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.

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Almost Here!

Fuller’s Mine, the sequel to Newton’s Ark is finally finished, with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed (I hope!) and is within a week of being released on Kindle and two weeks in paperback.

In the end it was a little longer than I expected, weighing in at 111,000 words (compared to 77,000 for Newton’s Ark) or 350 pages, but there is an awful lot going on so I think it’s all worthwhile.

Here’s the blurb from the paperback cover (warning mild spoilers for Newton’s Ark – come back after you’ve read the first book):

Surviving the end of the world is one thing.
Retaining your humanity is another.

A small group led by Tyra Martin survives the asteroid in an underground hideout, waiting for the murderous fight over dwindling food supplies to end. Just as they begin considering a return to a normal life on the surface, a tragic encounter drives them back into hiding.

Aboard Newton’s Ark, Cyrus Jones discovers that their virtual world may not be the utopia James Newton envisaged. As he and his brilliant son work tirelessly to find a way to return to the surface and the physical world, oppression grows unchecked, tearing his family apart.

Hell-bent on re-population, the leaders of what remains of the United States steadily sacrifice basic rights and freedoms, especially for women, to achieve their goal.

When these three groups cross paths, Cyrus and his family confront difficult choices about love, revenge, and belonging, and he is forced to decide just how willing he is to wield the almost unlimited power at his disposal in order to protect the people he cares about.

Fuller’s Mine, the sequel to Newton’s Ark, explores the challenges of rebuilding society after modern civilization is destroyed.

Kindle MatchBook

Amazon have just announced a new program known as Kindle MatchBook which allows publishers to offer Kindle versions at a discounted price to customers who have purchased a hard copy version of the book.

For past and future buyers of the paperback edition of Newton’s Ark, the Kindle edition will be available for free.

The same deal will apply to the sequel, Fuller’s Mine, due to be released this month.

Decoding Amazon Best Seller Rankings

It has been interesting over the past few months to try to decode how Amazon calculates sales ranking by watching the relationship between sales of Newton’s Ark and its best seller ranking. Amazon guards its algorithm closely, saying very little about what the best seller ranking actually means or how it is calculated.

My key conclusion is that the ranking measures the rate of sales rather than total sales. That means it tells you what is popular recently, but not necessarily what has been most popular over time. That runs counter to what I always thought a best seller ranking meant – that the best selling book had sold the most copies total. But perhaps this has always been standard practice?

A sales rate based measure necessarily favors more recent works rather than classics. It also means for items with small sales volumes the ranking jumps around all over the place. I’ve noticed that two sales in a week can raise the ranking of the Kindle edition of Newton’s Ark by more than 300,000 places (it’s even worse with the paperback – once recent sale raised the ranking more than two million places!) To me that suggests the best seller ranking has a fairly low signal to noise ratio. Sure it’s still useful to distinguish between #1 and #100,000 but probably not between #75,000 and #175,000.

My other criticism is that Amazon ranks different editions of the same book separately. For example, a book that sells 100,000 copies on Kindle only would have a much higher best seller ranking than a book that sells 50,000 Kindle copies and 50,000 paperbacks. I think everyone will agree that both books are equally popular. If someone is trying to identify popular books they may wish to read, do they care what format other people are reading the books in, or just that they are reading them?

What’s my solution? Not that Amazon throw away it’s current best seller ranking but that it makes it clear what it means and also add additional measures. So for example, instead of just having one best seller ranking for a Kindle book you would have something like:

Best Seller Rankings

Kindle books – fastest selling: #102

Kindle books – most sold ever: #33,452

All formats – fastest selling: #245

All formats – most sold ever: #456,765

Price Drop

How much? You can’t be serious!

For a short while the ebook version of Newton’s Ark will be available for the ridiculously low price of 99 cents (£0.99 plus VAT in the UK, EUR0.99 plus VAT in Europe, ¥100 in Japan).

The new price is already in effect on Amazon and should flow through to iTunes and Barnes and Noble in the next few days.

Serialized Novels

Releasing novels in serial form seems to be making a bit of a comeback. Amazon for one is pushing the concept hard including re-releasing various works by Charles Dickens like Oliver Twist in their original serial form.

I picked that example because it highlights the issue I can’t get my head around. Why would you want to receive a novel that has been completed for over one hundred and fifty years piecemeal?

But what about a work in progress? Wouldn’t it be nice to receive each chapter as it is completed? Sure, but that assumes the writing process is linear. That has definitely not been my experience so far. I’ve written one hundred and sixty pages of Faraday’s Mine, but they are not even close to consecutive. It would be more like pages 1 – 50, 75-100, 130 – 140, 200 – 275. And there is lots of going back and reworking the story as I go along.

Which leads me to my question. I know many people who have read Newton’s Ark are waiting impatiently to see what happens next. Is there any interest in seeing Faraday’s Mine released as each chapter is completed, even knowing that they may change (radically) before it is done?

Fusion Reactors

As I have mentioned previously I was very conscious in writing Newton’s Ark to keep the science as real as possible. The most speculative technology I included was probably the micro fusion reactor – a small, highly portable fusion reactor that could power a satellite for decades.

This technology requires us to find a way to build a self-sustaining fusion reaction that produces positive net energy. And then you have to miniaturize it – I’m going to ignore that challenge assuming we can solve the main problem.

This technology has been a decade away for the past sixty years. Will we ever solve this problem? Who knows. It may really be a only decade away, it may be another sixty years away or it may never happen. It’s hard to extrapolate from the experience to date. There has been some progress but not enough to be completely confident that the fundamental challenge can be overcome.

It is still an active area of research though. In fact I recently received an assignment to design a biometric security system (iris recognition) for an experimental fusion reactor facility!

This post brought to you by author of Newton’s Ark, D.A. Hill.

More Sci Fi Keeping it Real

I posted recently on keeping the sci fi real in my first novel Newton’s Ark.

I just ran across this article about stopping an asteriod specifically debunking the scenario presented in the movie Armageddon of using a nuke to split it in half.

Here’s a relevant passage from my book:

“Despite all the holo-movies you might have seen where they destroy the asteroid before it hits the Earth and everyone lives happily ever after, it isn’t possible with the technology and time we have available. To nudge the asteroid off course we have to hit it far enough out that we would need to launch now. Problem is we don’t have anything with the range and payload required….”

“Can’t we just nuke the damn thing when it gets closer to Earth?”

“Yes sir we can, but we risk turning a single very large asteroid into multiple asteroids, each still plenty big enough to wipe out a large city. Better to have only one object to track and to limit the impact to a single location.”

I think this quote from the article nicely captures my philosophy:

…fiction is all about the make-believe. But good science can make for a more plausible narrative, making it easier to suspend disbelief.

This post brought to you by author D.A. Hill.

Keeping Sci Fi Real

One of the things I set out to do when writing Newton’s Ark, was to keep the science part of the science fiction plausible, by basing the technology of the future either on already emerging technologies or at least on plausible projections of current technology trends.

This article on taking control of drones by spoofing GPS signals is a good example.

Here’s the relevant section in the book:

 “The early drones worked exactly that way, Major. They were vulnerable; if communication is disrupted the drone is pilot-less. Worse still, if the signal is intercepted it is possible for a hostile force to take control of the drone. Back as far as 2012 the Iranians captured what was then one of our most advanced drones by spoofing a GPS signal. They convinced the drone that it was landing back at its base in Turkey when it was really landing in Teheran. Incidents like that were the impetus for the EM program.”

This post brought to you by author D.A. Hill