Category Archives: Amazon

ARCs of It Never Was You available now

UPDATE 24th APRIL 2013
ARCs of It Never Was You are no longer available, as the ebook has now launched. 
If you are a reviewer or blogger interested in receiving a copy of William’s books in exchange for an honest and fair review, then please contact me by sending an email to contactus AT acuteanglebooks.co.uk. 


CALLING ALL READERS OF LITERARY FICTION!

It Never Was You will be released in paperback and ebook at the end of April.

In the run up to the launch, I am releasing 50 Electronic Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of It Never Was You to readers in exchange for an honest and fair review.

Fill in the form below to request your copy now!

I will send an ebook (in the correct format for your reading device) to any reader who agrees to post an honest and fair review on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (wherever you are based) within 4 weeks of the book’s publication date (24th April 2013). Reviews do not have to be positive – just honest – but please read the description below before requesting your copy.

You will gain extra brownie points if you also post your review on your blog, Goodreads, B&N, Waterstones, etc.

Will you enjoy It Never Was You

If you enjoy reading emotional stories with war as the background – but not necessarily “war fiction” (think Pat Barker, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Louis de Bernières) you’ll love William’s books.

Part love story, part social history, The Cypress Branches trilogy weaves together the stories of an incredible set of characters whose lives and loves are buffeted by the ever changing attitudes and politics of the post-war era. They are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times and it makes for exhilarating reading. 

In part 1 of the trilogy, Pegasus Falling, we followed the story of Sammy Parker, a World War II paratrooper who, after attacking a German officer, finds himself incarcerated in a concentration camp. There he discovers not only the horrors of the Nazi’s final solution, but also Naomi, a woman who Sammy comes to depend on to survive. When the camp is liberated, the couple are separated and Sammy battles to find out what happened to the woman he loves.

Part two, titled It Never Was You, follows the heartbreaking story of a quiet, middle class merchant seaman and his unexpected, tragic relationship with a beautiful and exuberant waitress from the Liverpool docks as they struggle to reconcile their feelings for each other with the class boundaries and ever changing attitudes of post-war Britain. It continues the saga started in Pegasus Falling and packs a lot of emotion, drama and history into its pages.

The book is written using UK English conventions and features British regional dialects. 

If you’d like to take part, but haven’t read Pegasus Falling (Part One of the trilogy) yet, don’t worry. It Never Was You can be read and enjoyed without reading Pegasus Falling first. 
However, if you’d prefer to read the trilogy in order, I’d be happy to supply you with an electronic copy of both books, on the proviso that you to post a review of both books on Amazon. As this will double the amount of reading you are committing to, I’ll be happy to wait a little longer for your review of It Never Was You (but not too long, mind – I’ll be dying to find out what you think!)

Ready to receive your ARC?

If you think you’d enjoy It Never Was You, and can commit to reading it before the end of April, please fill in the form below. We’ll email your ARC to you as soon as possible. 

Print On Demand vs Short Print Runs

I finally received the proof copy of Pegasus Falling from CreateSpace yesterday which seemed to take its time crossing the pond. I had a good look over it and thought this would be a good opportunity to showcase the differences in build quality between the original Short Print Run (SPR) copies we had made by Biddles for the UK market and the Print On Demand (POD) copies made by CreateSpace which will be sold through Amazon in the UK and US.

As you can see from the photo below, the front covers belay quite a few differences, despite the fact that both books have been built using almost identical files. In all photos, the short print run copy is on the left and the Print on Demand copy on the right.

There are both positives and negatives to be had from both manufacturing techniques, some of which I touched on in an earlier post. Here, I’m looking at the build quality in particular.

FRONT COVER

Two Pegasi: The SPR copy is on
the left, the POD copy on the right

Now, bearing in mind that I have tweaked the artwork slightly from the original print run (in order to highlight the text on the cover) so ignoring those traits, it immediately struck me that the colours on the POD copy were vastly different to those on the SPR. The colours are much warmer, with a slightly reddish tinge to the whole cover. I’m putting this down to the CreateSpace printers being calibrated differently, as both cover files were built using a CMYK colour space. I think I prefer the toned down hues of the SPR book, but others may “warm” to the other cover (see what I did there?).

The board used on the POD cover is of a lower grade – it feels flimsier, and you can see how much it wants to curl in the picture. This isn’t necessarily a problem, as some readers have commented that they prefer their paperbacks to be flexible and the SPR copies have too stiff a cover. Personally, I prefer the feel of the SPR copy, but that’s personal taste!

BACK COVER

You can see the red tinge in the POD cover on the supposedly monochrome back cover here. Thankfully, the quality of the image rendering on both covers is acceptable, and the text is legible. 
The biggest difference on the back cover is the barcode area. CreateSpace insert the barcode automatically, meaning you have no control over where it goes on the design. This is all to do with making the process as easy as possible for authors who might not be technically minded. For me, though, it caused a headache. As I had designed my back cover before CreateSpace was available, and therefore had to add the barcode myself, this meant a redesign.

I’d have preferred it if CreateSpace gave you the option. It’s a shame, because I prefer the white box design on the SPR cover over the white bar on the POD. Still, both are fine, and contain identical info (bar the pricing which reflects US and EU prices now we’re international and all!).

Since the proof was completed, we’ve had a couple of fairly high-profile reviews. I’ve added some excepts to the back cover, so it will look slightly different on the finished books. 

SPINE

Now, this is the biggest difference between the two. The CreateSpace book is a full 5mm thinner than the short print run copy. This is because I decided to opt for a heavier grade of paper stock for the original print run. Believe it or not, both books contain an identical number of pages. Biddles offer different paper stocks (and will even send samples to help you make your choice, which was very helpful) and I have to admit I was tempted by the thicker stock. This added to the cost of the run, but I felt it was worth it, as it made for a more impressive spine width.

CreateSpace, however, only give you a choice of white or cream – there is no choice of paper weight. And I wasn’t even given that choice, as cream paper stock is only available with a limited choice of paper sizes, and I wanted to match the paper size of the UK books, which happens to be one of the sizes cream paper isn’t available for.

As an aside, I’m really happy with the changes that have been made to the spine artwork. It’s amazing the difference that some shadowing makes to the text. I’m particularly pleased with how the cropped cover image has come out. This was included because I figured that most books on bookshop shelves will not be front-facing, so it needs something to entice the wannabee reader. I love the cover image for Pegasus Falling (courtesy of the very talented Dewi Clough) and it looks great on the spine too!

INSIDE

Short Print Run

Print on Demand

Finally, a look at the interior…the meaty bit…let’s face it, the bit that matters the most (to the reader, at least). Like the cover, the interior was built using almost identical files. The CreateSpace system, however, insisted on minor changes being made, which caused some head scratching and late night cursing a couple of weeks ago. The eagle-eyed among you will spot that the gutter (the area where the pages disappear into the spine) is wider on the POD copy. A wider shot of the pages would show that the outside borders are narrower than the SPR book too. The difference is only a few millimetres. This is an improvement in a way because the writing doesn’t slip into the gutter quite as much as on the SPR book.

The difference is negated, though, because as you can see, the CreateSpace book folds back much more than the Biddles book does. I’ll almost certainly make this change on future short print runs.

Now, I know that the act of breaking the spine can be a controversial one. Personally, I hate doing it (so this test broke my heart a little bit), but another member of my household loves doing it, and complained to me that Pegasus Falling‘s spine didn’t break easily enough.

I cracked both books roughly in the middle. I wanted to see firstly, how easy they were to bend and secondly, how flat they’d lay. The POD copy was a lot easier to bend back, so spine-breakers will love it. It also lies very flat compared to the SPR copy, so it’s a good one to lay down on the table. Readers who like to keep their spines in tact, on the other hand, will prefer the SPR copy! 


As you can see from the close ups below, the spine on the SPR copy looked to be in much better shape after the crack, with the binding starting to show through on the POD copy. Now, I did give both books a good old bending back, which was probably a bit rougher treatment than they would get in every day use, but it does point to better build quality on the SPR copy. 

The SPR copy – the spine was harder to bend

The POD copy – note the binding starting to show through

Another difference is that the text is heavier on the SPR copy. The paper stock seems to be more porous, and the ink has been soaked in a bit more. It’s not a big difference, though, and I’d rate the print quality highly on both copies. 

IN CONCLUSION

So, both copies have their positive and negative traits. I would say that the build quality on the UK-made short print run copy is slightly better than the US-made print on demand one. However, the choices made (and available to me at the time) have had a bearing on this outcome. The thicker paper stock makes for a more substantial SPR copy, and the spine is certainly a lot more sturdy. However, the POD copy is probably a bit more “reader friendly” thanks to its more pliable spine. 


From a publishing point of view, I’m very happy with both copies, and I’ll continue to use both manufacturing techniques in the future. The choice is there to just use CreateSpace. Copies can be ordered in bulk at a discount for the author to distribute themselves and the prices per copy are comparable when ordered in batches of 100. However, all CreateSpace bulk orders are manufactured in the US and shipped over and I’m keen to support British manufacturing wherever possible. So, Short print runs will continue to be made for distribution to UK bookshops and CreateSpace will be used for all Amazon sales channels. It’s fantastic that the choice is there. 


So, to you readers after a copy, I’d say the choice is yours…


If you’re a spine breaker, head to amazon


If you’re a spine preserver, order it from your local bookshop or head to acuteanglebooks.co.uk


If none of this is of concern to you because the spine on your Kindle will never break, try here


Happy reading!

A few questions about CreateSpace

This is a technical post, so look away now if you’re not interested in the ins and outs of distributing your books on Amazon!
As I posted over the weekend, we’ve set the ball rolling to make Pegasus Falling available using CreateSpace, and therefore always “in stock” on Amazon in the US, UKand Europe.
Before the off, I had a few questions, so I emailed the CreateSpace team with them. To their credit, the customer service team replied within 24 hours with a fairly comprehensive answer. As I’m sure the replies will be useful for other self-pubbers who are considering using CreateSpace, I thought I’d share them here.
Question 1: I understand that I can upload my own files to CreateSpace, therefore being able to create a virtually identical book to the ones I have printed elsewhere. As the books/content would be identical, would I be able to use the existing ISBN number?
To be honest, this question wasn’t answered directly. What was included in their reply was this nugget: “If you use a new ISBN for the title, a new Amazon detail page will be built in stages over five to seven business days, which will be separate from the detail page created for your Amazon Advantage account.”
My main concern was that because there would be a few minor changes to the look of the book (it will still look pretty much the same, but I’m making some improvements to the cover artwork and minor layout changes to conform with CreateSpace’s requirements), would I need a new ISBN or be able to use the existing one already used and registered in the UK?
Bowker, the US ISBN agency has this to say about ISBNs and the difference between reprints and new editions: “A reprint means more copies are being printed with no substantial changes. Perhaps a few typos are being fixed. A new edition means that there has been substantial change: content has been altered in a way that might make a customer complain that this was not the product that was expected. Or, text has been changed to add a new feature, such as a preface or appendix or additional content. Or, content has been revised. Or, the book has been redesigned.” Source: http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/about/faqs6.html

They key word here is “substantial”, so, it seems that because there would only be minor changes to the book’s artwork, we will not need to use a different ISBN. All that’s changing is that we’re using a different distribution method. I doubt customers would be too disgruntled by the fact that the barcode on the back cover has moved from the lower left- to the lower right-hand side!
One point I should note here for anyone else considering using their own ISBN for a CreateSpace book is that if you do so, it does restrict the distribution opportunities you can access via the premium Expanded Distribution option, namely US libraries and academic institutions. The expanded distribution option also allows distribution to other retailers and via CreateSpace’s wholesale website.
Obviously, using a new ISBN provided by CreateSpace would negate this issue and allow access to all distribution opportunities, but this would cause problems elsewhere – the CreateSpace book would be considered a different product and therefore listed separately on Amazon’s sites. The existing book with the existing ISBN would still be listed as “Out of Print – Limited Availability” which would be a disaster. Although it would be nice to make Pegasus Falling available to libraries in the US, it’s not a priority, so I’m willing to forego that opportunity to avoid potentially more serious problems.
Question 2. By changing from using Advantage to CreateSpace, will this affect the book’s listing on the Amazon Europe channels? As I plan to use the existing ISBN number, will the system recognise the new distribution channel, or do I need to take any further action to ensure this?
According to the reply, there would be a problem as long as our Advantage account remained active because Amazon’s system would always order inventory there rather than use CreateSpace.
Their reply went on to explain exactly what needs to be done to transfer the title to CreateSpace, which I repeat here verbatim:
1. Set up your title in your CreateSpace Member Account. Complete all steps for your title’s information and upload your files.
2. We will then review your files to determine if they meet our submission requirements. If your files meet our requirements, you will be able to order a proof copy through your Member Account.
3. Once you receive your proof and are satisfied with the results, approve your proof through your Member Account. Immediately after your proof is approved, customers can start ordering your title from your CreateSpace eStore.
4.When your new title page is live on
Amazon.com, discontinue your Advantage Membership or close out individual titles by contacting the Advantage Vendor Services Team through your Advantage Account: http://www.amazon.com/advantage
In short, set up the title in CreateSpace first, then make sure the title is closed out in your Advantage account soon after. When any inventory left in stock is sold out, Amazon will then start ordering books through CreateSpace.
It all sounds relatively straight forward but my concern with their answer is that they refer to amazon.com. We’re signed up with amazon.co.uk, so I’m not entirely sure whether the process will be as smooth as they make out. I’ll report back if there are any problems.
Question 3: Can I continue to print copies of the book via my usual printers for distribution to other outlets?
Their simple reply was, “To confirm, the Member Agreement is non-exclusive, meaning you may pursue various distribution channels if you wish.”
This is fantastic news because, although you can order bulk copies from CreateSpace to distribute yourself (either to friends or other retailers), and at fairly reasonable prices, I’m very keen to carry on supporting the UK printers we’ve been using so far. We still intend to print more copies for distribution away from Amazon (we’re hoping to be stocked in more shops as time goes on) and we can continue to support the British printing industry. What’s more, when you order copies of your own books, these orders are printed in the US, despite the fact that customer orders which originate in the UK and EU are now being printed this side of the pond.
I hope these pointers have been helpful for anyone considering a similar move. Whether all this means that the transfer from Advantage to CreateSpace will be successful or fraught with problems remains to be seen. I do wonder just how much Amazon’s US, UK and European arms communicate with each other. Fingers crossed all goes smoothly, but if we do encounter problems, I’ll be sure to blog about them and try and help others to avoid any unforeseen pitfalls.

we’re currently waiting for the proof to arrive from the US. When it does arrive (hopefully within the next week), I’ll be comparing the CreateSpace book with one printed in the UK. It’ll be interesting to see how they differ and I’m really hoping the quality will be similar. Watch this space!

Happy reading and self-pubbing!
Mike

Are Kobo finally taking on Amazon at their own game?

Much has been said about Amazon and how their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform has allowed so many more authors to publish their works with ease, and the positives and negatives that have ensued.

I myself, having used KDP to publish Pegasus Falling, have been very happy with the results. I didn’t use KDP select at the time of launch because I didn’t want to restrict sales to just Amazon (although I’m not ruling it out for the launch of part 2 of the trilogy).  My philosophy has always been to get William’s books in front of as wide an audience as possible, so instead I launched it on as many platforms as possible, mostly through the Smashwords premium catalogue, and also via Kobo.
I set up an account with Kobo books to distribute the ebook to them directly (you can also go via Smashwords). At the time, the sign up process wasn’t exactly arduous, but it was much more long-winded than Amazon and KDP. Instead of a few web pages in which to add all the metadata and upload the files, there were application forms, spreadsheets and FTP servers to contend with. Like I said, not arduous, but it all felt a bit steam-powered compared with Amazon’s whiz-bang offering. Nevertheless, I got through the process and Pegasus Falling is now available to buy on kobobooks.com, as well as whsmith.co.uk. But I couldn’t help but think that the journey could have been made a bit easier, and I’m not surprised that so many writers just use KDP and don’t bother with other platforms. It’s just so ridiculously easy!
And that’s a shame, because I’m all for choice – not everyone has a Kindle, so why should I just release the books for one platform? Sales are much lower than on Amazon, but they’re sales none the less.
This is why I was very excited to receive an email from Kobo yesterday announcing the imminent launch of their new Kobo Writing Life publishing platform. Currently in Beta testing, it’s due for release at the end of June and I’ll be very interested to try it out when the time comes.
You can read more about plans for the platform in this article from publishersweekly.combut here are the highlights which interest me the most:
1. An easy to use self-service portal which will provide writers with, “a variety of marketing and sales tools and help connect them to readers”. If it’s as easy to use as KDP, then hurrah! The extra bits on the side will only be a bonus.
2. Use of the open-platform epub standard. This is already the case with Kobo, but I welcome the commitment to keep things open and allow the use of books on multiple devices.
3. Automatic conversion from Word, Text or Mobi files. Although personally I prefer to do the conversions myself (you have a lot more control over the finished product), this will be a welcome benefit for a lot of authors who are not so tech-savvy.
4. Sales tracking dashboard. At the moment, Kobo provides authors with an Excel spreadsheet every month, which can be a bit of a handful to navigate. This sounds a lot more user-friendly, and possibly more in depth than Amazon’s offering, although theirs isn’t exactly bad.
5. Non-binding agreement. Now this sounds like the most refreshing aspect of Kobo’s proposal – you can publish your book at Kobo, then sell it anywhere you like without any ties, even taking the epub file with you!
6. Free pricing option. Authors will be allowed to set their own price, with no restrictions, and can even price their work for free.
This all sounds extremely promising and I can see the bods at Amazon may have some head scratching to do. The truth is, though, that Kobo are still a very small fish compared to the great white shark that is Amazon, and they have a lot of catching up to do to keep up with their competitors, but I wish them all the luck with it. I really do hope that Writing Life is a success. After all, choice is good, and some serious competition in the market may just make the self-publishing world that little bit more interesting. 

The Createspace Conundrum

This week I’ve had my head down concentrating on something I would have liked to have done months ago, but until now realistic opportunities just haven’t been there.  We’re about to launch Pegasus Falling in the USA using CreateSpace, a print on demand service from Amazon. If all goes well, by the end of this month, it should be listed as In Stock rather than “Out of Print – Limited Availability” as it is currently on amazon.com, which is all very exciting. What’s more, signing up to CreateSpace has some other very important benefits which will help things on this side of the Atlantic too.

Amazon represents a bit of a conundrum for the small publisher. You can’t sell large amounts of books without being available on the Amazon websites, but their terms and conditions make for eye-watering reading when it actually comes to having your book in stock.
Now, this post is far from an Amazon bash. Far from it, I think they are providing some very important services which are invaluable to self-publishers. In fact, they’re offering services and products which no-one else has had the gumption to offer so far, and they do make selling ebooks very easy indeed (some might say too easy) and have pretty much revolutionised the industry. There is a great deal we self-pubbers have to be grateful for on the whole. However, until now I’ve felt that it is a very different story when it comes to selling physical copies with them.
I’ve been struggling to work out what the best course of action is for the paperback version of Pegasus Falling for months. Initially, I decided to take the same direction I did with the hardback of The Cypress Branches– print a short run for distribution to different outlets and print more runs as and when necessary. When we printed the hardback in 2009, I’d researched the options on the market – everything from Print on Demand to the various complete self-publishing printing and marketing products available. I decided to take the middle-road option and print a short run myself. I found a great partner in Biddles – they’re UK based and offered a very competitive price for an excellent product. They were also rather nice to work with. It made perfect sense to use them again for Pegasus Falling.
To make this whole venture work, we had to make sure we could set a reasonable retail price and thankfully, the printing and other costs involved meant that we could do just that. We could supply books to retailers for the going rate of 40-50% discount and still manage to scrape in a small profit to plough into the next book. The problem comes when you consider Amazon who insist that you sign up to their Advantage programme in order to ensure that your book retains an “In Stock” status on their websites. Basically, you sign up and their system orders books from you as and when needed. It all sounds great until you consider the fact that they insist on a 60% trade rate and that vendors must swallow shipping costs as well. That must be fine for vendors dealing in the hundreds or thousands of copies at a time, but so far Amazon have ordered only a handful of books from us, one copy at a time. This has meant that with every copy we have supplied Amazon, we have lost in the region of £2-2.50. Coupled with the fact that Pegasus Falling is currently listed as out of stock (something the Advantage programme is supposed to avoid), clearly, there is no advantage for us as a small publisher. 
Just as I was about to pull my hair out, along came CreateSpace. I’d already heard about the Print On Demand service from Amazon, and had had a look into it several months ago, but I’d had to dismiss it because it didn’t offer a solution for the UK market – and as we’re based in the UK, and the books are based around British characters, the UK will be our biggest market, certainly to begin with.
However, late last month, Amazon announced that CreateSpace was going to be available for distribution to Amazon’s UK & European markets. I found this out quite by chance from Catherine Ryan Howard’s rather useful (and entertaining) blog, so thank you Catherine.
So, a second look at CreateSpace revealed that it might actually fulfil many desires which had so far remained unfulfilled, and hopefully without too many problems. Not only does it offer the opportunity to actually make rather than lose money by selling print books in the UK, but also makes the book available in the potentially lucrative markets in Europe and the US. And without the need to price the book ridiculously high in order to not lose out.
After I had emailed CreateSpace and received a reply (within 24 hours – something to be congratulated) which assuaged a couple of concerns (I’ll blog more about the nitty gritty at a later date), I spent the week tweaking the print-ready files in order to make them compatible with their systems (something else I’ll go into more detail with later), and today I ordered the proof copy which is about to be printed and shipped over for approval. It’s due with us on the 14th and all being well, we’ll have it up and available to buy in print in the US and (when the copies Amazon hold in stock at the moment are sold) in the UK and Europe shortly after. At least that’s the plan…we’ll see how things go!
As a lover of books in all shapes and sizes, it has always been a high priority for me to have the book available in print as well as e-ink, but somehow it always felt a bit like a novelty aside rather than a serious side to the project, the print books being subsidised by the ebook sales. Now, all being well, it feels much more like an integral part of the business and a wider audience will be able to enjoy the book, which has always been the ultimate goal. With many US based bloggers lined up to review Pegasus Falling in the coming weeks and months, it’s fantastic that it will be easily available in whatever format readers prefer when the reviews come out.
I’ll blog again when the proof arrives and when the book goes live. It’ll be interesting to see how smoothly the transition from Advantage to CreateSpace goes. 
Happy reading!
Mike

Radio days

I’m reaching the end of what has been a rather odd week.

Last week, we were contemplating putting the heating on overnight because it was so cold in the flat. This week, we’re basking in glorious early summer sunshine.

Last week, I was contemplating writing an email to Nick Coffer, presenter of the afternoon show on BBC Three Counties Radio with a press release about Pegasus Falling. This week, I’m just about getting over the trauma of appearing on the show.

The speed at which it all happened took me completely by surprise. The email was sent on Friday, a reply received on Saturday, appearance arranged on Monday and I was on the air on Wednesday. The downside of all this was that Nick didn’t have the chance to read the book before the item. The upside was that I only had a couple of days to panic.

Now, you’d think, me being a seasoned media professional, I’d be relaxed with the idea of being placed in front of the mic myself. Well, that certainly wasn’t the case. I’m much happier being behind the camera, and well away from the microphone, so on the morning of the show I have to admit I got into a bit of a panic. I was trying to put some notes together to make sure I had all the information I needed in my head beforehand, but I found that the more I worked on the notes the more nervous I became. So I stopped, printed out what I had and hoped I hadn’t forgotten anything – or at least had enough in my head not to be tripped up by any left-field questions I might be asked. On the train up to the studio, I got the notes out and started reading them. Again, the nerves started to jangle, so they were promptly put to one side again.

I’d managed to calm down a little when I arrived at the studio in Luton, about 10 minutes early. I had been surprised when Nick asked me to be there just 10 minutes before I was due in the studio. Coming from a television background, I’m used to there being a much longer lead in to an appearance. With no visual aspect to worry about in radio, there was no need for the make-up and wardrobe checks, the fitting of radio-mics, camera rehearsals, or the like that I’m used to. Instead, I was beckoned into the reception area and simply asked to wait.

This would have been fine if it hadn’t been for the fact that the station’s output was being piped over the loud speaker. When I arrived, Nick was talking to a doctor who was helping callers with their health problems. The nerves, which had been dying down, sprang to life again when Nick trailed what was coming next…me!

I had been told that I would be in the studio after the 3 o’clock news and would be talking to Nick for about half and hour. At 3, the news came on, and finished, and I was still sat in reception wondering if anyone actually knew I was there. Nick’s voice appeared again and he intro’d what was coming next again…me. But there I was, still outside in reception. When a song came on, suddenly the door burst open and in came Katherine, Nick’s producer. She beckoned me in, apologising for taking so long to retrieve me. It turned out the guest before me had broken her leg (weeks ago, not in the studio) and needed help leaving the studio.

The briefest of formalities, and there I was, sat in front of a green microphone and Nick with his bank of equipment. We had barely said hello when the music died down and Nick introduced me and the conversation started flowing.

The nerves were certainly jangling, and I was suddenly aware of my very dry throat. Katherine walked in with a glass of water, but I was unable to take a much needed draught, as I was the one doing most of the talking. Despite the lack of preparation on both sides, Nick knew just enough to get the story out of me and somehow I managed to make sense (I think).

Listening back, you can hear the nerves in my voice, certainly in the first half of the item. Thankfully, as the time went on, those nerves abated slightly and the shakiness left my voice. Nick has a clever way that good presenters do of making a nervous contributor feel at ease. The questions flowed and he gave the appropriate nods and gestures to let me know that what I was saying was interesting. All that being said, I’ve never been happier to hear the opening chords of Wet Wet Wet’s Goodnight Girl, a song I can’t stand, but it did give me an opportunity to finally whet my whistle from that glass of water which had been taunting me for the last 10 minutes.

At the end of the first half of the interview, we’d covered the very emotional story of William and his battle with Alzheimer’s. As Marti Pellow got stuck in, Nick said, “Lovely”. Then immediately apologised – it wasn’t the right word to use. It was lovely in a “good radio” sense, but the story itself wasn’t “lovely”. I told him not to worry, I knew exactly what he meant and certainly wasn’t going to take offence. It served to highlight just how difficult it is to talk about Alzheimer’s, and its leading role in the story of William and the book.

The only embarrassing moment in the whole broadcast came after Nick had cut off Marti in his prime. During the song he had briefed me about what he was going to ask in part 2 and I was deep in thought when he turned to me, mid-spiel and asked me a question. I had been so caught up in my thoughts that all I heard was “1952” and a question. I hadn’t actually heard what he’d asked at all! Hence my rather vague reply to a very easy question! Luckily, the rest of the interview went swimmingly.

In truth, the entire 25 minutes or so I was in the studio flew past, as I knew it would. A quick goodbye from Nick and Katherine before they whisked their next guest in to the hot seat and I was headed out into the glaring afternoon sun again, barely remembering a thing about what had just happened.

As I left, though, Nick asked me to let them know when It Never Was You is released. I’ll definitely be keeping in touch.

So, all in all, a successful radio debut. Hopefully it won’t be my last appearance. And hopefully my nerves won’t be as shredded next time!

If you missed it, or would like to listen to the show again, you can listen online by following this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00rjdks I appear 2 hours in to the show. It’s available until next Tuesday (29th May) before it is consigned to the iPlayer recycle bin. Enjoy!

Pegasus Falling has landed!

This post was originally published on acuteanglebooks.co.uk on 26th March 2012

A newsletter was sent to the mailing list this morning to announce the launch of Pegasus Falling. Here’s what was sent. To join the mailing list, send a message to contactusATacuteanglebooksDOTcoDOTuk.

Dear Friends and Family,

Launch day has finally arrived and Pegasus Falling is now available as a paperback and ebook. Yesterday, we held a small party at the care home where William is now resident, so that the man himself could be included in the celebrations. A massive thank you to those involved in putting the day together and to everyone who attended for giving the book a brilliant launch. Pictures of the day can be found on the website here.

We plan to make Pegasus Falling available as widely as possible and you have a plethora of options for where to buy it. And if you haven’t made up your mind whether to buy it yet or not, you can download samples from both the paperback on the acuteanglebooks website and the ebook at Smashwords (follow the links below).

PAPERBACK – £8.99
The paperback is available now to buy online from www.acuteanglebooks.co.uk/pegasusfalling and if you order before 30th April 2012, you’ll get the ebook as well for free.

It can be ordered from Amazon and Waterstones.

It is also available to buy through the Facebook page – www.facebook.com/pegasusfalling.

We’ll be approaching high street retailers over the coming weeks, including big chains and local bookshops, to see if they’d like to stock the book. In the mean time, if you’d like to buy from your local shop, they can order it from their wholesaler by quoting the ISBN number – 978-0-9562299-1-5.

EBOOK – from £1.53
Pegasus Falling is also available as an ebook. This is a very exciting prospect as the e-reader phenomenon takes hold. We’ve priced the book very competitively and will cost as little as £1.53 in the UK, EUR2.60 in Europe and $2.40 in the US (depending on the addition of VAT).

Kindle – download at the Amazon Kindle store in the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Smashwords – head to www.smashwords.com to download the book in a range of formats which are suitable for any reading device or for reading on your computer. It’s an American site, so prices are in US$, but you can buy from anywhere in the world using PayPal (they’ll do the currency conversion for you). It’s a great site in itself with a huge range of interesting and unusual ebooks published independently.

The ebook will be made available through other ebook retailers in the coming weeks, including the Apple iBook store on iTunes and Kobo. Keep checking and it should appear shortly!

WE NEED YOUR REVIEWS!
We’re now about to plug the book for all its worth to generate interest and excitement. We’ll start with the local press and social networking sites and work our way up to the national press over the coming weeks and months.

But there’s nothing like word of mouth to get the buzz started, and there are a number of ways you can join in and help us spread the word. If you can do any of the following, we’d be incredibly grateful!

Like the facebook page – Next time you’re on Facebook, have a look at the Pegasus Falling page. Clicking “Like” will not only show all of our updates in your newsfeed, but also help us spread the word around Facebook. The more likes we have, the better our chances of success. Feel free to join in and leave comments and messages on the page.

Leave a comment – use the comments box at the bottom of the page in the shop to tell us (and your friends!) what you think of the book.

Follow us on Twitter – follow @cypressbranches for updates and use #PegasusFalling to talk about the book. We’re getting followers from all over the world, which is fantastic.

Rate us on Smashwords – leave your star rating and help us raise the book’s profile on the site.

Tell your friends – if you’ve enjoyed the book, let your friends know!

Tell us – email contactusATacuteanglebooksDOTcoDOTuk to let us know your thoughts. Please mark your email “Not for publication” if you’d prefer your comments not to be used in our publicity.

Once again, a massive thank you to everyone who’s bought a book (or plans to) and for all the support we’ve been given over the last few years.

Happy reading!

Mike Harris
acuteANGLE books

Ebooks vs. Tree books

This post was originally published on acuteanglebooks.co.uk on 9th March 2012

The debate is well and truly raging – what’s better? Digital ink and the handheld device? Or a good old fashioned paperback?

When we published The Cypress Branches back in 2009, digital books were still in their infancy and I never really gave the idea of releasing a digital version any thought. But now, E-books and digital publishing is definitely a force to be reckoned with and we simply can’t ignore them.

The whole E-reader revolution has somewhat taken me by surprise. In only three years, they’ve gone from a relative novelty to a must-have accessory. According to research, astonishingly, 1 in 40 adults in the UK received an e-reader for Christmas last year – that’s over a million E-readers. And just as interesting is the fact that they appear to be more popular with the over 55s than they do with younger age groups. It therefore makes perfect sense to make Pegasus Falling available in digital format and that’s exactly what I’m working on at the moment. In fact, I’m thinking that digital copies will far out-sell the print version.

The quality of the reading experience aside, I believe the key to digital publishing’s success is the cost. Amazon reported to be selling its devices at below production cost, no doubt in an effort to get them into as many homes as possible and therefore sell more E-books. They are, in retail terms, a loss-leader. And the books themselves tend to be cheaper – best-sellers from established names aside, most commercial E-books tend to be in the region of £1-2. That’s no doubt a big sell, and it has made the traditional publishing industry sit up and think.

This time around, I’ve always had the digital version of the book firmly planted in the back of my mind as I’ve prepared Pegasus Falling for print. And a lot of people have asked me why I’ve even bothered printing hard copies when it would be easy enough (and a lot cheaper) to just release it online.

Personally, I still prefer paper to plastic, and I know a lot of people out there feel the same. I also think that there is still a stigma attached to “digital books”. There are millions of books which are published exclusively online every year. Pegasus Falling could have been one of their number, fighting for recognition in a very large and crowded field. But I believe there is still a desire for people to own the actual book and publishing it in physical form as well as online lends a book a certain legitimacy. It also gives people a choice – it’s there if they want to buy it, in which ever form they wish.

This morning, Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff held an interesting debate on this very issue, and thankfully, it reassured me that we’re on the right track in terms of making the books available in both physical and digital forms. Matthew Wright’s guest, children’s author Michael Rosen, appears to be a fan of E-readers, as do the callers and audience members asked – but there were also murmurings of that desire to hold and interact with a paper book.

One question which always pops up is whether E-books will kill off the printed book altogether. I’m with Rosen on this one – I doubt it. There’s no reason why the success of one means the end of the other and I think they can both live alongside each other. There will always be a wish to own books and after all, doesn’t the saying go, “a home without books is a body without soul”?