Sunday 22 March 2015

A possible effect of Kindle Unlimited that no-one's mentioned yet.

......and not a very good one from a writer's point of view, either.

So, Kindle Unlimited, right?  Readers know that they can read/listen to audio books for free for just £7.99 a month, and writers know that instead of (some) sales on their monthly download report, they're getting KU Units, which may or may not financially equal a sale, I haven't a clue, I've never got round to looking.  What happens is that you get one unit if the reader reads past 10%, I think, and more if they carry on reading.  I can't be bothered to work out the sales vs KU units, I really can't; I just look at the units and think "oh good, they liked 'em enough to carry on reading", and that's all. 

In our household we are signed up for Kindle Unlimited.  My husband decided it was a good idea as he listens to lots of audio books, and I buy too many Kindle books.  It's only recently that something's occurred to me, as a reader and purchaser, that must affect us chaps sitting on the other side, too, ie, the writers.

If I've talked to a writer a little (usually on Twitter) and I fancy their book, I generally buy it, not because I think they need my £1.50, but because every sale is good for their Amazon visibility and maybe more so than a KU download (I don't know if it is or not, please don't tell me!).  Those I buy on KU are usually the other ones I fancy (say, that I've read about on a book blog post, or seen on an Amazon browse).

Like most people, I have a Kindlefull of books, some of which I will look at within the next few months, some not for a year or more.

Kindle Unlimited is not actually unlimited at all, of course; you can only have 10 books out at a time.

As the months have gone on, this is what I have noticed.  When I see a book I fancy, I will go to download it on KU.  At this point, Amazon will tell me that I have to return one book before I can do so.  It shows me my list of ten books I currently have on the KU facility.  To download, I must return one.  Now, this is the key thing that affects all people who publish on Amazon, whose books are on KU.... many people (I imagine), I look at so many books that sometimes, dare I say it, I don't always remember exactly what it was about one in particular that appealed to me.  But, oh, I've just seen another one I really, really want to read.  So in order to download Book A I might give Book B back unread.  Intending to get it again some time, you know?  It might be that intelligent looking post apocalyptic thriller that I spotted when I was looking at Kate Mary or Dylan Morgan's books.  That edgy contemporary drama I read about on A Woman's Wisdom.  Back it will float into the huge, gaping and seemingly limitless vault that is Amazon, never to be seen again.  Never to be read, never to be followed up by its follow up.

If I had bought it, though, like in the olden days before KU, it would have remained on my Kindle.  I would have thought, hmm, nice cover, interesting title, I'll have a look, at some point that year.  I might have loved it. Reviewed it favourably. The author might have been someone I recommended to others, etc etc etc.

Example: I downloaded Dylan Morgan's The Dead Lands soon after it was published.  It wasn't an immediate 'go to' book; I thought I might not like it as the description included the dreaded words science fiction.  I had it for about eight months before opening it, at which point it blew me away.  I am now a big fan.  Had I downloaded it on KU, it might have been rejected in favour of another, and lost forever.

If this is what I, a fairly average Amazon customer, am doing, you can bet that a hell of a lot of others are doing so, too.

Friday 20 March 2015


Amazon Category Frustration!!!!

I have just discovered that putting my latest book (a modern re-telling of Tudor history) into the Amazon category 'Alternative History' (which is undeniably IS), also means that it must go into 'Science fiction and fantasy', which it most definitely ISN'T.  I realise any fiction is fantasy, really, though my contemporary family/romantic drama is not what is generally meant by the term in the bookselling world, ie, dragons and magic rings, imaginary lands and men with hunky chests turning into vampires. 

Here: (though indeed it will probably be out of the genre chart by the time you read this!) 

I will just add that when I chose the category Fiction > Alternative History, I didn't go via Science Fiction by mistake!!

And while I am here, why is there STILL no 'rock fiction' category, or any categories suitable for fiction about the music industry/musicians?  

Similarly: to me, the term 'lad lit' means the sort of books by Nick Hornby and David Nicholls that are made into films starring whoever the current version of Hugh Grant is, but Amazon seems to think it means SAS adventures, which is logical, I suppose.  I'll stick with calling those 'just an ordinary guy who eventually gets the girl' dramas 'bloke lit', I think, like I used to.

Amazon, get yerselves sorted....

Friday 13 March 2015

Things that make one feel old....

Yesterday I was in Home Bargains, and was pleased to note that whoever puts on the music to entertain shoppers whilst they peruse the extensive range of cut-price household cleaning materials and toiletries (nowt like a bit of Kool and the Gang with your Mr Muscle) was no doubt in my age group and probably indulging themselves with some memories.

(Incidentally, the best supermarket for music is Morrissons in Cromer, Norfolk - unusually light rock orientated, rather than crap pop stuff.  Lots of Steely Dan.  Yes, that was me grooving down Tinned Vegetables giving it "I've seen your picture ~Your name in lights above it", etc ) 

Anyway, as I was saying, I was at the checkout queue, still enjoying these sounds of the 70s, when someone asked the old dear behind the till the name of the particular tune that was playingShe didn't know.  I looked up and said "Liquidator by The Harry J Allstars.  I remember it from 1971." (yes, yes, I know, it actually came out in 1969).  The "old dear" smiled at me (pityingly?) and said these words:  "Oh, I wouldn't have known that, it was... before my time."


Much though I was terrified of skinheads in the early 70s, I did kinda like some of their music.  So here's Liquidator.  

Wednesday 11 March 2015

New beginnings, life begining at 40, first day of spring, etc!

I wrote this last week...

I was taking my morning constitutional this morning in the park, enjoying the sunshine and looking at the crocuses; even though I like autumn and winter better than the warmer/lighter months, there's something so smile-inducing about the first signs of spring life.  New beginnings are forever a thing of magic and possibility, are they not?  

Talking of new beginnings, change, etc, I was also thinking about an email I'd had from my friend Peregrine (not his real name) this morning.  We'd spoken recently about a mutual friend, who I will call Lucinda.  Neither of us had heard much from her for some while.  However, Peregrine told me he'd 'messaged' with her the night before.  I asked how she was; Peregrine said that she seemed down in the dumps, a bit 'blahhh' and 'like everything was over, her life was just going to carry on the same as it is now, forever' about which she was fairly pissed off.

Lucinda is 40.  I am a 'wee' bit older than that.  This week Lucinda will be 41, which Peregrine says was depressing her further, particularly as she works in a very image conscious/youth worshipping orientated business (she's gorgeous, by the way!).  I was a bit "oo-er" when I reached my 40s, too, so I've written this to everyone who feels similarly about it:

Dear Lucinda and other People-Who-Think-Life-Ends-At-40:

It so doesn't!  A whole bunch of stuff happens after the jowls start sagging and the grey hairs and crows feet appear, and you appreciate it all more when you're older, too.  Since my 40th birthday, I have:

  • Moved counties twice.  I would never have predicted either move as I drank into the early hours at my 40th birthday party.  Amazing what life can throw up at you, eh? 
  • Published ten books.  I wouldn't have predicted that, either, as Kindles weren't around!  I was writing at the time but the only chance of my ever being read by anyone aside from family and close friends was to find an agent and be traditionally published (likelihood: miniscule). 
  • Discovered life 'online' - no, it's not real life, but it kind of is, too.  It's weird.
  • Had about five different jobs.  
  • Made stacks and stacks of new friends (both in 'real' life and this strange online one) through jobs, house moves, my writing life, a social networking site or two and the 'real' social life I used to have (!!), some of whom I know will be friends for a long time. 
  • Discovered and developed new interests.
  •  Seen my niece, Freya, born (well, not actually being born - you know what I mean)
Freya with my dad, about 2012

  • Ended a less than satisfactory marriage and got married again, and had another long (five year) relationship and three short ones.
  • Visited places in the UK I'd never been to before, and been in an aeroplane for the first time (look, I know it's pathetic, I just haven't travelled much!)
  • Heard new music, read new books, seen new's endless. 

In a nutshell, more good things have happened since I turned forty than in all the years before it.  Hands up who thinks I ought to send this to Lucinda (bearing in mind that she and I only met in 2008, too!)......

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Julie, Julia or Juliet?

Something occurred to me when choosing names for the characters in my latest novel ~ how a name affects your impression of someone before you've even met them.  Sometimes a character arrives in my head with his or her name attached, other times I try up to six different ones before settling on one that feels like the person I'm writing about.  In one of my earlier books, Nobody's Fault, one of the main characters is called Tara.  She was one of the former type; I wanted her to be called Emily but found that I kept typing 'Tara' by mistake; obviously my subconscious had already decided that was her name.  It was right; she wasn't 'sweet' enough for Emily.  My apologies to all the sharp and edgy Emilys out there - it's just what the name says to me!

What I'm getting round to, though, is something that's not just of interest to writers.  It's how names mean different things to us all, and how previous experiences affect how we feel about anyone else with that name.  Sorry, people called Andrew, but you will always be the boy in my primary school class who used to have embarrassing 'accidents'....!  I got to thinking about all this again during the reading of a book the other week.  The heroine was in her late 20s, small, pretty, with long wavy blonde hair.  She was called Marian; sadly, she didn't work for me because in my head she was in her early 40s, plain and a bit mumsy, probably because I remember, as a child, meeting my cousin Marian who was ... plain and a bit mumsy.  Marianne, however, would have conjured up the picture the author intended....

.... because sometimes a name so similar to another can say something entirely different, can't it?  Like this:  in my mind, Julie is a pretty blonde who works in a factory in a 1960s film.  Substitute the 'e' for an 'a', though, and Julia is a dark, rather glamorous and serious literary critic or actress (or a dark, rather glamorous proofreader, in my sister's case).  Add a 't' and she becomes Juliet, a demure girly-girl in long flowery dresses.

How do you feel about your own name?  I was christened Theresa, which I dislike.  I decided I wanted to be Terry when I was twelve, and all my friends wanted the boys' version of our names because, we thought, it sounded cool.  I like Terry.  I grind my teeth with annoyance if anyone calls me 'Kerry' by mistake.  This mostly happens when I ring up for taxis; Mr Dial A Cab pulls up outside the supermarket and shouts 'Taxi for Kerry!' and I go 'grrrr'.  No offence to any Kerrys reading this, it just isn't right for me.  My second husband was called Alan, which he loathed, so much that he used his schoolboy nickname of 'Stodge' throughout his adult life.  No, he wasn't fat; it's a long story.  He said he always wanted to be called Steve, which, he thought, was the ideal guy name.  I agree with him; I like it, too.  I was always pleased when someone I fancied turned out to be called Steve! 

Here's another one like the 'Julie' thing - a Michael known as Mike is a nice married man who works in an office and has 2.4 children, barbecues on weekends, does DIY on bank holidays and makes regular visits to his parents.  Mick, however, is a rock guitarist with a leather jacket and a big black motorbike.  >>>Vroom>>.....  Should Mick remain Michael, though, he's a doctor with a barrister wife who has relaxed but rather self-consciously sophisticated dinner parties.   As Micky, he's a cheeky chap who does a few dodgy deals.   If he's Mikey, he's under ten.  

Love interests in novels are Richard, Patrick, Daniel, Johnny, Marcus, Max, Ben, Jack, Sean, Jared ~ or maybe that's just me, too!  But recently I read a novel in which I guessed who the heroine was going to end up with as soon as I read his name.  I thought, you wouldn't waste that totally Mills and Boon name on a guy who doesn't get the girl!  I quite like to give my sexier male characters very ordinary names - the one in my latest book is called Jim!  A while back, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about how to write a romcom which is HERE; in it I've suggested names for various characters.  In the comments one writer** says that she sometimes tries to put readers off the scent by giving a dull character a glamorous name, and vice versa, but received complaints when she called a love interest Doug.  It's my dad's name, I can't comment!

One thing I love about starting a new book is having all those new characters to name.  It gets harder and harder, though; I've used a lot of my favourites.  I've got a Jared in the novel I've just started; I last used it when I tried (unsuccessfully) to write a Mills and Boon, in 1995; yeah, yeah, it's a bit of a cliche romantic guy name but I do like it.  I might dig the M&B out some time and have a look at it to see if it's as dire as I remember, just for a laugh.  Generally, though, I'm with Emily Barr (who is NOT a sweet, girly Emily!) on wanting to call every nice male character Patrick.  I last used it in Nobody's Fault in 2011 - perhaps I can use it again now?! 

**yes, I was totally made up to have Jill Mansell comment on my lowly blog, in case you're wondering!