Sunday, 2 August 2015

Four weeks/ pre-order time!

Four Weeks to Go!

There are just four short weeks until Ten Guilty Men is out.

Which means it is pre-order time. We sent off all the files to Amazon less than an hour ago, and we’ve already got a page on Amazon UK. We expect to have pages elsewhere within 72 hours.


Price

We’re launching, as promised, at £1.99 GBP/ $2.99 USD and $3.99CAD/AUS. That’s roughly the same according to today’s exchange rate from xe.com

Amazon do allow us to fix just the USA price and allow the others to float according to the exchange rate, but that means that one day the book would be £1.98 and the next it could be £2.02 which is plain daft. We hope you don’t mind the ~1% variation in pricing. We’ve tried to be as fair as we can with pricing – which is very difficult with international taxation being so variable. In the UK that £1.99 includes 40p of VAT, while in the USA you’ll get sales tax added at checkout.

This weekend we’ve done our final check of the file – and, as usual, fixed a few issues that have slipped by multiple rounds of copyediting. And, as usual, there are probably some we haven’t spotted. If you spot one, let us know and we’ll fix it ASAP. As ever, we do write in British English and we copy-edit to New Harts Rules/ the Oxford Dictionary so our apologies to those that prefer American English, but if we tried to localise we’d probably get it half-right and that looks worse than leaving it as intended.

So go check out the sample (once Amazon have it up), pre-order if you like it, or wait and read it with Kindle Unlimited for free if you prefer.



We’ll update this post as more store pages come online, more versions (paperback etc) are available but if you’d like us to let you know about a specific language/ edition feel free to email us with your request and we’ll personally notify you when that version is out.

FAQs:

When will I be charged?
Amazon charge on release - so expect a charge to be made on or around 31st August.

How will it be delivered?
Amazon will whisper-sync it to your kindle the first time you connect after release.

How much is it?
£1.99 or regional equivalent.

What order should I read the DCI Morton novels in?
Any. They're stand alone so you can pick which one you like, but the chronological order is:
1. Dead on Demand
2. Cleaver Square
3. Ten Guilty Men

Can I have a free copy?
Yes - if you're willing to give us an honest review in return. Send us an email if you'd like a review copy.

Can I interview you on my website?
Yes. Send us an email.

What if I don't like it?
You'll have a full seven days from release to return it for a full refund, no questions asked. Just use the 'Return' option within Manage My Kindle.

Will Ten Guilty Men be included in Kindle Unlimited?
Yes. For at least the first 90 days, you'll be able to read for free if you've got a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

I've read Ten Guilty Men. When's the next one out?
We're aiming for early 2016. Watch this space.

Who made the cover?
Nadica Boshkovska. She's excellent. I highly recommend her.

Can I get a signed paperback?
Send us an email, and we'll see what we can do.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Money – What did we do with it?

We’ve now been in publishing for a smidge over three years. Each year we’ve had a fair number of sales resulting in a modest profit. We’re not making mega money – but with only one full-length novel priced above £0.00, we wouldn’t expect to. Our aim has always been to look at the long run – lots of cheap copies means more readers for books 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 etc. We think the best chance of success is to provide books people want to read at prices they want to pay.

As you guys knows our third DCI Morton novel, Ten Guilty Men, launches on September 1st. We’ll have a pre-order page up in a couple of week’s times, and we’ll post the link up here when it is live. 

Launch price - £1.99! Or read it for Free with Kindle Unlimited.

Today I want to talk about what we’re spending our royalties on. Your purchases of our books are funding Dan’s other passion – cooking.

Last month Dan took his final chef’s exam (called a synoptic). He was given a bunch of obscure ingredients and tasked with creating a Fine Dining menu for four guests plus his examiners to be cooked under exam conditions (i.e. with people watching his every move!).

We’re delighted to say he passed with flying colours. Yay.

But just going to catering college only gets you so far. Becoming a chef means studying under the world’s best chefs as an intern. Dan has done work experience already in some of the finest restaurants in the UK.

For him to learn any more, he needs to go to Michelin-starred kitchens abroad, and he has been fortunate enough to secure an internship with one of the best restaurants in the world starting next month, so he’ll be off to Copenhagen for 13 weeks – which means he’ll be paying out of pocket for the costs of travel, accommodation etc while working an unpaid internship.

And that’s where your purchases come in. By buying Cleaver Square, you’ve given Dan the opportunity to pursue his dreams without having to resort to loans or working extra jobs while he does his internship.

It still seems so incredible that two guys with a copy of Word can go from a silly bet about writing a book to earning enough to finance life-changing trips in a few short years. It's nothing short of miraculous and we really appreciate your support so thank you. Thank you for reading our books, for taking a chance on two unknown authors, and for helping to make a dream become a reality.


P.S. Dan’s trip will mean that I (Sean) will be taking over all emails/ tweets/ facebook messages and everything else while he’s away.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

What happens when a retailer of eBooks goes out of business?

The folks over at Ink, Bits & Pixels have reported today that Nook may be about to cease operations in 38 out of 40 international territories (everywhere except the UK and the USA).

It’s almost eerie how close the timing of this announcement is to our last post (‘You Never Owned It Anyway’) because it demonstrates that when you have a licence, you can be dependent on the other party’s existence for that licence to be worth anything.

We joked that some of us might well outlive Amazon. If Nook does to the wall as Ink, Bits and Pixels have suggested then we’re going to see the potential ramifications of that store closure. 

They might:
a)  Cease sales and downloads of new titles

b) Cease downloads of existing titles

c) Both

The danger is that readers may lose content they have legitimately purchased, and be prevented by Digital Rights Management software from ever using that content elsewhere. 

Now, for Nook, it’s not as bad as it could be – because they use .ePub which is, while not totally fungible in terms of presentation (as code can be interpreted in proprietary ways), an open source format.

If you’ve got books with them, I suggest you go and download them all to a nice folder on your desktop – and then back it up. Insurance doesn’t hurt.

If they do go bust, and readers lose access to purchased titles, then I suggest contacting your bank/ credit card provider for any recent transactions (as you might be able to reverse them). 

Failing that, have a word with the publisher/ author. Anything we’ve sold, we’re happy to email out a backup file in case of loss. It’s not ideal, but it’s a fall back. Our stuff is all DRM free anyway so if you’ve got it downloaded anywhere then you should be able to copy it / modify formats as you need to.


With a bit of luck, it won’t come to that. There’s a fair chance Barnes and Noble will simply sell off Nook – possibly to Kobo. I’m not a huge fan of consolidation in the market generally, but we’re miles away from a monopoly. Amazon, Google and Apple in particular are clearly in this for the long run.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

You Never Owned It Anyway

In all of the furor over subscription models, it’s easy to overlook the most fundamental part of the eBook system: you don’t own an eBook.

We have never ‘sold’ eBooks. They are merely licensed. Readers pay for the right to read the eBook
Sure, you own the kindle itself but that’s it. The books on there are sold in the same way software is sold. It’s a sale of a licence, the terms of which are defined by the contract. In the case of Amazon that contract is defined in s1 of the Kindle Store Terms of Use which says:

...the Content Provider grants you a non-exclusive right to view, use, and display such Kindle Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Kindle or a Reading Application or as otherwise permitted as part of the Service, solely on the number of Kindles or Supported Devices specified in the Kindle Store, and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider. The Content Provider may include additional terms of use within its Kindle Content.


Let’s break that down a bit.

“Non-exclusive” – not just for you

“View, use and display” – read

“an unlimited number of times” – but you probably won’t want to…

“solely on the Kindle or a Reading Application” – you can’t use DRM stripping tools to convert it for another eReader

“solely on the number of Kindles or Supported Devices specified” – good luck finding that in the store. It should be somewhere on the product page.

“solely for your personal, non-commercial use” – just you, not your Mum, not your best mate, and not your dog (sorry, Lassie).

“Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider” – you own a license subject to these terms. You don’t own the book.

“The Content Provider may include additional terms of use within its Kindle Content” – This one I find perplexing. I’ve never seen a publisher add any extra terms. Perhaps I should include some in our next book (similar to Gamestation’s “we own your soul”stunt).

So we now know that instead of buying a book, you’re basically renting it for as long as you want it (or as long as Amazon remain in business; it’s not impossible that you might outlive the corporation providing the content, as big as they seem right now). You can’t flog it. You can’t use it in another format. You can’t lend it to a mate.

Pretty naff, right? If you buy a book you can do what you want with it. You can flog it on second hand. You can burn it in disgust (please don’t!). You can use it as a doorstop (here’s looking at you, Blackstone's Criminal Practice) . Give it away. Recycle it. Whatever.

In the USA, you’ve got the First Sale Doctrine which basically says “Pass it on as you bought it” (not legal advice, I’m oversimplifying).

Of course, books still have some legal blurbage in them. From one on my shelf, chosen at random, the copyright page says:

this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed upon the subsequent purchaser.”

Restrictions are nothing new. I think of it like buying a DVD. I’m buying it to watch at home – but not to use to run a bootleg cinema. It’s not a clear cut issue – there has to be a divide somewhere between “you and only you, alone, in your own home, while no-one else is watching” and “running the new big sceen multiplex”.

With books, that line is well established. There have been numerous cases. You do own a physical book. That doesn’t mean you own the intellectual property that goes with it, but that specific rendition of the words onto that paper? It’s yours. Do with it what you will.
And that works.
But it works because books are hard to copy. Imagine if you had to photocopy every page of a novel (or, if you’re a student, a whole textbook). Nightmare. It just isn’t worth it. And that’s basically been the bulwark against mass-copying. People can’t be arsed.

With eBooks, it’s too easy to copy. I can email you books in a heartbeat. There are cheeky gits selling CDs full of eBooks on eBay for a few pence (perhaps not all of them legal – though public domain books can be resold freely). That’s the fundamental difference. Because you can copy it, publishers restrict your legal rights because they can’t physically stop you.

It isn’t legal for you to decrypt the DRM on an eBook. But it is easy. Ten seconds with a widely available eBook management program and you can take off any restrictions currently employed. The lock is a warning that you’re breaking the rules, but it isn’t much of an actual deterrent.

I don’t use DRM. Dan and I think its waste of time. Pirated copies are already stripped of DRM, so the only people hurt by employing DRM to protect eBooks are those that have actually paid – and you deserve better.

I’m also pretty unlikely to sue anyone lending a book out. It might be technically illegal to email a friend a copy of my book (though there is a ‘Kindle Lending’ option for those who want to stay within the rules) but it’s not going to hurt anyone if you do. I’d appreciate it if people thought of eBooks like books – that lending out your copy to one friend is fine, but emailing twenty at the same time is taking the proverbial (as with a book you couldn’t physically do that).

It comes down to respect. Authors and publishers need to respect that readers consume content how they want to consume it – and will pay accordingly. Readers in turn will appreciate that authors need to earn money for their work. Writing a book is a labour of love, but paying the bills isn’t, so there has to be a fair bargain.

For us, that’s simple. Here are our rules for trying to be fair to readers:

1.  First book free. Every series we publish we try to work on a ‘first book free’ basis. Obviously, this applies to series – so the first one is only the first (and thus free) once a second book exists. That gives you a fair, free, no obligations chance to find out if you like it.
2.     No DRM. Who are we to tell you which device to use?
3.     No part-works. No cheating by selling you 1/3rd of a book for free, and then extorting you on parts two and three.
4.     The best books we can write. That doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect. No book nor author will ever be loved universally, but we’ll give it our best shot every time.
5.     Clear, fair pricing. We want to charge a fair amount. We need to cover our costs (which are basically: editing, art, promotion, translations, audio recording, formatting, and, most of all, time). That’s it. We keep note of the time taken to produce a book, ascribe that a notional hourly rate and thus come up with a ‘Total cost’ figure which is what we aim to get back. It’s then a case of working backwords from there to determine what we can reasonably charge that fits that goal and makes it fair for you. We’ve gone with £1.99/ $2.99 (after the first one free – so right now the two books in the DCI Morton series will set you back a whopping £1.99 total!).

Or you can read for free with Kindle Unlimited. It’s a subscription service. You don’t buy a book. But you do rent access to a whole collection. The author then gets paid on pages read (at about half a cent a page by the looks of things). I’ve had a few people say “I’d rather own my book” – in which case, print is still the medium of choice. KU is a rental – for the duration of membership. Then again, eBooks are just rentals too – for the duration of Amazon.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Sky Is Falling

Once again, Kindle Unlimited has changed – at least for authors.

As with the last lot of changes, people are up in arms either in favour of or against the new regime. Well, tough. It’s changed. Them’s the breaks. Deal with it. Moaning about it doesn’t help. Either adapt to the new model or don’t. I doubt it’ll be anywhere near as dramatic as some of the predictions online – and you can’t do much about it anyway.

For those unaware how KU works, it’s like this:

Step 1: Readers buy a subscription for $9.99/month (/regional equivalent). See this post for our take on whether you should subscribe.

Step 2: Readers can have as many or as few books from the Kindle Unlimited selection as they like from a selection of over half a million books.

Step 3: Amazon takes the proceeds, put it into a pool and divvies the money up among the authors of the works.

It’s still like this. The experience for readers is exactly as it always was. The bit that’s changed is step 3.

Under the old rules, the fund was divvied up by ‘units’. A unit was any title read beyond the free sample (which is 10% of the book). That meant if a reader read beyond 2 pages of a 20 page short the author was credited with a unit. If a reader read past 30 pages of a 300 page novel, the author was credited with a unit.

Each month the number of ‘units’ earned were then given a proportional share of the fund which has averaged approximately $1.30 per unit.

Unsurprisingly, this meant authors who wrote short works made more as there was nothing to differentiate between a reader taking a 400 page novel or a 10 page short story (and because the shorter length meant unfinished works given up after a chapter could trigger payment for short stories but not for novels).

Authors of longer works moaned to Amazon they were being unfairly treated, and so Amazon changed the pay structure.

Now instead of units, the fund is divided by pages actually read. This is really two big changes:
  1.         Shorter works no longer benefit from being considered equal to longer works.
  2.         Books that are borrowed but don’t make it to the end lose money
That’s it. Books are now paid in proportion to length (so ten readers completing a ten page story is the same as one reader reading a one hundred page story), and books people don’t finish won’t get paid as much.

This latter point is a bit of a change because a large proportion of books don’t get finished. It’s the elephant in the room in the publishing industry. A mere 28% of readers on Kobo finished Ten Years a Slave despite it being critically lauded.

As an aside, not all bought books are ever opened - something like a third of books remain untouched after purchase, so the combined effect of "Opened + Read" is a much higher standard to hold books to than under a simple sale model.

A more typical book has something like a 50% completion rate (i.e. half of those who begin reading will eventually finish). That’s a respectable, normal, figure.

The effect of this will be that books readers love (as demonstrated by actually reading the book) will earn more than those where readers stop part the way through (where previously going one word beyond 10% triggered a full unit – which would be very early on for ten page shorts).

I still have reservations about KU. The selection won’t suit everyone. The long term downward pressure on author earnings is considerable ($10 split up between Amazon and all authors means no one is going to earn a fortune – unless readers pay but don’t use the sub, which doesn’t seem fair either).

As a reader, I don’t like my reading being tracked. It’s a real invasion of privacy… But Amazon have always done this (as have the other major eBook retailers to be fair).

The flip side of this is that some readers will choose to download and then side-load their books (/read offline)… which means those reads will never be reported as 'read' to Amazon, and thus never paid. I can only hope that these ‘shadow readers’ will be proportionally spread out among all authors (which would mean they have negligible impact – as the fund will still be the same, so the division would remain unchanged).

There we go. Yet another crisis averted by not panicking. Books need to be written. Readers deserve fair prices for quality books. Authors deserve to be paid for the value they add. Now authors will have to prove they deserve it – because if what they write isn’t good, it won’t be read and they won’t get paid.


Seems fair to me.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Advance Reader Copies - Ten Guilty Men

As you may have spotted on our Facebook page tonight, we now have 'Advance Reader Copies' of Ten Guilty Men available for those who would like to read it early (and for free) in return for an honest review.

We're not doing printed ARCs simply because of the cost of printing/ shipping which would force us to choose who gets a copy. We wouldn't be able to give everyone who wants a copy a free paperback without ending up on Carey Street (which, for those not familiar with legal London, is the street where the old Bankruptcy Court is located).

But we can supply your choice of PDF, Mobi or ePub which between them should cover all the major eReading devices, as well as being readable on a PC, laptop or tablet.

The book will launch on September 1st so we'll be giving away review copies from now until the pre-order page goes live in mid-August. To get yours, drop us an email on authors at 90daysnovel dot com.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Ten Guilty Men Cover Reveal

We promised you a cover reveal today for Ten Guilty Men. This is it.

Ten Guilty Men is the third DCI Morton novel (though as with Dead on Demand and Cleaver Square, it is self contained so it the books can be read in any order). The cover was designed and digitally painted by the lovely Nadica Boshkovska. This is the third DCI Morton novel that she's covered, and I think it might just be her best design yet.


An anonymous tip leads DCI Morton to a detached house in Richmond where he finds the body of Ellis DeLange, celebrity photographer and socialite extraordinaire.

Morton must investigate the details of Ellis' private life while keeping the baying mob of journalists out front away from the investigation, dealing with Ellis' highly secretive celebrity friends and trying to answer the one question that keeps on nagging at him: who called in the anonymous tip?

The investigation takes a bizarre turn when a key witness reveals she saw a man fleeing from the crime scene in the dead of night - without any clothes on.

Ten Guilty Men will be released on September 1st 2015.