Digital imprints: the apple falls close to the tree?

Earlier this week, over breakfast with a well-respected American sportswriter and journalist, allonymbooks met someone else who ‘writes fiction in their spare time’. This journalist has been chewing over ideas for a series of mystery novels based on his long and intriguing career in television and newspapers, and asked allonymbooks for their advice on entering the e-book market. A recent article in WiReD by Graeme McMillan sprang to mind, for its reminder that print publishers never stray far from what they know.

In his article, McMillan drew attention to the growing interest print publishers have in certain segments of the e-book market. Random House and HarperCollins have recently launched or announced e-book imprints focussing on very specific generic branding including scifi, mystery, romance and ‘adult’. RH’s VP Alison Dobson suggests that audiences who have made the move to e-readers want different things from their reading experience than those who read print copies, and that ‘difference’ centres around genre fiction in particular. Likewise her opposite number at HC, Liate Stehlik, agrees to some extent, claiming that people who read a lot of genre fiction were quick to pick up the e-book format because they are voracious readers, “reading for entertainment, reading multiple books in a month across multiple genres.” Continue reading

Equilibrium by Evie Woolmore: Review by the Historical Novel Society

allonymbooks is delighted to announce that Evie Woolmore‘s historical magical realist novel Equilibrium has just been reviewed in the Indie section of the Historical Novel Society:

“Equilibrium” is an evocative tale of two sisters – Epiphany and Martha – who are mediums performing on stage in London in the early 1900s. Lady Adelia Lyward sees the performance and wants Epiphany to give her a private reading in order to learn the truth about her brother’s death – not knowing that the sisters have a previous connection to her household: Martha was a housemaid to the Lyward’s two years previous. She had a child by Adelia’s husband, Lord Rafe Lyward, left the household in disgrace, gave her child away and attempted suicide. She knows there’s more to the Lyward household than meets the eye.

“Equilibrium” starts slowly, but the mystery surrounding Adelia’s brother’s death is skillfully revealed. I would like to have seen the historical elements of the story more strongly developed and expanded – not just the social changes in England during this period but also a clearer picture of the experiences Adelia’s brother had during the Boer War. But the story is rich in complex characters just the same, and the character of Epiphany gives the story a calm and delicate reality as the plot unfolds. I recommend “Equilibrium” to readers who enjoy historical fiction with spiritualist influences.

Equilibrium is available for Kindle from Amazon UK or US

Setting Standards: Is it time for a UK Indie Book prize?

With all due respect to the rest of the world, the UK has a very reasonable tradition of literary prizes, both large and small, from the Booker Prize to the monthly competitions in Writing Magazine. But during a recent surf through the entry guidelines for the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize), it became apparent how very large the gulf is that separates print from indie publishing when it comes to prizes.

Those guidelines make it very clear that in order to be submitted for consideration in the prize:

All entries must be made by an established publishing house. Self-published books are not eligible for the Prize. ‘Established’ is here defined as a house which publishes a list of titles by a range of authors with ISBNs, sells them in pounds sterling, and distributes its books nationally through recognised booksellers and online retailers. For the avoidance of doubt, ‘established publishing house’ does not include print-on-demand services or publishers which publish titles via a commercial arrangement through which they are paid by the author.

It’s a shame that a prize which has prided itself historically on promoting what it perceived as a minority in the author community has decided to marginalize part of that self-same Continue reading

Never judge a book… by a cover you can’t remember?

What was the last book you read on your Kindle? And the one before that?

Now, without looking at either your Kindle or Amazon, what do you remember about the covers? Did you even look at the cover again once you’d downloaded it?

On a train the other day, two friends were overheard discussing what they had read during Christmas. One could not remember the title or the author of one particular novel, though they gave a very compelling description of it which made both the other friend and this eavesdropper want to read it.

“Are you sure you can’t remember what it’s called?” the friend asked. “Tell me what the cover looks like and then I can look on the tables at Waterstones.”

“Oh,” replied the reader. “I don’t think I even saw the cover. I downloaded it to my Kindle.”

Those advising indie authors in the blogosphere frequently stress the importance of ‘professionally designed’ covers in marketing a book, suggesting indie authors compare theirs with those of high-selling print-published books in their genre, and there are both awards for good covers in the online indie community. Yet while it is very common that as readers we use the way a book looks to assess its genre, content, style and potential for quality, the conversation above implies that while this Continue reading

The Story So Far…

The last few months since the first allonymbooks blog was published has been a period of slow but distinctive change in the arena of independently published books. British book chain Waterstones have embraced the technological shifts by stocking Kindles in their stores, though still show no sign of having the capacity to embrace the indie book market. A leading British newspaper, The Guardian, has begun to publish reviews of indie books, though some work is still to be done by them to define how they can most effectively explore that category of published material without getting ensnared in some preconceptions about the quality and content of the books they will be reviewing.

And allonymbooks has become part of an ever-expanding debate about quality, process, benefits, pricing and promotion of indie books, joining with other authors to challenge assumptions about how these books and their authors should be received and considered by the readership and the publishing marketplace.

So what have we learned?

All fur coat and no undergarments?

A non-publishing acquaintance said the other day they were in awe of how much wordage allonymbooks had generated in the process of publishing and promoting Evie Woolmore’s books. On the contrary, however, in terms of the unfettered stream of tweets and posts emitted by other authors, allonymbooks has been rather mute in comparison, Continue reading

James Daunt, are you ready for the indie authors?

The announcement by James Daunt, the Managing Director of the UK’s largest bookshop chain, Waterstone’s (sorry, but I am an apostrophe pedant), that he would be stocking Kindles in his stores from 25 October has already been met with outrage, confusion, acclaim and criticism by the reading, publishing and business communities. Mr Daunt’s decision may seem to sound a deathknell for the printed book – indeed, he is quoted as saying “Do we have an awful lot of books in our shops that don’t frankly sell?…Yes, and they actually shouldn’t be there. I do think the shops will have less books, but they will remain absolutely first and foremost physical bookshops.” – but this blog considers what options are open to Mr Daunt in embracing the world of independent publishers and their novels.

As the arrangement has thus far been described, one of the key additional services that Waterstones will provide is the ability for shop visitors to browse recommendations made by the shop’s staff, just as they do now, but on Kindles as well as in print. As Daunt puts it, “You are in a bookshop, you can pick up any of these books – you haven’t bought them yet – you can browse them. Until you leave the shop you don’t have to pay for them, and that same principle should apply to a physical device as well as a digital e-book.”

What isn’t clear is whether this browsing will be made available via the standard Kindle sampling technique as it stands on Amazon at the moment or whether, as many of us have done, you will be able to flick right through the book, possibly even to the end, engaging in a compact but complete browse-reading experience. Waterstone’s are doing what they can to enhance the experience of the shop as an environment in which to enjoy the experience of reading as well as shopping, by introducing more seats and the cafés, but what will they do to embrace, manage and promote the far greater sphere of published material available on Kindle as opposed to in print?

If Waterstone’s have made a truly open arrangement with Amazon in terms of allowing access to all their stock, then one strategy for independent publishers would seem to be to approach the Marketing Department at Waterstone’s, or indeed individual stores and store managers, just as publishing houses have done for years. There have been myths and tales long told of how much it Continue reading

Launch of allonymbooks – The right words at the right time….

And so, at long last, the first two novels from allonymbooks have become available on Amazon (UK, US and European sites)! Roll up, roll up for a wonderful read!

We are launching with two magical realist novels by Evie Woolmore  – Equilibrium and Rising Up  – and will follow up soon with the first of a young adult saga by Flora Chase, The Strattons. You can read more about Evie’s novels on the blog page for Evie Woolmore, and you can also hear audio samples from each book by the voiceover artist Kate Daubney, who has kindly recorded them so you can dip immediately into each novel. Continue reading