Archive for month: October, 2011

Fanning the flames of creativity: What the Kindle Fire could mean for indie authors

23 Oct
10/23/2011

For a device that hasn’t seen a single hands-on review, Amazon’s latest addition to the Kindle family, the Kindle Fire, is already setting records. It’s currently the number-one most gifted item in Amazon’s electronics rankings, closely followed in the number 2 and 3 spots by Amazon’s other new-kids on the block, the redesigned Kindle and the Kindle Touch.

The loss-leading $199 price-tag for the Kindle Fire is probably one of the primary reasons behind the massive pre-order rush reported by Amazon. Tech-magazines across the net (thanks to leaked sales figures) are estimating a staggering 2,000 pre-orders for the $199 Fire every hour. That figure is worth repeating: 2,000 pre-orders EVERY hour! Amazon will have sold more than 2.5 million of the 7-inch tablets before its November 15th release.

While the Kindle Fire has certainly received a lot of coverage, the press in general has spent most of their time comparing it to Apple’s iPad, a comparison which, in my opinion, is misplaced. There’s a very simple but fundamental difference between the two gadgets: the Kindle Fire is designed solely for the consumption of media. It’s essentially a very clever marketing gambit by Amazon, and one which will help assure them of a captive audience for years to come.

And that’s fantastic news for us authors. Why? Because we have a massive company effectively working for us; creating an expanding marketplace of customers who will continually do what they do best … consume.

If those earlier pre-release figures don’t impress you, think about this for a moment: eMarketer (a website that tracks digital commerce and marketing) estimated that “more than 20 million ereaders will be in consumer hands by the end of this year, reaching 8.7% of the US adult population. By 2012, 12% of adults will have a Kindle, Sony Reader, NOOK or similar device.” Those figures are only for the US, by the way.  They don’t take into account the current, growing, markets in Europe, Australia, and eventually China and India.

Amazon’s announcement of the Fire’s release seems to have galvanized other manufacturers, too. Kobo and Samsung have all announced they are in the process of releasing or developing new 7-inch tablets. Barnes & Noble is also expected to announce a follow-up to the Nook Color and there are even rumors of an iPad Mini hitting the market sometime next year, despite the late Steve Jobs insistence that 7-inch tablets would be “dead on arrival”.

While a 7-inch tablet isn’t much use for anything more complicated than watching movies, playing the occasional game or surfing the net, it is the next best thing to a dedicated e-reader, and the more low-cost devices available to readers, the greater the market for our books will be.

So how does all of this help us scribblers?

Amazon is creating a stage where we, as indie authors, will have an almost equal billing with the big publishing houses. Conventional publishers are still geared to churning out what they know best, paper books. That’s going to leave a vacuum we can fill.  It’s up to us to take advantage of the ever decreasing boundaries between us and our target audiences to deliver a steady stream of interesting, well developed, professional content. It’s an opportunity that many of us will be unlikely to see again in our lifetime; an industry reborn. A literary gold-rush, if you like. We just need to be prepared for it.

As Bob Dylan has been saying for many years now “The times they are a-changin’”. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Towards Yesterday get’s a fantastic review from KillerKindle.com

21 Oct
10/21/2011

Another great review of Towards Yesterday, this time from KillerKindle.com, a website dedicated to reviewing the best indie books available.

You can read the review here http://www.killerkindle.com/2011/10/kindle-ebook-review-towards-yesterday.html

 

There are more things in Heaven and Earth …

02 Oct
10/02/2011

I’m not a religious man. I guess, if you pushed me to categorize myself, it would be as an “optimistic agnostic”. I’ve just never been able to get on-board with the whole religion thing.  When I was a kid my mother would force me to go to Sunday school. To try and get out of it I’d hide at the top of the garden behind my dad’s crumbling toolshed, trying to avoid the mass of brambles that grew back there but always managing to get stung by them. I can still remember the smell of the creosote soaked wood and the aroma of the earth and weeds that grew undisturbed in the gap between the shed and our neighbor’s fence. My mum would inevitably find me, of course, and after a hurried clean-up, she would hustle my little sister and I out the door and we’d walk the couple of miles to the church hall together.

Do you remember the scene in The Omen where Gregory Peck’s character tries to drag Damien into a church but the kid is kicking and screaming and refusing to enter? That was pretty much me; at least in my head it was. If I’d actually tried to pull a stunt like that I would have gotten a clip-across-the-ear and still have had to spend the next three hours listening to the Sunday school teacher drone on. So my tantrums were always thrown wholly in my head. I had a pretty good imagination, even back then.

Looking back on that time through adult eyes, I realize that this was probably the only quality time my mother and father would get with us kids out of the house. But that’s not the point of this story. I just wanted to set the stage for you; let you get to know me a little better.

This is the point: For about six or seven years my dad’s sister, Gwendolyn, lived with us. She took over the front room of my parents’ modest three bedroom council house on the outskirts of my hometown of Cardiff, Wales. She was just one of several of our family who lived in that little 12 by 8 room. Over the years a couple of my brothers and their families would live there too, and my father would eventually pass away in that same room. But my Aunty Gwen would be the first to take up residence. I would often find myself sitting at the kitchen table listening to her tell me stories of her life while she sipped from a cup of tea, a couple of Rich-Tea biscuits perched precariously on the cup’s saucer. My aunty was in her late 60’s at that time, and I, still a young lad of nine or ten, would listen completely enraptured by her tales of a different lifetime.

There are many stories I could tell you about my Aunty Gwen. I could tell you about the time she had to carry me up the stairs to my bedroom because I was so sick I could not stand; or the time a stray cat I had adopted and kept in the back garden managed to get into the house and corner her in the living room (she was terrified of cats); maybe the story of her slapping the local bully across the back of the head until he cried after she witnessed him punch me, or even the last time I saw her, confined to a hospital bed as she listened to me talk about my holiday in Greece, only to die the following day from terminal lung cancer, the result of a lifetime of smoking.

The story I am going to share with you is about the first time she died. She was just a teenager, so this would have taken place in the early 1930’s, not a good time to be sick. A nasty infection had turned into pneumonia and she had been transported by ambulance to the local Infirmary. Despite the doctor’s best efforts to control it, the pneumonia grew steadily worse until my aunt’s heart stopped and she died.

Gwen told me that she remembered standing in a tunnel with a bright light at its end; a light that she felt inexorably drawn towards. As she moved through it she found herself on a grass covered plain. Nearby, a brook bubbled and flowed, cutting a meandering path towards distant hills. High above her, brilliant white clouds floated across a perfect blue sky and Gwen knew instinctively that these were the souls of her friends and family who had died before her. She wasn’t afraid, in fact she felt quite the opposite; a “perfect sense of peace and tranquility” is how she described it to me. Gwen wandered over to the brook and knelt down, she scooped up a handful of the water and drank deeply, but she was surprised when the water tasted salty, more like sea water than the pure water she had expected.

At that same moment, Gwen found herself pulled from this beautiful dreamlike heaven, travelling back down the tunnel and away from the comfort of the light until she found herself lying in the hospital bed as her doctor worked frantically to return her to life. Beside her bed my Grandmother stood sobbing for the little girl she thought was surely lost, but who now, miraculously, had been returned to her.

“My mother’s tears were falling on my cheek and trickling into my mouth. They tasted very salty,” Gwen said to me, smiling as she recalled that distant memory.

Of course, I realize that my aunt’s near-death experience could be explained by any number of scientific or biological rationale, but still, her story stuck with me and, as I grew older, it’s helped me to recognize the incredible mystery of this universe we exist in. While science and religion have done their best to define our place within it, the unexplained and unknown still outweighs all that we as humans believe we know. If you’ve read my novel, Towards Yesterday, you might even recognize this as a major theme of the story. In fact, you might even remember Gwen’s story from the book’s closing chapter.

Years later, after my aunt died for the second and final time, I found myself remembering her story.  I still smile at the thought of her having returned, this time for good, to that beautiful valley and that even now she is with her friends and family, endlessly floating through a tranquil blue sky; happy, content, and finally at peace.