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.