, you can download the books you've purchased to your computer or mobile device, to read on whichever app you prefer. They also support paying for books via PayPal, which means that you never have to share your credit card details with them.

Not convenient enough for you? Scribd also allows you to pay for their service via PayPal (once your 60 trial is up; make sure you click the link to claim that), and once you're subscribed, you don't ever have to buy an ebook ever again. If you find a book you want to read, you click "Read Now", with no friction whatsoever. What could be more convenient than that?!

Nope. With all the options available to you, there's simply no excuse for ebook piracy in 2019. None whatsoever. Now with that in mind, go out there and read more books!

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Ebooks aren't REAL Books... Are They?

Somebody posted this meme in a readers' group I belong to on Facebook, and I just rolled my eyes and thought "Here we go again...."

I rolled my eyes because images like this always come with this implied declaration: "Digital books aren't books." And, sure enough, the comments came thick and fast, just as I'd predicted: 
  • "Books are better than digital because..."
  • "Digital isn't real reading..."
  • "Those [digital publications] aren't real books."
And just like a few people commented, I'm so sick of this debate. Are you saying that you'd rather people didn't read at all, unless they read books printed on paper?

Let me make this clear:

  • Paper books are books, but I don't read them because my eyes are too bad, plus I find them inconvenient, and cumbersome to lug around.
  • Digital books are books, and I read them exclusively for a host of reasons that I won't get into here, but have explained to death elsewhere.
  • Audiobooks are books, but I don't like them, personally.
  • Books on Microfilm are books
  • Books on papyrus are books
  • Books scratched into bark are books
  • Books on wax tablets are books (even if they probably won't last too long)
  • Books chiselled on stone tablets are books
They're all books. Consume them in whatever format makes you happy. But never state or imply that any of the above are not real books - even with some seemingly innocuous comment like "I prefer books to digital".

What I'm more concerned about, to be honest, is when people use "Kindle" as a generic term for "ebook", because some of those comments were actually written as "Books are better than Kindle because...."

I wish we'd stop doing that; it isn't fair to all the other ebook retailers out there. Kindle isn't the only way to consume ebooks, and Amazon isn't the only company that sells them... hell, they weren't even the first to sell them! I can think of at least ten other companies, many of whom were selling ebooks long before Amazon, but are now defunct, because people wouldn't stop equating "ebook" with "Kindle".

In fact, it's no secret that I think Amazon and their draconian business practices are terrible for the whole industry - particularly with their "Kindle Unlimited" service. I spoke a bit more about that in my post Why I Will No Longer Buy Books From Amazon, If They're in KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited, and then again in Want to Read/Listen to Unlimited Books/Audiobooks, Free for 60 Days?, where I mentioned Scribd as a great alternative (which has actually been around longer than Kindle Unlimited has).

So what do you think? Are ebooks "real books"? How about audiobooks? Let me know your stance and why, in the comments... if you dare.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

When is Romance not Romance?

This is a follow-up to my post last week, In Which Genre Would You Put These Books?, where I spoke about how difficult "genre" was to define. The title of this one may sound like a brain-teaser, riddle, or joke, but hear me out.

Because all of my books are published and distributed through Smashwords, I like to follow Publishers' Weekly's Smashwords Bestseller list. This list tracks the top-selling books each month, both on Smashwords' own site, and all the retailers they distribute to.

I don't write romance, so I'm often frustrated by the sheer number of Romance titles on the list. Case in point, the April 2019 list. There are 25 books on the list, and literally. the top five bestselling books on that list are all Romance. Then Romance appears again in positions 7, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, and 24. That's a total of 14 Romance titles, on a list of 25. For those of you who are mathematically challenged, that translates to 56%!

There's no doubt that Romance is a massively popular genre, with loads of devoted readers who devour books at a rapid clip (often reading entire series in a single day), and I've often wondered how we non-Romance writers can possibly hope to break into those coveted top spots. But something someone said to me last month shocked me to the core.

You see, many authors, hoping to capitalise on this enormous popularity, apparently deliberately miscategorise their books at retailers. They create tenuous links in their minds, where if their book happens to have a romantic sub-plot, they can call it Romance. Sometimes, even an incidental love interest will do -- but I'm willing to bet 99% of all fiction has one of those.

No. I was always led to believe that a book can only be called Romance if the main plot depends on the Romance. If the story wouldn't be able to stand without the Romance element. Was I wrong?

I decided to test this theory out. So let's take those top five books from the April list, read through the descriptions, and decide for ourselves whether they're in the right category.

Here we go:

Note: You can click on the covers to find out where you can buy each one. You'll notice that all but one of them are available on Scribd's subscription reading service. If you're not already subscribed, they will give you the opportunity take out a 30-day free trial. Please don't click on that link. Rather use my affiliate link, which will give you 60 days instead (and I'll get 30 days of free time as a reward for referring you). So if you're interested in taking Scribd for a test drive, click here for my affiliate link.

Best I've Ever Had

By Abbi Glines

Summer had returned. The nightlife lit up the coastal town of Sea Breeze, Alabama with scantily clad sun-kissed bodies, live music, the smell of fresh cooked seafood.

Taking it all in, he wondered if coming back had been the best thing. He wasn’t the same man who had driven out of town a year ago on the motorcycle he’d bought after his best friend’s wedding. From the messy blonde curls he’d let grow out, to the tattoos now covering his arms, part of his chest and even the side of his neck, it all represented a part of his journey.

Eli Hardy was back, but he didn’t plan on staying for long.

The Slow Burn

By Kristen Ashley

Tobias Gamble knew from a young age precisely the kind of woman he was going to make his. She was not going to be like his mother. She was going to be like the mother he claimed. 

In other words, she was going to be just right.

And when Toby returns to his hometown of Matlock, Kentucky and claps eyes on Adeline Forrester, he knows she’s the one.

The problem is, his brother Johnny has a new girlfriend. And Addie is her sister. Last, Toby would do nothing to hurt Johnny’s chance at happiness.

Toby hangs around town to get to know the woman Johnny fell in love with. He also hangs around to get to know Addie.

But he’s fallen hard, and he knows the best thing for him—and Addie—is for him to leave.

Addie Forrester is thrilled her sister Eliza found a good, solid man. Johnny Gamble is the salt of the earth. The best guy in the world.

The best except for his brother, Toby.

Toby doesn’t know it, but Addie’s fallen hard too. He’s perfect, except for the fact that he’s hands off and it’s torture, being friends with Toby when she wants so much more.

Addie also has a lot on her mind. She’s got bills to pay, her young son needs food, Christmas is coming and her job at the grocery store just isn’t cutting it.

Toby is steering clear of Addie. Addie is steering clear of Toby. But everyone around them knows this is the slow burn.

Because just like Eliza and Johnny, Addie and Toby were made for each other.

Unforeseen (Vampire Awakenings, Book 9)

By Brenda K. Davies

When Jack escapes the vampires holding him captive, he thinks his biggest worries are finding his friends and avoiding the Savages pursuing him...until he stumbles across Charlie. He’s not sure what’s more dangerous, the vampires hunting him or the woman who harbors more secrets than the island where he’s trapped.

Charlie wasn’t expecting Jack to fall into her life, but now that he has, she doesn't know what to do with him. She can’t leave him behind to be hunted, but her growing attraction to him frightens her more than the Savages. Though Jack’s a tempting distraction, love has no place on this island, and Charlie refuses to let him get in her way. She’s escaping the island—with or without him. 

Can they work together to survive the horrors of the island, or will they perish like so many before them? 

Broken Silence

By Natasha Preston

It has been four years since Oakley, her mum, and brother fled to Australia. With the trials looming, she makes the decision to return to England. Oakley is desperate for closure so she can put the past behind her and move on with her life. 

How will she cope when she comes face to face with the two people that hurt her the most, and the one person that she hurt the most? 

Her love for Cole never faded, but how will he react to her return after so long? Will they be able to put everything behind them in order to have a happy ending?

The Roommate Agreement

By Emma Hart

Let your homeless best friend stay with you, he said. Being roommates will be fun, he said. It's only temporary, he said.
He never said I'd fall for him.

You know what isn't 'temporary?' The endless stream of dirty socks in my bathroom and empty food packets under the sofa—and don't even get me started on the hot guys who take over my living room every Sunday to watch sports.

I can't take anymore. 

So I propose a roommate agreement. One that will bring peace and order back to my life, complete with rules that might just stop my newfound crush on my best friend in its tracks.

After all, there’s only so many times you can see your best friend naked before you start to lose your mind.

Rules. They're meant to be broken... Aren't they?

So, I must be honest, having not actually read any of these books. If I look at the blurbs, they all do seem to fit - except maybe the vampire one, which I think may be a bit tenuous. And if I look at the covers (even/especially the vampires one), they all seem to fit - except for Slow Burn, whose cover is quite generic.

It seems like I was misinformed about how widespread this problem is. Either that, or miscategorising your book doesn't work because readers are smarter than that, and won't buy it (so it won't get on these bestseller lists). Or, perhaps they're better than I thought because the blurb and cover fit the genre, but if I were to actually read the book, I'd find that it actually didn't.

What do you think? Do you think authors do this, and if they do, does it work for them? And have you read any of these books? Do you think they fit the genre?

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

In Which Genre Would You Put These Books?

You know what subject keeps coming up? Genre. Like, what does it mean? You get Thriller, Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Comedy... and so many subgenres in each. And each one seems to mean a different thing depending on who you are. It's so confusing.

Just the other day I was having a discussion with a friend about whether a popular Fantasy series could rightly be called Sword and Sorcery (I said it couldn't, because Sword and Sorcery stories had to be simplistic affairs with one hero(ine) going around slaying monsters with little moral consequence). This led to a much bigger discussion about what constitutes High Fantasy, with me saying High Fantasy just implies stories set in a created world, but with him saying that a story had to be particularly well written or have some literary significance before it could be classified in that genre.

With that in mind, dear reader, I ask you - what's your favourite genre, and how do you define it?

Furthermore, I'm going to present my own books to you, and ask you to weigh in on which genre you would put them in. I've already made a call for each and put them into specific genre-based categories on the various retailers, but after having these discussions, I'm not so sure if my decisions were right. I'm not going to tell you which categories I chose for each because that might bias you. Please comment at the end of this post, and let me know what you think.

By the way, if you need more information to make your decision, you can click on the covers to visit the books on my website.

Memoirs of a Guardian Angel

Have you thanked your Guardian Angel today?

I never did... now I wish I had.

I now understand the hard work and difficult situations they face every day. That car that veered off course, the knife that slipped or even the close call when you nearly tumbled from a tree.

It wasn't good luck that saved you, it was me.

My name is Adam and I'm a guardian angel.

Tales From Virdura

Explore Virdura, a world of fantasy, drama and magic.

  • Find out what happens when a dashing young farmer’s son sweeps a neighbouring daughter off her feet.
  • Meet Queen Tricia and the Royal Wizard Solon. Or Queen Celeste, her daughter, as she continues to struggle to come to terms with her new role as queen after the death of her mother.
  • Read about Tobin the Bounty Hunter as he takes down Jarvis, a merciless criminal who brutally slit a blacksmith’s throat.
These stories and more await you in Tales from Virdura, a collection of flash fiction stories that take you deep into the world and the lives of the characters who inhabit it.

You can read this book as a companion volume to A Petition to Magic, find out more about favourite characters and meet new ones within the Kingdom.

You can also enjoy the stories separately from the original short story.

Heaven and Earth: Paranormal Flash Fiction

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
-- Hamlet (1.5.167-8)
A perfect introduction into the inner workings of the weird mind of Graham Downs, this collection of flash fiction paranormal stories contains:
  • The Thing in the Window,
  • An Automatic Decision,
  • Telepathic Link,
  • The Witch of Wellington, and
  • The Christmas Bird.
All have been newly edited and polished since publication on his website in 2014, and some with new endings.

It also contains the never-before-published story, Under the Sheets, about an old woman who believes she is being haunted by a strange ghost, living under her bed.

Billy's Zombie

Young Billy MacIntyre has always been a weird kid, always taking every little slight to heart.
One day, he decides to exact his revenge on all those simpletons who have done him wrong. And he does it by taking a book of Necromancy out of the library, and raising a zombie from the dead!


Thirteen-year-old James Clarke is always being picked on in school. He hates sports, and he particularly hates Stingers, a schoolyard game in which children throw tennis balls at each other. The other kids always seem to throw the ball harder, when it's at him. His physical education teacher, Mr Evans, has no sympathy for the boy, believing he just needs to toughen up a bit.
When James returns home from school after a rough game of Stingers, his mother is mortified when she sees the bruises on his arm and chest. She phones the school to try and put a stop to the cruel bullying of her son.

But her phone call only makes things worse, as the bullying escalates to levels that nobody imagined possible.

Stingers was first published in the charity anthology, "I am not Frazzle! And other stories for grown-ups".

Heritage of Deceit

While surfing the Internet at work, Lloyd believes he's found a relic from an old genocide. If he's right, the artefact would be worth a ton of money, and it will give lots of people closure when they find out what really happened to their families.
But there's one problem. The artefact--if it really exists--is in the possession of Carla, a shy woman in the company's Accounts Department, and she never lets it out of her sight.

Lloyd seeks the help of his friend and fellow employee, Robert, whom Carla is desperately in love with. Will Robert agree to use Carla's feelings for him to get information about the mysterious object?

A Petition to Magic

"Graham Downs opens the door to a fantasy world in his short story, A Petition to Magic, a world of emotions, trust, self-searching and enchanted characters that will definitely leave readers wanting more."
Queen Celeste rose to the throne of Virdura a month ago, after the sudden death of her mother.

Desperate to prove herself, she agrees to hear the case of a simple farmer who claims a neighbour stole his cow.

To help her in this task, she orders her chief advisor, the royal wizard Solon, to cast a spell and divine the truth for her. Solon, however, is keeping a terrible secret. He is unable to perform any magic, and he cannot afford to let the queen find out the reason why.

So what do you think? Care to give your opinion on which genres you think fits each of the above books?

Especially Stingers. It's Young Adult, sure, but that's not a "genre", per se. Other than that, what is it? It's not a Thriller. It's not really a Mystery. It's certainly not a Romance. And it's set in modern times, so it's neither Fantasy nor Science Fiction. What would you call it?

(Image credit R M Media Ltd. See the original here.)

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Do You Pirate EBooks (Redux)

The quickest way to get a reaction out of any author these days is to mention one word: "piracy". About four years ago, I ran a poll here on this blog, where I asked my readers whether they regularly pirated e-books. The results were quite telling, back then (click here to see them), but the landscape has changed significantly since then, and the topic has reared its ugly head again in recent months.

Whether it's technically true or not, many authors can't help but see piracy as nothing more than simple theft, and often blame rampant piracy of their books for their financial woes -- particularly if they write full time and rely on income from book sales to support their families. Others who've kept their day jobs, swear that were it not for piracy, they'd be writing full time by now. And still others have given up writing altogether, believing it's not worth creating art at all anymore if people are just going to steal it.

A more concrete, provable consequence is that many authors, who are enrolled in KDP Select, have found themselves in breach of contract with Amazon, because their books have appeared on pirate sites. Sure, this is one of the reasons why I refuse to support Kindle Unlimited (see my blog post about it, here), but that still doesn't justify piracy.

All this means that it's impossible to have a reasonable, dispassionate discussion with authors about piracy, and if you're a pirate who feels justified, your situation will fall on deaf ears, almost guaranteed.

So I've created this new poll. And it's completely anonymous, and super simple -- it'll take you under a minute to answer these questions, and I will never know who you are.

Please click one of the options below, and then click the Next button to tell me: do you pirate books? If you answer Yes, you'll be presented with a single additional question, to help me understand why.

 Similar to last time, I'm going to leave this poll running for a while. I'll close it down on 25 June 2019, to give me some time to crunch the results, and then I'll post those results here in my blog post on 2 July.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Want to Read/Listen to Unlimited Books/Audiobooks, Free for 60 Days?

If you can't get Kindle Unlimited where you live, or you find Audible too expensive, you might be interested to know that Scribd lets you read/listen to as many books/audiobooks as you want for $8.99 per month.

Normally, you'd get 30 days to try it out, but if you use my affiliate link, you'll get 60 days instead (and I'll get 30 days for referring you, whether you end up paying or not, so help a fella out, will ya?)

What is Scribd?

In case you didn't know, Scribd is a subscription reading service. It's similar to Kindle Unlimited, only it's available in more regions, and unlike Amazon's counterpart, it doesn't require authors/publishers to make their books exclusive to Scribd (if you want to know more about that, read my post on Why I Will No Longer Buy Books From Amazon, If They're in KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited).

What is Kindle Unlimited?

If you don't know what Kindle Unlimited is, either, it's very similar to something like Netflix for movies and TV shows, or a music streaming service like Spotify or Google Play Music: you pay a flat monthly fee, and you can read as much as you like. There's no time limit for reading a book, and there's no limit to how many books you can be reading at a time. And you can stop reading a book if you decide it's not for you, and start a new one, etc. Authors/publishers earn royalties when you read their books.

You can read the books on their website, and/or you can install their app on your phone and/or tablet, and everything will sync up, so if you read a bit on the website, then switch to your phone, you'll be able to pick up exactly where you left off on the other device.

Tell Me More...

Scribd costs $8.99 per month, and normally they give you 30 days free to try it out. But if you use the link I put in this blog post, you get 60 days free instead (and I get a free month for referring you).

Sadly, you do need to put in your credit card details to sign up, but I can tell you they really don't charge your card before your trial is up. And you can cancel before then, and it'll never be charged.

By the way, if you're into audiobooks, they've got those, too.

Note: It is very important that you use my affiliate link to sign up. If you just go to the website and click the "Sign up" link, you'll get a 30-day trial, but using my link, you'll get 60 instead.

Psst! My books are all available on Scribd, so please read them if you do decide to sign up. ;-)

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Significant Changes on my Website. Go Take a Look!

I took some time over the past few weeks to work on my website a little. I fixed some niggly issues that have been bothering me for a while now, and also added a cool scrolling books "carousel" on the top of most pages.

Being a software developer, I find it really freeing that I can code my website completely from scratch. Most authors just use a Content Management System like Wordpress, but the advantages of doing it my way are that a) I don't have to fight with what's available in Wordpress to achieve what I want, and b) there's no code on my site that I didn't put there.

If you've never visited my website, I urge you to take a look. Here are the changes (I'm specifically not including screenshots - you'll have to go look for yourself):

Collapsible Menu on Mobile

If you browse the site from your desktop computer, there's a menu bar at the top. It has few enough items that they all fit on a screen. However, if you'd visited it from a mobile phone before, you would have noticed that this menu was always displayed, and "wrapped down" to take up half of your vertical screen.

This has now been fixed - you now see the traditional "Hamburger" button at the top-right of the screen, and you can click it on your mobile phone to expand or collapse the menu.

Link to Privacy Policy on Mobile

Another thing you've undoubtedly noticed, if you've ever browsed the site from a mobile device, is that the "Sharing Buttons" are docked to the bottom of the screen. But at the very end of all pages, there's a link to read the Privacy Policy. The problem was, on mobile, you could never see that link because the sharing buttons covered it.

Also fixed: the sharing buttons are still docked to the bottom, but now there's enough space after the last paragraph for you to be able to read it on mobile.

Scrolling Books "Carousel"

This one's a little different. If you've ever browsed the site from a tablet, or your desktop or laptop, you would have noticed a scrolling "slideshow" of my books docked to the top of every page.  It wasn't visible on a mobile phone, because the slides were too big to be practical on such a small screen.

I completely ripped it out. Aside from it not being visible on a mobile phone, each slide only showed a single book, so there was a lot of wasted space.

It's been replaced with a list of book covers that you can click/touch and drag, to scroll through all the books I've written. It looks way more modern, and it looks just fine on a phone, too.

I hope you appreciate all these changes... especially this last one, which I personally think is really cool! :-)

To visit my website and see them for yourself, click here.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Why I Will No Longer Buy Books From Amazon, If They're in KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited

The other week, I mentioned on a readers' group on Facebook, that I'd be cleaning out my Goodreads to-read shelf, and (among other things) removing all books that were in KDP Select.

I got into a bit of hot water over that, with people wanting to know why. I don't mention it that often on my blog (most recently, I alluded to it in the post Alternatives to Kindle Unlimited), but if you follow me elsewhere on social media, or we share any mutual Facebook groups, you might know that Amazon exclusivity is something I whine about often. It's time I put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

What is Amazon Exclusivity?

In order to fully understand my reasoning, it's necessary that you understand a little thing called KDP Select. Unless you're an author, you've probably never heard of it, so let me explain:

When an author uploads their book onto Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform, they get asked if they want to enrol in something called "KDP Select". If they choose to do this, Amazon gives them certain perks, like higher royalty rates, certain marketing and promotional opportunities that wouldn't otherwise be available, and the option to have their books in Kindle Unlimited (Being in KDP Select is the only way for a self-published author's books to get into Kindle Unlimited).

In exchange for this, Amazon requires that that author's ebooks not be available anywhere else. No other retailers, no digital libraries, and certainly not the author's own website. The author isn't allowed to give their ebooks away, either as prizes for contests or as incentives for signing up for newsletters, etc. And Amazon enforces this policy strictly - in fact, they've been known to ban authors in KDP Select because they happened to find one of those books available for download on a pirate site!

Some authors have no problem with this arrangement, and indeed, it can be very lucrative. The higher royalties from sales, and the additional income from people reading their books on Kindle Unlimited, often more than makes up for the lost royalties at the other stores.

The Problem With Amazon Exclusivity

But there's more to this story, and I personally believe that authors who enrol in KDP Select make a conscious decision to put their own selfish, short-term success ahead of the long-term success of the ebook industry in general.

You see, every ebook that's exclusively available at Amazon is another nail in the coffin of every other retailer out there, struggling to stay afloat. Retailers who suddenly aren't allowed to stock that book. This isn't hyperbole: you might have never heard of Sony E-Books, Diesel E-Books, 'txtr, Oyster, or Flipkart E-Books. These were international e-book retailers who went out of business, and whose demise can be directly linked to them being simply unable to compete with Amazon.

And, of course, those companies had employees who found themselves out of work. And those employees had families who found themselves unable to eat, or who lost their homes. Isn't a little bit of social responsibility called for, here?

Why Would Authors Do Such a Thing?

Now, I understand why authors enrol their books in KDP Select. Maybe for some of them, it seems like a no-brainer. It's certainly lucrative, and plenty of authors make buckets and buckets of money off Amazon, and never consider anyone else. At least, the promise is the potential to make buckets and buckets of money by having their books in KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, even if few authors ever actually achieve that.

But, as I mentioned in my Alternatives to Kindle Unlimited article, what about those people who don't have access to Amazon (either because of technical restrictions because of where they live, or because they can't afford to buy books)?

But it works for these authors because we readers have created a situation where it works. Those of us with access to Amazon will automatically go straight there to search for books. If Kindle Unlimited is available where we live, we're going to subscribe to it, because why not? We just don't care about all those other companies struggling to make ends meet. And I have this vision in my head of Amazon laughing maniacally at their fates.

How Can You Help?

I'm not saying don't buy books from Amazon. I'll still buy books from Amazon, if they offer me the best deal on any given ebook. I'm saying you should certainly shop around first, and check what the book's price is on Kobo, or Google Play, or (for self-published books) Smashwords... and if a book's not available on those platforms, think twice about buying it because the chances are high that Amazon isn't allowing them to make it available.

And if you want to sign up for a subscription reading service, use an alternative to Kindle Unlimited, knowing that the books in Kindle Unlimited have been paid for in blood - the blood of all those people and their families who work for Scribd. Or 24Symbols. Or Playster.

Lastly, if this article has moved you, please spread the word. Share it widely on your social media platforms, email it to people, and discuss it with your book-buying friends. I've even met some people who actually had no idea there even were alternatives to Amazon, when it comes to buying ebooks. If you were one of those people, prior to reading this article, then I sincerely hope you've found it enlightening. Please share that enlightenment with others.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

How to Get Books Purchased from Smashwords onto Your Kindle

So you have a Kindle, and you've just bought a book from Smashwords (Or perhaps downloaded it from Prolific Works or some other site). As per the Smashwords instructions, you've downloaded it in mobi format, and now you need to get it onto your Amazon Kindle device.

This is also known as "sideloading", and the easiest way I've found is to use your Kindle's unique email address, and send it to your device that way. Here's how to do it.

(Disclaimer: I personally don't have a physical Kindle device. I only have the Kindle app, installed on my tablet and phone. These instructions should still work, however; if you have a physical Kindle, and know of a better way, please let me know in the comments below.)

First, you need to download the mobi file onto your computer.

Then, visit the Amazon website from your computer. Sign in, if you have not already done so:

Hover over "Accounts & Lists", on the right-hand side, below your name. This will pop up a menu. Then click "Your Content and Devices":

Click on the "Devices" tab, and your Kindle should be displayed in the list:

I have a few listed here because I happen to have several apps installed on several different devices. Depending on your setup, you might only have one. Find your Kindle and click on the ellipsis button ("...") to the left of it. This will pop out a panel with all the details of that device:

Look at the line that says Email. That's your Kindle's own personal email address. Open your favourite email client and email your mobi file to that address.

After it's sent, wait a few minutes and refresh your library on your Kindle. Your book should appear. It'll also show up under the "Content" tab of "Your Content and Devices" on the Amazon website.