Monday 5 March 2012

Is Amazon Kindle the New Slush Pile?

The recent spate of publishing deals offered to selfpublished authors on Amazon Kindle would suggest that aspiring authors need to seriously consider Kindle as their shop window of choice.

It stands to reason that the major publishing houses are going to look to the bestselling ebook charts for authors with a proven track record and, most importantly, a ready made fan base.  Why wade through slush piles of paper manuscripts metres high when the net is doing the sifting for you?    One click, and they can read the synopsis, and the readers' reviews. Thanks to the Look Inside option editors and agents can  read the first few chapters, on their iPhones, iPads and their even ebook readers - no self-respecting agent can now afford to be without one!

So who are these lucky - and talented - authors?  Kerry Wilkinson with three titles in the Jessica Daniels crime series hit the number one spot in the UK and was Amazon's number 1 author for the final quarter of 2011.  With over a quarter of million sales he was snapped up Pan Macmillan with a six book deal.  Amanda Hocking, the USA's leading author of paranormal novels has signed with the same publisher after allegedly making over £1.5million as a self publisher. And then there's Rachel Abbott, a British Author whose taut pschological thriller, Only The Innocent, is selling 3000 copies a day led to an offer which she has so far turned down!

I think it's brilliant for these three authors, and especially encouraging that the voice of the reader is now able to influence the decisions of agents, editors and publishers alike.  What does it mean for the rest of us writing our socks off?  Well it presumably means that the titles belonging to authors picked up in this way will take longer to come to market.  Also that the price of their paperbacks will fall, but that of their ebooks will almost certainly rise exponentially.  That should give other selfpublishing authors a chance to rise to the top of the rankings.  That must be a better way of making commercial decisions for the publishers, and a great opportunity for writers.

I wait with bated breath!

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Justice for Manchester

Professor Hamid Ghodse, president of the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board, has had to apologise for lumping Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham in with some of the world's most dangerous cities when speak out against a ‘vicious cycle of social exclusion and drugs problems’ gripping cities across the world.

He described these cities has having no-go areas controlled by drug traffickers, organised crime, and drug users, where law enforcement had failed.

His apology claimed that he was talking of the past in relation to the UK cities.. He acknowledged that police and community action had made a real difference in all three cities.  His words he said had been 'lost in translation'

Sadly that damage has been done.  His apology will not receive the kind of coverage that his original pronouncement made.  All that we can do is to see that the truth gets out there im as many forms as possible.

Even at the height of the gang wars in South Manchester - in the '80s and 90's - none of these areas were 'no go'.  The gang related murders almost exclusively involved the drug dealers,couriers, and enforcers themselves.  That is not to belittle those deaths or the few that took the lives of innocent bystanders.

I had an office in the heart of Moss Side during that time.  I walked and drove all over the area for years, and never once felt truly threatened.  Even when I had to sit in my car at 7.30 in the evening waiting for dealers to conclude their trade across the school gates before I could drive in for a meeting with the Governors.

Concerted action by Greater Manchester Police, the community, and the City Council has transformed the area which is now home to thousands of students, young professionals, and local families.  Yes there is still crime.  Yes there are still gangs.  As in all major cities.  But no go areas such as those in Brazil, and Mexico, and some of the US cities, do not exist. Nor did they ever.

My Manchester crime fiction stories could be claimed to fuel the misconception voiced by Professor Ghodse.  My excuse is that they are only fiction.  Nor do they ever suggest that there are no go areas.  They are by and large about the pyschology of individual motivations in the committing of crime.  I make that clear in preface to my books.

The reality is that Manchester has a 98.6 clear up rate in relation to murders committed in the GMP area.  And the annual number of murders is a fraction of those committed in comparable US cities.

If you have friends and aquaintances who live abroad make sure that they know the truth.  Manchester is a great and a save place to visit, providing that they take the same sensible precautions that they would when travelling anywhere in the world, including thier own home town.

Here is the original link:

Saturday 18 February 2012

Dickens and I

As part of the international celebration of the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth, I recently had the honour of being asked to contribute a post on Dovegreyreader - officially Britain's Number One Literary Blog 2011.  My post is one among twenty by authors who were invited to share their favourite Dickens' novel, and the reasons why they valued it so much. 

Read the post here:       Dickens and I

Friday 13 January 2012

Nurturing British Talent - Funding Independent British Film Productions.

The Prime Minister has allegedly decided to pre-empt a long awaited report into the funding of British Film Productions.  He suggests that funding should be directed towards those most likely to make substantial profits.  Aside from infuriating those who have worked hard and long on the report, he has missed the point.  It has proved impossible for Hollywood Gurus -including critics, producers, hedge fund managers, and directors - to predict success or failure in advance of actual receipts. 

The only effect of such a policy would be to starve new, young, innovative film directors and producers of the funding needed to grow the British Film Industry for the next two decades.  The same has been true of the publishing world where shrinking profit margins have led to a disproportionate number of TV celebrity cookbooks, celebrity autobiographies, and established authors, at the expense of new and fresh talent.

I recently had the privilege of working with nagnag productions on the film Echoes which premieres tomorrow in Leigh before moving on to the Bradford Film Festival.  Mine was just a bit part, but it was enough to leave me massively impressed by the skill, determination and commitment of three local young men working with virtually no funding, and  the services of actors from Tyldesley Little Theatre and St Josephs ADS.  Others will judge the result - a one hour twenty six minute feature film - but for me the quality of this wholly digital production is exceptional.  Given just a little seed corn funding I have no doubt it would have been even better.  More importantly, with this film nagnag have proved themselves worthy of investment.  If Mr Cameron has his way they, and many others like them, will never receive it.  And the British Film Industry, and we the filmgoers, will be the poorer for it.
                       Judge for yourselves @

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Writers & Publishers -The UKs No1 Charity Donors

Times were tough for professional Writers and Publishers even before the recession struck.  There have been those who were quick to apportion some of the blame to the practice of some charity shops selling brand new returns - not secondhand books - at knock down prices.  Elsewhere in my blog I have made a link between the rise of Oxfam as a high street bookseller through specialist book shops, as one of the main reasons for the closure of independent bookshops, including my own local treasure.  But there is another way of looking at this.

The 2010-2011 Oxfam accounts show a £20.9 million  net trading profit from their charity shops.  A considerable part of this must surely have come from book sales.  Since then, the rapid expansion of their bookshops across the country will have increased that contribution.  Factor in all of the many other charity shops selling secondhand books, and the total contribution of remaindered and secondhand books to charities must be collosal.

So, not only do we as writers and publishers provide some fleeting pleasure to our readers, but through the recycling of our books - first to be sold and read again and again, and then to be pulped - we make an inestimable, if unintended, contribution to those less fortunate than ourselves.

A reason to be proud.  A reason to keep writing.

Merry Christmas

Sunday 27 November 2011

My Kindle Sales Addiction...So Far So Good!

It's been four weeks now and so far - with the exception of one minor blip which I don't really count - I have managed to stick to my resolution to only check my Kindle sales once a week.  Given that prior to going cold turkey it was multiple times a day, I regard this as little short of a triumph.  But is only early days.

How do I feel?  Well since the trend continues upwards, and at at an ever increasing rate, I feel pretty good.  Had the reverse been the case I suppose I might have felt very different, but then if I'd been checking every day I'd have felt bad six extra times every week.  So, my advice to fellow addicts is to try the oncea  week approach.  Monday is definitely best because then you get a full week's results including the USA.

Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.

Friday 28 October 2011

Writers & Publishers Beware! There's a new disorder out there...KOD!

I've just discovered an insidious new disorder specific to authors and publishers of Kindle eBooks.   Kindle Obsessive Disorder.  I know, because I am currently in recovery.

It manifests itself  as an overwhelming compunction to check those sales figures several times a day.  It was bad enough when we only had the sales ranks to worry about for our hardbacks and paperbacks, but now that Amazon provides a continuous hour by hour update on sales of books in the Kindle Store it has become an obsession. 

Not so much of a problem when lounging by the pool in sunny Sicily, but a nightmare two chapters into your next book.  OK, it's important to know how they're doing, and to nip in the bud any significant signs of a dip  by changing the key words, or inviting readers to leave a review, for example.  But when it's first thing in the morning, every time you take a break, and last thing at night...that's spells disaster for the creative flow. 

So now I'm rationing myself to once a week.  Every Monday morning after breakfast.  That way I'll get a a whole week's total, and a much better indication of trend.  Then  I can get on with the real work untrammeled by peaks and troughs and pointless projections.   It's tough, but it has to be done.

The shaking has stopped, and the night sweats, and the incoherent mumblings.  I know it's only week one, but it's progress. 

Watch this space. I'll let you know how I get on.