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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
1

Circe

by Madeline Miller

1
2

The Song of Achilles

By Madeline Miller

7
3

Neverwhere

by Neil Gaiman

12
4

Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman

14
5

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

by Susanna Clarke

43
6

Vicious

by V. E. Schwab

53
7

The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell

65
8

A Gathering of Shadows

by V. E. Schwab

77
9

Trail of Lightning

by Rebecca Roanhorse

80
10

A Darker Shade of Magic

by V. E. Schwab

81

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.

Convenience?

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!