Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Fleeting Tales #29: The Great Self-Publishing Crash?

Back in 1982 video games were thriving all over the world, especially in the US. Atari were one of the biggest hitters but there were many other video game systems out there making a similar impact - Colecovision and Intellivision to name two. People couldn't get enough of these things and the companies that jumped on this demand made literally millions within just a few weeks.
Atari 2600 suffered after the 1983 crash

Then in 1983/84 (the timing isn't exactly clear) people decided to stop buying games. This wasn't a gradual and slow depletion of interest over time, it was sudden and impacted the US video game industry in unfathomable ways. It was called 'The Great Video Game Crash' and called time-out on almost all the video games systems out there for quite a few years.

Here in the UK, it didn't really affect us in such a big way as we mainly purchased the early microcomputers with their ultra cheap games. Most people could always spare the odd £1.99 on a budget title now and again. But this sharply contrasted to the $15 - $30. for a single Atari 2600 cartridge in the US.

I first heard about this 'crash' a few years ago and became interested in why it happened so read into it a little bit more.

But why am I telling you all this? This blog isn't about sodding video / computer games, it's about how well I'm failing at being a self-published author isn't it? Well let me explain.

As I read more about the 'Great Video Game Crash' in the US it started me thinking. Most sources cite the cause of the crash as the massive influx of poorly designed games which began to hit the market after Atari lost a court battle with Activision which allowed third parties to produce games for Atari's systems. As companies discovered the huge public demand for video games, more of them decided to jump on the bandwagon and produce their own titles for various systems.

During the early days in video games there was very little in the way of quality control and pretty much anyone could design a game and release it for Atari. This caused an incredible amount of very bad games hitting the systems, and when customers were paying anything up to $30. for a game, people got wise to this lack of quality extremely quickly.

This resulted in customers not trusting what developers were promising and backing away from video games altogether. And it wasn't just the occasional customer who did this - almost everyone did.

This is where I begin to draw a comparison with self-publishing and what might possibly happen to the relatively new industry of digital self-publishing. Is it possible that everyone and their semi-literate tortoise is going to self-publish a novel at some point, flood the market with unreadable twaddle and scare away the customers?

To be honest this is a difficult subject for me to address because many people reading this might very well put my first foray into the self-publishing world (and my other forays for that matter) in the category of unedited, unreadable twaddle.

I self-published Kinesis in 2012 and was just glad I had finally finished a novel! I didn't expect many people to read it, but was delighted when it began to gain a modest number of downloads. Reviews were initially positive but then I began to get called up on my poor editing which I completely agreed with and started to correct as quickly as possible.

This is my point. Perhaps if there is a self-publishing crash due to the public getting wise to so many poorly written, poorly edited books flooding the market, then maybe I should consider myself one of the authors who contributed to such a disaster and take my fair share of the blame!

Since publishing in 2012, I have learned a great deal about this industry and wish I could go back and wait a few more months before releasing Kinesis for the first time. The reviews that are based on the first edition of that book and highlight the poor editing still haunt me on Amazon even now! I like to think I've corrected most of them and improved the readers experience exponentially since that version came out. I am now on the fifth edition which I'm finally 80% happy with (I'll never reach the dizzy heights of 83% - no way). My writing is improving all the time, which I'm sure is the case for many other self-published authors out there.

Will there be a self-publishing crash where the public finally get wise to all the badly written nonsense flooding Amazon and stop buying anything by a self-published author? There was a time that I wasn't sure about this but I'm feeling a little more confident in this not being the case as time goes by. Amazon and the other big digital publishers seem to be gradually implementing more and more quality control in self-published work. Amazon doesn't want people to stop buying self-published books since it would greatly impact their own profits from the share they get from the thousands of books available, so it is only in their self-interest to ensure this doesn't happen. There is also the fact that digital books can be made available for such a small fee, and customers are willing to take a chance even if the book might very well be awful (very similar to the reason why we didn't have such a major computer game crash here in the UK).

I hope we're past the worse as far as ultra-bad self-published books being released on the digital platforms are concerned. Personally, I'm just going to keep trying to get better as I write more novels and I'm quite sure that in a couple of years I'll look back on the books I'm writing now and cringe with the repeating thought in my head 'how the hell could I have released this book in such a state?'

I'm trying to get better guys, so please keep reading.

All the best,

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Fleeting Tales #28: Competition! Kinesis audiobook release, and next project indecision.

Competition to win a copy of the Kinesis audiobook!

The audiobook version of Kinesis has finally arrived! I'm really pleased with the result and am very grateful to Zhanna Hamilton (producer) and Ben Williams (voice artist) for all the hard work they have done in getting it just right. I really hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

Kinesis audiobook now available from Audible
So, in order to spread the word about this new audiobook, I have been given a number of promotional codes from Audible to give away my book for free to three lucky individuals! This isn't a case of (uncharacteristic) altruism it might seem to some because in all honesty I really need some reviews on the Audible website in order to encourage prospective buyers. So hopefully, the winners of the three copies I am currently raffling off will give a reasonable rating and review of the book to help me and encourage people to check it out.

You can enter the competition by heading over to my Facebook page here, then 'liking' and 'sharing' the relevant post. I will pick the winners at random next Friday 27th June. Thanks in advance for entering and helping to spread the word.

Next Project Indecision:

I'm currently deciding which novel to write next and this decision has been a little more difficult than I thought it would be after finishing The Kinetic. I planned to have a break for a couple of months and then begin work on another novel I've had in mind for a while now called 'Valley'. Valley is a science-fiction story about the aftermath of an alien invasion and it's been rattling around for a good few years.

I have started writing it, although I haven't made any chapter outlines so far (as I did before writing all three of my previous novels), relying more on a 'see where the story takes me' kind of experiment. I know some writers prefer this method but it has never worked for me and I tend to hit a brick wall after so long. Nevertheless I'm going to continue it in this fashion for the time being to see what happens.

However, I have also started to plot out 'Corona' which is going to be the conclusion of the Kinesis series and I really want to start this book - in all honesty I sort of have to start working on this book soon in order to meet the 'early 2015' deadline I set myself to complete it (which probably won't happen either way, but I'll do my best).

I also have a couple of other - less well developed - ideas for novels which I'm keen to start planning, but I think these will have to take the backseat for the time being.

I'm not sure exactly which project to pursue, but will probably continue to start both Valley and Corona before seeing which one grabs me the most and forces me to finish them first.

Check back for updates and if you have any thoughts please comment below.

Thanks for your continuing support!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Fleeting Tales #27: Kinesis audiobook

I'm a big fan of audiobooks and have listened to quite a few over the past few years. I drive long distances during my day job and they're a brilliant way to pass the time and hear some great fiction.

I've been aware of Amazon's ACX (audiobook creation exchange) for a while now but only got round to looking into it a couple of weeks ago and I'm glad I did!

The idea of ACX is simple - authors upload their books and producers and voice artists submit samples of their own work which can then be browsed freely by members of the site looking for a project. When a suitable match is found, work can begin on creating the audiobook which will then be distributed via Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

I looked at the site and thought it seemed like an interesting idea so I decided to upload my books to see what would happen as I've always wanted to see Kinesis turned into an audiobook to reach a wider audience. A few days ago I was contacted by a producer who works with several voice artists, one of which was interested in creating the audiobook version. After hearing samples of his work, and then listening to an audition script which comprised of the first few pages of Kinesis, I was extremely impressed with the result.

I wasn't too sure how I'd feel listening to someone reading my book out-loud, uncertain that they would read it in the way I had intended, but I needn't have worried. The narrator has done an excellent job of getting the tone just right and the production quality is of a very high standard.

It's still early days yet, but if all goes well there will hopefully be an audiobook version of Kinesis available within a month or so which I'm very excited about.

I'll post updates on this project as it progresses for all you fellow audiobook fans.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Fleeting Tales #26: Violence, short stories and Corona!

This is the first blog post since I finished the original draft of The Kinetic a few months ago, so I thought it was about time I gave you all a quick update on what's going on.

The Kinetic has been released, as you may or may not know, and is doing reasonably well so far. I've had a couple of reviews on which helps, although more would be very much appreciated if any of you have finished it yet. The power that reviews have on Amazon really can't be underestimated, so if you have a spare five-minutes and fancy chucking a few words down then I'd be extremely grateful.

I've also had a few more reviews for Kinesis over the past weeks and it has finally passed the 200 reviews mark in the UK, although it's trailing a little in the US with only 58 at the time of writing. A couple of these reviews have had me thinking and they lead me onto my first point.

Violence in Kinesis (some of this contains spoilers for Kinesis):
Two of the more recent reviews I've received for Kinesis on the US Amazon site have mentioned the violence in the opening chapters of the book and given pretty negative comments as a result. 

I understood that the beginning of the story might be quite shocking to some readers, although I tried to make it clear in the synopsis of what the start of the story involves. I really didn't get what all the fuss was about, and was sure that I had read much worse in some of the novels of Stephen King, James Herbert and similar. 

Then I decided to re-read the first two chapters with this in mind and realised that perhaps I'm

actually a psychopath! It absolutely is pretty disturbing - especially since the reader is plunged straight into this world of violence - and I could easily understand how people might find it upsetting, especially with the implied rape and attempted rape involved.

When I originally wrote that book, I was basically trying to get to the end of the first chapter where the line "...his eyes flickered and then opened." made an appearance. That was all I was aiming for since that was the image I had in my mind before writing. This man, beaten down while his family are brutalised  suddenly regains consciousness. The implication being that something is going to happen to change this horrific situation - that was the REAL start of the story.

But I needed a way to get there convincingly. So I created a violent home invasion to incite the necessary loathing of the two invading characters, so that Leonard's subsequent actions are in some way justified.

The image of this man - beaten while his wife raped and his son murdered - was so strong that I had to include it in the book since this is the scene that creates the momentum which drives the story from that point on. Leonard Samson is a victim - not just a victim of this horrific event - but of what he is. I wanted to make him weak, vulnerable and worthy of the reader's sympathy. Perhaps in writing the first chapters without creating any lead-in for such horror, I went a little overboard in trying to get this message across, and I appreciate that some readers feel this to be the case.

I tried not to be gratuitous and I would never explicitly describe a rape in any of my novels; Leonard's wife is simply lead from the room while the implication of what is about to happen to her hangs in the air. However, I wanted to create a set of circumstances that anyone would find terrifying in order for Leonard to, not only take the action he takes, but also expose himself as a Kinetic in a world that detests such people.

The feedback and reviews I've received regarding this violence originally made me consider toning it down in the latest edition of the book, because the overall story was never intended to be gratuitous and horrific violence. I used violence to propel the story along and generate characters which the reader hates (and characters who eventually get their comeuppance I hope). I wanted the reader to hate certain characters and feel satisfied by the end of the story that these people have got their just-deserts (with a little sadness of course as the opposite situation plays out for other, good, characters).

Eventually, I decided not to tone down the opening chapters, only because I think it would completely change the book and I don't want to do that - I'm happy with the story (if not the writing). I have however decided to place a warning at the end of the synopsis on Amazon in order to warn readers that they might find the opening a little uncomfortable. I hope this does the trick because I don't want to disgust my readers! I simply want them to root for the good guys!

Short Stories:
Those of you who have been following my posts and Facebook for a while might recall that a long, long time ago - and in what might as well have been a galaxy far, far away - I mentioned writing a short-story anthology. This has inevitably failed to materialise because of the frustratingly simple reason that I haven't written enough short stories!

I am however trying to rectify this and have a few that I'm happy with, although nowhere near enough to justify releasing it just yet. The compilation will probably include Safeguard when it is eventually ready and perhaps a number of other stories based in that universe as well as other, unrelated, stories.

I'll keep you updated... hopefully sometime before Fleeting Tales #598.

This might be the title of the final book in the Kinesis series. I'm currently working through the chapter outlines, although I have a general idea of what will happen in the story. The ending is pretty safely embedded in my head now and I'll start writing it in the next few months when everything is tied down.

Not much else to say about that just yet. 

Thanks for reading this slightly extended post and please follow me on Facebook at if you've yet to do so... oh and please leave a review on Amazon too!

Cheers all,

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Fleeting Tales #25: The Kinetic - 1st Draft Complete!

Photo: The Kinetic - 1st draft - done... finally!
The Kinetic - first draft of many

The Kinetic: First draft

Well, a few months later than expected I have finally finished the first draft of The Kinetic. It's been a tough slog in places to be honest, which hasn't been helped by me having a busier year than I originally anticipated - one that included a prolonged, and pretty hectic, house move. But with the first draft finally here, I suppose it's time for a quick update on what's going on.

Well now that the first draft has been finished, I'll get my team of proofreaders on the case (my wife and my parents). After they've given me their feedback on what works and what doesn't, I will then go through and make any required changes.

After a couple of weeks, I'll then go through the manuscript at least another two or three times to make sure I've caught any typos or grammatical errors (hopefully I'll do this to a reasonable standard, although this can sometimes be an ongoing process as I have found out with Kinesis, but more on that below).

The Kinetic: coming soon
With all this in mind, I would hope that the book will be available towards the end of February or at the latest, beginning of March. Initially I am going for a Kindle-only release of this book, although other e-reader formats should follow very shortly. The few of you that require a paperback version might have to wait a little longer, but I will give more info on that once the book has been released.

Kinesis: Re-edit

In other Kinesis related news, I am currently re-editing the first book in the series as I have recently gone through it again and found a number of typos, grammatical errors and just general poor writing that I really want to rectify. I'm confident that this - 5th edition of the book - will be the final edition for the foreseeable future.

Other books:

Finally, I'll just mention quickly of what my plans are with future books. Since I'm fully Kinesis-ed (that's a tough one) out, I doubt I will begin work on the final book in the series for a while. I've got a few ideas on how the conclusion to the trilogy will go but I have a lot of plot to work out yet.

So with that final book on the back-burner for a few months, I've got a few ideas for stories that I'm going to work on first. Some will be short stories, others novellas, and I even have ideas for a novel or two in the old noggin so check back here, or my Facebook page ( for up-to-date news.

Thanks for reading, and all your patience in waiting for this long overdue sequel!

Speak soon,


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Fleeting Tales #24: The Kinetic - it's coming, I promise...

Once again, it's been a while since my last update and there are a couple of reasons for that, but rest assured that I'm still alive and still writing... honest.

The main reason for my lack of activity during the past couple of months is to do with the fact that I have recently moved house which turned out to be a little more prolonged than we expected. As a result, I didn't really have a writing space set up for a few weeks so couldn't do too much work. Now - finally - I have a new office set up in my garage and can really get on with finishing The Kinetic.

At least that was what I thought a few weeks ago...

Since having a few months off from writing I have found it a little difficult to get back into, which is pretty frustrating in all honesty. I really want to get this book done because I have other ideas I want to work on and also want to get cracking on the final book of the trilogy.

The problem is that, by not writing for a while, the story seems to have stagnated a little and there are parts I have found I'm unhappy with. I have been going through what I have written and have changed sections but have not really progressed the story a great deal. I don't usually alter things until the first draft has been completed and only then do I really go at it with my red pen, but this time I've certainly altered a lot more during this first stage and I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

This all came to a head last week when I sort of forced myself into writing some new chapters. I wrote around 500-words in an evening and that was a real struggle; I just couldn't get into a flow and lacked confidence that what I did get down was going in the right direction. I gave up.

Then, later that evening after my family had gone to bed, I decided to give it one more try. This time it was a completely different experience. I managed to get over 3000-words down in just a couple of hours and I really felt that what I had written was heading more in the right direction.

I've just finished another 1000-words tonight and am enjoying watching the word-count increasing as the story gradually builds and I can feel it gathering momentum once again. I can't wait to get this story finished, so please be patient. Although the November release is now out of reach, I'm going to work as fast as possible and will post updates on The Kinetic as soon as there is some news.

Thanks for waiting and keep reading!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Fleeting Tales #23: Not rushing, and the difficulty of sequels.

It's been a while since my last post and that is mainly because I have very little to post about unfortunately.  I have been hard at work with the sequel to Kinesis, although I have very little to show for it at the moment (I'll go into that a little more below). The 'hard work' stems mostly from going through the plot and trying to work out various holes etc, rather than actually getting the words down.

Before I go into the difficulties I'm having with The Kinetic, I just want to acknowledge the benefits of not rushing this novel. I didn't rush through the writing of Kinesis as I didn't give myself a deadline and I didn't really put myself under any pressure to finish it in a certain time-frame. Having said that, I did like to write at least 1000 words a day just to make myself feel better and convince myself that I would one day finish it. This 1000-words-a-day inevitably didn't always happen due to the fact that I have a family and a full-time job outside of writing. But I did find that some days I would write two, and sometimes three or four thousand words, which counterbalanced the times when I wrote zero.

What I'm getting at is that I wrote Kinesis on my own terms and didn't force myself to write (too much) when I really didn't feel like it - I didn't rush it.

Kinesis: Available for FREE from Amazon
This also goes for Kaleidoscope, although I did give myself a deadline for that one. Kaleidoscope was a very difficult book to write, but it was one that I really wanted to get down on paper and finished, so that inspired me to keep at it even when I didn't feel like writing.

I think that by not rushing my books and giving myself plenty of time, it gives me the opportunity to re-think the plot over and over so I can iron out any problems. Kinesis wouldn't have been half the story it is if I had gone with my original idea and stuck to it without thinking up extra sub-plots and working out all the holes; something that wouldn't have happened if I had given myself an unrealistic deadline. I spent many days writing nothing at all while working on Kinesis, but I was always thinking about how it could be improved, giving the story time to grow. This is the advantage of not rushing, whereas the disadvantages are obvious I guess - my output is lower than it might otherwise be.

This brings me onto my latest project, The Kinetic. Writing this book has been so much more difficult than I ever imagined and I have a new-found respect for all writers who make their original story expand into a series of novels.

I added an epilogue to Kinesis which opened up the possibility for a sequel on just a whim really. I had no intention of writing it in reality; I simply liked the idea that the story went beyond what I had written. When I decided to actually go through with The Kinetic, I was a little daunted to say the least. I came up with the basic story while writing Kaleidoscope and it has changed a little since then, but remains fundamentally the same - the story focuses on Holly Samson.

Kaleidoscope: Available from Amazon
Here's the problem - I've given myself a deadline of November 2013 for the release of this novel. This is something I really want to stick to (and I hopefully will), but at the same time I really don't want to rush through it and disappoint the readers. I know I won't release the book unless I'm happy with it, even if that means it's a couple of months late, but I must admit I'm starting to feel the pressure of getting it finished (it's only self-inflicted pressure; people aren't bashing down the door for another book I can assure you).

In terms of how it is actually going at the moment, well I think I've just about flattened all the little bumps in the plot and am pretty much on the home straight. I'm still about 40,000 words away from finishing the first draft so there is still a long way to go, but as long as I keep at it over the next few weeks I think the November deadline is a realistic one.

Finally, I'll just mention that I have a few ideas for my next novel; some better than others. But I think I'm going to go for one which will probably be a stand-alone science-fiction story called 'The Valleys'. It centres around the story of two children - a brother and sister - who are living in a world devastated by the effects of an alien invasion some years before. I haven't really planned much more beyond that at this stage, but it will be released some time in 2014.

Please 'like' by facebook page ( to receive up-to-date news on how my novels are progressing.

Ethan Spier