First Attempt at Epublishing.

At a time when publishing is in such a state of turmoil, the last thing that an experienced author wants to do is set off in a different direction.

Which is what I am doing. Still, there are good reasons for it. I want to sell more books.

New book at the ready. It’s already on Kindle – it beat my short stories!

And what is irritating is, I have some stories that are ready and waiting to be sold.

People who have followed me on FaceBook and Twitter will already be bored stupid with my mindless witterings about my short stories. Yes, yes, I know. I first started talking about them months ago.

You see, I have, over the years, contributed to a number of short story anthologies. I had great fun writing for the second Ellis Peters memorial, a book called Past Poisons. Then there were the “Monster” books from Robinson, and two American collections called Murder Most Medieval and Murder Most Catholic. All four of these contained some really rather good Jecks work.

More recently, I’ve written some very good crime short stories – the first was a really fun story set in Roman England, then there were a couple of police procedurals, and another set in the Jacobean era. Oh, and there was a modern spy thriller, and a horror story. Yes, a horror story. Great, gruesome fun, that was.

It’s the strange thing, but while Sherlock Holmes depended upon the cheerful spine-freezer magazines of the late 1800s to pay for Sir Arthur C-D’s mortgage, it’s now that hideous nemesis of the book-market, the internet, that is likely to save short stories for posterity.

The workspace is a little cluttered just now. Only the Ridge has all the space she needs!

People can write a short in little time, but getting money for them is damn hard. Some people sell them to the BBC, if they’re lucky; others sell occasionally to the few monthly magazines that still exist. But the payment for either is not too hot. However, to try to print a book and make a few pennies you would have to pay a fortune.

And that is where the internet comes in. Suddenly authors can collect a bunch of short stories into a collection and put them out into the world with the chance of being paid a very respectable 30 cents each sale.

Put it into perspective: if I were to sell a book in America today, I would be very lucky to make twelve cents. The discounts which are demanded by importers are up to 80%. Since authors tend to be paid on net receipts, that means my income’s shot immediately. Take out the cost of an agent’s fees, let alone tax, and the actual amount my wallet receives is a pittance. I earn more from loaning a book at a library.

Well, perhaps I’ll be more keen on writing shorts in future. But I haven’t electronically published a book myself. The thought was, frankly, terrifying. I cogitated over it extensively, picking up a pencil as a new displacement activity (this one’s my Ridgie).

So terrifying I resorted to sketching dogs instead of getting on with it.

For a long time I’ve held that epublishing will suffer from the most basic, obvious problem: authors cannot edit their own work.

We are all short-sighted. We write out stories, and they read really well to us. We read them on the screen, on the page, and aloud, sometimes. And they really do seem bloody marvellous. And then we send them to an editor.

There is a reason why editors earn good money. It is that they are vital. They read a book and spot that the guy who’s talking on page 300 was the one the author killed on page twenty (Len Deighton once did that, apparently). They also spot little problems with the plot, and sometimes make insulting, silly suggestions that – oh, actually make a rather mediocre book become good.

It’s not only editors, it’s copyeditors. And proof readers. All of them are employed for the simple reason that over many years it has been shown that they are needed. This will no doubt surprise many, but publishers tend to dislike throwing money about. They don’t see it as their moral duty to keep numbers of perfectly well-behaved copy editors off the streets. If they can dispose of excess staff, they tend to do so.

Once I was told that of all books written, only 1% ever got into print. Some of the 99% are unlucky. They hit an editor’s desk on a morning that she was nursing a really bad hangover, or on the day she had to have the cat put down, or the morning she discovered her husband was shagging his secretary – so many reasons, and the worst of it is, the author never knows.

But for every book that is rejected for the reasons I’ve given, many, many more are rejected because – sorry to be blunt, but – the book is rubbish.

It’s a book that’s been written, read through once, and sent off because the author wants to be a millionaire. It’s got spelling mistakes all over it. The format is single-line spaced, printed both sides of the paper, and there is a covering letter demanding that the publisher swears on a bible in St Paul’s cathedral that he/she (delete as applicable) will not steal any part of it. Worse, it’s been lifted almost entirely from someone else’s work.

You wouldn’t believe some of the ill-considered work that people send in to editors. After all, every hopeful scribbler should realise that a sample of work is a sales tool. It is there to grab the attention of a hard-nosed editorial executive so tightly that the little darling will happily stand up in a commissioning meeting and say “We have to buy this book!”

Sadly, those moments of managerial courage are all too few and far between because 99% of the books sent in are rejected.

What the aspiring author won’t believe is that the tome they’ve worked on so hard could be rubbish. No,  it was the editor; she was a fool. She had no judgement. Look at JK Rowling. She got Harry Potter refused by loads of publishers. They have no idea.

So now the ever-hopeful writer looks around for some other means of getting their efforts read by a wide public.

In the past, most would just put it in a bottom drawer and forget about it. Some, the wealthier, would go to a publisher who asked them to “share” the costs of production until the book’s merits were discovered, and then both would make a fortune. But not now. No. Now there is the internet and Kindle.

But, and it’s a bit “but” – how do you find a book to buy?

An example. The other day I had to go to London. It was to be a long train journey. So, rather than lug around a load of books, I thought I’d skim Kindle and find something good.

I spent 45 minutes searching – and gave up. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I needed some good searching facilities – but failed to locate them. Instead, I had a “Highest/Lowest” search. And would you believe how many free books there are? A lot. As a means of finding worthwhile new writing, it was a disaster.

Even when you do find what looks like a good book, you’re stuffed, because you start to hunt by cover, and only when you’ve bought one do you discover that the damn thing was written by a mentally-defective multi-millionaire who could afford to commission a top artist to design his jacket but was tested when asked even to spell his own name. Inside are hundreds of pages of turgid prose.

So when a new ebook appears on Amazon, it won’t necessarily appear on the reader’s horizon. There are just too many books.

Which is why authors still want to be associated with their publishers. Because publishers not only make sure that the books are readable, they also pay other people to go and market them. They have publicity teams and marketing staff. Most of all, though, they have a brand. If you see a book on Kindle that has been published by “De-Caffeinated Green Tea Press” you may think twice, but if it’s there with Simon & Schuster, or Orion, or Harper Collins as publisher, you have a verification of quality. Hopefully.

They also have technical know-how. For example, they know how to edit funny computer programs and things. I don’t.

So yes, I was dreading loading my shorts.

Luckily, all my short stories are pre-published, so they’ve been edited. I had to retype two of them, though (the originals are still on floppy disks – fat load of good that is. I don’t possess a floppy disk drive), but fortunately my wife is an excellent copyeditor. So, getting the books onto the computer was easy. Next, the part I dreaded, was translating them into .mobi, the language Kindles use.

A needless panic. Scrivener has a neat output option on compiling a novel. It goes straight into .mobi. In fact, I decided to write a blog about my trials and troubles of converting a book to Kindle. Scrivener meant that was pointless. A three-line blog is not very interesting.

So, having girded my bits for a while, today I logged into Amazon and nervously tried to upload my book.

It went. Took a matter of minutes to log myself into their Kindle system and then it was gone. I cannot believe how easy it was.

So, perhaps in future there will be more Jecks stories out there. Certainly today it was not the appalling, mind-killing experience I had feared. I could almost get to like it!

And for those who are interested, “For the Love of Old Bones – and other stories” is on Kindle right now – I’ve put the links at the bottom.

I’m rather excited!

And here it is. A wonderful little book that will sell in the thousands, hopefully!

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

8 Responses to “First Attempt at Epublishing.”
  1. Mark Redman says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the information about the collection of short stories – ebook format, just donwloaded a copy now. Good luck for the future, it will be nice to see your back catalogue in ebook format in the future. From a long time fan.



    • Many thanks, Mark. I’m hoping that if this works, I’ll be able to work on future Templar books, too. Having a means to publish that is under my own control is rather appealing! Hope you enjoy the books. Tell anyone who likes medieval crime to buy it too!


  2. ann slicer says:

    thank you Michael for the information,not everyone know about all the struggles of an author
    I will certainly buy your books ,and look forward future Templar books.
    I always look forward to your photos and comments..Good Luck


  3. That’s great news, Michael, and very encouraging for someone considering doing the self-same thing!

    And you’ve just given me another reason to buy myself a copy of Scrivener.

    Who did your cover by the way?


    • Hi, Jonathan – the designer for “For the Love of Old Bones” was a great and very helpful guy called Andrew Brown ( He kept to price, was on deadline, and I think produced a very good cover for me. The second book, “No One Can Hear You Scream” was done by someone else, far more slowly, missed several deadlines, and was often quite rude to me. But then, I did that cover myself so it wasn’t surprising!


  4. Old Trooper says:

    Just to let folks know, the e-books have been a great addition to things although I am still a lover of paper.


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