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Monday, July 21, 2014

Unlimited good for Indie authors

From Good E Reader

It looks as if Amazon's announcement of Kindle Unlimited might have been somewhat premature.

Some publishers have signed up for the program, but by no means all.

Major publishers such as HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster will NOT be contributing content with the Kindle Unlimited launch. 
Smaller publishers will play a major role in Unlimited with Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Open Road, Scholastic and Workman. Amazon intends on paying them a wholesale rate for each title opened and read. This direct agreement is also being made to all of the Harry Potter Books via Pottermore and also the Hunger Games Trilogy
This - in the meantime, anyway - is a major boost for Indie authors.
The bulk of the 600,000 titles that are available for Unlimited will be contributing by self-published authors who enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing Select. Writers who participate under this program will automatically be opted in and paid out whenever someone reads 10% of the book or more. The money will be paid to the authors through the one or two million dollars that is added to the KDP Select pool per month.
For the interesting podcast hit the link at the top.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Definitely unlimited

Well, Amazon have done it, just as the rumors suggested.

There is now a Kindle Lending Library.  Their announcement:

Today we are excited to introduce Kindle Unlimited--a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select. With Kindle Unlimited, customers will be able to read as many book as they want from a library of over 600,000 titles. KDP authors and publishers who enroll their books with U.S. rights in KDP Select are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. Inclusion in Kindle Unlimited can help drive discovery of your book, and when your book is accessed and read past 10% you will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund. For the month of July we have added $800,000 to the KDP Select global fund bringing the total to $2 million.

To explain.  KDP Select is an optional program that makes your book exclusive to Kindle. This means that it cannot be made available on any other eBook site, such as Nook.  Up until now, only paid-up members of Amazon Prime were able to borrow KDP Select books. To compensate for lost royalties, Amazon set aside an amount of money every month, and this was divided among the authors whose books were borrowed.  It was rather like the lending schemes that are run in some countries, where the government sets aside an amount that is shared out at Christmas between local authors who have their books in public lending libraries.

So does this new development really provide a "new revenue opportunity" for authors?  Not really, in my opinion. Their books are now available to the general reader, and not just those who belong to Amazon Prime -- but that is not necessarily an advantage. More books will be borrowed, but the amount of money in the monthly fund is still capped, so the shares will simply be smaller.

That's the way it happens in the government schemes, anyway.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Kindle Unlimited?

From Digital Book World

Amazon is testing an all-you-can-read subscription ebook service to compete with firms like Scribd and Oyster, according to multiple blogs, citing Web pages on that have now been removed.
The service is reportedly dubbed “Kindle Unlimited” and has over 600,000 titles for $9.99 a month, many from Amazon Publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing, the self-publishing arm of Amazon. A quick survey byGigaOm revealed no “big five” publishers in the mix. Both HarperCollins and Simon &Schuster do business with Scribd and Oyster, which offer a selection of about 400,000 each to readers for $8.99 and $9.95 a month, respectively.
No word yet on how the service would work in conjunction with the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows Amazon Prime customers who also own Kindle devices to borrow one ebook a month free of charge. Also no details have emerged on how authors and publishers will be compensated. Amazon has not yet responded to request for comment.
UPDATE: Publishers Lunch is reporting that at least some publishers will be paid as if an ebook has been purchased every time one is read on the Kindle Unlimited platform. Scholastic has confirmed as much.
According to cached pages linked by GigaOm, Kindle Unlimited offers “unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device for just $9.99 a month.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Strangling vines, thuggery, and the Raj

It was yet another unexpected outcome of visiting the Wellington Public Library.

The library's website, that is.

Being immersed deeply in the India that Eleanor, wife of Captain Reid of the East Indies ship Friendship, found in September 1800, I am reading anything pertinent to Calcutta of her period. So, my search of the library catalogue simply asked for books on the subject of the East India Company.

And for some strange reason a novel came up.  A first novel by non-fiction writer, M. J. Carter.

Did I want to read it?

Here is the annotation on the library website.

'M.J. Carter has cooked up a spicy dish: a pinch of Moonstone, a dash of Sherlock and a soup├žon of Fu Manchu added to a rich stew of John Masters. A splendid romp and just the job for a cold winter's evening in front of a blazing fire' William Dalrymple Calcutta 1837. 

The East India Company rules India - or most of it; and its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing.William Avery, a down-at-heel junior officer in the Company's army, is sent to find him, in the unlikely company of the enigmatic and uncouth Jeremiah Blake. A more mismatched duo couldn't be imagined, but they must bury their differences as they are caught up in a search that turns up too many unanswered questions and seems bound to end in failure.What was it that so captivated Mountstuart about the Thugs, the murderous sect of Kali-worshippers who strangle innocent travellers by the roadside? Who is Jeremiah Blake and can he be trusted? And why is the whole enterprise shrouded in such secrecy?
I imagine that this is the publisher's blurb.  Who, I wonder, is William Dalrymple?  A descendant of the East India Company hydrographer who did his best to sink Captain James Cook's career?  That, and the over-the-top blurb almost dissuaded me, but the book, I found, was in the local branch library, so next trip into the village, I took it out.

And I am very pleased that I did.  The blurb does the writer a grave disservice.  Instead of comparing her to old detective story writers, I would liken her to the Indian novelist who made the Booker shortlist with Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh.  The characters are as alive, and the writing as harshly brilliant.  There is the same vividness, the sense of being there, in that place and at that time.

In the story, a silly young officer, William Avery, is coerced into agreeing to head upriver from Calcutta in search of a mad poet he greatly admires, Xavier Mountstuart. His companion is to be a European fakir, Jeremiah Blake, and they are to be escorted by two Indians.  On the eve of their departure, Avery's best friend is murdered, and his reputation disgraced.  Therein lies the only mystery.  This is NOT a detective novel.

Instead, it is a fascinating picaresque, with the mission of questioning the reader's acceptance of the myth (or maybe not a myth) of thuggery -- thugs being members of a sect who worship the warlike Kali, and waylay innocent travelers to murder them in the goddess's name.

When I returned the book today, I recommended it to the librarian, who said, "Is it violent?"

My answer was no.  This is a book that you could read alone in the house at night.  But it is also one that will leave you thinking deeply about India and the Raj, and whether our mental pictures of the Orient in the nineteenth century are, in fact, correct. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Katherine Mansfield recipe

Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand's iconic author was also, it seems, a keen cook.

Thee Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington reports that a significant recent acquisition is the last of the Katherine Mansfield material held by the estate of John Middleton Murry.

While a lot of it is writing-related, including previously unread story drafts and letters, there were some intriguing scraps, including handwritten recipes for Orange Souffle and cold-water scones.

And here is the Orange Souffle ...

Grate the rind of one orange, & one lemon, put into saucepan with the juice of each, the yolks of three eggs & half a breakfast cup of sugar, stir this until it becomes the thickness of honey, beat up the whites of eggs to a stiff froth & add to mixture, not letting it boil furiously, just for a few minutes to become well mixed, then turn into dish with or without spoon cake at bottom sopped in sherry wine & raspberry jam, under these final conditions it would be called a party pudding!

Personally, if there was a sherry-soaked sponge at the bottom, I would call it a very fancy trifle.

What is interesting, too, is that it was obviously written down to dictation.  So I wonder about the friend who shared this recipe with her.  Who was she?  And what was the occasion?

Apparently, the recipe was tried out at the 2012 Katherine Mansfield conference, and everyone pronounced it delicious.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wiki Coffin makes the longlist....

From Craig Sisterson's CrimeWatch blog, devoted to Kiwi Crime Writing

On the evening of Saturday, 30 August, the fifth recipient of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel will be announced following the Great New Zealand Crime Debate event at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival 2014.

Eight excellent novels are in the running for this year's Award, with an international panel of crime fiction aficionados currently working on whittling down a terrific longlist to find the finalists and a winner. There have been some very close calls and tough decisions in the four years of the Award thus far, but this could be the most unpredictable year yet. It is without doubt the deepest and most diverse longlist in the Award's history.

So here is the official announcement of the eight longlisted titles for the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award:

  • THE LUMINARIES by Eleanor Catton
  • JOE VICTIM by Paul Cleave
  • THE BECKONING ICE by Joan Druett
  • FREDERICK'S COAT by Alan Duff
  • MY BROTHER'S KEEPER by Donna Malane
  • WHERE DEAD MEN GO by Liam McIlvanney
  • CROSS FINGERS by Paddy Richardson
  • ONLY THE DEAD by Ben Sanders

Monday, July 14, 2014

Luther by coincidence

In the weekend, having just blogged about the Luther TV series being nominated for an Emmy, I was jogging through the Wellington Central Library when a title jumped out at me.

Well, not literally.  But it stopped me in my tracks.  Good heavens, I thought, there is a book of the Luther series?

So I carried it home and read it.  It's un-put-down-able -- though there was one stage when I was calling desperately for a cup of tea, and then later on for something a little stronger, as you really do need something reassuring in your hand.  The villain is so plausible, and his crimes so disgusting, that there are moments of real terror.

It is not, as I had thought, "the book of the series."  Instead, it is the prequel of the TV crime series. And I guess, as after my last blog post I had a few comments from people who said they had never heard of Luther, that I had better explain a little.  The three-season (so far) series features a driven detective who hunts down the most unspeakable criminals in the darkest underworld of London. He never sleeps, his marriage is a wreck, his associates are partly fascinated by his brilliant mind, and partly dead-scared of his barely pent-up violence.  That violence, however, is only directed at the criminals -- which of course means that Luther is constantly in trouble for breaking the boundaries.

And did I mention that Luther is played brilliantly by Idris Elba?  And that the camera work is dramatic beyond belief?  And then there is Dr Alice Morgan, the mobile-faced serial murderess played superbly by Ruth Wilson -- a wonderful creation if there ever was one.  There is the same sexual electricity between Alice and Luther that made Billie Piper (Rose) and Dr Who such a compelling combination.

Watch it.  But don't watch it alone.

Anyway, the book. The first episode of the first series of the TV show begins with a serial killer by the name of Henry Madsen dangling from metalwork high in the roof of a disused factory that collapsed while was fleeing from Luther.  Luther, with a supreme effort, could save him.  Instead, he demands to know where Madsen has concealed his latest victim, a little girl. Madsen yells the answer, but Luther wants to know where the rest of the bodies are buried, and in the process Madsen drops ... but not to die.

The book tells you what happened before this little confrontation.  You learn exactly what a travesty of a human Madsen is, what crimes Madsen committed (in detail), and the details of the hunt that tracked him down.  Told in the present tense, in short, staccato sentences, it has the power of a runaway locomotive. The scenes are set in a few, startlingly effective words. You might not know exactly what the characters look like, but you most surely know exactly how they feel. Amazing writing.

Naturally, being a fan of the series, I found the book immensely satisfying.  How would someone who hasn't watched the show react? I'm not sure, but I suspect it is just as good a book for a reader who hasn't met Luther before.

According to Neil Cross's website, the plan is for this to be the first of three books -- once he has got the screenplays written for his latest pirate series, that is.  Personally, I can't wait.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

In the Running for an Emmy

NEIL CROSS, writer of our favorite crime series, is up for an Emmy award.

The England-born author and screenwriter, who now calls Wonderful Wellington his home, has been nominated for outstanding writing for a mini-series, movie or dramatic special for his writing of LUTHER, the BBC crime drama he created.

It is up against American Horror Story, Coven, Fargo, Sherlock, The Normal Heart, and Treme in the same category.

My opinion is that it will be a toss-up between Sherlock and Luther, both having brilliant and iconic lead actors.  But, on the basis of the second series of Sherlock, Luther should be far and away the winner.  Instead of sagging in interest in the sequels, Luther became even more compelling.

Neil Cross also writes excellent crime fiction, in short, increasingly addictive sentences.

The Emmy winners will be announced next month.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Designing a book cover

This morning, this arrived in my inbox, courtesy of Scott Baxter.

An interesting take on the Moby Dick classic, complete with koru whirls, though I am not sure of the provenance.

It led me to explore Moby Dick jackets through the years, which brought up a fascinating site,

Moby Dick: A History in Book Jackets, and Finding a New Design for a New Age:

"A research project highlighting the chronology of Moby Dick book covers, and the process of designing a modern, commercial look for the classic novel."  Three book designers -- Paul McCain, Douglas Clayton, and Linda Prior -- have a look at old covers, analyze font, color, and style, and then design their own versions.

Their thoughts and conclusions encapsulate a very useful guide to Indie authors for designing their own jackets.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Indie bestsellers

A new list. It was painstakingly collated by the folks at GalleyCat

And it is an interesting one, too.

First, the fashion for writers giving their first names as initials booms on.  Personally, I always suspect that the writers with initials who write man-type stuff like thrillers are women, and the writers with initials who write romance are men.

And romance rules.  In the Amazon list, anyways.  Smashwords, intriguingly, has gone the non-fiction route -- and not a bad idea, too.  Most non-fiction books stay on the backlist a lot longer than most novels.

Thirdly, note the lack of Nook and B&N listings.  In view of their poor sales, it's not surprising.

And here goes.

Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of July 9, 2014
1. Where I Belong (Alabama Summer Book 1) by J. Daniels: “When Mia Corelli returns to Alabama for a summer of fun with her childhood best friend, Tessa, there’s only one thing keeping her on edge. One person that she’d do anything to avoid. Benjamin Kelly. World’s biggest dickhead.”
2. Hudson by Laurelin Paige: “Hudson Pierce has led a life few others could even imagine. With money and power at his fingertips, he’s wanted for almost nothing. He’s never experienced love, however, and he’s seen few examples of it in his dysfunctional family. The ridiculous notion of romance has always intrigued him. He’s studied it, controlled it, manipulated it, and has yet to understand it.”
3. Rhett by J.S. Cooper: “I’m Rhett. I’m cocky because I can be. I’ve got it all: the looks, the money, the endurance. I’m the guy that every girl wants to be with, yet none of them have ever been able to tie me down. I don’t do love. I don’t do relationships. And I sure as hell will never do marriage.”
4. A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest: “On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s 17th birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake. A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood. She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine. An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains.”
5. Sweet Addiction by J. Daniels: “Wedding hookups never amount to anything. Those who partake in this wicked little activity know the rules. Get in. Get laid. Get out. There’s no expectation of a relationship. It is what it is. Dylan Sparks knows the rules. She’s familiar with the protocol. And she engages in the best sex of her life with a complete stranger at her ex-boyfriend’s wedding.”
6. Feyland: The Complete Trilogy by Anthea Sharp: “Award-winning YA Urban Fantasy Trilogy ~ All three books in one epic digital bundle.”
7. Pulse Part 4 by Deborah Bladon: “The conclusion to The Pulse Series… Jessica Roth thought she’d found the one man who could fulfill her in every way. He was gorgeous, controlling, amazing in bed and said everything that she desperately wanted to hear. That was, until she heard him say the one thing she never suspected was true.”
8. Take (Temptation Series Book 2) by Ella Frank: “Logan Mitchell is a man who’s always been more than happy to take what he wants. It’s a philosophy that’s proven lucrative in both his business and personal life, and never was it more apparent than the night he laid eyes on Tate Morrison. After pulling out all the stops and convincing the sexy bartender to give him a try—he’s hooked. Now, Logan finds himself in a predicament that demands more from him than a smart-ass answer and his innate ability to walk away when things get too deep.”
9. When Good Friends Go Bad by Ellie Campbell: “All through school, tomboy Jen, snobby Georgina, hippy Meg and gentle Rowan, were inseparable. Until, that is, the unfortunate consequences of a childish prank tore them apart. As adults an attempted reunion went disastrously wrong. Rowan failed to appear. Meg behaved outrageously and ¬¬- sharpest cut of all – Jen discovered just how deeply Georgina had betrayed her.”
10. Pulse Part 3 by Deborah Bladon: “Jessica wanted to believe Nathan was a changed man. The lust filled promises he made in bed are no match for the reality that she’s now holding in the palm of her hand. Sex drives men like Nathan Moore. She suspected it, then experienced it and now there’s absolutely no denying it.”
Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of July 9, 2014
10. Fallen By Callie Hart