This is going to be a year of me promoting libraries and each month I’m going to be looking at a different angle. I’m going to start with how great libraries are for authors and at the end of this blog I have a gift for you.
Did you know your public library pays authors? (UK & Ireland)and it’s not just for books. Most libraries these days lend digital copies as well, so you can listen to audiobooks and borrow digital books as well. FOR FREE. Because that’s how awesome libraries are.
Under the UK PLR scheme there is a minimum payment threshold of £1 and a maximum of £6,600. The rate per loan for 2020/21 loans was 11.26p.
For Irish payments the minimum threshold is 2 Euros and the maximum is 1000 Euros. The rate per loan for 2020/21 for Irish payments was 11.29 cents.
And every time a book, in whatever format, is borrowed the author gets 11p. You might think that’s quite low but I promise you, if someone buys a book, the amount that the author receives can be the same depending on their contract. And they only get that once. With a library, they get it with each borrow.
Not bad really, given I’ve just started. You might look at that and think it’s chicken feed, and I suppose it could be seen that way. But not by me. I see it as evidence that people are borrowing my books from libraries and reading for free. But of course, if you want to help me improve that figure get on down to your local library and borrow or request my books!
So, go join your local library. It’s free. And then start borrowing. Also free! You can also order books in. Sometimes there’s a small charge for that, approx. 50p.
And if you want to keep the books? Well, I have a solution for that
Now, I mentioned a gift. Each month I am going to send a signed copy of my book to a reader that sends me a photo of any of my books in their library. Extra kudos if you got the library to buy a copy for their stock. Send me a photo. I’ll make a draw and then you can request which book I send you! I’ll be using the image to share on social media so happy for you to cover your face with the book if you prefer.
After eighteen long months I finally made it back to London. I love staying in the City, I tend to stay in the actual City of London, the Square Mile, heart of the financial centre of London and a very quiet section of the metropolis. It’s normally quiet at the best of times, low on tourists, low on residents but this time it was also low on workforce. So much of the City is still working from home and it was evident in all the closed and boarded up coffee shops and bistros. The knock-ons of this pandemic go on and on.
Anyway, I went to London to celebrate the launch of The Missing Codex and to keep my eyes open to new ideas for book four, you never know when something will jump out at you. I was also there to visit the Nero exhibition.
Was it worth it?
No. Honestly, I thought the exhibition was overpriced and underwhelming. Thank god I didn’t also have to put up with crowds. Sometimes special exhibitions are stunning, sometimes they are just blah. I thought this one was blah. Your standard statues and artefacts and a range of information boards. I don’t know, I just thought that for such a dramatic history we might have had a more dramatic presentation of the evidence.
What was worth it was a trip to the Mithraeum. This is an underground Roman temple, free to visit, located under the Blomberg building. It was first discovered after the Blitz and has since been preserved and moved twice. it now sits near to its original site and has been vary carefully preserved. There’s not a lot to see, just stone and brick foundations, but through the clever use of smoke and lights and sounds effects you can see the walls and columns and hear the chanting. Very smart. Upstairs there’s a fascinating finds board of all the artefacts found, and these are really cool. I loved the glass vials and the shoes. So human reaching down the millennia.
Museum of London and Postman’s Park
I also visited these for the first time. The museum is excellent and I played silly buggers dressing up in stuff as my husband wandered past telling me that’s how people got the plague. And as we had just passed the plague section I had a small shudder. This museum is much more interested in the lives of Londoners through the centuries and is a good way of understanding history. Especially interesting for a writer 😀
Just outside the museum in a small park in a corner, is a wall of tributes to heroic self sacrifice. It’s incredibly poignant and a reminder of how anyone is capable of being a hero. Also, that being a hero rarely ends well.
Bang up to date
As well as playing around in the past I visited some of London’s newest buildings and wine bars. (Research – honest) The view from the Sky Garden, the “walkie-talkie” building is amazing and is another attraction that is free to visit. Well worth it, and it is so stunning to look down on the city and just wonder at how bloody impressive it is.
So, did I get any inspiration for book four? Yes. But I’m not going to say what. As Song says, Spoilers!
First Engineer glanced up from his desk in surprise. It wasn’t time for the midday briefing, yet Second Engineer stood in front of him tapping a print-out against her thigh. An alarming item in itself. Files were only printed when the digital copy had been deemed so harmful that it had been completely wiped and a single hard copy made, to be filed or burnt at a later date.
There was no need for pleasantries. They were engineers, their job was to ensure a smooth running of society. Let the other departments clamour to be the best. Engineers were silent and knew the truth of things.
‘This tripped our protocols as it ran through the security filters. It’s a lecture for the neophytes.’
All staff who worked for the Mouseion of Alexandria started at the same place. Whether they would go on to be curators, custodians or even engineers, they all started as neophytes. Then their skills were assessed, and they were allocated to the correct departments.
‘A neophyte lecture. What on earth could be in that to have triggered an alert?’
‘It was written by Curator Strathclyde.’
First Engineer frowned and held out his hand for the offending transcript. When Strathclyde had first arrived through the quantum stepper, First had argued vehemently that the man could prove to be highly dangerous. He had been overwhelmingly outvoted. The other departments had been charmed by Strathclyde and could see no threat in his friendly ways. They were treating him like a project or an interesting pet.
Despite First’s objections, Strathclyde graduated as a curator. Now, he was being considered as an occasional lecturer in Beta Studies. First wondered when the rest of the mouseion heads would realise what a threat to the stability of their society Strathclyde was. Who knew what dangerous ideas he might try and inculcate? His eyes flicked across the paper.
Who amongst us hasn’t wondered if we are not alone in the universe? He stared at Second and looked back over the paper, as he began to read aloud. ‘If we can have a parallel existence between your Earth and mine, why not multiple universes?’
With a shaking hand, he took a match from his desk drawer and set fire to the paper, placing it in his bin.
‘Do we know if he discussed the contents of this paper before he wrote it?’
Second shook her head. ‘We’ve pulled all the audio files from any neighbouring wrist braces, and nothing was detected.’
First frowned. ‘What about his own?’
‘He doesn’t always wear it. He’s not impressed by the wearing it for the common good argument. Also, according to the notes, in his monthly assessment he commented, that as it wasn’t mandatory, he’d rather not.’
‘In his defence,’ said Second, ‘he was tracked and spied upon through his wrist brace.’
‘But that was unsanctioned. He would never have known about it if we had been doing it.’
‘I don’t think he sees it the same way. And, of course, he doesn’t quite see the for the good of society the same way we do.
‘This is not news to me, Second.’ She flinched. Repetition of information was an unnecessary waste of time and unworthy of her rank. She waited to see what First was going to recommend. At this point, she felt her next suggestion would be at odds with his. She felt that Julius should be more closely monitored. He was an excellent example of a Beta mind and she wanted to study him.
‘I have determined that Julius Strathclyde is a threat to society of the first order. He is an unresolved paradox.’
Second betrayed no emotion. First’s reasoning was sound, but where Strathclyde was concerned, Second felt that First may be slightly conflicted.
‘In order to protect the citizens of Alpha Earth, I will arrange for Julius to be removed from it.’
Second nodded her assent. She felt sure that they had lost a research opportunity, but First was within his rights. Julius Strathclyde must die.
I am thriller to reveal the cover for the third book in the Quantum Curators series. Once again, I am bowled over by how good this cover is from Stuart Bache at Books Covered. I thought you might like a sneak peak into the symbols in the atom as well as the blurb.
A cover and a blurb work hand in hand to deliver a promise of the story inside. Fingers crossed, you’ll like what is on offer.
The gods don’t exist but who’s going to tell them?
Something is rotten in the heart of Alexandria and Julius Strathclyde is in trouble. He appears to have summoned the gods, which is driving his partner, Neith Salah, insane. Not to mention all the other ultra-rational citizens of Alpha earth.
It gets worse.
The gods set a challenge that can’t be refused. The race is on to find the lost blueprints for the Quantum Stepper. Whoever possesses them will be able to unlock the stepper’s true potential.
The game is afoot and the outcome is terrifying. All of time and space will be under the control of the victors; to protect, or to plunder. Can Julius and Neith get to the plans before their rivals?
If they lose, Julius’ earth is doomed, but if they win, Neith’s earth will continue to disintegrate.
Can they find a third way? Or will the gods win out?
For lovers of fast-paced, witty novels. The Quantum Curators go from strength to strength
Eagle eyed readers have already spotted that this is the famous Brunelleschi Dome, which can only mean one thing. We’re off to our Florence. There are a lot of rules regulating the curators getting anywhere near Leonardo da Vinci. How many do you think the curators break.
Well, this is at the heart of the book but honestly, there’s a very good reason it’s been hidden for centuries. Neith, Julius, step away!
He is one of my favourite gods just because he’s such fun. Anansi is a well known trickster god of Caribbean and African origin. He’s a mythological character and god of stories. He’s witty, cunning and funny. Sometimes he’s cruel. And occasionally, he’s terrifying.
Spoiler alert. I’m not going to tell you about the swallows. You’re just going to have to read the book yourself!
The Future is getting closer – artificial intelligence and audio books
Audio books are becoming an increasingly popular way for people to consume their books and are now the fastest growth area in the book world. Digital books, once the new kid on the block, are now an established format. Now it is the turn of the audiobook, but where a digital book was quick and cheap to produce, an audio book is a very different beast.
The cost of an audio book
Having written and edited the words on a page, you now need it to be spoken. This costs. This costs a lot. I’ve had quotes for $6000.00; they wern’t considered extortionate. Then of course, those files need to be checked both for quality and mistakes. Then the sound files need to be processed and accepted on the platform’s distribution outlet. This can take months.
So, an audio book costs time and money and as I’ve said, a lot of money.
Is it worth it?
Well, audio is a booming market, but an audio book is expensive for the consumer to buy. Troy by Stephen Fry, costs £22.00, however lots of people choose to stream at a margin of the cost. With the publisher only receiving a pound or two per stream, and often less, it takes a hell of a long time to recoup the initial outlay of thousands of pounds. This is why lots of new authors don’t get an audio deal until their publisher is confident that they can make a profit.
A new solution
In a fast changing market, the COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted technical technologies and one of these have been GPT3, a natural language processing tool. Soon an author will be able to synthesise their own voice or use an existing artificial voice to read their book. A job that would take a human many days, can be done glitch free in minutes. I’ve listened to the latest voices and they aren’t bad at all. In another year, they may be indistinguishable to the casual listener. As the time to record speeds up, so too does the speed of editing and processing, so everything gets cheaper.
Pros and Cons
Well for voice artists, this will become an issue. They won’t be able to compete on price, but as technologies improve, they will be able to reduce their time and fees. Where they will remain strong, however, is their humanity. Those with real talent will continue to shine and remain in demand. Nothing, after all, beats the real thing. Quality will always outshine quantity.
the author/publisher, they will now be able to enter the audio book market without too great a financial risk.
the reader they will hear the book however they want.
For example, they can pay a premium price to listen to the real Stephen Fry read a book. Or they can pay slightly less for a synthesised licenced voice. Imagine if Stephen Fry licensed his voice? Producers could then hire that voice to read the book.
For an even cheaper product, they could just listen to a generic synthetic reader, and this is where the flexibility of new technologies will explode. Imagine now, as the listener, you could listen to a voice of your choice. Male, female, young, old, Kenyan, Polish, English, American and so on. I don’t know about you, but it jars when the voice reading a book completely fails to sync with the voice in my head or the “voice” of the author.
In the future, I could just log into Spotify or Audible, select a book and then choose the narrator. If I wanted a human, I’d pay more, if I simply wanted a voice that chimed with my own, I could flick though a library of synthetics and proceed with the download. I reckon this will be with us within five years.
In The Quantum Curators and the Fabergé Egg, the hunt is on for a Russian doll, could it be hiding a priceless treasure? The section from below is from the book, I hope you enjoy it. To read more about the dolls follow the links at the end…
‘I need to pick your brains about matryoshka dolls.’
‘Cakes and dolls. What a lovely way to start the day. Excellent. What do you need to know?’
Julius explained that he was trying to track down the lost casing of an outer doll. He hadn’t seen the inner dolls, and had just had them described to him. All he hoped for was an idea to the size of the outer casing and maybe the subject matter.
They were seated in two comfortable armchairs and had a coffee table between them. Now Marsha wandered around her rooms, returning with doll sets until the table was covered in them.
‘Okay. Matryoshka or Russian dolls are a nested set of wooden canisters. Each canister opens at the middle, revealing a smaller unit within. These reduce in size until you get to the smallest solid doll in the centre. You can have any number, but the preference is for around five or seven. The cluster of dolls is also thematic. Family members, politicians, et cetera. The inner doll is the smallest or least important, the outer doll is the most important. Another cake?’
Julius leant forward gratefully, and having put the cake on his plate, picked up one of the doll sets. Opening up the first doll, he looked inside.
‘That set you’re holding has a political theme. It’s quite a modern set and made for the tourist market. Russians are more careful about political statements. Unless the statement is, “We support our current leader”. In Russia, you know, we are famous for our freedom of speech. But those freedoms only last as long as the speech itself. I have a joke that will help you understand.’
Marsha cleared her throat. ‘A frightened man came to the KGB. “My talking parrot has disappeared”, she said in a gruff voice and then changed her pitch to reply as the KGB officer.
‘“That’s not the kind of case we handle. Go to the criminal police”. “Excuse me, of course I know that I must go to them. I am here just to tell you officially that I disagree with the parrot”.’
Marsha laughed and slapped her leg. ‘See! We are not idiots. Russian politics is for tourists.’
Julius laughed along with her as he stacked the dolls back together. His attention now taken with something more folk like.
Marsha pointed to the old, faded doll he was holding. ‘Now that one is the oldest in my collection and sounds like your doll. You see she is not as garish as these two?’ said Marsha, pointing to two very pretty and slightly gaudy dolls. ‘This one represents the seasons, that one is supposed to represent a traditional doll, but look at the two of them side by side.’
Julius looked at the modern doll, painted in a bright and traditional style. The face of the doll was blank and characterless. The older doll, however, was completely different. The paint was probably never quite so lurid, but more importantly, the face on the doll was realistic. This was a portrait. Julius felt certain that if he met the person in the flesh, he would recognise her. He opened the whole doll set and could see a family resemblance running through the dolls, from the outer matriarch to the little girl.
‘Would an old one always be a woman on the outer casing?’
Marsha thought about it. ‘I have seen male ones, but they were called matryoshka for a reason. If your outer casing is male and old, it would be quite collectable. However, you will be able to tell if it matches your set because the artistry between the dolls will be by the same hand. The inner dolls you have described sound as though they were not Soviet mass-produced items.’
The pair chatted on until a clock chimed and Marsha apologised, saying that she needed to go and teach. I have to work so that they will pay me. It’s not like in the good old days when workers pretended to work, and bosses pretended to pay them. But this is progress!’
Kissing her on the cheeks, he set off.
Some of my own Russian Dolls. See, they are perfect for hiding things in.
With the advance of the electronic reader the large print edition has fallen out of favour. And its clear to see why, large print books could be very large and heavy, bulky unwieldy and expensive to buy. Even if you decided to overcome these issues not every book was published in a large print format and it was often the preserve of western and romances. Somewhat stereotyping the demographic that needed large print.
The e-reader arrived and suddenly the issue physical dimensions disappeared. Issues of cost and availability disappeared. Overnight, you simply purchased the title you wanted and adjusted the font size until it was legible.
e-reader or print?
But e-readers aren’t for everyone.
Which is why The Quantum Curators and the Fabergé Egg is available in large print. We have gone to lengths to ensure that the book is not too heavy or too large to hold comfortably. We considered the paper quality and the size and style of font used, picking a sans serif font, Arial 20pt, and printing on plain white paper.
I’m certain that large print readers want more than westerns and romances. Why not an action adventure Sci-Fi story?
In every way we have tried to make this accessible. However, the price may prove a sticking point. At £14.99 it may be beyond the pockets from some who are trying out a new author.
Libraries to the rescue
Happily there is a solution. The wonderful public library service. We have lodged this title with library supplies so all that anyone needs do is go to their local library and request that their library service buy a copy.
Do this for yourself by all means but know that you will also be doing it for everyone else in your community. For everyone that wants something new to read in the large print section!
And it’s not just large print
And of course we have made the standard size print book available to the library services. Just go in and request it. By doing this you don’t just support me, I get a few pennies for every borrow, but you support your local library. The more you use them, the better their chances of staying open. Libraries in the UK are facing a shameful cut to services, they are the very epitome of a civilised society and they need our support. (I could go on at length but it will just get ranty, so I’ll stop here).
Get in touch
I’d love to hear your opinions on this as well as your success in getting it ordered. Send me a photo of the book out in the wild. or of course you could always buy your own copy if you don’t like sharing.
Of course you shouldn’t judge, but there we are. For years I didn’t read The Colour of Magic because I didn’t like the Josh Kirby covers. I’d glanced at them and thought they were more in the vein of the Conan books. Yes, I know! Anyway, I finally picked one up after being told I would love it by so many people, read the first page and never stopped reading. That is until The Shepherd’s Crown, I haven’t read that. Once I read that, there’s nothing left. So no, I’m saving that for sometime else.
Judging a book by its cover
Back to the importance of a book cover. It needs to do two things; it needs to stand out and to fit in. You need to flag to your potential audience that this is similar to something that they have already read and enjoyed. You only get a few seconds to grab the attention of a browser as they scroll past your cover. Clearly, a cover says nothing about the quality of the writing or storytelling, but it gives a sense of quality. A well designed cover tells the reader that the publisher has spent money on the cover, the natural thought progression from this is that they care about the product. The production values are high which implies that the writing is of a similar standard.
Does it promise what it delivers?
But no matter how lovely your cover is if it doesn’t hit your market, you are going to disappoint or confound the browsers that stopped to look at it. Maybe they give up at the blurb, which is disappointing, worse is when they buy the book and discover it isn’t for them at all, and leave a poor review.
Your book cover should make a promise and your story should deliver on that promise.
Look at the images above. Which is your favourite? You can see which one I went for below.
First Impressions Count
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I selected Books Covered, Stuart Bache’s design studio, to make my cover. This was my most expensive purchase based on the concept that first impressions count. I’ll do a cost blog in about three months.
Now, picking a design was a nightmare and I still don’t know if I got it right. The designer sent me three designs based on my initial brief. One immediately jumped out as gorgeous, but I needed more feedback than just gut instinct. So it was back to the village, and I offered the three choices to various reader and writing groups. They largely agreed with me but I remained concerned that the cover did not properly suggest SF or adventure.
I asked the design team to show me three covers that focused on this aspect. Again they sent me three gorgeous covers and I had an immediate favourite. Again, I took it to the village and they mostly agreed with me. This time though, my preferred option was also drawing some negative comments. That was a little concerning, so instead I went back to the village and asked if they preferred the first best option or the second best option.
Option one won overwhelmingly amongst those that hadn’t read it. Those that had read it said option two was a better fit, but that they would have still picked up option one and would have enjoyed it.
I went back to the designer and asked for help. What did they think? Here’s what Stuart said.
Stuart Bache – Books Covered
Book covers serve two purposes: to catch our eye and to impart information in nanoseconds. Hopefully, both of these will lead the viewer to buy it.
The information we need is usually: genre/some narrative, author, title (in any order).
The next thing to think about is: will people notice/like it enough to buy it?
The thing about readers’ opinions is that it’s ‘after purchase’, it doesn’t tell you whether they would have bought it or not. Also, unless the cover is overwhelmingly wrong – which is usually reserved for book covers that use the completely wrong imagery for the genre (i.e. cozy romance cover, pure erotica story) – there will be little to no impact… especially digitally where you see the cover fleetingly after purchase.
The two you have chosen are great covers, either one will work. I would go with your gut-feeling and lean slightly towards to people who ‘haven’t’ read the novel.
Personally I prefer option two, but I’ve decided to go with the more popular cover. If I’ve got it wrong at least I have a great fall back to re-launch with. The other thing to bear in mind is how the series progresses and I think option one will support that path better than option two.
Anyway, having finally decided on a cover, we went through a few further tweaks and now its ready to be launched on the world. I think it’s beautiful, I just hope it also works.
Time will tell. Which is appropriate for a bunch of time travelling curators.
Incidentally, this is the final cover. Was it your favourite?