Guest post at the ‘Writer’s Shack’


Guest post at the ‘Writer’s Shack’

I’m Guest Posting today over at ‘The Writer’s Shack‘ which is Riley Banks’ blog, with a bit of a grumble about Amazon. Riley makes a very pertinent comment on the post, about how non-US authors are treated. If enough people grumble, could it result in some changes to Amazon? You never know the strength of people power….

Avid Reader’s Cafe

PrintJust a quick note to let you know that my novel ‘The Artemis Effect’ is being featured over at Avid Reader’s Cafe at the moment.

The cafe is part of an initiative by the Independent Author’s Network, which I’ve finally joined after all this time. I’m not sure how many people find their books here, but fingers crossed someone will find and enjoy mine!

It’s really rather daunting the huge number of books out there, and many of them are genuinely worth reading. I wonder sometimes, whether the huge explosion in published books will be looked back on as a time of Renaissance – a flourishing of ideas? Will the best ones really rise to the surface, or will only the ones with the best marketing make it? Did Leonardo just have a great agent?

The elusive hard copy – Lulu vs. Createspace

Well, the ebook version of my novel ‘The Artemis Effect’ has been out for a while, and I have been working behind the scenes to try and get the book out in hard copy versions.

Finally, after much gnashing of teeth, both hardcover and paperback proof versions are on their way across the waters to me! Hoorah! I’ll try and post some  images of the quality when they arrive.

I’ve read other people’s posts on the pros and cons of Lulu versus Createspace, but all these posts seem to miss some of the big differences I’ve found between them, so here is my two bobs-worth. For those who don’t know, both firms are POD (Print on Demand) publishers. There may be other players out there, but these are the two I’m trying out. The information below is based on my personal experience with each of them, so let me know if I have misunderstood something, or if you found things very different. 🙂


*  Will only make paperbacks. If you want a hardback version, you need to go elsewhere.

*  Their templates for formatting the interior come in two different styles: one leaves you more or less to your own devices (this is the one I went with), and the other is much more prescriptive, in that it suggests where the copyright page, dedications etc should go.

*  Their process seems pretty easy to understand, and I didn’t find conflicting information in different places.

*  They don’t have a calculator to work out the cost of manufacturing until you have uploaded everything. (See later note on Lulu’s calculator.)

*  Covers can be produced in two ways. Either you can ask the program to produce the template for your specific book, with all the necessary margins and bleed areas once you have uploaded the interior (for example, it takes into account how thick the spine will be based on the number of pages), and then you can provide a wrap-around cover to those specifications in pdf format. This is the way I went, with the assistance of my wonderful cover artist, Richard Morden. Createspace can provide an ISBN and barcode and will position this for you on the cover.

Alternatively, you can use Createspace’s cover wizard, which is pretty prescriptive in terms of cover design – where to put the title, your name, etc. If you think of the templates loaded into Powerpoint or Keynote then you’ll have some idea of the look of these covers. Most of them looked pretty ordinary to me, but perhaps with dedication you can do it well.

*  Createspace require an EIN or ITIN before you can put your book out there. This means tackling the frightening world of the American tax system, which for me meant a slightly terrifying phone call to a zombie lady in the middle of the night. I can only hope that I’ve done it right!

*  The price of paperbacks on Createspace is much more reasonable. Mine will be retailing for about $14.95 US, which I hope is within sensible limits.

*  Createspace only print in the US, as far as I can tell, so it can take a while for proofs and orders to arrive (up to 33 days to Australia!), although you can pay more for shipping and get them sooner.

*  Createspace are associated with Amazon, but you can also opt for wider distribution (including to bookshops and libraries) for another $25.


*  Lulu will produce a much wider range of formats, shapes and sizes than Createspace, which is why I have approached them to produce my hardback. There are even a couple of options on how you want the hardback cover (with a dust jacket or casewrap). It’s worth noting that the sizes of paperback they make are not necessarily the same as for Createspace, so you may, as I did, end up formatting the interior of the book multiple times.

*  The information provided by Lulu, when you get into it, is sometimes conflicting or confusing. It seems like they started out with it being clean, and then over time it has become muddled. Someone on my team described their help as “a mindf**k”.

*  The creation of the cover is a bit trickier in some ways. If you want to use their standard cover wizard, then it is much better than the one at Createspace. However, it all gets more interesting if you want a wrap-around cover. They will provide templates, but apparently they are a bit confusing.
If you produce the artwork for a wrap-around,  then you also have to produce your own barcode, whereas if you simply add cover art for front and back covers, then Lulu will generate and position a barcode for you. However, you are then limited to having a single cover spine (any colour you like), and their very limited range of fonts for the title. Some of their fonts would make a graphic designer weep, but there are some simple ones too which are OK.

*  There is a price calculator on the Home Page, but I found it very misleading, possibly inaccurate. Initially, before I uploaded everything, it seemed to say that the cost of manufacturing my paperback was $13. When I’d jumped through all the hoops, and finally got to the pricing page, with would not allow me to sell the book for less than $27! Frankly, I would be astonished if anyone would take a chance on a relatively unknown author’s paperback at that price. The extra partly came from retail markup, but the manufacturing cost had also mysteriously risen to nearly $20. The cost of their hardback version was much more in keeping with what I’d expect.

*  Lulu also provide a template for formatting the interior. It was the ‘basic’ version, in that they didn’t try to tell me which bit to put where, but had standard styles, and the correct page size and margins, which I found fine.

*  Lulu print in other places than the US, so if you are worried about carbon-miles, then it’s worth checking to see if they print in your country. This also cuts down the delivery times and postage costs if you are not in the US.

*  Like Amazon for Kindle, Lulu will let you release a book without having given them a EIN or ITIN from the tax department. Both will withhold 30% of your royalties until you do so, but you can get it out there without facing the tax zombies.

*  Lulu seem to provide your book to the market as soon as it is uploaded, whereas Createspace want you to approve a proof version before it hits the shelves.

*  Lulu have an Expanded distribution network also, but it costs a bit more at $75 US.

So, that’s my experience with the two publishers. I’d love to hear what you found if you have published with them (especially anything I should be looking out for!) 🙂

Fingers crossed they will be good quality – I’m really looking forward to holding my novel in my hands!

Free the Kindle!

Images courtesy of Felix

It’s been suggested, perhaps rather controversially, that Amazon may make the Kindle viewer free. Check out this article on the subject:

Amazon | Kindle Price Drop Prediction.

I don’t know what you think of this, but in some ways it makes a lot of sense to me. There are many phone plans out there where the phone is tossed in as a freebie, when you sign up for particular deals, and it sounds like this system would work in rather the same way.

A Kindle, after all, generally costs less than a mobile phone, and with a defined yearly subscription cost (like a phone plan) it seems likely that it would be worth Amazon’s time to go down this path. Also, I understand that people with e-readers generally read more (or at least buy more) books. I’m not sure if this is due to an increased interest and ease of reading with a device, or if  it is just that ebooks are less expensive, and sometimes free.

I imagine that there may be legal implications in terms of anti-competitive behaviour if Amazon decide to provide for free what other companies must charge for, and perhaps this will be the fallen tree on the road to e-readers for all. Personally, I am in two minds about it. The Australian urge to ‘back the underdog’ in me is not entirely comfortable with the idea of Amazon potentially monopolizing in this way. On the other hand, if it allows more people to access my work, then I can’t help be selfishly rather hopeful about it.

What are your thoughts?

Luna Station Quarterly

I’m very proud and excited to announce that Luna Station Quarterly have just published one of my short stories in their latest edition!

If they have managed to pass you by, Luna Station Quarterly is focussed on speculative fiction by up and coming women authors, which considering the number of things I’ve read about the under-representation of women in the genre, is surely a step in the right direction.

My offering to this edition is called ‘Harmony‘, and it tells the story of two symbiotic alien races, and the pressure that technology puts on that relationship.

To quote from LSQ:

“Our eleventh issue is packed with brilliant stories from our fabulous women authors.

There are a ton of fabulous stories ready and waiting for you. We love putting these issues together for you and this one was a pleasure from start to finish. We’re humbled that so many talented women chose to send their stories to us. We have science fiction, fantasy, creepy stories, light-hearted stories, and odd things that defy categorization; the scope is as wonderfully varied as the women who wrote them.

Your purchase helps support LSQ and gets the word out about women speculative fiction writers!”

If you’d like to read it and the other great work on offer, please pop over the their website, where you can purchase it in three formats (Epub, Mobi and Pdf) for $2.99.

Thank you! 🙂





As of today, I’ve signed on with Kindlegraph. It’s a slightly strange but nonetheless interesting idea, whereby I can personalize and sign electronic copies of my book, The Artemis Effect.

So if you fancy a signed version before the hard copy comes out, please pop over there and have a look!

Thanks! 🙂

Teetering on the brink

Yes, that really is me with the ripcord in my hand!

Some serious work has been going on behind the scenes on formatting my book ‘The Artemis Effect’, and it looks like there is only a tiny bit of work left before we can launch it on an unsuspecting world! I’m not sure how everyone else who has launched e-book has gone about translating it for Kindle, but my loyal team have been working hard to make sure that the html is nice and clean, and that things like images always read correctly. Ensuring that indents and line spacing read as well as they can, and tables of contents actually work.

So how does it feel to be this close after so long?

Well, the best parallel I can draw is to skydiving. I did my first (and only) parachute jump just after I turned 18, and took the option of an Accelerated Freefall Course, in Bairnsdale, Victoria. Accelerated Freefall means basically that you do a whole day of training, and then the next day, you launch yourself out of a perfectly good light aircraft at 10,000 feet. It’s not a tandem jump, so although you have a couple of jump-masters hanging on to your legs at first to make sure that you haven’t completed flipped out, you are responsible for choosing to leave the ‘plane, pulling your ripcord, and piloting yourself down to the ground.

Obviously this bears some comparison to indie publishing. There is a team to help you with major bloopers when it comes to grammar and spelling, but writing the novel, and choosing to thrust it into the ether are decisions you take on your own. If it goes well, then great! If the critics trash it, well, that’s also no-ones fault but my own (unless they are particularly grumpy people anyway I suppose ;)).

The funny thing in both cases is that I wasn’t really frightened. Please don’t get the impression that I’ve blowing my own bravery trumpet here! I can be a complete coward when it come to non-fatal heights. However, by the time we had done all the training and drills, and were up in that plane, there was a certain sense of inevitability about it. I knew that I was going to do it, and so didn’t freak out. So it is with the book: so much work has gone in over such a long period of time, that’s it’s going out no matter what.

As it was, on the day of my jump, I leapt out into the blue, and went into complete sensory overload for a while, which if you’ve never experienced it, is really very curious. You don’t think “Oh my god!”, or “Aaarghh! What am I doing?” or indeed anything at all. Your brain goes totally blank, and you have no recollection at all of what just happened. Having come to my senses, I did all the drills, and pulled my ripcord. For the record, you don’t jerk violently upwards as it may appear in videos. It’s rather gentle, and I thoroughly enjoyed wafting around up there on my own, taking in the scenery. Truly a delightful experience – very free. I landed competently enough if unspectacularly on my butt, and lived to tell the tale.

The guy who jumped after me got it wrong, failed to notice that his ‘chute had tangled, and broke both his legs and his pelvis. No-one else jumped that day.

I can only hope that the book launch goes as smoothly as my jump! I’ve no doubt that it will be buffeted by the fickle winds of critique, but hopefully will have a relatively peaceful float through the great world of publishing.

Hyper Trophies

Graphics are getting pretty astonishing these days. I’d like to share with you this link to a collaboration between Berlin fashion label Franzius, and ProdCo Tink Berlin. They are moving still life sculptures – please following the link below, as I can only paste a still image here, which doesn’t give the movement of these images.

Hyper Trophies on the Behance Network.

What a fantastic stimulus for a sci-fi story! Bring on the day when we can illustrate e-books with images like this. 🙂

At what cost e-books?

Two things have recently come together for me to remind me of the potential cost of e-books recently.

I’m not talking about the dollars and cents cost – that is obviously much lower than buying a physical book. Nor am I talking about the environmental cost. Admittedly, it takes power to read an e-book, but there must be a lot of physical books which absorb not only power in their production, but also resources such as paper.

What I’m talking about is the loss of skills.

The first instance which really brought this home to me was recently receiving a Kindle. When you turn it off, it somewhat ironically has varied screensavers of the bygone age of printing: blocks for printing, type, rolled up newspapers, sharpened pencils. All very beautifully photographed in black and white, but also a bit sad.

The second was speaking to an illustrator who works primarily on children’s books and text books. As we all know, traditional publishers have been really shaken up by the popularity of e-books. From the outside at least, it seems as if they are running scared. As I understand it, this has lead them to be more and more conservative in their choices for books, and also on the outlay they are willing to make on a book. My friend the illustrator is at the end of the food chain, and so when publishers don’t publish as much, or decide they can recycle illustrations from previous editions, he’s one of the little people who lose out.

This is a great post I read recently on this subject: Birth of a book from Katy at Storytelling Nomad. It certainly brought on a dose of nostalgia for me.

I recognise that the market for books is not infinitely expandable, but arguably, publishers (and ultimately readers) are shooting themselves in the foot by taking this approach. By producing less titles, they make it harder to get published, especially if you are a new author. Therefore, more people are bound to either be disheartened by rejections, or turn to Indie publishing, compounding the problem.

By providing less work for all the people who rely on the publishing industry, (graphic designers, illustrators, printers and so on), they decrease the skills base available to them, as people are forced to move into different industries.

I was taught graphics by a fabulous old gentleman who had worked in advertising in the days before computers. This was a man who really understood colour, layout and the impact of different fonts. He made us draw letters by hand, and there are a great many fine nuances in their shape which influences the feel of the finished piece. Now that we can all produce our own covers, and the formatting of the book is largely a dictate of whichever device we are producing it for, all of that sophistication is lost.

As someone about to become an Indie author myself, I realise that this may seem like a slightly hypocritical rant. 🙂 However, I do think there is a place for both e-books, and truly beautiful hard copy books. Maybe this is how physical books can truly differentiate themselves? If we want a quick read, an airport book, or to sample a new author, then e-books seem a good way to go without using precious resources.

But for a really treasured tome, or to own books by authors we adore, perhaps we should be willing to spend a bit more for a beautiful thing. Maybe this is just my buried luddite coming out, but the loss of the special for the ease of the mass produced seems to make us all poorer. Love to hear your thoughts.

More fool me

I have just received a Kindle, and am launching into the world or reading e-books, which is an exciting new adventure! So far, I’ve only got five books on there (including a draft version of my own ‘The Artemis Effect’, which gives me a little shiver every time I see it on there). Like many Kindle newbies, I’ve started with some free e-books, and one which I have purchased. I won’t tell you what it is, but it’s touted as a murder mystery.

It wasn’t expensive, and I purchased it not knowing anything about the author, but the blurb sounded interesting, and it seemed to have some good reviews. I should perhaps have noticed that there were a few five star, glowingly positive reviews, and then some down in the one-and-two star range, with nothing in between. But, I thought, you can’t please all the people all of the time.

However, now that I get into it, I have to say, it is really quite appalling. The dialogue is formulaic and dull. Parts of it don’t make sense at all. And I’ve guessed who did it already.

To be honest, I feel just a tiny bit irritated, and gullible. I can only assume that the glowing five star reviews were either:

a) from people who have different views on the book, and perhaps haven’t read a lot to compare it to,

b) they are ‘paid’ reviews, or

c) they are by friends and relatives of the author.

As someone new to this market, I would love to hear if this is typical: should I have my ‘bullshit-radar’ on high when I am reading reviews? Or have I just hit a bad egg?