Amazon Academy KDP event, EICC

I was invited along to be part of Amazon’s Academy event in the Edinburgh International Conference Centre last Tuesday, 23rd May. This was mainly for small businesses but there was also a section dedicated to Kindle Direct Publishing, chaired by the head of KDP UK, Darren Hardy. I was on two of the panels during the day. Here’s how it went…

My wife and I came through the day before and spent the night at the Edinburgh Park Novotel. I highly recommend this place as it’s on the outskirts so you can avoid the city centre traffic, check-in, and use the tram/train stations right outside to get about. We had a nice dinner and a couple of drinks. I don’t recommend trying to carry a full Cosmopolitan up four floors in an elevator packed with Chinese tourists, but I made it without spilling a drop!

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The next day I was nervous, as I always am before important things like this so all I had for breakfast was half a bread roll and a yoghurt. The bacon, scrambled eggs and beans looked good, but I had no appetite. We headed for the tram and made our way towards the city, where I got off at Haymarket and my wife went further on for some shopping.

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The EICC was a really impressive sight with all the Amazon flags flying and, when I got inside, my friendly KDP contact spotted me straight away. I had no time to hang around thinking about things as she ushered me straight into the auditorium where Darren was talking people through the process of uploading your book to KDP. I got a real kick seeing myself on one of his slides!

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I hoped for a moment to compose myself, calm my nerves and so on before getting up onto the stage for the first panel but I never had a chance. Paul Teague, Harriet Smart and myself were called up straight away, handed our headsets/microphones and it was on!

That first section was all about the process of writing, with Darren asking us questions about how we worked and I have to say it was so much fun. I loved it! The thought of being on a stage in front of a crowd is always frightening – I actually threw up before one of the gigs I played when I was in a metal band – but once you’re up there doing it the nerves go away and it’s great.

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There was a short break after that but I didn’t get a chance for a coffee as some of the audience came down to chat (including novelist Margaret Skea), which suited me fine. I was asked about appearing at a couple of other things and, of course, said I’d love to. I’ll let you know if it comes to anything.

The next panel was all about marketing and by now Murray McDonald had joined us after flying up from London that morning. We talked about free promotions, Goodreads giveaways, paid ads from the likes of Bookbub, Kindle Nation Daily, Facebook etc and I actually picked up some tips myself from the other panellists so it was really good although not quite as much fun as talking about writing. I will really need to write a detailed blog post with some tips on marketing but for now, you can check out this one I did a while ago.

That was my final panel for the day and time for another break. Some more people came to chat and I was glad to get a chance to talk to Darren Hardy in a more relaxed setting again. I first met him when I appeared with KDP at the London Book Fair in 2014 and he’s a really nice guy who does a great job of running the panels.

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It was down to the main hall then as Amazon had laid on a fantastic lunch for everyone at the event – salmon, potatoes, cheesecake! I’d brought along a box filled with copies of Knight of the Cross, flyers, and Blood of the Wolf bookmarks which people could help themselves to and they were quickly gone. I hope anyone that got a free book enjoys the tale…

So that was it for me. There were more panels later on, with Linda Gillard joining the others, but I had to head off to try and avoid the rush hour traffic back along the M8 towards Glasgow and home. I was so pleased to have been a part of the event and the Amazon staff and the audience were all really lovely. Some of them even told me I was very memorable. Hopefully they meant it in a nice way!

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I want to thank the audience for being so kind and Amazon for actually having me on the panel. If you ever get a chance to do something like this, grab it with both hands, even if you think you’d be too nervous. If I can do it, anyone can!

 

PS – I found some of those photos on Twitter and I don’t know who took them. If you want credited just send me a message. Thanks for taking them!

Audiobook reviews and an Event

First off, I have been asked by Amazon KDP if I’d like to be part of their forthcoming event in Edinburgh on May 23rd, to which I of course said, “I’d LOVE it!” I might have picked them up wrong but it seems they want me to be part of a panel giving advice to aspiring authors, rather like I did with them at the London Book Fair in 2014 (read about that incredible, and often humourous experience HERE). So, if you are in Scotland and can make it to the EICC on May 23rd, please come along and say hello – I will be taking copies of one of my books to sign and give away to interested parties!

Some more info HERE – I believe you need to sign up but tickets are free.

Right, enough of that. Onto some reviews of my latest Audible purchases….

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I was a spotty teenager when I first discovered The Sword of Shannara more than 25 years ago. My friend was given it as a birthday gift and oh, how I laughed at him for being a geeky nerd twat!

Until he let me borrow it and I thought it was just the best book anyone had ever written.

It was my gateway into fantasy and, although now I can see it’s basically a total rip-off of Lord of the Rings, it’s still an excellent read/listen. The parallels with JRR Tolkien’s masterpiece are blatant and legion (Flick & Shea = Frodo & Sam, Gimli = Hendel, Aragorn = Balinor, Gandalf =Allanon, Nazgul =Skull Bearers etc etc), but Brooks is, or at least was, a fantastic writer and I highly recommend this to everyone. My only reservation is the bizarre amount of times he describes characters as “lean”. It seems everyone that populates this world, from the giant druid Allanon to the lowliest goblin, is “lean”. They have lean frames, lean faces, lean figures…They could all do with a good feed from the sounds of them.

But I digress, it matters little to the overall experience, and this is one of the most enjoyable audiobooks I’ve listened to so far. Scott Brick isn’t perfect for fantasy narration – I liked him way better in Asimov’s sci-fi Foundation series – but he does a fine job here, even if his pronunciation of “Shannara” is irritating at first and he sometimes gives Flick a weird Dick Van Dyke-style cockney accent.

It’s a really long book so it represents great value for your monthly credit!

My rating – 5 / 5, easy!

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Writing Great Fiction – The Great Courses

I enjoy listening to lectures for some reason and this seemed like it would be an ideal way for me to learn a few new tricks while I drive around at work.

To be honest, and I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, I think this is probably aimed more at real beginners who’ve yet to pen a novel or publish even a short story. I found the lectures interesting although I’m unfamiliar with the vast majority of the books the professor uses as examples. They’re mostly all classics but I grew up on fantasy and sci-fi and now concentrate on historical fiction so I’ve not read The Maltese Falcon or Dickens or Melville but it doesn’t matter, you get the point of the lectures regardless.

The overall theme seems to be: “I’m not saying this is the right way or the wrong way to write because different authors forge their own path.” In other words, there might be rules most authors will stick to but they’re there to be bent and broken so, do what you like.

If you’re looking for some concrete ways to write a best-seller this isn’t for you. It IS, however, an interesting and entertaining listen and I’ve enjoyed it so give it a shot.

Rating – 3.5 / 5

That’s it for now I’m afraid. I have a few other new books in my library including the next two in the Dune series, a history of the decline of the Roman Empire, and an Aleister Crowley biography but I’ve either not finished those or not started them yet. I’ve been listening to too much AC/DC recently after buying myself a Gibson SG Standard and rediscovering my once-favourite band!

Keep it tuned here for more audiobook reviews and news on the release date of my final Forest Lord novella, The Abbey of Death which is all finished….

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