Amazon vs. Hachette

As anyone who follows the business news probably knows, Amazon is in the middle of a major contract dispute with Hachette, one of the big five traditional publishers.

I’ve been watching this battle with great interest. I’m no disinterested observer, but firmly in the Amazon camp, not because I’ve been drinking the Bezos kool-aid, but because I can clearly see where my interests as an author lie.

Like the fox, the traditional publishers know many things, many of which are turning out to be wrong, but hey, it used to work, so we’ll just keep doing it, and whine like little children about how the world owes us a living, and don’t worry about screwing the consumer and authors along the way.

Amazon, like the hedgehog, knows one big thing, which is that long-term success comes from delivering maximum value to customers. To do that, they need to offer a better product (or range of products) at a more competitive price, and offering authors a much better deal is part of that strategy.

As an unknown author I get about as much marketing support from Amazon as I would from a traditional publisher, which is to say none. But every other aspect of the deal offered by Amazon is superior:

  • I didn’t have to ask permission to publish my book, endure endless rounds of rejection (except from readers if it’s no good), or wait years
  • I’m not locked into a long term contract (I’m committed to Amazon for only 90 days at a time, assuming I choose to participate in KDP select, which I do)
  • I have full editorial control and can update my books any time I like
  • I own all the rights to my work in perpetuity, including the rights to any future, not yet conceived format
  • I get to set the price for my books.

For all these benefits you’d think I’d pay some price, but my royalties are many times what they would be with a traditional publisher. It truly is a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, the scions of the publishing establishment, at places like the New York Times, and a favored few fabulously successfully authors are rushing to defend the status quo. Hachette has not shared one cent of the greatly increased profits it makes on ebooks with its authors, yet somehow these people want us to believe it has the high ground in this dispute. If their world was any more incestuous and self-serving, I think I’d throw up!

Newton’s Ark Promotion and Reviews

I’m running a free promotion on Newton’s Ark on Amazon on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 September (free promotions start and end midnight US Pacific Time – I guess because since Amazon are based in Seattle).

Since the relaunch, Newton’s Ark has been consistently getting very complimentary four and five star reviews (good for an author’s ego!) Here’s what some of the recent reviewers have said:

“This was an intriguing concept. I didn’t know what to expect since my husband downloaded it to my Kindle and I had no idea what it was about. That being said, once I realized what the Ark was all about I couldn’t stop reading it.” – RRB (Manassas, VA)

“What a wild concept! The way it was written makes it seem entirely plausible …” – Frank (Hollister, CA)

“Simply fantastic, it for me was difficult to put down … Mr. Hill, thank you for what you have accomplished with this, please continue.” – Joe (Pompano Beach)

“This book is phenomenal… a really good sci fi read, and the author incorporates a ton of believable military imagery… he knows his stuff…” – Eric Cost

“Footfall meets P.K.D. While reading I could (in my mind) see inspirations by authors like Larry Niven, David Brin, and Philip K. Dick, but never felt like the author was not owning their own style and stories.” – David Martin

“I’ve got to stop reading end of the world books…but this book’s introduction was so exceptional I had to read it!” – Jennifer Peper

“Good story, interesting ideas, believable characters and its well written. What’s not to like? I’ll be reading the second part of the trilogy very soon.” – Jack (Castellon, Spain)

“Most self-published authors should never be allowed to put finger to keyboard. D.A. Hills’ book Newton’s Ark is the rare, enjoyable exception …  The characters are real, the setting true to life and the story is believable. What more could you ask from an author?” – Daniel Cox “Doc” (Las Vegas)

“A very interesting series. Well written and very thought provoking …The books, in short are an exploration of humanity, in all it’s wonderful diversity. Good, bad and bland … Really looking forward to book 3. Please hurry Mr Hill!” – Druidgate on Amazon.uk

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon have just announced a new program, Kindle Unlimted. For $9.99 per month subscribers (US only for now) have unlimited access to books in the program.

The included books are basically those already part of the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL), currently available for borrowing by Prime Members. Both Newton’s Ark and Fuller’s Mine are available under these programs. Fuller’s Mine is doing a steady KOLL business following the recent very successful free promotion on Newton’s Ark (5,516 downloads!)

If Big Publishing thought Amazon were giving them hell, they’ve just turned up he heat. Time for the publishers to start innovating or die. Going to the barricades to protect old business models, which seems to be their strategy right now, will only delay the inevitable.

My one criticism of Amazon is that they could have done a better job of communicating with authors. There’s very limited information on how author payments for Kindle Unlimited will work. I think it’s similar to KOLL payments, but I really had to dig around the KDP website to find anything.

Newton’s Ark Reboot

I’ve just published an updated version of Newton’s Ark. Look out for a free promotion soon.

The new version is about 6,000 words longer. The redraft keeps the story intact, but incorporates all the writing lessons I learned in the process of writing the sequel, Fuller’s Mine, to tell that story more effectively.

I also took the opportunity to drop in a couple of additional hooks to the later story!

If you previously purchased a Kindle version, you should be able to download this updated version at no cost. If you purchased an epub version (iBooks, Nook., Sony Reader) drop me an email at the contact address on this blog and I’ll send you a DRM-free update.

The updated paperback version will be available in about two weeks.

Ender’s Game

I just watched the movie of Orson Scott Card’s best-selling novel Ender’s Game.

The movie was enjoyable, but lacked the emotional impact of the book which is a sci-fi classic and one of my favorites, by which I mean that it still affects me when I think about it, even now several years after I first read it.

In the book we see the slow, deliberate process by which Ender is transformed from an innocent six-year-old boy into a ruthless military commander. How and why this happens is fundamental to the story and the skill with which Card carries it off is what makes Ender’s Game so unique.

In Fuller’s Mine, there’s a process of a character being broken down psychologically. My character’s transformation is nowhere near as dramatic as Ender’s–it doesn’t so much change her as simply force her to act against her wishes–and occurs over a period of only a month, but it still required nearly 15,000 words (45 paperback pages) to do it justice.

In the movie of Ender’s Game the transformation happens to quickly. We don’t see enough detail of the experiences which change Ender for such a dramatic change in his character to be convincing. They’ve also compressed the timeline, so rather than being six years old at the start of the story he’s more like eleven or twelve.

If you’ve seen the movie but haven’t read the book, you really must.

Voices in my head

Since I’ve started writing I’ve found that when I’m daydreaming, it’s primarily dialogue. Not storylines, not structure, but literally dialogue. I hear my characters talking – not to me, but to each other.

The biggest problem is that this mostly happens in places where I can’t immediately write it down – in the shower, the car, falling asleep!

Something completely different

I’ve started writing my third book. For those of you who have finished Fuller’s Mine and are (hopefully) awaiting the next installment, the bad news is I’m writing another story first. I am working on outlining book 3 in parallel, and have a broad idea of the story arc, but there are lots of details to be filled in yet – so this is your chance to ask the questions you think need to be answered in the final book!

The working title of my current project is Little Plastic Men: They aren’t green, but they are from outer space!

Obviously it’s still science fiction, but not hard sci-fi like the Emulation Trilogy. More like the sort of sci-fi in Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. Hopefully it will also be amusing in parts, but I’ll be happy if I can be a quarter as funny as Douglas Adams.

Another important difference is that I’m writing it in the first person (or first alien, since the protagonist is not from this planet!) rather than the limited third person* point of view I used in Newton’s Ark and Fuller’s Mine. The big challenge is creating an alien character that readers will identify with!

* Limited third person means it’s in the third person, but told from the perspective of the characters, typically one at a time, vs. being told by a detached, omniscient narrator.

Now available in Aussie Dollars

Great news today for my Australian readers, Amazon has just opened an Australian Kindle store.

That means my books are now available for purchase in Australian dollars. Not only is the price lower (e.g. AUD3.99 for Fuller’s Mine vs USD3.99) you can avoid paying the credit card companies another 3% in foreign exchange fees, and I get a 70% royalty rather than 35%. Talk about a win-win.

Here’s the links to the books on the Aussie store:

Note that the new prices may take a day to flow through.

Available eBook Formats

There are two main formats in use for eBooks. The first – MOBI – is used by Amazon and the second – EPUB – is used by pretty much everyone else.

I made Newton’s Ark available in EPUB format via Barnes and Noble, Apple and Sony using Smashwords as the intermediary. I haven’t been entirely satisfied with that arrangement for a number of reasons, the most important being that it gives me very little control over the information that appears in those online bookstores.

I’m going to try a different approach with Fullers Mine. If you want a copy in EPUB format to use with your Nook or Sony Reader or Apple’s iBooks app, just send proof that you purchased the paperback or Kindle version to contact@dahillauthor.com and I’ll send you the file.