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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Amazon KDP – to use the pre-order option or not?

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This is actually the second draft of a post I wrote three weeks ago, before the publication of my new book, Rise of the Wolf. I’ve had to completely change the post in the near-three weeks since Rise has been available as things didn’t quite go as I expected!

My previous book, The Wolf and the Raven, which came out in April 2014, was available for readers to pre-order which was excellent as – at that point – indie authors weren’t able to do that. Amazon allowed me to do it because I was going to be publishing the novel while I was part of their team at the London Book Fair. On day one, The Wolf and the Raven hit number 1 in the WAR chart while Wolf’s Head reached number 2. It was fantastic to see, as you can imagine.

So that was my prior experience of using the pre-order facility. It was exciting to see the book listed for people to buy before it was actually available, but when it came out and I thought about it, and spoke to a couple of other authors, it seemed to us like a pre-order might actually be counter-productive. The best promotion for your Kindle book is to get it as high in the charts as possible, right? Then the Amazon algorithms apparently start showing it to lots of readers, who in turn go and buy it, and it snowballs, we hope.

So, I thought it might perhaps be better to NOT do a pre-order for Rise of the Wolf, but instead to try and get as many people as possible to buy the book on the day it came out. THAT, I was sure, would fire it higher up the charts than sales coming in in dribs-and-drabs over a period of two weeks or whatever it might be before it was actually published.

Well, my plan didn’t quite come together, despite lots of my readers doing their bit by buying and sharing the news on social media etc.

You see, Amazon’s system, while being fantastic, doesn’t work instantly. When you hit the “publish” button on your book it doesn’t appear at that moment on Amazon, all nicely linked in to your paperback edition and your other books in the same series. All that takes a matter of hours or even days! Ditto your chart placing, and your author page and the various different international Amazon sites… The system takes a while to catch up and put it all together. In the end, although Rise of the Wolf has been sitting at number 1 in the “Historical biographical fiction” chart on Amazon UK for a few days now, it did NOT make that big, day one leap that I’d prayed for.

What I failed to realise is that Amazon has changed since I published The Wolf and the Raven a year ago. Now indies can do pre-orders. Just take a look at the WAR chart, “Hot New Releases” section. See a pattern? That’s right, none of the books are out yet. They are ALL pre-orders. It’s a whole chart promoting books that aren’t even available. And people are buying them in huge numbers.

When those books come out and are actually available to read they will have hundreds, thousands of people getting it straight to their Kindle and the reviews will start to flow in within a day or two. The paperback and ebook (or audio if it’s available – Rise of the Wolf is in production but won’t be ready until about September) editions will all link up, the series will show nice and neat on your author page and they are ALREADY in the charts so if you DO manage to get your most loyal readers to buy on day one you might just get that hoped-for spike that breaks the charts.

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We’re continually being told the publishing business is constantly changing but I hadn’t really seen much evidence of it myself until now. I made an error by not using the pre-order facility, an error which I won’t make again when I put out my next novella, The Christmas Devil, this December.

I just hope the system doesn’t change again in the next couple of months wrecking my plans once more!

I’d be very interested to hear from other KDP authors who’ve recently used the pre-order system. How did you find it? Any tips you can share with the rest of us on how to use it effectively? Please leave your thoughts as a comment or email me!

Kindle All-Stars award

Just had an email from Amazon KDP to tell me I’m one of their Kindle All-Stars for November! Apparently I was one of the top 20 authors in the UK for that month in terms of sales and borrows from their Kindle library.

I’m really pleased and quite humbled. Lost for words actually!

Thank you to everyone that bought one of the books in November, I hope you enjoyed them. 🙂

I’m working hard on the next Robin book, Rise of the Wolf,  so stay tuned for more news on that in the New Year. Hopefully people enjoy it as much as the first two….

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