Tag Archives: Limits

On Fixing Yodelling Tithes

What should you charge for your books? There’s a lot of debate, and even some research, but I thought I’d do an updated version of the old Big Mac test. Have you heard of that one? To get a true indication of hat life costs in a new place, check the price of a Big Mac. My Big Mac today is Happy Potter and the Philosopher/Sorcerer’s Stone.

The majority of sales channels will let you set the price of your book differently for each of their stores/regions. I’m currently only signed up to 3 but Smashwords only has 1 price, so I’m going to compare info about Amazon and Kobo. I hunted down:

  1. The markets each sales channel operates in.
  2. The minimum price at Amazon to qualify for their 70% royalty rate.
  3. The minimum price at Kobo to qualify for their 70% royalty rate.
  4. The price of Harry Potter (the paperback edition – not the Kindle edition, there isn’t one, apparently) in each market.
  5. The minimum wage in each country represented. Sourced from Wikipedia. Sorry if it’s wrong. For example, the number for Australia looks too high.
  6. A simple Excel calculation working out the number of minutes a person would have to work at minimum wage to buy a book at the lowest minimum price available at Amazon or Kobo.
Marketplace Amazon Min. Price Kobo Min. Price Harry Potter
@ Amazon
Minimum Wage
(Hourly)
Mins. to Work for
1 Min. Priced Book
Amazon.com
kobobooks.com/ – USD
$0.99 $2.99 $6.29 $7.25 8.19
Amazon.co.uk
kobobooks.com/ – GBP
£0.99 £1.99 £3.49 £6.50 9.14
kobobooks.com/ – EUR € 1.99
Amazon.de € 0.99 € 6.05 € 8.50 6.99
Amazon.fr € 0.99 € 6.05 € 9.61 6.18
Amazon.es € 0.99 € 6.05 756.70 per month 13.50
Amazon.it € 0.99 € 6.05 none
Amazon.nl € 0.99 € 6.05 € 8.70 6.83
Amazon.co.jp
kobobooks.com/ – JPY
¥99 ¥299 ¥851 ¥677-888 8.77
kobobooks.com/ – HKD $15.99 $32.50 29.52
Amazon.com.br R$1.99 R$19.59 R$788.00 per month 26.06
Amazon.ca
kobobooks.com/ – CAD
$0.99 $2.99 $9.24 C$10.20 to C$12.50 5.82
Amazon.com.mx $11.99 $4,327.10 66.45-70.10 pesos per day 86.61
Amazon.com.au
kobobooks.com/ – AUD
$0.99 $2.99 $9.36 $17.29 3.44
kobobooks.com/ – NZD $2.99 $14.75 12.16
Amazon.in ₹49 ₹355.00 ₹118-1000 per day 199.32

Also remember the huge caveat. If your book’s not enrolled in Kindle Select (and it should not be), books in Japan, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia aren’t eligible for the 70% royalty rate anyway.

What’s the point?

Most of the industrialised countries seem pretty close to each other, but there’s a few that stand out as different. It takes 199 minutes to buy the cheapest book available if you live in a poor part of Indonesia. People in the capital earn almost 10 times as much, but I picked the worst case scenario. Of course, people in the poor parts of Indonesia probably don’t speak English, but whatever.

Hong Kong’s a rick place, but I think Amazons setting its minimum price very high, for some reason.

The point is, Amazon, Kobo, etc all organise their pricing around the profit they want to make, but this doesn’t necessarily help your readers/customers.

From now on I’m going to be pricing my books according to what’s fair for my customers in each region, based on what they earn. This won’t make me rich, but I’ll hopefully get a lot more happy readers out of it, who can spread the word wider, write more reviews, etc.

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On Horribly Incestuous Bridge Troll Clans

I have some spare time on my hands this week and I found myself watching all of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. It’s a simple series, but a lot of fun, and I recommend watching it if you ever get bored. It did make me think of a very important point regarding writing novels, however.

First off, here’s a quick rundown on the general plot of the single-season series. This is a stupendously massive spoiler so please don’t read it if you haven’t seen the series. You’ve been warned!

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

  1. 3 Brothers need some magical water to heal their mother after a fire. They aren’t allowed to take it so they steal it.
    The Guardian of the water curses them and turns the three of them into genies. This happens after they use the magical water to successfully heal their mother.
  2. Their mother (somehow) becomes a powerful sorceress who is determined to find the 3 genies (her kids).
  3. The bastard child of the local emir tries to be recognised as a prince, fails and is killed by dear old daddy.
  4. The child finds the sorceress, becomes her apprentice and becomes a powerful sorcerer himself.
  5. Now both the sorcerer and the sorceress are looking for the genie. The sorceress is trying to rescue her kids while the sorcerer wants ultimate power to get revenge on his father.
  6. Alice (of “in Wonderland” fame) finds one of the genies and falls in love with him.
  7. The Queen of Hearts and the sorcerer kidnap the genie and Alice, with her friend the Knave, spend a season trying to get him back.
  8. The Knave was the boyfriend of the Queen of Hearts before she ditched him to shack up with a king. The Queen of Hearts gets together with the sorcerer to get ultimate power so she can get the Knave back.

What’s the Point?

So, complex? Every character knows every other character, the actions of 1 precipitated the actions of the next and the whole season snowballed from there.

Every character was related to every other character. It’s a very tight, closed storyline. It’s like a southern redneck BBQ where the family tree doesn’t actually branch at all – it just keeps feeding back in on itself.

Right now I’m in the middle of writing a long, deep, epic fantasy series which’ll end up spanning 4 or 5 full-length novels and probably 10 short stories. The urge to reuse characters is huge. It’s just so much easier than constantly coming up with new ones. The desire to add one more link in the web to prove how clever I am at crafting intricate plots in overwhelming.

Stop it!

This isn’t Star Wars (or the Spiderman movie franchise, or one of a hundred other examples). Every character doesn’t have to have a personal history with literally every other character. You’re allowed to have random people come into the story, do stuff and leave without realising he’s just spent 200 pages banging his long-lost sister.

Be more creative, and frankly, put in more effort. It can actually be easier to just reuse characters, but it’s been done to death.

Catapulting Bridge Trolls onto Foreign Soils: Destination Kobo

My first novel, Equivocal Destines, has been available on Amazon for 4 months. I originally signed up to the Kindle Select program which gave Amazon exclusivity for 90 days. As this exclusive period has now ended, I’m belatedly adding my book to the other main sales channels. The first one of these, Kobo, has turned out to be a very different process to Amazon, which has made me think about writing a blog post on my experience with each sales channel.

Here’s my little bridge troll on Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/ebook/equivocal-destines

First up, a word about Smashwords

Strangely, to talk about Kobo, I first have to talk about Smashwords. You see, Smashwords appears to be an excellent, trustworthy, online, ebook store with credibility and a great feature that the others lack – if you publish to Smashwords, they’ll distribute your novel to (almost) all of the other sales channels. Excellent, right? IMHO, yes and no. If you’re technophobe, lazy or busy, definitely do this. The problem is, they take a 10% cut of your sales for the privilege. Now, I imagine for most authors this is a price well worth paying, but I’m a little different/weird in that I’m comfortable formatting ebooks and I’m willing to spend the time doing it. This means that I can get 10% more money by publishing my book to all of the other main sales channels separately. I’m still going to make use of Smashwords for their direct sales and the minor channels (which aren’t worth me spending too much time on) but I’ll do the main ones myself. This includes Kobo.

How does the Kobo publishing process compare to Amazon?

Let’s compare Kobo to the 800 pound gorilla in the room, Amazon. Smashwords doesn’t ship to Amazon unless your book becomes very popular  (because Amazon doesn’t supply an automated transfer system, it’s not Smashwords’ fault) so most indie authors are going to want to publish directly to Amazon anyway.

Amazon’s publishing process is very slick and highly automated. You follow the prompts, upload your cover image and your complete document, and Amazon does the rest. I found it to be fast, painless and accurate. The process to look maybe a day, including Amazon’s processing time. It took me a lot longer to format my book according to Amazon’s template document, but that’s expected.

Kobo uses a different system which appears to be based on a different philosophy. They still have a system where you upload your cover image and source text but it then opens in a web-based editor so you can edit the document online. I found the conversion process to be highly inaccurate and the online editor clownish and immature. Please keep in mind that I’ve only tried this with one source file so I can’t realistically speak with any authority, yet. I will say though that my source document uploaded perfectly fine to Amazon and is designed according to Smashwords’ excellent style guide.

I checked out Kobo’s Content Conversion Guidelines (http://download.kobobooks.com/learnmore/writinglife/KWL-Content-Conversion-Guidelines.pdf) and found the document to be a waste of time. Seriously, use Smashwords’ formatting book. It’s infinitely better.

The online editor is also very limited in its options, and if you use it your book will probably end up looking simple and maybe even amateurish. I’m wondering if this is deliberate. Maybe Kobo hardware has limited display options. I don’t know. I highly recommend doing all formatting in Word then simplifying as necessary to get Kobo’s system to accept it. Or, better yet, find a separate .epub creator and upload the finished product, bypassing Kobo’s frustrating system completely. I’ll do this next time. Amazon doesn’t let you do that – they use .mobi files, but you can’t upload those there either.


2 days after publishing to Kobo, I’m still having problems. I found the title of my book seris  – Upheaving Nidola – keeps getting changed to “Up heaving Nidola”, which could be an auto-spellchecking problem which I can’t figure out how to turn off, but the publication year – 2015 – is also changed to “201 5” in 3 places on the copyright page. These types of errors shouldn’t happen. I’ve confirmed my source document is correct and contains no hidden formatting to make this happen, so it’s just a Kobo problem.

I hate Kobo!


Once the book content is uploaded, things change dramatically. My limited experience so far shows that Kobo is more flexible and fair on pricing and distribution. Kobo gives me 70% of the sale price for all books sold in all regions that they sell to. Amazon has more local markets, but this is the Internet where anyone can buy anything from anywhere so I don’t see that as too important.

Most importantly for me, Kobo is much more reasonable on payment. I am Australian but I live in Poland. My only option for payment from Amazon is an expensive cheque sent by mail in US dollars. Amazon applies an $8 processing fee to the cheque and the process seems to be very slow and cumbersome. Kobo, by contrast will send the money directly to my Polish bank account in Euros. Simple and effective.

I already prefer Kobo.


Update 1 – Fri 29th May 2015

I emailed Kobo about my problem with their system. I got this reply:

Hello Raymond,

Thank you for getting in touch with us.

Our instant preview function is relatively new and we are still working out some of the kinks. Currently, it can take a few days for updates to go through to the instant preview, although updates are reflected in the actual file within a few hours of make the changes.

My sincere apologies for the inconvenience.

Best,
Vanessa

OK, so, long story short, I was inadvertently using their systems incorrectly because they failed to inform their authors that the Preview function has a delay. I can live with that. I really appreciate the speed and actual usefulness of their email-based customer support. I worked in IT back in Australia so I can assure you of this simple fact – every system will eventually fail / have a problem. What’s most important is the quality of the customer service when this inevitable problem rears its ugly head.

I appreciate Kobo’s customer support now. My simple experience was waaaay more positive than what I naively assume I’d get from Amazon.

On Prematurely Spawning Forth New Bridge Trolls

I apologise in advance for this long, rambling mess, but it’s an important, and often discussed topic.


Writing  novel is both much easier than you think and much harder. I have so many people tell me that putting 80k words on paper would be too big a challenge while most people seem to think that coming up with a winning idea isn’t that much of  problem. The opposite is actually true. Everyone has a book inside them, or so the oft repeated phrase goes, but most of them shouldn’t ever try.

I’m a (drum roll please) published author, which is a phrase bandied about on Twitter like it’s in some way related to winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Not only am I a writer, but I’m also published, which is a distinction most writers never attain. Well, I called myself an aspiring writer until I published, and only now do I dare to call myself a writer. I hope to add successful to that label later.

Here’s the point. Writing is easy. Type words into a keyboard. Good words? Excellent. Bad words? Please stop embarrassing yourself. Acceptable words that are in desperate need of good editing? Good enough! What’s difficult isn’t the writing, it’s the planning.


Now that I’m published, I get people asking me for advice on writing. Like I’m suddenly, miraculously, some sort of expert. I’m not. Most recently, my sister send me the alpha of the beginning of her work-in-progress.

My sister wanted to know a single, important thing:

  • Does her story have potential?

Wrong question. I can’t answer my sister’s question based on the alpha she sent me. It’s just not complete enough yet. And anyway, how the hell would I know? Here’s a few better questions:

  • Does the story, as presented so far, seem interesting and/or compelling?
  • Is it cliche or is it in some way unique?
  • Does it have enough conflict to form a full story?
  • Does the author seem to have enough talent to pull it off?

Answering these questions, I’ll say that my sister should continue working on her story and (in my humble opinion) I think it could turn into a good book. With that in mind, (I’m sorry to say this, but) my sister represents an excellent case of what not to do when writing a novel. Let me explain.

  1. She sent me the alpha text. It’s 16 pages long. It has a few problems:
    1. There’s basic spelling mistakes throughout. Sure, it’s an alpha, but F7 is a pretty simple button to find.
    2. There’s a bunch of comments saying things like “How will character A’s presence affect character B?” We’re talking about main characters here so how can this question not have been answered yet. More on this in minute. This is the important bit.
    3. The document doesn’t even include half of the names. You need the names up front. The names help define the characters, cities, rivers, etc. If you don’t know the name, you don’t understand the character/thing.
    4. Chapter 3 doesn’t end. Instead, there’s a note saying “To be continued”. It then goes on to chapters 4 through 7. If she hasn’t finished chapter 3 I’m not going to continue reading. I’m not trying to be an arrogant douchebag, she’s just spoiling the story for the alpha reader. How can I evaluate an incomplete storyline?
  2. She sent me a map in .odg format. How many people can open that? As it happens, I can, but only by accident. .gif/.jpeg/.png please. It’s a simple thing, but makes a big difference to the average tech-illiterate. My tablet can’t open that file even when my laptop can.
  3. She sent me an 86 page planning document. Seriously. Problems:
    1. As an alpha reader, I don’t need it.
    2. As an alpha reader, I shouldn’t see it.
    3. It’s a template from some website which is almost entirely empty anyway. This document is my main concern, and what I plan to talk about from now on.

So, my sister’s writing  novel. Excellent. Will it be good? No idea, but potentially, yes. All of the problems I wrote about above are completely irrelevant. I promise you that my novel, Equivocal Destines, looked exactly like that for a long time. So why complain about these very normal, and very temporary problems in a public blog post? How can others actually benefit from this? To put it simply, polish the alpha into a beta before you show it to anyone.

Here’s the thing…

The problem is my sister probbly has too little confidence in her writing, but she should. Her idea is fairly unique, her descriptions, when included are clear, her characters interesting so far. Who knows if she has talent (probably, yes) but people, please, ditch the formality, the planning templates, the special writing programs, and all that junk. Put words on paper (as my sister’s done) and get the idea down – this is most important – but don’t let all the other stuff get in the way, and don’t seek confirmation until you have something confirmation-ready.


When I first moved to Poland (I always find an excuse to mention that) and started telling people I was working on  novel, I had 30 of these conversations:

ME: I’m planning a novel

THEM: How much have you written?

ME: Nothing, I’m still planning it.

THEM: How long have you been planning it.

ME: A few months.

THEM: That’s stupid. Just start writing. That’s a better idea.

No, it’s most certainly not a good idea, but neither is endless planning. I have a planning document for Equivocal Destines that’s currently 49 A4 pages long. When I started writing the novel it was about 20 pages long. It’s growing with the novel as I add ideas while writing. I have to go back and update my plan at lest weekly.

For context, the book series, Upheaving Nidola, of which Equivocal Destines is book 1 will end up 5 books long. I’ve got character and various other profiles and at the end, 2 separate plans for the plot:

  1. My plot outline is very high level, and only 1 page long. It lists everywhere the characters go, who meets whom and when, how to fix the grand problem, etc. But not much else. Everything else is details.
  2. My story outline is broken up by book:
    1. The story outline for book 1 (completed and on sale) is 6 pages of bullet points.
    2. The story outline for book 2 (currently in progress) is 5 pages long and growing as I write.
    3. The story outline for book 3 is currently only 1 page long and only includes the specific plot points that I have to hit in a certain way because of what I’ve already written in books 1 and 2.
    4. The story outline for books 4-5 are skeletons.

OK, so more of me talking about me, gain. What’s the point? I have a high level outline and 20+ pages of bullet-point detail about the characters in a 4-column table (including the critical characters who don’t appear in books 1 and 2) but I haven’t wasted months on planning things in such minute detail that I have no room for creativity.

Conversely, I have a plan! Without any sort of high level plan, how can you get your characters to where they need to be at each state of the story? Do you even know where they need to go?

You’re probably going to end up having to rewrite (maybe big) parts of your story (a few times) anyway, as you come up with cool new ideas while you write, but if you have a broad framework and a more detailed plan for it, then you know where and how to be creative and how to slot your new ideas into what you already have.


  1. Step 1 – Write a high-level plan so you know what has to happen, but don’t go into any more detail than you need to.
  2. Step 2 – Figure out who has to do what. Build mental images and make them real. Not on paper, but to you. Names help.
  3. Step 3 – Write the damned thing, at least to the point that other people can read it without your private notes, understand it, and give you useful, critical feedback.

You have to have confidence in your work, first and foremost, and flesh it out to the point that others can begin to enjoy it. Then let others tear it to shreds so you can improve it. Wash, rinse, repeat.


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On (Cryptographically) Shackling Bridge Trolls

I’ve been having a bit of an internal debate recently about the dreaded D-word (whispers “DRM”). I’m talking about Digital Rights Management, which is a fancy name for various different flavours of encrypting your digital words so people who get (buy, lease, borrow) copies can’t then go on to copy, print or otherwise redistribute them. Is this necessary or inherently evil? I’ve heard both sides of the debate.

Now, I’m a tech guy. Seriously, an actual tech guy. I worked as a Network Administrator back in Australia before moving to Poland and teaching business English. I’m Cisco certified and I have a decade of experience working in various IT departments it real, paying jobs. What this means is that, irrespective of my being an author, I actually, seriously know what I’m talking about with DRM. Why am I currently so vigorously pumping my ego? Because it’s useful for my (10) readers to know that what I’m about to say is the meandering thoughts of someone whose  meandering thoughts are worth listening to.

What is DRM?

Digital Rights Management, as I said above, is just encryption for your book (movie, song or any other digital copy). The goal is simple, to stop unauthorised copying, either digitally or onto paper or whatever.

How does it work? Let’s not go into details because every system works differently anyway. The methods are broadly the same and the goals are exactly the same.
The infrastructure provider (Amazon, Apple, Google, maybe Smashwords, etc) get the free text version of your masterpiece from you.

Note 1 – if you email a copy to anyone, all of your DRM is automatically dead. If you send a copy to the infrastructure provider over an unsecured network, all of your DRM is dead. If someone steals your laptop… you get the idea. The DRM only starts working after Amazon encrypts it. They still have an unencrypted copy too, so if someone hacks Amazon, you’re boned.

Now that Amazon (or whoever) have your text/images, they package and encrypt all of this. They’ll use some sort of public or shared key cryptography. Usually, they have an encryption algorithm which uses a master password to encrypt the document and it can only be decrypted with a second password – not their master password. They then put a copy of this second password in every device that needs to be able to display the book (or whatever).

Note 2 – If anyone ever disassembles even one of these devices and gets that password, every book is automatically completely unprotected. Amazon’s licensing terms state specifically that they provide no warranty about the integrity of their DRM system at all. i.e. Amazon says they don’t provide any security against theft or anything in their DRM. It’s all for show. Why? Because if anyone gets that key, everything’s up for grabs, and Amazon’s got millions of copies of that key on millions of devices all over the world. Now, realistically, each device type will have a different key, and possibly every model of every device, but that makes little difference.

So how does this prevent copying? Well, basically, only their devices and software have the password, so only their devices can display the content, and their devices don’t have copy and print buttons. It’s as simple as that.

Note 3 – There’s nothing to stop some weirdo who clearly needs a girlfriend from, instead, spending a month diligently transcribing your masterpiece into a new document by the age-old method of read, type, read, type. The content has to be unencrypted at some point, to be usable to the end user and at this point it can still be copied, if painfully slowly. This, BTW, is why DRM is doomed to fail for movies.

Should you use DRM?

The short answer, in my humble opinion, is yes.

There’s nothing to stop a determined copyright-infringer from getting their greasy mitts on your work and disseminating it for free, or charging other people directly. DRM will only ever stop what I’ll call casual infringement. This is where the average Joe has your book and simply makes a copy for his friends, because, you know, why not? These are the people who don’t specifically want to break the law or to profit from your work, but just don’t feel like their friends should buy your work after they had to. It’s the equivalent of lending a book/DVD to a friend, in their mind, but it’s not because the friend won’t ever give it back. If you want to make a living from your writing, you need to keep a lid on casual copying. If you want people to respect your copyright, etc, you need to actually do something to stop it. After that, you can only hope but to be so popular that the professionals try hard to get copies of your works.

What about fairness to readers?

My book is currently available on Amazon and I’ve setup these options:

  • Anyone who buys the paperback can have a Kindle edition for free.
  • Anyone subscribing to Kindle Unlimited (or whatever) can rent it for free.
  • I’ve already done 2 free giveaways.
  • I’m planning a 99c promo for sometime soon.
  • I use DRM.

I really do believe that more people reading my book is (for now at least) more important than my making money (in the short term) because it leads to more awareness (popularity) and will lead to more sales of book 2 or 3, etc. That doesn’t mean I should leave my book open to being abused however. If you want it, I applaud you and I’ll help you as much as I can (with the above list) but still do it the right way.

You respect my time and work and I’ll try hard to make it easy for you to access my book. You treat me badly and I’ll try to stop you from overly abusing my work. I don’t think it’s unethical to use DRM. I think it’s worse to charge $9.99 for the paperback and $8.99 for the Kindle edition. That’s just disrespecting the readers, DRM isn’t, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the reading (like region encoding in DVDs).

On Free Advertising, update 1

A week or so ago I did a 1-day, snap promo of my novel, Equivocal Destines. I then wrote this blog post detailing what I did.

https://raymondclarkeauthor.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/on-free-advertising/

It was a quick decision. I did it with about 2 days prep time (during which I was working in my real job so didn’t even have much time to set anything up. I was a bit late with what I did too. It was still a modest success though, and achieved its goal. If you’re wondering what the useful results are a week on, here it is.

Sales

Flat. As in, no change, up or down. Not good. It’s what I expected though.

Rentals

My book’s available under Kindle Unlimited for people to rent if they subscribe. I get paid if they read at least 10% and by coincidence, the amount I get paid’s really close to what I earn on a sale of a Kindle edition in a 70% zone.

Rentals are up almost 300%. Excellent news. Well, not really. See below.

Amazon ranking

I said above that my sales are flat (i.e. not going down) but that’s an average over the week. I had my sales earlier in the week and the rentals later in the week. This has basically proven to me that rentals don’t count towards your Amazon ranking (which is logical since Amazon doesn’t know yet if they’ll read 10% so they don’t know if I’ll get paid) so my Amazon ranking is slipping slower even while I’m making more money than I did before my flash promo. I’ve slipped from about 120k to 362k as I write this. Both of those numbers aren’t good (neither are my total sales) but I haven’t done any real/paid advertising at ll yet, so I’m not surprised. It’s also not relevant to this post.

My thoughts

@MichaelBacera on Twitter (who has a really interesting book coming out soon BTW, follow him) said something really important (and in hindsight, obvious) to me a while ago, which I hadn’t considered at all.

If you do a free book giveaway it gives you  good Amazon ranking in the Free Kindle section.

This doesn’t affect your ranking in the main Kindle store at all.

This is very important, and from now on I think I won’t do any free giveaways. They get the word out, but don’t actually lead to sales, so it’s  waste of time. Paid advertising will more likely lead to sales (off topic) but even that won’t affect your Amazon ranking, which is more important for future growth than a few extra sales anyway.

Give up on the free promos. Do 99c promos instead, and give up on the notion that you can get way with only free advertising. The market’s probably just too saturated, but that’s only speculation. My numbers though show that free promos haven’t helped me much.

On Knowing Your Limits

I know I’m good at a lot of things. Here’s a few that are in some way related to the art of writing:

  • After 5 years of teaching Business English here in Poland I have an excellent grasp of English grammar. I know the rules, can explain them in endless ways with endless examples and generally bore anyone to death on this topic. I even get paid to do just that 🙂
  • I have a history of reading a lot of non-fiction, so my formal, business, science and a lot of other specialist and semi-specialist vocabularies are significantly higher than the average sci-fi/fantasy author. I did a dodgy, online vocab test :p
  • I worked as a Cisco-certified Network Administrator in another life so have a very thorough understanding of a wide range of computational technologies.

There’s more, but I wanted to give you a very impressive-sounding but short list. There’s a point though – it’s not grandstanding.

Here’s a longer list of things I’m truly terrible at, but would make my life as an author sooooo much easier.

  • Literally anything graphical, from Photoshop/The GIMP to drawing, painting, or even sketching stick figures. I’m truly, seriously, bafflingly, frustratingly, completely useless at this whole sphere of activities. It’s just pathetic 😦
  • Real-world technologies and tools which don’t plug directly into a computer and allow themselves to be controlled by it. Think: guns, cars/trains/planes, construction, carpentry, police procedures, medical anything. The list is literally endless.
  • Getting/thinking overly-emotionally. I’m a very mentally and emotionally stable person, and this isn’t always a good thing (just ask my fiance), especially when you need to write about these things, or simply write from a position of passion. I’m just too logical.
  • Marketing! Full stop. End of scope. Now, I’m sure I could understand marketing and do it successfully, if I really, really tried. I just can’t bring myself to fill my head with all of that nonsense. Is it actually nonsense? Definitely not. It’s a critical business skill. It’s just one I can’t bring myself to focus on for long enough for any of it to sink in.

So why am I writing this blog post now? Because I’m currently 20% of the way through book 2 of the Upheaving Nidola series, I have a Y.A. novel maybe 40% done and I’m in the initial stages of planning a sci-fi book (probably a standalone). Crap! I just realised I’ve watched a lot of sci-fi (it’s my favourite TV genre) but I’ve literally never actually read a book set in space. So how do I go about writing one? Amazon was kind enough to email me a $5 voucher yesterday for installing their Kindle software on my phone, and as I need background material (and the voucher handily expires today) I just blew $5 of Amazon’s hard-earned, virtual cash on 2 books set in space. It’s a good, entertaining start.

I know my limits. They are both broad and extensive. I have a lot of gaps to fill, and always will. No matter how much information – general and highly specific – I cram into my brain, I’ll always have disabling limits. We all will. The trick is to admit them and find ways to mitigate them.

I guess this is why highly-successful, fiction authors say that extensive reading of other people’s fiction is an essential part of the writing process.