eBook Aggregators – A fun guide

best-news-aggregator-apps-700pxWhat a fun weekend I’ve had, trying to ‘Purge hidden corruption’ in my book files using the ‘Nuclear method’ to avoid any AutoVetter errors.  If you have no idea what I’ve just said, then you’ve not had the pleasure of uploading your book to an aggregator.  You haven’t lived.

Why am I doing this?  I blame Joanna Penn, the queen of self-publishing, who made such a convincing argument for making your eBooks available on Google Play.  After all, it’s the app that comes pre-loaded on most android phones these days, and, like it or not, more and more people are now reading on their phones, so it’s a market we’d be foolish to ignore.  Moreover, I don’t know if you know this, but Google is like, a really big search engine, so having your books on their app is probably going to give you a bit of an edge in that regard.  Having said that, this could go the same way as my Wattpad experiment, i.e. a complete anticlimax, but isn’t it better to have a ‘presence’ (or rather, an omnipresence!) than restricting yourself to Amazon?  The biggest cost is my time and the thrill of finding out how much patience I have with with filling out forms and thinking up new passwords.

Up until now, I didn’t know how to get my books on Google Play.  And this is where the aggregators come into it.  Most indie authors are familiar with the most popular aggregator, Smashwords, which distributes your eBook to stores like Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Apple, to name a few.  And anyone who has tried to upload their book file will be aware of how frustrating it is when the conversion results fall foul of the style guide and come back with a list of illegible offences, written in obscure computer speak.  I made the mistake of updating a perfectly good book that I had for sale on Smashwords and I haven’t been able to pass the conversion tests since.  Until today my friends, when I ‘went nuclear’ and cleared my files of all formatting, before re-formatting them and basically doing the equivalent of clearing out a tool shed and putting everything back in again.  And it worked!  But guess what?  Smashwords don’t deal with Google.  Would I have the patience to continue with this crazy dream?!


According to Joanna Penn, Publish Drive, a relatively new company based in Hungary, is the best option for reaching the most markets.  Prounoun also deal with Google Play, but I decided to copy Joanna, because she’s probably done all the research and why inflict more pain on myself!  However, I’ve recently come across quite a few articles claiming that Google Books is awash with pirated books.  So, yep.  But, the irony there is that people often claim piracy can be reduced by making your book available across more platforms and on various formats (Nook, Kobo etc.)  Not all readers have Kindles, so it seems like common sense to make your book available as widely as possible.  In my own case, I’ve kept my first novel exclusive with Amazon on KDP and so it’s available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited (Amazon’s subscription service).  My second novel and my free short story are available everywhere (or at least they will be once Smashword’s affiliates get my shiney new version in the next few days).

As Joanna pointed out, there are huge markets globally like India and China, and with a little effort, your books can be available for download across the world, rather than just focusing on America and the UK.  There are other aggregators too, like Draft2Digital, so it’s really up to you who you choose which one is right for you.  Yet, as we all know, there’s a lot more to it than just hitting publish and waiting for the money to roll in.  It’s not always easy or viable to promote in all of these markets, but I guess a good place to start is by setting up links on your website and varying your links on social media to include stores other than Amazon.   Since producing paperback versions of my book with CreateSpace, I see how important it is to give your readers the opportunity to buy your books in whatever format suits them.  Just make yourself a strong cup bucket of coffee before trying any of this yourself at home.

My books are now available at the following stores:

Apple ~ Kobo ~ Nook ~ OverDrive ~ Scribd 

20 Questions ~ Chapter 3


Next up for the quick-fire round of 20 questions is newcomer Niels Saunders.  The most important thing you need to know about Niels? Do Not Challenge This Man To A Chili Eating Competition!  You will lose.  And if you want to find out why he’s holding a pineapple, you’ll have to read his book.  Take it away Niels!

Niels Saunders, Author of Mervyn vs. Dennis
‘God I love a good pineapple’

1. Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Where the hell do you find the motivation to stick at it?
Once I invent a character, they’re extremely pushy. They demand to have their story told and won’t let me rest. Writing is the only way I can get them to shut up. Stories are like secrets : they demand to be told. As storytellers, it’s our duty to tell them the best we can.

2. Which would you prefer: monetary success or literary acclaim?
Monetary success. Literary acclaim is lovely and means you’re more likely to be read after you’re dead but monetary success means you have a large readership and can provide for your family by doing the work you love. Isn’t that all anybody wants?


3. How do people typically respond when you say you’re a writer?
Half of people will be fascinated and enquire about my books while the rest give me a concerned look and say, “Oh” as if I’ve told them I have an inoperable disease. A few particularly self-centred types will forgo all talk about my own work and immediately tell me in microscopic detail about the novel they’ve always planned to write but never got around to.

4. Social media – love or hate?
I used to hate it. Social media has always seemed a wretched hive of humblebragging and negativity. Since I’ve been on the self-promotion trail, however, I’ve warmed to it a little. I’ve met some lovely people through WordPress blogs and Twitter has its moments of hilarity. I still have no idea how Pinterest and Tumblr work, though.


5. What would you classify as a ‘bad review’?
Mediocrity. I’d rather someone despised my book than thought it was ‘okay’. At least that way my work would be inspiring passion (albeit negative) in a reader. That being said, in order to maintain my review score, I’d like to respectfully ask (by which I mean beg) readers who loathe my books to kindly spare me their wrath.

6. What’s the worst review you have ever given a book?
If I really hate a book, I don’t leave a review. I feel there’s enough negativity on the internet already.

7. Your publisher asks you to write a sequel to your very successful debut, but you never planned on writing one and you’ve left those characters behind. Do you (a) Write it and be glad that ANYONE is asking you to write more books? (b) Write it, but spend the whole time in an almighty huff about the whole affair, taking your anger out on your characters by killing them all off – swerving the possibility of a trilogy? (c) Refuse to sell out and walk away with your integrity intact, but your bank balance in a shambles?
I’m tempted to say (a) and laugh my way to the bank but my writing process depends a lot upon the nebulous instinct of ‘things feeling right’. If I was in this for the money, I’d be penning cheesy police procedurals. I can only write about ideas and characters that inspire me so, regrettably, I might end up choosing (c).


8. What book do you wish you’d written?
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It’s the book that really inspired me to start writing novels and I’d love to write something myself one day that might equally inspire others.

9. If you could ask your favourite author a question, what would it be?
I don’t have a single favourite author but I’d love to ask William Faulkner how the hell he wrote The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary and Light in August in the space of 4 years. I’d consider writing even one of those masterpieces in an entire lifetime an incredible success.

10. Which is your favourite part of the publishing process?
I can tell you what it isn’t: waiting for responses from literary agents. Now I’ve chosen the self-publishing route. I’m enjoying the small pleasures that come every day such as a compliment on my blog, a glowing new review on Amazon or an unexpected batch of sales.

11. What was the first song you ever slow-danced to?
As an indie and rock teenager of the nineties and a house and techno clubber of the noughties, I fear I may have never actually slow danced in my life. Who says romance is dead?

12. If money were no object, where would be your ideal place to write?
An atmospheric study with a comfy leather chair, an enormous antique walnut desk, a crackling fireplace, shelves of hardback books and a whisky cabinet with a 1930’s soda spritzer.


13. Do you think readers still value books in the same way?
Not if they’re free. Many people like collecting free stuff and will download novels just because they cost nothing. They’re much more likely to read them if they’ve paid for them. Of course, self-published authors often have to give their books away to gain publicity (myself included). We write to be read, after all.

14. What genre are your books and do you find genres restrictive?
The dreaded genre question! I’ve never been a genre author, I simply write the kind of books I’d like to read myself. Having said that, I market most of my books under the humour genre because they’re meant to be funny. My books tend to mix elements of comedy, mystery and thriller. Unfortunately, there’s no category for that on Amazon.

15. Do you have any unpublished books, buried at the bottom of the garden and doomed never to see the light of day?
I have two. I wrote them both as a teenager back in the 90s. They’re epic dystopian thrillers and although I dread the thought of anybody reading them, I still can’t bring myself to completely destroy them.

16. What was your favourite childhood book?
A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony. It’s a superb fantasy novel that really sparked my imagination. I used to almost exclusively read fantasy when I was a kid and have only just got back into it via A Song of Ice and Fire.

17. Do you have any other hidden talents you’d like to brag about?
I won a chilli-eating competition and I also smoke my own meat.

18. Book launches: all fur coat and no knickers or a valuable rite of passage?
My only book launch so far consisted of clicking the ‘publish’ button on Amazon and posting about it on Facebook. I’ve yet to experience the classic image of signing hardbacks in a bookstore.

19. What did you dream about last night?
I can’t remember which means it was probably one of my recurring dreams about repeatedly mislaying my suitcase on the way to the airport.


20. What would you like your epitaph to be?
I’m going to steal the one from Spike Milligan’s headstone: I told you I was ill.

Cover of Mervyn vs. Dennis by Niels Saunders Niels is the author of Mervyn vs Dennis which you can download on Amazon and you can catch up with him on his Blog , Facebook and Twitter.  Just don’t mention Pinterest or Tumblr (touchy subject!)


Women & Self-Publishing


“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”  Virginia Woolf, the original self-publishing guru, paved the way for many female authors who have chosen to by-pass the publishing house and publish their own books.

According to a recent article in the Guardian, more and more female authors are choosing to self-publish and are doing so quite successfully.

The success of EL James and her Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy did much to overturn the stereotype of a self-published author. Now academic research further challenges the image of eccentric hobbyists scribbling away in their sheds by revealing that it is middle-aged and well-educated women who dominate the growing e-publishing market.

Alison Baverstock, an associate professor in publishing at Kingston University, Surrey, said her research showed a clear gender split, with 65% of self-publishers being women and 35% men. Nearly two-thirds of all self-publishers are aged 41 to 60, with a further 27% aged over 61. Half are in full-time employment, 32% have a degree and 44% a higher degree.

The most telling point about self-published authors and their books, is their close connection to the reader and reading trends.  In the current market, large publishing houses are clinging more and more to celebrity authors and genres that guarantee sales.  These literary gatekeepers decide what type of books will be available to readers and are more often than not, out of touch with the actual trends among readers.  How often have we heard as authors that our genre ‘just isn’t right for our lists’?  I mean, who could have predicted the success of the Fifty Shades trilogy?  Another self-publishing success story – if that’s your cup of tea.  And that’s the point – it is thanks to self-publishing and the courageous efforts of independent authors that we have a more diverse and varied pool of creative writing to choose from.

And whether we like to admit it or not, there is a certain amount of sexism in publishing.  Take the recent example of author Catherine Nichols who, after submitting her manuscript to publishers under a male pseudonym, found that she received eight times the number of responses she had received under her own name.  You can read the full story here.  So even though self-publishing might seem (at the outset) a scary place to be, it might just be the level playing field that our books deserve.

Just as independent musicians, film makers and artists produce a more exciting mix of talent in each of their disciplines, indie authors offer an important alternative to the mainstream.  Today’s indie writer is completely au fait with the publishing industry from page to print, hiring freelance editors, designers and promoters to produce a high quality product that meets, if not surpasses, the traditionally published titles we have all come to expect.  It is such an exciting time to be a female writer and self-publishing has never been more accessible.  However, it is the readers that will ultimately determine the success of self-published books.

You can read the full article here.

And if you’re looking for an independent, best-selling, Irish historical fiction read, click on the cover below.

The Cross of Santiago-Amazon - Copy

The Mysterious Bakery On Rue de Paris (7) - Copy

One book does not a best-selling author make…

I’ve always been one of those ‘look before you leap’ types, but as soon as I typed ‘The End’ on the final page of my novel, I found my fingers itching to hit the publish button. “Come on lets print this bad boy” my inner voice urged.   After all, I’ve been keeping this story to myself for about two years, between researching, writing, editing and fine-tuning and I am just bursting to share it.  Nevertheless, my prudent nature has won out and as a result I’ve found some really helpful tips on how to self-publish and what to do before you hit that button by those who have been there, published that and made a living out of it.

Samantha Young is one such author whose books have topped the NY Times bestseller lists.  Her advice is to avoid publishing your first novel all on its ownio.  It would seem that spending years lavishing time, sweat and tears over your manuscript, then sending it out there like a knobbly-kneed child to take on the ebook world all on its lonesome could be a missed opportunity.  Why?

Understandably, readers don’t have a huge amount of confidence in an author with only one title to their name.  They might be thinking, “This writer could just be a fly-by-night, flibbertigibbet who’s just not worth investing in”.  So how can you entice them to invest in your book and convince them that this isn’t just a vanity project; that you have worked hard to craft a story worth reading?  That you are here for the long haul?  Short answer: put up more than one novel.

“What?  I have to write another one? NOW?”  *Shrieks*

I mean obviously there was always going to be a second novel – I have a rough draft prepared for my third in fact.  But that could take another year to complete and what do I do in the meantime?  Keep my novel in a dusty old .doc file? Keep assuring friends and family “I AM A REAL WRITER!” with nothing to show for it but pale skin and repetitive strain injury.

But then the answer came in the shape of a short story.  I came across an author I wasn’t familiar with (Eleanor Moran) who is actually published with a traditional publishing house, but has a free short story ebook available with Kindle.  This is a genius idea, because it gives readers a taste of your writing style, so they’ll know what to expect before they make a commitment to buy your novel, and it gives you the writer the opportunity to connect with potential readers, without having to give your novel away for free, or rush to write something that isn’t up to your exacting standards.  Everybody wins and if it’s good enough for the goose (big bum publishers) it’s good enough for the ganders.

Check out Samantha Young’s blog here for more great advice.