The Gift of eBooks

So, here’s my beef. Why is it beyond Amazon’s capacity to devise a system whereby you can properly gift an actual eBook to a recipient? I know in some countries (is it just the States?) you can send someone a gift certificate for a particular book, but my understanding is that they are under no obligation to buy that book and can use if for something else. Elsewhere, we don’t even have that option – a standard gift certificate, for a specified amount of money, is all that is available.

This is madness, and so frustrating.

My family tend to get annoyed with me for asking for gift certificates all the time for birthdays and Christmases, but if I want to have eBooks as presents, from Amazon, that is my only option.Β  If other sites can do it, eg Smashwords, surely Amazon can.Β  Unfortunately, not all the books I want to read are available via Smashwords and the device I own is a Kindle, so I don’t have much choice.

Is anyone else frustrated with this?

Smashwords Lets Authors Define a Series

Another couple of days go by and yet another development in the indie publishing world.

This time it’s Smashwords pushing things further – they seem to be making a lot of changes recently! They have now added a book management tool, whereby you can name your series and add the relevant books to it – you can even do this if it is the first book and the others aren’t uploaded (or even written) yet. This should help buyers when they are searching through the Smashwords site, and through the retailer sites they distribute to, to find the next book very easily, although, unless you have many books, or your naming gives no indication of the books being a series, it may not be a huge benefit to everyone.

But everything that helps discovery is good in my books.

It’s all go, isn’t it?

Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook

I assume that, by now, anyone with both paperbacks and eBooks on Amazon will have signed up to the MatchBook programme. If you don’t know what it is, starting in October, anyone signed up can offer their eBook at a reduced rate for those who have purchased the paperback already. I assume it will also be available to purchase both in the same transaction.

Although I have signed up, I do wonder how well this programme is going to do. To use a good old English expression, it seems a little arse about face to me (that means the wrong way round, if you didn’t know already).

There are plenty of times I’ve heard of people saying that after reading an eBook, they decided to buy the paperback so they could have the book on their shelves, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard it the other way round. Of course, it couldn’t work that way round for Amazon, because they don’t produce all the paperbacks that will be part of this programme (I understand it’s available to both traditional publishers and self-publishers), especially as some authors keep their digital rights when publishing with a traditional publisher. Also, some books may no longer be in print, even though customers bought them through Amazon originally, whereas eBooks are supposedly a ‘forever available’ item. I also can’t imagine that many impulse buys where someone says, what the heck, I’ll buy both, especially when it comes to novels.

However, I can see it being of use for non-fiction, specifically reference books. You could read the eBook on your way to work, say, to appraise yourself of the basic information, but then have the paperback on your shelf to refer to at a later stage. Writing books would be a good example of this. I usually buy the paperback because I want the easy reference ability, but I might be tempted to buy both if I saw there was an offer.

I guess, as with all the other developments in this rapidly changing market, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

The Butterfly Method

I’ve admittedΒ here before that I’m a pantser when it comes to writing. Not only that, but I tend to use what I call the Butterfly Method (it may have another, more official name, but I like butterfly). If you imagine how a butterfly flits around, going from flower to flower and back again, but missing out lots of flowers in between, then you’ll get a good idea of how I work.

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – I do have a rough idea of where things are going and how it’s all going to end up, but I don’t know who all the characters are, or how things are going to fit together in the end.

When I do my first draft I do tend to go in order, as such, but I will leave gaps (sometimes very big gaps) in the plot as I write – scenes that I haven’t yet thought of, as I’m a pantser. I might occasionally flit back and fill something in if I think of it as I go along, but usually that won’t happen until I get to the end and start from the beginning again. This is exactly how I wrote The Saviour Plan.

Of course, the scenes that get written in that first run-through are the ones that really grab me and I’m enthusiastic about. But it’s not just the intervening scenes I have to go back and insert. Often, if I’m writing really fast, a particular scene might end up being a conversation and nothing else. No reaction (other than verbal). No description.

One disadvantage of this method is that I never know how long a piece is going to be, because I will always be adding to it in the second draft, often by a significant amount (doubling the word count would not be unheard of in my writing world). However, it does mean that if I change my mind about the direction a particular chapter should go in, there is less rewriting to do than if I’d written every scene. In fact, the direction could change by simply adding the extra scenes.

Anyway, that’s basically how I write. Do you flit around when you write, or do you have every scene planned out before you start? Or maybe you do something in between?

Whatever you do, I say, “Vive la difference!”

Oyster – Will you be cultivating pearls?

You may have heard by now that Smashwords is partnering with the new eBook subscription service, Oyster. Although details of what authors will be paid have not yet been released, it seems that Oyster will be offering unlimited access to all the books in their service for a subscription of $9.99, but that participants will only be able to access those books while still subscribing to the service. It also looks like it will only be available for Apple devices for the foreseeable future (and only in the States).

Many people seem to be unhappy about the way this service works. They are assuming that royalties will be poor, for a start. However, is it really that much removed from what Amazon already provides with the combination of free borrows when you’re in Amazon Prime and free days when you’re in KDP Select? Yes, there may be an initial flurry of people downloading more books than they can possibly read – much like the freebies on Kindle – and the royalties may be less than you would get for a full-price book – as with Amazon Prime – but I’m sure that after a few months things will settle down.

I think this service will ultimately be akin to the physical library, where you get Public Lending Rights for each book borrowed. It won’t be all that much in monetary terms, but it will be better than getting nothing at all.

Then, of course, there’s always the scenario where someone can no longer afford to subscribe to the service, but they really want to keep a copy of your book. What will they do? Go and buy it through normal channels, of course.

The eBook Debate

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the growth in eBook sales slowing down. One of the possible reasons given for this is the growth in sales of tablets, as opposed to dedicated eReaders. The assumption is that having a tablet means that you’re too distracted by all the other things you can do with it to be reading all the time. But does this argument really stand up? I’m not so sure.

If you are so easily distracted from reading a book, because there’s a really cool game you’ve downloaded to play, were you really a dedicated reader anyway? Someone who enjoys reading will read whatever device they have, whether that’s a tablet, a Kindle, a Nook or a Kobo. Okay, they might still play the game, but it will be in addition to their reading.

In my opinion, the reason eBook sales growth is slowing down (and that’s slowing down, not decreasing) is likely to be because so much free content is flooding the market.

What do you think? Are tablets really the issue here?