Publishing posts

Amazon vs Authors: the Hachette battle

Part of the Amazon is not your friend series. 

Just what does it mean? (Picture from

Just what does it mean?
(Picture from

Isn’t this battle just between two companies? You may be wondering how the Hachette battle with Amazon could be interpreted as being Amazon against authors. Sit back and allow me to explain.

This is two-fold.

First, there are the Hachette authors. The press about the battle between these two companies has been rife with Amazon’s tactics to disadvantage Hachette’s books. The books have been taken off promotional lists, discounts have been removed, and shipping date predictions have been in the 4-6 weeks band, claiming there weren’t any in stock. Book pages have also been updated with suggestions that customers might prefer books by other (non-Hachette, of course) authors.

(Note: now that the matter has been resolved, these measures have not all been lifted. Some speculate that this is Amazon’s way of passive-aggressively punishing Hachette for not giving in to their demands. Really, Amazon?)

Through this whole battle, Hachette authors were reporting a huge downturn in sales through Amazon. It’s a powerful enough store that they can easily see the difference in their royalty reports.

Throughout the embargo, Amazon made several overtures to Hachette, offering to lift the sanctions if the publisher agrees to ridiculous temporary royalty agreements. These include giving all profit from the book sales to the authors or donating the profit to charity. Basically, they wanted Hachette to give up any money they might make on the book sales for the duration of the contract negotiations.

(In at least one of these ‘offers’, Amazon have been prepared to give up their share of the profit as well. It is only fair to note this. I have no visibility of what this would actually mean to Amazon, though; what percentage of its revenue comes from books, I wonder?)

It’s no surprise that Hachette turned all of these ‘offers’ down. They are so obviously ridiculous and a propaganda ploy designed to cast the publisher in the role of villain, because it’s forced to refuse in order to protect its bottom line. Let’s not forget that this went on for months; not an insignificant chunk of the financial year for any company.

Whoever is right or wrong, the authors are the ones being put in the middle. Amazon may claim differently, but that’s what they’ve done. (Amazon actually says that Hachette was the one using authors in this battle, but no, I’m sorry, Amazon is the one who put the sanctions in place.)

There has been a lot of outcry against Amazon’s tactics, to the extent that over 900 authors put their money together, signed a petition, and put a full-page ad in the New York Times, imploring Amazon to stop its stupid tactics. Known names like Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Chabon, Scott Turow, George Saunders, Philip Pullman, and Nora Roberts were a part of this.

What was Amazon’s reaction to the ad? To move the other section of authors at its disposal into the middle of this debate: the KDP authors. This brings me to the second part of this issue.

In August 2014, Amazon sent out an email to all of its authors. It wasn’t just the KDP Select authors that it tried to call to its side: all KDP authors were contacted, including me.

The email is a beautifully-crafted piece of propaganda. It combines fear-mongering, just enough of the truth to justify itself, and sympathy-evoking images and tactics. I was astonished when I read it, and quickly angry. It is the most despicable thing I have had someone send to me.

There are some very good analyses available on the email and its content, and I encourage you to check them out. I’m not going to go through it all when others have said it so much better than I could. I’m just going to touch the salient points for this post:

  1. Amazon sent this out to authors who had nothing to do with the battle.
  2. It’s clearly an attempt to rally indie authors to their side.
  3. In the email, Amazon asks us to spam the Hachette CEO with hate mail. This is the entire purpose of this email! They included his name and email address, and asked to be copied in so they could see.

Great. Because what this world needs is more people sticking their oar into something that doesn’t concern them, and more hate being spread around. Right.

This email is what ultimately prompted me to start writing this post series (I know, it has been a long time in coming!). I didn’t want to get involved and there are lots of informed and informative blogs around who are speaking up on this. But Amazon involved me directly by trying to draw me into the debate. Well, maybe I’m slow, but I get there in the end, and I don’t have much patience for that kind of tactic.

Amazon have shown their true colours. They are ruthless, they have a skilled marketing department, and they’re not afraid to throw you under the bus if it will benefit their cause.

So I’m raising my voice. I’m writing these posts. It may have taken me months to get to it all, but this seems too important to stay silent any more. The Hachette battle may have concluded but the story is far from over.

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Amazon vs Big Publishing: the Hachette Battle

Part of the Amazon is not your friend series. 

Just what does it mean? (Picture from

Just what does it mean?
(Picture from

The battle between Amazon and Hachette went on for months, finally coming to a resolution in November (2014). The big boys were duking it out, and neither of them came off particularly well.

I’m no big fan of big traditional publishers. Just like Amazon, they are a business first and support readers/authors/books second, if at all. They have a bad track record with embracing ebooks and the digital side of the industry. They don’t give authors good royalties for ebook sales. Their contracts are minefields that can hobble an author’s career unless you are very careful or very lucky.

However, they are more dependent on a healthy book industry, as it’s the only industry they’re in. Amazon does not have this focus (this will come up later).

When I read something about this battle, I go into it with no particular bias; both sides are businesses and they’re looking after their own interests. I aim to be objective. (I know that the name of this series might imply otherwise, but being disturbed by Amazon’s actions in the book industry doesn’t mean that I support big publishing.)

They key here is to figure out which one will benefit books, authors, and the industry as a whole, in the long run. And as far as I can tell, if Amazon had got what it wanted, it could well be a disaster for the book industry.

Why should we care at all? It’s just one company against another, right? Well, yes and no. This battle might have been between Amazon and Hachette, but the future fallout is much broader than one single distribution agreement.

The crux of the battle was Amazon trying to change the terms of the distribution agreement it has with the big publisher. The timing was driven by the contract with Hachette being up for renewal. In the near future, the contracts with the other big publishers will also come up for renewal and they’ll have the exact same battle on their hands (I believe Simon and Schuster snuck in and renewed their deal while this battle was going on). What happened with Hachette set the pattern – the precedent – and makes it difficult for a different outcome to occur in subsequent negotiations: if Hachette had fallen, so will all of the big publishers. That’s why this section is ‘Amazon vs Big Publishing’, not just Hachette.

Why would that be a bad thing? Well, that all depends on what Amazon and Hachette are demanding.

Let’s talk for a moment about the Book Depository. What does that have to do with all of this? Bear with me and I’ll explain.

The Book Depository was an online bookseller (of physical books) that was built on the basis of supplying really, really cheap books direct to your door. It undercut standard book prices and made no profit whatsoever, but because it offered such cheap prices, it gained a massive market share. It sold for silly amounts of money (to Amazon, who was protecting its market share, but that’s actually beside the point here).

The man behind the Book Depository had no interest in books, writers, or readers (he came out and said as much). His business practices threatened to crash (paper) book prices and reduced the royalties that made their way back to writers. He never made real money from the business itself. It was never intended to be a sustainable business model: the sole purpose of the business was to build up a big enough market presence to make it a saleable company, and to make a small fortune from it. This is exactly what he achieved.

There’s nothing illegal about what he did. It’s a legitimate business tactic, as long as you don’t give a crap about the industry you’re playing with. It’s still reprehensible in my book, where irresponsibility like this can rob hard-working people of their income. You come in, you make a mess, then you skim off enough proceeds to make the millionaire list and leave the fallout to those left in your wake.

Disturbed? You should be. (This is how the current Western economic difficulties happened: irresponsible and unethical use of legitimate business tactics.)

Now let’s look at Amazon’s history with the big publishers. It signed distribution agreements with the big publishers several years ago, with a certain set of terms. These terms were most likely to be pretty favourable for the publisher, because Amazon was building its market presence at the time and needed to make those deals for its online bookstore idea to become competitive in the market. It undercut the market to grab customers looking for good deals.

Fast-forward a few years to now and Amazon is well-established. It doesn’t need to make concessions to entice a publisher into a distribution deal any more. It can go toe-to-toe with the big fellas in the industry – and it is. It can make its own demands and rewrite the deal for its own benefit.

It’s a success story for Amazon. Is Hachette just being stubborn because it enjoyed a favourable deal all this time and doesn’t want its toys taken away? Maybe. I don’t know all of the details of the deals, past or present. But I am sure that it’s not that black and white. This is no hero and villain scenario.

I do know some of the contention between the two companies. Part of what Amazon was demanding was to control the price of ebooks. It also wanted to dictate how much of an ebook’s price goes to the author.

Both of these things are bad.

Firstly, dictating an author’s royalties? Quite frankly, this is none of their business. An author’s royalties are contracted with their publisher and Amazon has no need to even know what that rate is. Amazon’s interface is entirely with the publisher; that’s part of what a publisher is for.

Big publishers do offer terrible royalties for ebook sales, this is true. It’s one of the reasons that I have a lukewarm opinion of traditional publishing (for my own work), because I’m not sure I’d put up with it. However, I don’t expect an external company like Amazon to stick their oar into my personal contract negotiations, especially ones that have nothing to do with them.

This sounds like pure propaganda to me: Amazon trying to get the authors on their side. It could also be a move for Amazon to control a publisher’s internal finances; after all, if they can dictate how much is going to the author, they are also dictating how much the publisher is getting. What company would give another company that kind of power over their finances?

Controlling the price of ebooks is a bit less straightforward. On the surface, it sounds a lot like businesses protecting their bottom line: Amazon want to offer ebooks at lower prices to make more sales, and make everyone more money; Hachette want to be able to keep their higher-priced ebooks to make more per sale. Amazon are also making a lot of noise about how ebook prices will create a better experience for readers (more on the source of this later).

Underneath that, there’s more to it. Smashwords does a good job of explaining what this control of ebook prices could ultimately lead to. John Scalzi also wrote a post that had an interesting point: publishers like Hachette might want to keep ebook prices higher than average to avoid crashing the paper book market. It’s not in their interests to damage the paper book market: fewer paper book sales mean fewer bricks-and-mortar bookstores, which means fewer avenues to get their books to readers. It could effectively cut off a whole chunk of their market.

Amazon doesn’t have this concern. It is only concerned with one bookstore: itself.

Let’s also think about the impact of lowering ebook prices of traditionally-published books and well-known authors’ work on self-published authors. As Scalzi points out, lowering the ceiling on ebook prices means compressing ebooks into a much smaller price range. One of a self-published author’s key selling points can be that they can undercut the more well-known names in the business; readers are more likely to try an indie author if they’re cheaper than the big names. A smaller selling range means less wiggle-room to do this.

Add on sales and discounts, and it’s even harder for a self-published author to stand out from the crowd. Other less concrete factors could also come into play, such as the perception of value. If everything is $9.99, how do you know what’s good quality? What about new releases? If the new Stephen King is available at $9.99 on release day, how many people will be willing to buy his backlist at the same price; if it’s older, it should be at least a little cheaper, right? Buyer expectations will drive other prices down, compressing the gap in which an indie might shine even further… you can see where I’m going here.

Amazon’s dedication to the $9.99 price ceiling is particularly interesting when considering non-fiction books, because they’re commonly much more than that. How will this impact them? It’s another concern.

There are a lot of things to consider about whether low prices across the board are a good or bad thing; these are just some of the things we should be thinking about. Ultimately, Amazon is claiming that it’s better for everyone. If that’s true, if it means more money for everyone in the industry, why would Hachette fight it so hard? They’re a business looking after their bottom line too, right?

It’s just not that simple. Amazon is asking for control, which could have all kinds of (potentially unpredictable) impacts on Hachette and the other big publisher. Who, in their right mind, would hand control of their business’s bottom line over to another company?

This is where I come back to the Book Depository case. Amazon have done everything in their power to build their market presence and footprint. They’ve built themselves up by offering low prices and making little to no profit. Now, their teeth are showing.

Amazon itself is not up for sale, so this is not the short-term money grab that the Book Depository was designed for. So what is its goal?

Books are not the only kind of merchandise that Amazon sells. That might be where it started but it’s so much more than that now. I struggle to think of something I can’t buy on Amazon these days. It’s a megastore – or, more worryingly, you could call them a supermarket. And the danger with a supermarket is loss leading: selling certain items at such low prices that people are enticed in, and making the real money off everything else those people buy once they’re in the door.

In the UK, loss leading in supermarkets force pig farmers to sell their meat at a loss just to get it sold at all. Milk farmers are in a similar situation, where the prices demanded by the supermarkets are so low that they are barely making any profit, if any. But if not for the supermarkets, they’d have no business at all.

Are books the milk on Amazon’s shelves, drawing the punters in so they can be dazzled with tasty electronics and toys?

This is conjecture on my part, but it’s where I see it leading. Their dedication to lowering prices makes me highly suspicious of this sort of tactic. I see no reason for Amazon not to do this, if it can get its way. Dictating prices is just the tip of the iceberg, and if we want a healthy, thriving book industry, catering to all tastes and price points, we can’t give control to an entity as self-serving as this company.

Luckily, the stand-off came to an end a couple of months ago, with Hachette retaining control over its book prices and author royalties, and Amazon adding incentives for lower prices. For me, the key point is that Amazon did not get the control it was looking for. But the reactions still have dire overtones: will this battle happen again the next time the contracts are up for renewal? Will the big publishers eventually be worn down? How else will Amazon try to get its way? What will that mean for those of us who work in and enjoy the industry?

Personally, I want to see Amazon’s power grab cut off at the knees, because I don’t think it will end well for anyone except Amazon if it’s allowed to continue. And I want to see the other big publishers follow suit, support Hachette. I suspect their authors already do.

Which leads me neatly to my next post. Watch this space!

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Amazon vs Independent Authors: KDP Select Fund

Part of the Amazon is not your friend series. (Sorry for the delay – catching up on a backlog of posts here.)

Some writers have done well with KDP Select. How does it fit into the big picture?

KDP Select Fund: will it always be your friend?

I have already talked about the KDP Select program and why its exclusivity requirement is a problem for indie publishing. A big chunk of program incentive that is waved in front of an Amazon author is the KDP Select Fund, and it’s worth thinking about in its own right.

Every month, Amazon pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into a fund, which is split amongst the KDP Select authors depending on their books’ performance (mostly linked to the lending library). This is a valuable source of income for some Amazon authors. Lately, the amount put aside in this Fund has reached up into the millions of dollars.

I chose not be part of that system and I didn’t give the Fund its own heading to complain about not getting a slice of this particular pie. That was my choice and I don’t regret it. I want to talk about the implications of this fund.

It’s a very nice incentive. I congratulate every author who has benefited from it, and it has been part of what has tempted me towards the KDP Select program.

The more I think about it, though, the more dubious I become. This Fund can’t last forever. Amazon is supplementing authors’ income, bulking out its ebook royalties and paying for borrowed books with this fund. Amazon is the only ebook venue I know of that does this (are there any others? Let me know!).

Recently, it has added the Kindle Unlimited book lending to the fund. However, there’s no indication that the subscription money earned by KU is going into this fund. It started out as just a chunk of money that Amazon offered up to authors and that’s what it still looks like.

There is no indication that the Fund is in any way self-supporting. Lending library fees don’t appear to be funding it, nor any other traceable revenue from Amazon’s ebook services. This, for me, is a big warning flag. Why? Why would they hamstring their bottom line like that? That’s a chunk of their profits they’re giving away, which seems strange for a business.

(A little side note: authors have always been paid by libraries for their books – this is a normal part of a traditional contract – so this doesn’t represent any kind of revolution. The libraries somehow figure out how to make that work, and other ebook library services (available through distributors like Smashwords) have figured out how to do it. It’s only right that authors should be paid for library lending of their work. My question is: why is Amazon supplementing it this way?)

Amazon is a business, not a charity, and don’t kid yourself that there’s anything altruistic about the Fund. It’s not a favour for its authors, nor for its readers. We need to think about it in terms of business goals. It’s clearly not there to make money, so what else is the company gaining?

You. Amazon authors. It’s an incentive to tie authors into the KDP Select program, which means more books going exclusive with Amazon, which means fewer books available in other stores. Which has knock-on effects into the book industry as a whole, all of which benefit Amazon. (See also the previous post and associated links about exclusivity.)

What happens when it no longer needs to entice authors into the program? When it has so much of the industry that the other stores can’t compete any more? That fund will dry up. When it has achieved its goal, it will have no reason to keep paying it out, so why would it?

But Amazon promised, it’s in the agreement. Right now, it is, yes, but that agreement also includes a clause that allows Amazon to change its terms at any time, with no notice or consultation. There is a clause allowing them to make a bait-and-switch.

Authors can withdraw from the program at specific, select intervals (currently, every 3 months), so they could just leave, right? But by the time Amazon no longer needs to pay for the Fund, there won’t be any/many alternatives available. We’ll have to wait until an alternative rises out of the ashes of the old, if it is still possible by that point (I’m sure there are plenty of people who have speculated on this).

I consider the Fund a temporary measure at best, a short-term tool. I can see it drying up, maybe slowly, maybe quickly, as Amazon cements its market domination and ceases to need it so much. I can see them using excuses like ‘market pressures’ or ‘business protection’ or ‘government/tax impositions’. What I am sure about is that once Amazon get the monopoly it’s pushing for and it’s no longer necessary to maintain that Fund, it’ll fall by the wayside. It just doesn’t make sense to maintain it: in business terms, that’s profit they’re giving away.

Perhaps this is a cynical view. Perhaps it won’t happen soon. And maybe it’s okay to milk the cow while the calf is young. But when someone offers me a juicy deal, I have to ask what’s in it for them, what their goals are, and what it’s going to cost me at some point.

Without the Fund, what is the KDP Select program is really giving you? Some promoted exposure? I think about the knock-on effects in the industry, the audience you’re not getting to and the bookstores that are struggling as a result, and I have to ask: is it truly worth it? Is it worth the cost down the track?

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Amazon vs Big Publishing: Kindle Scout: motives revealed

Part of the Amazon is not your friend series. 

It's shiny, it's new, it's bedazzling.

It’s shiny, it’s new, it’s bedazzling.

I have been speculating about Amazon’s business plan for a while. You may have read my thoughts over the other posts in this series, and there’s a lot more to come yet. The post series may be new, but this is an issue that has been percolating in my brain for many months now, rife with suspicions and hopes and cynical sighs.

Recently, I received an email that made it all click into place. Those suspicions that I had been harbouring and finally dared to write down, the thoughts that I was afraid to express in case I was being unfair or maybe just misinformed, all of it seems justified now.

Maybe I am still joining the dots the wrong way, but the patterns are so strong that I’m pretty sure I’m not. Amazon wants a monopoly. It wants to crush traditional publishing out of the picture. It wants full control of the book industry.

Why am I so sure now? Because Amazon has just announced its new publishing program: Kindle Scout / Kindle Press. Here we see it setting itself up as direct competition to publishers, the entities it is trying to strangle into a very Amazon-favourable contract.

In this new program, authors will be able to submit for the chance to win a traditional-style publishing contract with Amazon (Kindle Press). Their submissions will go up publicly, to be voted on by anyone who chooses to weigh in (Kindle Scout); the top-voted submissions get a contract.

On the surface, it sounds great. But with everything Amazon does, you have to ignore the surface and look further to see what it really means. They have a pretty skilled marketing department and they are ruthless: both of these things are cause for suspicion.

Spoiler: this is not a good deal for authors. Every time I look at it, there’s something new that gives me the urge to skitter far, far away. Read on for why…


Kindle Scout

Let’s start with the submission process. This sounds like a wonderful process. Readers get to vote on what books get published! And when something they voted on does get published, they get a copy for free. How awesome is that?

Well, let’s see.

Firstly, yes, it is nice to see a publishing contract not being controlled by gatekeepers. I like the model of people voting for stories they would like to read in full. However, it’s not quite that straightforward: Amazon are only committing to considering the highest-voted books, and there are gatekeepers between top votes and publication. So not quite a win there.

You’ll probably see people whining about how this will lead to less ‘quality’ books being published. Well, I say bollocks to them: traditional publishers have always been interested in what sells, not what’s quality (look at Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, and many other books with errors and fallacies and inconsistencies in them; quality is not a defining factor of gatekeepered (yes, that is a word – now) fiction).

However, from the few details that Amazon have released about this program already, I have reservations about how effective this will truly be. The key point for me is that voters get a free copy of books they vote for. What does this mean? It means that they are encouraged to vote for what they want to read, but not for something they would be willing to pay for.

For many, this might be the same thing. For others, they can go in, vote for loads of random stuff, and wait for the freebies to turn up on their Kindle. Do I care about people gaming the system? No.

Amazon is using Scout as a way to predict what books will sell. But it’s not asking voters to put their money where their mouth is. Also, it’s giving away books to people who might otherwise pay for them, robbing the author of that chunk of income.

Really, Amazon? I get that you need to entice reader into the system to vote for books, but couldn’t you have offered them half price copies? Compromised?

Once again, I see Amazon offering very delicious rewards to enter into a system they want to build up quickly. And once again, I am dubious of the outcome of it all.

Then let’s think about the type of books that are likely to get the popular vote. What about niche books? Genre? What are the chances of this giving us a slew of new Twilights?

Actually, I’m not sure I want to think about that at this point. Let’s move on.



All right, let’s say you want to give this thing a go. What do you need to do? You need to provide a book that is complete and ready for publishing. What does that mean? Here’s a list:

  • Fully edited manuscript ready to be published
  • Cover
  • Bio and photo of you
  • One-liner for the book
  • Blurb for the book
  • Other related marketing materials

In short: you have to do everything a self-publishing author has to do. Put another way: Amazon are providing nothing as part of the publishing deal to prepare your book for publishing. The cost of all of this is yours, and the quality is all dependent on you.

(Note: consider the usual breakdown of who pays for what in a contract situation. This is flexible, depending on your contract, but be aware that these are all things that can be negotiated on and they all influence the money side of the deal. Or, they should!)

This is an important point. Why? Read on.


The Publishing Deal

Okay, so let’s say you’ve won the public over and got the contract in your hot little hands. Awesome! So, what do you get?

A $1,500-dollar advance. Sweet! According to Jim C Hines, this is on par with a very small publisher’s advance, not mainstream or traditional-level publishing. Hmm, it’s a little sweet.

50% royalty for ebook sales! That’s way better than a traditional deal! Right? Actually, it could turn out to be a lot worse. Reputable publishing contracts offer royalties on the sale price of the book (gross); this is the norm for traditional contracts. Amazon, however, is offering royalties on the profit from book sales (net). The distinction is crucial.

For me, this is the chief factor that means this is a bad contract for authors.

Writer Beware has a thorough write-up of why this kind of deal is not good for writers. Let’s hit the main points of contention:

  • Royalties from gross mean publishers have to manage their own costs and sell the books at a sufficient price to pay the authors their fee and make a profit for themselves. Traditional publishing agreements are more like partnerships.
  • Royalties from net mean that the publisher isn’t a partner; the author is their customer. The costs reduce what they have to pay the author, and they are making profit twofold: from the sale of the book and from the sale of their publishing services to the author. It is not in Amazon’s interests to keep the costs low, but rather to inflate them. The author has no visibility or control over this.
  • The author has no control over the price of the book. (This is stated in the Kindle Press terms and conditions.) This means that Amazon can price the book any way they like, discount it, or just plain reduce it to cost if they like. It is very easy for them to squeeze an author’s royalties down to nothing.

Be suspicious. Be very suspicious. Authors can easily wind up with very little return for their work, while Amazon has the scope to make all kinds of profit from the sales.

(Side note: Random House tries this tactic in early 2013 when they brought out their Alibi and Hydra imprints. Respected sources like Writer Beware and John Scalzi advised writers to run away then. This is scarily familiar.)

(Other note: this isn’t the first time that Amazon have offered net royalties. They also did this on their Kindle Worlds scheme to publish authorised fanfic.)

Also, the offered royalty rate is lower than the KDP one. KDP Select and some KDP sales earn 70% on the list price. My first question is: why?

In traditional contracts, lower royalty rates are a trade-off in exchange for publishing services: editing, cover art, marketing expertise, etc. However, in this contract, Amazon is asking authors to do all of that themselves (see the Submission information above). They already have an engine to automatically convert files into ebooks for free. So what are they doing to earn their 50% of the profits?

Marketing? Advertising? Possibly. However, the contract is vague on this point and makes no firm commitment.

Basically, authors are expected to do everything a self-published author would do, but pay Amazon like it’s a traditional publisher. This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder if I’m missing something.

On top of that, the contract also offers 20/25% royalties on audio and translation sales. However, Amazon make no commitment to making those publications actually happen The contract is unclear just who would pay for the audio to be produced or the text to be translated. Given what they expect for the initial manuscript, why would we assume they’re willing to outlay any money at all? If so, how do they justify such low royalties? How is a book in French any different to a book in German, when it comes to digital files and royalties?

(Note: I don’t know the normal kinds of royalties for audio books. If anyone can give me some insight, please do!)

Compared to their own KDP Select program, I’m struggling to see what kind of advantage an author would have as part of the Kindle Scout program.

In a publishing deal, it is expected that both sides take a risk. The publisher invests capital to get the book published and out there, and the author trusts the publisher to help make their book a success, and not let it languish in licensing rights hell for years on end, never to see the light of day. Risk on both sides, resting on the faith that this book that both parties are investing in will sell well.

Apart from a measly initial outlay of $1,500, Amazon are taking no risk at all. And considering the millions they’re pumping into the KDP Select program right now, that hardly seems like a drop in the bucket. The risk is all on the author.

Those are the scariest parts of the contract. There are many more items in it than that, and I encourage you to take a look.


Preying on Inexperienced Authors

This is a big concern of mine. I consider myself fairly savvy, and even I’m surprised about just how brazenly unethical and disreputable Amazon’s terms are.

I worry that writers won’t question those terms enough. Amazon is doing a good job of spotlighting the parts they want people to see. It’s easy to be dazzled and tempted by everything that a publishing contract has to offer. It’s easy to assume that Amazon is good to authors (after all, look at the awesome success stories that have come out of KDP Select, and that was all Amazon, right?). It’s easy to assume that this contract must be a standard publishing one, because why would they offer anything else?

Publishers of all sizes and types offer dodgy contracts all the time. Amazon is not blazing new ground here; part of why I jumped on this so quick is that it is sadly familiar. Reputable sites will tell you that the kind of things I have pointed out are not good for you, your books, or your career.

It’s the inexperienced authors that are most at risk to tactics such as this. First-time authors with dreams in their eyes. I know, I get it; I’ve been there, and sometimes I still feel that way. But please, please, don’t let it blind you.

Beware, my friends. Always get a professional opinion on a deal like this – any deal, Amazon-born or otherwise. Publishing contracts are a minefield and while it’s tempting to skip on through it with delight, because hey, publishing contract, stop. Stop and check and demand a good deal, because you deserve it.

I don’t think any authors deserve what Amazon is offering them.

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Amazon vs Independent Authors: KDP Select and exclusivity

Part of the Amazon is not your friend series. 

Some writers have done well with KDP Select. How does it fit into the big picture?

Some writers have done well with KDP Select. How does it fit into the big picture?

To start us off, I thought we’d delve a little into the history of publishing with Amazon. Namely: the KDP Select program and its impacts.

KDP Select is the main tool Amazon has been using against independent authors, and one of the key ways it is trying to build a monopoly in the ebook business.

What’s that? I’m crazy, do I hear you say? Independent authors who are part of the KDP Select program are making reams of money. It has helped some authors break into the mainstream; helped authors feed their families; built careers; opened doors.

That is true, for a small number of authors. Making money – never mind a living – from writing books is hard. And I’m pleased for them! I always love to hear a good success story. (For the purposes of this post series, I will refer to KDP Select program members as Amazon authors and non-KDP Select authors as indies, because the exclusivity means that Amazon authors are not truly independent.)

Don’t let yourself be distracted by the shiny promises, though: KDP Select is not the gift horse that many will claim it to be. I might even go as far as to say it’s dangerous. Why, you ask? Because in order to be a member, you have to give Amazon exclusive rights to your work (specifically, to every book you make a part of the program). You cannot put any books enrolled in the program out through any other store. Amazon wants them all to itself.

Let me pause here to make this point: this is not a publishing contract: it’s a distribution agreement. Distribution agreements for books are not exclusive with any other distributor or store (traditional publishing contracts are exclusive and that’s normal, but as I said, that’s not what this is). This, if nothing else, raises a red flag.

What does this mean for an independent author? One who wants to have their books available in every store on the planet, to reach every possible audience, on every device? One who doesn’t sign up to be exclusive? It means you are severely disadvantaged in the Amazon marketplace. Increasingly, independent authors are being excluded from the distribution that Amazon has to offer. It is a carrot-and-stick methodology.

When I first published my ebooks with Amazon, I saw no real reason to join the KDP Select program. Sure, I missed out on a few bumps in marketing and exposure, and wasn’t included in their lender’s library, but the trade-off with having access to more stores (and potential readers) was worth it (I publish through Smashwords to a whole heap of book sources, including the iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony, libraries, Oyster, etc, as well as through KDP). I had access to the same royalties as KDP Select authors, so it was all good in my book.

Oh, how things change. Since then (2010), Amazon has changed the rules of the game. Every time it opens a Kindle store in a new country, indie authors are no longer allowed the same royalties as Amazon authors. Instead of the competitive 70% royalty, we’re restricted to only the 35% royalty for sales through those stores. It hasn’t taken away the 70% royalty available in a handful of stores, but still, 35% and an invitation to KDP Select is what we get for almost half of the available Amazon Kindle stores now.

In addition to this, KDP gives all of its authors (Select and non-Select) only 35% royalty for any books under $2.99 and over $9.99. What does this mean? It means that the most lucrative price points (around $1.99 – $3.99, according to the latest Smashwords analysis), and the books with the biggest returns (because their prices are larger) pay authors the least money. I don’t know of any other store that does this. (Side note: it’s not unusual for non-fiction ebooks to be over $9.99, so it’s possible this hits non-fiction indies more than fiction.)

I know of no other store that puts such restrictions on its pricing, and I can see no good reason to do this. Delivering a $10 ebook costs no more than delivering a $5 ebook, so why does Amazon suddenly need more of the list price?

Let me be clear on this: Amazon’s 35% is the worst royalty offered to indie authors for ebook sales. The next lowest that I know of is 60%: almost double what Amazon is giving indies. (If anyone knows of a worse rate, please, I’d like to know!)

Allow me to add another bit of context: in recent communications (which another post will go into detail on), Amazon is claiming to want to give authors more ‘fair’ royalties for ebook sales. They’re not so willing to back up this claim by offering a royalty that is even remotely fair or competitive themselves, however.

There are other services that indie authors are excluded from. The Kindle library is one, and lately Amazon have added Kindle Unlimited, their new subscription service. Only KDP Select books will be available in this service, tying authors more and more tightly to the Amazon banner.

(It also doesn’t live up to its name. Unlimited? They’ve limited it to exclusive books. Fail, Amazon, fail.)

Do I believe that Amazon should allow everyone the same advantages? No, I don’t. This isn’t some whine about why Amazon authors have all the cool toys. What it does with its store is its choice, but let’s be clear on what this all means:

  • Indie authors are disadvantaged in their store and services.
  • Amazon claims to want to promote a good reader culture and have everything available at low prices, but actively excludes books from its services.
  • Amazon claims to want authors to get a better slice of royalties, but refuses to give a rate even close to the standard to indie authors.

Amazon is shameless in demanding exclusivity in a way that no other store would dare. And let’s remember: Amazon is a store, not a publisher. It only supports one e-reading device, too, which has implications all on its own. It’s like a movie only being playable on a single brand of Bluray player, or an mp3 album that only plays on a single brand of smartphone.

It’s an outrageous demand. In single cases, this might happen, but the KDP Select program is much larger than this. It is becoming the rule, not the exception.

How is Amazon getting away with this? Because it’s big enough and aggressively muscling other stores aside. The more people who sign up with the KDP Select program, the more support and weight Amazon has. The reason that it has so much power is that we – indie authors – are giving it to them. This doesn’t look good for the long term.

Not convinced? Check out the Smashwords opinion of what exclusivity will do to the market and for indie authors. Mark Coker says it way better than I have!

So am I telling authors that they shouldn’t join the KDP Select program? I believe it is completely each author’s choice, and I believe in arming those authors with the most complete information I have available. The KDP Select program is a good source of income for many writers, and it’s an easy route to having some success with your book. All those enticements it offers are good for those who take part – for now. All I ask is that authors are aware of the cost. Be aware that exclusivity hurts other book stores and supports Amazon’s monopolistic strategy.

Be aware of what you’re signing up to, what you’re signing away, and what it all means in the long run, and then decide what is most important to you.

Personally, I can’t in all conscience sign up to the program. I have been tempted many times, but the more I see of Amazon and the big picture looming before us, the more I shy away.

More on all this soon!

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Amazon is not your friend

Amazon, the behemoth that started out as an online bookstore.

Amazon, the behemoth that started out as an online bookstore.

There’s a lot going around about Amazon right now: in the press, on social media, blogs, forums, etc. Anyone who loves books would probably have to work hard not to hear about it. I’ve been meaning to react to it for a while but haven’t been able to get to it. I think it’s time I put my thoughts down here.

Let me start with a simple statement: Amazon is not your friend. I don’t care if you’re a reader, a writer, or a customer who buys gadgets from the megastore: Amazon is not your friend.

Amazon is a business. It cares about its bottom line (and it has historically struggled to turn a profit) and it cares about keeping its shareholders happy. That’s it. It does not care about books, the book industry, or those who create it. It doesn’t care about the ‘reader community’. It doesn’t even care about its own employees.

It is claiming the opposite. Don’t believe a word of it; this is an underhanded tactic to excuse its business practices and tactics. They’re trying to get you on their side so you don’t look too closely at what’s really going on.

From everything I’ve seen over the past year or two, Amazon is attempting to build itself a monopoly in the book industry. This is a bad thing for everyone involved in the industry, from creators to publishers to distributors to stores to consumers. There are reasons why there are laws against monopolies.

But the law would stop them if that was the case, right? Well, clearly it hasn’t yet. I’m putting together a lot of pieces and seeing a pattern, but it might not be formed enough for formal proceedings yet. I’m not sure. I’m most worried about where current actions are heading, and the damage that is being done in the meantime.

The more I think and write about this, the longer this post gets. To make it easier for everyone to digest, I’m going to break this down and post the chunks individually.

Here are the chunks I have so far:

  • Amazon vs Independent Authors: KDP Select
  • Amazon vs Independent Authors: KDP Select Fund
  • Amazon vs Big Publishing: the Hachette Battle
  • Amazon vs Authors: the Hachette Battle
  • Amazon vs Big Publishing: direct competition

Watch this space (and the Amazon tag); I’ll try to keep these pieces going up regularly.

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Rise of Short Stories?

Squirrels, distracting people since... what was I saying? (Picture by pepion11)

Squirrels, distracting people since…
what was I saying?
(Picture (including grammatical error) by pepion11)

I recently read an interesting article about how the shortening of our attention spans was causing the rise of short stories. The internet’s easily-consumable morsels mean that our attention spans are shortening, and therefore short stories are becoming a lot more popular.

It sounds so very logical, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near that simple.

Now, I can completely believe that the internet and the vast array of content that is begging for digital consumption is changing the way we approach and digest information. Items online, whether text, image, or video, have a very short window with which to grab our attention, but I don’t think this is ADHD-related, and I don’t think that we get bored and wander off, unable to maintain focus for more than- SQUIRREL.

Online, people are becoming increasingly savvy in making quick judgements about whether or not a piece of content is worth their time. It’s not possible to absorb the whole internet and it’s actually pretty hard to find the good stuff. If you’re looking for something new, you have to dip your toe in and try the water, before you find what you want to dive into.

In that way, online content is its own advert, and the same kind of snap-judgement methodology applies: grab them quick or lose them forever.

So how does this all apply to fiction?

It means that the opening to your story is crucial. If you don’t have a kick-ass hook in the first paragraph – preferably the first sentence – then readers are less likely to read your story.

Is this new? No, this is advice that I have been hearing my whole life, and wasn’t new when it was first given to me (I am, sadly, old enough for this to have been before the internet became a Thing). It’s good advice whether you’re writing a short story or a novel, and whether you’re going to sell/distribute on paper or electronically. The old-fashioned version of clicking away is putting the book back on the shelf, or flipping the page to a different short story.

What about the rising popularity of short fiction online? Personally, I don’t think it’s as simple as ‘people prefer bite-sized fiction’. That might be a factor, but the truth is, short fiction has always been popular. Anthologies have always existed, and magazines and newspapers have hosted short stories for centuries. They are a mainstay because people like and read them.

However, it has never been lucrative nor easy to publish short stories. An author couldn’t publish individual short stories, because they were too small to form a viable print run (usually due to cost but sometimes also on physical or practical level). They were forced to combine stories into anthologies to make it worth putting them through the printing press, or submitting to newspapers and magazines. (There’s nothing wrong with any of this!)

With the rise of the ebook, however, things changed. ‘Book’ length was no longer an issue, because ebooks don’t go through printing presses. The reliance on ‘preferred novel length’ for a published book fell away and authors can freely publish ebooks containing individual short stories. Add to that the ease of being able to post a short story on a website, and you have two very fundamental changes to the way that short stories have been made available to readers.

Similarly, novellas are now much easier to make available to readers, for the same reasons. Printing a novella was always tricky (unless you’re writing for Mills and Boon), but digital copies are much easier and less restricted.

Side note: let’s also not attribute any of this to Kindle Singles as the article linked above does; it may have helped, but it was only jumping on the bandwagon that was already in motion and picking up speed. Ebooks have been flexible in their length since their inception and Amazon haven’t pioneered any of this (my short prequel ebook, approximately 7,000 words, was out before Kindle Singles was announced).

Long story short (ha ha), it’s much easier for authors to provide and for readers to find short stories online than it was when they were on paper. Is it a surprise that readers are consuming more short fiction now than they were pre-internet? Not really.

What about a rising preference for short stories? I haven’t seen any evidence that this is happening. Yes, readers may be consuming more short stories than in the past, but not to the detriment of longer fiction. In fact, the sales statistics suggest the opposite is true: ebook consumers prefer longer books, according to the statistics that Smashwords analyses annually. This has been the case for the past few years.

So what does this all mean? TL;DR version:

  • Fiction is now more accessible in all of its forms, including short(er than novels)*.
  • Readers love bite-sized stuff
  • Readers prefer long (100,000+ words) fiction overall
  • There is a healthy, rich market for short stories and novellas, and authors should go out and make the most of it!

* And poetry, flash fiction, epics, serials, etc.

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What am I up to?

Look! It’s a tiny writing dragon! (Picture by jrrhack)

In an effort to be more proactive about self-promotion, I’ve been thinking about the resources available on this site and upgrading them.

Truly, what I should do is build a new author website and move all this content over there. I already have the domain (, but getting it built is going to be a chunk of work. I’ll need to hire an artist to do the banners I want (I already know what I want to do there). I’ll probably need to learn some more CSS to make it look the way I want, too (or hire someone to do that, and that’s beyond me at the moment, too!).

Rather than hang around and wait for ‘one day’ when I might get to all that, I decided to go ahead and build out this site. At least the content will be easy to transpose, should I get the full author website sorted.

Hence, we now have a handy My Writing section here on this site. What is it? Go take a look, lazy!

…I’m kidding; of course I’ll tell you. It lists the stories I’ve done that you can access right now, with links to my ebooks on every store they’re available as well as the original websites. I’ll be working to expand the links available as I find my way into different stores, libraries, and subscription services.

Under that, the Works in Progress page lists, predictably, the things I’m working on at the moment. I’m hoping to keep this up-to-date as I work through stuff (I change projects so infrequently that it shouldn’t fall behind too often).

You may also note that stuff I’m not actively working on is listed on that latter page, too. This is stuff that I have in the works and mean to get to… sometime. Some of it’s old, some of it’s new, some of it I have talked about before to varying degrees. Most of it is ticking over in my brain in some capacity or other.

Maybe these pages will be a kick up the arse for me to get moving with some of this stuff. Fingers crossed, right?

What do you think? Is this worth doing? Of interest?

Got any comments about the projects that are listed there? Suggestions? Requests? Reactions? I’d love to hear them!

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Looking Forward: 2014

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time. (Picture by Mykl Roventine)

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time.
(Picture by Mykl Roventine)

We’re already a couple of weeks into 2014, but it’s not too late to set goals! Let’s see what I’ve got on my list for this year.

I should perhaps add a caveat that I’m going to be a bit more conservative than I was last year. Struggles with my health and energy levels are forcing me to be a bit more realistic, as goals I know I can’t reach just depress and discourage me. If I go above and beyond, then fantastic. But this is what I’ll be happy with achieving. Maybe a little more. I like to aim high, even if I’m pulling my focus in slightly.

Home / Work

Might as well get this stuff out of the way! My goals here involve:

  • Keeping up with the day job as I am currently. It’s going well, I’m always learning new stuff, and it enables me to do all of those other things that make me happy. I’m lucky enough to have a good group of people around me, too, and I’m thankful for that.
  • Finishing up the big change-around at home. The first phase of this is done, and it’s going great. There’s still some tidy-up work to do and the next phase to knock over before I’ll be content with how things are. This will make things easier for me at home, releasing more time and energy for other things.
  • Beating my health with a stick until it behaves. Worth a try, right?



Ah, the beloved web serial. Book 4 is well underway and I’m aiming to finish this particular story arc (and book) this year. Will there be a Book 5? At this stage, I’m honestly not sure – there are a couple of places the story could go after the end of the current trials, but I don’t have any set plans for that yet.

It’s also possible that it’s time to put a pin in that particular project and move on to one of the others on my list. Do I have much more story left to tell there? Would it benefit from a break? All good questions, and no doubt I’ll be asking them right up until it’s time to make a decision. Which will probably be around the end of Book 4, whenever that happens.

Could that be the end of Starwalker? Unlikely. It just might change from its current pattern.

Here’s what I have in mind for this year’s tasks:

  • Finish Book 4. Unless it extends beyond the end of this year, but right now that’s not looking likely.
  • Edit Book 1. A light edit is partially done; I’m looking to finish the edit off and tidy it up for potential submission to publishers.
  • Do more shorts. Elliott’s one is fighting me, but I’m determined to defeat his story and release it into the wild. I have a list of others to do, too, and aim to get to some more of them as well.
  • Look at publication options. By the end of the year, I’d like to have sorted out my options and decided what I want to do. The Kickstarter is still a possibility.

Vampire Electric

I’m loving how the second draft of this story is coming out. This year, I’d like to continue with the second draft and see if I can get closer to finishing it. It’s falling into 3 parts and the first part is almost done. One more NaNo should give me the second part, at least. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on it a bit more than that, but that will depend on other commitments (and potentially whether Starwalker is still running as a serial).

I’m also considering putting this up as a serialised novel, once the second draft is done. Effectively, I’d be serialising the third draft, as all I’d be doing is editing and posting. However, considering how much more there is to write in the second draft, I have no idea if I’ll even start this in 2014.

It’s entirely possible that I have already bought the domain for such a serialisation, however. Ahem.

Tales from the Screw Loose

Recently, I had a little squee moment when my brain stumbled over the missing piece for this story. I finally have everything I need to start writing this one! Except for time and opportunity, of course.

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll write this one as a serial, or as a background project to be serialised later (like I’m considering with Vampire Electric). I’m pretty sure that I will serialise it somehow. A lot will depend on Starwalker and whether I keep that going as a serial, as that will dictate my capability for writing another fresh, off-the-cuff serial. (Trying to write two serials at the same time would be a recipe for disaster for me. Let’s keep things realistic!)

I’d like to get all of the groundwork laid for this story this year. Maybe even start the first draft (or set of posts). A lot will depend on how the two projects above are going!

Apocalypse Blog

Ahh, the good old Apocalypse Blog. I’ve got new covers and fresh edits to apply. I mean to sort these out! Get the books all redone and shiny, and publish them on all the outlets I can get my e-fingers on. I’ll also be changing up the pricing structure to reflect the latest trends. I’d like to rejuvenate the sales for my beloved trilogy and see my graphs go back up again. That would be lovely.

I’m still getting requests for a fourth book on this series. Which I love! I’m so happy that people are enjoying it. I don’t have any fixed plans for a fourth book, but I have notes lying around for some shorts. No promises at this point, but if an idea from this world bites strongly enough, I’ll write it.


Last year, I wrote a couple of shorts for anthologies. This year, I hope to see them published, but that depends on the projects in question. Watch this space!

I’m also looking at putting together my own anthology this year. I’ve got a few themes in mind to choose from, and the kernels of ideas for stories. Still working out details, but I’m aiming to have one released (to the public! to buy and read!) this year. This will be a collaboration effort, rather than an anthology of my work – I’ll be writing one story for it, maybe, and editing, collating, and typesetting the whole thing for release. I have a couple of friends I’ll be working with on this, so it’s not just me.

This is a first for me. I’m not sure how it’ll all go, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting to find out! Need to polish up my ability to write short stories. Also need to figure out more of the back end side of doing a project like this.

I love learning new things.

Writing Community

I adore my local writing community, and that I get to help shape it. I have no intention of stopping, because of all the wonderful help, support, and encouragement I get from the awesome people around me.

Creative Writing Group

Into its sixth year now and still going strong. This year, we have a new time-slot to experiment with, later in the evening, and it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I took a poll of the subjects that the group wanted to talk about at the end of last year, and I’m curious to see how that list works out. I have a few topics to research so we can talk about them, and that’s all good.

Writers’ Asylum

This was an experiment last year and went so well that I’m doing another one. Preparation for this is going well (I got the prompts written recently), and I’ll be lining this up for April soon. Watch this space!


Can’t go without mentioning this. I fully intend to resume my Municipal Liaison mantle for the 8th year, and we’ll be having fun with the usual events. Plus, there are plans for a new-style Kick-off Party and another Writer’s Retreat. The ball for the Retreat will probably start rolling soon (organising an event this big has to be done well in advance). I’m looking forward to the awesomeness already.

Is that everything? I think that’s everything.

Oh, except that a friend and I have been sorting out setting up an editing service. It’s a way for us to do what we love and raise some money in the process. I’m both eager to get going on this and reeling at the thought. Right now, it’s on a pause until I can get stuff at home more settled. Then I’ll be able to give it the attention and devotion it deserves.

More on this in (hopefully) the near future. For now, I have a set of goals before me. So enough talking about it: let’s get going. Onwards, my friends!

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2013: A Retrospective

2013. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I can’t believe I’m a week into 2014 and I’m only just getting to this.

I just pulled up my goals post from the beginning of 2013, and wow. The year went so differently to what I had planned. But I guess life would be boring if it was all that easy to plot out, right?

Let’s break it down a bit and see what I managed to achieve and what fell by the wayside.


This one went pretty much as I had hoped. It has been a busy year with occasional bouts of stress, but for the most part it has been secure and steady. Thanks, workplace.

Home Stuff

This is a big part of what changed for me this year. The financial stuff has settled down and that’s a layer of stress that has lifted off me. Score one for me!

However, my folks were both called away several months ago, and they’re currently on the other side of the world. Nothing to worry about: they’re staying with my brother for a while and playing with the grandkids. All good! We share a house, so I’m currently housesitting and catsitting and generally taking care of everything at this end for them. Which, to be clear, I don’t mind in the least, but it is an extra overhead that I didn’t have before.

What I didn’t expect was just how much those little things would impact everything else. I’ve lived on my own before, looked after a house (and its associated furry inhabitants) by myself before, but this time around it’s different. I’m struggling way more than I ever have before. I think my health is just so much worse now and that’s making it difficult for me to keep up. In truth, I haven’t been coping well, and I’ve had to call in friends to help out when my energy reserves just failed me.

In struggling to keep up with things at home, everything else has been impacted. This is because my priorities have to be:

  1. Work, so I can pay to eat and live
  2. Home stuff, so I eat and live
  3. Writing, so I can breathe and be me.

For the latter months of 2013, I spent some time trying to figure out how to make things work at home. It has involved shuffling some things around (not moving house, but moving a lot of stuff around inside the house; this is a work in progress, but it’s getting there); paying someone to pick up the things I don’t have energy for, like the cleaning; and toying with the idea of getting in a lodger. The lodger idea has slipped into the background for now, and I have a few ideas for improvements to help things go more easily for me at home, but it’s getting better. Slowly and surely!

It has been a big change for me. I hadn’t realised just how much I had become used to sharing a house (and all its associated work) with my folks, and how much I relied on their help and input on a day-to-day basis. I’m so grateful for my friends and all the help they’ve given me as I’ve been working to adjust and cope; I would be in such a mess now if it wasn’t for them.


Yeah, it’s crappy. The CFS has been getting worse for a while and I’m struggling along on empty all the time now. I’m budgeting my time and activities more frugally than I’ve ever had to before. For those familiar with the spoons theory, I have fewer spoons to play with these days.

I’ve had a little bit of progress. The tests I had towards the beginning of the year highlighted about three separate issues that I needed to deal with. Things are improving there, slowly. Sadly, these are all digestion-related, and while my tummy is happier these days (most of the time), it hasn’t led to an improvement in energy levels.

The CFS is an ongoing battle. It forces me to prioritise things very strictly, and getting on top of things at home has been more important than chasing the unicorn of a successful CFS treatment. It might sound counter-intuitive, but I needed to get the immediate concerns sorted out so that I have the leeway to tackle the longer-running problems like CFS. I don’t have the mental or emotional energy to handle both at once.

As the home stuff gets sorted, I hope to get time to devote attention to my shitty health. In the meantime, I plough on.


Here’s the really interesting stuff. The short version of this post is that it hasn’t gone anywhere near as far as I had hoped. But let’s break it down a bit.


The web serial is still going strong! It’s into its fourth book now and heading swiftly towards its fourth birthday. Hard to believe I’ve been writing it for that long! My readers continue to be a delight and a wonderfully supportive blanket. They have been so understanding about the posts I’ve had to miss because I was simply too sick to make it (and I’ve done it far more than I’m comfortable with). I’m so grateful for them. I still love the story and even though it’s getting harder to keep up, I have every intention of pushing on and trying hard.

I talked about making the first trilogy into ebooks. Maybe running a Kickstarter campaign and having a whole plan – I actually got as far as writing out the plan. This has largely been skittled by the issues above; my priority is keeping the web serial posts going, and work on editing the first book is very much a background task now.

As for the shorts, I have a pile of ideas brimming but little to no time to get them down. The fourth one of the series is almost written, but it’s fighting me and I’ve been letting it rest so I can come back at it fresh. Not much progress here.

Vampire Electric

(Picture from

(Picture from

I had hoped to finish the first draft. What I wound up doing this year was quite different: I have abandoned the first draft about 70% complete, and started over. It was my NaNoWriMo 2013 project, and I used November to start fresh on the second draft of this story. I knew a lot of the things I wanted to fix or do better or differently, and I think it worked. It’s coming out much stronger now, though I’m only about a third of the way in. On the plus side, I have a good idea of how it’s going to end now, and I still can’t wait to write it.

Tales from the Screw Loose

I aimed to get all the prep done for this. I wound up doing a load of planning during my NaNo prep, so I’ve actually achieved this! There are still a couple of key things that I’m still figuring out to tie it all together, so it’s not quite ready to start writing, but it’s ticking over in the back of my brain. Soon, my pretties, soon.

Apocalypse Blog

Not as much progress here as I’d like. My sales dived into the toilet and I’ve been working to kick them back up again, to no avail. This is mostly because I haven’t got to the point where I could put my work into the public domain and actually do said kicking. On the plus side, I have fresh edit feedback on the ebooks and a set of shiny new covers all ready to go. I just need to put them all together into ebooks again and re-release them.


I haven’t been entirely idle this year! I joined in on a couple of anthologies that were being put together through a group on Goodreads. I have written my stories and sent them through, but both projects have foundered since then (not due to my involvement, I promise!). One of them is back up and running now, and I have hope that it will see the light of day in the next year. Fingers crossed for the other one.

Community and Events

2013-ML-Facebook-ProfileI’m still heavily involved in my local writing community. NaNoWriMo is still a big event for me, full of events to organise and run, and explains why this blog went so chillingly silent after 1st November rolled around. We did a bigger and better than ever Retreat, lots of write-ins, and lots of fun was had. Plus I got nearly 50,000 words of that second Vampire Electric draft done, which makes me happy.

The Creative Writing Group is still going strong. Five years old and still rolling. This makes me insanely happy. Lots of interest and enthusiasm from old and new faces alike, so definitely nothing to complain about here.

I also did an experiment this year by holding the first Writers’ Asylum. Why do I call it the first? Because it got such good feedback that I think it was a great success and I’ll be doing another one. However, they take so much work to set up that I’m not rushing it: right now, it looks like it’ll be one per year. Otherwise I’d never get my own writing done!


It has been a hell of a year. I haven’t achieved anything like as much as I had hoped. But I’m still here, I’m still moving forward, and I’m grateful for all those things that have gone well. It’s harder than it used to be, but I’m still writing. I still have ideas clogging up my brain and popping out of the woodwork when I least expect it.

I know it’s a bit late for new year’s resolutions (and I never really do them anyway), but I’ll do a 2014 goal-setting post soon. It helps to see it all laid out; I like plans. Here’s hoping that 2014 is the year that I manage to stick to more of what I aim to do!

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