Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Authors: Get More Eyeballs on Your Books

Authors, especially those who are self-publishing, need to be aware of the huge, untapped market that the tech industry is frothing at the mouth for: the mobile phone consumer.

The juicy information below shows that from the commuter in London to the infrastructure-poor teen in South Africa everyone is using mobile phones more and more for accessing the internet – sharing, browsing and reading. From buying life insurance to banking to watching videos, cellphones are becoming relevant in a big way, especially on a continent where the middle class market is expected to grow and the ratio of phones to people is so high. (In SA there are 45m active cell phones for a population of 49m).
This is why you can find our books on Bookly, a mobile phone reader app on the South African based Mxit. Now, this is more than just being able to read your books on your smartphone. Apps like Bookly allow non-smartphones to buy and consume books on this one platform (Amazon apps, for example, don’t allow buying).

So how do I get onto a mobile platform?
Step 1: Start with the smartphone market and make sure that your book is available as an eBook on platforms like Kobo and Amazon. Android and iOS users can download reader apps for free and read their books this way on their cellphones when they’re commuting or waiting in line somewhere.

Step 2: Build your reputation among the under-served market. Find a platform like we did with Bookly that speaks to your genre. Worldreader is focused on getting books out to underprivileged learners, and keen to make contact with book donors.
Get into contact with the spokesperson for the platform. Often these technologies are still relatively new and the creators are keen on adding content to showcase all the features and abilities of their apps.
And you’re in a better, more flexible position than many of the slow-moving publishing houses to quickly send over your work. However, let’s not make promises here that you’ll get in there quickly. Sometimes persistence counts, but chances are indie publishing houses already on these platforms are looking for tailor-made content and contacting them would be easier.

Contact: tick. Now for getting people to read your stuff.
By now you should’ve read quite a bit about writing great blurbs and good cover design.

However, on cellphones you have even less space and attention span to work with. So your blurb needs to be shorter and punchier. We’ve found blurbs in the first person do better than others. Make sense? No, but we’re working on figuring out why.

As for the cover design – it needs to be digitally friendly. Look how striking the black and white of Brett Bruton’s Birth One is on this screen shot, and it pays off in the number of times read.

Striking the right balance for blurbs and design takes some experimentation. However, if you’ve found a good platform and have a good relationship with the content editors, it’s easy to make changes and see how they impact your figures. We like that we can see how many people have read our books and how many have liked or disliked them. This immediate feedback allows us to make more accurate decisions regarding the length, type of content, the blurbs and the look of the books we publish. Power to the people, hey?

Then there’s the content. We find our shorter stories do much better than the longer ones. We’re talking 3000 words here.  So you don’t want to dump your entire novel onto this platform, rather, perhaps, a short story using the same characters and world, but a different plot. Use it as a way to build your reputation so that when your novel is launched, there are more people who can recognise you and what your work is about. Author Fiona Snyckers chose Bookly to launch her novel Team Trinity to an audience of 7.3m monthly active users, three weeks before the real-world launch in bookstores.

Promoting yourself:
The problem with mobile platforms, is that some aren’t linked to your social media accounts or have different ways of connecting to the Internet – so you can’t link your book site to your Twitter account or find all your friends from Facebook. Some platforms are also very age-specific, so you’ll most likely be oldest person on the platform, and asking 16-year-olds to follow you is kinda creepy. These platforms are still very isolated from the rest of the online world. It’s still early days, but for now consider that the platform that you’re using can send messages to all the readers of your previous books, can tell how far they read your books and how long they spent on your work. They can also send out messages directly to a cellphone to alert users of giveaways, new releases and other newsworthy items. For now, that’s all I’ve got, but it sounds pretty good to me.

Show me the money! Please? Oh ok.
However, as with most of these new endeavours, you’ll probably be paid a pittance, if at all. So you’re back to being a poor writer. BUT, we live in hope. Which is why mobile is so interesting – it could mean more eyeballs for your work, which means more clout in terms of social networking and readers of your other books, all of which you can take to a publisher and say “Look, Look at these crazy numbers – there are so many people reading me, you should have signed me years ago, but I’ll forgive you … for a fee. And a footrub.”

Some tidbits of info getting the techies excited:

The Internet Access in South Africa 2012 study, conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by the howzit MSN online portal:
  • A total of 7,9m South Africans access the Internet on their cell phones. Of these, 2,48m access it only on their cellphones, and do not have access on the computers. The remaining 6,02m users access the Internet on computers, laptops and tablet computers. However, 90% of this number – 5,42m – also access it on their cellphones. This means that almost 8m South Africans sometimes or regularly access the Internet on their phones

The numbers according to the The Mobility 2014 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the backing of First National Bank:

  •   The 19 to 24 age group – representing students and entrants into the workforce – is abandoning voice faster than any other segment. Only 56% of this group’s mobile budget is now spent on voice, down from 66% in mid-2012. Data spend, on the other hand, has increased from 17% to 24%.
  •    Voice spend has dropped from 73% of mobile budget to 65%, while data has increased from 12% to 16%. At the beginning of 2010, voice stood at 77% and data at 8%.

Check out the World Wide Worx site for more info on cellphone usage and internet penetration in Africa.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Idea War: Volume 1 by Abi Godsell launching today

Jet-packs and socio-political sci-fi set in a future Johannesburg, South Africa. That and more is what awaits readers of the first instalment in the series Idea War, released today by Wordsmack Publishers.

Author and Johannesburg-cheerleader Abi Godsell uses her city of birth as the setting for her dystopian coming-of-age series. 

“It’s why I write the way I do, locating stories in very specific places. At least, this love of city, and wanting to share that love is one of the reasons,” says Godsell.

“I hope that someone reading Idea War, would take a look at the map and recognise a landmark in the text and suddenly say ‘Hey! But that’s my street! I drive that street to the veggie shop every Saturday,’” says Godsell.

About Idea War: Volume 1:
Sixteen-year-old Callie Baxter refuses to just sit tight and accept the invaders who have occupied her city. Underneath the new Government’s fa├žade of order and fairness lies the ugly reason for its being here, and it’s up to Callie’s group of underground rebels to expose its brutal objective.
She’s worked hard to keep her fledgling group of passionate rebels alive, but as the Government’s hit squads narrow in on them, she realises she has only just begun to understand the pain of loss, and the true cost of growing up.
Idea War: Volume 1 is the first installment in a thrilling new urban series which outlines the story behind the fight for the soul of a future Johannesburg.
The city represents a shining example of recovery to the outside world, but can a small group of determined teenagers overcome the decay that has taken root at its core? 

You can read more from Abi at these two blog posts:
Joburg as the perfect setting:
Strong female characters in science fiction:

Be sure to enter our competition 

Follow Abi on Twitter @cyanseagull and read her blog here 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Speculative fiction we recently splurged on

I went to the Bloody Parchment event at Book Lounge in Cape Town and spent way too much money on books. I think it was worth it though. I got the following:

The Sandman Volume 1

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series has got to be the definitive graphic novel series of all time. I have only (embarrassingly) recently gotten into them, but I would recommend them to any adventurous reader who likes to be challenged (and who doesn't mind a few scary dreams).

Something Wicked Volume 2

Acclaimed as South Africa's best speculative science fiction and horror anthology, this book contains some incredible stories by some big names in South Africa - including our own Abi Godsell. If you'd like to see an author's career take off, buy this book and be there at the beginning.

The Root Cellar and Other Stories

The Bloody Parchment competition is going from strength to strength every year and this anthology combines the best of the most recent horror short stories coming out of South Africa. Go read it if you want to be creeped out of your socks.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

3 Horror Reads for Halloween

In the spirit of Halloween and the SA Horrorfest Bloody Parchment event tonight, we've asked horror writer Mico Pisanti to give us three great books that are guaranteed to get your creeps on. Also, you can  click on the images to get your horror fix sent straight to your ereader/door.

This is Mico, and here are his reads:

The Road by Cormack McCarthy

The Road is so stark, so dark and so minimalistic that the reader can hear the empty footsteps of the unnamed father and son who walk through an apocalyptic world of an unspecified cataclysm. This slim novel has so much weight, that you can literally hear it clunk when you put it down. And yet you as the reader cannot look away, cannot stop following these two bleak characters as they walk along the other constant in this book, the is beautiful and terrible...and scary. A masterpiece.

Birdman by Mo Hayder

Birdman introduces the world to Detective Jack Caffrey and his drive to find a killer who sows live birds into the chests of young women's corpses. This is more than a crime novel, Mo Hayder has the power of true horror on her side. She knows how to get under one's skin and not only to raise gooseflesh, but to raise hell in the dark recess of the mind. She is a true horror writer thinly disguised as a crime writer.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Stephen King returns the favour to crime fiction by writing about a long marriage between a husband and a wife, Bob and Darcy Anderson. In it he explores the way people can be married to one another and never truly know each other. One night while Bob is away on business, Darcy rummages through Bob's belongings for batteries, and she stumbles across a pornographic magazine of sadomasochism. It is the first step to Darcy discovering she has been married to a serial killer for nearly thirty years. This is a truly frightening story, as it shows that there are rabbit holes  in life which we all can fall down into, and this changes everything we thought to be real and solid. Creeping dread at its best.

Mico Pisanti's work has appeared in Something Wicked and Bloody Parchment and his sci-fi/horror series The Folds: Miss Universe is out now on Amazon.
Check out the Bloody Parchment event tonight - featuring big-name local writers offering their strange tales on the night.

Monday, 28 October 2013

New sci-fi horror short story series coming soon!

Get your comfy armchair and ereader ready, Wordsmack Publishers is publishing Mico Pisanti's The Folds, this week on Amazon. 

About the book:
After a devastating chemical war, the scarred survivors of Earth are subjects of global corporations that keep their beer spiked with Prozac and free speech a distant memory. At the most glamorous event of the post-war world, Miss Universe, celebrities and the beautiful strut around as if there is no secret resistance, no mysterious movement called The Folds, and most importantly, no horrific once-aborted army of children being created by the current powers-in-command. In the first book of the The Folds series, Mico Pisanti horrifies us with a future scarred by chemical warfare and too-powerful corporations.
When The Folds calls, will you answer?

About the author:
Mico Pisanti lives and works in Johannesburg and believes every word he writes. The inspiration behind The Folds is the everyday mundane juxtaposed with a vision of the future which isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem.
He is such a boring person, that the only way he gets excitement in his life is by imagining the things he writes about in his head.

His previous work has been pubished in Something Wicked and Bloody Parchment.

Be sure to buy The Folds on Amazon.

Thank you to Louisa Pieters of Fool Moon Design for the great cover design. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

For the love of airships

Hallo my pretties,

Instead of dealing with super-serious publishing issues today, I thought instead we should look at lots and lots of pictures of blimps/airships/zeppelins. It's been a long year, ok?

[Sci-fi/fantasy 101: blimps are beloved items in genre fiction writing. The steampunk kids get especially excited about them. In real life, they fell (blazing) out of favour after the Hindenburg disaster in 1937. In steampunk it forms part of a time when machines were noisy and demanded to be seen, when top hats and leather and corsets were worn by complicated characters.]

"I included blimps in my dystopian book Idea War: Volume 1, because they're the ultimate symbols of of power," says writer Abi Godsell. "They're not aerodynamic, they don't use the laws of physics - it's about flight by brute force."

Perfect, in other words, as a symbol of tyranny in her book.

But, without further ado:
These pics can all be found at (click on the pic for more):

Annnd the one that killed it for all others: The Hindenburg cruising past the Empire State building in NY:

Now, if you still haven't had enough, follow me on Pinterest for more.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Cover reveal: Idea War: Volume 1 by Abi Godsell

Finally something new in the Young Adult genre! 

Wordsmack Publishers is super excited to reveal the cover for Abi Godsell’s Idea War: Volume 1, which will be published on online platforms in November. The cover was done by Fool Moon Design's Louisa Pieters. 

The cover is designed to appeal to the young adult market and includes a local reference – the duiker, a small antelope – as a symbol of the main character’s resistance to a foreign oppressor. Classic science fiction fans won’t be disappointed either as futuristic technology and quality writing combines to create a great read.

Find Abi on:

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

How I rate and review books on Goodreads

Recently there has been a big furore about reviews: fake, real, paid for honest reviews, paid for fake reviews and the whole attacking/commenting on authors saga. But what if you just really love to read and to tell your friends and followers about worthwhile books? 

On Goodreads, I'm one of the top reviewers in South Africa  (16th over all at the moment). Because I hate reading the whole plot in reviews, I keep mine very short. However, I often go back to my old reviews and ratings and wonder whether I should change them. I also often wonder how my ratings will hold up in a few years. 
The way I rate books is very subjective - and I don't think a lot of people can say their's are not. When I review and rate a book I really do try to focus just on the book itself - language, readablility and plot. But it is also influenced by an author's other works, what else I read recently, other books in the genre and obviously my mood.  
I've also recently started using Booklikes, but it's still quite new and a bit harder to use at the moment.

How do you rate books? 

Please remember to review A Grain of Sand

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Amazon and the pricing of eBooks

It's a contentious issue on the web - Amazon getting it's grubby paws all over the prices of our ebooks.
Pricing is an art. Do I think my readers deserve or are interested to pay more than $1.99 for a short story of around 30 pages? No. But as we're based in South Africa, that's exactly what's happening.

The price I'm charged for Charles Cilliers's A Grain of Sand:
The price a UK/US-based buyer is charged:

The price it's listed at and applicable to US/UK buyers:

Look, I get it, if we want to list on Amazon, we abide by their rules. But it punishes local readers from a new market - one we're specifically trying to say to: "hey look, books are awesome, buy them online because they're cheaper there."

This is not a tax issue, by the way, that's a different story and we've paid our due. We're told explicitly that the price difference is because we're based in South Africa. And our royalties are based on the list price.

I've had a book blogger insist that Amazon won't ever raise it's prices above the listing price. Why not? Did they pinkie swear?

This issue is why it's absolutely important that Amazon doesn't become the only big player in the industry. If there's no real competition, ebook prices could go up to match those of physical books and leave behind a large section of the world's population that needs access to cheaper books.

Currently, A Grain of Sand is $1.99 on Kobo, click here to buy it. Or if you have an email address in the UK or the US or are based there, buy it here and here.

Friday, 27 September 2013

A Grain of Sand - where can you get it?

Where can you buy our new short story and for how much?
Wordsmack's first short story, A Grain of Sand is out. You can read my review on Goodreads here.

For some reason this is still cheaper on than on - something to do with us being in South Africa. The cheapest option, however, is to buy it on Kobo, because Amazon makes the book more expensive because we are in South Africa.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Covers and how to appeal to all audiences

Covers differ from country to country. In printed books, the same book has many different covers all over the world. The different covers we see regularly is between US and UK covers. 

In South Africa we have traditionally mostly seen UK covers, but we are being exposed to US covers more an more because of ebooks and Amazon. In my course at Oxford Brookes we did a whole section on the difference between the two, but this is all changing now. How does a publisher appeal to both audiences now that we have ebooks?

So, which covers do you prefer? 

US vs UK

US vs UK

US vs UK

And would you ever go for a Japanese cover?
 Game of Thrones
Thanks Litreactor for this comic relief (especially the Twilight one). 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Young Adult: The Explosion

Young Adult: The Explosion

When I was a kid, I read compulsively. In fact, I never stopped. And after I finished the early teen books like The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and the classic young adult books To Kill a Mockinbird, The Catcher in the RyeLord of the Flies, etc. there was nothing left for me to read - a bit like Roald Dahl's Matilda at 5, but only at 13. So, my mom, in her desperation, took me to the Mosselbay Library where I could take out anything I wanted. And like many a South African geeky teenage girl, I was left with Daniele Steele, John Grisham and Wilbur Smith. Talk about age-inappropriate! I still remember some of those raunchy scenes. And I bet a lot of kids didn't have such an awesome mom or was put off and just stopped reading. 

What has changed since? The Young Adult fiction scene has exploded. It is simply incredible. If I only read good Young Adult now, I would almost never stop reading. 

My favourites - most are sci-fi/fantasy, but I tried to choose most that aren't:
Skulduggery Pleasant 
The Fault in our Stars
Harry Potter
His Dark Materials (This wasn't available in SA when I was a teenager)
But actually, just go here, because it's a brilliant list: 

Soon, Wordsmack will also be publishing some brilliant Young Adult books and I look forward to sharing those with you then.

If you're writing Young Adult, here is some advice: 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Fan fiction. Why?

Fan fiction. Why? 
When I was a kid, I read Narnia over and over and I played in that world and imagined myself as the fifth Pevensie kid... And this is true of a few other books too. So I understand  why you might write fan fiction - that you might want to immerse yourself into a world further. 

What is fan fiction? Briefly, it's writing a 'new' story within an already created world. 

But my question is, why would anyone read it? Why is it so big? As someone who just can't stay ahead with my reading list, who always has at least 10 'real' books lined up to read, I just don't get it. 

On one platform, Wattpad one story set in the Hunger Games world, Pregnant in the Hunger Games (yes, I kid you not), has been read 992 000 times!! Almost a million times! 
One of the biggest fan fiction worlds is Harry Potter. On  there are over 657 000 stories and on Harry Potter's Fanfiction site there are over 80 000 stories and this site gets over 30 million hits a month… The top read story has been read 1 585 108 times! This particular story is set in the next generation - i.e. the Potter and Weasly kids are the main characters. 

So, clearly this is something massive. My question though, is why? Will someone explain it to me please?  

But as always, if it gets people reading, what's wrong with that? 

Monday, 2 September 2013

The top 5 magic systems in traditional fantasy

If you enjoy a clever, original and well thought out magic system in your fantasy read, here is a list of our Top Five. Our super-editor Kim McCarthy listed her favourites. Which are yours?

Brandon Sanderson - Mistborn Trilogy

Main Magic/power system (magic used by protagonist): Allomancy.
Allomancers burn or ingest one of 16 specific metals and then draw powers from these metals. A 'mistborn' is someone who can draw on all 16 metals and is very rare. A 'misting' is someone who can burn one of the 16 metals. This was such a unique and fascinating magical system. I loved the idea that all magic was linked solely to manipulating certain metals.

David Eddings - The Belgariad and the Mallorean
Main Magic/power system (magic used by protagonist): Sorcery, also known as 'The Will and  the Word'.
A sorcerer concentrates his or her strength through willpower, and then releases it with a word. This system is so simple and yet is wholly dependent on the personality and willpower of the individual characters. As a result, all of the characters use it in a slightly different way. This has some very unique and humorous results.

Robert Jordan - The Wheel of Time
Main Magic/power system (magic used by protagonist): The One Power which is composed of male (saidin) and female (saidar) halves.

A fascinating magic system where all male channelers (users of the One Power) are thought to eventually go mad. This poses a problem for the male protagonist who has to deal with being a reincarnated champion of the light and saving the world. It is fascinating in the later books to see how the main character copes with his decline into madness.

David Eddings - The Elenium and The Tamuli
Main Magic/power system (magic used by protagonist): Spell-casting
The Pandion Knights learn the arts or 'secrets' of spell-casting from Sephrenia, a Styric instructor. Spells are cast using certain words and hand-gestures. They are often cast or 'directed' towards a specific God or Goddess. I love the idea that a God or Goddess is responsible for 'answering' a spell. They don't always 'answer' in the expected manner.

Jim Butcher - The Codex Alera

Main Magic/power system (magic used by protagonist): Fury-crafting
Furies are elemental spirits (earth, water, fire, wind, metal and wood) that are found throughout Alera.
The Aleran people manifest personal furies in their adolescent years and then control these furies with their minds. Furies can be used to increase the personal strength of their wielder, or they can manifest in the shape of an animal or person and do the wielders bidding.

I love the way all the furies are linked back to natural elements. All the furies have strengths and weaknesses depending on their type. 

Now go forth and create your own systems.