Friday, 19 September 2014

Book prices?

Recently I've been thinking a lot about writing and book prices. 
All a reader, (myself included) wants is a well written, well edited, well presented, and  fairly priced book.  As an avid reader that's enough for me.
As a self-published author, I view the pricing war that operates within the e-book market as abysmal. Readers are simply not prepared to pay a fair price for a book that may have taken an author two years or more to write. The author will have had the book professionally edited; proofed and possibly critiqued. Now, after spending possibly six months making corrections and giving the book a final read through the author finds that in the main, Kindle readers expect to pay an average price of 99p, or have the book as a freebie.
What brought about a price war? The freebies certainly didn't help. As soon as it started, that IMO was the beginning of the end. I did not participate I could see it would eventually all end in tears. Fair enough, if my fellow authors were prepared to give their books away, I supported them all the way. Each author makes their own decision as to how they will market their books.what will suit them best.
I read that readers were downloading anything and everything, just because it was free. They said (and still do) that they will never pay for a book again, and know they will never read most of the books they have downloaded. 
If they are downloading the first or second in a series, they have been known to say they will wait until the next is available free. I always think that the wrong thing to do is to give the first in a series away if you haven't even written the sequel. The same goes for giving your first book away if a reader enjoys your work they may well come looking for other books. If you haven’t written any, they will go away and forget you. With the amount of free books out there no reader is going to anxiously wait around  for your next book. 
Amazon started to reduce e-books to 50p, and also reduced paperbacks were reduced. Publishers quickly hopped on the book-bandwagon; they started to giving out freebies. There are the loss leaders in supermarkets. Three books for under five pounds, in the main they are recent books by top authors sometimes sell at 50p. I know because I buy them. The strategy works because if I like a book I've read I will buy other books by the author. The trouble is Indie authors find that it is impossible for them to reduce their paperback editions to this level. Hence they cannot compete in this market.
Amazon have started selling three paperbacks for ten pounds. These aren't old books either. I've looked at what's on offer, and some have been published this year. They're excellent bargains, particularly if you're in Prime, no travelling expenses, no struggling home with a heavy bag. Although anything to do with books is never a hardship to me, only a pleasure.
Where does this leave the poor indie authors who try every which way to find new marketing ideas? I must admit they find the situation very difficult at times, after all when major publishing houses are practically giving their books away; hope disappears down the plug-hole fast. Was giving books away free  worth it? Well a few authors would say yes, but the majority would disagree, as after a short spike in sales their sales fell right away. Many say it wasn't worth giving their work away as they hardly gained any reviews from giving the freebies away. A few authors complain that even their freebies get returned! 

When you think of the hours of hard work, and sleepless nights that go into publishing a good book, how awful is it that you are expected to give it away? Or sell it for next to nothing; is this down to our throwaway society, where nothing is considered of value anymore? Or is it because of the pressure publishers or Amazon put on Indie authors, who are only trying to find their place in such a crowded market?

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Amazon Discussion Forums - Meet Our Authors

I decided to write this blog because someone mentioned that it's so difficult to find the Discussion threads on Amazon now. She had noticed that they are no longer mentioned in the menu bar at the top of the book pages. I had noticed that Meet Our Authors is no longer mentioned at the bottom of the page - where the most frequently mentioned threads are given a mention. I wonder why? Are Amazon thinking of dropping the Discussions?
The MOA stands for Meet Our Authors on the Amazon Discussion Forums. Should readers see the title and visit the Discussions they would expect to do exactly that, meet authors. Instead, they are greeted with pages filled with promotions and just a couple of chat threads. MTM's thread and this one. Mine is on the UK Discussion Forum of Meet Our Authors,  My Books - Carol Arnall - Continued. Any reader visiting wouldn't bother to come back would they? I have chatted to a few readers, but they say they get fed up of seeing the same books promoted week in and week out. I have pointed out that authors have to promote regularly in case new people happen to find this thread. Many won't bother to look back on the threads to find a book among the thousands advertised.

It's like anything that needs promoting, our books need to be mentioned somewhere on a regular basis or no-one will be aware that they are there. But if readers don't know about the MOA is there any point in promoting? IMO, yes, unless you another way of marketing works for you. But not on every single thread in one day! That's overkill. A bit like some products that you see on the television constantly advertised.
ETA, but unless people start a few interesting chat threads that might catch reader's attention then they certainly won't return. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Samuel and the Stolen Words - A new release by Toni Bunnell



Product Description

Samuel was a book dweller in more ways than one. Every night he would climb inside the book and enter a world of enchantment. The story book characters were his friends. But all was not well within the book. Someone was stealing the words. How would you feel if someone was stealing the words right out of your favourite bed time story? Join Samuel on his adventures as he finds himself inside his book. With his favourite characters on the job, can these super sleuths solve the crime and figure out who's stealing the words? Discover how Samuel and his friends put on their thinking caps, solve the mystery and, once again, enjoy their favourite book! Samuel enters a world of imagination by climbing inside a book. He soon realises that the fantasy world of storybook characters that he meets are as real as any in the real world. His challenge is to help them find the thief who is stealing words from the book and depriving children of their bedtime story. 

Available from Amazon Kindle
Also available in paperback

I really enjoyed this book.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Review for The Last Bature



Available from Amazon Kindle



Review for the Last Bature

Kenneth Ryeland will not be straitjacketed into a single genre or style. His first book "The Up-Country Man" is an autobiography that reads like a thriller. His second "Tribal Gathering" is a series of varied short stories outlining life in post-colonial West Africa which echoed the work of authors such as Orwell, Graham Greene, Chinua Achebi or Cyprian Ekwensi.... and Ryeland can certainly hold his own in the company of the above-mentioned.

In his full-length novel "The Last Bature" Ryeland starts us off in familiar Graham Greene territory. His Police Inspector, Mike Stevens, is a very believable "last white man standing" in a force that has been rapidly Africanised after independence. Like Obi Okonkwo in "No Longer Ease" or Greene's Scobie in "The Heart of the Matter" Mike Stevens is a decent man in a world dominated by corruption. But unlike the pair just mentioned, Stevens never falls into the trap of allowing himself to be open to bribery.

As the story develops, we are drawn into the intrigue that Stevens is investigating. The heart of the story is almost prophetic as it turns on the shady involvement of Asian powers in Africa. This was indeed happening in West Africa at the time the book is set, but such presence has since become massive, indeed it has almost converted the continent into the backdrop for a covert Cold War between Asian and Western interests today.

Along the way, we meet some fascinating minor characters such as Stevens' sidekick Bello or the slimy Major Etuk. Ryeland is good on minor characters and at his strongest in depicting events that carry the story along, as well as accompanying reflections in dialogue, or the little sketches which perfectly illustrate Stevens' life as a policeman, or the conditions the locals have to put up with. The author is at his weakest, however, when the dialogue is merely explanatory with characters filling in plot details and political background in unlikely conversations (such as that involving the Soviet Ambassador).

There is a powerful sub-thread running through the book about plans for a coup d'etat and counter coups as tribal tensions among the army lead to powerful elements from each tribe planning to take over the government. The power crazy cynicism of such characters is perfectly evoked by Brigadier Nissi Ofiung, a well-crafted super villain, who is willing to carry out the annihilation of the capital city and the millions living there if it means he can take power from his brother, the current head of state.

At some point in the novel the writer starts to leave behind Graham Greene territory and opt for a more sensationalist "Hollywood" line. Ryeland handles this very well, but personally I find it hard to maintain my willing suspension of disbelief when characters are involved in incidents, which, in reality, they would surely have turned over to the relevant authorities. Ryeland does his best to justify Mike Stevens being involved at every stage of the denouement of the book, but as the story takes on the characteristics of an action movie, I found myself visualising the central protagonist as Claude Van Damme, rather than as a kind of tragic-heroic Peter Postlethwaite figure. This I felt was to the detriment of the book, but perhaps fans of Dan Brown and Hollywood action movies would disagree with me.

That said, the resulting thriller is a real page-turner that has you wanting to read just another few pages to see what happens next and the climax is generally satisfying. Though there is a final chapter postscript to the story which attempts to cram in too much information about what happened next to our protagonist and the country he had dedicated most of his life to serving.

Altogether, Ryeland has written another good book about life in post-colonial Africa, with the added attraction of a James Bond style thriller plot.

Available from Amazon Kindle 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Read the first two chapters of - The Last Bature



About the author

After 20 years living and working in Africa, the Far East and the Middle East, Ken Ryeland returned to the UK and occupied various senior engineering and research posts within the motor and insurance industries before retiring in 2004. He is a widower, has three grown children and likes gardening, writing, cross-country walking, classic British motorcycles and fine red wines.  

Available from Amazon Kindle 

Introduction

The Last Bature (pronounced Batuuree) By Kenneth C Ryeland is a policeman’s story set in Nibana, an imaginary West African state, shortly after gaining its independence from the British in 1962. What begins as a straightforward investigation by the last British policeman in the Northern Region and an African police inspector, quickly turns to intrigue when the intelligence services of the superpowers vie with each other to secure a breakthrough in weapons technology. Combine this with the machinations of an irrational regional military governor hell-bent on overthrowing his brother, the head of state, and the basis for an exciting story emerges. With the cold war as a backdrop and a second coup imminent, the action moves quickly from the heat of the Omdu Hills, through the stench of the Laguna slums to the waters of the Bight of Laguna, giving the reader an insight into the grubby world of espionage and life in West Africa during the turbulent sixties.

Chapter I
The Law’s the Law

The day had been very hot and Mike Stevens was pleased he was now off duty and could enjoy his first cold beer of the evening at the Kabala Club bar. The car park was full, as usual, and as he parked his black three-litre Rover saloon, Mike noticed that the manager of the Nibanan Motor Company had once again come to the club in a new and unregistered Land-Rover fitted with trade plates. Mike had warned the manager about the misuse of trade plates on previous occasions, but clearly his warnings had been ignored yet again.
“That’s it,” said Mike to himself. “He’ll be getting a ticket this time. I’m sick of telling the bloody man.”
The Nibanan doorman saluted smartly as the white man walked through the main entrance to the club and Mike acknowledged the salute with a slight wave of his swagger stick.
“Are you well, Baba?” (This is generally taken to mean father, but can also be used as a term of endearment when addressing an elder of the tribe.) said Mike as he stopped to read one of the notices pinned to a board on the wall behind where the old doorman was sitting.
“Yesa, I am very well, sa. I hope master is well,” replied the doorman, smiling broadly at the white man.
“I am very well, thank you, Baba. Especially now that I’m off duty,” quipped Mike.
“You go catch plenty big palaver job, sa,” retorted the doorman as Mike walked away from the entrance hall into the main lounge and bar area.
It was not often that Mike Stevens attended the club in his police uniform, but he felt the need from time to time. It was necessary to remind the expatriates who gathered there that he was a policeman and would behave like a policeman, even if he had to deal with his friends and fellow expatriates in the course of his duty.
Several Europeans turned and greeted Mike as he strolled across the lounge towards the bar, where the steward welcomed him with a smile and said, “A cold beer, sir?”
Mike nodded and the steward made his way into the back room to select a cold beer from the large bottle cooler.
“I’ll get that for you, Mike,” said a young white man approaching from the other end of the bar.
“Come on, Neville, you know my rules. I’ll pay for my own beer, thank you.” said Mike, in a friendly voice.
“You coppers and your rules; what does it matter if I buy you a beer? No one is going to think I’m trying to bribe you, Mike,” said the young white man, flippantly.
“No, but I like to keep my business dealings and my private life separate, it’s easier that way,” said Mike as he touched the bottle to check that it was cold before nodding to the steward that he may begin to pour the beer into a pint glass.
“Business dealings?” queried the young white man, with something of a sneer. “Who are you going to arrest at the Kabala Club, the bloody gardener, one of the stewards or the doorman?”
Mike ignored Neville’s poor attempt at sarcastic humour and said, “No, but I shall be arresting you if you don’t stop using your bloody trade plates illegally,” in a tone that did not give any room for misinterpretation.
“Bloody hell, Mike, it is Christmas you know and in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a bloody white man,” said Neville, somewhat taken aback.
“It’s not Christmas, Neville, it’s the 19th of January 1964, and I don’t care what colour you are; I will not have trade plates used for anything other than business activities. It’s difficult enough stopping the Nibanans from abusing the law, without having to worry about people like you, Neville. When you’ve been in this country a bit longer, you’ll realise how important it is for us whites to obey the law to the letter. This is the third time I’ve warned you, so I shall be issuing you with a fine of two pounds in the morning. It’s your own fault, Neville. You should use your own car, though I suspect you’re saving on petrol by using unregistered company Land-Rovers, not so?”
Neville did not answer immediately; instead, he called to the steward and ordered himself another beer. He then turned to Mike and said, “I suppose you’re right, Mike. I’m sorry, it won’t happen again. Here’s your two quid; send me an official receipt in the post.”
Mike looked at the proffered pound notes for a moment or two and said, “Thanks, Neville, you know it’s for the best in the end. We have to show the Nibanans there’s no favouritism; otherwise, the place would be ungovernable. Now let me give you some advice regarding those pound notes in your hand. I would be much obliged if you would put them back in your wallet. What do you think it looks like to the other members and especially the club stewards, Neville? Use your head for God’s sake. Wait for the fine notification to arrive in the post and then pay the two pounds to the Native Authority treasurer at the Town Hall, and be sure to get a receipt. That’s the proper procedure, OK?”
“OK,” said Neville despondently, placing the banknotes back in his wallet.
As Neville Watson walked away from the bar with the fresh bottle of beer the steward had just brought to him, leaving Mike Stevens standing there alone, he muttered quietly to himself, “Bloody coppers, they’re all the same.”
The bar steward, having now moved further along the bar to the small sink to wash some of the dirty beer glasses, smiled wryly to himself. He had witnessed many similar exchanges between the white policeman and other expatriates before, and he was pleased that the white policeman behaved in this way. It demonstrated impartiality, a very important attribute for a policeman in Nibana. It was the reason that this particular white man commanded respect from most of the Nibanans in Kabala: he was not corrupt and he was scrupulously fair. It was exactly what the majority of ordinary Nibanans wanted from their policemen and soldiers, but the evils of tribalism and nepotism had always intervened, making life very difficult and sometimes very dangerous for millions of Nibana’s people. 

Chapter II
SDPO Mike Stevens

Mike Stevens had been a policeman for most of his adult life. Born in Birmingham in 1922, he left school at the age of fourteen and busied himself with various dead-end jobs before coming to his senses some twelve months later. To his father’s great relief, Mike eventually found himself a good job at the Birmingham Small Arms company (BSA) as an apprentice toolmaker and he started work immediately at their factory on the corner of Golden Hillock Road and Armoury Road in the Small Heath district of the city.
When Mike joined the company in 1937, the world was carefully watching the antics of a certain chancellor in Germany. Despite the British prime minister of the day, Neville Chamberlain – ironically a former director of BSA – pursuing a policy of appeasement towards the Nazis, the company wisely turned much of its motorcycle production facilities over to the manufacture of Bren guns, Lee-Enfield rifles and the formidable Browning 0.303-calibre machine guns fitted to Spitfires and Hurricanes. When war eventually came, the company was in the happy position of being able to meet government orders to supply the various aircraft factories with machine guns and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) with Bren guns, rifles and motorcycles.
Mike Stevens’ existence thus far had been largely happy, if not a little dull. He enjoyed serving his apprenticeship at the BSA and was well on his way to becoming a skilled toolmaker. However, his life soon spiced up when Adolf Hitler inadvertently changed Mike’s future forever by sending the Wehrmacht to invade Poland. Anxious to do his bit for Britain and hoping to experience some excitement, Mike, with the blessing of his employer who promised to keep his job open, joined the Second Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on the Monday following the declaration of war on Sunday the 3rd of September 1939. The recruiting sergeant had studiously ignored the fact that he was a few months short of his eighteenth birthday, and Mike, full of excitement, began his basic training immediately.
His Battalion, equipped with Brens and Lee-Enfields manufactured by BSA, utilising machine tools that Mike had probably made, soon embarked for France with the BEF. After a relatively uneventful period on the Franco-Belgian border – often referred to as the ‘Phoney War’, though it certainly was not phoney as far as the Royal Navy was concerned – things began to fall apart. The entire BEF had no choice but to retreat to the sea at Dunkirk when faced with overwhelming firepower from the German armoured divisions as they rolled relentlessly through Western Europe towards the Channel ports.
Mike’s Battalion was involved in the costly rearguard action at Dunkirk during the first three days of June 1940, but despite all the odds, he was one of the lucky 338,226 British and Allied officers and men evacuated from the stricken port. Mike’s escape on the last ship to leave before the Waffen SS stormed the town was, in his estimation, nothing short of a miracle.
After a period of rest, re-training, re-equipping and re-deployment in the UK, Mike’s Battalion eventually saw serious action when they landed at Sword Beach on the morning of the 6th of June 1944.
Having fought their way off the beaches, the Battalion faced fierce opposition at Caen, taking many casualties. Later, after further heavy fighting in Belgium and Holland, Sergeant Mike Stevens, along with Field Marshal Montgomery’s 21st Army Group, crossed the River Rhine into Germany in March 1945. At the time, Mike was just twenty-three years old and he had seen more than his fair share of trouble in the last six years.
Though the war in Europe ended in May 1945, Japan fought stubbornly on until August. However, twelve months after the final victory celebrations, Mike received his demob papers and made his way home. Within weeks, he had rejected his old job with BSA, married the girl next door – almost, she actually lived several streets away – and joined the Birmingham City Police Force as an ordinary constable, learning his trade the hard way by pounding the beat around the bombed-out streets and slums of Aston and Nechells.
Seven years later, having been a police sergeant for five of those years, Mike became disillusioned with the direction of modern policing in Britain and, in a moment of frustration, he applied for a police inspector’s job in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. No one was more surprised than Mike, or his wife, when the Crown Agents granted him an interview in London. He acquitted himself well and the interviewing officer invited him to take a written test. Four weeks later, he received a letter confirming his appointment as an inspector.
Five years later, having attained the rank of superintendent in the Hong Kong Police, (It did not become the Royal Hong Kong Police until 1969, when Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title and Princess Alexandra became the commander-general of both the regular and auxiliary forces.) Mike Stevens applied for a senior police post in the West African Colony of Nibana. Though he had enjoyed his time in Hong Kong, having been instrumental in setting up the very successful Police Tactical Units to combat the criminality of the triads and the looting and rioting they inspired throughout the colony, Mike Stevens had become disheartened. Over recent years, the policing work had tended to concentrate on catching the endless stream of illegal immigrants and shipping them back to mainland China, from whence they came. Well aware of the reception they received on their return to the motherland, and what happened to them after that, Mike did not feel he could continue with such work, hence the submission to the Nibana Police Force.
Justifiably, Mike’s application was successful. The colonial administrators were desperate to recruit experienced officers, able to handle the increasing civil unrest that had gripped the colony recently.
In the early months of 1958, just four years prior to Nibana’s independence, Mike was assigned to Kabala where he occupied the position of district police officer – not the most dynamic of titles, but it was equivalent to a chief superintendent in the UK – with responsibility for the eastern sector of the massive Northern Region of Nibana.
Delineated by the Kuna/Laguna railway line as far as the River Enube, the river itself as far as the border with the Eastern Region, and the whole length of the border as far as Yula and the Omdu Hills in the east, Mike’s sector covered more than one-third of the country. (Approximately 120,000 square miles.)
Now, six years on, Mike, having attained the position of senior district police officer (Equivalent to an assistant chief constable in a large county force in the UK.) some three years ago, was well known and respected by the civilians in the major townships on his patch, and well liked by his officers and men.
He thoroughly enjoyed his job and always looked forward to his eighteen-month tours of duty, even though Nibana was now no longer a British Colony. Naturally, Mike and his wife also enjoyed their three months home leave in the UK, but they were always pleased to get back into their ‘colonial’ lifestyle.
When Mike initially joined the Nibana Police Force there had been quite a few senior British officers serving, but over the years many of them had left or retired and had not been replaced by other expatriates. Now, Mike was the last white policeman in the Northern Region. However, notwithstanding his solitary position and the occasional feeling of isolation, he still enjoyed his work and had an excellent professional relationship with his boss, the Northern Region police commissioner, who, quite naturally, was a Nibanan and a member of the Usmar tribe.

Available from Amazon Kindle http://tinyurl.com/lodzu7p