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The Magician’s Land Book Trailer

Now that my fantasy novel Triton’s Deep is just about ready for publication it’s time to start thinking about publicity. Actually, according to all those in the know, I should have started the publicity when I began writing the book, but it didn’t happen, so I’m looking for a quick marketing option.

Book trailers are the way to go

If you want to decide whether or not to buy  a particular book you can read a chapter on Amazon or Google Books or elsewhere, but if you want to be entertained by the promise of the book then you need to watch the video.

There are many ways to promote a book visually:

  • reconstruct scenes from the story (time consuming and expensive)
  • make a Power Point presentation with text grabs and graphics (boring)
  • read it yourself or talk about the writing etc. on camera – and so on.

Lev Grossman came up with a rather good alternative for promoting his third book in The Magician’s trilogy – The Magician’s Land. He asked his fans to read excerpts from the first chapter, co-opted other authors to do the same, and then compiled the whole in sequence with some spooky background music.

Check it out here

Now if that doesn’t get readers in, nothing will. I plan to do something similar with Triton’s Deep. I’m at a slight disadvantage because I don’t have a huge fan base prepared to read for me, but I’m sure I’ll find a few willing volunteers.

The interesting thing here was the crowdsourcing aspect. Apparently one has only to ask …

A Call To Arms From Amazon That Can’t Be Ignored

Today I received an email from Amazon, along with many other Amazon KDP authors, explaining Amazon’s struggle to keep e-book prices down against opposition from Hachette – ‘a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate’.

I am totally in sympathy with Amazon’s point of view. They have invested millions in creating a platform that helps writers publish their own work and get a reasonable percentage of the profits while at the same time making books affordable. The day of the hard back and even the paper back is over, except for publications that can afford to service a specialized market. The day of the bookshop is over, except for independent retailers servicing upper income  sections of society.  Technology has changed everything and I congratulate Amazon for making it possible for e-books to be published and distributed to a much wider section of the reading public.

I have copied the email from Amazon below for non-KDP authors who may not have seen it.

Important Kindle Request

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch:

Copy us at:

Please consider including these points:

– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.

– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.

– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.

– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at

diverse books

More Diverse Books Please

The campaign #WeNeedDiverseBooks is a call to publishers and writers to take a closer look at their audiences. The response from readers of all genres has been quite overwhelming. It started with BookCon, a readers convention in the US organized by Book Expo America.

The Los Angeles Times article in my Storify selection below tells us that the trouble began when it was pointed out that all 30 writers (and the one cat invited) were white.

That conversation then developed into a discussion about the characters in fiction also being mostly white, male or otherwise stereotypical models of the type we have mostly come to accept as heroes.

For my own part I’m a little over the sci-fi fantasy publishers who promote what Damien G. Walter describes as evidence of the long term commercial shaping by publishers that have turned fantasy writing in to a play-pit for adolescent white male power fantasies.

Hear, hear! There is of course an alternative. I don’t see this trend being quite so obvious in self-publishing. Indie books are much more diverse across all genres and will continue to be now that authors can bypass the constraints of the commercial publishing houses.


Fantasy City Name Generator – A Cool Tool

Ever been writing away happily in the fantasy genre, only to be stuck for an original and believable name for that amazing city or village like the one above?

Well I have, but I struggle no more, because one of the cutest tools I’ve discovered on the web for some time  solves all my naming problems with the click of a button.

The Place Name Generator and the the Fantasy Name Generator at are both great time-savers for fantasy writers and or game makers. It works like this:

Go to the website and select the name generator you want from the sidebar. When the page displays, click the button to generate a name. The names will be saved to a selection box. Click a name you are interested in to add it to your favorites box, then copy and paste them to wherever you want them saved.

Here’s a few I saved. My fantasy novel is set in a watery world, so the ones I chose using the Place Name Generator mostly reflect the environment I’ve created in my novel.


The Fantasy Name Generator came up with some very unusual options. All of the following, although entirely fictitious,  seem to echo the kind of fanciful Norse culture we have come to expect in many novels in this genre.


The illustration above, by the way, is a fabulous fantasy city wallpaper designed by Chocolate Cake.

Writing Strategies – Constructing A Storyboard

It’s not unusual for new writers to start writing a book at the beginning and continue to work from A to B until the end. Or at least that’s the plan. While it may work for an eccentric few, most people will soon hit a snag – how to keep going – and this can often result in a complete stalemate which has the potential to derail the project completely. But if this is your problem, take heart, there are a number of ways to overcome this self-induced writer’s block. There are many writing strategies that will trigger the story process and help to keep the book on track.  Here we discuss how to construct a storyboard and plan a novel from start to finish.

Writing Strategies – Constructing a Storyboard

In this video author and teacher Mary Carroll Moore explains how storyboarding can work for writers. It’s a simple concept but it can have a profound effect on the writing processs. The storyboarding technique confines the often hazy process of  idea development to a  formal structure, providing a visual diagram of the direction the story can take.

Points to Take Away from Storyboard Writing Strategies

Stoyboarding shows how random ‘islands’ of the story can be flowed into a series of events that will satisfy the reader. This technique will work just as well for fiction and non-fiction.

  1. First, brainstorm a list of about 20 topics. The list becomes a list of islands.
  2. Use the three act structure – beginning, middle and end.
  3. Find five points in the book that are the most important and represent the high and low points in the ‘W’ stucture.
  4. #1 is the Triggering event that starts the action.
  5. #2 is the first turning point. The triggering event has descended to the first low point of the book. The story moves up again as a result of new events or incidents.
  6. #3 is the next crisis moment. Events occur that triggers another slide towards a worsening of the essential problem.
  7. #4 is the lowest point in the book. From here the final resolution has to begin to emerge. Here we get a sense of completion or a sense of change starting to occur.
  8. #5 is the final stage of the book. Somewhere on the journey from #4 an epiphany moment takes place that leads to a resolution.


Brainstorm your ideas to generate islands of the story and then go to the story tool. If you find the storyboard too structured, go back to the brainstorming process and generate more islands. When the blocks have been overcome return to the storyboarding tool. Add new ideas to the storyboard as they come to you. You then have a visual map for your writing journey.

This is just one of many simple writing strategies that can work to organise information. I had no understanding of this process when I wrote my first novel, but examining the finished product against the storyboard structure shows a natural flow between problem and resolution similar to that outlined here. I’ll certainly be using this technique in future.

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