Saturday, 3 November 2012

Abandoned books

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)

Some interesting news about books was published recently, but from an unexpected source. In the United Kingdom there’s a popular chain of budget hotels known as Travelodge, and they recently issued a report which listed the number of books which had been left behind in their hotel rooms, and which of these novels – which had clearly so displeased their owners that they simply discarded them, not even being prepared to carry them out to their cars – had proved to be the most popular, or rather the most unpopular.
            It may not come as a particular surprise to anyone to learn that the book which came top, with around 7,000 copies being abandoned, was the erotic bestseller by E L James, Fifty Shades of Grey, which accounted for almost one in every three books which had been dumped, Travelodge stating that in all a total of 21,786 books had been recovered from its 36,500 hotel rooms during 2011. It will probably also not be entirely surprising that the other two books in the trilogy – Fifty Shades Freed and Fifty Shades Darker – also made the ‘Books Left Behind’ worstseller list at numbers 4 and 7 respectively. I haven't read any of these three novels, and so I'm not qualified to comment on their literary worth, but I do think it's significant that most people I've spoken to who have read them, or have tried to read them, have dismissed them as boring rubbish.
            But I am familiar with the work of the late Steig Larsson, whose three novels have also featured prominently in this list, and again their inclusion does not come as any kind of a surprise to me, because I thought the books were really very average indeed. In fact, I couldn't even be bothered to finish the last one in the series. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins also proved to be unpopular, as did her other two books. But as well as this collection of entirely forgettable novels, there were also some surprises, including The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry and John le Carre's classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
            The full and unexpurgated list is as follows:

1.         Fifty Shades of Grey   E.L. James
2.         The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo   Stieg Larsson
3.         The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest   Stieg Larsson
4.         Fifty Shades Freed   E.L. James
5.         The Hunger Games   Suzanne Collins
6.         The Girl Who Played With Fire   Stieg Larsson
7.         Fifty Shades Darker   E.L. James
8.         Catching Fire   Suzanne Collins
9.         Mockingjay   Suzanne Collins
10.        The Help   Kathryn Stockett
11.        One Day   David Nicholls
12.        A Tiny Bit Marvellous   Dawn French
13.        Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography   Steve Jobs
14.        Diary Of A Wimpy Kid   Jeff Kinney
15.        The Brightest Star In The Sky   Marian Keyes
16.        The Fry Chronicles   Stephen Fry
17.        Room   Emma Donoghue
18.        StrengthsFinder 2.0   Tom Rath
19.        The Confession   John Grisham
20.        Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy   John Le Carre

There are of course a number of conclusions one can draw from this report. It could be argued that the abandoned books are an accurate reflection of the changing reading habits of the British public, and a spokeswoman for Travelodge confirmed that they had noted a change in the types of books. Previously, the majority of dumped books were either celebrity biographies or chick lit, both of which categories had clearly failed to live up to the low expectations of their purchasers. So, in 2007 the most abandoned book was The Blair Years by Alastair Campbell, which reportedly failed to satisfy on any number of levels, while the following year it was Piers Morgan's equally unimpressive Don't You Know Who I Am? In 2009, the book most commonly tossed aside by Travelodge customers was Katie Price's autobiography Pushed to the Limit, which presumably she paid somebody to write for her, just like all her other books: at least E L James actually wrote what she put her name to.
Perhaps inevitably, ‘unusual’ reading material was discovered at several hotels in the chain, including a bag of Kama Sutra books found in a room previously occupied by an elderly couple in Scarborough, and in Peterborough a company CEO left behind a suitcase filled with comics.
And I really don’t quite know what to make of that!
Finally, and nothing to do with the topic of this post, I will not be posting anything else until January 2013, assuming that the world doesn’t end on 21 December 2012, as some people are claiming the Mayans predicted, because we will be travelling and also taking a cruise. I’m a guest lecturer on the Fred Olsen ship Boudicca, sailing from Portsmouth on 18 November on a round trip to the Caribbean.

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith
Blogs:              The Curzon Group
Website link:  Brit Writers

Friday, 26 October 2012

The electronic revolution

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)

Almost every time you open up a newspaper or magazine aimed at writers, agents or publishers, the topic which is sure to dominate is the rise of electronic publishing, normally backed up by figures which are either reassuring or alarming, depending upon exactly where you stand and which part of the market is likely to affect you.
One of the problems with reports of any kind is deciding how accurate the figures actually are, and in the case of book sales, with the huge variety of outlets and discounts and methods of purchasing, it is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to sort out exactly what is going on. Typical of this is a recent report by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, which came up with the following data about publishing in the United States:

·                     Book publishing revenue fell by 2.5% in 2011, with total sales of $27.2 billion
·                     In contrast, the total number of books sold rose by just under 3.5%, to 2.77 billion books, the implication being that lower revenue on increased sales was caused by people buying more lower-priced ebooks
·                     388 million ebooks were sold in 2011, an increase of 210% over 2010, and ebook revenue doubled to $2.074 billion
·                     Most books are still sold through physical shops, but in 2011 sales declined by just over 12.5% to $8.59 billion, a loss primarily blamed on the closure of over 500 Borders’ book stores
·                     Online retail sales grew by 35% to $5.04 billion, this figure representing approximately 18% of total book revenue, and the biggest growing sector of the market was for books aimed at children and young adults, which saw a rise in revenue of 12%

In contrast, another recent report stated that in the last quarter of 2011, almost 30% of all book sales in the fiction category were ebooks, and 16% of all non-fiction sales as well, showing a marked increase over the same period in the previous year, when the respective percentages were 12% and 5%. These represent gains of approximately 250% and 300% respectively in these two categories, which proves – as if anybody still had any doubts about the reality of the situation – that ebooks are here to stay. Sales of juvenile ebook fiction tripled last year as well. The report concluded with a forecast that similar growth figures to these would probably be recorded over the next couple of years, after which growth in ebook sales would be likely to taper off slightly, but would still be very significant.
            A corresponding report, but looking at physical book sales, and drawing its data primarily from Nielsen Bookscan, stated that print sales were down significantly, with mass-market paperbacks selling over 25% less than last year, paperbacks 12% down and with hardcover books the least affected and showing a reduction sales of about 9%. Perhaps predictably, there was almost no reduction in sales of books intended for toddlers and very young children.
            The twin leaders of the ebook revolution are of course Amazon, both the world’s biggest online bookstore and the world’s largest electronic retailer, and the hugely successful Kindle ereader. However, not everything in Amazon’s garden is rosy. The company has seen a jump in sales this year, reporting gross revenue up by 29% to $12.8 billion dollars in the second quarter, and a hike in the share price on Wall Street to $223. The other side of the coin is that profits decreased by a massive 96% in the second quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year, and the company’s profit was a mere $7 million, a remarkably small amount of money considering the gross revenue.
            One reason for the greatly reduced profits is, oddly enough, the Kindle, but the Kindle Fire, which is selling in much smaller numbers than had been expected. I’ve mentioned this device before in this blog, and I’m by no means convinced that it’s a good idea, mainly because of the enormously reduced battery life it has – Amazon is only claiming about 11 hours, which probably means 8 or 9 would be more realistic – compared to the original Kindle, which you can use for weeks at a time without recharging it. The culprit, of course, is also the selling point: the colour screen which requires a constant power feed. And by launching the Kindle Fire, Amazon has to some extent stepped outside of its comfort zone and entered a world already occupied by tablet computers of one sort or another, a world dominated – for reasons I have yet to understand – by the grossly overpriced and barely adequate iPad.
            It remains to be seen if Amazon can exert the same level of dominance in this market as it has achieved in the world of electronic books and online retailing.

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith
Blogs:              The Curzon Group
Website link:  Brit Writers

Friday, 19 October 2012

Should we burn books, or just ban them?

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)

One of the blogs I read had an entry a short while ago about banning books in America. In fact, it was referring to an annual programme called Banned Books Week, intended to call attention to threats to the First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution, a programme which has been running for 30 years. Believe it or not, books still get banned in America, about 400 incidents being reported in the last year, and the programme is trying to get Americans to support the idea that all books, regardless of content, should be disseminated.
            This banning is not the work of the government – unlike certain books published in Britain which have incurred official displeasure and been forcibly removed from the shelves, everything from Lady Chatterley’s Lover to Spycatcher – but imposed by libraries and bookstores. Two of the most surprising, or perhaps predictable, depending on your point of view, classic novels to suffer this fate in America this year were To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye, but in the past a huge number of other volumes have been banned in the States and elsewhere. These range from incomprehensible choices like Black Beauty and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the virtually unreadable Ulysses and almost equally unreadable The da Vinci Code.
            All of which raises the obvious question: how free is free speech? Are there some books which are so bad, for whatever reason, that it is better for the public not to be able to see the text under any circumstances? Perhaps it would be better to look at the matter from the other side, as it were. What kind of damage would be caused to a reader’s psyche or moral outlook if they were exposed to, for example, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? And, yes, it was banned. Are they immediately going to race out and buy magic wands and learn the words of various spells? And if they do, does that really matter?
            The argument against that book was that it promoted witchcraft. Well, I read it, and it didn’t seem to me that it was doing that: I just thought it was a good story. But even if that was what somebody read into it, was that necessarily a bad thing? It’s perfectly possible to argue that every religion in the world is simply a form of superstition, because by definition it is impossible to prove a single fact about what is claimed by its adherents to be the truth. In this respect, witchcraft is no less viable a religious concept than Christianity, so why shouldn’t it be promoted?
            So should there be limits at all? Should a book which promotes the idea of murdering police officers be banned? Or one that espouses paedophilia, or racial hatred, or serial killing?
            The reality, of course, is that today, with the rise of the electronic book and the Internet, it is effectively impossible to ban anything. Anyone, no matter what their agenda, can publish whatever they like. On the Internet, you can read the kind of books that no commercial publisher would ever consider publishing, in even their wildest and most deranged of dreams.
            Until about two months ago, I would have happily stood up in any forum and defended the right of any author to write whatever book he or she wanted, no matter what its contents, and no matter who would be offended by it. I genuinely believed that the right to free speech transcends all other issues. And, in fact, I still believe this to be the case with regard to novels.
            And then I had the misfortune to read a book by a man named Ken Ham called The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved, and my views concerning non-fiction books changed almost overnight. This book, without the slightest shadow of doubt, deserves to be banned, simply because some people who read it might actually believe that there is some truth in the collection of rabid nonsense he has produced as a theory. Basically, this man believes that dinosaurs didn’t live over 65 million years ago but a mere 6000 years ago, despite the utterly overwhelming and completely undisputed scientific evidence to the contrary, evidence from almost every scientific discipline from geology to meteorology, as well as palaeontology.
He’s promoting creationism, obviously, which as a theory is just as valid as my own personal ‘Theory that Fairies live at the bottom of my Garden’, and makes no sense whatsoever. Everybody, of course, is entitled to their own point of view, but I firmly believe that a book purporting to be non-fiction should at least fulfil certain basic criteria, the most obvious of which is that it should be based on fact. If he was writing a novel, it wouldn’t bother me, but this man is advancing this as a serious proposition, and to me that seems very dangerous.
            In fact, this isn’t a book that should be banned. This really is a book that should be burnt.

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith
Blogs:              The Curzon Group
Website link:  Brit Writers

Friday, 12 October 2012

The real Jack the Ripper?

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)

Yesterday Simon & Schuster published my latest book – The Ripper Secret – and the initial marketing push looks as if it’s been quite successful, with the novel being available in all the major supermarket chains and the high street retailers. As well as the usual kinds of promotions, the publishing house is also broadcasting a podcast I recorded on its website and featuring a short article I wrote about Victorian detection methods in the ‘Dark Pages’ section.
            It looks as if the timing has been quite providential as well, with the second of a two-part BBC documentary being broadcast last night, the same day as the book’s publication, and with the level of interest in this most notorious of all serial killers still being remarkably high. When I input the search term ‘Jack the Ripper’ into Amazon, it came up with just under 3,400 items, an astonishing number of books and films bearing in mind that his killing spree took place almost a century and a half ago. Doing the same thing on Google produced almost ten million hits.
            The BBC documentary was interesting, though the conclusions it came to were somewhat predictable and – like a lot of the things the BBC produces – very selective. Their principal suspects were Montague John Druitt and a Polish Jew named Aaron Kosminski, though no believable evidence was advanced to indicate that either man could have been Jack the Ripper. And it’s worth pointing out that in all over 200 different suspects have been suggested over the years, and some 30 of these have been seriously considered, ranging from the sublime (Prince Albert Victor with or without the assistance of Queen Victoria’s Physician-In-Ordinary Sir William Gull) to the ridiculous (‘Jill the Ripper’ or the ‘mad midwife’).
            The documentary also provided reconstructions of some of the events, and these were not always as accurate as they certainly should have been. For example, when Israel Schwartz witnessed an altercation between a man and a woman who might have been Elizabeth Stride, he also described another man on the opposite side of the street, a man who then began following him. In the BBC’s version, this man didn’t appear at all, and the scene showed Schwartz passing very close by the arguing couple and getting an excellent look at the man involved, which certainly wasn’t the case according to his testimony.
            They also were highly selective when considering the medical evidence. With a single exception, every doctor who examined any of the victims of the Ripper concluded that the killer had to have had at least some medical knowledge. The single exception was Dr Thomas Bond, who stated that he didn’t believe the murderer had any surgical ability, but conspicuously failed to explain how the Ripper had managed to remove Catherine Eddowes’s left kidney without damaging any of the surrounding organs in complete darkness in Mitre Square in under 15 minutes, a difficult and complex surgical procedure even on a corpse.
            With regard to the killing of Annie Chapman, the divisional police surgeon Dr George Bagster Phillips stated that if he had performed the mutilations to her body, even in the well-lit and ordered surroundings of an operating theatre, the procedure would have taken him at least an hour. His views were echoed by the other doctors involved in examining the victims.
            Probably unsurprisingly, the BBC ignored all the evidence recorded by every other doctor at the time, and simply took Bond’s statement as gospel, claiming that the killings showed no medical knowledge or ability whatsoever, presumably so that they could offer Druitt and Kosminski – neither of whom had medical training – as believable suspects.
            Personally, I believe that it is undeniable the Jack the Ripper – whoever he was – at the very least had some medical and surgical training, and that of course would narrow the field of suspects very considerably and also, incidentally, eliminate at a stroke the most popular contenders.
            The man who was Jack the Ripper in my novel, on the other hand, is a far better fit than most. Records from this period are notoriously patchy and incomplete, but there is evidence to suggest that this man was living in London at the time of the killings, had trained and then worked as a surgeon, and had a history of violence against women, with quite probably at least one murder behind him before he arrived in the city. He is also one of the least known of all the Ripper suspects.
            The Ripper Secret is of course a novel, but the story is tightly woven around the killings which are described as accurately as possible after such a passage of time. I’ve taken considerable care to make sure that the facts are right, and in my opinion the story does work as a possible explanation for the murders. In particular, it provides logical answers to six questions which almost no non-fiction writer has ever managed resolved satisfactorily:

·         Why did the murders start?
·         Why did the mutilations get progressively more severe?
·         Why were there two murders on one night?
·         Why did the murders stop?
·         Why did Sir Charles Warren resign simultaneously with the final killing?
·         What was the significance of the geographical locations of the murders?

If you read the book, let me know what you think.

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith
Blogs:              The Curzon Group
Website link:  Brit Writers

Friday, 5 October 2012

Only a fool doesn’t write for money

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)

Obviously I’m not the first person to make a statement like the title of this blog post, but a recent article in another blog site caught my eye and emphasised very clearly just how little money most authors of ebooks actually make as a result of all their hard work.
            The article referred to a report by Bowker which stated that the average price of commercially published ebooks in the United States fell by about 8% from 2010 to 2011, for fiction from around $5.69 to $5.24, with non-fiction dropping even more dramatically from over $9 per book down to around $6.47, a drop of about 25% in price. It’s worth mentioning that non-fiction ebooks were still costing about 20% more than novels in 2011, but the year before the price difference was 65%, so the gap between the two types of book is narrowing, and it’s also clear that prices across all genres are falling steadily.
            And it’s worth emphasising that these prices are for commercially-produced ebooks, not self-published novels, which are typically selling for substantially lower prices, often between 50 pence and £2.99 (roughly 75 cents to $4.50).
            In fact, the blog article pointed out, some ebooks are selling for less than the cost of a monthly magazine, and it suggested that one reason for the uncertain state of the world of publishing was not a lack of good books and decent writers, but simply the huge reduction in profits because ebooks are now so cheap. And all this at a time when hardback coffee-table books are surging in price, some now costing around £50/$75 each.
            Perhaps the most dramatic figure the article came up with was that the ebook price of an average novel of about 100,000 words meant that the author was actually earning about 1 cent for every 200 words written, and that the only recourse for the publishing industry was to immediately and dramatically increase the price charged for every ebook they sell.
            Most of which I completely disagree with, because he’s missing several important points. In fact, I think most people in the industry are missing these same points.
            There is a fundamental difference between an electronic book and a physical book which reports of this kind consistently fail to acknowledge. To produce a hardback or paperback novel requires a conspicuous consumption of resources – paper, card, ink and so on – plus warehouse space to store it, and the inevitable transport costs to distribute it, all overlaid by the staff costs at the publishing house and the company used for typesetting and printing. For a typical novel with a first print run of around 25,000 copies, the total cost is likely to be well in excess of £20,000/$30,000. The royalty paid to the author will be around 7% of the selling price – not the cover price – of the book.
To produce an electronic book, once the manuscript has been prepared, costs almost nothing – certainly well under £500/$750 even if a professional cover is designed – and the finished product can be sold as often and as quickly as the market demands. The author’s royalty will be around 20% of the selling price from a commercial publisher, or 40% or 70% if the book is self-published. Although the content of the two items is identical in terms of the text, in all other respects they are entirely different in every way. Trying to compare one with the other is pointless.
            You cannot assess the earnings of any author on the basis of revenue received per words written. This only works for short stories and magazine articles where the writer is paid a flat sum for his contribution, irrespective of the subsequent sales of the publication. In fact, there’s a very valid argument that ebooks are still far too expensive – not far too cheap – simply because each sale costs the publisher virtually nothing and the reading public knows that.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I genuinely believe that the market will only really take off when the price of a commercially produced ebook drops to the level at which it becomes a genuine impulse purchase, and I normally assess that as the cost of a cup of coffee – certainly under £3/$4.50 – and ideally less than that.
            There’s an old story concerning the invention of the ballpoint pen, which I believe to be true. An English company began marketing the pen at the highest possible price they thought the market could bear, and about the same time an American company started selling the new pen as cheaply as they possibly could. The English company went bankrupt, and the success of the American firm is reflected in the fact that almost everybody these days calls a ballpoint pen a ‘biro’, in most cases without having the slightest idea where the name came from.
            I believe that the most successful publishers of ebooks will be those companies which embrace the ‘pile them high and sell them cheap’ marketing concept which has worked so consistently in the past, and those that go to the wall will be the ones who cling onto old concepts of the value of the written word.
            As always, time will tell.

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith
Blogs:              The Curzon Group
Website link:  Brit Writers

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Ripper revisited

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)

You’ll be relieved to hear that this week I’m not going to be banging on about the parlous state of publishing and the uncertainties for the future of the industry of which I am a very small part. You might be less relieved to learn that I’m going to spend my time telling you about my latest book.
            The Ripper Secret is my second book for Simon & Schuster and is, like the previous novel The Titanic Secret, set around a series of real-world events, in this case the brutal killings perpetrated in the Whitechapel area of London at the end of the nineteenth century by an unknown murderer who acquired the hideously appropriate nickname ‘Jack the Ripper’. What I’ve always found interesting about this particular serial killer – he almost certainly wasn’t the first man who met this definition by embarking on a killing spree over a period of time, but he’s definitely the most famous – is that even today, almost a century and a half after the events which cast a cloak of terror over the East End of London, his actions still throw a shadow over the city.
            People still travel to Whitechapel and the surrounding areas, looking for the streets where the Ripper walked in search of his victims, and organized tours of the murder sites – or rather what remain of the geographical locations because development in this part of London has hidden almost all of the sites under new roads and buildings – are still a popular tourist attraction.
And not only that, but almost every year a new non-fiction book is published which positively identifies yet another new subject as Jack the Ripper. The one characteristic most of these books seem to share is that the author has a very clear idea of exactly who the Ripper was, and then spends almost the entire book cherry-picking those pieces of evidence which support this contention, ignoring those which flatly contradict it and, in some cases, invent ‘facts’ from dubious sources to reinforce his or her argument. Very few books even attempt to carry out a proper and unbiased investigation of the Ripper killings and then come to a reasonable conclusion about the identity of the perpetrator.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my novel does neither, precisely because it is a novel. I am not attempting in this book to provide compelling evidence that my chosen subject was Jack the Ripper, although suggestions have been made in the past that he could have been. Nor am I trying to be selective in choosing which facts will be a part the story. Instead, I’ve tried to weave a believable plot around the Ripper killings, while sticking as rigidly as possible to the historical reality of that dark time in east London.
While I was researching the historical background of this book, a number of questions occurred to me, questions which very few people writing on the subject have ever attempted to answer. Most books have attempted simply to identify the murderer and little else.
In particular, few people ever seemed to have considered the following:

·         Why did the killings start?
·         Why did the mutilations get progressively more brutal with each succeeding murder?
·         Why did the killings stop?
·         And what possible motive was driving the murderer?

I don’t pretend that my novel actually identifies the real Jack the Ripper, but what it does do is provide logical and believable answers to those questions.
As to the actual identity of this most notorious of all serial killers, I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about that.
The Ripper Secret will be published by Simon & Schuster in the United Kingdom on 11 October 2012.

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith

Friday, 21 September 2012

Nothing new under the sun

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)

There’s been one interesting development reported in the press recently which again serves to underline the widening gap between conventional – paperback and hardback – publication and electronic media. According to USA Today, the bestselling American author Tess Gerritsen released a mini e-book in advance of her new novel, published in August. The ‘teaser’ e-book, for want of a better expression, sold for only $1.99, making it a true impulse purchase, and was clearly intended to both appeal to her large existing readership so that they would have something else to read ahead of the publication of her novel, and also provide a cheap e-book that would allow people who’d never read a Gerritsen book to sample her writing and see if they liked it.
            The beauty of this kind of exercise, of course, is that the time taken between an author or publisher deciding that a novella or mini e-book is a good idea, to the finished work being available on Amazon can literally be a matter of a day or so after the manuscript has been completed. Contrast that with the length of time it would take a conventional publisher to achieve the same thing. Granted, my first published novel was a fairly weighty tome, well over 100,000 words, but that was delivered as a finished manuscript to the publisher in May 2003, and the book was finally released in August 2004, almost a year and a half later.
            The ability to react quickly and produce a book at short notice is completely beyond the ability of most publishing houses, and this is in no way their fault. The extended timescale is forced upon them by the various processes which are involved in the printing and publication of any book. The only time publishers do release a book quickly is for works like biographies which are issued a very short time after the death of the subject. And this can only be achieved, of course, because the entire manuscript has already been written by the biographer, and the only things missing are the date and circumstances of the death of that person
            I think this kind of very reactive approach to publishing, of getting additional publications out on the streets very quickly, is something we’re going to see a lot more of in the future, and not just as teasers to bridge the gap between publication dates of major novels. For example, if a book proved to be unexpectedly popular, the author could release a short work explaining how he got the idea for the book, the time it took to write it, and other material of that nature. A controversial work could be followed by a kind of expanded author’s note, detailing the sources for the published information and the reason the writer and publisher felt it was important to place the material in the public domain.
            In short, I believe this very flexible approach to publication could actually start a whole new trend, and it could only be achieved because of the existence of the Kindle and other electronic readers.
            But the corollary of this new development, obviously, will be the widening of the existing gap between readers who like books and readers who like to read books on an electronic device. As well as the obvious and well publicised advantages of the Kindle and its electronic kin, this new aspect to publishing might serve to drive more people towards making the jump to an e-reader of some sort, with a consequent knock-on effect in the sales of conventional books. And, of course, that will be another blow that both publishers and bookshops will have to absorb.
            And there’s another possibility as well, a possibility that actually takes publishing around in something of a full circle. Perhaps authors could consider releasing their books in serial format, selling them cheaply as electronic downloads in tranches of three or four chapters at a time, which would allow new readers of their books to sample their storytelling ability at almost no cost. And, quite probably, even if the serialised sections were very modestly priced, the cost of the complete work could be far more than most books are selling for today as Kindle downloads.
If this happens, it really would be a return to the good old days, because authors such as Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle released many of their books in this way as a matter of course, publishing their novels in serial form in popular newspapers of the day.
            Perhaps in publishing, as in so many other fields, there really is nothing new under the sun …

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith

Friday, 14 September 2012

The writing is on the (electronic) wall

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Thomas Payne and Jack Steel)

There’s been both good news and bad news in the world of publishing in America just recently, your perception of the various reports being coloured significantly by exactly where you stand.
            According to Publishers Weekly, and their report was based on sales data supplied by Bowker Market Research, Amazon further extended its considerable lead in the book marketplace over the past twelve months, and today almost a third – 29% in fact – of all money spent on books passes through the tills at Amazon. That’s a big jump from the figure quoted last year, of 23%.
            Some other retailers are also improving their figures, though not by much. Barnes & Noble – still the world’s largest bookseller with both online and High Street retailers – managed a 1% shift – hardly a jump – from a 19% to 20% share of the market, and other online retailers, excluding both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, together accounted for roughly 10% of all spending on books by consumers. Adding the various sets of data together produces the unsurprising conclusion that well over half of all consumer spending on books is today done online.
            Independent bookstores are continuing to be less and less significant, this year holding only 6% of the marketplace, a fall of a third from their 9% share of a year earlier. Coming in at fourth in the sales figures are three separate outlets: the supermarket giant Wal-Mart, book clubs and Christian outlets, each holding about 4% of the market. Apart from Wal-Mart, American supermarkets only account for 1% of all book sales, a significantly lower percentage than in Britain, where the fiction buyer for Asda can literally decide whether or not a particular book will make it into the bestseller charts, based solely on his or her decision about whether or not Asda will stock it.
            The only other significant sales reported were the warehouse clubs which sold 3% of books, and Books-A-Million, the second largest American bookstore chain, which accounted for a mere 2% of all book sales.
            If I was investing money in any American bookstore chain apart from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I’d be worried. Remember that last year Borders accounted for roughly 10% of all book sales in Britain, and today the stores are shuttered and barred.
            Perhaps surprisingly, the study also showed that sales of ebooks only accounted for about 10% of all book revenue, and that women were responsible for 64% of all spending on ebooks. The demographic analysis was interesting as well, showing that the highest percentage of ebook purchases came from people in the 18-29 age range (31%), with the 30-44 year old buyers very close behind with 28%. The younger teens, in the 13-17 age range, only bought 5% of ebooks, so presumably the ‘Harry Potter effect’ has now started to die away.
            There was a slightly different poll conducted in a recent edition of USA Today, which asked readers how they obtained their most recent book. Less than half of those who responded (48%) said that they had bought it. Almost a quarter of them (24%) had borrowed it from either a friend or family member, and a further 14% had borrowed it from a library.
A somewhat surprising 13% ticked the ‘other’ box, which could mean that they found it, stole it – though most people wouldn’t consider books to be high value or desirable items in the eyes of most thieves – received it as a gift or obtained it from some kind of communal resource, like the paperback cupboard in a clubhouse. Those people reading electronic versions, of course, could well have downloaded the book for free from Amazon, either because the book was offered as a loss leader to advertise that particular author’s other works, or as a kind of free promotion ahead of the book going on sale at normal price.
But whatever the reason, the one fact that shone out very clearly from that particular survey was that less than half of those readers who answered had actually paid money for their current choice of literature, and that really cannot be good news for anybody involved in publishing, at any level or in any position.

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith

Friday, 7 September 2012

All Fired up

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Jack Steel and Thomas Payne)

It’s not really my fault, but the future of publishing is what most people in the industry seem to be talking about at the moment, when they’re not wishing they’d written Fifty Shades instead of EL James and were banking the better part of a million pounds every week. And that’s not a misprint.
            Instead of looking at new books and what authors are up to at the moment – the two core components of the industry – most of the comments I’ve seen lately are still far more concerned with the industry as a whole: what does the future hold for agents, publishers and especially for bookshops? The general consensus seems to be that independent bookshops will probably survive, albeit in much smaller numbers than at present, and in order to attract and retain their customers they will have to offer far more to them than just a bunch of books sitting on shelves. They’ll have to do the kind of things that Amazon simply can’t compete with, like offering coffee and cakes and comfy seats while people browse, organizing book signings, author visits and book readings.
            And talking about Amazon, the literal ‘elephant in the room’, there will undoubtedly be competition in the future for the bookselling giant, and especially for its single bestselling item, the Kindle. And it looks like the most serious competition to this device will come from the Nook, produced by Barnes & Noble, and especially given the fact that Microsoft has taken a stake in the company, which means that Barnes & Noble now has both serious money and technological know-how behind it.
            Which seems like an appropriate moment to mention Amazon’s latest electronic product, the Kindle Fire. I’ve yet to handle one of these devices or even see it in the flesh, but I have to say that I’m not entirely convinced it’s going to enjoy anything like the runaway success of the Kindle itself.
            The beauty of the Kindle is that it quite literally provides a library in your pocket. With a capacity of up to 3,500 books, a battery that needs charging only once every three or four weeks, and the ability to download new books wirelessly almost everywhere, it’s very difficult to see why anybody who enjoys reading doesn’t own one. It even makes good financial sense, because of the huge number of ebooks available for free or for under about £3, in contrast to the typical RRP of a paperback novel of around £6.99.
            But the Kindle Fire is a very different animal. The most obvious difference is the colour screen on the Fire, and the fact that this device is far more than just a way of reading books. It’s essentially a tablet computer – a long way from being my favourite device – with a seven inch screen that also allows the user to play music, watch films, read colour magazines and a bunch of other things. All of which does, in my opinion, beg the question: why would you want to? Do you really want to sit down and watch a movie on a seven inch screen wearing earphones?
            OK, probably some people do. On trains I quite often see people hunched over mobile phones squinting at the tiny screen while some action sequence is displayed on it, to the accompaniment of tinny music leaking from their earphones. God knows what that does to your eyes after a while, but I suppose for these people the jump to the Fire’s much larger screen would be huge improvement. But it will of course mean that they would have to carry both a mobile phone and the Fire.
            On the pricing side, it’s not a bad deal, especially when compared to the ludicrously expensive iPad, with the 32GB Fire coming in at only £199, about half the price of the entry-level iPad, and doing pretty much the same things in a far more convenient package.
            But I think the biggest problem with the Fire is going to be the battery life. Amazon is claiming that the battery will last for 11 hours. For anybody familiar with claims made by computer companies, that number will be taken with a very large pinch of salt, and probably a more realistic estimate would be 8 to 9 hours, depending on usage. And that, no matter how you much you dress it up, is simply pathetic when compared to the original Kindle.
            So if you are thinking about buying one of the new devices principally to read books, don’t bother. Get the old-style one, and you won’t regret it for a moment. But if you really are the kind of person who wants to sit by yourself in a corner somewhere, watching a film on a screen you can cover with the palm of your hand, without a doubt the Fire will be a far better buy for you than the iPad.
            On the other hand, maybe you should just get out more …

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Amazon Debate

By Richard Parker

There's a lot of debate online at the moment re the sock puppet attacks - sounds like a great name for a band...

I'm not going to say what's already been said but I would say that this would be Amazon's best opportunity to do what I've always hoped they would and completely scrap the star rating system.  Writers, readers and publishers have all become completely obsessed by it and it would certainly be one less headache for all concerned.

I think book reviews are still very necessary and, as there are many passionate book bloggers out there who work hard to bring their constructive opinions to other readers via their sites this would be an excellent way for shoppers to find out more about a potential purchase if they needed further convincing.

Perhaps Amazon could link up to some of the established, rated sites in the way that bloggers will put a link to a book's Amazon page.  Bloggers could submit their sites to Amazon and when you visit a book's page Amazon could give you a links to several of the sites featuring differing reviews of the book.

Perhaps this would be unworkable but there must be an alternative to a system that no longer fulfills its initially straightforward purpose.

Visit Richard HERE
Or Find Him On Twitter HERE    

Friday, 31 August 2012

The world of publishing, again

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Jack Steel and Thomas Payne)

I know we keep on returning to the same subject, but for that I make no apology. Anybody involved in any way in the world of publishing will be aware that the industry is in a state of flux, with nobody quite knowing what’s going to happen next. The two factors driving that uncertainty are the global recession, which is clearly having an impact upon every industry in the world and upon what people spend their money on, and the almost simultaneous introduction of the Kindle and other ebook readers.
            There was an interesting short editorial in the summer 2012 edition of The Author, which described the current situation in quite a concise and effective way, and I’m repeating some of his opinions in this blog posting. The author made the point that ebooks are neither a promise for the future, nor a potential new technology: they are already a very substantial part of the publishing spectrum. However, according to some of the latest figures, sales of ebooks appear to be levelling off, but absolutely nobody in the publishing business believes that the figures will decline, or that either the ebook or the ebook reader will prove to be a short term fad. No doubt in the future readers of various different types will appear, some with colour screens like the Kindle Fire, but the electronic reader as a technology and a device is here to stay.
            Figures also indicate that the main appeal of the ebook is to the dedicated fiction buyer, which is perhaps not surprising. I’ve mentioned before that in my opinion the novel is a disposable item, something which is read once and then given away, and for that kind of usage the Kindle is absolutely ideal. The reader can download the book instantly, almost irrespective of where in the world he or she may be sitting, read it and then remove it from the device, secure in the knowledge that the ebook is securely stored in Amazon’s archive and can be retrieved at any time, and at no further cost.
            Following on from this, it’s also becoming clear that ebook sales are supplanting rather than supplementing the sales of printed books, and most especially the sales of paperbacks, which given the foregoing is entirely predictable. What is perhaps rather unexpected is that sales of hardback books appear to be largely unaffected.
            Other factors in the equation include piracy, which is likely to remain a problem. In one survey over one third of the ebook users questioned admitted that they had illegally downloaded copyrighted material at some point. There are two ways of addressing this problem: complicated and simple.
The complicated way is to employ some form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to try to ensure that only the person who has paid for the book is able to download it onto his or her device, and that it cannot subsequently be copied to another device or uploaded onto the web to be downloaded from there. The problem with this is that hackers regard such measures as a challenge, and are quite happy to spend hours, days or even weeks working out a way to disable the DRM or bypass them. It becomes a kind of contest which neither side is ever going to win.
The simple way is, really, really simple. When the price of an ebook, or anything else for that matter, is reduced to the point where for most people it is insignificant, which normally means about the price of a cup of coffee, there is almost no incentive for anyone to download a pirated version when for just a pound or two they can legitimately purchase the real thing. The problem at the moment is that publishers seem completely unable to grasp this fact, and almost without exception they are almost all pricing their ebooks at a similar – and in some cases even a higher – price than the paperback version.
I’m aware of all the arguments surrounding this subject, arguments which undeniably have merit, at least to people in the publishing industry. But they’re not selling ebooks to people in the publishing industry: they’re selling them to members of the general public. And most book buyers are very well aware that preparing an ebook and offering it for sale through Amazon is something that only ever has to be done once. Every subsequent sale of the ebook costs the publisher precisely nothing, whereas every paperback has to be printed, bound, stored, transported and finally displayed in a bookshop window or sent through the post, expenses which clearly have to be paid by somebody.
The inevitable result of this pricing policy is that most readers believe that full priced ebooks are at best unreasonably expensive, and at worst a rip-off, which makes the idea of downloading a pirate version infinitely more attractive.
I’m not really in the prediction business, otherwise I would simply win the lottery and retire to the Caribbean, but I’m prepared to wager money that within a couple of years, five years at the most, the essential truth of this argument will finally be realized, and publishers will begin selling ebooks at about the same price point as self-published authors are doing at the moment. In other words, for less than about £3.
            And I’ll make a further prediction: if they do this, ebook piracy will be enormously reduced, and the publishers will be selling far more copies than they do at the moment, and making significantly larger profits.
            Finally, in my probably vain attempt to retire to the Caribbean, could I urge everybody to take a look at the following website, and buy as many copies of the books listed there as you can afford!

You can contact me at:
Twitter:          @pss_author
Facebook:      Peter Stuart Smith

Friday, 24 August 2012


By Richard Parker

Just like a thriller shouldn't allow you to draw breath I'm not giving myself any opportunity to allow my pulse to slow between books.

Having today delivered my polishes for my stand alone being published in April I'm straight on to my next thriller, the idea of which has already been given the enthusiastic thumbs up by my editor.

May sound frantic but in fact I've been working up the idea for some time and, now the decks are (momentarily) cleared, I can concentrate on getting some words down.  I'm sure I'll still have to read next year's book a few more times before it's signed off but I'm looking forward to spending some hours with a new concept and characters.

Probably because us writers spend so much time waiting for feedback and news it's sometimes good to just get on with something new and exciting.

It's daunting to have your cursor flash on that first page again but this time next year I hope I'll be in the same position I am with the last.

Now, I've got the twist...  Just need the 100,000 words that lead up to it.

Visit Richard HERE
Follow him on Twitter HERE 


Storybook Pro

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey, Jack Steel and Thomas Payne)

Matt Lynn and I have talked on several occasions about writing, which shouldn’t come as very much of a surprise, because we’re both full-time authors and authors, like people involved in any other trade, usually taken a keen interest in how other people approach their work. In our respective cases, we’re entirely different. Matt has the patience and the ability to work out an enormously detailed synopsis for each book, a synopsis that might approach one third of the length of the finished manuscript, and then he basically writes the book exactly following that synopsis.
            One of the things I like least about writing is doing a synopsis, even a one-page effort, and I simply wouldn’t have the patience to work the way he does. I tend to start with an idea and a blank page in Word. I think of a decent opening sentence – or I try to – and then go on from there. I always know more or less how the book is going to end, but I very rarely have any idea of the twists and turns which the plot will take during the writing, and for me this system works. Neither of us is right or wrong. Like all authors we work the way that seems to suit us best.
            But occasionally I do stop and wonder if some form of specialist software might help me to organize my thoughts rather better than simply trying to keep the entire plot and all the characters tucked away in various compartments of my unreliable brain. Hence my decision a short time ago to try Storybook Pro. I played around with the free version for a short time and then decided to buy the ‘Pro’ version and see how that worked.
            On the face of it, this should be a remarkably useful program for any writer, offering the ability to create major and minor characters, describe locations and all the rest of it, inspect the timeline and use various charts and other tools. In reality, and in use, it’s precisely the opposite. The program is non-intuitive in many respects, and the parameters are so rigid that it actually acts as a dampener on creativity. I doubt if any working author had any input into the design of the program at any stage.
For example, in most of my books I begin with a prologue, normally set many years, sometimes many centuries, before the action which takes place in the present day. This program simply won’t let me do that, because it insists on a precise date for each section, and it also won’t allow me to call the first chapter ‘Prologue’. In fact, I did eventually find a way around this, but it took me the better part of half an hour to do so. The dating system is particularly rigid. You either had to insert a specific date or what it calls ‘relative dating’, where a particular section occurs a number of days after the previous one. It’s so much easier in Word to just type the date I want – rather than the date the program wants – at the head of the chapter.
As well as chapters, there are also ‘strands’ and ‘parts’, neither of which seem to be particularly useful for any purpose I could discern. The program is also irritating in that various icons on the screen don’t do anything – for example, at the beginning of each chapter is either the word ‘draft’ or ‘outline’, each followed by a different icon which logically you would expect to allow you to switch views. They don’t. Neither the name nor the icon does anything at all, which makes you wonder why it’s there in the first place.
Other niggles with it are that it’s incredibly slow to load, so slow, in fact, that usually I end up clicking the icon again, when it generates an error message telling me that the file is already in use. Word is a big program, but it loads in less than half the time that Storybook Pro takes to appear. It’s even clumsy when you leave it. Clicking the close button doesn’t close the program, but generates a dialogue box which asks you if you want to close the program. Oddly enough, that was why I clicked the close button, but the program – or more accurately the programmer – appears to be too stupid to realize this.
            But perhaps my biggest concern with this program is that shortly after I purchased version 3.2, the company sent me an e-mail explaining how much better version 4.0 was, and how much less rigid the parameters were, and offering me a substantial discount off the purchase price of the new program. The idea was that existing users could input a code during the purchase process, and the price would then be adjusted accordingly. So I tried this. In fact, I tried it about a dozen times, and it simply didn’t work. I e-mailed the company. I actually e-mailed them six times pointing this out and asking if they could fix it. The last e-mail went off last week, and to date I have had no response whatsoever to any of my messages.
Bearing in mind that all I was trying to do was purchase the upgraded version – to send the company money, in fact – the total lack of response is extremely worrying. If that’s the way they treat potential customers, I very much doubt if they even have a support staff, and if they have I suspect that you’d be most unlikely to get any kind of sense out of them.
So in short, my personal review of Storybook Pro is ‘don’t bother’.

You can contact me at:

Friday, 17 August 2012

The mighty Amazon rolls on – electronically

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey and Jack Steel)

First, something of an apology, as real life has been rather ganging up on me of late. Getting an Internet connection on board a ship is never an easy thing to achieve and, because the link is provided by a satellite, the download and upload speed is usually little better than dial-up, which means there’s no real incentive to spend much time on the Web. So while I was on board the Queen Mary 2, cruising from Southampton to Hamburg, and then up to Honningsvaag on the northern tip of Norway, I just gave lectures and wrote stuff for the next book, and didn’t bother with much else.
Back on dry land, we’ve had a few problems as well, trying to sort out various houses for reasons I won’t bore you with, because they’re really not very interesting, and then, when I finally got to France and should have had time to write an entry, I discovered that I had helpfully left the power cable for my laptop in Andorra, a hot and sweaty six hour drive south, so I’ve been out of e-mail contact for almost two weeks while I found one on eBay, using my wife’s netbook, and could get it sent out to my address here. Anyway, it arrived today, just in time for me to write this, so thank you to all_mobilecompaccessories2010 for such a prompt and efficient service.
            Leigh Russell has already touched on this topic in her contribution to this blog, but I thought I’d expand on it somewhat.
            About a week ago, to coincide with the second anniversary of the launch of the Kindle in the United Kingdom, Amazon UK announced that it was now selling more ebooks than paperback and hardback books combined. The figure the company came up with is that for every 100 printed books sold, Amazon sells 114 ebooks. This statistic is specific to Amazon in Britain, and does not necessarily reflect the balance between printed and electronic books bought from any other outlet.
            The Kindle became the bestselling product on Amazon within just a few months of its launch, and is still selling extremely well, because it’s very good at what it does, which I’ve mentioned on this blog before. It’s not the only electronic reader, of course, but it is far and away the most popular. One reason for the success of these devices is the huge number of sales of novels like Fifty Shades of Grey, some 2 million of which were apparently sold by Amazon in under four months.
            I’ve read elsewhere that this book is a contender for both the title of ‘fastest selling novel of all time’ and ‘worst novel of all time’, though because I haven’t read it – and have no intention of doing so – I’m not qualified to comment on the latter opinion. One reason for the success of this book and its kin is arguably the fact that women – and it is aimed squarely at this section of the market – can read it on the Kindle without anybody knowing that they’re immersed in a racy and semi-pornographic novel. Interestingly, this is exactly the opposite to one reason given for the success of The Da Vinci Code, which was undeniably a dreadful book, and which was supposed to be popular precisely because it had the words ‘Da Vinci’ on its cover.
            Another reason for the success of the electronic side of Amazon is self-publishing, and the company states that it has seen a 400% increase in the use of Kindle Direct Publishing over the past year.
But perhaps one of the most important – and encouraging – pieces of data released by Amazon is that, according to the company’s figures, the average Kindle owner buys four times more books than people who only buy printed versions. I’d agree with that, because it’s certainly true for me. Precisely because I can buy between three and four cheap Kindle downloads for the price of one paperback, and have them delivered in a matter of seconds, I tend to cruise the bestseller lists and buy books in clumps, or whatever the correct mass noun is for more than one book.
And, because each of them costs less than a cup of coffee, even if I decide they’re complete rubbish it really doesn’t matter. And while it’s true that most self-published books have been turned into Kindle downloads precisely because they’re nowhere near good enough for any commercial publisher to even consider, most of the ones I have bought are quite readable. I reckon that out of every 10 Kindle books I buy, one or two will be unreadably bad, one will probably be of publishable standard, and the rest will fall somewhere between these two extremes.
So although the publishing world is in something of a crisis at the moment, not really knowing what to do for the best and how to cope with the rise of the ebook, we can at least take comfort in the fact that the future of reading looks as bright as it ever did, even if the medium which is used to display the type on the page has changed dramatically.

You can contact me at:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

What Are Olympics?

By Richard Parker

Am now in receipt of SCARE ME edit notes from Exhibit A and I'm relieved they don't do what the title says.

When I edit I always try to be as objective about my own work as possible and the best way I've found to achieve this is to pretend it's somebody else's.  It's been a while since I read the whole manuscript so this will certainly help the approach.

A bit of time away from your project does help you to see areas that can be enhanced.  There's always room for improvement and adding those finer details is like adding a final dash of spice to a dish.

Whether or not readers will happily digest what I've prepared for them is an entirely different matter but now the book title and publishing date have been added to the new Exhibit A website it all seems so much more official and I realise the day of publication is drawing nearer.

Advance review copies should be doing the rounds by the end of the year and it will be in the hands of  paperback and Kindle readers by April.

So I really should get on with these final polishes.  27th of August is my deadline.  Olympics?  Barbecues?  Cold beers?  What do I need those for when I have bloody murder and mayhem for company?

Visit Richard HERE
Follow him on Twitter HERE      


Monday, 6 August 2012

The Waterstones Debate

In the light of recent news about e-books on amazon can anyone tell me why Waterstones is complicit in the disappearance of the printed book? While Amazon report that sales of ebooks (excluding free downloads) now outstrip combined sales of paperbacks and hardbacks 114 to 100, Waterstones have introduced a counterproductive events policy.
Nothing is ever achieved by being defeatist. Trends are not inevitable.
With passion, hard work, and some common sense, the printed book can survive alongside its electronic partner - yes, partner, not competitor. Why not, when ebooks are attracting more people to read?
Waterstones have a responsibility to readers and authors who want to see them come out fighting in defense of physical books. There is no one else who can do this on a significant scale (with no disrespect intended to the fantastic dedicated smaller chains and independent bookshops).
Read about "Waterstones Faulty Logic" on Book2Book ( site)

I make little personal gain from sales of my printed books.  Two of my titles are on offer on amazon kindle, one on the Summer Kindle Reading Marathon. Most sales of my books are already online.

But I would hate to see printed books disappear. If you agree, please join in the debate. Visit your local bookshop to discuss what is happening. Post online, join in debates taking place on my blog and others, on my facebook page, and twitter.
Don't wake up one morning and express surprise that Waterstones have gone.
Think about Ottakars, Dillons, and others, recently taken over by Waterstones. Then think about Borders, more recently morphed into stores like Primark. Then think.

Posted by Leigh Russell