Tuesday 31 December 2019

What do you think of the new cover for Stingers?

If you haven't seen this yet I can now share that the new cover for my High School bullying story, Stingers, is done. Isn't it gorgeous?

How this came about was that I entered it last year, into the BookLife Cover Redesign contest, and I won the December 2019. So it's going to be featured in the next issue of BookLife magazine, along with an article explaining all the ways the new cover is better than the old one.

By the time you read this, the new cover should be live for the ebook on all stores (click the image to find out where you can buy it), but the print version will take a bit longer, because I plan to use this opportunity to release a brand new edition of it, with all the typos and other issues fixed that I've been correcting in the ebook over the years.

I honestly can't tell you how happy I am with this cover. I think Michelle Argyle from Melissa Williams Design did a fantastic job, and the moment I saw it, I just knew, that boy is James. To a tee.

Have you read the book? If so, would you agree? Is that how you pictured James? Could it be how you picture James?

Tuesday 24 December 2019

2019 Blog Stats

You know what I haven't done in a while? Taken a look through my Google Analytics and extracted useful information from all my blog visitors, for a whole year.

There's actually a wealth of information to be found from Google's visitor tracking service, so I thought I'd pull a report from 24 December 2019 to date, to see what we could see. Hope you find it as interesting as I did!

So let's begin: during the period, 1077 unique users visited my page, viewing 3327 pages across 1377 sessions. That means that each unique user visited my blog approximately 1.28 separate times. The average session duration was just 42 seconds, though, so people didn't spend a lot of time actually reading my content.

Top Countries

The top five countries where traffic originated this year were:
  1. United States
  2. South Africa
  3. United Kingdom
  4. India
  5. Canada
No surprise that the United States comes out tops, since they're by far the biggest Internet using country in the English speaking world. But it's nice to see that South Africa comes in at a really close second (35.34% of traffic came from the US, with 32.00% coming from South Africa).

Operating Systems

Now this is really surprising, because we're constantly being told that most users surf the web exclusively (or almost exclusively) from their mobile devices these days.

In my case, although the top spot here goes to Android, it's clear that the vast majority of visitors actually come from PCs:
  1. Android [Mobile]
  2. Windows
  3. iOS [Mobile]
  4. Macintosh
  5. Linux
This pleases me greatly, because the vast majority of my own web surfing happens from my desktop PC (I don't even visit Facebook from my phone if I can help it), so that naturally tends to be the platform I keep in mind the most when creating content.

Where Do They Come From?

Social is king, as they've been saying for years, and the bulk of my social referrals come from Twitter and Facebook. But I get a decent amount of traffic from search—which is heartening, because it means people are searching for and finding my evergreen content:

  1. Social
  2. Organic Search
  3. Direct
  4. Referral
  5. Email

The volume of traffic I get from Email is also good news, because it means that people are opening and reading my email newsletters, and clicking through to my blog from those.

Top Posts

Finally, my five most visited posts of the year. I love how three of those five are for posts that talk about places to get ebooks other than Amazon. As you know, a massive part of my outreach is getting people to understand that Amazon is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to ebooks, and that many of their business practices are actually damaging our beloved industry by stifling competing outlets.

  1. Why I Will No Longer Buy Books From Amazon, If They're in KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited (May 2019)
  2. Overdrive Libraries in South Africa (August 2018)
  3. What's your favourite book of all time? (December 2018)
  4. Writing for an American Audience: Why do Authors Compromise? (July 2019)
  5. Alternatives to Kindle Unlimited (February 2019)

Also nice to see those two articles from 2018 still getting love... although I hope more of you visit the 2019 edition of your favourite book of all time, and vote on that!

Well, that's it, dear readers. I don't have any words of wisdom, or deep philosophical questions to ask at the end of this post. This has been purely an exercise in mental masturbation. I enjoyed and found it interesting, and I hope you did too. If not.... ;-)

Tuesday 17 December 2019

What to do with Graham's Super-secret Readers' Circle?

A few years ago, all the authors I knew were talking about Facebook Groups. At the time, someone suggested creating a secret Facebook group and making membership in it a perk of signing up to an author's email list.

That's exactly what I did, and Graham's Super-secret Readers' Group was born.

The idea was that if you signed up to my mailing list, you got an email with the link to that group, and when you applied to join the group, you had to confirm your email address to prove you belonged to my list.

All well and good, but the thing is, I never really knew what to do with it. Over the years, people have joined and left, and others have joined and left, and at the time of this writing, we have the grand total of 10 (count 'em) members!

In 2020, I want to really start showing the group some love! Some of the things I'm thinking of include:
  • Fun games to play
  • A monthly competition where you can win gift cards/vouchers to your favourite ebookstores
  • The opportunity to hear about cool stuff, even before the rest of my email list
  • Really exclusive cool stuff that the rest of my email list never hears about
  • Anything else I can think of... or anything you can
What do you think, dear reader? Are you in?

To get your invitation to Graham's Super-secret Readers' Circle, click the image below to sign up for my mailing list.

Happy reading!

Tuesday 10 December 2019

My favourite book of 2019

It's that time again: time to tell you my favourite book of 2019. Not necessarily published in 2019, you understand. Just my favourite out of all the books I read in 2019.

But first, a bit of background, for those who don't know me. It's important to understand that I review every single book I read, on social reading site Goodreads. In fact, my philosophy is "No review means it never happened."

I also tend to be very susceptible to small things like typos and grammatical errors, or plot holes, or even formatting faux pas. For this reason, no matter how good a book is, if I find just one of those types of things in it, the possibility of a five-star review is immediately and irrevocably off the table.

This year, I read a lot of books (45 so far, but I might just get another one or two under my belt before year's end), and this year, I really struggled to find even one that met my high standards.

I did find one, though. This year, I managed to get through Stephen King's The Dark Tower series from start to finish. It wasn't what I would call a stupendously good series or anything, but I'm glad I finally read it. There was one volume, though, which got my coveted five-star rating, and in fact, it was the only book to do so out of all the books I read this year. That book was Wolves of the Calla:

Wolves of the Calla

(The Dark Tower #5)

by Stephen King

About the Book

Roland and his tet have just returned to the path of the Beam when they discover that they are being followed by a group of inexperienced trackers. The trackers are from the town of Calla Bryn Sturgis, and they desperately need the help of gunslingers. Once every generation, a band of masked riders known as the Wolves gallop out of the dark land of Thunderclap to steal one half of all the twins born in the Callas. When the children are returned, they are roont, or mentally and physically ruined. In less than a month, the Wolves will raid again. In exchange for Roland’s aid, Father Callahan—a priest originally from our world—offers to give Roland a powerful but evil seeing sphere, a sinister globe called Black Thirteen which he has hidden below the floorboards of his church. Not only must Roland and his tet discover a way to defeat the invincible Wolves, but they must also return to New York so that they can save our world’s incarnation of the Dark Tower from the machinations of the evil Sombra Corporation.

My Review

Best one yet!

While on their continuing quest for The Dark Tower, Roland and his ka-tet are waylaid by a village in crisis. The gunslingers - because they are all gunslingers in their own right, by now - have to decide whether they can help. And if they can help, they must, and are not allowed to accept any kind of payment, according to the Gunslinger Code.

This book mostly concerns that side quest, but there's a helluva lot of depth, and along the way, they discover much that will aid them in their main quest.

In my review of the last book (Wizard and Glass) in this series, I lamented the long, drawn-out, and somewhat inappropriate backstory. Well, this one ALSO has a significant chunk of backstory to share, but it's nothing like the one in Wizard and Glass. This one's entirely appropriate and perfectly paced, and we're constantly reminded that it is, in fact, a backstory.

In many ways, it forms somewhat of a sequel to 'Salem's Lot. I'll say no more than that, but if you haven't read that book, I strongly suggest you do so before reading Wolves of the Calla.

Back to the main story of this book: the village and its inhabitants are so richly detailed, none of them are "cardboard cutouts" by any means, and their own unique dialect is presented so beautifully, so consistently... I can only call it a literary masterpiece.

Around about 85% of the way through, I started noticing the odd typo here and here. These were clearly things that the editors missed (but in a book this long, who can blame them?). If you know me, you'd know that normally a single typo would be enough to destroy any book's chances of getting a five-star review from me. But in this case, I was so engrossed by the time I spotted the first one, and there are so comparatively few of them, that it didn't matter.

As the author himself advises in his introduction, I wouldn't recommend reading this book if you haven't read the first four (skip the "point fives", though - just read the main story), but if you've been struggling through, I promise you you won't regret sticking with it for this one!

Click here (or the cover above) to find out where you can get a copy of the ebook: https://books2read.com/u/mYKK0o

Note: that's an affiliate link, so if you click it, and then click through to one of the stores and end up buying something, I might earn a small commission from your purchase.

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Your Favourite Book of All Time (Open Call)

It's that time again. Last year around about this time, I asked you all what your favourite book of all time was, and the winner was one I'd never heard of before: That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis.

It went so well, that I thought we'd do it all over again.

So here we go: I'd like you all to fill out the form below, and tell me what you would say your favourite book of all time is.

I'm looking for individual books only. Don't vote for a whole series, please - you must decide which individual book in that series is your favourite, and enter that instead.

I'll keep this open call running for a month, until 6 Jan 2020. Then I'll crunch the numbers, and announce the shortlist, here on this blog the next day.

If you'd like to be one of the first people to know when the shortlist is out, be sure you enter your email address into the form, after your vote. That's completely optional, of course, and if you do enter it, I promise to only use it to send you the shortlist and final results when they're out. After which, I will delete your address from my database.

Does that all make sense? Sound good? Very well, then. Go! :-)

Please play along and nominate. What's nice about these nominations, in my opinion, is that unlike all the others that do the rounds this time of year, this one's not restricted to publication date, publication method (self-published or traditionally published) or format. If a book was published, at any time in history, by any means and in any format, you can vote for it!