Tag Archives: Amazon

Fast-buck authors and book-stuffing bandits

Ian McEwan … his latest book is only 4,300-words long

William Boyd and Ian McEwan are my favourite contemporary British authors – and I never thought I’d ever accuse them of money-grubbing and treating their fans with disdain.

However, these two great writers are now double-dipping with their latest books by releasing previously published short stories, for which they’ve already been paid.

Ian McEwan’s latest book – My Purple Scented Novel – is his first offering for two years and was published by Penguin in June. At just 4,300 words, or 48 pages, it’s really just a short story, selling for £1.79 in paperback and £1.49 in Kindle on Amazon. That’s pretty expensive for a book that can be read in just 20 minutes.

To make matters worse, My Purple Scented Novel has already been published, in The New Yorker magazine in March 2016, and anyone can read it for free on the magazine’s website.

McEwan told the magazine how he hastily wrote the story while suffering from the flu. He doubtless felt a lot better when he pocketed a fee from The New Yorker for publishing this very slim piece of work.

My Purple Scented Novel has garnered a few excellent reviews on Amazon, although one reader said: “Good little story, but just a pamphlet – not a proper novel in terms of length.” Another customer said they wished they’d known the story was free to read online, and they could have saved their money.

Sadly, McEwan seems to be following in the footsteps of William Boyd, who also published a short story which he’d previously released after being commissioned to write it.

William Boyd … commissioned by Land Rover to write short story

Boyd was reportedly paid a six-figure sum by Land Rover to write a short story featuring one of their Defender vehicles. The Vanishing Game was then published as a free Kindle on Amazon in November 2014.

This story is pretty awful and is should make Boyd hang his head in shame. It has received mostly one-star reviews on Amazon, with one reader writing under the headline Shame On You, Mr Boyd: “A very lame publicity machine for Land Rover, and from a writer of such pedigree. Written, it would seem, for unsophisticated teenagers. Like the Defender, it was poorly put together, clunky of style and lacking in subtlety. Free it may have been, but not worth the effort.”

Another reader wrote: “What a totally pointless load of nonsense … bollocks.” And another said: “Is this a joke? Writing style of a sixth former who didn’t complete his homework.” It’s hard to believe they’re talking about the literary giant who has given us such classic novels as Any Human Heart and Restless.

Despite pocketing his fat fee from Land Rover, Boyd then resurrected the story for inclusion in his latest book, a collection of short stories, titled The Dreams Of Bethany Mellmoth, published in November 2017.

One angry Amazon reviewer wrote: “I already bought Vanishing Game. Why add it? Money back please! Now!”

While I feel McEwan and Boyd must shoulder the blame for this wanton act of double-dipping,  their publishers may have been the driving force behind this move, ignoring the risk of tarnishing the two novelists’ names in the process.

The book publishing industry, of course, has always been about making money, but publishers these highly-competitive days appear to have become greedy in pursuit of the fast buck in an overheated market.

And it seems the burgeoning self-publishing industry is no different. A news story in The Times, with the headline ‘Authors cash in with 3,000-page ebooks’, told how writers of Kindle ebooks are “stuffing” their books in a scam to beat Amazon’s algorithms and generate extra revenue.

The report said: “Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription scheme lets readers pay a fixed monthly fee of £7.99 to download as many ebooks as they like. Payments are assigned to authors based on how many pages subscribers read, creating an incentive to produce works of great length but not necessarily great quality.

“A common trick is for authors to pad out new books with ‘bonus’ short stories, often works they have previously published as standalone titles. Readers are told that a genuinely new short story can be found at the very end of the book, encouraging them to scroll through all the pre-published material and boosting the author’s payout.

“The most prodigious book stuffers have been earning up to $100,000 a month, estimates suggest.”

Amazon splits a monthly royalty pot of around $22.5 million between all independent authors participating in the Kindle Unlimited programme – so there’s big money to be made by cheating.

While operating my www.ebooklover.co.uk book editing business, I keep a close eye on ‘indy’ authors and what they are up to. A commonplace trick these days is to self-publish a quick series of short books – some with fewer than 100 pages – to maximise revenue or, worse, writing a full-length novel and then splitting it into three or four short books, in a cunning bid to make more money from sales.

Once again, the readers are being treated with contempt by publishers and authors in the pursuit of big money. It’s all pretty shameful, don’t you think?

If you’d like to comment on this blog, please use the comments box below.

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


kindlegirlJPEG - Copy (2)

My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published and mainstream writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Quality v quantity: should authors really churn out books?

A MEMBER of the popular BooksGoSocial authors’ group on Facebook recently told how she was “on a mission” to finish the third instalment of seven novels by the end of the month – bashing out at least 65,000 words in just two weeks.

The frantic writer also told how she held down two jobs and looked after a baby (and a husband) while writing her books and self-publishing them.

Her post on Facebook prompted responses from many of the group’s 16,800 members, with one writing: “65,000 words in two weeks? That’s crazy.”

Yes, it does seem crazy – but it’s increasingly becoming the benchmark in the world of self-publishing, where quantity can sometimes overpower quality in the race to produce as many books as possible in the shortest time.

Another member of the authors’ group, formed by Irish author Laurence O’Bryan, posted that he had five books all lined up to be self-published and asked if he should release a box-set first, or publish all five works individually first.

Leading the charge among self-published authors is Bella Forrest, who cranks out “fantasy, romance, action and mystery-infused stories” – and has sold more than six million copies on Amazon since her first novel was released in 2012.

Bella, an American writer, has written a staggering 58 books in just five years – averaging nearly a dozen titles a year.

In an interview on goodreads.com, Bella told how her debut novel, A Shade of Vampire, took just one month to write, although the idea had been brewing in her mind for several years. Her sequel, A Shade of Blood, took her two or three months to write.

She said her writing schedule was “crazy”, adding: “The early hours of the morning are my favourite for writing. So I get out of bed at like 1.30am and work through until 9am. The biggest chunks of my writing get done during this period.”

It all sounds like a word factory, but Bella’s books have garnered good reviews from readers. For example, A Shade of Vampire has more than 1,500 reviews on amazon.co.uk, and more than 1,100 of them are five-stars.

However, Bella’s multitudinous offerings are never going to go down in history as great works of literature. And on Amazon, you can find a host of other prolific self-published authors, releasing book after book after book.

Unfortunately, some of these books are absolute dross. The authors are too busy hammering out their works to worry about revising their manuscripts, or getting them professionally edited and proofread.

The world’s most famous novelists wrote at a much slower pace, usually producing no more than one book a year, and honing and revising their manuscripts for months before submitting them to their publisher.

Graham Greene: wrote one book a year

Graham Greene wrote around 500 words a day. “Over 20 years I have probably averaged 500 words a day, for five days a week. I produce one novel a year, and that allows for revision and correction of the manuscript,” he said.

Ernest Hemingway: the writing well never ran dry

Ernest Hemingway also wrote 500 words a day. He said: “I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

Michael Crichton: no dinosaur at 10,000 words a day

However, Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton pounded out 10,000 words a day. Well, who wouldn’t, with an angry tyrannosaurus rex looking over your shoulder? But he said: “Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten, including your own. It’s one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”

Gustave Flaubert: wrote one perfect sentence a day. Madame Bovary, below, took him five years to write

Gustave Flaubert, French author of Madame Bovary, is often described as a writer’s writer, but he was also one of the slowest authors in history, working at a drunken snail’s pace. It took him five years to write Madame Bovary and seven years to finish L’Éducation Sentimentale.

Despite working for 14 hours a day in his summerhouse above the River Seine, it often took him a whole week to write just one page. On an average day, his wastepaper basket would be full of discarded sheets, while he would salvage just one sentence that he was happy with.

Yes, good writing is a skill, an expertise developed over time – not on a conveyor belt in a word factory operating 24/7.

So why do some self-published authors work almost night and day to bash out a constant stream of books? Is it because of a love of writing, or purely a money-making exercise?

As a general rule of thumb, on Amazon it pays to self-publish a series of books, which can thrive off each other to boost sales, especially with Amazon’s special book price-cut promotions, such as daily deals and countdown deals. Many new authors discover this and cash in on it.

However, some self-published authors have had careers in other fields before catching the writing bug later in life. They get hooked on writing, and are happy to spend hours on end tapping away on the computer keyboard, producing a plethora of books. The income derived from these works is of secondary importance to them – the joy of creative writing is paramount.

If you’d like to comment on this blog, please use the comments box below.

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


kindlegirlJPEG - Copy (2)

My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Can Orson KO Kindle?

Richard Mason reading an Orson digital book

Richard Mason reading an Orson digital book

IMAGINE reading an ebook – let’s say it’s an historical novel – on your tablet computer and one of the characters plays a Chopin composition on the piano to impress a young woman … and suddenly you can actually hear him performing it as you read the passage.

Look closely at the screen and you’ll see the book’s text is typeset on the background of 19th-century paper embellished by hand-drawn designs from that era. As you read through the text, you’ll see historic illustrations. Tap on these, and up comes a host of floating images from the period.

Not sure where the story is set? Then a pull-down menu will call up a map of the exact location, along with image and video galleries to act as visual guides to the story.

And if you get tired of reading, tap the next paragraph on the screen and actress Joanna Lumley will step straight in with audio narration. Just sit back and listen to her reading the story to you.

These are just some of the features of a new digital book app called Orson, a high-tech reading experience due to be launched in 2017 by a Glasgow-based team of five.

On its website www.orsonandco.com, the Orson is described as “a digital edition that’s as memorable and beautiful as a printed book. It’s the result of authors, actors, musicians and visual artists collaborating to create awe-inspiring reading experiences”. The Orson app will be available free in the App Store for iPads and iPhones, and individual book titles can be bought in-app. A video demonstrating the Orson app can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDlRVpMgbhU

Orson co-founder and novelist Richard Mason writes about the new app in the latest edition of The Author magazine, issued by the Society of Authors in London, in an interesting article headlined ‘What ebooks could be’.

Richard Mason, co-founder of Orson & Co

Richard Mason, co-founder of Orson & Co

He says he and Orson co-founder and designer Benjamin Morse hit on the idea of a multi-media reading experience after Mason tired of Amazon’s Kindle reader. “I was exposed to the dull, repetitive reality of actually reading ebooks,” he wrote.

Their enterprise – Orson & Co – is a digital publishing house “in which the artists and storytellers are in charge of the coders”. Mason claims it “blows the Kindle out of the water”.

“We are at the birth of a new form, and the tools now exist to put authors in charge of its progress,” he added.

It’s a fascinating idea, and it’s admirable to see a small operation taking on the mighty Amazon’s Kindle platform, but it also raises a few questions about the future of ebooks and digital publishing.

Will this new multi-media reading experience detract from the simple pleasure of reading the written word? Do we need fancy videos, audio, maps, illustrations and all the other bells and whistles when all we really want is a damned good read?

And where will it end? Will the written story eventually become overpowered by the multi-media elements, rendering it almost worthless in the reader’s mind?

Kindle the conqueror

A NEWS snippet in The Author magazine also reveals that Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market is now estimated to be around 90 per cent of all sales. This follows Waterstones, Nook, Tesco and Sainsbury all pulling out of the ebook market. This monopoly is alarming, but it’s also comforting news for self-published authors, many of whom rely of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform for their livelihood.

If you’d like to comment on this blog, please use the comments box below.

Happy New Year … and all the best for 2017!

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


kindlegirlJPEG - Copy (2)

My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Kindle dwindle is a fantasy story

Simon Jenkins

Simon Jenkins, Guardian columnist, applauds the ‘demise’ of ebooks

IS the Kindle on the dwindle, while the paperback claws its way back?

Well, that’s the latest shock news from the book publishing industry, as reported this week in The Guardian newspaper − but is it the real picture or a distortion of the truth?

The article cites new figures from the Publishers Association showing digital book sales in the UK fell by 1.6% last year from £563 million to £554m − the first drop in seven years (when such sales were first recorded).

Meanwhile, printed book sales in the UK rose by 0.4% from £2.74 billion to £2.76bn − the first rise in four years, albeit a small one.

Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins applauds these figures, saying: “Clearly publishing, like other industries before (and since), suffered a bad attack of technodazzle: It failed to distinguish between newness and value. It could read digital’s hysterical cheerleaders, but not predict how a market of human beings would respond to a product once the novelty had passed.”

Deriding ebooks, Jenkins adds: “Virtual books, like virtual holidays or virtual relationships, are not real. People want a break from another damned screen.”

And he backs up his argument with this quote from the Publishers Association, which represents 120 publishing companies: “Readers take a pleasure in a physical book that does not translate well on to digital.”

But are these new figures an accurate reflection of book publishing in the UK, with ebooks seemingly on the slide?

computer-book

The Guardian piece (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/13/books-ebook-publishers-paper) triggered almost 900 responses from readers, with many of them rubbishing the claims.

Mike Robbins wrote: “The Publishers Association release should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Actually, an entire salt mine.

“I assume they’re referring to ebooks sold by their members, which are likely a small minority of those sold, because mainstream publishers’ ebooks are so stupidly overpriced. I buy more ebooks than physical books, but none of them are from members of the Publishers Association. They’re from independent authors and small presses. So the figures Mr Jenkins quotes are meaningless.”

Another reader, Lynne, wrote: “The Publishers Association publishes figures from publishers. It doesn’t take into account sales from a site like Amazon. Where do you think most ebook sales are made?”

Eden Sharp also slammed the report, saying the Publishers Association did not count books without an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) in its sales figures. Self-published ebooks often don’t have ISBNs, especially on Amazon, which allocates its own serial number (ASIN) to an ebook released on its Kindle Direct Publishing platform, at no charge.

Authors’ earnings figures probably give a more accurate picture of the state of the market. They show that self-published ebooks now account for 45% of digital sales on Amazon, while ebooks from the five biggest publishers have fallen to less than 25% of market share on Amazon.

My book editing operation (www.ebooklover.co.uk) helps independent authors to publish their books as Kindles on Amazon, and almost all of my clients choose not to have ISBNs − and so sales of their ebooks, and many millions more across the self-publishing spectrum, are not included in the Publishers Association figures.

One self-published author recently claimed to have sold 750,000 Kindle books on Amazon − all without ISBNs and therefore excluded from the Publishing Association figures. And there are many more like that.

So, far from being a Kindle dwindle, surely the real story continues to be an ebook explosion, largely driven by a fast-rising number of indy authors? And perhaps it’s snobbery in the traditional publishing houses that excludes self-published success stories from the big picture on book sales.

 

FOOTNOTE: If any of you have written a book – either fiction or non-fiction – and need help with editing, proofreading, formatting for Kindle, or paperback design and cover design, I can help you on the road to publication. See below.


kindlegirlJPEG - Copy (2)

My ebooklover.co.uk business offers editing, proofreading, formatting and book and cover design services to self-published writers, of both fiction and non-fiction. See my website www.ebooklover.co.uk for full details. Check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ebooklover.co.uk and follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/ebookswizard

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized