Monday, 28 January 2013

Why is the Kobo website and software so rotten?

Evening all,

I'm battling the rage! Today I had a number of things I wanted to do. Namely edit more of the final draft of the new book, quick blog, post some stuff on Goodreads and add my books to Kobo.

What have I achieved as I sit here at 7PM? None of the above. Why? KOBO SOFTWARE!!!

Months ago I went to the trouble of uploading a version of The 24 Hour Jazz Cafe to the Kobo bookstore and then forgot all about it, presumably because it's miles easier to do it via Smashwords which does all the hard work for you. I recieved an email the other day from Kobo saying I'd sold a couple of copies of Jazz Cafe. So I thought, sod it, I'll upload the others. How hard can it be?

I kid you not, I have very nearly hurled my laptop through the front window. On two occasions I've had to leave the room to do something else to avoid smashing my fist through the screen, it's that bad.

The pages on the author bit of the Kobo site take an age to load but the actual adding of book info is pretty straightforward. Until you want to upload your book file. Because Kobo uses Epub I decided to upload the Word Doc file which the site then converts. Of course you want to check it's okay first. So you download a preview version. But nothing opens epub files! I tried Mobireader which I use for all my publishing and that wouldn't do it. I downloaded Adobe Digital Editions and the book looked awful, totally unreadable so I have no idea how it will look on a real Kobo.

I know I thought, let's use the Kobo desktop software! AAAAAARRRGGGHHH!! It won't open it's own epub file, downloaded from it's own website!! And it's the slowest thing I've ever used in my life. So I've given up. Life's too short. If you do have a Kobo, and I'm sure the actual ereader device is lovely (it has to be better than the website and desktop software) then you can buy any or all of my books thanks to Smashwords. Just search on the Kobo bookstore and there they are.

Incidentally, I noticed that one of the two people who has bought the Kobo version of the Jazz Cafe gave it a 2 out of 5 rating. Which is fine, though totally at odds with all the 5* Amazon reviews and 5* Goodreads reviews. I can't help wonder if it's because when they opened the book it looked horrid, poorly formatted and was hard to read. If this was the case, I apologise, but the book looks great on Kindle and in paperback. I know because I've seen it. Sadly, owing to the vile Kobo software, I cannot check how my own books look.

Ahh, I feel a bit better now. Right I'm going to have some tea and then spend the evening editing my book. It's a Word document so I'll view it using Microsoft Word. It just works! Bloody rotten Kobo.

Just to finish on a positive, the new book should be out (even on Kobo) by the end of the week.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Is it okay to win at all costs?

Evening gang,

So what does everybody think about Lance Armstrong's confession on Oprah? I've only skimmed through the highlights, if that's the right word, and he didn't seem particularly repentant. Call me a cynic but while he's admitted to the doping etc he didn't seem very sorry and I can't imagine he's suddenly decided to admit to all this cheating without a very good reason.

But the thing that stands out about Lance is this idea of winning at all costs. This week in snowy old Britain we've had a number of high street retailers go into administration, arguably the biggest being HMV. Why is this interesting to me? Well aside from the obvious job losses, empty shop units, economic issues, there's a link to books.

To anyone with any interest in the news it's been no secret that a number of retailers have been in trouble for a while. HMV caught my attention a while ago and I remember talking to colleagues about it months ago saying that they'd be lucky to see out the year. Until recently HMV owned Waterstones but sold it because they needed the funds. But it's no secret that Waterstone's isn't in great shape either.

Now I'm a vocal advocate of paper books, traditional books that you can bend and fold, crease, use to prop things up and chuck at the dog when he's naughty. Although I publish to Kindle I've never owned one and pretty much refused to entertain the notion that they are better than books. Until recently...

I have a library in my house, it's got hundreds of books in it and an antique wooden ladder. I like the smell, how it looks and I like that it never stops growing. I have copies of my own paperbacks on the shelves too. But I bought a 7 inch tablet for the wife this Christmas. She loves it. One of the many apps she's got is the Kindle app. I sent her the draft of my new book to proof read on the tablet instead of printing it like I normally do. She shot through it and I made revisions.

"I'll try it myself I said. I'll read it on the tablet and then I can make live changes on the laptop as I go."

It's brilliant! I almost hate to admit it but it's light, fits in my hand like a paperback, the page turning is natural and fluid and it makes reading as it should be. About the story.

So if they've managed to convert me, where does that leave real books and further more, places like Waterstones? I have no clever answer but it will come as no surprise when we see it on the news that the administrators have been called in.

And that, in a very roundabout, tour de france kind of way, is the point of the topic. Perhaps the high street needed to be a bit sharper off the mark, play a bit dirtier against the online competition and get the government on board to help them, like Lance had his network of helpers to make sure he won at all costs. It's not too late, perhaps Lance could act as an advisor to Waterstones? He's never gonna be allowed on a bike again so he might as well do some good.

In other news, pub tonight for tea. Then a full weekend editing the final draft of the new book which should be out within a week. You'll hear it here first. I also have over 1600 Twitter followers, so thanks to all of them, and sales are going pretty well in spite of my lack of recent promo.

Hope you have a good one, be careful in the snow.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

New book, new job, new competition, new year...

Evening all,

It's been a lively week which is why I've not posted anything since last weekend. I started a new job which has taken up most of my time but I've also been cracking on with the third, and final, draft of my new book The Trust.

So what's the plan for the new book you may or may not be wondering? Well, it will obviously be appearing on all ebook formats first, literally within moments of me finishing the third draft I suspect. Then it will be out in paperback via my chums at Createspace. The majority of this work is already done, I just need to upload the final version of the file and away we go.

But I will also be submitting the book for this years Amazon Breakthrough Novel competition. When does the competition open you ask? Midnight tonight actually. It's open until the 27th January so it works out perfectly since I have a new book ready to submit. It's generally pretty pointless since this competition is all about your pitch. You can be rejected before anyone even reads a word you've written, but it costs nothing.

But since I'm so pleased with how this book has developed I'm also going to put myself through the misery of submitting to a few agents. We all know how that will turn out but I'm going to do it anyway so you can look forward to a few posts about rejections over the coming months. Yay!

In other news sales are steady but not remarkable but my promotional efforts these days are limited to the occasional Facebook and Twitter post, Goodreads and this blog. Speaking of which, as of an hour ago I have 1600 Twitter followers. Thanks to each and every one of them. Hopefully they'll help spread the word when the new book launches.

Last but not least I'm reading The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. It's a new, official, Sherlock Holmes novel. I'm a big fan of all things Conan Doyle so I approached with caution but it's actually very good. Horowitz captures the essence of the original stories while injecting a few of his own touches. It's well worth a read.

Right, I'm off. Few ales etc before bed.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Cover of new book!

Evening folks,

The wife is currently ploughing through the draft version of my new book. Early reports are favourable!

I've spent some time on cover designs which will be used for both the paperback and ebook versions. Below is the first showing of the new cover. It will likely get tweaked as I get closer to publication, I'm still pondering the title!

Anyway, comments welcomed as long as they're constructive in some way. If I want someone to say they don't like it or say something daft I'll ring my mum!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Why not become a Goodreads member?

Morning folks,

Happy New Year!

So as I sit here sipping an Irish coffee someone bought me as a gift and wondering how on earth Phil The Power Taylor won the darts, I can't help but be pretty satisfied with how things are going at the moment.

My short story promo went very well. To the extent that it was the most downloaded Christmas short story on the planet over the festive period (via Amazon). I was delighted with that.

But the point of this post is to talk a bit about a site called Goodreads. It's essentially a forum for readers to chat about books and pretty much anything else they fancy. But it's also a great site for writers too.

I joined the group about a year ago and I now have lots of friends via this site. I'm a member of several forums based around books I like (The Shining, Catcher in the Rye etc) and I generally pop in and say Good Morning to everyone at least a couple of times a week just to make sure they know I'm alive.

I've had lots of books recommended to me via the site, and I've recommended a few myself. Everyone is friendly and, unlike so many other book related sites, nobody seems to have an agenda. Nobody gets away with spamming promo for their books or with being abusive either largely because the moderators are on top of everything, but in a chummy way!

But the real benefit to me personally is as an author. Just by taking part and being involved I get to talk about my books as much as I like. From there loads of people have checked me out, and bought my books, and left reviews. This is all gold for a strugging writer. The feedback is often superb too.

Which brings me to my latest review. One of the Goodreads top brass asked for writers to offer a book for free. I was lucky enough to have The 24 Hour Jazz Cafe selected. A website was built and any member of the goodreads site who emailed in would recieve a free book. Genius. Yesterday a member sent me a message to say she'd got a copy via this giveaway. She offered plenty of constructive comments and also posted a superb review of the book on the site and on her blog.

So, in short, if you're interested in books, there's no downside to being a member of Goodreads. I've got no affiliation to them of any kind, it just works for me and the more folk join in, the better it will be.

I've linked to the review above and also pasted it in below, I'd be daft not to.

This great story starts with a death by natural causes. It’s the sad death of Emily, a young, musically talented woman and we meet Mitch and Rupert, the two men who loved her. We also discover the sleaze and corruption of small town life, with the council, the police and local businessmen all partaking in, or turning a blind eye to, bribery, indecency and all manner of nastiness. Mitch and Rupert decide to try to get justice. Mitch, an outcast all his life due to his ability to glimpse future happenings, foresees a murder and Rupert, his only friend from schooldays, joins him in trying to avert it.

The characters in this story are very well drawn. We have oily toads of council members who think they are untouchable, a keen, thorough and likable female police inspector chasing justice and the two friends, both grieving for their lost love. The plot is well constructed and story lines interwoven together. I felt the initial part, although it came in with a bang with Emily’s death, built slowly but not tediously, until we realised the depth of corruption and the way justice seemed to be in favour of those with deep pockets – or nasty secrets they could spill if they didn’t get their own way. This is a story of love, friendship, people battling against the disadvantages of childhood influences; it flags up so many questions. It’s a thoroughly gripping read and I enjoyed it very much.