Publishing trends, predictions & forecasts for 2020

Those of you who follow Ramblings from a Writers Mind will know this time of year I put my ‘professional neck’ on the line by expressing my prognostications regarding the publishing industry for the coming year.

The first of these predictive posts was made way back in December 2017, when I forecast my assumptions for 2018. Looking back now, you will agree I pretty much nailed it. See for yourself,Insights & Publishing Trends for 2018′ 

Last year I published, on the 27th of December 2018, my review for this year, 2019. How accurate is this forecast? ‘Publishing Trends & Indie Author Insights for 2019′ 

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This year, I am once again sticking my neck above the parapet by suggesting what will be happening through 2020, regarding the publishing industry worldwide, especially that which affects the Indie Author.

I have been asked why I post this forecast every year.

My answer is simple; if you have an idea of what is happening, going to happen or reasonably likely to happen, you can plan your writing, your genre, your book and cover design, marketing, promotions, and social media content to take full advantage of the markets predicted movements and organic flux.

In simple terms, you can be proactive rather than reactive and keep up, if not stay one step ahead, of the game.

I have not organised the following in any particular order, so scroll down and pick out the areas which interest you the most and then work through the other sections as there is, most definitely, information you really do want, (or need,) to be informed about in each section.

1 – Book Cover Design Trends

2 – Audio/Audiobooks

3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)

4 – Emerging reach methods

5 – Social Media

6 – Telling Stories on social

7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.

8 – India

9 – Authorpreneurs

10 – POD/Inventory

11 – Author Alliances

12 – Crowded Social

13 – Fundamental Shifts

So, without further ado, this is my insight and predictive forecast into the indie book market and international publishing industry worldwide for the year AD 2020.

1 – Book Cover Design Trends

As a digital artist and book cover designer, this is one area I personally enjoy keeping a close eye on.

There are many elements to good design and bringing them all together in a limited space while incorporating all the necessary text elements is an often-underrated skill.

With the lists of newly released and soon to be released books now in the public domain, it is easy to see the prevailing design trends. Many of which, I suggest Indie Authors should take heed of.

  • The first is those where the designers create Technicolor covers, washes of psychedelic textured rainbow patterns, which appear to be moving across the cover or jacket. It is their dimensionality that tricks the eye.
  • Continuing from 2019 is text and images which overlap images and text, and become interwoven with them, lending an almost 3D effect to the cover.
  • Minimalist covers, such as monochrome with basic lettering, will carry over into 2020. The simplicity of such covers, usually using a bold background image, works well against shelves full of multicolour and bright renditions.
  • Handwritten style fonts, occasionally used with ‘crossing out’ of bolder texts, do not seem to be going away but are becoming more inventive and eye-catching.
  • Staying with text. A resurgence, in a modern form, will be shuddering, shading, glows, bevels and reflections. Big bold typographic statements that ‘jump-right-out’ at you.

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2 – Audio/Audiobooks

The audiobook market has grown in double figures for six straight years with a 37.1% growth in the USA in 2018. (latest figures)

The original audiobook provided a way of reading for those with visual problems and the elderly. The CD market for audiobooks formed 54% of sales in 2010 with digital downloads at 42%.

This has changed in recent years, partly because older people tend to be more tech-savvy and partly because the audience is becoming younger. The average listening age has moved from over 50 in 2010 to under 50 now.

As technology advances, so does demand. Smartphones, tablets and more recently, the growth in artificial intelligence have all contributed to the rise and fall of different markets with physical products taking a hit.

2020 will continue to bring a more diverse listener as marketing targets people of all ages from all walks of life.

The rise of the podcast has, in part, been responsible for the popularity and growth of audiobooks and will continue to bring in new listeners (across all ages) as its popularity transfers across to audiobooks.

People utilise the ability to listen to books while doing other things like gardening, travelling, jogging, knitting. Despite advances in screen technology people still drop devices in the bath or struggle with the sun when on holiday, not to mention the need to hold the device while sunbathing. Audiobook offers a solution to these problems with obvious benefits.

The Big Five publishers have only recently recognised that the audiobook market is the only sector demonstrating year on year growth, but boy are they noticing now. They have huge marketing budgets which will have a big impact on future audiobook trends. There is already and will be more aggressive marketing by the big players who will want to dominate and take their share of the pot. Targeting has only just begun to attract under 45s who use smartphones and AI more than older generations.

Indie authors have to some extent been reluctant to get involved because of the price of production is prohibitive. Having said that, many have entered via the royalty share option offered by producers such as ACX. Early adopters found more success with non-fiction books and these are hugely popular with figures for the final quarter of 2018 making up 25-50% of sales in some non-fiction genres.

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3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Firstly, I am touching on a subject which is pertinent, but one which I expect will see smaller businesses and Indie Authors woefully trailing behind. It is one, however, which opens new opportunities or expands on the offerings of those already in the market.

This is the new wave of IT, or AI, as this in the next organic technological expansion. This evolution of IT will allow the integration of content, engagement and auto-tagging to scale and create process efficiencies.

While basic SEO will continue for the foreseeable, AI leveraged contributions will be at the forefront of the shift to mobile-first index and aid continued spotlighting of both local and personalised search results.

Publishers will start to create platforms to collect and visualise audience and community data as the focus on segmentation grows even more. This will lead to building branded lean sites featuring authentic storytelling and content native to the digital platform.

While content remains king, site architecture will focus on redistributing the information in forms which ensures easy to find and easy to access content for customers.

None of the above,  which may be some time before becoming widespread and accepted, should detract from already accepted processes.

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4 – Emerging reach methods

It is important for Indie Authors and small press publishers to monetize traffic whenever possible.

This should not simply be considered a ‘secondary’ income stream but needs to be considered as part of the mainstream income.

Podcasting and 4K video are two areas Indies can consider. Both need a savvy website design and high-speed Internet.

Note: As mobile use continually grows users expect all content to load just as quickly and easily on their phone as on their computer. Since websites play such a vital role, trends surrounding them range from AMP to PWAs to Schema markup.

Okay, let’s get to some facts.

  • You will need to leverage podcasting with publishing. In 2018, podcast listeners in the US grew from 40 per cent to 44 per cent of the total population.
  • The top revenue stream for worldwide news publisher became digital publishing subscriptions with 44 per cent of the world population reading online.
  • Printing is not going anywhere. Most businesses, 64 per cent, told the Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 study printing will remain important well into 2025.
  • While the global book publishing industry is worth about $103 billion, it has continued to experience 0 per cent annual growth five years running.
  • Self-publishing continues to provide an “in” for those who want to publish, but self-published e-books provide better response for the author. On Kindle, 17 of the 100 top-selling books are self-published.
  • Publishers report their highest priority in 2020 is audience growth and marketing with 34. 2 per cent placing it at the top. Second priority comes successful SEO, say 25.8 per cent.
  • Publishers have deserted traditional media as a source for information and instead, 64.2 per cent say they read blogs with second place going to forums with 11.7 per cent of publishers reporting it as their source for industry news.
  • Publishers say their biggest challenges of 2020 include creating unique content that readers want, 23.3 per cent, keeping up with Google algorithm changes, 22.5 per cent, and diversifying website revenue, 20.8 per cent.

Okay. that’s the ‘techy’ stuff and what the larger publishers think. So, what can the Indie do, what are the trends to follow, or even lead on, regarding Social Media?soc

5 – Social Media

Habits change, platforms evolve, and new platforms come into existence. All this influences how people use and react to social media marketing, as well as how marketers can reach their audience.

What you did last year, or the year before, probably will not give the same results now. Like giving away your books for free… that is a big NO-NO for 2020.

There are now 3.484 billion social media users across the globe, which is a 9% increase compared to last year. This equates to 45% of the world’s population being on social. It also means social media adoption has beaten previous estimates, which estimated 2.82 billion would be using social media in 2019.

Saying that, more people are choosing to “detox” from social media, deleting apps and profiles to step away. This is more than the usual changes seen, in terms of people choosing to use one platform less in favour of another, such as Facebook seeing users decline but Instagram attracting more, this trend is seeing people take a temporary or permanent break from all social media.

One in three adults in the UK are reducing their social media use. Some 6% of users have removed an app from their phone, 6% have permanently deleted their accounts and 8% have deleted their accounts and removed social media mobile apps. A big reason for this is people feel overloaded by social media, with the permeation of social media affecting mental health and wellbeing. Others choose to detox because they don’t trust social media platforms, either due to issues like Fake News or because of privacy and data concerns.

This is not to say social media will become void in terms of digital marketing, but marketers do need to understand the impacts.  It’s also vital you ensure your social media presence is as meaningful as possible. Your brand needs to offer more than memes, you need to deliver content which is positive and memorable. Content that makes an impact on your audience and provides as much value as possible.

While sharing posts you believe your target audience will enjoy is part of maintaining your social media presence, but you also need to encourage and cultivate interactions which are more than a simple like or share. Many brands/other authors have large numbers of social media ‘followers’ yet, their engagement levels are almost non-existent. Don’t be them. Be a brand who attracts engagement from their followers by building communities around your content.

Encourage your(self)/team to create their own social presence to promote content and increase overall brand trust. This tactic leads to an authentic voice for your organisation/brand.

Twitter chats help create a strong sense of community through content, bringing thought from all areas together in a real-time conversation. It gives your brand the perfect opportunity to engage directly with current and potential customers/readers.

Building social media communities help with word-of-mouth marketing, which is another big social media marketing trend for 2020. Communities allow engagement with nano and micro-influencers. many who will already be advocating your brand. Give them more reasons to share honest views and experiences of your products/books/author services.

Note: I mention Nano & Micro-influencers above. These are the people you need to create ongoing relationships with, not the ‘big influencers’ ones often associates with that term.

‘Big influencers’ are no longer trusted by consumers as their activity is clearly biased and devised for commercial reward. They no longer have the impact they once did and are seen as disingenuous.

In comparison, smaller influencers, ones who are likely to be part of your communities, tend to have better relationships with their followers, benefiting from a higher level of trust. This can lead to more engagement, thus increasing levels of trust in a brand/author/books which is more likely to culminate in conversion.

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The rise of alternative platforms

Whilst Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tend to be the core platforms, many users are growing fatigued with their continuous ‘moving of the goalposts’ in order to generate even high levels of their already extreme profits, seemingly at the expense, or disadvantage of their users.

This has led to brands, including the individual entrepreneur/author having to fight harder than ever before to achieve good levels of organic reach and engagement. While Twitter has seen some growth during 2019, its active user numbers are far from its all-time 2017 high.

Similarly, Facebook has seen a huge drop in users, especially younger users, over the last two years, with the younger audiences opting to spend time on other platforms. Combine the above with the increasing pay-to-play format of social media channels means brands are not seeing the result from the core platforms.

Be prepared for more changes through 2020 as these core platforms jostle for users and introduce alternative and optional platforms and media channels.

  • TikTok, with a younger target audience (41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24) could be a great platform to encourage engagement with users who are stepping away from more traditional social media platforms. TikTok is the destination for short-form mobile videos.
  • Although Pinterest is far from new on the scene, it has experienced a recent resurgence. Pinterest has found it fits well into the e-commerce space and has an audience who are engaged with the idea of buying products they see on the platform. 75% of Pinterest users say they are “very interested” in new products compared to just 55% of people on other social media platforms. Brands report success on this platform, reporting 2x higher returns on ad spend from the platform than other forms of social media and a 1.3x higher return than traditional search.
  • Consider Virily is a relatively new Blogging Platform which opened its doors in May of 2017. Its offices are located in Estonia and Macedonia.

Virily practices revenue sharing, which for the small publisher and Indie Author, means the content you post and the interactions you make on the site earn you a share of the platform’s income.

So, by simply posting your engaging content via Virily, sharing that to your other social sites, from which your posts will be viewed, you will earn some revenue. Don’t hold your breath though, you will not earn a fortune, but if you are constantly posting engaging content, which you should be, then why not do it via Virily and earn a few cents per post?

The one downside is, you cannot post long/large blogs (like this one). But you could break it down into three or four shorter articles.

Utilizing alternative platforms allows you to engage with an audience who may not be on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, as well as providing you with different ways to share your content.

This could help deliver better results and shape your future social media marketing strategy.

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6 – Telling Stories on social

I have given this short section space of its own. Although it is still focused on social media, it is also at the core of what we authors do… tell stories.

Allow me to elucidate.

A long time ago I offered my services, on a commercial basis, to companies seeking ‘alternative’ marketing options. By a long time ago I mean the early two-thousands, so around twenty or more years ago.

This involved something I termed, CBNM, or ‘Creative Brand Narrative Marketing’. Not to be confused with ‘Narrative Marketing’.

I promoted the idea thus:

Unlike regular or standard brand narrative, CBNM uses flash fiction, short stories, essays and other narrative mediums to embed brand awareness and responsiveness into the consciousness of the consumer as a cultural and social standard, making it familiar and customary, thus creating longevity of brand loyalty.

CBNM is well suited to the internet; particularly Social Media Platforms, Web Communities, Forums and Blogging chains. Yet can be designed in such a manner that also allows inclusion in traditional and established marketing mediums.

CBNM is pro-active, flexible and adaptive. It can change and adjust your communications to express any modification or revision as and when required.

While I was more focused on the written word at the time than the current fashion for image-led ‘stories’, I see no reason the two cannot be combined and, with the option of linking the message to various other platforms, like Instagram, Amazon or ones own website. I see sharing ‘stories’ is a growth area for engagement.

I was way ahead of the game and now the rest of the world has caught up, as CBNM still holds true today, in fact, even more so. CBNM is all about engaging with one’s audience, about creating great content, about engagement and about eliciting response… the current mantra of all marketing gurus and one of the ‘must do’s’ of 2020.

Since the launch of Snapchat, other social media platforms have rushed to add the Stories format to their offering. The result has been huge growth in the usage of this format for Instagram in particular, which as of January 2019, boasts 500 million daily active Stories users across the globe.

On average, brands are posting Stories on around seven days a month, averaging out to one Story every four days.

Instagram.

  • Instagram Stories are more authentic than traditional Instagram posts that allow for heavy editing and altering.
  • Content is only available for 24hrs, therefore, it is current and will not become outdated.
  • Consumers want live updates and real-time content. Instagram Stories are normally the most up-to-date content a business can offer a consumer.
  • Through Instagram Stories, you can share other people’s Instagram posts. This function allows people to connect easily with other accounts and businesses.

Stories are not a suitable option for every brand, but as stories are engaging and seeing increased use, will lead consumers to expect brands to create Stories, it is worth assessing if and how you can utilize them.

An ongoing question I am asked is, “What’s the future of reading regarding eBooks and Print.”

Since the creation of eBooks, reading on the go has become so much easier… or has it?

Whether you daily commute or travel by plane, seeing people with e-reader devices in their sticky paws, rather than a traditional paperback book is not an uncommon sight. The prime difference is most devices avail the user to such a range of activities, it is so simple to flick, slide or click onto the next thing that comes into the user’s mind. From bidding on that must-have from eBay to browsing Amazon, to looking at pictures on Instagram before opening an eBook and reading another chapter, all can be done almost instantaneously.

Oh, for any doubters out there, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Reading a book is alive and well.

A recent Survey Monkey report revealed people have read eleven or more in the last twelve months. Uncategorised fiction came in first at 26%, with mysteries and thrillers coming in at a close second (22%).

What is interesting is the majority preferred to go with a print book when reading, with around 58% saying they purchased books in both formats. It seems people like the e-readers because they can store more, but overall, most people prefer to read a traditional printed tome whenever they can (70%).

Even with so many people liking the smell and feel of a paper book, curling up on a rainy afternoon with a mug of tea and a thriller may become a thing of the past, feared 45% of respondents.

What has not changed is peoples’ love of reading, no matter what shape, size or format the stories come in.

However, the above are just a few results from a relatively small market sample which was mostly based on people opinion rather than die-hard facts.

The following is a look at the state of the book market and takes its lead from industry published facts.

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7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.

Two new sets of numbers covering 2017 (latest available figures)show ebook sales are on the decline, both in terms of unit and dollar sales.

NPD’s PubTrack Digital, saw the unit sales of ebooks fall 10 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016. In absolute numbers, that meant the roughly 450 publishers represented saw ebook sales drop from 180 million units to 162 million over a year’s time.

The second, The American Association of Publishers, reported a decline in overall revenue for ebooks, a year-to-year decrease of 4.7 per cent in 2017. AAP tracks sales data from more than 1,200 publishers.

This ebook decline occurred in an overall publisher revenue environment that AAP said was essentially flat in 2017. So, some other kinds of book formats that AAP watches, like hardback books, went up as ebooks went down. For its part, NPD says when combining print and ebook unit sales, ebooks’ percentage of the total dropped from 21 per cent in 2016 to 19 per cent in 2017.

Children’s ebooks had the most dramatic decline in unit sales, and children’s/young adult ebooks have suffered double-digital revenue drops ever since the year 2015. Whilst adult fiction remains the most popular ebook category, with 44 per cent of all adult fiction sales in digital form.

However, neither NPD and AAP measure indie sales.

This is simply because centralized reporting of direct-from-author sales is tougher to come by, but by all anecdotal measures the independent market has taken off, notably in the also-still-large category of adult fiction.

One serious source of numbers for online book sales, including for indie ebooks, was the website Author Earnings. (Recently defunct) It estimated that traditional publisher reporting is, “now missing two-thirds of U.S. consumer ebook purchases, and nearly half of all ebook dollars those consumers spend.”

They say; “Ninety per cent of all romance purchases are ebooks,” the site’s latest report for Q2-Q4 2017 stated. “And we can see that science fiction and fantasy, with roughly 75 per cent of sales now ebooks and audio, is not that far behind.”

For all categories of ebooks, Author Earnings figures purely “indie” publishing accounted for at least 38 per cent of ebook units and 22 per cent of ebook dollars in the last nine months of 2017. And that doesn’t include micro presses, Amazon’s imprints.

“The indie share of the entire U.S. ebook market … now looks like what the indie share of Amazon alone used to be,” Author Earnings concluded. “In other words, far from losing ground, the overall indie market share has grown.”

So, you may be wondering: Are people buying more ebooks or more print books, overall? It’s hard to tell, across all kinds of books. Author Earnings doesn’t track physical bookstore sales, and NPD and AAP only track traditional publisher sales.

Jeff Bezos, whose Amazon distributes a lot of independently published ebooks, made it a point to note in his annual letter to shareholders that, “Over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.”

Part of the apparently increasing shift of authors to indie status may be about the money.

 “In traditional publishing, the writer sees a sliver of the profits — 5-15 per cent,” SFWA President Cat Rambo, herself a hybrid author, told me. “In small press publishing, that number goes up significantly, and indie writers get to keep the biggest portion of the pie.”

The future of ebook publishing may increasingly belong to the independent author, especially as traditional publishers shift more marketing weight onto the writers while charging a premium for their traditionally published product.

2020 will see the market share of Indie Authors and Publishers increase again. More traditional published authors will move, at least part of their catalogue, or new book publishing, to the Indie market and in doing so will bring subsequent changes to the way the Indie market operates.

Mainstream publishing houses will also continue to encroach into the indie field as Penguin has with their Independent Publishing arm… which I find a contradiction in terms… but there we are.

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8 – India

India’s book market, currently worth Rs 261 billion making it the sixth-largest in the world and the second-largest of the English language ones, is expected to touch Rs 739 billion by 2020.

General and literary fiction is ranked the number one genre in the books segment while “test prep” was the most sought-after genre in Academic books.

The consumer data survey, (Nielsen India Book Market Report) shows, on average people read books 2.1 times a week while nearly two-thirds read the book occasionally; interestingly, 56 per cent of the respondents bought at least one e-book a year and nearly half of these bought at least 3-4 e-books a year indicating a growing demand for digital books.

Fifty-five per cent of trade sales are of books in English. Books in Hindi account for 35 per cent of Indian language sales.

While the market is highly fragmented, it is also experiencing consolidation, partly due to presence of the merged Penguin/Random House/HarperCollins’ acquisition of Harlequin (all companies with substantial presences in India), but also in educational, with S Chand’s acquisition of Madhuban, Vikas Publishing House and Saraswati Book House, and with Laxmi Publications’ acquisition of Macmillan Higher Education.

Vikrant Mathur, director of Nielsen Book India, adds,

“There is enormous potential in the Indian book market which has been highlighted by the report, enabling publishers, booksellers and libraries to gain a deeper understanding of the market, pin-pointing areas that can be developed and those pinch points that need to be addressed in order to bring more efficiency and cost savings to the Indian book market and its supply chain.”

Those authors who are part of Electric Eclectic will know this marketplace is already being explored by Electric Eclectic. For those authors who are not part of Electric Eclectic… then maybe now is a good time to join us.

I cannot write this forecast without mentioning Amazon… so, here is a brief mention…

Amazon has reported strong growth metrics across business segments in recent years. Much of the company’s top-line growth has been on an organic basis, with the only major exception being the $13.7 billion addition of Whole Foods and resulting physical stores to Amazon’s offerings. (latest available figures.)

Expect Amazon’s combined global online sales to increase from $130 billion in 2018 to over $180 billion by 2020.

The company’s net revenues to increase from $178 billion in 2017 to $235 billion and increase to over $340 billion by the end of the decade.

Accordingly, the online sales business is expected to contribute around 44% of Amazon’s overall revenue growth in the same period.

No one predicted, 10 years ago,  Amazon would emerge as the world’s largest cloud provider, or it would be opening physical bookstores, or offering innovative ways for customers to shop without cashiers (Amazon Go stores). I say Amazon will be pursuing a growth opportunity a decade from now that no one is talking about currently.

I cannot say what Amazon will look like in 2029… but…

Although Amazon is already enormous in size given its nearly $233 billion in annual revenue, there are still many places around the world where Amazon hasn’t penetrated. International revenue makes up about 28% of the company’s total revenue, and the largest market outside of North America is Germany.

Amazon will need to overcome obstacles as it expands internationally.

In China, where Amazon has less than a 1% share of e-commerce sales, Alibaba has a stranglehold on the market.

In India, where Amazon has been investing heavily, it has run into an obstacle in the form of new government e-commerce and anti-monopoly policies that force foreign competitors to compete more on quality of service instead of price.

But Amazon is just getting its feet wet.

In 2019, Amazon started to expand in Brazil and just opened its first e-commerce store in Turkey.

Amazon has generally run its international operations at a loss, but that’s indicative of Amazon’s moat. It requires billions of dollars to build the infrastructure in these countries, not to mention navigate around complicated laws and regulatory environments. There are not many companies in the world, except maybe Walmart, that have the capital and patience to lose money for several years while building the necessary scale to earn a profit.

While Amazon doesn’t disclose advertising revenue specifically, its “other” revenue category, which primarily includes ad revenue, increased 117% to $10.1 billion in 2018. Amazon’s ad business is growing at a faster clip than Facebook’s and Alphabet’s. It’s estimated that by 2020, Amazon’s ad business will reach $15 billion, which eMarketer expects to come at the expense of Google’s digital ad share.

While Amazon’s core retail business will continue to grow around the world, investors should keep their eye on Amazon’s cloud business Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS helps companies connect and scale a host of services and systems in the cloud, including machine learning, blockchain, storage, database system hosting, analytics, and business applications, among several other services.

Revenue from AWS has more than doubled to $25.7 billion over the last few years. It was estimated that Amazon had a 52% share of the public cloud service market in 2017, according to research firm Gartner.

What’s more, AWS contributed nearly 59% of Amazon’s total operating profit last year. One analyst with MKM Partners thinks that AWS alone could be worth $1 trillion by 2024, which is more than Amazon’s current market value of $871 billion (total shares outstanding times the share price).

Over the next decade, you can expect Amazon to continue to push forward internationally and penetrate the crevices of commerce and help migrate more people over to a digital economy. There’s still a lot of opportunities domestically, as well, given that e-commerce sales still represent less than 10% of U.S. retail sales.

International, advertising, and AWS are some of the big things that will drive growth going forward, but CEO Jeff Bezos is never short of ideas of where to steer the company. With Amazon currently pursuing opportunities in non-retail industries, such as the $135 billion video game industry and the $3 trillion healthcare industry, the company will likely look very different a decade from now. But that is what makes Amazon one of the most dynamic companies in the world, and why it’s a great growth stock to tuck away in your nest egg.

That’s it on Amazon. (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.)

I don’t really need to say much else, except to ask where would we, as Indie Authors, would be without it? You may consider Amazon to be a Marmite company, love or hate. For me, the benefits of association far outweigh the alternatives… so, I’m in the love camp.

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9 – Authorpreneurs

I expect to see more self-publishing authors taking the role of “authorpreneur.” Publishing a book is a business venture, one with you, the author, as the brand.

Many successful and experienced authors now build their brand and establish their credibility in a given field. It is not enough to simply write a book; authors must market themselves, become involved in their own promotions and advertising.

This opens opportunities to help, aid and coach other authors, and to create other revenue streams. This can be in editing, proofreading, promotions, marketing, design, virtual assistants, virtual customer services, the supply of hand-crafted merchandise, online stores and more.

Some author organisations, such as Electric Eclectic, allow their authors to use established branding and to work with other EE authors.

2020, I am sure will see many Indie authors utilising their skillsets in this way.

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10 – POD/Inventory

Print on demand remains an important option for indie authors, one of the key factors which allow the independents to compete with their larger and better-funded competitors.

While eBooks are still in (slight) decline, print books show no such signs and allow the Indie Author the freedom of not having to hold a large inventory. An issue even large companies must contend with… even Amazon.

To deal with congestion at its warehouses, Amazon has cut book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. (reported by Publishers Weekly, Nov 19

The head of a publishing company said,

“if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks we could lose the entire holiday season.” He added, “that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations.”

It is this freedom from having to batch print and hold physical stock (of any quantity) which allows the Indie Authors to compete.

I don’t think 2020 will see any major movement from the likes of Barnes and Nobel or Walmart with regards to carrying indie-published books directly, but I am certain these companies are looking into the possibilities of creating their own POD systems.

If they do, it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for the Indie Author… stay tuned, folks.

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11 – Author Alliances

This is not new in concept, but these cooperative associations are morphing into successful unions.

In 2020 I expect many more Indie Authors to pull together to advocate for themselves. For example, authors are challenging the control ACX, a marketplace owned by Audible still wields over the audiobook industry.

For uploading an audiobook, and perhaps a simple quality check, they ask for a percentage of sales twice the size the author receives. Authors are starting to question this and, now, more equitable alternatives are starting to appear.

An important shift now is that predatory and fraudulent companies are being exposed, as authors come together to protect their best interests.

ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, is helping authors sort the legitimate actors from those that have been subject to repeated customer complaints and legal action. Their ranking offers a one-stop resource for authors to determine if a publishing service comes vetted and recommended, with a Watchdog Advisory, or somewhere in between.

Another form of author alliance is common branding.

For example, Electric Eclecticallows its members, Indie Authors and small press publishers, to use the Electric Eclectic branding and share in the brand and individual author marketing initiatives.

My own expectation is, it will be harder to survive without forming an alliance, partnership or collaborating with others.

Take note from some of the big brands who partnered up to expand their reach and increase sales. For example, Starbucks and Spotify, giants in the coffee and music streaming business. They integrated the Spotify mobile app with the Starbucks My Rewards program and app. When customers were in the store, they could use either app to find out what music is playing in the store and add it to their saved music in Spotify.

The payoff for Starbucks was that the collaboration drove customers to download the app and join their customer loyalty program. As for Spotify, users who subscribe to their paid memberships get extra points for Starbucks My Rewards program. The partnership is mutually beneficial, and both companies have the potential to reach the other’s audience without sacrificing their brand.

And that is the key, Mutually beneficial’. Time to get you Mutually Beneficial coalition(s) up and running.

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12 – Crowded Social

Indie Authors must contend with far more than the competition of other books. You must also compete for space and attention which a million and one other products and services are fighting for.

This is most obvious of these are other forms of entertainment.

Almost every day some newform or platform for entertainment is announced. The sources proliferate online, authors compete with not only radio and TV, but the new streaming services beyond just Netflix, including Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, along with sports, live theatre, podcasts, video games, and more.

It can be difficult to stand out, to be seen when you are alone. To stay relevant, Indie Authors need to brand themselves and, as above, share branding, at least for some of their works.

One area where indies can have an upper hand is on a local basis, one’s hometown and county. This year 2020, make it a prime task to link up with your local media, radio stations, newspapers and television. Find out who runs Podcasts and blogs with local content in your area.

Once you have some airtime under your belt or even scheduled, you will find organising book signings far easier as your target destinations will be more receptive.

If you get on extremely well, why not have your local radio broadcast their show from the premises you are holding your signing. You make the radio happy, the bookstore happy and get a ton and a half od great exposure in your local community… hey, celebrity status at last!

Basically, as with all marketing. Think ‘outside the box’. (At least a little)

 

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13 – Fundamental Shifts

Of course, fundamental shifts in publishing will continue and not all of them will be predictable. (Except maybe by me? Lol) Authors do need to stay informed, this year 2019, we saw Sci-Fi, Cosy Mysteries, Women’s fiction and Historical fiction all come to the forefront of ‘trending’. I expect this to continue, at least for the first quarter of 2020.

Over the past years, we have seen Amazon grow from a minor player to the largest book distributor. Borders and the subsequent focus on B&N and Waterstones. Direct to consumer marketing, the vexing issue of ‘Discoverability’ and powerful trends like Open Access. Increasing globalised markets, innovations of workflow, and so much more.

But above them, all were the sea changes in how books of any kind were bought and sold, whether print or ebook and what this meant for the process and structure of publishing.

I think, starting now, we will see the effects of consolidation. Maybe. Eventually, an emergence of supergiant companies, such as the joining of forces of such giants as Pearson, Bertelsman, RELX and Lagardere… all as one? Maybe.

It is not so farfetched. Penguin (&) Random House, now incorporates Harper Collins. Nature and Springer are now one company. Each is a behemoth in comparison to what was considered ‘big’ just 20 years ago.

So, what does this hold for the Indie, the single hard-working writers such as you and me?

Thankfully, I see the road ahead as favourable.

While scale and centralisation may well be the future for the giants, the smaller ‘Davids’ of the world can look forward to continued diversity. Which is a good thing.

The growth of writing platforms, like Wattpad, YouTube for words, Vice, Buzzfeed, blogging and niche newsletters, are all thriving, which proves the case for more an unfiltered environment, rather than a controlled one… (one of the reasons Facebook is losing users.)

Think about the indie publishing markets future like the ripples caused by a stone being dropped into water.

Today, we are in the centre… time to ride the ripples outwards as they and the market expand.


Did you know Electric Eclectic has its own Amazon store?

@open24 lists all Electric Eclectic books, books from associate publishers and a range of gifts for writers and readers.

Have a browse now, @open24, an Amazon store.

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Bait your books to catch more readers.

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Okay, so the title of this post is probably not the best metaphor ever written. Maybe, I was just fishing for compliments, or reeling you in… okay, okay. Enough.

But relating your books sales, or rather your book marketing, to fishing is not so far off the mark as you may think.

I am sure you would have heard the term ‘hook’ used many times when referring to writing, particularly fiction

Most authors know and recognise the importance of having a ‘narrative hook’ in their book’s opening lines and at the end of each chapter, even in the closing paragraphs of books in a series.

The idea, of course, is to leave your reading wanting more, wanting to know what happens next or indeed, on ‘tenterhooks’.

Which, by the way, is an old English word deriving from the 14th-century wool making industry. A ‘Tenter’ was a frame used to stop cleaned woollen fabric shrinking, (from the Latin ‘tendere’, meaning ‘to stretch’). Hooks are placed around the edge of a frame, to which the fabric was attached, so it streached it enough to stop it shrinking whilst drying.

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Hanging fabric onto a Tenter

By the mid-18th century, the phrase ‘on tenterhooks’ came to mean being in a state of tension, uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense, i.e. figuratively stretched like the cloth on the tenter.

However interesting all that may be, these facts have nothing to do with fishing and by association, sadly nothing to do with my terrible metaphor.

 

So, let me get to the nitty-gritty of this post, which is about your book’s description.

For this blog post, I am including your back-cover blurb and the description you use on your sales page of online sites, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. as the ‘description’ discussed.

It seems, by the requests for answers I receive and the social comments I read, the writing of your book’s description is an area many authors struggle with, which is, on consideration rather strange as, after completing an entire novel, pages upon pages of creative writing, authors should then struggle to write a dozen or so lines describing the very premise of the book.

Which is, in all honesty, probably one of, if not the most important few paragraphs of the entire work.

What I find is, as the creator of the story, authors tend to want to put every element into their book description. (Much the same is true in amateur cover design.)

The thing is, the description is not supposed to be a summary, or a report, or a review. It is simply an advert. The intent of which is to ‘reel’ in book browsers and have them buy your book.

Allow me to elucidate.

Someone will buy your book if…

Firstly, the little thumbnail image of your front cover catches their eye.

Then, when they enlarge, click, expand or whatever they might need to do to see your book as a larger image if they like what they see at the smaller resolution. (The reason you need a great cover artist. One like PeeJay Designs. PeeJaydesigns@mail.com)

This is the online equivalent of having a potential buyer physically pick up your book from a bookstore shelf and hold it in their hands. If they never pick it up they will never buy it.

The next step is, your potential purchaser will now read the carefully crafted and captivating description of your book. This could be the ‘blurb’ on the back cover or the description given on an online bookstore.

Reaching this point means the cover has done its most important job.

Of course, your book’s description will stop the reader in their tracks, intriguing them enough to want to…

One, buy your book immediately or…

Two, read some of the ‘Look Inside’. (If in a physical bookstore, flick through and read a few random samples.) and then they will, of course, buy your book, won’t they?

Sarah Gribble of The Write Practice, says. “I recently picked up a nonfiction book, which I don’t read many of, and almost put it right back down. But the description intrigued me. It got me to read the first couple pages, standing right there in the store. Then it got me to buy the book.”

However, if you have a lazy, badly worded and therefore an unsuccessful book description, they will simply move on to the next book, regardless of how wonderful your actual story may be, a story they, along with thousands of others, will never get to read.

This means you will have blown your chance, your opportunity to get the sale, all for a few lacklustre lines.

Okay, I hear you saying, “How do I make my book’s descriptions work for me?”

I’m glad you asked because it’s a little like fishing; you must bait your hook with the right lure, the right bait, for the fish you want to catch. (Yep, back to my metaphor.)

Perhaps, one of the best ways is knowing what to do and what not to do when writing your description.

The (basic) do’s:

Always write in Third Person

Use keywords, emotional words, like chilling or passion; they work well for both nonfiction and fiction book descriptions. You can Google power words to find some good ones. But do not overdo it.

Also, consider what people might be Googling that would take them to your book. This is especially true for nonfiction works. Think about employing those in your description.

Be succinct and to the point, no purple prose or verbose writing.

Be clear about the genre, the main genre, do not focus on sub-plots. i.e. if you have a thriller, say so, do not harp on about the romantic story which runs as a sub-plot.

Employ the proper utilization of grammar

Use eye-catching, powerful language. Just like your book needs a hook at the beginning, so does your book description. No one’s going to continue reading the description, let alone the whole book if the first line is as boring as dry toast. Plus, this is often the only thing an online shopper will see before they are prompted to click to see more, and you want them to click, don’t you?

Hint at the climax, never reveal it.

Tell your potential readers how perfect your book is for fans of… genre/style etc.

Mention any awards, high-class reviews, or serious ratings – (see notes below in ‘don’ts’)

Add any audience and age-appropriate.

Give trigger warning when it’s necessary. (These can have a positive effect on sales.)

The (basic) don’ts:

Never use shouty capitals.

Give too short a description.

Cut off words

Make false or misleading claims

Double/triple edit. Do not allow any misspellings or typos to get through. If you cannot write a short description without any errors, there is little hope your book will be error-free.

Do not employ ‘date language’ like ‘just released’ or ‘new novel’, in a week it won’t be and you will need to re-word your description.

Stay away from aggressive calls to action. Such as “You MUST buy this book”. Using such language lends a note of desperation and drives potential buyers away.

Do bear in mind retailers accept differing lengths of descriptions, so you may need to tailor it to each site’s requirements.

Surprisingly, some things you might think influence, do not, according to recent Bookbub research;

It seems it is irrelevant to include details of which type of bestseller you may have, i.e. New York Times Vs USA Today. Simply saying ‘Bestseller’ has far more significance.

Adding a question at the end of your description has no effect on your potential purchaser’s decision making. Which makes doing so a total waste of time.

Neither does saying the book is your debut novel, or your tenth novella, or your seven hundredth and fiftieth for that matter. It has no significant impact on the choice to purchase.

Therefore, use your description to tell people about your story, get them intrigued, wanting to know more.

Avoid telling them about ‘the book’. You may be proud of all those things, but readers don’t give a flying ***, they simply want to know if they will enjoy the story.

Including the series name in the description did not affect readers positively or negatively. Therefore, adding such information (in the description) is pretty much a waste of time and effort. It seems the cover, and the titles on online pages, already show that information; so potential buyers do not want the same information repeated over and again… they know, they get it already.

I now hear you asking how you get to a good description.

The easiest way is to create two versions of similar text, like this:

hook1

hook2

Both versions have the same information. They both start by listing the accolades which represent the renown of the book.

However, from there, description A focuses more on Nick Dunne’s perspective, while B hones in on Amy.

So, go ahead, create two versions of your book’s description, test them against each other and determine which works best for your book.

Use friends to help you decide. After all, their point of view will be far more accurate than your own; you will not be buying your book, they will and they know what attracts them better than you ever will.

Try using the following suggestions as an outline guide.

Start your description by using a bold opening sentence, possibly a statement to grab the reader’s attention.

Use at least one hook to grab readers’ attention.

Ensure the description does not contain any spelling or grammatical errors.

Make certain to ‘inspire’ your potential reader to ‘buy’.

While I do not suggest using direct comparisons to ‘famous’ or ‘renowned’ authors, (such as “…is the new Stephen King” or “Better than Sophie Kinsella…”) which is considered cheesy, desperate, egotistical and opens all sorts of avenues for negative feedback and bad reviews, it may be worthwhile making a statement your book would be “Perfect for fans of Lee Child” or “Martina Cole fans will love this gritty and convincing thriller

Note, the words, ‘Gritty & Convincing’ are taken directly from the cover of Martina Cole’s book. Never be afraid of copying the methods and styles used by major publishing houses.

Once you have found a style and method which suits you, why not create your own template and use that for your future books?

After all, great fishermen have their own way of baiting their rod for the type of fish they want to catch. You can do the same, go get the readers you need, lure them in, hook, line and sinker.

See, fishing is not such a bad metaphor after all.

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I have compiled a wealth of information to help authors of all capabilities and experience to know more about the publishing world, books and being indie.

To share this information I created two books, The Frugal Author, which is all about publishing at the lowest costs for the maximum return, and ‘Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know’, which contains, funny enough, lots of author stuff you NEED to know.

These books are full of useful and enlightening information, are designed to help you avoid making costly mistakes and to help you generate profit as early as possible.

Both books are published as low-cost eBooks, waiting for you to download right now.

mybook.to/Authorstuff         mybook.to/FrugalAuthor

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Authors, are you sitting on a fortune without realising it?

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A short while ago I wrote a post about the different ways and reasons authors might sign their books. Why you should take signing and inscribing your books very seriously…

This post follows on from that one, but not along the route you might think.

Once again, this is an in-depth and informative article, from which I think you will take far more than just the main points I make.

At least, I hope so.


The idea for this post came about while I was chatting away with a friend, discussing how easy it is to recycle print books nowadays, especially since the introduction of environmentally friendly inks, papers, films, card and such.

However, as with most conversations, our chat wandered across many subjects, soon I found myself explaining how I sold several uncorrected proof copies of my books, ones which included errors, misprints, formatting issues and so forth to either fans or collectors.

My friend, who happens to be an avid collector of rare books, said this is not such an unusual occurrence, many book collections would not be complete without an uncorrected proof copy or two.

He said, some of these proofs are produced without cover illustrations, so the books are, in his words ‘raw’, just containing the writer’s words and little else. The resulting post is formed both from the information my friend shared and from research I undertook following our meeting.


I do understand why people collect first editions.

I the early days of printing presses the plates were made of lead, the sharpness of the edges on these plates would, after a number of impressions, wear. Thus, the earlier impressions would be far sharper and clearer than those printed later.

This was most important where the printed work contained illustrations or maps, which were generally finely penned pen & ink drawings or engravings, so clarity of reproduction was all-important.

In modern times, first with off-set printing and now with digital technology, this is no longer a factor and collecting ‘first’ or ‘early’ editions is now more of an act of faith than a practical necessity.

If one was to take the ‘early’ edition to its most, but logical, extreme, then it is the authors manuscript would be the rarest and most valuable version of ‘the book’… which it is.

Most collectors, including institutions, cannot collect authors manuscripts as widely, or as thoroughly, as they may wish.

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There is, however, a preliminary state of a book, prior to the first published edition and therefore closer to the authors manuscript so it still holds a high rarity value yet is more readily available.

These fall into two categories.

The first is the authors proof copy(s). Dependent on how many ‘proof’ editions are required.

The second is the ARC’s or ‘galley’ proofs, which often need final-final proofreading before publication and printing start in earnest.

These copies of your own books can also hold a higher intrinsic value than those of your production run, including POD’s.

The reason is twofold; the first is they are early examples, so they are rare, most being produced in low quantities of a dozen or so.

Secondly, most books will undergo their final revisions, by the author and editors, after the printing of the proof copies; meaning these books often show a state of the authors work otherwise unpublished. This is enormously interesting and informative for scholars and students of literature and language studies.

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The history of producing proof copies for distribution dates to the partly printed ‘salesmen’s dummies’ of the 19th century.

But ‘proofs,’ as part of the publication process, has a shorter history.

Advance copies of books for in-house use by the publisher are customary,  either as long galley proofs or in other formats. Printed and bound advance copies for distribution were rare in the 1930s and 40s, only becoming regular practice in the 1950s and 60s.

This was mostly due to Crane Duplicating Service, a Cape Cod printer, who promoted the idea to the publishing industry. Those who had a ‘Crane’ could print inexpensive prepublication editions which they could send out for early reviews, thus tempting the major wholesalers and retail buyers to place larger orders. Another development to assist with this was also devised by Crane, this was the placing of promotional ‘blurb’ on the rear covers or dust jackets of these promotional books.

This practice gained such wide acceptance proofs became known as ‘cranes’ by the print industry for many years, a practice which has only recently fallen from fashion.

You can see the natural, almost organic progress of how this influenced the concept and design of the modern book, which still sports the back cover and dust jacket ‘blurb’ first fashioned by those early publishing houses.

The number of proof copies is a secret kept by each publisher, but some figures have escaped, such as the 57 copies of Robert Stone’s first novel, The Hall of Mirrors, or the 39 proofs of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

One of Phillip K Dick’s novels contained ‘potentially libellous’ text. It is said that 19 proof copies of this book still exist… somewhere.

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Not satisfied with these simple proof copies, many publishers (since the 1930s) issue elaborately produced prepublication volumes in hope of generating further interest in forthcoming releases.

Raymond Chandler’s first novel, The Big Sleep, was issued in such a prepublication form, as were Dashiell Hammett, and James M, Cain and, in 1961, an ‘advance reading copy special edition’ of a forthcoming first novel called Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, was created.

Since then, ARC’s have become commonplace, they are now par-for-the-course for most releases, such is the case for ‘The World According to Garp‘, John Irving’s breakthrough novel, which used 1500 advance copies printed for promotional purposes. Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park had two printings of ARC’s totalling 2500 copies; it was his first bestseller. Since which he has become one of the most popular and successful thriller writers of all time.

Examples of textual changes in proofs abound.  Most are never discovered until someone does a line by line comparison with the final book.

Tim O’Brien revised his National Book award-winning novel, ‘Going After Cacciato‘, after the proof was printed, and O’Brien’s own copy has whole paragraphs marked out and rewritten. His second novel, Northern Lights, has a two-page section in the proof that does not appear in the finished book.

Peter Matthiessen’s National Book Award-winning ‘The Snow Leopard‘ has major changes made after the proof was printed, after he sent it to a friend, and Buddhist scholar, for comments on his references to Buddhism.

Kent Anderson’s powerful Vietnam war novel ‘Sympathy for the Devil‘ has the most stunning passages excised after the proof was printed, perhaps because they were deemed by editors to be too harsh for publication.

Oh, and no one would have known just how bad Ernest Hemingway’s Spanish was in the late 1930s if the proofs of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls‘ was not found.

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So, even if you change, finalise, re-edit sections or whole parts of your book after feedback from your ARC’s, this may not be a bad thing.

There is a case made because proofs are printed first and are distributed outside of the publishing house, they comprise the ‘true first edition’ of a book, as such distribution constitutes the ‘publishing’ of said work. i.e., making a book available to the public, however limited the availability may be.

Combining their historical scarcity, and likely future scarcity, with the textual variations which are often found and which, by definition, represent a state of the text closer to the author’s original manuscript, the value in collecting proof copies is self-evident.

Which brings me, albeit by such a circuitous route, to where this post links back to my previous one about book signings.

http://www.peecho.com/checkout/14716200169619823/234509/doveshardv3I have sold all the copies of my own proof books and intend to do so in the future as I release new works.

I combined the rarity of such with the opportunity to sign and/or inscribe each copy as described in the previous post on this blog.

Of course, the cost of these rare editions is a little higher than the general releases and, as I have the physical copies, shipping charges are also paid by the buyer.

Some may think this would dissuade the regular purchaser, but I have found otherwise and, on two occasions, had people bidding against each other.

I no longer allow people to get embroiled in this way and set what I consider to be a fair and reasonable price for each book.

Taking this one step further, I would also welcome the sale of my original manuscript, should I have handwritten, typewritten or even made handwritten alterations on hard copy, which I have, sadly, not.

Personally, I do not work that way. I do know some authors who prefer to do so and maybe this is an option they may like to consider?


To cap this post off, here are some points you may like to consider in your future marketing plans. Please note, these are ideas for Paperbacks and Hardcover books, they are not ideal or workable for eBooks.

The following notes are based on the premise from which I started this post… “are you sitting on a fortune without knowing it?”

1, Create a ‘first edition’ short run of your next book.

You could do this as a time-limited promotion or for a set number of books. Of course, you may find some little niggly alterations you need to make, which would only better the rarity of this first edition run.

2, Use any ARC copies (which could simply be a small number of the above or a set number of pre-proofread editions) to your benefit.

Don’t just send them to ‘reviewers’ or ‘friends’ seeking Amazon/Goodreads reviews. Such reviews now lack credibility as their authenticity is under challenge, which is why Amazon deletes so many ‘reviews’.

Instead, give them to your local radio and TV stations; in the UK seek out the local BBC stations as well as the independent ones. Do the same with your local newspapers. Give one to the manager of your local Waterstones bookshop, (these managers have a say in selecting the books their stores stock.)

The main reasons I suggest ‘local media’ is they are constantly hungry for ‘local’ news, so an author from the area who has or shall soon, be releasing a book is exactly the type of story they need. You may well get an interview or be asked to appear as a guest.

Try and milk the airtime. Do a pre-book release show with the ARC & get invited back, in say, two weeks, once your book has been released and is ‘live’ online. (Get two bites of the cherry & create a relationship with the host(s))

I have appeared on two of the three local radio stations in my hometown. Including several guest appearances on the primetime breakfast show.

Note: Do think outside the box, which is especially relevant for certain genres and non-fiction. I have some of my own books in maritime museums, seafarers, and naval heritage centre gift shops and online websites.

You can try your local tourist information centres if your book is about, or set in, the locality. Check out your local museums, galleries and tourist hot spots. Your book may just be welcome on their shelves.

3, If you want to try to attack the regional market, which will encompass your ‘State’ in the USA, then why not produce your own ‘special prepublication edition’ to send to the key organisations? (This would work for National campaigns too, but they are far more difficult to organise and manage.)

As with #2 above, only offer to sign or inscribe these ARC’s for the host when you are interviewed or appear on their show, or when your recorded slot has been aired. Try not to do it pre-show or during recording sessions.

After which, it is always worth turning up ‘out-of-the-blue’ on another day to sign the book when the show is on-air. (It is to the hosts benefit… they will almost certainly ‘fit-you-in’. Trust me, I have done this.)

Even if you do not get lucky with more airtime immediately, you can arrange a time to go back for the signing, even offer to give a signed book or two to the listeners, suggest holding a little quiz or competition. Anything that engages the station’s listeners will make them jump all over you for the privilege.

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4, Manuscripts.

A, If you handwrite and are willing to sell your manuscript, either your first draft of your final draft, then please offer it for sale at a price that reflects your love for your story, (i.e. not cheaply). You could fashion a loose cover or folder to keep the whole thing neat, or at least together for presentation purposes. If this has your signature or additional notes written on it, it will add to the overall provenance.

B, If you use a computer to write, as I do, why not consider printing out your draft, at least the ‘final/final first draft’ and making your own handwritten editorial notes on the physical copy, along with and as, you edit the on-screen copy.

This could then be treated as the manuscript above.

Please, however, only have one copy of your first draft and one of your final draft, (although other working copies are acceptable, such as the ARC draft, bot ONLY as long as each is a sole copy and unique), any other/repeat copies will only devalue your manuscripts and will be considered fraudulent, which is not, I am sure, a label you want to associate with your good name.

The more handwritten crossings out, margin notes, additions and so forth the better. These are the things collectors, libraries, scholastic establishments and museums adore. Such items tend to lend people a sense of ‘knowing’ the author as they work, an insight into their mindset if you will.

Well, that’s it from me for this post.

I do hope you can use some of these ideas or, indeed, find fresh ones which suit your own unique situation.

Finally, I can’t help think of eBooks as being ephemeral, subject to being lost in a power outage or, as Amazon.com did with a number of George Orwell books, when it found it sold them without having rights to them, simply erased them from the face of the earth. Something which is far harder to achieve with printed books…. note Fanrenhight 451.


Find my books, even those not available on Amazon.

Get a preview of my current Works in Progress.

See my Artworks and Photography.

Find my Biograph. 

Visit my website

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Associating the Oblique and Ambiguous.

 

Firstly, a note:jot_a_note

It is a while since I have written a post focusing on the process of creative writing.

The reason being, I have said much about other ‘stuff’ associated with authoring and publishing. Stuff I felt important enough to warrant writing about.

However, doing so led me away from the core value of this blog, which is to give, in my usual rambling and rather haphazard way, tips, advice and suggestions on improving one’s writing skills and understanding of authorship.

Those of you who follow me will know I do not write in a scholarly constructive fashion, because I do not consider myself a teacher or an authority of literary genius.

I prefer to allow indefinite abstract descriptions to suggest and evoke one’s own perceptions and introspection to convey the messages in each of these Ramblings.

In my heart of hearts, I believe the soul of the writer, the artist that lays within, is the greatest asset of all. No one can learn to write unwillingly; the writer must have love and passion above teaching and education.

A writer must want to write, above all else.

So, with those matters cleared away, I guess it is time to reveal what this article is about.


‘Association’

As a mass noun, the definition of this word, according to the Oxford English dictionary is, ‘The action of making a mental connection’.

Regarding fiction writing, I would take this two steps further and say it is, ‘The action of making a mental, sensory and emotional connection within one’s imagination’.

However, to create such a powerful, multi-sensory consanguinity within a reader’s mind, requires the writer’s understanding and needs them to be adept at wordsmithing.

To me, the word ‘wordsmith’ is a wondrous, self-describing noun.

Imagine standing before a blazing forge, gauntlet covered hands, leather apron, large metal tongs holding a glowing red-hot bar of iron. The other hand wielding a heavy hammer.

Smell the fire, the heat, hearing the Smithy as he pounds the almost molten metal into the shape of his choosing. Not an easy task, one which takes many re-heatings and coolings of the metal. One which takes countless strikes with the hammer against the solid block of the anvil before anything recognisable is formed from the raw metal.download

This is what I envisage when thinking of the word ‘wordsmith’.

My ‘association’ is with the hours of sweat and toil it takes to form a loose jumble of letters and scattered words into a coherent and meaningful sentence. To mould and form each word so it fits seamlessly with the next, so they all flow in a smooth, well-paced fashion to complete the paragraph.

The result of a Blacksmiths work is more than just flattened and twisted metal, it is a product purposely shaped into a functional object, decorated to enhance its appearance, creating an article of both beauty and reason.

Such should be our undertaking as writers. Our words should not only serve the functionality of revelation but create a pathway of beauty and intrigue for our readers to follow. Our tales should hold within their very form the pure essence of captivation, of fantastical fiction.

To do this we must weave that very essence, the distillate tincture of association within our words.

“That’s fine for you to say,” I hear you mutter.“But how do we do that?”

My answer is to consider the word this post is about, consider ‘association’. The association of words.

Now, many of you will be thinking ‘thesaurus’ because that is what a thesaurus is all about, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no.

You see, when I talk of word association I am not merely speaking of functional words you may find within dictionaries and thesaurus. Neither am I considering which words may be grammatically correct. I am talking about creativity, of creative writing. Of breaking the rules when it lends to better or even great storytelling.

Those among you who write poetry may, or at least should, have a greater understanding of the flexibility of words, how they can be moulded to convey more than their basic meanings. Particularly when two or more are used in conjunction, oblique, ambiguous or both.

Wordsmithing in fiction writing utilises what is learnt through the poetic principle, includes and encompasses it within the whole wordsmithing process.

As a way of explanation, I’ll take an excerpt from one of my short stories, ‘The Bridge‘, taken from volume three of my short stories collection, ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’

Out of context, I think this is a rather unremarkable excerpt. Even so, once studied while holding the concept of association in mind, its secrets are revealed.

The Humber Bridge is monumental. It is suspended by a mass of giant pythons, twisted metal cables one hundred feet above the sludge brown of the river. From tower to tower it is one mile and the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.

Yet, for all the earth destroying steel and concrete construction, the bridge has an illusion of beauty that is enhanced by nature itself. Somehow the two blend, even complement each other, an amalgamation of converse contraries.

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The Humber Bridge

Firstly, the suggested size of the bridge is stated, in an emotional way, by using the word monumental.

It is then revealed to the reader this is a suspension bridge.

Using the term ‘mass of giant pythons’ is suggestive of and leads into the next sentence ‘twisted metal cables…’

Here are the first wordsmithing associations.

Most people know what a suspension bridge looks like. The story could be told by simply stating this bridge is a vast suspension bridge.

The following words about metal cables could have been just that ‘metal cables’. But the addition of ‘twisted’ is used specifically because of its association with the commonly held image of snakes.

We have now created an image in the reader’s mind of ‘giant twisted pythons holding up a bridge’. Which is a far better read than say, “a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables”.

To continue, the height of the roadway on the bridge is given, one hundred feet, so is the fact the bridge is above a river.

So, once more, the story could read “… a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables one hundred feet above a river…’ Which factually would be correct, although it does not make a very captivating or entertaining read.

Moving on, the incorporation of the words ‘sludge brown’ is purposeful. Not only to transfer the perceived visual perception of a dark river but to almost subliminally link back to the snake imagery by suggesting colour association while taking into consideration most people visualise a river as ‘winding’ or ‘twisting’. Another correlation.

While this imagery of bridges and pythons is building in the forefront of the reader’s comprehension, there is also the fact the author is creating an atmosphere of dark foreboding; or at least the idea of something ominous germinating.

Sludge brown, twisting, python, mass, all have links with the nefarious.

The next ‘s sentences structure reinforces this unease.

The factual description of the bridge is given, but this is enhanced by a form of predicate which strengthens the sinister. “… the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.”

Reaching out, grabbing, blackened, fingers; all strong adjectives which focus on creating a sensory awareness of the underlying drama.

While a person may not be fully aware why, or what effect these words are having as they read, you can bet your bottom dollar their subconscious will. Personal and social belief, acquired by myth, legend and the silver screens of Hollywood has conditioned us to be susceptible to even the slightest of suggestive input.

It is also a long-proven fact when one reads, they absorb far more, far quicker than by any other method of communication.

The above example is a rather direct and implicit one. But there are stronger yet more oblique instances.

Like these, from my poem ‘Doorway’

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This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Simple. A wooden frame. Harsh nails, forged from iron, blood and sweat in the furnace of forgotten hopes. Spikes driven deep, driven through, splintering the flesh of being, binding into cold stone of indifference. Hanging forever, bearing the pain for an eternity.

But not so simple. A sign, a warning, a barrier. Invisible in its presence of possibilities lost, scorned, unfound, unbelieved. Open but empty, a nothingness that stops you dead in your tracks.

Division.

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Lost or gained or never had. Can you lose what was not? Can dreams die or do they fade away; decompose as out our living bodies rot with age upon our bones.

What is there, beyond the gaping opening of the way?

Future, or past repeated. Mirrored fears steeped in time, awaiting our return from where we have never been. A destination desired by myth, by greed of those who will not step this way, cowering in the shadows of mediocrity, of sallow existence, of being too far from any door to be truly known, except by repeated words, all meanings lost in the whisper of time, misinterpretations and vague comprehension.

What ifs lay as a carpet of likelihoods, a vastness of possibilities, probabilities, stretching away to the rims of risk and horizons of chance; choices to be made, taken, grasped or passed up.

Prospects scorned or lies waiting to trip the unwary traveller, to crush your skull, your hopes, your faiths until they crumble into a dust of inferiority until your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience.

Know your place.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck. Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

How long the openness. How soon the slam of too late shall shut out the light from the other side, of this side or that, or the other, and so vice-versa. Versa-vice.

Sounds vanished, diminished. New hope runs down our legs, incontinent imaginings puddling beneath our feet, wasted.

There is no return. Time flows by, constant. There is only now, just then, what was. Already you are too late, it has gone. Stealing away those possibility’s which once were yours and now belong to another. Maybe not yet born. A foetus of stardust, a twinkle of forlorn wishes.

Maybe they will be the ones who shall hesitate at the gates of option and chance. Maybe they will settle for comfort and the familiar and choose not to stumble blindly into the realm of the unknown?

Or maybe they shall pass this way, step through the door and into the future of destiny without looking backwards?

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

You choose.

..

Without getting too bogged down in technicalities, (not my thing), I will just highlight a few instances from the above, and then leave you to read and re-read the above poem and find the associated words which link together to create the stories own vibrancy.

First, ‘cowering in the shadows of mediocrity’.

One may expect to read ‘Cowering in the shadows,’ I am far from the first to write those words in that order. But then consider the use of ‘mediocrity’, it is not generally expected in this framework.

What are the shadows in your story associated with? Think of an indirect but implicit word and use that or another to suggest the ‘feeling’ you wish to create. Pair words which are oblique or ambiguous to create new meaning, to create the atmosphere you intend.

Forget about those ‘rules’. Ignore the grammar check in word or Grammarly or whatever. There is no substitution for the mind.

Secondly, take ‘your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience’.

This conveys a strong message from the initial simplicity of what may be expected until the string ‘humbleness and subservience’ appear in conjunction with the rest of the sentence. Those reading are expecting something far simpler, say ‘the castle, or maybe ‘the house’. But inserting ‘humbleness and subservience’, leads the mind to immediately think of servants kneeling on the cold stone floor.

Linked with the previous segment of the paragraph that mentions prospect, lies and faith the ambiguity is one of suggested religion and loss of belief or at least a trial of personal conviction.

Often when using oblique association, or creating one in such a way, it strengthens the powerfulness of the imagery formed.

imagesIf this includes creating your own metaphors or making new words do so. Shakespeare did not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by only using the accepted words of his time.

Using this ‘sideways’ form of association, not only in poetic context but in storytelling, can produce a weighty and influential transcript that will hook the reader both openly and subliminally.

Good storytelling is not just about style and content; it is not all about narration, it is not simply getting all your words in order, it is all of this melded cohesively and working in harmony throughout the entire structure of your manuscript.

It is about modelling the words you use, moulding and melding them to conceive something new, something uniquely yours, it is about practised and proficient wordsmithing.

When editing, read, re-write and work each individual sentence. Hone it, sharpen it, until it has its own perfect edge and then move onto the next.

Never skip a word, examine each one; examine its place in the sentence and change it, one word by one word, sentence by sentence, polishing and shaping and forming each little detail until every sentence is a magical story in itself.

Do the same time again and again, until every detail shines clearly.

Only then will your tale truly deserve to be called your ‘finished’ work.

Anything less is less.


The first excerpt in this post was taken from ‘Tales of Crime & Violence, a three-book collection.

You can get yours by following the links below.

UK http://amzn.to/2zZFWFN

USA  https://goo.gl/Q0DXRq

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Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets)

While this post focuses on writing blogs, website content, social media and emails rather than stories and books, much of the following could be adapted by authors and publishers of books.

As independent authors, our ability to write such is of paramount importance to our promotional and marketing strategy. Yet the way you write could be alienating those who are not quite as apt as you or me at reading.


How-is-All-Started

A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful comment from a person who suffered from dyslexia about a post.

Although his comments were primarily about the content and not the presentation of the post, he mentioned he found my post far easier to read than many, if not most.

Curiosity got the better of me.

Why I wondered, could he read and understand my posts, when he struggled to read so many others?

Over the next few days, he and I conversed, by email, about his reading on a personal AAEAAQAAAAAAAAxCAAAAJDdmZDE5N2IxLWUxZmUtNGMwNi04YzE3LWYyNGUxYjA3MDE1MQlevel and Dyslexia in general.

 

Before I carry on and explain the outcome of our conversations, I think as writers we should all know and understand what dyslexia and some of the most common reading difficulties are. So, I am including the following few paragraphs & bullet points, (which I cribbed from the internet), for clarity.

 

A formal definition of dyslexia used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states, “It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. “

Unsurprisingly, the International Dyslexia Association defines it in simple terms. “Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.”


In contrast, Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder, meaning that it relates specifically to how the brain processes the visual information it receives. It is not a language-based disorder and phonics-based instruction will not help someone with Irlen Syndrome improve in the same way it will help someone with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

At its core, Irlen Syndrome is a light sensitivity, where individuals are sensitive to a specific wavelength of light and this sensitivity is what causes the physical and visual symptoms that people with Irlen Syndrome experience. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty reading not because their brains have difficulty connecting the letters they see with the sounds those letters make, but because they see distortions on the printed page, or because the white background or glare hurts their eyes, gives them a headache, or makes them fall asleep when trying to read.

Unlike dyslexia, difficulties experienced because of Irlen Syndrome can reach well beyond just reading. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty processing all visual information, not just words on a printed page, so they often have trouble with depth perception, driving, sports performance, and other areas not generally connected with dyslexia.


Alexia is a form of dyslexia, but dyslexia is developmental, meaning that it does not happen from an occurrence such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Alexia is an acquired reading disability because of an acquired event such as a stroke. It is most common for alexia to be accompanied by expressive aphasia (the ability to speak in sentences), and agraphia (the ability to write).

All alexia is not the same, however. You may have difficulty with the following:

Recognizing words ● Difficulty identifying and reading synonyms ● Difficulty with reading despite your ability to sound out pronunciation of words.

Although you can read words, it is too difficult to read for very long ● Blind spots blocking the end of a line or a long word ● Focusing on the left side of the paragraph or page ● Double vision when trying to read ● Reading some words but not others. Of course, this makes reading impossible.

A stroke survivor with alexia that can read larger words, but cannot read tiny words such as “it,” “to,” “and,” etc. ● Any combination of some of these traits.

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My conversations with, (I shall call him ‘Jay’ during this post), led me to take a close look at how I was presenting my blogs, what made them so different and, could I improve them further?

It turns out the style I chose… I was going to say developed, but that sounds arrogant. So, the style I was using at the time was to write in small(ish) chunks, using relatively short sentences and paragraphs, as I have so far in this post.

Unlike the following.

This differed to most blogs and posts on the interweb which were, (and still are), long blocks of continuous sentences and sub-sentences, forming large paragraphs with very little line spacing or breaks. This may be a ‘style’ welcomed by universities and those writing technical/medical/professional and some literary journals. I have seen many papers which follow this style. I have even read a few and I must agree it makes for extremely uncomfortable reading. To read such a document, one must concentrate fully and focus on each word of each line. Whenever the eye moves from its forced liner motion, even for a moment, is when the reader finds some difficulty in returning to the exact location they were at previously, often meaning one must, annoyingly, re-read sections already read. Like you have possibly just done when reading with this last long drivelling, over-worded paragraph I have written in just such a manner to illustrate my point that it makes for uncomfortable reading, even for those of us blessed with good eyesight and adequate skill. A point which I hope I have now made adequately clear with this paragraph which is representative of many blogs.

Writing in this form creates such a large block of words it becomes challenging to separate them into clear concise ‘bite-sized‘ and manageable ‘lots’ of information.

This is one of the areas of written presentation which was highlighted to me by Jay.

I already used a style of writing which broke long paragraphs into much smaller ones, whenever practicable, but I was not aware of the impact doing so made on the reader. From then on, I broke paragraphs down even further than I did ‘pre-‘Jay’

I was also made aware of unnecessarily long sentences, sentences with too many superfluous words.

This simply meant cutting out all those unnecessary words to make sentences read far more precisely and clearly.

OR

Eliminating irrelevant words.

You see, this is not fictional or creative literature as when writing a novel, or even a short story. This is describing and sharing thoughts, ideas, information and data. Another skill set entirely.

Authors often discover this when having to write a precise about their latest book, like the back-cover blurb, an agent’s query letter, a synopsis or copy text for a promotional activity.

We all know, or at least should, that mixing sentence lengths makes for a better reading experience. But so does spacing and breaking them up as I have done in most of this post.

Please do not get me wrong.

I am not solely writing or directing my words specifically to those with reading difficulties, but I am looking to be as inclusive as possible and not simply because I am attempting to be politically, or socially correct.

I do it because I want as many people as possible to read my words. That is why I write.

Looking at how one presents their posts on the screen does not take much effort. Neither does adjusting one’s style to make it clearer and easier to read… for everybody, including you and me.

To finish, look at this Git-Hub virtual reality page. It shows how we can best comprehend the way those suffering from dyslexia and associated reading difficulties may see the written word.

https://geon.github.io/programming/2016/03/03/dsxyliea

My lesson, following those conversations with ‘Jay’, is, 

“We can all learn from others, even those we may have previously considered had nothing to give us. After all, I never thought a dyslexic could teach an established author how to write clearer, even better.

How wrong I was.”

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings. Please subscribe to this blog if you will.

I am open to all comments and try to reply to them all personally.

Keep happy, Paul


Oh, take a peek at my website, I have a ton of good stuff waiting there 

FREE promotion & marketing

In this post I take a divergent path, away from my regular ramblings about writing, to speak of something which is usually just as close to any indies heart.

Promotion.

The reason is, no matter how good a writer you may be, how wonderful and eye catching you books cover is… if no one is ever going to see it, or hear about it, no one shall ever buy it, let alone read it.

Every indie I know who has written a book, even a short novelette, agrees the hard work starts once the book has been published.

An almost consecutive issue which is consistently raised, is the seemingly ongoing quest for the ultimate marketing tool. The ‘Eureka’ gift that will sell hundreds, if not thousands, of books each month with very little work or effort on the part of the author themselves.

Wake up, smell the coffee. There is no such thing.

Even should someone find an amazing algorithm, or system for doing just so, within moments the entire world will be climbing on the waggon, the uniqueness would dissolve in those few moments, to become nothing more than the norm.

The quest would then start over.

BUT… (there is always a but.)

There are a whole host of ‘Alternative’ marketing solutions. Or at least, people marketing a whole host, of supposed solutions.

Many asking for a substantial fee, without any guarantee of success.

HOWEVER… (there is always an however too.)

The world, (the cyberworld and the meat-space), is full of groups of writers and authors who work together, share knowledge, experience and aid one another to achieve the best.19553170_10155611739634994_248869669_n

I am a proudto be a founder member of one such group, the Authors Professional Co-Operative.

Another I belong to, The Awethors, have collectively produced four books. Not bad, for an association of people who live thousands of miles apart and in different countries.

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Working closely and introducing new people to our communities, gives each of us a wider opportunity to help others. Some authors use their experience to professionally assist others in marketing, book cover design, formatting, publishing and so forth. Author Assist, Plaisted publishing house and Metamorph Publishing are just three to mention.

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Others run newsletters, email campaigns, blogs, vlogs, webinar’s and radio shows. Each designed to help all who wish to partake.

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GoIndieNow is one, The Ronnie Shaw Show another, then there is  all run by or for the indie community, as is CQ International Magazine.

 

Not surprisingly, it is this last one, CQ International Magazine, I want to talk about most, simply because this is my own publication!

CQ was never planned to be.

Jan8th15

 

You see, it all started when I wrote a very posh looking newsletter, I called it ‘Rambling Away’, to keep a link to the blogs I ran at the time.

I designed my newsletter to look like a glossy magazine. The type of magazine I was involved with, when I worked in the publishing business in London.

That first, short (and honestly not too well constructed), newsletter eventually grew into CQ International Magazine, which has an established readership in 84 countries around the globe and, at the last count, is read by an excess of 50 thousand people.

CQ SummerFantasy
Click image to read the current edition of CQ

CQ Magazine continues to promote and support indie writers, yet has expanded to include all forms of independent artists, from painters and illustrators, to musician and theatre, dance and performance arts, sculpture and digital creatives. If fact, anything independent, artistic, artisan or creative is welcome within the covers of CQ Magazine.

As part of our ongoing commitment to promote the indie world, CQ Magazine has recently created the C-club. This is where, for a single annual membership fee of £5(UK), indies from all walks of life, can take advantage by advertising in, or having features and promotions in, CQ International Magazine throughout the entire year, at not cost at all.

That’s right, FREE promotion and marketing to the whole world. Well, a big chunk of it anyway.

What’s more, by joining the C-club, you will be helping us to help others, by contributing to the ‘Inspiration & Encouragement fund’.

Full details about CQ International Magazine and how you can become a C-club member, can be found on CQ International’s blog, RIGHT HERE.

Go take a peek now.

I look forward to welcoming you aboard.

Paul.


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