27 June 2015

Amazon Royalty System

By the time you read this, Limited Liability may have been voted Book of the Year. Thanks to everyone who voted for it.
This whole book promotion and awards thing got me thinking. What am I really trying to achieve with my writing?

Then the news came from Amazon that they were changing the way they pay authors on Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners Lending Library. It used to be that if someone borrowed one of my books I got an equal share of the fund with everyone else whose book had been borrowed. Now I get a share which is calculated from the number of pages read. I don't know about you but that seems perfectly fair to me. It means that a writer is rewarded for writing well and that authors whose readers can't get beyond the first awful page get nothing.


The KU/KOLL thing only applies to books which are exclusive to Amazon so almost all of them are unreadable self-published crap anyway. The new arrangement will be interesting.

Which brings me back to my original question which I'll pose in a more specific way. If a hundred thousand people bought my book but none of them read it, would I be happy? I doubt it, even if I did have all those royalties in my bank account. What if they all read it but none of them liked it? Again, I'd be rich but unhappy.

Which leads me to the conclusion that I'm writing in the hope that my books will be read and that my readers will enjoy them. So why not give away my work for free? Two reasons. First I need to at least pay my editor, proof reader and cover designer. Secondly, it would brand my work as worthless. There are so many free books out there that most people are no longer interested in them.

I've been very fortunate that my books have been promoted by best selling author Stephen Leather without whose help I wouldn't even be published. Because I've had this help, the Jenny Parker series has done well in terms of sales. The question I ask is have the people who bought my books actually read and enjoyed them?

I just realised that I can answer that question. I have sold several thousand copies of the second Jenny Parker novel, Proceeds of Crime. Those readers will almost certainly have read the first, Due Diligence, and liked it enough to buy the second.

So there you are, I can be officially happy according to my own terms of reference. I can also stop agonising over book sales and Amazon reviews.

I've just finished a fantasy novel involving a character called Tyrant. I enjoyed writing this more than anything I've ever written. It will be out in September and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

17 June 2015

Top Gear

The recent shenanigans over Top Gear have led me to thinking about how that television programme managed to catch the attention of so many people and keep it for so long. There's Clarkson's loutish irreverence, Hammond's innocent face and the willingly lampoonable May but even they have to bow down the the undoubted star of the show.

The Stig.

Since 2002, Top Gear have employed a mysterious racing driver to do all the serious driving on the show and to coach the celebrities who try their hand in the reasonably priced car. I don't think that most viewers would be surprised to know that when they see an external shot of a car powersliding majestically and are cut to a picture of an unruffled Clarkson explaining the controls on the CD player, the two pieces of film have not necessarily been shot at the same time. Or with the same driver. It may even have been a different car. That's TV. And that's why they need the Stig.

The first Stig used to wear a black helmet and he was filmed flying off an aircraft carrier to his screen death. His name was Perry McCarthy.

I remember Perry from his F3 campaign in 1987 which turned out to be a bit of a classic. Johnny Herbert won five out of the first eight rounds but failed to win again against a very strong field that included Damon Hill and Mark Blundell.
The last time I saw Perry was at Brands Hatch in 2012 where he was still racing against his mates from the F3 class of '87 but this time in a VW Scirocco. I don't remember much about the race but the party afterwards was epic. Perry is very good company indeed. He tells me that he finished well ahead of Damon.

I know that the BBC have announced that the cast of Top Gear is changing and that Chris Evans will be taking over but I firmly believe that Perry McCarthy would make a brilliant member of the team. He's funny and he can drive. Two things he does better than Mr Evans, then.

So I don't suppose it'll happen.

If you want to find out what it's like to drive the fastest cars and compete against the best drivers in the world, I recommend Perry's autobiography, Flat Out Flat Broke. It's also very funny.

You can get it here:


US Link


While you're waiting for it to download, please vote for my novel, Limited Liability, in the Book of the Year awards for which it has been shortlisted. It only takes a second or two and no personal details are required.

Book of the Year Awards

Just click on the little circle next to the Limited Liability cover then scroll down to the bottom and press the red VOTE button. Then do the same thing for the Best Cover category.

5 June 2015

How to Write with Style

Kurt Vonnegut is very special to me. I commend to you everything he has written. His life is also worth reading about and Shields' biography provides a very rich and detailed account.
If you've read anything by Vonnegut you'll know how special he is and if you haven't then, golly gosh, you've got a treat coming if you do. Start with Cat's Cradle. And do it right away, don't bother with the rest of this blog post. You can always return to it while you're waiting for the ebook to download.

For the rest of you, I'll mention some of the things Kurt had to say about the art of writing.
First up, he offered eight rules which are:
  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
From the preface to Vonnegut's short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box.
My particular favourite is number 6. If you've read my Jenny Parker series, you'll know that I have very much taken that one to heart.

I also suggest that you read a short article he wrote on 'How to write with style,' the full text of which can be found through the link below.

How to write with style by Kurt Vonnegut

In summary, he suggests the following:

1. Find a subject you care about
2. Do not ramble, though
3. Keep it simple
4. Have the guts to cut
5. Sound like yourself
6. Say what you mean to say
7. Pity the readers
8. For really detailed advice read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

What I really love about Vonnegut is his ability to express the most complex sociological observations in a simple and engaging manner. When he urges us to keep it simple he shows us how it can work so beautifully.
I used to think that to be considered well written, a novel had to be constructed from long sentences using obscure words. Vonnegut, more than anyone else, showed me that using short, common and easily understood words is much more powerful and engaging for the reader. It also means that I can more easily sound like myself.
No matter how much I might try, I'll never be able to write like Vonnegut. That used to make me sad but now I'm happy to write like me.
Thanks, Kurt.
I'll finish with a quote from A Man without a Country
"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"